Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Arrival in Seoul

Well, I made it so far. Woke up at 0300. Caught the 0530 out of VPS.

Got to Atlanta without a problem. Caught the flight from Atlanta to
Detroit. I was stuck in the back if the plane for both of those
flights, I was sitting with the deadweight pilots, lol.

Got to Detroit and made it across the airport in plenty of time. Was
put on the plane in a window seat in row 51 with a mother and small
child next to me. The little boy did fine for the first hour, but
then he started getting antsy so a flight attendant approached and
offered to move me to another seat, she was looking around in coach
until I mentioned that my uncle is(was) a Delta pilot and she moved me
up to business, while apologizing for not being able to move me to
first on her own.

So I ended up with an upgrade that included more leg room, comfier
seats, bigger seats, an empty seat next to me, and a spot in row 31
instead of 51.

It was pretty nice since that upgrade normally costs $400 for
non-regular flyers.

I don't think it would have happened though if I hadn't been put next
to the antsy little kid.

I was able to catnap on the way over, but I'm not sure what I'm
running on now, besides the three meals they fed us. That was pretty
nice.

Got through immigrations and customs no problem and then went off
looking for an ATM. Some guy, a car service driver or something,
thought I was military, and offered to give me a ride to the nearest
base, lol.

Finally found an ATM that took my card and now I'm just waiting for
the other teacher, Casey, to arrive. Then we're catching the bus to
Changwon.

My phone is permanently on airplane mode now and I'm using the airport
wifi. I probably won't update again until I'm all settled. Hopefully
that will come with pictures and a video walkthrough of my apartment.

It may be a few days though, so don't panic! :P

Miss you all!!!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Leaving on a Jet Plane

My plane takes off in about eight and a half hours. The next time I
post on here I'll be in the Land of Kimchi.

I'm really excited, but also a bit sad and nervous. I've never been
this far away on my own before and I'm really going to miss my family
and friends.

I hugged my dad and sister goodbye not too long ago and I'm really
missing them already. The only people I'm not missing so far are my
grandparents, probably because they're on the other side of the house.

I did get the information on what to do in Seoul. I'll be arriving
three hours before the other Native English teacher at my school,
Casey, he's flying in from California.

The two of us will meet up and take a bus together to Changwon.
That's about five hours or so. Then we'll be met at the bus station
by someone from the school and taken to a motel or our apartments,
depending on if the previous teachers have left yet. It's more likely
that we'll be at a hotel.

Well, I suppose I should sleep now...it's going to be a very long two
days. I won't be in Changwon until about 1am on Thursday. That's in
Korean time, which is 14h ahead of Central Time.

Here's to a new beginning!!!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Visa

On a happier note:

My visa arrived this morning, nice and safely glued (or something) inside of my passport.  Kristen hung around my house and waited for it to arrive (she's amazing :D) since I really didn't think it should be sitting outside in the breezeway for several hours.

I also got the e-ticket for my flights.  I'm flying on Delta from here (VPS).  I leave at 0530 on Tuesday and fly up to Atlanta, then to Detroit, and then on to Seoul on a 1215 flight.  Then I'll arrive in South Korea at 1510 on Wednesday.

I'll be met at the airport there by someone from the Korean side of my recruitment agency.  I should get more information on that by Sunday.  I do know that the other Native English teacher at the school will be in Seoul at the same time as me.  All I know about him is that his name is Casey.  I'm assuming he's American since the  school just lost two Canadians and really preferred to get people with American accents this time.

I wonder if I'll be able to lose this lovely southern drawl I picked up while working at Publix?  Lol, the thought of teaching Korean children to pronounce English words with a Southern accent is highly amusing for some reason.

The funeral was today.  It was very dignified and moving.  I know my mom would've loved it.  My Aunt Ava is a Lt. Col and she handed me the flag after the Honor Guard folded it, she could barely talk and it was all I could to do stand there and wait for her to give it to me instead of giving her a hug.  She was probably closest to my mom out of all the siblings.

More family things tomorrow.  In a way I'm glad I'm getting to see everyone before I leave.  Like my cousin Margret and her husband Derrick.  I haven't seen them since May because they're in flight school.  They didn't even know if they'd be granted leave to come home this weekend until yesterday afternoon.

I think I'm going to end this little entry with the poem I wrote for the program.



A Fire Burning


A fire burning,
Ever shining, ever glowing
Never to stop, even in death
No fear, no regrets
Never looking back

A fire burning,
Always there, always around
That was my mother
She’s never gone,
Always with us, in our hearts

A fire burning,
It burns to eternity
Never gone, never forgotten

Eulogy

Soft, Free and Wild

Soft, free, and wild
I will stay by your side.
Stay near, my child,
To your dreams I am tied

Soft as the stars
Against the velvet sky,
And from afar
To your softness I fly.

Free as the wind
That sings only at dark,
And I am pined
To this life, to this spark.

Wild as the sea,
With its storms and its waves
So, joyously,
Passion my heart enslaves

Soft, free, and wild,
Let me stay one more night.
Hold me, my child,
Here until the morning light.


My mother wrote this a long time ago, not long after I was born.  I suppose I am rather wild.  She and I always seemed to find ourselves at odds, neither willing to back down.  I can’t count the number of times we argued, but then, I can’t count the number of times we said “I love you” either.  Both occurred too often and too many times to count. 

As for being free…well, if I’m free than she most definitely was and probably still is.  My mother never let anyone tell her what to do.  She was a free spirit determined to forge her own path, no matter what that cost her.   She almost never did what others expected or wanted and took great pride in that fact.  

Softness…am I soft?  I never saw myself as soft.  I know my mother wasn’t really soft.  She always stuck to her principles and didn’t back down.  She joined the military when she was younger than I am now and proceeded to excel in a male dominated world.  She always took pride in the fact that she was the first woman to give birth as a Minute-Man Missiler.  She used to joke that it was my claim to fame, being the first baby born to a Minute-Man Missiler.
If I was my mother’s soft, wild, and free child, than my sister was her pride and joy.  As much as my mother loved me, she always got along more with my baby sister.  The two of them had a shared interest in cats, poetry, and the theater.  It’s actually because of our mother that my sister became interested in the arts.

My mother was born in Lubbock, Texas and from there moved all over the world.  This was because her father was a Pan Am pilot, and quite proud of that fact.  My mother always talked about when she lived in Berlin.  She was there for eight years and I think she considered it to be one of the best times of her life.  I can remember her telling me stories of her time over there all throughout my childhood.  Every one of those stories made me wish I had been there.

Her mother, my grandmother, used to always call my mother her beauty, and looking at old pictures of my mother, I can see the truth in that.  My mother was a show-stealer.  When she was younger she caused heads to turn when she walked by.  There was an energy about her that was contagious and invigorating.  Just being near her made you feel alive.

Now, when my sister and I picture our mother, we like to imagine that she’s sitting at a little cafĂ© table in the city she loved most, Berlin.  She’s sitting there, drinking coffee, and sharing a cigarette with my grandmother while the two of them talk about the past and watch their family move towards the future. 

One day the rest of us will join them, but, until then, all we can do is face the future. 

So, today, I say my goodbye to my mother.  I want her to know that I’ll love her forever and that I’ll always keep an eye on my baby sister, just like she wanted. 

We love you mommy, goodbye.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Updates and Obituaries

I got the email late last night, my visa issuance number had arrived.  I sent more documents and my passport to the Korean Consulate in Atlanta this afternoon.  I should have my passport back in my hands with a visa stamped in it by Saturday.

It's insane how fast it moves.

I had to send:
  • One official transcript OR a notarized copy of your diploma
  • Visa confirmation number
  • Copy of employment contract (does not need to be signed by the employer)
  • Completed Visa Application (call your nearest consulate and they'll email you one)
  • Completed Consul Checklist (call your nearest consulate and they'll email you one)
  • Completed Health Statement (call your nearest consulate and they'll email you one)
  • One passport size photo
  • Passport- YOU MUST SEND YOUR ACTUAL PASSPORT. THE VISA ISSUING OFFICER MUST STAMP DIRECTLY IN TO THE PASSPORT.
  • $45 (cash or money orders only made payable to Korean Consulate. Personal checks are NOT acceptable)
  • Resume detailing your work/teaching experience including all experience in Korea
  • Postage paid self-addressed Express Mail (USPS) or FedEx envelope for return of your documents & visa- (if you are picking up your visa then you do not need to send the envelope)
It's a little daunting the amount of money I've had to spend to get all of the documents I need.
To overnight things I've spent about $150 to FedEx or DHL.  Another $18 for the apostille on my college diploma.  Another $18 for my FBI Background Check.  Then $45 to USLegalization to expedite the apostille for my FBI Background Check.  The USPS got about $20 from me for postage to and from the FBI and Florida Government.  Finally, $45 for the actual visa.

That's about $300 total.  That's about what I made in a week at Publix.

I'm so glad I don't have to pay for my plane ticket.  They should be purchasing one for me as soon as I get my visa.  I should be on my way out of the country a week from today or so.  They really want me to arrive before the current teachers leave, which I think is on the 29th.  So that means the 28th for us, since they're a day ahead.

It really hit me last night when I realized I'll probably be gone in a week.  Part of me is nervous and just a tad afraid of what the future will hold, but the rest of me is excited.  I can't wait!  Or, rather, I can, because I still have so much to do!!!!

I wrote the eulogy for my mother's funeral this evening.  I cried a bit while writing it, so I'm sure I'm going to be in total tears when I'm reading it this Friday.  I read it to Elinore and my dad read it.  He seemed to get a little choked up when he read it.  I don't want anyone else to see it before I read it, so I'll put it up here after Friday.

The obituary went up today.  Here's the link to the online version of it:  My Mother.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Changes

It's so strange looking back at how my life was a year ago.

A year ago I had just withdrawn from my internship and was looking at a completely uncertain future.  I was sleeping extremely odd hours, living on my computer, and drowning myself in semi-bad movies and tvshows on Netflix.  I wasn't even sure if I wanted to teach anymore, my confidence and faith in the educational world was shot.  I stopped looking to the future and just focused on the moment.  I threw myself into writing and ended up writing a fairly bad book with loads of potential.  Maybe I'll go back to it someday, we'll see.  Right now it just reminds me too much of how depressed and hopeless I felt at the time.  I'm not sure if anyone really knew what I was going through.  I suppose if anyone knows all the details it would be my sister, Elinore, or my friend, Nicole.  I pretty much only talked to them.

I pulled myself out of that funk and got back to my normal self after I decided to stick with teaching and started a new internship at a different school.  My new supervising teacher, Molly, was amazing.  Her attitudes and methods in the classroom showed me that I really could do this.  So, if you're reading this - Thank you Molly for everything you did for me, I was terrified when I first walked into your classroom, but after thirty seconds of talking to you I felt at ease.  Working with you and learning from you was truly rewarding for me.  Thank you.

Alright, back to what I was getting at:  A year ago I wasn't sure I would end up with a teaching degree, I had a boyfriend I thought I would marry soonish (whenever he actually asked me), I had two parents, I didn't think I'd ever leave the country again any time soon (I'd been in London for a week in July and thought that would be my last time out of the states in several years), and the future was looking rather grim.

Now, it's completely different:  I have my teaching degree and certificate, I'm single (and probably will be for awhile, which is a first in about five years....), my mother passed away on September 4th (May she rest in peace, more on that in a minute), I'm probably leaving the country in about two weeks (for at least a year, if not longer...), and the future is looking really bright.

Now, I may seem rather heartless to have spoken about my mother in such a casual manner, but, I've shed most of my tears.  We haven't had the funeral service yet, it's this Friday, but I've already said my goodbyes.  I'm sure I'll cry again at the service, the thought of the service makes me want to cry.  My mother and I didn't always see eye to eye and we haven't really been close the past few years.  She had a few mental problems that caused her to try and use people, and in so doing she'd push people away once they realized what she was doing.  Because of this she was virtually alone when she passed and that tears me to pieces.  I spent all of August planning to stop by and see her, but I never did, the thought of spending time with her was unpleasant.  But, now I wonder why, well, actually, I know why, but, really, it wouldn't have hurt me to stop in for a few minutes.

She probably didn't even know I was still in the area.  The last time we really talked (back in June) things were different.  She didn't know I was now single or that I was planning to go teach over in South Korea.  Actually, I was definitely going to go see her before I left, I just wish I had done that sooner.  I'm sure she knows now, but I just wish I had stopped in to tell her.  I'm sure I'm going to regret that for the rest of my life.

My sister is taking everything harder than me I think, we both have a lot of complicated feelings.  Love, hate, sadness, relief, pain, guilt.  They're all there, and I really don't know when they'll be gone.

Oh, I did say she passed away on September 4th, but if you notice dates you can see my last post (About Me) was on September 8th and I didn't mention her.  One very good reason for that - we didn't find out until September 9th.  The police found her on September 8th and finally tracked my Aunt Diana down on September 9th.

I got the phone call from my grandfather, Apple Jack, (Dad's father) Aunt Diana had called him and we were supposed to get the keys and meet with the detective.  I felt so unreal going over there, it was as if I was separated from the world.  I was extremely calm as I talked to the detective, I didn't even feel upset when my dad arrived.  Finally the detective left and we started looking things over and deciding what to do.  It wasn't until I called Publix to say I wouldn't be coming in this week that it all hit me.  I was talking to my Assistant Customer Service Manager, Lisa, and I just started bawling.  I cried even harder when Dad and I went home and we told my sister, Elinore.

As long as I stay busy and don't dwell on it too much I'm fine.  Knowing that I'll be leaving in a few weeks to go to South Korea certainly helps.  The only silver lining I can find in all of this is that it happened before I left.

The obituary will be in Tuesday's paper.  I wrote a very rough version of it and my grandmother, Kay-Kay, (Dad's mother) cleaned it up for me.  She knew what it should say because she reads the obituary pages so much.

I'll put the link to the obituary or put a copy up here on Tuesday.  The service is on Friday at Barrancas National Cemetery in Pensacola.  I'm not sure what family members will be in attendance, but it's going to be a full military funeral.  I'm saying the eulogy and there will be an honor guard.  I'm sure she'd like that, she always considered her time in the military as one of the best times in her life.

Mom, I miss you.  I hope you're happy now and no longer in pain.

And, on a happier note, my documents are in South Korea and I should have my Visa Confirmation Number by the end of this week or early next week.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Location



Alright, so I'm leaving here:




To go here:

I don't have any pictures of Changwon and I'm not going to steal any, so I'll just put some up when I get over there and take some.

About Me

I suppose it's about time I gave a little background information on myself.  I think everyone reading this right now has known me for years, possibly even since I was in diapers.  (You know who you are.)  But, for anyone else that stumbles upon this blog and decides that it's worth reading, well, you might want to learn a little about me.

One thing I've always used to define myself is that I'm a Military Brat.  When I was born both of my parents were in the military and I've lived in various places around the country because of that.  I think this background is partly what gives me the courage to go and live overseas for a year or longer.

I just graduated this past May from Northwest Florida State College with a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education.  My degree came with an ESOL (English Speakers of Other Languages) and a Reading Endorsement.

I think I was in my second year of college when I came across the idea of going to teach overseas, but I never really considered it seriously due to the relationship I was in.  At the time I only considered DoD (Department of Defense) Schools, but ended up tossing out the idea because my boyfriend didn't want me to go even farther away.  We were already in a long distance relationship (6 hours).  A few times after that, whenever I was at a low point, I would look at international schools over in Europe.  A few times I even semi-joking told my boyfriend that if he didn't propose by the time we both graduated I would look for a job overseas.

At the time I'm sure he thought I was joking and I thought I was too, but, well, there was always the thought in the back of my mind that I was meant to do something different and exciting.  I've always prided myself on being out of the ordinary.  I can picture myself teaching, but I was never able to picture myself doing it in our public school system.

Okay, if you're just here for information on the visa process and what it's like to teach in Korea, please skip over the next little bit.  I ramble a little and delve into some emotional stuff.

Well, some interesting things occurred a year ago yesterday - I may talk about that someday, but right now it hasn't been long enough - and I spent a lot of time writing and soul-searching.  One thing I always clung to was my boyfriend, we'll call him Z, and our future together.  I had decided that I could teach anywhere once I had my degree and that I'd do that and wait for him to get through medical school.  I did falter a little when he told me he wanted to take a year or two off from school and stay in the Gainesville area, but I convinced myself that it was no big deal, I could just find a teaching job there.

Then along comes May and we both graduate.  There's no proposal, and he convinces me to find an apartment with him in Gainesville.  We find one and sign the lease before I have any guarantee of a job.  Sure, he has a job, but it's in a lab making less money per hour than I do at Publix.  I convince myself it's fine, that I love him and that it will all work out.

The month of June slowly ticks by, I keep getting emails from the school district saying that this position or that position has been filled.  I look into a flight attendant job, just because, nothing happens there either.  During my talks with Z I notice that he keeps flipping on what he wants to do.  He has no clue.  He's perfectly happy working an almost minimum wage job and having his parents still help support him, even though he's not in school and is living away from home.  I express my doubts about being able to move to Gainesville and he responds by saying my dad can help me like his parents are helping him.

That's not how things work in my family.  Or in the real world.

If I want family support I better be living at home.

So, one night, while being unable to sleep due to doubts I Google "Teach Overseas".  I come across more websites I can count and eventually stumble upon teaching in South Korea.  I do a bit more research, send out some information, and the next thing I know I'm on the phone talking to a recruiter.

Then I'm getting my fingerprints taken and documents sent off.

I still hadn't told Z.

Actually, I originally told no one in my family.  The only person I told was my friend Nicole.

When I told Z he couldn't believe it.  I told him my reasons, he still didn't want to believe it.

What are my reasons?
1.  I refuse to continue to work as a cashier at a grocery store now that I have a B.S.
2.  I refuse to accept help from my family if I'm moving away from home.
3.  I can't put my own life on hold while you (Z) figure out what you want to do.  You've had four years to figure that out.
4.  I want to teach, it's my dream.  (Outside of writing)
5.  I want to see the world and I won't be able to do that if I'm working minimum wage at a grocery story in a college town in the middle of Florida.

We had some talks, some tears, and some good times over the Fourth of July, but, ultimately, it ended.  On July 18th, 2011 our relationship ended after four years, 9 months, and twenty-four days.  He was the one that made the phone call, but I'd sort of been hoping for it.  I could tell that things were going to end.  The only question was when.  I just wish he hadn't made the call when I was all alone in town and only had twenty minutes to compose myself before my first job interview on Skype.  (Oh, I did get offered that job btw, but they had the funky contract)

Actually, the next day truly showed me who my friends were.  I still remember Michael's face when I told him that Z and I had broken up.  The first words out of his mouth were, "I'm sorry, how about I come over when I get off work and we share a drink?  You look like you could use one."  (This was after a nine hour shift at Publix pretending to be happy and smiling at customers)  He ended up doing that, and then Kristen (his fiancee) came over when she got off.  All three of us work at the same grocery store.

Yes, it was upsetting, but I think it was the right thing.  As someone said in a book I read - Our paths crossed without us meeting.  We'd grown too apart over our long distance relationship.  I think that if things were different we could've lasted, our personalities were compatible and the chemistry was there, but our lives were too different.  Plus, I never truly felt like I belonged when we hung out with his friends.  Even after all those years I was the outsider.  Hehe, from a conversation Z and I had not too long after my birthday, well, they (his newer friends at least) don't like me very much at all.

Now, I think I'm done going on about that part.  I probably shouldn't have said so much, but I know I haven't really told anyone the entire story, just bits and pieces.

It's funny, originally I picked Korea because the schools have to cover housing and airfare and the pay isn't bad, but now I truly want to find out everything I can about this culture.  I've watched a couple of Korean dramas, read several expat blogs (I follow all the ones I read), and done a lot of research on the country.  I'm truly excited about this experience.

Everything with my FBI background check ended up working out.  I contacted my Congressman, Jeff Miller, and his office was able to expedite the process.  I ended up getting a call from someone in the FBI on Friday, August 26, wanting to know the tracking number.  When they called I was at work so my grandfather came rushing across the bridge to Publix.  He was super excited and making no sense at first, I think he really confused one of my managers.  I had people asking all day what had happened with that angry customer in the morning.  It was rather amusing.

Well, once I got the lady the tracking number she found my fingerprints and got them processed and in the mail that same day.  I ended up getting them back on Wednesday, August 31.  It would've been sooner, but Hurricane Irene got in the way.

So I then got them sent off for an apostille.  I used US Legalization.  It was $45, which is much cheaper than any other company.  I got that back on Tuesday, September 7.  And, yesterday, Wednesday, September 8, I sent my documents to Korea.

I had to send:
1. Copy of diploma w/Apostille
2. Personal health statement filled out by you (attached) - no doctor's signature required
3. Photocopy of information page of passport
4. 2 passport-size photos
5. Resume
6. FBI check w/Apostille
7. Signed Contract



I sent it DHL and through tracking I can tell that it's sitting in Incheon, outside of Seoul, at the moment it's waiting to go through customs.  


Once they get the documents they'll take them to the immigration office and get me a Visa number.  I'll take that number and my passport to the Korean Consulate in Atlanta.  I'll get my Visa, and then I'll be off to South Korea!


So, I have four more days at Publix (Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday, and Friday) and then I should be leaving the country by the end of the month.


Pretty much everything is packed, but I'm still sorting through some things.  Everything at my dad's house is all packed up and stored under my sister's bed or on the top shelf in the closet, but I still have things at my grandparent's house.  


I've donated so many things, it's insane.  Since I don't plan to be back for a year, maybe even two or three, I'm really trying to consolidate things.  I don't want to leave a lot of junk behind for my family to deal with.


Oh, I am going to Changwon, South Korea.  It's about forty minutes from Busan by bus.