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.

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Natural Hair 2016

For 2016 I would like to work on the health of my hair. I did the big chop in 2013. Since then I have struggled with keeping my hair healthy and retaining length. My hair is on the fine side and is also not very dense. I believe the texture is a mix of 4B and 4C. This makes for high maintenance hair, which is unfortunate for a low maintenance girl like me.

Going natural has had a positive affect though. It’s thicker, and has much less breakage. But I’ve had difficulty keeping my hair moisturized and I encounter a lot of tangling (single strand knots). I end up trimming my hair quite often because I can’t deal with the tangles.

So since it’s been nearly three years, I want to try to experiment more with my hair and care routine. I want to spend the majority of this year in protective styles that can decrease tangles and retain moisture.

I want to try the water only hair washing routine and work on decreasing the amount of styling products I use.

Natural hair care can be quite difficult while living abroad, especially in a country where pretty much no one has hair like yours. So I’m hoping that if I can  learn to manage my hair without the use of products, it’ll be easier and cheaper for me in the long run.

I started the water only method a few weeks ago, but had more dryness. So I’m starting over and will keep a photo log of the progress. So below you will find my week or so old unwashed dry hair and my normally shampooed and conditioned wet hair. I also did an apple cider vinegar rinse to clarify and start off fresh.

 

Checking My Privilege

Some seem to think that the phrase “check your privilege” is a phrase reserved for white males. However, if you truly understand how privilege works, you’ll know that women, black people, and others can have various forms of privilege as well.

For some reason, if you try to explain to most white people that they receive benefits because the color of their skin, they immediately shut down and provide various anecdotes of how it’s not real. “NU-UH, I WAS POOR.” “NO, I GOT PICKED ON AT MY MAJORITY BLACK MIDDLE SCHOOL.”  It’s all out of fear? But why? Admitting you have privileges isn’t a bad thing. It’s actually good. When you recognize it you can work towards creating real equality.

As a black woman, some would think I don’t have many privileges, but I certainly do. Especially working in Korea. I am able-bodied, light-skinned, a US citizen, female*, heterosexual, and financially doin’ pretty well.

(*In the case of being an ESL teacher in Korea, female is preferred.)

I have certainly become most aware of my privilege of having a US passport. I can hear it in the tones of people I meet when they assume I’m from somewhere in Africa, but then I tell them no, I’m actually from the U.S. Their smiles get wider and their eyes get brighter. Being a foreigner from the western world certainly comes with a lot more benefits than if I were from Ghana, Nigeria, or Gabon. Koreans (and many others) tend to have a narrow image of what Africa is. And not only am I just a westerner, but I’m an American. Migooksaram: A person from that “beautiful land”.

I notice my light-skinned benefits in the treatment I receive while in Korea versus stories of darker skinned women here.  People approach me differently, are kinder, less blunt in their words. I can get a job more easily here because I pass some paper bag test. Korea like most other countries, have been conditioned to value light-skin. Whiteness. It’s odd because many of my students are beautifully brown, but somehow a loooott of the adults are pale, especially the women… Hmm. But of course this is not just a Korean phenomenon. There are still deep issues of colorism in the U.S. as well.

So all of these privileges I can see and acknowledge. And of course, it’s not as much as a blonde white American woman would receive here, but I do benefit.

What privileges do you experience while abroad?  Do you have trouble admitting privileges? Can you find experiences where you may have received preferential treatment due to one of your privileges?

Further reading: Traveling While Black: On the Pervasive Nature of Colorism…

Oeam Folk Village in Asan

I took this trip quite a long time ago. My co-worker invited me to her brother’s home when I was still pretty new. It was such an awesome random act of kindness that I wasn’t used to. I ended up having a really great time. It’s definitely a Korean memory I will have with me forever. (Hi Sam & Lens!) ❤

We visited the Oeam Folk Village in Asan. The village is a living museum, as it’s inhabited by Koreans who work their offering tourist experiences or selling their wares and food. According to Visit Korea website, they are the descendants of the village’s founder who lived 500 years ago.

We visited on a sunny Saturday. There were quite a bit of Korean visitors, but I seemed to be the only visible foreigner. I don’t think it’s as popular a tourist spot for foreigners perhaps due to its location. We got to view the traditional homes–hanok–and even enter a few of them. In one photo above you can see the traditional kitchen and stove. It looks like it gets a lot of use.

I got to experience traditional ironing, and see where wrong-doers were punished. They were tied down to a cross and beat with wooden sticks. Ohnoes. Also in the main square were games and traditional exercise equipment. I tried walking on the tightrope with a little help from Kristy.

I also got to see some traditional taffy-like candy made from scratch. We took part in the process by stretching the candy and breaking it into edible bits. It was delicious, and fun to smash. I tried homemade rice juice for the first time as well and of course had some ddeok.

After seeing the village we had a delicious dinner. I can’t remember the Korean names of the food we ate but it was wonderful. I hope to visit Sam and his family again some time soon. This is one of my best memories because it was nice to spend time with a family in Korea and they were so welcoming to me.

What is your favorite Korean memory? And if you haven’t been to Korea yet, what kinds of things would you like to do?

Daejeon Spotlight: Watermelon Sugar

Korea and Life 323

Reasons why I like Watermelon Sugar:

  1. There’s a huge stone penis hanging from the ceiling.
  2. THERE’S A HUGE STONE PENIS HANGING FROM THE CEILING.

Watermelon Sugar is a pub/bar/dance place that is fairly small, but always crowded. It’s located in the Old Downtown area, Eunhaengdong. I think it used to be really popular with foreigners some years ago. But the times I’ve gone there weren’t any other waygooks. It would be a cute place to frequent, but the music isn’t the best. Just loud repetitive noise to me. But if you like that~then it’s great.

EVERYBODY BEIN’ UP IN YO BUSINESS.

So all caps title aside, this isn’t an angry post. It’s just a funny cultural difference I’ve noticed here. It happens in the U.S. as well, but not quite so shamelessly as here.

My momma always told me never go runnin’ and tellin’ her business in the streets. Anything we heard her say to us inside the home was not to be repeated outside the home. Not even to our closest friends. And while I’m not so firm on that stance as she is, I do believe in having a little bit of discretion when it comes to certain things. (But now that I think about it I do have an online blog where I tell my readers pretty much everything, but that’s beside the point!)

Anyway, I’m in the process of trying to leave my current job. I didn’t want to let too many people at the school know because 1) I wasn’t sure yet, and 2) It’s not official. But the way things were set up I had to tell my co-teachers (O.K.) the principal, and the vice-principal that I was simply APPLYING to another position. Now I’m pretty sure the whole school knows I may leave without my telling them. That’s fine. I know word gets around sometime. But my co-teachers be talkin’ all my business while I’m sitting right there with them in the room. Dang, man. No shame. spying

So I started thinking about other instances when people had no shame in being up in my business. The most hilarious
example is on the subway or bus. Y’know how sometimes someone is on their phone next to you and you cut your eyes real natural-
like to get a peek at what they are doing? Yeah, well the old folks here don’t give no effs about you seeing them look. I had an old guy lean OVER a person seated between us to look at the pictures I was viewing on my phone.

I look at him thinking oh maybe he don’t realize he is seriously up in the kool-aid. But he does. And he doesn’t look away when I call him out on it. I turn my phone all the way toward him like dang, you want to see too? Haha. I know what you’re thinking though, right? “Oh, that was just one strange old guy.” NOPE. It’s happened so many times. In Seoul and Daejeon.

There’s also the very many personal questions you get asked by strangers. Lol, it’s just a part of the culture to know what’s going on with you and what you’re all about. It’ll take some getting used to for those who were scolded about telling mom’s business in the streets.

4 Things I Love About Korea

1. Transportation: Getting places in Korea is easy and affordable. Of course the fact that the country is small in size is quite the advantage in this department. But still with this many people to service, the transportation here manages to be consistently efficient. I mostly get around by bus, subway, and train. The buses here have some delays depending on traffic. And the drivers go around like maniacs and it can be a bit scary, but besides that the buses here are pretty good. The subway system in Daejeon has one line. Seoul has…very many. It can be a bit intimidating coming from a place with no public transportation to a city like Seoul, but once you understand the signs and maps–I can’t imagine life without it. The trains going from city to city are great as well. Usually on time and are comfortable and speedy. There’s different types of trains depending on how fast you want to get somewhere and how much you want to pay. But it’s still a lot cheaper than a train in the U.S. for the same distance.

Seoul Subway Map                                       Source: aroundseoul.com

2. Service: In Korea there is this phenomenon called “service” or “서비스” and it’s basically getting free shit from businesses because they want to keep you coming back as a customer. For me, I’ve noticed it typically only happens after I have already ordered a lot of something. For example if I’m dropping a good amount on some chicken and potatoes at a 치킨 place, the owner may throw in some appetizers/side dish as a thank you. It’s usually nothing too big, but it’s this small gesture of appreciation that makes me love Korea just a bit more.

3. Soju (Drinking Culture): Let it be known; I love soju. I was on a drinking break prior to arriving in Korea. I had tried soju a couple of times in the Korea town area of Atlanta. I didn’t like the taste that much. However, once I got here I became pretty attached to it. I like soju because it’s cheap as hell; (maybe about USD 1.50) for a bottle. It goes down pretty easy. And it packs a punch. Plus, since I have been here, flavored soju has been introduced. There’s citrus, peach, pineapple, grapefruit, and more. I’m in soju heaven. And this drinking behavior–is totally acceptable! It’s a part of work life and bonding. So when you go to dinner with all the others teachers and the principle and they ask if you can drink, don’t be afraid to tell ’em HECK YES.

Source: onedaykorea.com

4. Cheap Hospital Visits and Meds: Admittedly (and thankfully) I haven’t had much first-hand experience about this. I’ve been to a small clinic once and a big university hospital once as well. My visit to the clinic consisted of a consultation, diagnosis, and prescription. In total, this visit plus my medicines were about 30,000 won. Or almost 30.00 USD. My visit to the big hospital was about an eye infection. I was seen by the doctor, examined, and given a prescription. In total the visit was about 20 bucks. Unfortunately, I had to pay for a diagnosis letter which was another 15,000 won (whaaaatt?). Anyway, it was still hella super cheap. Although I just have these two instances, I have heard countless other praises from other foreigners about Korea’s wonderfully cheap doc visits. However, I also heard their bedside manner has much to be improved upon.