Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Monday, April 28, 2008
This will be a thoughtful and reflective blog about the feelings one faces when they approach a very big change in their life.
Despite all the careful planning and keeping yourself up to date on everything there still remains the feeling inside that something big is about to happen to your life. I could be exaggerating here, and when I am settled in Korea I might look back and think "Ah, that wasn't too bad." But underneath everything I know I am going to become separated from my existing life, family and country. I will leave behind my daily work routine (wake up 6:30---come home at 6pm) to a new routine I don't even know what it will be like. Family and friends will be far away.
Yet what will be the most distant is that which is familiar.
- Hearing English spoken in the streets.
- Being able to see English on signs.
- Going to the grocery store and knowing what kind of vegetable or fruit I am buying.
- Easily finding my way to a public toilet.
- Knowing the customs of the land.
Let me though remind you that this is exactly what I want. I want to be the FOB (Fresh of the Boat). I want to experience what it is like for the millions that come to America to start their lives fresh. With only their money and suitcases. I want to know what it is like to be split apart from all that you know is familiar and to be put in a land that is unfamiliar. Certainly I am no fool to think that Korea is any less modern than America. I will find all the comforts of home there: Internet, hot water, shelter, TV, music...). But what won't be familiar is the same cultural code.
So if you have read this far...I guess I am just trying to say that with about 26 or so days left to go ....... I can't wait!
Friday, April 25, 2008
2. Make sure this "couple" has to be, for some reason, around each other all the time.
For Example: This guy has a serious family issue. His Grandfather's Granddaughter has been missing for a long time. It is this guy's mission to find the missing Granddaughter and bring his ailing Grandfather back to health. What do you do? Well you make this girl (the one who knows how to fake circumstances, pretty well) pretend to be the Granddaughter. Now the two must live with each other in the same house, despite the fact that they hate each other's guts.
3. Despite their initial feelings for each other they start to fall in love.
For example: At some point they start to like each other. Usually the guy starts to think the girl is cute in her devilish ways or the girl thinks the guy is cute when he is angry or frustrated. Either way the story gets built up this way. Here you can see that the guy is overcome with his feelings for her after seeing her in the hospital.
4. Throw in another guy who loves the girl too, but he can't have her.
For example: This guy is either related to the main guy or is an outsider. Try as he might the storyline formula just won't let them be together.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
It is here that I discovered that Korea has a rich culinary history. Not that it is really any kind of secret that ancient cultures like Korea, Japan and China have a deep history with their cuisine, anyways. I found it amazing how the producers took the time to show how each dish was prepared and also put a lot of historical context into them.
Sometimes I thought I was watching a cooking show. The costumes and scenery were also lovely. It seems people loved the scenery so much that there is now a Theme Park where you can go visit the sets.
Monday, April 21, 2008
We went to Golden Gate Park and walked around the gardens for a bit and then we went up to Twin Peeks.
Dad and Jon at Golden Gate Park
View from Twin Peeks Dad and Me with San Francisco in the background.
Being with my family is always a wonderful feeling. But now that I know I will be going far-far-away I know that I am going to miss being this close to everyone. Yet I am sure home-sickness is a part of this journey and it is one mountain I want to get past.
During packing you can experience some genuine moments of mania.
Here I am inside my old stereo's box. If you recall those huge stereos that were popular in the late 90's than you know what is going on here. I thought I would pack it up inside this box but Bo Kwan politely suggested to me that I shouldn't waste my energy. So I ended up chucking the box.
Well I am getting down to the bare bones here. Trying to make sure I don't take oo much with me to Korea, which is hard because I am a natural pack-rat.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
The website Korea.net informs in their geology section "that Korea is a mountainous peninsula" and "The east coast shows typical features of an uplifted topography, chiefly a relatively straight shoreline, whereas the west coast has the features of a submerging shoreline."
Unless you are a geological enthusiast like I am, I bet you are probably beginning to nod off at this post.
So let me just say what I think will be points of interest for my geological tastes.
- Jeju Island: Was created by volcanic activity. Therefore it will have lava tubes, caves and a lot of black rocks.
- Osaek Hot Springs: The only springs I have been to were in Florida and they were not hot, but rather cool...which is okay...it was Florida. Going to this place is said to be good for "...stomach-ailments, anemia, and neuralgia." I think I will want to go there...but I have not clue how close it is to Seoul
In general, it looks like Korea offers up mountainous terrain with granite and gniess rock, lava tubes, caves and hot springs.
I look forward to making it out to some of these places and reporting back on the geology I see.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
This looks as if it is a government scholarship program and is executed in a different manner than how private schools hire teachers.
After reading through the article my impression is that this program is meant to implement a greater impact of English in the rural areas of Korea, due to that most English-expat Teachers prefer to teach near modern society (i.e. Seoul). Since teaching in rural areas is an unpopular choice for some, it seems they have made the benefits of the job the major selling point.
- You teach after school classes. Working hours are Monday to Friday (5 days a week/ 3 hours per day) and are not required to work on Saturdays, Sundays and national holidays of the Republic of Korea. Wow! Hmmm now giving up a flushing toilet is starting to sound more plausible.
- Not only do you work just 3hrs a day but you still get paid for it. 1.5 Won per month or about $1400 USD. On top of which you get housing allowance and a free plane ride.
- Extras like 'Korean Government Scholarship' certificate will be presented to each participant. Fancy paperwork that you can pin up inside your free-rent shack
I think that if I had a choice for this program while I was searching for schools to teach in Korea, I would have hesitated at the opportunity. Mostly because I need to be near modern hospitals that supply my modern medicine. Therefore, visiting the Korean countryside will be more of my way of getting a taste of rural South Korea.
Monday, April 14, 2008
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Perhaps this will be a frequent series on this blog. Because lately and I don't know if you have noticed, there have been a lot of news about how this and that is going to become instinct or scarce.
Take for example today's news on the BBC News. Rice is becoming a precious commodity along with wheat and soy. Take a moment to think about what is in your pantry. Maybe you don't have a sack of rice sitting in there but I bet a lot of the products that are sitting on your shelves have ingredients that include: wheat, soy or rice. I for one am guilty of this too. But really we are not to blame for buying such products. The finger should be pointed towards what is happening to our world's food supply on the global scale.
Friday, April 11, 2008
I won't go into an art lesson here but basically sum up that when compared to China and Japan Korea is distinctive in their traditions in pottery and Buddhist statues.
- Location: Seoul offers a plethora of hospitals. One of which is Yang hospital that specializes in internal medicine (i.e. bowl disease.). Their infrastructure is very modern and includes speedy bus service (as confirmed by Bo Kwan). There is a large expat community.
- Salary: This, as I found out, varies depending on what age you want to teach and what hours you are willing to commit to. For example, teaching adults and working from 4pm to 10pm will earn a salary of about $2400 USD a month. Teaching youngsters from 9am to 7pm will earn a salary of $2000 USD a month. So it just depends upon what kind of daily work life you are willing to commit to.
- Benefits: Free airfare, free housing, partial health care, pension and one month salary compensation after working a whole year. To me that is more than just getting the icing on the cake!
There you have it folks! I am going to Korea because I am enthralled with their culture and in love with their benefits.
But maybe the real reason I am going to Korea is because of one person. Who...oh who could that be?Thanks for reading my series!
Thursday, April 10, 2008
I didn't go out and see it all for myself but I have to say the whole thing is quite impressive. I did see a bit of it from the office window. For those who don't know my office is on Sansome and Jackson street. My building is right in front of the Pyramid building. I believe when at the time when the route was drastically altered there were a large amount of protestors disoriented. At that time they spread out amongst the streets. I saw a large group of protestors go down Jackson street. Some went left and others went right. But it seemed most were lost.
Unfortunately I did not take any pictures of my own of this event. The ones posted here are taken from SF Chronicle online. As we all know there were a lot of protestors. I have been watching it Live on CNN without audio in my cubicle.
Yes, a big part of me wishes I were out there capturing it all. I will try not to fail on the next big event.
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
The fact of the matter is that I know more about Japan than I do China and especially Korea. I learned about anime and sushi while in high school and soon fell in love with the country. But I consider that this interest in Japan was more like a tunnel that led to my fondness of all the other Asian countries. In essence I would say that it is a challenge to compare these three countries against one another without ending up praising one over the other. Yet, Japan will always stick out to me as a country where the girls are over the top girly.
This ends up causing me to despise my White American roots. In fact, throughout my whole love affair with Asia I often wondered what American traditions I have to hold onto?
Anyways, back to what we are here for.
Japan may just be a bunch of islands out there in the Pacific but it is jam packed with a history of geisha's and courtesans and a people who praise cleanliness and order pretty well. When I was living in the dorms I lived with a Japanese roommate. She was in her 30's and was engaged to some guy in Japan. It started off okay but we ran into a lot of cultural differences. Mainly cleanliness and having guests over in the room.
But Japan will always remain as a special place, for it was this country that introduced me to the treasures of Asia.
So why am I not working there?
Japan does offer consistently good programs for teaching English. I believe that many expats choose Japan as their destination of choice.
The reason for my steering clear of Japan wasn't due to my distaste of the country, rather I found that the recruiting companies to be too competitive and also made you go through a very extensive application process.
Take for example the JET Program which when you take a peek at their website looks like a fun and organized program. But lets get to the details shall we?
- You have to go through an application time line. Meaning you have to apply at a certain time and go there at a certain time.
The website Teach English Worldwide shows us a comparison of the countries.
Looking at this comparison it sure sounds like Japan will bring in the dough. Maybe Korea and Japan are tied with each other on best paying. But I still think Korea is best, maybe because it offers to me a culture I am still learning about. Or maybe, just maybe....
"Japan has the most established economy and English teaching industry in the region. The extremely high wages it can offer makes the English job market there very competitive. Because of this competitiveness, you need to pay attention to school hiring cycles - the best times to arrive are late March or August. The cost of living in Japan is also very high, which you should take this into account when comparing salaries with other countries.
South Korea has a very developed TESOL market and it is easier to find work here than in Japan. The pay is generally lower than in Japan, but still substantial. Teaching English to children and adolescents is the most common type of position in South Korea.
As China’s economic and political clout has grown, so has its TESOL market. In the past, most English teaching jobs were part of the public school system. With free market reforms stimulating rapid economic growth in certain parts of China, there are now a huge number of private language schools – some of which are prepared to pay respectable wages to native English speakers. Nevertheless, salaries, working conditions, and living conditions are still quite variable throughout the country, so do your research before committing to a job or moving to an area to look for work."
Find out why Korea is my choice for teaching English abroad in Part 3 of this series!
First off I think the most important aspect of this adventure is to consider closely which country you would like to go live and teach English in. This is an important factor because it will not only determine what your daily life will be like, but also the amount of salary you will earn along with the type of benefits you will receive.
I am going to examine three countries in particular; China, Japan and Korea. Let me say for the record that I am not an expert on this and can only give you my opinion, which is related to my research. Within this examination I will try to cover what I believe are important factors for choosing your home away from home.
- Location (resources to outsiders, infrastructure, treatment of foreigners).
- Salary (how much, what is deducted...)
- Benefits (free airfare, free housing, free or partial health care, etc)
When I first had the desire to go live abroad my initial choice was China. However due certain conditions that affect my daily life I ended up not choosing China. However, this kind of choice for you is dependent on your necessities in life.
I. Let's Examine China:China is an amazing country and of course that is an understatement. The country has thousands of years behind it with culturally diverse cuisine and language throughout its borders. But is China a good choice for an expat? Some questions I asked myself when considering China were:
- Does China have a good hospital system (due to I have a chronic yet stable illness)?
- We all know China is very polluted. Therefore would I like to live in a very polluted area?
It is obvious that my questions have to do with health. And without doing any research I came to the conclusion...that China is not a healthy place to live. Nor does it seem stable.
But don't take my word for it. Here a recent teacher from China explains the ups and downs and also how to best go about getting a job in China.
During my search period I looked for legitimate recruiters from China to help me get a teaching job. But most of the companies I found charged me a fee. This was not one of my goals. Also it seemed some companies did not tell you your final destination of where you would be teaching in China until you got there. So this too was a red flag for me.
- Location: While China does offer a unique culture, has a huge lot of cultural heritage sites to explore and also offers up fantastic cuisine it is also embedded within a society that is still drastically coming to age with the modern world. If this is your cup of tea than I say go for it! But I for one want a western toilet, a functioning infrastructure and a guarantee my lungs aren't going to collapse.
- Salary: Basically I am going to quote what Smitha Murthy wrote in her blog.
" Don’t be persuaded by glib claims that the average salary of the Chinese teacher is only half of yours. Maybe true, but then the average Chinese teacher hasn’t left his country. So state your price, especially if you have a fancy degree. Inquire about your living conditions. Does your apartment have heating or an air conditioner? Small matter, but considering that I nearly froze to death in winter when the school decided to switch off the heating, you would feel cozier if you know these details. "
Therefore the salary seems like it could be a mixed bag...depending on your negotiating skills.
Here is a Chinese recruiter website that details salary, which looks like about $500 USD a month with just the basic requirements. This isn't much in my opinion and may be a generalization.
3. Benefits: From using that same website here are some details. Airfare is reimbursed, which means you will pay first then get paid back later. You get holiday pay travel expense and they say the include free housing.
Conclusion on China:
Remember I have never been to China and that working in China could be a very blissful and stress less time for all I know. However when you start looking at Korea and Japan you start to realize what a better deal these other countries become. To me it seems that getting a job in China has a lot of work to go through before you are finally given something reasonable. Of course many out there may seek the kind of adventure where they want to truly immerse themselves in a whole other political, social and cultural system, which I believe China can offer 100% all the way.
Stay tuned for PART II: Let's Examine Japan!
Just writing to get your opinion of this blog.
1. Do you like the layout / style? (I am able to customize this blog but it does take a great deal of time to get it to look sleek.)
2. Do you like the content?
3. Is there too much or too little information spread out on the blog?
Monday, April 7, 2008
Today I sold my iMac. It was kind of sad to see the thing go, because it is a really nice machine and had a great widescreen. But I can't haul the thing to Korea. Plus getting some cash for it will help me pay off the debt I used to purchase it last year.Here I am willingly saying good bye to my iMac. We had some good times! Sniff--sniff.
I have been preparing myself more and more for going to Korea, especially mentally. I am reminding myself that everything is going to be a mystery and just roll with it.
I went to Bo Kwan's hotel yesterday and it was a nice little place tucked away near the Hilton. It felt really good to be somewhere else than my room for once. Also Bo Kwan had cable in his room and I spent a good deal watching Top Chef and Top Model, along with the Bridges of Madison .... which I saw the beginning and end to, not the middle...it looks good.
Okay well just winding down before I dive into another week of work at the insurance company. Working still kind of brings me down but I know I need the $, so I get by.
Allright take care,
Saturday, April 5, 2008
Welcome to my new blog. My name is Joy and I am about to embark on a journey to teach English in Korea. For me this is a dream becoming a reality. I have had the idea to live abroad for quite some time now and during the past few months I worked on making it a reality. In fact my New Year's resolution was to go and live in Korea. Ever since then I have applied to teaching positions, accepted one, and now have a plane ticket to Seoul.
Since most of my readers will be friends and family you will know already my background. That the past year of my life was definitely by far the hardest, having been stricken with a genetic disease. At that time I had hard time believing that my life would regain its usual speed.
Moving my life over to Korea is an exciting and nervous endeavour. Yet at the root of this adventure is my long-time desire to experience another culture and to be a foreigner. Here in America, especially living in San Francisco, I am witness to many immigrants who come to this country seeking better fortune or a new life. I have often wondered what this global transplantation is like for these people. Now I feel confident that I am going to experience this immigration experience yet as an expat in Korea.
It is my goal to document the images, sounds, smells and experiences that I go through while becoming a foreigner.