6 Reasons David and I do not want to leave South Korea

As you can tell from the direction our blog has been taking, David and I are looking for new work.  This is very difficult for reasons I have already outlined in this post.  So we (mostly I) began looking for work in other countries.  As our search continues, I have become more and more depressed about the prospect of going to another country (with our main option being China because of the roaring English market there).  Almost all the jobs I find seem a bit sketchy at best and like a complete scam at worst.  David and I took a leap to come to South Korea, one we admittedly should have been more careful about, and we are not ready to make the same mistake twice in another country.  So, we have decided to FIGHT.  We are not going to be pushed around by some obscure boss that hardly even shows his face.  We are going to threaten, kick, punch, and scream our way to a letter of release.  Even if we have to wait for the investigations we have going to come to fruition, we will do it.  So on a more positive note than of late, I wanted to make a list of reasons David and I find staying in South Korea so highly appealing.

1) We can easily read the language.  Korean is one of the easiest, if not THE easiest, languages to learn how to read.  Unlike other Asian languages, Korean has an alphabet and not a character based writing system.  David learned how to read in about one day and I learned a little slower over the course of a few weeks.  We can now read any sign presented to us, maybe not well or quickly, but we can do it.  Going to another country and not being able to read anything, sounds like a nightmare when we are both so used to understanding what little we do in day-to-day life.

2) The perks here are almost unheard of in other countries.  When paid on time and in full, you can make a lot of money here.  From all the research I’ve been doing, I only found one job that we both qualified for that paid us more than we are supposed to be making here.  However, it was a two year contract.  On top of a cushy living wage we get free accommodation, air fare reimbursement, a huge end of contract bonus, and a fair amount of paid vacation, is part of the contract.  Like I said, IF you have a good job that adheres to these guidelines, it feels like a dream job.

3) The government has support systems for foreigners.  While I haven’t done a lot of research into other countries, I feel like Korea has a pretty good system for foreigners, even though it takes a long time.  The Labor Board and Immigration will do investigations and force employers to pay money and allow you to switch your visa.  This will only take place after the investigations however.

4) Even though this has been a bad experience, we really like Korea.  Korea has lots of great things going for it.  Cheap delicious food, really awesome and hospitable people, cheap travel options, and lots of beautiful scenery to name a few.

5) South Korea is a developed nation.  Contrary to what some people might believe from hearsay, gossip, or confusion between North and South Korea, South Korea is very much on par with the U.S. in many ways.  Yes, they have squat toilets.  Yes, many Koreans enjoy sleeping on the floor (on mats of course).  However, these things are all more cultural and choice related than anything else.  Western style toilets are in every place that I have visited.  And for every Korean that sleeps on the floor, just as many have mattresses.  The economy is booming, opportunity is everywhere.  South Korea is a great place to be nowadays.

6) The technology is far greater than most places (including the U.S.).  I can’t even describe to you how great it is to press a button on a webpage and it loads almost instantly.  If I were to travel to China, where the great firewall rules and fast internet is near non-existent (or so I hear), I would probably have a fit every time I had to use a computer.  Especially after being so spoiled in South Korea.  Even going back to U.S. speeds will probably be annoying at first.



Ways Koreas Has Already Changed Me!

As we approach the three week mark of our time in Korea, I can’t help but notice that I have already made some changes in my life.

1) I don’t have a cellphone.  Well not a working one anyways.   I am still waiting for my alien registration card so that I can get a plan.  Although I have heard it is WAY cheaper to get a pre-paid plan ($15 for two months vs. $70-100 for 1 month) but then I won’t be able to use 3g.  And really, what is the point of buying an expensive iphone if you can’t use internet except when there is wifi.  Decisions, decisions.

2) I wear slippers all the time.  I used to not really wear slippers or socks in the house, but I have recently adopted this Korean cultural habit like a boss.  I wear my cat slippers in the house, I wear bath slippers in the bathroom, and I would wear slippers at work if I didn’t have to run everywhere all the time.

My house slippers!

My house slippers!

3) I expect to eat rice at every meal.  David and I went to a Korean BBQ a week or so ago and did not realize we had to order rice separately.  We had finished our food and were still hungry which was confusing because usually you feel pretty satisfied by the meal.  Then we realized, WE HAD NO RICE!!!! I now understand why my dad eats rice everyday.  I have only been here for two and a half weeks and expect it at every meal, so going your whole life eating it, must be very hard habit to break.  Also, David thinks that if people just ate more rice in the U.S. it would solve a lot of the hunger issues there which is probably true.

4)  On another food note, I never know what I am eating.  At work, depending on what shift we are working, we sometimes get 3 meals a day (for free) of work food.  There is always at least 4-5 different dishes not including Kimchi.  One time I thought to myself, “How do Koreans know all the names for the different foods we are eating?”  Then I remembered that they have lived here their whole life so of course they know all the names!  Usually the food is pretty good and I just eat it no matter what it is. But sometimes it is horrible.  The other day we had “fish”.  The scales and the bones were still majorly intact (there were more bones than I even knew could exist in a fish).  Breakfast is interesting because it is pretty much the same as every other meal.  Rice, Kimchi, spicy side dishes… the only difference is there are usually eggs of some sort.  The past two breakfasts we have eaten, what I believe are quail eggs.  David LOVES them, I think they are weird and gross.

On another note, the other day we had sundae, a specialty of the town we live in.  Je Jin, our friend/ Korean assistant at work, told us we were eating “dak” which is a type of noodle.   However, David and I were both horrified because we thought she said, “dog”.  Imagine how I felt when we came home and David looked up sundae on the internet and found out it was made of pig intestines and probably other things… I think it is better to just not know.

5) I talk very slowly and in short sentences.  I…just… want… everyone… to… understand… me…  Examples: Bathroom?  Lunch time!  Let’s go!  Huh? Take scissors, cut.  Color this.  What?!

6) I drink coffee from a can or a dixie cup.  Coffee is hella expensive here.  I have had exactly one cup of regular coffee from a coffee shop (more on that later) and it cost me 6,000 won or around $5.50.  So now I go to convenience stores and get a delicious can of “latte or mocha” for a mere 1,000 won.  At work we also have these powdered french vanilla “coffee” that I drink from dixie cups.  David sticks to tea.

My Christmas Dixie cup for coffee at work.

Some beautiful English on a beautiful dixie cup.

7) I ride the bus almost everyday. When I lived in Eugene, I hated riding the bus.  For some reason I really enjoy it here.  To get to work, David and I take two busses.  First, the 400 to Byeong-Cheon, then, we transfer to the 500 to our work.  We usually leave around 8:10 in the morning and get to work by 8:45 or earlier.  The total time on the bus is probably only around 10 minutes though.  I also discovered that if you scan your bus card again before you get off, you don’t have to pay for the second bus ride!  So to get to work it only cost us 1,350 won each vs the 6,000 won it cost to take a “call van”.

8)  I feel confused every single day of my life.  No matter how often I tell the children I don’t speak Korean, they don’t believe me.  They come up to me and speak whole paragraphs in Korean, to which I just give a confused shrug or say, “English only.”  I still don’t know our home address but luckily we live right across the street from Korea Tech University, so if we are lost we can always just tell a cab to take us there.  In the office, I feel like I NEVER know what is ACTUALLY happening.  It is like there our two realities.  David’s and my reality and the Korean reality.  We hear our boss speaking angrily in Korean, have no idea if he is mad or just speaking loudly let alone what he could potentially be mad about.  Go to a restaurant, order food, hope you didn’t order live octopus.  Even when Koreans can speak English to us, a lot of the time (especially with children) I can’t tell the difference because their accent is so thick.  This is why I desperately need to learn Korean.  I have no time right now though!

Can't understand the bus schedule?... Neither can we!

Can’t understand the bus schedule?… Neither can we!

9) I enjoy my job! Obviously there are stressful times or things I don’t like but for the most part, I enjoy my job, love even.  It’s is like my favorite things about camp only for shorter periods (which in my opinion is pretty great).  Hate the kids? They are leaving the next day!  Awesome kids? You just had the best day of your life!  Then there is the planning part which I enjoy almost as much as the camp days.  Plus, free meals, sledding, amusement park, and water park!  Pretty good gig if you ask me!

Me with my favorite team of kids so far!

Me with my favorite team of kids so far!

How are we getting to Korea?!

Now that David and I finally have our documents finished we were hoping to leave for S. Korea by the end of the month.  However, we recently received an email from our recruiter of choice, Adventure Teaching, telling us that the job market is quite slow and we may not be leaving until October or November… if we continue to use them.  We could look into other recruiters if we wanted, as we signed no contracts.  This was very disheartening for me to hear because I spent a lot of time researching recruiters and chose AT for a reason.  That being said, while I am currently living at home, I have a limited amount of resources (aka cash), and my desire to leave only grows stronger everyday.  So what’s next?

I have been researching other recruiters and David and I may apply to a few while continuing to work with AT (we still hope that they will come through in the end).  On a very exciting note, David’s aunt Connie knows a contact living in Korea already.  David has been talking with him a little bit and he offered to look for jobs for us!  He thinks he can find us a job faster than AT which would be awesome.  It is amazing how many people know people that know people in S. Korea.  So out of all these options, I really hope something pans out soon.

In the meantime, I have moved home with my parents and David will soon be joining me.  I just went to one of my high school friend’s weddings and it was awesome.  Hopefully I will have some pictures soon.  I am also finishing up a 120-hour Teaching English as a Foreign Language class online which has been a lot of work, as well as, starting to learn hangul and some basic Korean. I’m trying to get David into it as well but he seems intent on learning German first… for some reason :p

Anyways, hopefully our next post will be to inform everyone of our job acceptance!