Where Have You Been?

Greetings from Sunny California. It’s been a while, I know.

Let me spare you the gritty details and just give you the quick and dirty on what’s been going on since I succumbed to laziness.

My Life, Abridged

  • End of 2016: I was again offered a position with Teach For America one year after declining.
  • January-March 2016: Ended my Seoul EPIK contract, accepted position with TFA, Hopped over to Japan.
  • April-June: Hung out in Japan with Fam. Visited Morocco. Taught Chinese students online. Got Engaged. Boarded plane to TFA in California.
  • July-October: Had major regrets. Most stressful time ever. Quit teaching online. Met and taught amazing kids in my new position. Money flowed away like water in the palm. Got Un-engaged (dis-engaged?). Contemplated life–hard.
  • November-Now: Almost got myself all pulled back together. Identity still a bit shaken. Improving in the second semester. Still teaching amazing kids. BROKE AF.

As you can see, I’ve been busy since South Korea. With all these life changes I’m trying to get back to doing things that I enjoy and challenge myself to be better than I was. My life is begging for consistency, order, and routine to start… And with that, I hope, will come more time (and money) to do things like travel, write, and sleep.

I don’t have any big return post or anything–just wanted to say that I’m here to anyone who might be listening.

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4 Baby Steps for Anxious Expats

Get a buddy

20161029_181448Having at least one person who makes you feel more comfortable navigating the city is always beneficial. It’s difficult, but even putting out an effort to meet just one chill person could really change your whole experience.

Get Involved

For me, I enjoy acting. It’s a fun way for me to get over my shyness and pretend to be someone else for a while. So I decided to pursue that while here in Korea and I’m so glad I did. You can be comfortable doing something you’re used to while also getting out there and meeting new people.

 

Try a Tour Group

Aren’t quite ready to just head out solo-dolo? Try signing up with a tour group. The tour groups in Korea are usually geared toward the young traveler who wants to see the sights and have a good time. Be prepared for booze and cliff diving. It’s really just a bunch of people who are looking for a good time but don’t want to put in all the effort of planning. Bonus is you will automatic group to stick with. … But you also don’t get to choose these people so that could be a plus or a minus. It sucks being stuck with an obnoxious group, but usually the loose structure means you don’t have to be around them too long.

 

Set a Distance Each Weekend

If you’re in a place with a subway system or great bus system challenge yourself to go a little farther each day. Admittedly, this is a difficult task for anxious people. I usually stick to the same familiar areas of town. At least try to get out of your city from time to time and see what a different part of the country has to offer.

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Getting called Ni**er in Helen, GA

Last month I went to the States for a visit. My friends and I went on a camping trip around the North Georgia mountains. It was lovely and a lot of fun, but one incident didn’t quite line up. 


Nestled in the Appalachian mountains north of Atlanta is Georgia’s own little “alpine village”. A tourist town inspired by old Bavaria. The city is Helen of White County, Georgia. According to a helpful young clerk at the Family Dollar, Helen was a town in decline until the start of the 70s when the powers that be decided

20160812_194558to reinvent itself as a village you’d find in the Alps, but right in the Appalachians.

We just happened to be driving through the regular nothing-ness
of southern towns when all of a sudden we see a small Weihnachtsmarkt, chalet style buildings, and various German signage. We had to stop. It was just too weird to pass by.

 

It’s mandated that all the buildings must have this alpine facade, so the Mexican restaurant, family dollar, and Wendy’s all look like they could be in a cozy Bavarian village. But that’s the thing–once you get past the facade the inside of the establishments are the same as in any other part of Georgia. We thought this cute Bier Haus would tout traditional beers and wares, but it was like any corner liquor store.

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Inside the souvenir shops are some items that reflect the town’s overall theme, but outnumbering those are the confederate memorabilia: T-shirts, lawn signs, and license plates to shout out your rebel and redneck pride.

 

Someone couldn’t hold back in letting us know just what the people of this town were really about. We had walked no more than five minutes when a bearded man in a red pick up truck shouted his most guttural “NIGGER” at me as he drove down the road. I don’t think I’ve ever been called a nigger in real life by an adult before. I quickly swiveled my head to catch his eye, but he had deliberately turned his focus on the road ahead of him–to hide that it had been him like a punk.

It’s a strange thing. Since I had arrived in the u.s. I couldn’t stop commenting on how nice everyone was. I realized there was actually things I missed about being in the U.S. I told my friends how much more comfortable i felt in my skin here. I could just exist as myself, take a deep sigh and walk around without feeling watched. Then that happened.

I couldn’t do anything about it but laugh hysterically with my friends. It all seemed so farcical. So after-school special. It was funny because it was so sad. This bummy man driving through this fakgiphye German town in White County, Georgia calling a black girl on the side of the road a nigger. It’s just too perfect.

 

 

To be honest, for the rest of our time in that town I felt the same way I had felt back in Korea. On display, stared at, and slightly out of place. You don’t have to leave home to feel that way. We can get that feeling right in the many Helen ,Georgias across the country.

 

4 Common Korean Conveniences Perfect for Introverts

For the awkward expat that decided to push themselves and travel, things can get a little overwhelming at times. That’s why I’m thankful to a few conveniences here in Korea that are totally cool for the anxious. Here’s my list of the top comforts that will ease your social woes.

 

KakaoTaxi

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KakaoTaxi is a phone app that allows you to request a taxi to your location without having to speak to a real-live person. That’s not the best part! You also input where you are headed–so there’s no need to talk to the driver at all. The app is Korean only, unfortunately, but if you happen to have your address in Hangul it’s a breeze. There’s  an English guide to using the app here.

Grocery Delivery

When I told my co-teacher that’d I’d been lugging my bags home all year and limiting my choices at the grocer because I couldn’t carry all the items, she laughed in my face. She told me that most grocery stores will deliver your goods. Just let them know at the checkout that you’d like to have it delivered to such and such address. I never heard of this in the U.S. BUT even better than that is sitting on your comfy couch in your underwear and ordering groceries from your computer. I know that the U.S. has grocery delivery services, but it isn’t that common or known about. At least not where I was living. I just ordered my first groceries and it was pretty painless (aside from the meticulous delivery man). No need to force yourself to get dressed and deal with the terrors that lurk outside your door. So wonderful. Check out Homeplus or Emart online (No English). T.T

Table Call Buttons

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Few things are more nerve-wracking than trying to get a waiters attention in a busy restaurant. … Well, maybe trying to get a waiter’s attention in an empty restaurant is just as awkward to me. Add a language barrier to that–ALARM! 😉 But in Korea most Korean restaurants (not western-style) and bars have a button on the table that you can press whenever you need some service. I have even seen some buttons that have a tiny picture of what you want (more water, beer, the bill). I don’t know why this isn’t a thing in the U.S.! Someone make it happen.

McDelivery

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McDonald’s makes me feel guilty and gross, but for those first few bites it brings me joy. More joyful, is the fact that I don’t have to leave my bed to get some. A few years ago, I was actually in my first big car accident while on the way to McDonald’s late at night. If only McDelivery had existed in the U.S. I could’ve avoided all of that trauma and drama. No risk of me dyin’ for a Big Mac and a chocolate milkshake. There’s also an English website and app! Yay for ease of use.

 

Do you have any services that allow you to remain chill and comfortable?  I know I’m missing a bunch. Let me know in the comment section.

Sister Visits Seoul

I have been begging my family (who live in Japan) to visit me in Korea (a two-hour flight away) for quite a while now.

Finally, my request was answered by my younger sister, Deja. It was a little difficult, because during her visit I ran into some unexpected money problems, but I tried my best to get out and show her a bit of what Seoul had to offer.

A Little Culture at  Gwanghwamun and Cheonggyecheon

One thing Korea definitely gets right is picturesque locations. Unfortunately, they attract large crowds, but they are must-sees. For her first Sunday in Seoul we decided to visit Cheonggyecheon stream and Gwanghwamun Plaza. The timing was perfect because Seoul was celebrating Buddha’s birthday with the beautiful lantern festival. The same festival I attended last year.

We began the late afternoon admiring the features on the stream and then headed to the plaza. We ended our night walking around the Insadong shopping area looking for some eats.

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Around my Town (Gangdong/Cheonho)

I definitely couldn’t pass up the change to take my sister to one of the many pet cafes in Seoul. It seems like a gross concept, but it’s a nice way to chill and get some animal therapy.

Dog Cafe

Also spotted the Bill Cosby Restaurant.

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Don’t drink anything!

She definitely had to try Samgyapsal.

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My sister also made a guest appearance at my school and sat in on one of my after-school classes. We played our version of the newlywed game together.

School Visit
Teacher Appreciation Flowers

Hongdae Nightlife

I had to show Deja how Seoul parties.  Seoul goes hard and one of the best places to turn up is Hongdae. The area has an artsy, young feel to it. You can catch tons of singers, rappers, and dancers putting their talents on display as you pregame before the clubs.  No Photos!

 Gangnam STYLE

We also did some underground shopping in Gangnam and perused the shops in Myeongdong.

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View all these photos plus more in the slideshow below.

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I hope I get some more family/friend visits while I’m here in Korea. There’s still a lot to do and see.

P.S. Please look forward to more posts very soon.

4 Reasons I Don’t Want to Live in the U.S.

This is a post I wrote a few months ago but never got around to publishing. Here’s some reasons why I don’t desire to live long-term in the United States, my birth country.

 

Racial Injustice– The number one reason why I can’t see myself living in the U.S. anymore is because I am seeing just how much my being is not welcome. I feel less judged and targeted by racism in the homogeneous society of South Korea than I did living in south Georgia, USA. That’s not to say that Korea doesn’t have its own issues–it does (blackface, general xenophobia) but it’s different from the history of the U.S. Korea can be forgiven because of ignorance. The U.S. has been multiracial and multicultural for centuries and the ignorance is increasing rapidly. The U.S. cannot be excused. This is something that is part of its structure and has become necessary for its “success” and I don’t see it ever changing.

Education– In my opinion the biggest disappointment in America is the state of our k-12 Education. I want to be a teacher, but I would not want to teach in the American public school system. I don’t feel that the U.S. will ever prioritize public education in the place that it needs to be–which is first. If I have children, I would not want them educated in that system. It is a system which has devalued teachers, and done a disservice to the children. My chosen profession isn’t even respected in our society. That’s discouraging. When Education has more funding than warfare maaaaybe I’ll feel like it’s taken seriously. Right now, it feels like there’s no real care there. We need incentives to have great minds working on new ways of running things.Of course, I don’t have solutions. However, I have been looking into studying educational policy and leadership, but that would require me to go back to University–leading to my next point…

Universities and Tuition–  Again, I want to live in a place that puts Education first. One of the ways you show that is by giving your people access to that higher education without piling on crippling amounts of debt in the process. I want to pursue a higher degree, but I’m really not sure if I can do that in the U.S. I’m paying off my debts from undergrad currently, and it’s really a pain. How can we expect our young people to start off on the right foot when we smack them with huge debt payments practically as soon as they put away their caps and gowns?

Violence- The U.S. is known for its violence. I have received so many questions asking me what it’s like to live in such a scary and violent country. We are a country that is more comfortable with images of shootings, street brawls, and war than with images of an expression of love between consenting adults. This warped American mindset really doesn’t mesh well with my type of lifestyle. I hate guns, but I feel like if I lived in America I would want to learn how to use one and have one in my home. Just in case shit pop off, because you never know in the U.S. when something will go down.

 

I do plan to go back to the America after I finish my contract here in Korea, but just to take care of my business and get out of there quickly. I want to continue living abroad for an indefinite amount of time. For now, my mind is set on places far beyond the United States. Maybe that will change–eh, probably not.

It’s Official: I’m Moving to Seoul

Greetings readers!

After quite a long wait, I’ve been placed in Seoul. A while back I posted about my re-application to EPIK in order to change cities. I found out I was accepted at the beginning of this month.

The process is pretty much identical to a first-time applicant, but I got to avoid the dreaded mess with the FBI background check.

I wish that they treated current EPIK teachers a bit more individually. In all the official paperwork I’ve received there’s maybe two paragraphs of information regarding current teachers within pages upon pages of new teacher info. That leaves you to kind of figure it out on your own or bug your coordinator. I’m choosing the former.

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As far as orientation, we are required to report the the location on the last day of our contract. New teachers will have been there about four days prior to our arrival. And as I understand it we are not required to go to lectures, or do presentations. We will just need to do the medical checks and stay through the remainder of the orientation period.

I’m finding it a bit stressful that we have to be there on contract end date because we still have regular work hours (I plan to request leave), are required to be moved out of our apartment, and have to reach the orientation site by 5:00 p.m. That seems like a tall order.

Another stress is that I once again have NO CLUE WHERE I WILL BE PLACED IN THE CITY NOR ANY INFO ABOUT MY SCHOOL. This is giving me the most grief right now, but it’s the name of the game if you’re applying to EPIK. I won’t know my specific location until the day we sign our contracts–which is insane to me. A lot of becoming an EPIK teacher is just walking blind and keeping an open mind.

I’ll write a more in-depth post about the whole process of reapplying as a current EPIK teacher after attending orientation. But if you have any questions, please comment.