363 Days Later

I’m still alive! And still the least consistent blogger on the Internet. I’m consistently inconsistent. That’s something, right?

I visited the good ole’ U-S-of-A recently (I’ll get to that soonish) and received so many comments on my lack of blogging, that if I had recorded them I could auto-tune them into a beautifully snarky symphony.

SHERI T., THIS ONE IS FOR YOU. 🙂

This year has been entirely insane. Most of it has been wonderful, but a major change in my plan for the year made things a lot more hectic than I expected. You’ll find the long and probably confusing explanation of those events speckled throughout the post below.

In January, the director of my academy, AbaTron (name changed for security purposes or something), asked if I wanted to renew my April contract for a second year. My students were lovely, but the school itself certainly had its flaws. Regardless, I told him I would renew my contract on the condition that he give me about 2.5 weeks off in October to go home for my “sister’s” (re: my friend’s) wedding. Since foreign teachers NEVER renewed at AbaTron (probably because the director was a super skeevy dude, among other reasons), he agreed and we set up a contract explicitly stating the dates I needed off.

For all the downsides of this school, I was pretty pumped because as I may have mentioned before (and as anyone who has worked in a Korean hagwon knows), vacation is not a thing. You barely get national holidays off, much less time for a two-week holiday out of the country. I booked my flights home for mid-October and started counting the days.

At the same time I was making those arrangements, three of my amazing friends from home were working on their own trip out here to see me in September. I knew I’d have to work most of the days they were here, but there would be at least one four-day weekend while they were here and we planned to make the most of that time.

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Actual photo of Lindsay and I getting ready for the trip.

The year rolled on and I did cool stuff and things in spring.

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There was a really cool moving Van Gogh exhibit in February.

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Hung out in a bird cage for a while… Obviously. I was back here recently and the cage is now locked. Tragic.

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The first of many picnics this year, with some of my favorite humans.

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The temple on Gaehwasan was all dressed up for spring.

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A rainy day at Seoraksan National Park.

Korea carried on being a never-ending source of wonder and fascination.

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The whole “couples clothing” thing is really getting out of control. This particular couple is wearing matching clothes while riding a tandem bicycle and wielding a selfie stick. I think this is how black holes are formed.

My students continued being adorable and (mostly) awesome.

In late May, I finally flew down to Jeju Island with some friends. It really is as beautiful as everyone says. We had ample time for lounging on the beach. And I got to catch up with my old pal David from my TEFL course in Prague, who lives and teaches in Jeju. Plus, it was Karen’s birthday that weekend, and since she and I didn’t work until 2pm on Monday we got to stay an extra night. It was a fantastic trip with some amazing people. The humidity and the bugs were pretty bad though, so we didn’t hike the volcano. I’ll have to go back for that!

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In June, myself and the other three foreign teachers at my school got some interesting news. There’d been rumors that AbaTron wasn’t doing super well. They’d had us condense from two buildings down to one back in March, and the skeevy director who originally hired us either quit or was fired, we’re still not sure. We knew that some major change was on the horizon. We were all half-expecting to hear that our school was closing, but instead the “corporate” branch of our academy (which was a franchise) decided to buy out the owner.

So in mid-June we all had 1×1 meetings with the new HR rep to discuss what that meant for us. We found out that because our school was changing owners, we all needed new visas, and we had to end our current contracts (through the current owner) and sign new contracts starting on July 1st with the new owners in order to get our new visas. This was unfortunate for a number of reasons. Two of our teachers were only a month away from completing their contracts and getting their bonuses, but because the original owner abandoned ship and cancelled the contract, they both got screwed out of their bonus (equal to one-months pay upon completion of the contract), which was awful. I still got mine because I had completed my first contract and was onto my second, but that really sucked for my friends.

At the time of the change, I was the person who had worked at AbaTron the longest (crazy, I know!), so the plan was for me to stay since they needed someone who really knew the ins and outs of the school, students, etc. I was fine with that, but adamant that I still be able to take my already-booked trip home in October. The HR rep first told me it would be no problem, but a couple days later informed me that his manager felt it was “too long to be away from the students.”

I was given the choice of canceling or drastically shorting my trip (missing no more than 5 days of work when I had planned to miss 13), or I could finish out the semester and they would give me contract for just one month (until the end of the semester), ending August 31st, and a Letter of Release so I could find another job.

I thought about it for two days, made a few Pro/Con lists, and weighed my options. In the end, I decided there was no way in hell I was changing/shortening my first trip home in a year and a half, and decided to take the contract ending on August 31st.

In late July, for “summer vacation” (a four-day weekend), Karen and I scampered off to Hanoi for a taste of Vietnam. In so many ways, it is the polar opposite of Seoul. I instantly fell in love. It’s absolutely gorgeous. The energy is so different from Korea. And once you get used to crossing the scooter-filled streets (the trick is not to hesitate), there’s so much to see and do. Our trip was crazy and far too short, but I can’t wait to go back and visit the country properly when I’m finished in Korea. Someday.

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Then it was back to Seoul for my last month at AbaTron. I had put off telling my students that I was leaving—many of them were so excited when I told them I had renewed for a second year. It’s hard on them, the constant turnover of teachers… I said my goodbyes (though a few of my favorite students still text me), and on August 31st went on my merry way.

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Since the school provided my apartment I had to move out of my apartment, and my beloved neighborhood of Banghwa. I took my bonus and sublet an apartment in Dongnnimun for three months. I knew nobody would hire me when I needed 2.5 weeks off in October, so I didn’t start looking for a job until after I got back from America. The time from applying, to interviewing, to being hired and starting work here is literally a matter of days, so there wasn’t much point until I was back in the country.

Instead, I had three glorious weeks to really relax for the first time in a year and a half before my friends from home arrived in mid-September. And relax I did! As much as I loved living in Banghwa, it was at the edge of the city and meant spending a lot of time on the subway. Living in Dongnnimun had a lot of benefits location-wise. I walked everywhere. I explored the city in a way I had never really had the time for. It was wonderful.

And then, it happened…

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THEY’RE HERE! THEY’RE HERE! THEY’RE FINALLY HERE!!!!!

Lindsay, Nicky, and Molly arrived in Korea.I’m still shocked that they came all this way just to see me. I wasn’t working, so I got to spend the entire 13 days with them instead of being at work most of the time. Picking them up from the airport was magical, and then we had two amazing weeks. I don’t have enough words to tell you how spectacular it was to have them here.

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After they left (wah!), I had two weeks to relax and then it was my turn to get on a plane and head home. There a slight delay while I was trapped at Dallas Airport thanks to Hurricane Patricia, but after 36-hours of travel I finally made it home to amazing, beautiful, spectacular Wisconsin. Home. Home. Home.

I spent two weeks basking in the fall beauty of Wisconsin, and doing the stuff I love with the people I love. I hardly took any pictures, but I did come across this fantastic old gem of my sister and I. Classic.

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Heather making me do all the work, as usual.

And, of course, my “sister’s” wedding.

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Me, Kayla, and our lovely moms at the wedding.

I even got to spend my last two days of my trip in Chicago (Chicago!) with the amazing Jess who finished her time in Seoul back in August.

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It wasn’t a long enough trip, but I squished a lot of people into a small space of time. I have the absolute best people at home. I know I say this every time I write, but I 100% believe it. I could not do what I do without them. Fact.

I got back to Seoul in mid-November, and immediately began applying for jobs. I went on seven interviews in three days. A lot of people asked me if I was applying for jobs before I left or while I was at home. It sounds crazy, but there was no point. Things move so quickly here. The job I ended up taking, I applied for on Wednesday, interviewed at on Thursday, and started training the following week.

I got a number of offers, but I am so, so, so happy with the school I chose. I have some friends who teach/taught for a different branch of this school, so I was already somewhat familiar with their methods. The hours are longer (MW 9:30-7:45, TT 9:30-7, F 9:30-6), but I have about an hour for lunch where I’m free to leave if I want, and I have evenings again! No more working until 10!

I moved to my new apartment in Gajwa. My new neighborhood is great. It’s about a 10-minute walk to Digital Media City and less than 20 to Hongdae, so I can easily choose between half a dozen subway lines depending where I want to go in the city. I only live about a two-minute walk from my school, though it’s a bit longer if I have to wait at any of the four train tracks on the way there. The apartment itself is cute, cozy, and basically brand new.

My new students are adorable. I have my own kindergarten class now, called Gemini. They’re about 4-5 years old (western age), and had absolutely no English when we started on December 1st. It’s amazing to watch them learn things. I can actually see the progress. The kindergarteners are there from 9:50 until 3pm every day, and the rest of the day is elementary school classes. The first three weeks of the month, I only had two kids in my kindergarten class. I got one more girl two days before vacation, and I’ll have another boy when we come back from break. It’s kind of nice having the kids trickle in, rather than starting with a big group of non-English speaking kids. Having never really spent much time around kids this young, every day is a learning experience for me. It’s a challenge, but one that I’m really enjoying so far.

For the elementary school classes, I teach everything from grammar to literature to science (eek!). My school is an immersion school, so the kids speak nothing but English from the time they arrive at school until they leave at the end of the day. Most of them either came up through our kindergarten system, or lived abroad for a period of time, so their English is really quite good. What I like best, though, is that they’re actually happy to be learning English. They’re excited to talk to me. It’s great! We’re starting a new term when we come back from break on January 4th, and I’m really excited for my new classes.

Another huge benefit of my new gig is that we get real vacation! I get five days off over Christmas and five in summer, always a Monday-Friday. For this break, I had off December 24th—January 3rd. If I hadn’t just started the job, I probably would have gone home for Christmas. I certainly don’t mind working hard—and we work hard at this new school—but it’s all worth it when I’m looking forward to something.

It’s funny—when it happened back in June, I wasn’t thrilled about the sudden change in my plans for the year. It wound up being one of the best things to happen to me. I got to relax. I got to spend all of the time with my friends when they visited. I got a much, much better job.

To wrap up this ridiculously long post, I’ll tell you what I did last night. I went to check out the Christmas lights on the Cheonggyecheon Stream. I had been there with some friends on Christmas Day, but there were literally at least a million people there, so we couldn’t even get down to the stream.

As you can see, there’s a slight difference in the crowds on December 30th.

Well, I think that’s about all I have to say. It literally took me three days and three different coffee shops to write this post. The wifi in the coffee shops is much better for uploading pictures than the free network I get in my apartment, go figure. Maybe if I didn’t let it build up like this it wouldn’t take so long, but I’m a perfectionist. At least where the written word is concerned. I mean, there have been drafts.

I guess I’ll end this post a lot like the last one. I’ve had a surprising, eventful, amazing, beautiful year. I’ve been lucky enough to spend it with fantastic people—both here in Korea and back home—and I can’t ask for more than that. I have pretty high expectations for 2016, and if it’s anything like this year I know it’s going to be crazy and wonderful.

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I’ve spent the year doing something I love. I hope you have, too.

 

 

 

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2014: I Know It Happened Because There Are Pictures

I have absolutely no idea where 2014 went. Seriously.

I suppose if I was a better blogger, I’d be able to look back at my blog and go, “Oh, yeah! That’s where it went!” But let’s face it; I’m a sporadic blogger at best and generally non-existent the rest of the time but let’s not talk about that.

As I scroll back through pictures on my phone (thank god I have photographic proof that this year did, in fact, happen), I can tell you two things about 2014:

  1. I did a lot of stuff. Like seriously, so much stuff. ALL THE STUFF. If you were hoping to do some stuff at any point you may as well give up because there is no more stuff left to do. I did all of it. BOOM.
  2. It was a helluva’ year.

New Year’s Eve came and went this week, and I spent a lot of time thinking about my last two New Year’s Eves. (Wow, that looks super weird in plural. No? Just me? OK, then.) NYE 2012 was spent sitting in my room in Kaukauna, Wisconsin, making a list of all the ways I was going to get my life in order so I could move out of the country. And NYE 2013 was spent in my parents house in Eagle, Wisconsin, counting down the hours until my flight to Prague the next afternoon, because I was finally officially starting the journey that had been a literal year in the making.

New Year’s Eve 2014 was spent with a pub in Hongdae with basically every other foreigner in Seoul, celebrating a year that I’m gonna go ahead and put in the victory column. I only hope 2015 is up to the challenge of topping it.

So what have I been up to since the last time I posted… In July? (Really, Holly? July? Get your crap together!) Well, to answer that question I could write a super-ridiculously long post detailing the Who, What, When, and Where’s of the year, but that sounds like a lot of work. Plus, if my collegiate education taught me one thing, it’s the magic of a solid summary. Especially if there are pictures. And so I present to you…

July – December 2014: The Cliff Notes Version

*Please note: That should’ve been read in a booming James Earl Jones sort of voice.*

First, there was all kinds of amazing food:

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Squid n’ stuff.

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I have no idea what this was called and it pretty much happened on accident, but it was totally delicious so it’s all good.

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Mmmmm, octopus…

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Octopus! It’s been one of my favorites so far.

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Korean BBQ at it’s finest.

Then, there was my first trip to Sokcho at the end of July. Sokcho is a gorgeous little city on the East coast, right between the ocean and Seorak Mountain. My friend Zoe and I went for two nights over one of our long weekends, and spent most of it on the beach.

To the beach, beach!

To the beach, beach!

Seoraksan

Seoraksan

The air is so clear you can see all the way to the beach.

The air is so clear you can see all the way to the beach.

Inappropriate footwear, of course.

Inappropriate footwear, of course.

Seoraksan

Seoraksan

Seoraksan

Seoraksan

Wandering around Sokcho

Wandering around Sokcho

No filter, bruh.

No filter, bruh.

Sokcho is basically the most beautiful place ever.

Sokcho is basically the most beautiful place ever.

Sokcho!

Sokcho!

Mountains in the background.

Mountains in the background.

This is how Koreans go to the beach.

This is how Koreans go to the beach.

Hello, beautiful.

Hello, beautiful.

Sokcho summer night life

Sokcho summer night life

Are you drooling yet?

Are you drooling yet?

Lol fish?

Lol fish?

#sorrynotsorry

#sorrynotsorry

I seriously love this city.

I seriously love this city.

Allons-y!

Allons-y!

Wizards on the beach. :)

Wizards on the beach. 🙂

After that, there was a day trip to Everland amusement park in early October (I think?), which is basically the Korea-version of Disney World.

Everland was decked out for Halloween.

Everland was decked out for Halloween.

Everland!

Everland!

Or Germany?

Or Germany?

Practice safe roller coastering, kids.

Practice safe roller coastering, kids.

Chaos!

Chaos!

T-Express. My kids were all suuuuper impressed I went front-rowsies.

T-Express. My kids were all suuuuper impressed I went front-rowsies.

Then, there was my second trip to Sokcho on November 1st. I went back for one night with my friends Jess and Karen so we could hike Seoraksan, and I even brought appropriate footwear this time!

I love the ocean.

I love the ocean.

Sokcho!

Sokcho!

Sokcho, taken from the end of the world's longest pier.

Sokcho, taken from the end of the world’s longest pier.

At Seoraksan

At Seoraksan

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Hi, Mom!

Hi, Mom!

Gorgeous fall colors at Seoraksan

Gorgeous fall colors at Seoraksan

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There were almost 900 steps to the top. Someone counted. Not me. I was too busy wheezing.

There were almost 900 steps to the top. Someone counted. Not me. I was too busy wheezing. Also, please note my brightly attired fellow-hikers. Even in the mountains, there is no escape from the crowds!

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Nailed it!

Nailed it!

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Seoraksan <3

Seoraksan ❤

Then, there was yet another Lantern Festival.

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And, in between there were lots of random odds and ends that don’t really fit into any other categories.

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Literally my favorite graffiti ever. I mean, come on. It’s a fire-breathing pheasant.

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Dongdaemun Design Plaza

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Random gold stuff for sale in my neighborhood. Because obviously.

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Everybody say, hey-oh! HEY-OH!

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Gyeongbokgung

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Unicorn crossing.

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DUCKS!

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“Ok, guys. Let’s talk about stranger danger,” she said, totally with a straight face.

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Rather feeble Christmas decor at the “European Christmas Market”. But they had gluhwein, so it’s all good.

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Gyeongbokgung

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Dongdaemun Design Plaza

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No, Korea. Just no. Go home, you’re drunk.

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Birthday art from my students.

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The most beautiful place in Seoul… an English bookstore! What the Book, in Itaewon.

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And umbrellas…

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Because just.

And, of course, there have been amazing people tearing around with me.

Dyed in the wool of special, this one.

Dyed in the wool of special, this one.

Stephy makes a friend (finally).

Stephy makes a friend (finally).

Jeff's birthday

Jeff’s birthday

The cool kids.

The cool kids.

Lol. She's Irish.

Lol. She’s Irish.

She's not Irish.

She’s not Irish.

Seriously, every picture I have have Zoe is really weird.

Seriously, every picture I have have Zoe is really weird.

Case and point.

Case and point.

At the Seoul International Fireworks Festival

At the Seoul International Fireworks Festival

At Gyeongbokgung

At Gyeongbokgung

Pirating.

Pirating.

In Sokcho. :)

In Sokcho. 🙂

That time there were umbrellas.

That time there were umbrellas.

Irish Festival

Irish Festival

Super weird faces.

Super weird faces.

Banghwanians!

Banghwanians!

So there you have it. We’re basically all caught up. This is what I’ve been doing for the last six months. I’ve been busy, to say the least. The last year has been completely and utterly amazing for me, and I can’t wait to see what 2015 brings.

I wanted to put some sort of worldly wisdom at the end of this post, but really all I can say is that I feel incredibly lucky to be doing what I’m doing, and I absolutely love it. It’s the best feeling in the world, and I hope the same for each and every one of you reading this.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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I Did All the Things (No, Seriously)

Well—hot dog—guess who’s posting again in less than two weeks! Put on your party hats, people! No, seriously. Put them on and read about my glorious four-day weekend during which I did All. The. Things.

I had a really wonderful four-day weekend May 3rd to the 6th. It started off with a staff dinner on Friday evening. When we were all done with our last lessons, all of the teachers and our boss went out for a popular Korean meal called Samgyeopsal. It’s really delicious—they basically cook pieces of uncured pork (it looks like thick bacon, but it’s not) on a hot plate in the middle of your table, along with kimchi (spicy fermented cabbage—massively popular here) and then you cut it into little pieces and put it on a piece of lettuce along with whatever else you want from the other dishes, and basically roll the lettuce like a taco and eat it. It’s kind of overwhelming (especially since my chopstick skills are still pretty sub-par), but it’s absolutely delicious! IMG_2797 On Saturday afternoon I met up with a few people to do some cultural stuff. We stopped briefly by Gyongbokgung or Gyongbok Palace where they had some festive re-enactments of assorted stuff going on (unfortunately I have no idea of the significance of the events). It was really crowded due to the holiday, so my companions didn’t want to actually go into the palace so we didn’t stay long. IMG_2809 IMG_2813 IMG_2815 IMG_2818 We had some really good Indian food for dinner, and then I went off to do some more wandering in my own. I actually got super lost for a while, and stumbled onto Cheonggyecheon Stream which was lit up with the most amazing lanterns I’ve ever seen. IMG_2826 The stream is probably one of my favorite places I’ve been so far. I guess it was covered up by a massive highway for a long time, but in recent years Seoul has been doing a huge urban renewal project to make the city beautiful again (there’s a ton of history to explain this, and I’ve only just dipped my toes into that pool. It’s super fascinating, but it’s way too much for me to explain at 1:09am as I write this). The stream was uncovered, made beautiful, and reopened again just in 2006. IMG_2831 IMG_2836 IMG_2842 IMG_2843 IMG_2846IMG_2849 On Sunday I went to called Bongenusa Temple. It took about an hour to get there on the subway, but it was so beautiful. The lanterns were (once again) amazing, but what was even cooler was the hiking trails in the woods behind the temple. They weren’t extensive, but it was enough to block out the city for a little bit. It felt so good to just be surround by nature again for a little bit. I stayed in the woods wandering around for a couple hours. IMG_2877 IMG_2881 IMG_2887 IMG_2888 IMG_2895 IMG_2907 IMG_2914 IMG_2917 IMG_2920 IMG_2921IMG_2900 IMG_2902 IMG_2916 On my way home (and by on the way home I mean completely not at all on the way home) I went to check out a bookstore that I heard had big English books section, called Kyobo bookstore inside Gwanghwamun Station. I walked into this bookstore and, you guys, Oh. My. God. I made an actual, involuntary, and audible sound that I’m pretty sure consisted entirely of vowels. It is the biggest bookstore I have ever seen. Because of the holiday there were approximately 7-billion Koreans there, so I didn’t couldn’t peruse as much as I wanted to, but I picked up a guidebook because (shockingly) I didn’t have one, and made a mental note to go back (about a million times).

On Monday I was craving sunshine and relaxation, so I flipped open my handy new guidebook to find a park. About an hour later I found myself at Yeouido Park where I promptly stretched out in the sun and just hung out for about an hour. Yeouido Park is another part of the urban renewal project—the stretch of land was turned into a park in 1999, before that it was basically an asphalt plaza that doubled as an emergency airstrip. It’s got some amazing walking/biking paths, and a huge area for kids to ride bikes and rollerblade, etc. The walking paths are—get this—squishy. Not like really squishy, just squishy enough that you could walk on them forever and your feet wouldn’t get tired. In case that’s a problem. IMG_2929 After the park, I decided to go back to Gyeongbokgung (where we’d been so briefly on Saturday) because I really wanted to actually buy a ticket ($3) and go into the palace. It was still crowded, but not too bad, and was absolutely amazing. I was there for about four hours, and probably only so about half of the palace. I’ll have to go back again, for sure. IMG_2940IMG_2936 IMG_2938 IMG_2939 IMG_2946 IMG_2948 IMG_2951 IMG_2952 IMG_2958 And a few pictures from the plaza in front of the palace. IMG_2930 IMG_2932 IMG_2965IMG_2931 And Tuesday I met up with my friends again and we all just recounted our weekends and relaxed. Wednesday-Friday we had a short week at work, I spent most of it administering speaking tests to my elementary students (I sat with each student individually and asked them some basic conversational questions and graded their responses) and grading their writing tests. Some were good, some were bad, and some were hilariously bad.

This last weekend I just relaxed. And it was glorious.

That’s all for now. It’s  now 2:07am, so I have a very important appointment with my pillows.

As always, love from Seoul!

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I’m Alive! (And Other Things that Are Also Happening)

Hello! Yes, I’m still alive and well and wandering around Seoul, feeling slightly more confident less oblivious every time I set foot out the door. Hurrah!

I really need to write more often so that it doesn’t all pile up like this. I’m still adjusting to my work schedule. Working 40+ hours per week, getting home after 10:30pm, and attempting to still have a social life most nights is a quite a lot to balance.

So, here are the highlights from the last few weeks:

Part One – Cultural Things!

The weekend before last, I took a solo trip out to Changdeokgung, also known as Changdeok Palace. It took me almost an hour to get there—45 minutes on the subway (including one line change) and then a 10-15 minute walk—but it was absolutely worth it. I was there for about four hours just wandering around the palace!

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Anyway, the palace itself was massive, and really, really beautiful. I literally had to double-over to walk through doorways though—I’m basically a mammoth compared to ancient Koreans.

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Spotted a fellow foreigner at one point and we did the ole’ “I’ll take a picture of you with the impressive landmark, if you take a picture of me with the impressive landmark” trade. Honestly, those odd little moments of teamwork are one of my favorite things about travelling.

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Apparently it has a massive 78-acre “secret garden” behind it but you could only visit it on the guided tour, which was sold out. I will definitely go back another day to see that.

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Part Two – Bureaucratic Things!

(Alternately Titled: The Time I Broke the Immigration World Record)

My boss (Mr. VH) had finally gotten my medical results (in a stamped and sealed envelope, of course—like I would have been able to read them anyway), so last Friday I sojourned to Omokygo to visit the Immigration Office and apply for my Alien Registration Card (ARC), which is really important because I can’t do a lot of things here until I have one.

I told a few people I had to go to Immigration, and the responses were all generally along the lines of, “Ugh, that sucks. I was number 42 but I was still there for hours. Bring a book!” Every person I’ve ever talked to who had to go to Immigration (in any country) described it as being basically like a trip to the DMV only much longer, and much more awful.

So I set out around 8am on Friday, wanting to get there before they opened at 9. When I arrived it was me and about 600 Chinese people. The ticket machine was broken, so a woman was handing out tickets. I grabbed mine (number 109) and found a seat thinking there was no way in hell my number would be called before I had to leave for work, and I’d have to come back another day.

Then— miracle!—I look at my ticket and notice it’s stamped ONLY CHINESE. Since it turns out I’m actually not Chinese (who knew?), I scooted back over to the ticket lady, point at the ticket and say, “Me no Chinese,” because apparently I forgot how to speak English on this particular morning, and she handed me another ticket marked NON-CHINESE. I’m now number 4! Victory!

So the windows opened at 9 and my number was called within 5 minutes. The woman at the window was lovely helpful and corrected my form which Mr. VH had filled out spectacularly wrong (the Korean form really tripped up the Korean guy), and waited while I paid my fee at the ATM on the other end of the room. She stamped my form, gave me a receipt, told me I would have my ARC within 3-weeks, and sent my on my way.

I got outside; it was 9:17. World. Friggin’. Record.

Part Three – Teaching the Crazies!

(Alternately Titled: You So Babo)

Teaching is honestly the strangest thing. I don’t quite know how to describe it yet. The elementary school kids are absolutely nuts—they have so much energy. I had a boy one day who literally opened the window, screamed out of it, and then closed it again. Just screamed. For no reason whatsoever. What was that? One of my coworkers was teaching in the classroom next door so later I asked if he’d heard the scream, which of course he had. Then he shrugged and said, “Eh. Elementary school kids,” like it’s a totally normal thing. Super.

When they’re not screaming, the elementary school kids are mostly they’re pretty good. Getting them to do any work is like pulling teeth, but I try to have a game or something to reward them when they make it through that day’s material. We play Categories, or Taboo, or Catchphrase, and they seem to really like that. I’m acquiring more games as I go, so hopefully I can keep this up. Here’s a couple pictures from one of our games of Categories. The topic was “Olympic Sports”. Boobslay for the win!

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I haven’t officially taught the Middle School classes yet. Their exams ended last week, so we’ll go back into our regularly scheduled nonsense when we return from our long-weekend next Wednesday. Bring it on!

Part Four – Other Stuff!

(Alternately Titled: Stuff I Didn’t Know Where Else to Put so it’s Awkwardly Tucked into the Ending Here)

Other than that, when I’m not at work, there’s a good chance I’m out for drink with some of the people I’ve met here. There’s someone out basically every single night of the week, so if you’re looking for something to do there’s always an option. I try not to go out every night, mostly because I just don’t like the idea of drinking every single night. Plus everyone here smokes (it’s super cheap—about $2/pack), and my lungs are not psyched about being around that much smoke. I literally know one other non-smoker out of a group of 25+ odd people. Ugh.

I’ve developed a weird cough in the last week. It’s a really horrible bear-sounding beast of a cough. I’m not sure if it’s from being around the smoke, the “Yellow Dust” epidemic (South Korea is deluged in horrible fumes from China this time of year—thanks, China!), or if it’s just my lungs’ way of adjusting from lovely country air to crappy Seoul air. Either way, it sounds gross, but basically everyone here has it. Awesome.

It took me about three weeks, but my apartment is now relatively clean. Getting rid of the black mold in the bathroom was gross, but I’m really pleased with how well the place cleaned up. It’s pretty perfect for me. As promised, pictures:

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This weekend we get a four-day weekend compliments of two national holidays. I believe it’s Children’s Day and Buddha’s Birthday. So we’re all off of work on Monday and Tuesday. Most of the people I know here are going to Busan for the weekend (about 4-5 hours away by train), but a handful of people including myself are staying in Seoul. I’m psyched to have some time to explore, and hopefully see some cultural stuff. The city is all decorated for the Lotus Lantern Festival, but I’ve only seen the temple here in Banghwa (below), and to be honest that was the result of a rather intoxicated 2am hike through the woods. It was a lot of fun, but I’d love to see some of these things in the daylight and maybe sober.

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Anyway, I think that’s all I have for now. Hopefully after this nice long weekend, I’ll have some good pictures to post.

To everyone at home—I love you and I miss you and I think of you guys all the time. I hope things are good with you all. J Oh! And if you don’t already have my info, I do have a regular mailing address now, so let me know if you need it. If you want to text me for FREE and you don’t have an iPhone (or iMessage is being a douche-canoe), download Kakao Talk. My ID is reallyholly, of course. 🙂

As always, Love from Seoul!

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Greetings from Seoul!

I’ve been trying to wrap my head around this post for a few days now. It’s just that so friggin’ much has happened in the last week, that I just don’t even know where to start.

The only way to do this is to break it up into parts (but also be sure to stop by my new Oddities page, with random little tidbits that just don’t fit into a regular post!). Anyway, here’s what I’ll be covering in today’s post:

  1. 1. How I eventually made it to Seoul and then my luggage even more eventually made it to Seoul.
  2. I met a whole load of lovely new people.
  3. My apartment was disgusting, but is currently less disgusting.
  4. I totally think I’m going to be OK at teaching.

Part 1—How I Eventually Made it to Seoul and my Luggage Even More Eventually Made it to Seoul

I left my house in Wisconsin around 3am on April 2nd. My flight wasn’t until 7am, but my recruiter has instructed me to be 3-hours early, so 3-hours early I was. It was a bit pointless and I was the only person at the gate for about an hour and a half, but I sat quietly and ate my yogurt and watched the sun rise on my last Wisconsin morning. It was lovely, and really gave me a nice sense of calm which I feel is really important when you’re on the cusp of a long period of travel.

Breakfast of champions!

Breakfast of champions!

MKE-PHX

MKE-PHX

Four hours later our plane landed in Phoenix and we were stuck on board for a while because another plane was still at our gate. I was pretty worried because my layover was only an hour (hah!) and I was starting to wonder if my baggage would make it onto my next flight (little did I know what I was coming…). When we finally got off the plane I scurried over to my next gate just in time for them to announce there was probably going to be a 2-hour delay on our departure—apparently there was “too much air traffic” at San Francisco airport, so all the flights heading there were delayed.

I hurried over to the customer service desk before the queue could form (oh boy, did it!) and told the girl behind the counter that if the flight was delayed 2-hours, I would miss my connection for Seoul. She booked me another flight to Seoul for the exact same time the next day, and told me when I got to San Francisco to make sure I checked in with Singapore Airlines to confirm my ticket and find out where my baggage was. Super.

I went back over to the gate and called my parents to fill them in on the situation. As soon as I got off the phone, a girl a couple of seats down from me leaned over and asked if I was going to Seoul. It turns out she was on her way to Seoul as well (visiting a friend), so we decided to team up when we got to San Francisco to find out what the hell was going on.

We landed in San Francisco less than 20-minutes after our flight to Seoul left. Sad faces. Anyway, I met up with my new pal Toni when we got off the plane, and we hurried from the domestic terminal to the international terminal to check in with Singapore Airlines…

They were closed.

Apparently they only have two flights a day out of SFO, so after the flight we were supposed to be on left, they were done for the day. Go figure. So we went back to the domestic terminal and found US Airways and told them our situation and asked if they could tell us where our luggage was. They pretty much said there was nothing they could do. “Well it’s supposed to get sent right over to the next airline, you’ll have to ask them.” We explained they were already closed, and they basically shrugged and said there was nothing they could do except offer us a coupon for a discounted hotel room since we qualified as “distressed passengers.”

For the record, Toni and I somehow found the entire situation absolutely hilarious and were literally giggling for 24-straight hours over it. We may have been borderline crazy by this point, but whatever.

We found someone in the international terminal who told us to use the white courtesy phone to get a hold of Singapore Airlines. All we could get was the message saying they were currently closed. Super helpful. We found another person who was at least able to tell us when their counter would reopen (about 9:45pm that night), so we could find someone to talk to at that time.

SFO

SFO

Toni and I decided to go split-skies on a hotel room with our discount coupon. After huddling under the edge of a crowded bus stop for a while (it was pouring, of course) we finally took the airport shuttle to the hotel and checked in. We both made a few phone calls. I could barely contain my giggles when I called my parents and said, “Hi! I’m damp, no one knows were my luggage is, and I’m sharing a hotel with a total stranger. How are you?” The place was conveniently attached to a Chinese buffet, and we were both starving (damn domestic flights and their lack of complementary snacks!), so we grabbed dinner and a drink, and just killed time until we could go back to the airport to talk to Singapore Airlines.

We were both extremely exhausted by the time we got back on the airport shuttle, but made friends with the driver who was pretty entertaining. He dropped us off and we skipped the line (for the 1am flight to Singapore) and ran up to the first class counter to try and get some answers. We told the guy working our (by this point rather lengthy) story, and he took our baggage numbers and called his contact in the baggage department. He told us he wouldn’t be able to look into it until after 11pm, so he offered to call us. We took him up on that, left him a phone number, and went back to the hotel where we promptly popped in Spice World (because we just needed to know there was something out there more ridiculous than our day, and plus that movie is awesome) and passed out.

We got a call around 1am about our baggage—they still hadn’t found it, but were working on it, and they told us to just ask about it when we checked in for a flight in the morning.

The next morning Toni and I hit up the free continental breakfast where we ran into another passenger, Nancy, who had also been stranded in Phoenix and was also on her way to Seoul to see her son who lives on the US Army base. We all headed to the airport, and at the check-in counter they told us they still didn’t know where our baggage was, but to check at the gate when we got there. Ok. Sure. Whatever.

So we go through security and find our gate and check with the Singapore Airlines staff there. They didn’t have our baggage yet, but they still had about 70-bags left to load, so they told us to check back in a half-hour. A half-hour later, there’s still no sign of our bags. They call US Airways who says they’ll look into it and call back. Our flight to Seoul is supposed to board in 10-minutes. All three of us are on the phone trying to get a hold of someone—anyone—at US Airways who can tell us what the hell is going on.

Finally Nancy gets through to someone who checks her (Nancy’s) baggage number and—yep, US Airways still has it. They never sent it over to Singapore Airlines. She passes the phone over to me so I can give my baggage numbers—same thing for Toni and myself. We tell her our flight is boarding, she says she’ll do what she can, and then it was time to get on the plane.

The flight to Seoul was very smooth. Singapore Airlines was super nice, very clean, had a lot of really great entertainment options, and the food was absolutely wonderful. I watched season 5 of Friends which was a delightful find on my seat-back council—sometimes you just have to re-visit the classics, you know?—and slept for maybe four of the 12-hours.

It's hard to see, but the Golden Gate bridge is in there.

It’s hard to see, but the Golden Gate bridge is in there.

We landed in Seoul and as soon as I got off the plane—literally, immediately off the gangway—there was a sign with my name, Toni’s name, and Nancy’s names. We got the details. Our luggage did not come on the flight, but would arrive on the exact same flight the next day. They told us to leave an address with baggage claim and they would get it to us right way.

We went through immigration, baggage claim (I left the address for my school because it was the only address I had), and customs, and then all parted ways in the arrival halls. I’m very glad I had company on that ridiculous adventure. Toni was pretty cool, and we might even meet up again while she’s still in Seoul, which would be a lot of fun.

In the arrival hall, I finally got to meet my recruiter Anna (very briefly, and she took my baggage claim info and said she would call them and give my actual apartment address). She directed me to the van driver who would take me directly to my new place of employment.

And thus, I had arrived in Seoul.

To make what’s still an obnoxiously long story much shorter, my luggage did in fact arrive the next day, Friday. However, they tried to deliver it while I was at work, and since I wasn’t there they left it with… someone. Nobody knew who. After attempting to talk to several Koreans (literally pointing at the word luggage in my phrase book) who had no idea what I was talking about, I ended up having to call my recruiter Anna on Saturday morning. I gave the phone to the ancient Korean man who works at the front desk (when he’s not wandering around outside smoking), and lo-and-behold, he had my luggage in a storage room on the third floor. Thank the freaking lord.

Welcome back, boys!

Welcome back, boys!

Part 2—I Met a Whole Load of Lovely New People

The van driver didn’t speak any English, so it was a quiet half-hour(ish) ride from the airport to my hagwon (private school) in Seoul. I learned that turn signals are almost entirely decorative here. Super.

Anyway, we parked and he took me up to the 7th floor. It was about 8pm at this point (the work hours for our school are 2pm-10pm), so classes were in full swing when I arrived. One of the reception girls took me to the teachers office where I sat in a chair while people ran all over the place between classes, and bunch of people came in to meet me before running off again, and small Korean children stared at me like I was the most fascinating thing they’d ever seen.

Eventually I met Max, the teacher I would be replacing, and went with her to her next two classes to observe. She showed me a few things in the office between classes, but I was basically in zombie-mode at that point and honestly retained very little. The schedule is entirely in Korean and is the scariest looking Excel screen I have ever seen in my life, so there’s no way I was going to make sense of it at that point.

Anyway, after work my new boss (who I’m going to call Mr. VH on account of his exceptionally voluminous hair) drove Max and I back to the apartment (normally new teachers have quite a bit of luggage, it was a bit pointless for me) and she took me up to her old/my new apartment (which we shared for her last two days here).

I dropped off my stuff and we went down to a small pub called Dakgage in the building next door where as soon as we walked in I was greeted by a large group of people who all somehow seemed to be expecting me. “You’re the new teacher!” Honestly, they were so delighted and so full of questions, it was over-whelming. It was like tripping and face-planting into a huge new group of slightly insane friends.

We were at the pub for a couple hours. I sampled Soju—oh god—and I made plans to meet up with a couple of people for a little exploring on Saturday. The group is widely varied (I still haven’t met everyone), but there’s a handful each of Americans, Canadians, and Brits, and a few Irish, Australians, and Koreans as well. The range of time people have been here is really wide as well—from 10+ years, to as little as one month.

Cass beer and a bottle of Soju

Cass beer and a bottle of Soju

The next morning (Friday, April 5th) I slept in a little bit while Max ran out to take care of some errands (she was leaving Korea the next morning), and then we she got back we left right away to go to work. The metro stop is less than 100-yards from our building, and it’s about 10-minutes on the metro and then a 10-minute walk to get to work.

I shadowed Max all day Friday, and she left a little early since it was her last day, so I shadowed another one of my fellow foreign teachers, Nathan (who is also from Wisconsin!), after that. After work the Albert (the third foreign teacher) and I went to meet Max and some people at another bar to celebrate her last night in Seoul.

It was a short night—Max had an early flight, and I was absolutely exhausted. The next morning Max left really early (around 5am), and then I slept for a few more hours. Then I got up to meet two of my new friends, Zoe and Steph (who are both English and hilarious), and we went and did a little bit of sight-seeing.

Sight-seeing in Seoul is super!

Sight-seeing in Seoul is super!

I’d love to tell you where we went, but I honestly have no idea what it was called. It took us almost an hour and multiple subway line changes to get there. It was quite a touristy area, and after we saw the… temple? Maybe. Anyway, after we saw what we saw, we had some Indian food, and then it started to rain so we headed back home to Banghwa (our neighborhood).

Part 3—My Apartment was Pretty Gross, But is Currently Less Gross

Sunday I literally spent the entire day cleaning. I made a trip to the super-market on the corner (it’s massive—three levels, all underground) to get some cleaning supplies and some basic groceries, and spent the whole day working. I rearranged the apartment, cleaned all the things and got unpacked. I watched Harry Potter while I worked. It was weirdly pleasant. It’s given me some small sense of control in this strange new world. Like no matter how bizarre and foreign this place seems to be me sometimes, it doesn’t really matter because I have this safe little nest here. It’s perfect. It’s mine.

Anyway, the place was in pretty rough shape when I got here. I know everyone’s not as fussy about it as I am, but I definitely got the sense that it was several people’s worth of dirty. Plus there’s a ton of stuff in here that’s been left behind by several people (men’s clothes and shoes, and old mattress, a gas mask, and 3D art print of a tiger—which I’ve since named Ferdinand and decided to keep) which really takes up a lot of room. I’m slowly migrating it all out.

I’m about 2/3 done getting the place cleaned and organized to my comfort, but will definitely post some pictures once I do.

Part 4—I Totally Think I’m Going to be OK at Teaching 

Yesterday (Monday) I officially became a real teacher. Nathan, Albert and I got to work at 2pm, and then we have about an 90-minutes to prepare before the first class comes in. We don’t really have to do any lesson planning, we basically just pick up in the book where we left off the week before. It’s nice because it takes the pressure off as a new teacher, and we never have to take work home with us. The downside is I won’t get any practice lesson-planning, which will likely come up if/when I eventually want to go teach at a different school or in a different country. Oh well, I’ll worry about that later.

I taught four classes on Monday. They went pretty well. The students were nice (if a little high strung), but they burned through the material we had to cover very quickly. They’re obsessed with getting free time at the end of the lesson, so I need to have an arsenal of back-up activities in the future.

I started at kind of a weird time—for the next three weeks, I’ll teach the elementary students classes as usual, but the middle school students are in a study period. So during the time I would normally be teaching the middle school classes, I have to sit at my desk in the teachers office and Korean child after Korean child comes in, hands me a book, and then proceeds to recite bits of it to me and I tell them if it’s right or not. I have no idea what it’s for (we’re all so busy I haven’t had time to ask one of the Korean teachers), but the kids take it very seriously. Like pulling their hair out seriously. It’s the weirdest thing.

Today (Tuesday) was a little lighter, I only had two lessons—normally I’ll have five on Tuesdays—and they both went really well. We went through the material, and this time I had a game up my sleeve to play when we were done, and both classes got really into it. I forget what it’s called, but I just wrote words on the board and they had to get their classmate to say it. Kind of like Catchphrase. Anyway, I wrote “Pokemon” on the board, because kids here are still obsessed with it, and one little girl screamed, “The guy! He has balls!” and it took me like 5 whole minutes to get myself and then the rest of the class to pull ourselves together. So funny.

The kids really do seem lovely. They have a lot of energy which is new for me to deal with, but I honestly think I’m going to enjoy it. I am so far. I really like that the class sizes are small. The largest class I’ll have is 11 students (if they all show up, which is apparently not often). Most classes are around 4-6 students. Totally manageable.

In a normal week, I’ll teach 29 regular lessons and then I have one extra lesson scheduled on Fridays in case anyone needs a make up lesson, which will happen maybe a couple times a month. Not too bad.

I know, I know. Longest. Post. Ever.

Wow. I write my posts out in Microsoft Word before I post them (I’m a dork and I like it better than the WordPress text box), and I just want you to know that this post has just rolled over to page 7. This is far too long. If you made it this far, you deserve an award. Or perhaps a festive hat. You know, whatever.

That’s all for now. If you really need more, stop over at my new Oddities page to read about my random sightings so far, which include: Bunnies 4 Sale, Captain Sneezy-Pants, and Feline Guardians at the 7-11.

To my friends and family, I just want you to know that I’m good. Things are going well. Even when things were going wrong with my flight and my luggage, I was still weirdly cheerful and excited to just dive into this crazy adventure. I’m good, and it’s because I know I have you all back home cheering me on.

Love from Seoul.

P.S. Sorry for the lack of exciting pictures—I’m working on it!

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Leaving, On a Jet Plane

Or, if you prefer—The Most Long-Overdue Post Ever.

I’ve been back in the US for about a month and a half now. The weather has been horrible and cold, so I fell into that special sort of slump that can only be brought on by an endlessly oppressive winter. Spring is slowly showing it’s sleepy head though, and I’m happy to finally be able to say I’m about to head off on my next grand adventure in South Korea.

Last time I wrote, I was still in Germany. I had a really lovely time hanging out with my sister. We made many trips to the German animal shelter, and I got to see a lot of cool things in Deutschland. We even made a day trip to Munich where we were lucky enough to meet up with my pal Kelly from my TEFL course. We had every intention of seeing the sights of Munich, but the day quickly devolved into a beer tour of Munich and everyone enjoyed it—especially Duck.

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I received and accepted a job offer before I left Germany. I was returning to the US with plans to depart for South Korea in 10-days. It would be hectic, yes, but given the polar vortex I was excited to jam as much of my friends and family as I could into a small space of time and then get on a plane before the cold could really sink into my bones. Sadly, it was not to be.

When we landed in Chicago (after flying over the very white and very solid-looking Lake Michigan) and were waiting to de-board, we got the all clear to turn our phones back on. I was psyched to have proper phone service again (I’m limited to Wi-Fi outside of the US), until I opened the email telling me the teacher I was supposed to replace in Korea had decided to renew their contract after all, and I was out of a job. My 10-days in the US suddenly became… open-ended. Ugh. My first thought: What happens if I don’t get off the plane?

But I had people waiting for me. So I got off the plane.

I had several interviews in my first weeks at home, and had my pick of a few different jobs. The job I accepted is due to start March 31st (I was hoping to find one starting sooner, but given how long paperwork has taken to process I don’t think that would’ve been possible anyway), so the next several weeks were filled with lots and lots and lots of waiting—for contracts to be drawn up, for paperwork to go here and there, for Visa paperwork to be issued by one office and later be processed by another office.

Currently, my passport is with the Korean consulate in Chicago (presumably) having my shiny new work visa added. My recruiter* called me just last night to tell me she had spoken with the embassy and my passport will be ready for pick-up on Monday the 31st, but she’s trying to get them to have it done by Friday the 28th. I’ll have to pick it up in person and will more than likely get on a plane that same day. She said to make sure I’m packed, because at this point once my passport is done it’ll be time to go, go, GO!

For weeks people have been asking me when I’m leaving. I still don’t know. Sometime in the next few days, and that’s as specific as I can get. The American in me is a bit anxious and would really like to have a specific timetable to reference; the Traveller in me is content to crack a beer and wait for the pieces to fall into place because it is what it is, and there’s nothing I can do about it anyway.

I’m totally not developing a split personality. Right?

In between all the waiting and the paperwork, I’ve been lucky enough to spend time with my family and many of my friends. I could tell you about the places we went (let’s be honest—mostly bars and breweries), but in truth my words would fall short of adequately expressing just how much I valued the time I got to spend with the people I love. I’m so incredibly lucky to have these people in my life. I mean, look at them. They’re beautiful.

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In addition to the Wisconsin shenanigans pictured above, I also took a short trip to see my rhyming-buddy Molly in Fort Collins, Colorado. It was only a few days, but I had an absolutely wonderful time and can’t wait until we can do it again.

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I guess that’s all I have to say right now. I suppose this is the calm before the storm since my life is only days away from a massive, drastic change. I’ve been watching the weather in Seoul and it’s already been in the upper-60’s to low-70’s. I am excited about a lot of things, but right now nothing sounds better than being able to throw open my windows.

As always, lots of not terribly patient LOVE from Wisconsin!

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*A note on recruiters, for anyone considering working in South Korea:

I’m basically Goldilocks. I worked with three different recruiters over the last four months and I quickly realized that finding the right recruiter makes all the difference in the world. The first was horrible—never answered emails, and pretty much kept me in the dark about everything. The second wasn’t great—he was a little bit pushy, and listened very little to what I wanted and frequently recommended jobs that were nowhere near what I wanted location, pay, or benefit-wise. The recruiter I worked with the most, and ultimately accepted a job through, was absolutely wonderful and I would definitely recommend her. She was super enthusiastic and was in contact with me daily until I found and accepted a position that met with all of my personal criteria. If anyone is interested in working in South Korea I’d be happy to pass on her contact information. 🙂

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A Change of Scenery

I meant to write sooner, but the weekend slipped away from me and I’ve been quite busy since I got to Germany.

We had our little graduation on Friday, complete with champagne and shenanigans. Our entire TEFL class plus the trainers went to dinner at the Cortez which was right next to the school. There were many beverages, and it was far too much fun to see Dan and Kenny let loose a bit. They’re hilarious, which we already knew, but add a few beers and the effect is definitely multiplied. After dinner I went to another bar with Sam and Sierra and Kelly. It was this kind of sketchy bar that stays open until 5am, and included a particularly drunk Czech guy who kept standing behind us and stroking his mohawk while staring into a mirror. Weird, but fascinating.

On Saturday morning I met Sam and Sierra and Kelly again, and we grabbed a coffee and then got on the metro to go to Prague Zoo. We had to change trains and then take a bus, but we found the zoo without issue. I thought the zoo was super nice – definitely nicer and cleaner than the Milwaukee County Zoo. It was cold though, so a lot of the animals weren’t out. We saw a lot of birds and a really adorable baby monkey, and got attacked by a live bat (“Are those bats? Wow, it doesn’t look like there’s any glass there. Wait… Is there any glass there?” *bat attack* “OH MY GOD NOPE.”). We did find the elephants, though. And the hot wine. 🙂

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Prague Zoo

 The zoo closed at 4pm so we went to the pub right next door and had a couple pivos, including the unfiltered Krušovice, which was delicious. The pub closed as well, so headed back into town and stopped by my flat so I could throw some overnight stuff into a backpack (we’d decided to have a slumber party) and they could pick up their TEFL certificates which we’d left there. I’m glad Sam and Sierra finally got to see my… flat. Sam took one look in the door and went, “Nope.” Go figure. After that we headed up the big hill and I finally got to see where they had all lived, and Kelly packed an overnight bag. Then back down the hill to the grocery store before we got back on the metro to go to Sam and Sierra’s new flat (they’re going to teach in Prague) near Palmovka. Kelly cooked us a bitchin’ dinner, and for the next several hours we talked and had beers and listened to the entirety of the superior Blink-182 album Take Off Your Pants and Jacket. It was a lovely day.

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Post-Zoo Pivos

I think we all fell asleep around 2 or 3am, and then I got up at 7:30. I tried to sneak out pretty quietly because I absolutely hate saying goodbye to people, but Sam and Kelly woke up so I hugged them goodbye and then headed for the metro. I had a few minutes before the next train, so I flipped through the pictures from Saturday on my phone and got sort of teary/giggly which earned me some early morning scorn from the old Czech lady standing nearby. All I can say is that I’m very glad I met them all, and it was pretty much the perfect bookend on my time in Prague.

I got back to my flat and packed up the last of my stuff. Alexa was still sleeping, so once I got everything out into the hallway I woke up her real quick to say, “Hey, I’m outta here. Good luck!” and that was pretty much it. I checked out and began the arduous task of getting my giant suitcase to the train-station. I received further scorn from all the Czechs trying to change trains around me at Florenc, but there is absolutely no good way to do that transfer when you have a giant backpack and a giant suitcase and that platform is always a madhouse, but made it to the train station with about an hour to kill before my bus.

The DeutschBahn was pretty uneventful. I got a window seat, but was penned in by Stinky Guy, so I tried to bury myself in my coat and sleep. We did get stopped at the border and everyone’s passports or IDs were checked, but we still made it to Nuremberg right on time. Heather and Benni were waiting for me when I stepped off the bus so it all worked out perfectly. A short car-ride later and we were at their place in Cadolzburg (probably about 20 minutes from Nuremberg, I’d say), and we had some Welcome to Germany Beers while Heather made a lovely dinner.

The next morning Heather and I took a day trip to Bamberg, which is about an hour away by train. It was a really adorable little town, and I took a ton of pictures. We had a really good lunch at a little German restaurant, and I was introduced to Rauchbier which is a Bamberg specialty. It’s smoked beer, and it’s absolutely amazing. Heather said it’s generally a love it or hate it thing, and I really, really loved it.

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My new house. Bamberg, Germany.

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Bamberg, Germany.

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Bamberg, Germany.

Yesterday morning I had an interview with a school in Korea that my recruiter had set up. My recruiter said they’re looking for someone to start teaching in Suwon (about 20 minutes from Seoul) at the beginning of March and then transfer to a different school (same company, ages, curriculum, etc) in Seoul at the start of May. It’s a little unorthodox, but I told my recruiter as long as it was really clearly outlined in the contract that A) I would move to Seoul, and B) they would assist me with moving to Seoul, I could be flexible with that. Anyway, no word on that yet, but it was good to get an interview under my belt either way. Afterwards, Heather and I took the train back into Nuremberg. We wandered through a couple shops and had a really fantastic lunch at a French restaurant, and then met Benni in the afternoon to go look at cats. Meow. The jury is still out there.

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Nuremberg, Germany.

Today Heather had class all day, so I was on my own. I lounged around most of the morning, and then walked into downtown Cadolzburg. I found the castle, which was really cute but was closed so I could only really see one side of it. I walked to another part of town where there’s a tower, and climbed the tower as well, and the view was lovely. It was nice to have a full day to myself. I feel like I’ve had someone around me basically 24/7 since I got to Prague, so it was good to have some “me” time to let things get quiet again.

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Cadolzburg Castle

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Cadolzburg, Castle.

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View from Cadolzburg Tower.

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Cadolzburg Tower.

I think that’s about all I can say for now. Thus far Germany has been downright relaxing compared to Prague, and it’s been really fun hanging out with Heather. Usually when she visits Wisconsin I see her in bits and pieces while she runs around around trying to do all the things and see all the people. It’s nice to just do what we want without all that chaos – and who knows if it will ever happen again!

Things are good here, guys. I hope they’re good by you too.

Love from… Cadolzburg, Germany!

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We did it!

New TEFL graduates.

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Nailed It!

What. A. Week!

I’ve officially completed the TEFL program! Yay! We’re having our little graduation-event in a few hours. I am so looking forward to celebrating with my friends. We’ve all worked so friggin’ hard for this. It’s time to let loose! (OK, the letting loose technically started last night…)

Monday we all turned in the big paper on our individual students. We had class as usual, and and spent most of the night working on our lesson plans for Tuesday. Tuesday we got our papers back in the morning and I was relieved to find that I did well and passed that particular obstacle. It would’ve been a real problem to have to re-do that beast of a paper with everything else going on this week!

Tuesday afternoon we taught as usual. Emma and I were unobserved, and I thought both lessons went fine. We were teaching an Intermediate level group this time. I did a writing lesson which was a lot of fun. After that it was back home to get to work on the grammar presentation for Wednesday morning.

Wednesday was all about grammar, and we went through the presentations in the reverse order of our first presentation, so I was second-to-last. I taught Future Continuous, and Kenny said it went really well, so of course I passed! We didn’t teach on Wednesday, so once again it was back home to get to work studying for Thursday morning’s grammar test (dun dun dunnnnn) and lesson planning for our final lessons on Thursday afternoon. Wednesday night was a late, late night for me.

Thursday morning we got right into the grammar test. This was by far the hardest test I’ve ever taken in my life. It was also really tightly time-constrained. I barely finished, and I think a few people may not have finished at all. Anyway, we needed a 60% to pass, which seems really low to me, but with the European grading system, anything above a 70% is considered really quite good. After the test I went to lunch** with a couple of friends and then it was back to school to get our test scores. I ended up doing really well (72% ya’ll!), but was surprised to find a lot of people did not pass. I get why, though. That test was damn hard.

(**On an unrelated note, I’d like to present to you a picture of a bagel. One of the restaurants in the mall has a “Wisconsin Bagel,” pictured below. It consists of: onions, chicken, cheddar cheese, and cream cheese all on a toasted bagel. I probably never would have ordered it if it were not called the Wisconsin Bagel, but of course I had to try it. It was absolutely delicious, and yeah, if Wisconsin really was a bagel, this would be it.)

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“Wisconsin Bagel”

After the test we taught our last lesson. I taught first, a reading lesson about Urban Legends, and totally managed to involve my friend Duck in the activities. Score! Once we were done a few of us re-grouped and went out for dinner and drinks (pics below). It was a lot of fun. The other group had to teach their last lesson today, so we’ll go out again after our graduation this evening, and I’m psyched to go out with the whole group.

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Celebratory pivos!

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Cuddles!

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Duck makes a friend.

This morning I met up with Kelly and Tony and we went to breakfast at a little café and then wandered for quite a while. It was a really good relaxing morning, and I’m glad we got the chance to do that. Plus we went back to the Lennon Wall which, as we all know by now, is definitely one of my very favorite spots in Prague.

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The Lennon Wall.

So that’s it, folks. We’re done! We did it!

Honestly, I am so proud. I’ve never worked this hard for anything in my life, and it’s been so wonderful. I just can’t wait to get a job and get started so that all this hard work pays off. Now I’ve got today and tomorrow to enjoy myself with my pals, and then it’s off to Deutschland on Sunday. It’ll be exciting to go somewhere new, but I’ll admit that I absolutely love this city and these people and saying goodbye is going to be harder than I ever thought it would be.

But first, we celebrate!

Love from Prague!

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“Do you think Peter Gallagher will adopt us?”

Well it’s approximately break time o’clock, so I think I’m due for another update!

We basically had a long weekend, which was really nice. Friday we didn’t have class, but I was there for a couple hours anyway. I had my 10-minute meeting with Dan, and he told me that I’m “passing comfortably.” So as long as this last week isn’t a complete train-wreck, I should be fine. Hurray!

After that I worked on the paper about my 1×1 student for about an hour at the school. A little bit later, I went back to the Globe with Kelly, Sam, and Sierra to study – and by study I mean accomplish mostly nothing but taking some online quizzes and learning about some fascinating new medical conditions (eg: “the octopus”). We were there for several hours, so studying *cough* eventually turned into pivos (pic below). There was also a really good guitar player doing 90’s covers, so we were all pretty excited about that. We wanted to make friends with her, and it turns out that yelling, “HEY KATE, LET’S BE FRIENDS,” across a crowded bar is a totally legitimate way to make friends.

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Pivos at the Globe.

On Saturday most of us had signed up for an extra seminar on teaching young learner’s, so that took up about 6 hours of the day yesterday. It was taught by a girl named Tricia, who it turns out was a trainer at TEFL Worldwide back when my sister did the course in 2009. She was really awesome, and got me super-excited about teaching kids. It’s basically all about being really colorful and engaging, and simplifying things as much as possible, because kids don’t have long attention spans. I honestly think I’ll be great at it, because I’m pretty much a child myself. It’ll probably take me some time to find what works best for me, but once I do I think it’ll be really wonderful.

I spent the rest of the day Saturday working on my paper in bits and pieces, and then today has been pretty much the same, but I got laundry done as well. What a productive day!

This week is going to be nuts. Our papers are due tomorrow morning, and then we have class all day. I teach Tuesday afternoon, and our grammar presentations are due on Wednesday morning. Thursday morning we have the big grammar test, and then I teach again Thursday afternoon. And that’s pretty much it. The other group teaches Friday afternoon, but I’m sure at least the people in my group will begin our celebrations on Thursday night. 🙂 We’ll have the weekend to celebrate, and then I’m on a bus to Germany on Sunday.

It’s hard to believe that I will have already left Prague by this time next week – I honestly don’t know where this month has gone! I’m of course excited to get a job and start teaching for real, I’m really starting to get sad about saying goodbye to the lovely friends I’ve made here. I guess we’ll just have to visit each other, wherever we all end up. That’s the best part about being World Travelers, after all.

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“Studying” at the Globe.

Love from Prague!

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