Thursday, March 31, 2011

3.31.11 Survival Korean

안녕하세요! (Ahnyong hasseyo!) [Hello!]

Learning Korean is made easier by the fact that unlike Japanese or Mandarin, Korean uses a phonetic alphabet called hangul (한글). It has 14 consonants and 10 vowels (there are also double consonants and some compound letters) that are combined into syllabic blocks. Each block consists of at least one vowel and one consonant, but may have as many as 4 letters. The blocks are then grouped to form words. For example, ㅎ + ㅏ + ㄴ= 한 (han) and  ㄱ + ㅡ + ㄹ = 글 (gul) come together as 한 + 글 = 한글 (hangul). It took me about 3 or 4 sessions of study to get a basic understanding of hangul.

Armed with this tenuous grasp of the alphabet, a stack of books, and the internet I have pieced together a few survival phrases that will help us get by until we can start a proper language class. I won't bore you with the hangul, just the Romanizations.

These will help us get food and water:
silley hamnida - excuse me (to get someone's attention)
mian hamnida - I'm sorry
gamsa hamnida - thank you
pyeonuijeomi eodie iseoyo? - where is the convenience store?
igo/jogo eolmayeyo? - how much is this/that?
mul jom jusseyo - give me water, please
bulgogi jom do jusseyo - give me more bulgogi, please (Bulgogi is amazingly tasty barbecued beef.)

These will probably not be needed, since it's pretty obvious from looking at us that we aren't locals. Never the less, I feel the need to know how to apologize for my lack of language skills:
jal moreugessoyo - I don't understand
cheocheoni malsseumhae - Please speak slowly
dashi hanbeon malsseumhae juseyo? - Could you say that once again?
hangungmal jal motaeyo - I can't speak Korean very well
hangungmal jeonhyeo motaeyo - I can't speak Korean at all

I have selected the folowing phrases especially for Becky's use:
po tong mani anmashoyo - I don't usually drink much
chongmal tagindeyo - This is hitting the spot
chochi wihangot katayo - I'm feeling drunk
tohalgot katayo - I think I'm going to throw up

And, of course, the most important phrase any traveler can know:
hwajangshiri odiyeyo? - Where is the bathroom?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

3.29.2011 How Much Is That Doggy in the Airplane Window?

Our beloved fleabags, I mean "furbabies," are of course accompanying us to Korea. This is a multi-step and expensive process, but relatively simple compared to that of other countries. If you are taking your pet(s) to South Korea:

  1. Get your pets microchipped. Korea doesn't require pets to be microchipped as of now, but they will by the end of this year or next year.

  2. Vaccinate your pets for rabies. Even if their rabies vaccination is current, it must be redone after micro-chipping. This must be done 30 days before the flight. I cannot stress this enough: if their rabies vaccinations are thirty days or older, they should be released from quarantine the same day you arrive. If not, they will have to remain in quarantine until the 30 days are completed. This is expensive, time-consuming, and worrying.

  3. Talk to your vet about flea medication, sedation for the flight, and any other problems you foresee. This is the step in the process when I discovered my cat, Quinn, has gingivitis, so a little kitty toothbrush and chicken-flavored toothpaste are ready to be packed.

  4. When you know what airline you'll be flying with, look up their pet policies. Most airlines won't let the pets travel in the cabin. Others have weight or size requirements, or restrict the number of pets flying in the cabin on any given trip. Find out if your pets will travel as checked or carry-on baggage. Either way, you will be paying out the nose.

  5. Buy the appropriate carrier. Airlines have specific rules about what kind of carrier and accessories are required. Some common regulations follow (not a complete list). The kennel must be hard-sided and made of wood, metal, plastic, or a similar material. There must be litter or some sort of absorbent lining. Kennels must have a water container with outside access for filling. Food and water dishes must be securely attached and accessible from the outside. A 24-hour supply of food must be attached to the top of the kennel. "Live Animal" stickers must be put on both sides of the kennel. The kennel should be clearly marked with the animal's name. That's for checked baggage. Carry-on regulations are generally easier. They usually want a soft-sided kennel of certain dimensions or weight, possibly with an absorbent material on the bottom. Some airlines - Southwest, for example - actually sell carriers at the ticket counter.

  6. Wait until 10 days before the flight. In some ways, waiting is the hardest part.

  7. Print, buy, or find the required paperwork. I bought a Pet Passport package from, which includes a Korean certificate and one for the airlines as well. The vet had never seen the Korean certificate before, so she recommended a USDA one. So the vet will be signing three certificates. I say the more paperwork, the merrier - and the less likely the pets are to be booted out of the airport or thrust into quarantine.

  8. Go back to the vet and have him/her sign all the paperwork. It's very important that you do this 10 days or fewer before your flight, so that the certificates are recent. You will need at least a certificate for the airlines and an APHIS form 7001. Some sources say it's better to have your vet sign two original certificates for each animal. Attach to these the animal's vaccination and microchipping records.

  9. Go the state USDA office or mail these documents to the federal USDA office. They will examine and stamp them. DON'T try and do this right before you leave; mistakes can be made, and you don't want to try and get them fixed when you're supposed to be leaving for the airport. Make copies. Lots of copies. Store them in different places. Don't lose them.

  10. Try and get your animals used to their crates. Ours never will - Quinn, in particular, hates being caged with the passion of a thousand burning cat nuns - but you might have better luck.

  11. Pack 'em up and take them to the airport. Apologize profusely for what their stupid humans are making them undergo. Promise it won't be like this forever.

  12. Board the plane. Worry.

  13. Arrive in South Korea and haul them off the plane or run to checked baggage to get them.

  14. Take them to the quarantine stations.

  15. If all the paperwork and, most importantly, the rabies vaccinations checks out, then the animals will be free to go that same day. Then all that's left is to make sure your newly Korean pets don't become addicted to bulgogi.

Right now, Quinn and Friday are at about step 3. I actually have all the paperwork they'll need, but we can't do much about the kennels until we know what airline we're flying. We're hoping, since Friday is a small dog and Quinn is a medium-size cat, that they can both travel with us in the cabin, but it's more likely that they'll be checked.

Tomorrow I'm making an appointment with the vet for Monday or Tuesday of next week - that is, April 4 or 5. Since we're leaving, at the latest, April 10 or 11, that puts us well into the "10 days or less" bracket required of the various health certificates.

I must admit, I'm becoming pretty nervous about getting the kennels ready. I'm beginning to think that we should just go ahead and assume that the girls will be checked and buy the kennels, water bottles, food containers, absorbent liners, etc. that we'll need.

The costs are definitely adding up, but it's worth it to us. We are both deeply attached to little Friday, and Linus overcame his dislike of Quinn (who hates him, too) long enough to acknowledge that I would be miserable without her. I'm trying to think of it as an exercise in child-rearing, only kids aren't so expensive and needy. Right?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

3.29.11 Clothing and Modesty

I've had some success in clearing out some of my stuff in the last few days. I have sold the bed frame, over half of the kettlebells, my guitar, and most important of all, I've found a buyer for my car! I plan to use the money from these sales to pay off my lease and household bills through the end of May, then with the remainder I plan to buy some luggage and new "teacher clothes."

I've been warned that a big guy like me will have a hard time finding clothing in Korea. Shoes over size 9 are said to be hard to come by, and I don't imagine there are many XL or XXL shirts available there. Since I insist on a monchromatic pallet, I figure I should stock up now. My style has migrated more and more of late toward the look that I call "Hell's Bowling Team" - bowling or lounge shirts, slacks, and Converse, all in black. I wonder how that will go over with the kids...

Due to her elfin stature, Becky will probably be able to find clothing in Korea, but bras may be an issue. Since cleavage is not really acceptable there, she is busily trying to make her many v-neck things more modest. Is a Cami-Secret really in our future?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

3.26.11 A Little Progress

 It has been a producive day. I had another person look at and test drive the car, and I sold all of my clubbells (like the pair at right). I sold my guitar, and also found a possible place to sell my drums. We are slowly getting rid of the things that can't go with us.

It's sort of depressing to let go of some of this stuff (especially the guitar) but it simply must be done. The only place I could store things is at my mother's home in Oregon, and I can't really justify the gas or the time to transport stuff there.

There is still much to do. I need to get rid of my king size oak bed, my 2 macebells, all of my kettlebells, and my other assorted fitness and grip training equipment (sledgehammer, sandbag, push-up board, etc.). The macebells and the other assorted stuff are sort of unique items, calling for a guy of a certain size, grip strength, and craziness, but kettlebells can be used by anyone. I currently have kettlebells from 8kg up to 32kg, and in the more common weights (12kg, 16kg, 24kg) I have pairs. I will make you a deal if you want to get more than one - as you can see below, they make a lovely set.

I haven't even thought much yet about how I am going to sell off/get rid of everything else. I get a little panicky when I think about trying to find homes for my 25 year collection of board games and RPGs, or all the books we both own, or my kitchen stuf, or the clothing that I'm not taking with me, or my bike, or my powertools, or...!

I'm going to go lay down now.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

3/25/11 Dog Safety

Since we began to explore the possibility of moving to Korea, we have planned to take our companion animals, Quinn the cat and Friday the dog. Naturally, many of our friends have been concerned because dog is eaten in Korea, and we were worried as well. I've done a bit of research - here are some of my findings:

  • The selling of dog meat has been outlawed in Seoul since 1984.
  • "South Korean Food Sanitary Law" (식품위생법) does not allow dog meat as a legal food ingredient.
  • The Seoul Metropolitan Government has declared dog meat a "repugnant food," and does not permit it to be used as an ingredient in any food.
Unfortunately, the laws mentioned above are often ignored and some portion of the Korean population still eats dog meat, primarily in the summer months. The types of dogs slaughtered for meat are called the Nurengi (누렁이), or Hwangu (황구). They are basically larger mixed breed dogs, mostly yellow in color. Koreans seem to make a distinction between these meat dogs and the pedigreed pet dogs they keep in their homes.

The group Korea Animal Rights Advocates (KARA) is a vocal opponent of dog meat, and they seem to have the support of a decent pecentage of the population. The general consensus is that between 5% and 30% of Koreans have tried dog meat, and that a very small percentage eat it regulaly. Attitudes are changing; the Korean Ministry of Agriculture conducted a survey recently and found that 59% of Koreans under 30 would not eat dog, and 62% regard dogs as pets, not food. Many young Koreans see eating dog as an anachronism, and Korean Buddhists are opposed to dog meat as well.

Although we plan to take precautions and be vigilant with Friday, I feel that her small size, pedigreed appearance, and status as a house pet will make it unlikely that she is in much danger. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

3.24.11 The Woman Talks About Clothes

Now that I've finished burning myself a cheerful shade of pink in Disneyworld, I finally have the time to chime in on this blog. I've been taking a stereotypically feminine approach to this adventure by addressing the most pressing issue first: what clothes I'm taking with me. A mighty reduction of the wardrobe is required.

I've done something similar before, when I lived in Jordan for two months on less than 50 pounds of luggage. I found that I actually quite liked having all of my worldly possessions fit into a single suitcase. The problem is that "packing for two months" doesn't have quite the same panic-inducing effect as "packing for a whole year," and that since I studied in Jordan my style has become significantly more elaborate. Lace takes up more suitcase space than nice, practical khakis.

Today I spent the afternoon tearing through my closet, creating large, messy piles on the bedroom floor that are still lurking there, waiting for me to pick them back up and shove them back in my closet. Contrary to how the bedroom looks, though (sorry honey), I've actually accomplished quite a lot.

I've disposed of almost anything that isn't black and, therefore, automatically matching. Sorry, pretty yellow shirt. I'm trying to make sure that almost all of the clothes I'm bringing are appropriate for work as well as recreation. Good-bye, see-through blouse. No cleavage allowed, so I'm ditching anything too boobalicious and sewing lace inserts into my more modest V-necks. And I'm beginning to come to grips with the idea that it may not be possible to take all of my many and varied skirts. Definitely still struggling with that one.

These criteria have left me with approximately a suitcase-full of inky flounces. Of course, that's not counting underwear, socks, shoes, stuffed animals (don't judge), our purple tapestry, my tea cup, the special Advent calendar I've been sewing, or any of the thousands of things I'm sure I haven't even considered yet.

The worst part is that, like everyone else who hasn't taken Thoreau's advice to heart, when I think about moving to a new country and starting a new job...well, the instinct is to acquire rather than to reduce. Ebay and etsy, you're not helping. Stop distracting me from the important parts of moving to Korea, like double-checking paperwork for the animals and looking up consulate interview requirements. You've been warned.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

3.23.11 Pile O' Documents

According to online tracking, the package containing our pile o' documents was delivered to our recruiter on the afternoon of the 22nd. That was two days faster than promised by FedEx, so hopefully we will get our E2 visa numbers just a bit more quickly. This visa is pretty important - apparently if you don't have one, or the right kind, or even if you have one but you aren't teaching in the town it says you should be, you can be subject to instant deportation.

Once we have those, we send off another batch of documents (mostly copies of the original packet) to the Korean Consulate in San Francisco. Once they stamp our papers, we are good to go!

The mad rush to get rid of everything continues. I've sold some of the workout equipment, and I have a few people interested in my car - hopefully I can get it sold this weekend.  In the next few days I plan to sort clothes and other personal goods into several categories - keep, garage sale, Goodwill, and trash. I think we'll be renting a dumpster...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

3.22.11 Contact Information

While we are in Korea, we want to stay in touch with family and friends. The time difference (15 hours) plus the distance (6000+ miles) makes it costly to telephone, and basically impossible to come home for visits. We will instead rely on the internet to keep us in the loop, but there are some concerns that go along with that. South Korean internet access is supposed to be blindingly fast, but the government does practice some censorship of content - at this point it is mostly pro-North Korean content and gambling sites. While Reporters Without Borders does not place South Korea on its "Internet Enemies" list, the OpenNet Initiative does rate the level of internet censorship there as "substantial." The only way to ensure that we are not cut off by some future ban or restriction is to diversify our avenues of contact. We plan to use email, various chats, Facebook, Skype, Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, and this blog to stay in contact, and we may add other services once we get there. We want to disseminate our contact information on all of these services to interested friends and family. If you want a list of the various ways to contact us, send me an email by clicking on my profile in the Contributors box on the right sidebar. I'll send you a full list of contact info (including snail mail) and put you on our list for updates if we change or add services.

Monday, March 21, 2011

3.21.11 Buddhism

Another thing that we're looking forward to is the number of Buddhist temples in and around Jeonju. We plan to go see some of them in the usual tourist manner, but we are also hoping that we can find one where we can practice. There are several forms of Buddhism practiced in Korea, including the Jogye and Taego orders of Soen Buddhism, as well as the newer Jingak and Won sects.

Soen represents an attempt to clarify some issues in Mahayana Buddhism that Korean monks saw as inconsistent. The basics of Soen meditation are similar to Zen, although the actual ceremonies, holidays, and rituals differ somewhat.

I stumbled onto Buddhism in jr. high school, studied it for a paper during my senior year in high school, and decided it was the path for me when I was 21. In the years since I have wandered on and off that path many times. There have been several periods in my life when I've been able to attend meditation at a zendo regularly, and those have always been productive times. Once we know our new address, I'll start looking for a temple near home.

3.20.11 Jeonju Facts

It's time for facts about Jeonju City (전주시).

Coordinates: 35°49' N, 127° 09' E 
Population: 649,500 
Elevation: 177 feet

Although Jeonju has been an important population center in North Jeolla Province (전라북도), the modern founding of the city was in 1949. It is a transportation and agricultural center in the heart of the country's most densely populated and richest rice-growing area. Food processing, education, and textile manufacturing are the chief industries, along with the production of paper, plastics, boots, and tires. Its mountaineous location and many historical sites make it a popular hiking destination as well. The city also has a zoo, a large park, and the Samsung Sound and Culture Hall, a large, modern concert complex on the Chonbuk National University Campus.

Other bits of info:

  • Jeonju is famous for bibimbap (비빔밥), a traditional rice dish with vegetables and hot chilli sauce. 
  • Jeonju is divided into 2 wards, Deonkjin-gu (덕진구) and Wansan-gu (완산구), which in turn are divided into approximately 40 neighborhoods.
  • The National Jeonju Museum exhibits ancient relics from the Three Kingdoms Period (57 BC - 668 AD).
  • There are many other museums, as well as temples, a castle fortress on a hillside, and a well-known paper gallery. 
  • The annual paper fashion show is famous throughout Asia. It features both couture and traditional Korean clothing made of paper.
  • The Jeonju Hanok Maeul (한옥마을) is a traditional-style village located in the heart of Jeonju, housing over 800 traditional "hanok" style buildings. It contains many traditional tea shops, souvenir shops, and restaurants.
  • Jeonju is famous for strawberries and exceptional produce.
  • The Jeonju International Film Festival draws about 50,000 visitors annually.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

3.19.11 Waiting and Calculating

We got an email from our recruiter today, explaing that it takes two weeks for South Korea to issue an E2 visa number. Until then, we wait.

It's not that there isn't plenty to do - there is, in fact, so much to do that it's kind of hard to contemplate - but I am the kind of person who likes to know the when and how of things. Not having a firm departure date and time is bothering me. Because I can't actually put things on the calendar, I've been obsessing a bit over it. Here is an example of what's been going on in my head lately...

Exactly how long will it take us to traverse the 6162.7 miles between Laramie, WY and Jeonju, Jeollabukdo?

A flight from the west coast to Seoul is just under 13 hours, and from Denver to the west coast is 2.5 hours, so we are looking at 15+ hours just in flying time. Then customs for both us and our animals, plus transportation from the airport to our apartment. That means it will take probably 20+ hours just to get to Jeonju, and that's assuming minimal lay-overs and delays. We need at least 8 hours of sleep before reporting to work the next day, so at minimum, we must take off 28 hours prior to April 12th.

The time zone in Jeonju is GMT+9, and here in Laramie, it's GMT-7, so that means there is a 16 hour time difference - but we're on Daylight Saving Time right now so it's 15 hours. That is, Jeonju is 15 hours ahead of us so it's already early Sunday morning there as I write this on Saturday afternoon in Laramie. So, at minimum, we have to leave 43 hours before we need to be there (28 hours of travel and sleep plus 15 hours of time difference). Thus, in order to arrive at work at 2pm on April 12th (that is our start time according to our contracts; we work 2pm to 9pm, M-F) we must fly out of Denver no later than 7pm on April 10th. Add to that TSA security and the drive to Denver, and we must depart Laramie by mid-day on the 10th.

Hopefully it won't be that tight. I would like to have a day to get over jetlag and get our pets situated before we are plunged into orientation and training at the hogwan, thus I am hoping for a flight out of Denver by midday on April 9th.

I am not neurotic. I just really like to be prepared...

Saturday, March 19, 2011

3.18.11 Postal Expenses

The pile o' documents has been sent. Here is another important tip for those thinking of teaching abroad - be prepared to incur some expenses during the application and hiring process. For example, to send this one envelope to Seoul was $74. Ouch. Now we await further instructions from our recruiter.

In the meantime, I am panicking over all the stuff for which we need to find new homes. If you have ever coveted any of my belongings, now is the time to make an offer. Need a king-sized bed? How about a semi-hollowbody guitar and amp? Perhaps kettlebells, clubbells, macebells, or a very sturdy pull-up rack are what you need?

There will probably be a garage sale in a few weeks, but I would rather start selling stuff now. If you are relatively close to  Laramie (i.e. Cheyenne, Fort Collins, Denver...) drop me an email - no reasonable offer will be refused, and for larger items I might even deliver. That is, until the car gets sold...

Friday, March 18, 2011

3.17.11 Document Update

We have finally collected all* of our documents!

This pile contains diplomas with state apostilles, FBI background checks with federal apostilles, copies of our passport, two sealed college transcripts for each of us, copies of our signed contracts, resumes, copies of our E2 health forms, five passport-size color photos, and the document checklist. All of this will be heading out by FedEx to our recruiter in South Korea first thing tomorrow morning. It should be there in two or three days, and we can move on to the next step. Hopefully, we will soon have our actual airline departure date set so that we can then plan out all the tasks of our final days in the US.

*Of course this isn't really all of them. We will still have to send copies of most of these documents to the Korean Consulate, then there is all the paperwork for our pets as well...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

3.16.11 Dolsot Bibimbap

There are many things we are looking forward to in Korea, but the food is very high on the list. Jeonju is known for its cuisine, and it is also known as "the hometown of bibimbap." Bibimbap is a traditional dish made with meat, egg, and fried vegetables on a bed of rice with pepper sauce. Dolsot bibimbap is served in a heated stone or iron bowl so it continues to cook at the table - in this version the egg is sometimes put on raw, and it cooks as you stir it in. This dish is one of the first things we plan to try once we get there!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

3.15.11 Everything Must Go!

Teaching abroad has been a dream of ours for some time, but the logistics of it are a bit more of a nightmare. Even if you think you lead a spartan student life, you still have a ton of stuff to get rid of before you go. Thankfully, we don't have much in the way of furniture, but we do have a lot of other stuff. From time to time, I'll post a pic or a video here of things that we have to part with. Today, it's my cajon. It's an entry level model from Latin Percussion, but it has a nice bass tone. I'll miss it; not sure yet if I'm storing it or selling it...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

3.14.11 Apostilles - Another day, Another Document.

One of the documents you need in order to work abroad is an FBI criminal background check.  It can take up to 12 weeks to get one; Becky and I requested and received ours months ago.  In order to be valid for use abroad, however, it also must be "apostilled."  When our FBI checks arrived, they came with a letter on getting an apostille, which I didn't read very thoroughly...

I had never heard of an apostille until we began this process.  Basically, having a document apostilled is like having it "super-notarized" for use in other countries.  Its power stems from a treaty known as "The Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement for Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents," which certifies documents for use in any of the 97 countries that are signatories to the treaty.  We also had to get our diplomas apostilled, but that could be done by the office of the Wyoming Secretary of State. We just drove over to Cheyenne and dropped them off in person.  The FBI check, however, has to be apostilled at the Federal level.

I misunderstood this process. I thought our FBI checks had already been apostilled (they had such a nifty embossed seal and official signature!) but it turns out that getting an apostille is an additional step. Once they mail the background check to you, you have to send it off again to be apostilled.

Normally, you have to mail your documents to the State Department in Washington D.C. in order to get this done.  You can expedite with next day air mail both ways, but it still can take up to 15 days in their office.  We don't have that kind of time, because we need to mail all of our documents to our recruiter in Korea as soon as possible.  Luckily, we have a friend who lives in D.C. (Thanks Tessa!) who is willing to hand deliver our documents to the walk-in counter at the State Department's Office of Authentications; they offer service on a while-you-wait basis.  I sent everything off to her today by next day air - with any luck she'll get them apostilled on Wednesday and we'll have them back by Thursday or Friday.  We can then expedite them to Korea the next day. Between the cost of the background checks themselves, the next day air to and from D.C., the cost of the apostilles, and the expedited mail to Korea, the total cost of this process will be just a little over $100.

The moral of this story is start your document quest early, and pay close attention to your recruiter.  We were told that we needed a State Department apostille, but I dropped the ball.  Because of that, it has cost us more than twice as much as it would have because we are having to expedite all of the mailing. Lesson learned.

Monday, March 14, 2011

3.13.11 Thirty-one days and counting...

Pile o' documents...
I'm Linus - I have BAs in Religion and English, and a pending MA in Sociology. My partner is Becky - she has BAs in English and Education, with a pending MA in Literature.

We signed 12 month contracts yesterday - in 31 days we will be teaching in Jeonju city, South Korea. By then we need to accomplish quite a bit. We must finish our master's theses, get shots and travel paperwork for our pets, sell or store everything in the house that we aren't taking with us, and then make what's left fit into two suitcases each. There will also be the inevitable going away dinners, last visits with dear friends, and some hard decisions about which of my sixty-odd black shirts to bring with me. It's going to be a rough month...

This blog will chronicle our Korean adventure, beginning with the mad dash to get there. We hope to blog almost daily to create a record of this time for ourselves, family, and friends, but also to help others who are considering teaching in Korea. 

The picture above is just a few of the documents you have to gather to get a job teaching in Korea. Included in the pile are passports, apostilled diplomas, college transcripts, FBI background checks, and passport size photos. These all need to be mailed to our recruiter in Korea in the next few days...