Namhae during Chuseok!

I got a rare 5-day weekend last week due to Chuseok, the Korean equivalent to Thanksgiving but with less racism.  So David and I decided to take another WINK (When in Korea) trip to Namhae Island.  It started out like most WINK trips with a overnight bus ride from Seoul.  I hate these overnight rides but luckily I was able to sleep quite a bit this time around.  Around 5am we arrived at our first stop, a temple on a mountain.  Bleary-eyed and half asleep we climbed to the top and watched the sunrise over a series of small islands that dotted the coast.  It was quite beautiful.

*Please note that the following two pictures were taken by Oisin Feeney of WINK Travels.

Sunrise on Namhae

Sunrise on Namhae

On our walk down to the mountain it started pouring rain.  We got a little nervous because we were supposed to be tent camping on the beach. Luckily, the rain stopped right as we were setting up our tents.  After eating a delicious lunch of chili dogs and hamburgers, we did some kayaking in the bay.  It was lots of fun and only marred by a dead seal found on one of the “secret beaches”.

David and I are in the second yellow kayak from the left.

David and I are in the second yellow kayak from the left.

One of my favorite things that we did on Namhae-do was going to the rice terraces.  It was a beautiful area with amazing views and fun walking trails.

Another amazing thing that happened was getting to witness bioluminescent plankton.  It was pretty hard to take a picture of this awesome experience but hopefully I will remember it forever!  Basically, when you walked into the ocean, the plankton lit up in a neon blue color.  Apparently, the plankton do this as a defense mechanism to scare away predators.

On our last full day, we moved to an area that had a German Village.  It was really random but also fun.  David and I ate some German sausage and I had a beer.  We also got to see some German architecture.  Overall, it was a great trip!

One More Week

I’ve already told this story to a number of people, and the nature of it makes me dislike going over the details.  But I suppose, in the interest of completeness, I have to give an account of the situation here.  After all, in one week I won’t be here in South Korea anymore.  I’ll be on a plane to Portland, and start laying the groundwork for our next moves.

To put it simply, my vague plans of lingering in Korea for the next six months, supported by odd jobs and such, fell through after a visit to immigration.  Well, two visits really.  On my first, I was told I could not complete an application for a D-10 visa (six month duration, “looking for work”) without a proper letter of release from my previous employer, good old CIS.  A bummer, I thought, but not impossible to overcome.  So I sent the school an e-mail, and told them I’d be in the next day to collect it.  Why they hadn’t given me one on my last day, after doing so much to get rid of me, I haven’t the slightest idea. 

The following morning I had an interview with an online school, which went very well, and by the end of it I’d been offered a part-time job.  Riding high on sweet success, I hopped on the train to Uijeongbu and made good on my “threat”.  I’m not sure if anyone had actually read my e-mail, because my arrival seemed to surprise the entire staff.  But the whole thing passed without much of a problem.  I waited patiently, caught up on the latest company news, and soon had the document I came for in my hand.  I ran into two of my former students on my way out, which made me very happy despite feeling the loss again.  I have to say even now, that was a very good day.

The next morning (a Friday) I went back to immigration.  I got a couple of calls from the online school while I waited in line, setting up my schedule for the post-Chuseok start of my employment.  And then my number was called.

After I submitted my documents, I suffered a swift reversal.  The man behind the counter told me, in very urgent tones, that I could not get a D-10 visa.  Readers of this blog may recall that, as part of Tara and my Great Sangnok Escape, we had to get D-10 visas in order to apply for a new E-2 with CIS.  Because I had already had a D-10 this year, and because CIS was cynically portraying my departure as a voluntary resignation (since I had “agreed” to stop working on the day they said they’d stop paying me), I was not eligible. 

Stunned, then progressively more agitated and frustrated as I rode the subway home, I went over my options.  I thought about seeking legal recourse over my eligibility.  I thought about hopping over to Japan for a few days and returning on a tourist visa (which would only grant me 90 days).  I was especially anxious because that very evening, Tara and I were supposed to get on a bus with WINK for a little Chuseok vacation, camping on the beach on Namhae island.  I was not in the last-minute-packing sort of mood.

But in the end, we went on the trip.  We had a great time (as you’ll read about soon), and in our relaxed state we made a firm decision: it was time to go home, for both of us.

I didn’t particularly like e-mailing the online school over the holiday weekend to tell them I couldn’t work for them afternthey’d already put me on he schedule.  And I wasn’t especially thrilled when, after getting an immigration consultant on the phone, I was told that I was expected to leave Korea by the twenty second of September.  But both of these things seemed small in comparison to the relief that hit me that I was finally going home.

I’ve said this a million times in the last few weeks: South Korea is a beautiful country.  I have met amazing, friendly people in all corners.  I love the students I’ve had, and I’m grateful for the valuable working experience I’ve gotten from this (almost) year abroad.  But working here can be an absolute pain in the ass.  Some people have come here for great, fulfilling jobs that paid well and gave them a sense of security.  Tara and I did not.  We’ve each received less money than we’re entitled to from all our time working in Korea.  Our savings are negligible.  After signing two contracts that guaranteed a ticket back to America for us, we’re paying our own way home.

But it’s OK.  We’re alive, we’re together, and apart from saving money we’ve done most of what we wanted to do here.  We miss our families and friends, and we’ll be very happy to see them again for the holidays, something we weren’t expecting we’d be able to do.

Like I said before, I am leaving on the twenty second, in exactly one week.  Tara, however, will remain in Korea for almost another month.  Her mom and her brother are coming to visit for a few weeks.  After that, Tara will fly back to Oregon on October nineteenth.  Sadly, we won’t be reunited then, because I’ll be in San Diego with my family for the holidays.  She’ll stay in Oregon with her family, and we’ll join up again in January.  The prospect of waiting so long saddens me greatly, but I know it’s for the best.

So that’s the news, and I’m happy to have it all out there.  It’s not the most fun topic to write about.  But I hope we’ll have something more colorful up here soon.