update and misc...

The good news is it looks like I will be going back to the States next week. The bad news is I'm paying for it.

Most teaching contracts in Korea come with severance pay. This is typically equal to one month's salary and is paid at the completion of the contract. My school also offers severance pay, but with the twist that it's paid one month after completion of the contract. For me this worked out perfectly as I should only be home for a month and when I return to Korea I would have a fresh paycheck. However, the only way my school has agreed to pay for my plane ticket is to advance me the money from my severance pay. A one-way ticket to the States is 1 million won (roughly $1000) and my severance is 1.9 million won minus taxes, etc. So, this won't leave me with a lot of money to come back to Korea. Though it's better than the alternative of living on the streets of Itaewon.

As for what I'll do when I'm home, I don't really know. I suspect a lot of my time with be spent in boredom, watching television, surfing the internet and what have you. To combat this I've recently purchased a fat new Korean grammar book and an electronic Korean-English dictionary, so I can spend some time studying Korean.

I also assume I will indulge in all the food I've been unable to eat over the past year and a half. Mmmm... Mexican... So, maybe I'll consider joining a gym for a month. This should not only help with the boredom but also prevent me from returning to Korea as an even bigger balloon than I've already become.

The job search for October is still in progress. I've had numerous calls and emails. Just today I received three emails and two phone calls for prospective jobs, but I've not been interested in most of the positions as I've been in Korea for some time now and have grown a bit picky. However, today I got a call that I've very interested in and am looking forward to hearing back about it.

The next few days I will begin the arduous process of packing up my apartment and getting things stored away. I say that now, but more than likely I'll wait until the very last minute as I'm want to do. I, like most people, hate moving.


Coming home?

This post was set to be the post where I informed all of those at home, who are not yet aware, that I'd be in the States in two weeks for a one month break and then return to Korea at the beginning of October. However, the hakwon I currently work for threw a major monkey wrench in my plans today.

No international airfare home will be provided to the Teacher hired in-country except if the Teacher extends for a second year, then a one-way ticket is provided to the west coast of USA or Canada, or a place in other countries within the equivalent cost.

It's a very standard practice for hakwons to provide round-trip airfare for teachers to come to work in Korea. This is one of the key incentives that gets people here. That and the free apartment. However, as you can see from the section of my contract above it states that teachers hired who are already in-country (i.e., Korea) will not be provided with airfare home. I was hired "in-country" as I'd worked at a different hakwon previously.

For the past two months I've questioned the administration at my hakwon repeatedly about my ticket home. I've seen other teachers run into problems and wanted to make sure I had everything taken care of in advance. Every time I talked to the administration I was assured that my ticket would be purchased for me and that I would have it within the next week. Then, today, with a week and a half before my contract expires, I was informed that my school would not be purchasing the ticket. FUCK!!!!

I realize this is ultimately my fault for not paying more attention to the contract, but to tell me with seven working days left is frustrating to say the least. So, at this point I don't know if I'll come to the States. I don't know what I will do. My visa officially expires September 9th so I must be out of the country by then. If I were a responsible and reasonable person I would simply dip into my savings and buy the tickets home myself. But, if you know me, you know why that is funny.

So, I'll be scrambling the next couple days trying to figure out what I'll do. I've sent a letter to the owner of the hakwon, so for now I'm awaiting a response. I considered posting my letter to her here, but figured she deserved a chance to respond first. If it gets more interesting maybe I will put it here.



The summer intensive schedule along with looking for a new job when I return to Korea have kept me very busy hence the lack of updates. But as promised I have lots of pictures and a few stories to share.

Since arriving in Korea a year and a half ago I have eaten nearly every meal out. With the exception of Ramyeon and a few cans of tuna, every meal has been in a restaurant or ordered from a restaurant and eaten at home. The reasons for this are two-fold. First, my apartment is the size of a small storage shed with nearly zero ventilation and the only method of cooking I have is a small, portable camping stove. Second, eating out in Korea in very cheap. I can eat a full meal for about W2500 or about $2.50. A really expensive meal such as 갈비 galbi, barbecued beef, will cost w8000, W9000 if you order rice.

Add these to the fact that I live alone and cooking for yourself is rather boring and you can see why I've never made the effort to make my own meals. That is until a couple of weeks ago when Yunha thought it would be fun to make dinner at my apartment. I thought it odd being that she can't cook, but went along with it anyway. It turns out (many people in Korea may know this, I didn't) that grocery stores sell pre-packaged Korean meals. These aren't the frozen and bagged meals I was used to in the States, but all of the freshly cut ingredients to make meals yourself.

Here's a sample of what I've been making. This is 시굴돼지찌개 Sigul Dwaeji Chigae, which roughly translates to Country Pork Stew. All it took was to open the package, fry the pork, add in the vegetables (onions, green peppers, red peppers, cucumber, etc), pour in the pre-made stock and hot pepper sauce, add water and boil. It was delicious, if not incredibly hot, but then again I couldn't read the Korean directions so I just guessed as to the method. So, now I've been doing a lot of cooking. Today I made some Pork galbi and have a pack of my favorite Bu Dae Chigae waiting for tomorrow.

Apart from cooking, on my time off I've mostly recovered from my hectic schedule, but I did make it to Seoul a couple of times.

Yunha and I went to the 63 Building, the tallest building in Seoul and I think this picture best sums up the enormity of this city. Imagine this 360 degrees around you. Also, she thought if was fun to watch me have a panic attack on the glass elevator on the way up. I'm not so good with heights.

Another shot from the 63 building. I put it here just to show the air pollution.

I probably find this funnier than most people, but I've never seen a historical account actually mention being assassinated by ninjas. This was part of the photo exhibition in the 63 Building.

Along the Han river are these cute, if not cheesy swan-shaped paddle boats. I'd gush about how fun and exciting these things are if not for the fact that it was on one them that I lost my wallet and everything in it. Now I just want to whack them with a bat.

At least the view of the sun setting from the Swan-on-the-Han is nice.



This picture has no relevance except to show that my camera is working again. Those in Korea will recognize it as a shot of AFN's weather forecast. My digital camera worked well for the first year or so that I had it then suddenly the LCD went black and when I tried to take pictures they also were black. I've been able to make it work various times by throwing it on my bed or randomly squeezing it, but recently it seemed to be dead for good. Then, last night after I wrote the update about Icheon I became frustrated and wished I had some pictures to go with the description. So, I went to the shop near my apartment, bought big jug of Cass and a small screwdriver set. At home I poured a glass of Cass and set about removing the many tiny screws on my camera. Once disassembled and after starring dumbly at the guts of the camera for ten minutes, I was finally able to find a loose connection. I pushed it back in, closed the casing of the camera, dropped in the batteries and viola! It worked again. So, now (knock on wood) I have my camera back and can put photos here. Tomorrow I'll head in to Seoul and do some shopping and hopefully get some interesting pictures for you.



I'm on a much needed vacation all of this week, but since my contract with my school is finished in a month I decided not to make any big plans for my week off. Yunha and I decided, however, to take a few days to get away from Seoul and relax. Since this is the high season for travel around Korea and that when presented with time off from work nearly all Koreans flock to the same two or three locations, we tried to pick a more out-of-the-way location. Thus, I took out my trusty Lonely Planet Seoul guide, eyed a map and picked 이천 or Icheon (not to be confused with 인천 Incheon the location of Korea's largest airport and made famous by General Douglas Macarthur when his landing there turned the tide of the Korea war).

Icheon is roughly an hour by bus south of Seoul and as Yunha said "it's very famous for rice and water". Sounds exciting! Of course, by water she meant it's famous for its hot springs and according to its official website it is indeed famous for rice as well. Aside from those, it's also home to a vary large ceramics village. Needless to say, none of these attractions are why I chose Icheon, mostly I just wanted a place that wasn't crowded.

This turned out to be true. Icheon didn't appear any busier than it may on a normal week. The problem, however, is that I'm cursed. It seems that anytime I take even a short trip somewhere there are always freak weather conditions. Last year around this time I took a week-long trip to Seokcho on the Eastern coast of Korea and spent five days in my hotel looking out the window at ferocious rain and wind. It seems I'd timed my trip perfectly with the onset of a monsoon. Then last year when I arrived in Bangkok on Christmas day only to encounter an earthquake and the deadliest tsunami in history the following day. Of course, this curse isn't limited to Asia. There were the massive Mid-western floods of 1993 that drowned the city of St. Louis. The unusual tornados in suburban Atlanta. And the many many hurricanes. All of these coinciding with my arrival or departure at a location.

My trip to Icheon proved to be less catastrophic than previous adventures, and yet the curse still showed signs of life. For the two and a half days we were away it poured rain nearly the entire time. Even the smallest trip out of the hotel and across the street for dinner left my pants soaked to the knees, my umbrella turned inside out and my shoes squishing with rainwater. Despite the bad weather it was a good trip with the highlights being feeding potato chips to fish in the lake and letting Yunha beat me at pool. We tried to find the ceramics village once, but the long distance and driving rain eventually got the best of us. I did sample some of the famous rice and must say honestly: it tasted like rice.