Posts Tagged With: korea

The Road to Freedom Part 3 – Immigration and The Interview

Part 3

So, after going to and booking my appointment for the 9th of September, it was just a matter of waiting. Do I have all the documents I need? Is everything in order? Am I forgetting something? I think I looked over my documents at least 3 times before leaving the house that day.

When you book your appointment, they give you your waiting number at the same time. So when I got to the immigration office, all I had to do was wait. Number 17, my lucky number, oddly enough. I clutched my file folder and waited until I was called.

When it came time, I smiled big and hoped for the best. She told me to just give her everything and she would sort it out. So that’s what I did. She went through everything and asked me questions about what some of the documents were and why I was giving them. She also prints out a copy of the point system sheet for her to count. She was confused about my study abroad experience.

“Did you receive a bachelor’s in the end?”
“You didn’t exactly go for language instruction, did you?”
“No, I was a regular exchange student.”
“Unfortunately, I can’t count that as study in Korea experience.”

Oh, dear. This isn’t looking good. I mentioned that it was a shame that Korean was my major but it meant nothing on the sheet. She asked me to show her what I meant. Luckily I brought my transcripts. So when she (hesitantly) opened them and looked through them, I pointed out that my major was East Asian Language and Literature, but I focused on Korea. If you look throughout my transcript, it had Beginning Korean all the way up to Advanced and Business Korean.

“Did you count the points before you came today?”
“Yes. I came up with 81. But you know the system, it might not exactly be that much. Depending on the mood of the worker, it could be more or less.”
So I wait patiently.
“So, how many points did I end up with?”
“Well, according to my count, 82.”
“82?! Really?!”

Now, my TOPIK score was only a 5, so I could only get a max of 28 points for the TOPIK + KIIP section. But after speaking with her in Korean and explaining my major, she gave me the full 30 points. That’s the only way I could get an 82.
She asked me to copy my passport and the KIIP document and deposit 30,000won for my new card. So I did that, but ended up forgetting to copy my passport since I had a bunch of college exchange students from America asking me questions at the machines. I got confused. So when I came back without the passport copy, she was a bit annoyed and I felt bad but she copied it for me. I’m very grateful to her.
So I passed! She didn’t need the 급여내역서 in the end, but she took everything else with her.
Since you have to surrender your ARC when you apply, you are not allowed to leave the country until you receive your new card. No trips, no nothing. Boo.

But just yesterday, the 19th, I got my message from immigration.

“Your visa is permit. Please visit immigration office pick up your alien registration card. You can pick up after 2016.September.30.”

The English might not be so good but that tells me that I can go get my ARC card anytime in October. So while you may get the message early, you might not be able to pick it up for another two weeks. It’s the new semester at schools so there are tons of foreign students. So immigration is quite backed up. That must be why I have to go so late. That’s fine. I was planning to go in early October anyway.

So there you have it! Your guide to getting the F-2 visa! It only took me…. Almost a year (a little more if you count life experiences and stuff but…)! Good luck to everyone and let me know if you have questions.

Categories: immigration, korea, life, Uncategorized, visa | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Road to Freedom Part 2 – Documents

So now, I’m going to talk about getting the paperwork necessary for the F-2 visa while in Korea.

In order to get the visa, you have to prove everything you want points for. This is going to be quite difficult. So I made a list of everything I would possibly need, as well as picked up a few things I might need off of some forums. These lists make sense when thinking about how sensitive Immigration is. So the documents I will prepare are as follows:

Some documents for F-2-7 Visa

1. 근로원천징수 (Most recent income tax statement. Ask for it to your employer. They should be able to give it to you.)

2. 급여내역서 (Statement from your bank of recent income  – they say have it made for the current year. It should also show income not one your previous year’s income tax statement or something… I’m not sure what this means but if you go to the bank and ask for it, they should know what to do. Sounds like a bank trip to me. And this costs just a few thousand won.)

3. 거주지 확인서 (Proof of residence –  Someone said they used their internet/cable bill. I use smart billing/e-billing, so I will have to figure out a way to get that.)

4. 재직증명서 (Statement of current employment from employer. This is to prove you’re employed currently. I don’t think the whole 3 years has to be under one employer, but it must be under the same visa type. I would double check this, though. Luckily, I’ve been with my company for 3 years so it won’t matter.)

5. 사업자등록증 사본 (Employer’s business license with number, pretty standard when changing visas. This is to reinforce #4)

6. Passport (and copy, just in case)

7. Certificates from KIIP (One is shipped to you, one can also be printed. They are different certificates so just print both.)

8. Certificate from TOPIK (they don’t mail these anymore, I think. So I printed a copy from online. I hope they like B&W copies…)

9. Apostilled copy of Diploma

Honestly, this last part was the hardest out of all of them.

I’m currently in South Korea. How do I get my degree apostilled without bothering my family and friends for the billionth time?
While looking all over these forums, people kept referring to this one place-
Honestly, I thought it was some sort of scam to get you to spend a lot of money and then they never send you anything. You know what I mean. But I was desperate. I first emailed them about what I had to do. And clearly, based on their reply, they’re used to people like us. There’s two methods for this:

  • Send them your degree and they will get a copy apostilled.
  • Send them a high-quality color scan of your degree and they will apostille that for you. And for only $140 ($95 per degree apostille, plus $45 for shipping).

This seems like a lot. But honestly, you will probably fedex your document home (because I don’t trust normal postal services with my expensive degree.) This will cost about $45 one way. Times two… Then, if you live in some place like New Jersey, to get it notarized (depends on where you go for pricing) and then apostille something costs $25 per document (every state is different. Some states ask $5, others ask more. How rude…). If you are lucky, you can go in person to get all that done. If not, you gotta send it through the mail again. Honestly, this whole process can take weeks. Precious time many people don’t have.

So I decided to go for the scan. I sent the email with my scan, my order form, and my affadavit stating I didn’t photoshop/digitally alter my degree (necessary if you scan it) on Monday morning. By 10:30 AM, the money was charged from my credit card. 2 hours later, I got an email stating my Fedex package’s information. Monday night, the apostille was sent out. By Wednesday, 2:19PM (all my time, by the way), I was holding my apostilled copy of my diploma in my hand. I repeat. Within 48 hours, I was finished with the absolute worst part of the documents part of my visa process. I laughed when the Fedex guy came into my office. I thought he was joking. But definitely not.

So my recommendation to you all is, if you are in Korea and need things apostilled, I highly recommend ApostillePros. Don’t think, just do. Now, for Criminal Background Checks (you won’t need it for this visa), it might be a whole different procedure. But I highly recommend this.  Also, when I looked up the cost to send from CA to S. Korea (by the way, where you get your degree apostilled and notarized doesn’t matter. I have a NJ diploma. As long as the notary and apostille are in the same state, it is fine.), and with the same shipping time, it would’ve cost $87.50 or so. Wow. So yeah, money well spent. I can sleep easy tonight knowing that what I thought would take two weeks took only 2 days.

Now I just have to get the documents from my company and bank.

Last step? The immigration office. I will tell you about that step when it happens. But that might not be until September. So hold on tight.

Categories: korea, life, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Road to Freedom (or an F-2 Visa) Part 1 – Points and Class

Miss me? I have been busy for the past couple months and here is a half-explanation, half-review. Enjoy!

As many of you may know, I have been living in South Korea for about six years now. I like the country a lot. It has its ups and downs, depressing and happy moments, but overall, it gives me the satisfactory life I want. That is why last year I decided I wanted to get the F-2 visa.

What is an F-2 Visa?

It is the Long-Term Residency visa (장기거주). If you have lived in this country for over 3 years continuously, you are eligible for this visa. Now, just the 3 years isn’t enough, you also need to have enough “points” to qualify for the visa. Points? Yes, points. It is a point-based system, with points coming from your educational background, work experience, language proficiency, etc. For more information on their point system, please visit F-2 Visa Point System Breakdown . This will give you the actual requirements (though many other blogs have this as well).


Now, why would anyone want this visa? Well, I call this the “Freedom Visa”. You know how Americans love their freedom…(eyeball roll). Anyway, this visa allows visa holders to not be tied down by their job. Meaning, you can work anywhere you want without visa sponsorship. You can work 4 jobs and be homeless in Seoul Station and the government can’t really bother you as long as you pay your taxes. While for some, this may not be worth trying for, to some (including me), that extra bit of freedom is worth it. Many of the jobs I want to apply for, such as companies or government organizations, need an F-series visa in order to apply. So this opens many more doors for you. Those who would like to get out of the Hagwon system might want to opt for this. Also, from what I’ve read on some forums, if you stay two years on this F-2 visa, you can then apply for the F-5 visa without having to have the money aspect. I am hoping this is true because that would be my ultimate goal. F-5 is a Permanent Residency Visa (never going to immigration again for the rest of your life. One step away from becoming a Korean.)


Now, you will notice if you look at the point system that it is actually quite difficult to get. Most people will be 1-2 points short, or even 10 points. And yes, those 1-2 points do matter. So if you can earn more points, take all the points you can. You never know what they will throw out and what they will keep. There are two ways to get enough points. There is the language and culture route, and there is the money route.

  • The money route is something like, have $30,000 worth of investments (house, car, bonds, stocks) in Korea and you will get the visa. Money solves many things, right?
  • The other is go through the immigration offices language and culture classes. This alone can offer you around 30 points, or even just 10 if you have already studied Korean on your own and take just their culture class.

I did the second route since I already knew Korean. Less points but not much I can do…

I was about 11 points away from the visa (including having at least a 4 on the TOPIK exam). This was driving me insane. So I tried to enroll in the Culture class offered by the KIIP, the language and culture program offered by immigration). If you have a 4 or higher on the TOPIK, you can be exempt from the language classes and go straight into the culture class. You have to submit your TOPIK Certificate to the Immigration Office in Mokdong (not any other place. Believe me, I tried and wasted an entire day). You fill out a form and then you get exempt. But make sure you are already registered on

Then the waiting game.

Waiting for those elusive classes to open up so you can register. I missed the first round in January because of a simple 10 minute car ride. What I mean is, just like college class registration, it begins at exactly 12am midnight. They don’t announce the date of registration really, you just have to keep checking until you find out when the registration period is. Then wait for midnight. And then at midnight, you rush like crazy to register. Except in this instance, it didn’t start at 12am. I waited for 20 minutes. Nothing.

I was at a friends house so I decided to just go home. It’s just a 10-15 minute taxi ride home.  When I went home and checked, all the classes were opened and full. I cursed a bit and then decided to wait again.

The next registration period wouldn’t be until May. So I waited until then. This time, I made sure I was prepared,  I was at home, equipped with two laptops, and this time successfully enrolled in a weekend class near Sukmyung Women’s University (숙명여대) at남영역 (1호선). These classes are for one month and very intensive. 5 hours a day, Saturday and Sunday, for one whole month. I sacrificed my June to do this. It was worth it. The morning class is primarily Chinese University Students (with other occasional foreigners). They are very sweet and I really enjoyed my class. If you take the afternoon class, it’s filled with many foreign housewives. So a completely different dynamic. I learned a whole bunch about Korea and Korean history and culture, and overall really recommend the class to others. It’s heavy but well worth it. And my teacher was the loveliest woman ever. I wish I could have her as my Korean teacher all the time. Maybe I’ll look her up and try to take a class with her…

After the 5 weeks of classes, you register for the final exam, which is two weeks later. It is nerve wrecking. There’s only 40 questions out of all the material you learned in the 5 weeks (which is a ton). And you have an interview. The interview is done in twos since there are so many people. Luckily, I had a fellow classmate with me so I felt a bit more at ease.

The written portion is only 1 hour. But then waiting for the interview can take between 2-3 hours. Overall, you spend half a day here so really, don’t plan to do anything until the evening for this test. It begins at 12 (you have to be in your classroom really early) and it didn’t end until 4 something for me.


Once the test was over, the results are announced two or so weeks later. Lucky for me, I had this test on Saturday and the TOPIK test on Sunday of the same weekend. I was exhausted this weekend. Luckily, in the end, I passed this class and got a good enough score on the TOPIK to get a 5. Just enough to push me over the 80 points that I needed. Finally! I nearly cried.


Now for the fun part – collecting all my documents to submit the visa. More on that in my next post.

Stay tuned!

Categories: korea, life, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Brand Name is the new Bap

Link to 명품 article

I saw the above article and it really made me think due to a discussion I had (and have had multiple times over my years here) with Koreans/colleagues/friends about S. Korea’s past.

Koreans in a way love to talk about their poor past. I don’t think this is true. But what I mean is, they tell me about it a lot. Almost as if this was a pity contest and they were trying to get the most out of it. “You know, back in the old days, right after the war, there wasn’t always food on the table. Often times we starved.” This is why in Korea you MUST finish your bowl of rice in front of a Korean mother. It is/was a luxury to have such food. It is the reason restaurants serve such a variety of side dishes with a meal. Otherwise, the restaurant is looked down upon. And I understand as it is the lasting image that Americans have of South Korea – a poor, war-ravaged country where many people might not have enough food, or proper shelter, etc.


Nowadays, Korea is not that war-torn country. It is extremely modern, moreso than the US and has many more advantages than we do, though they still fail to see just how far they’ve come. You always hear people say, “Oh, you’re from America?? I’m so jealous! I bet it’s amazing to live in America.” except the people who have actually lived there admit to how behind the times and slow life really is there and that really, what works in Korea doesn’t really work in America.


Back to the point of the article. It talks about the word 밥
(bap). This means “rice” literally, but it has come to mean, a meal. Because in Asia, if you haven’t eaten rice, you haven’t had a meal, and eating is everything in a poor country. So this word is very commonly used as the word “meal”, “food”, “rice” and any other variation. We use it at least a thousand times a day. But this article talks about how now, the new word to talk about your social status and wealth is no longer bap, but 명품 (myungpoom) meaning “Brand name”. It used to mean something that wasn’t no-name. Like, Neutrogena, instead of the target version of it. But now, it has come to mean “luxury brand”, such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and all the others. Instead of asking “Have you eaten?”, you might be more inclined to talk about your latest acquisition from the Department Store, the height of luxury shopping.

And I find this to be true. Many people talk about all their department store cosmetic purchases and their duty free shopping conquests, etc. I’m even guilty of it. Though a lot of the reason I buy from department stores is because the formulas are ones that won’t hurt my face and cause me to break out, though often times when you read the back of a Clinique bottle let’s say, it will state “Formulated for Asian Skin.”. Yeah, the American stuff doesn’t say that lest it be considered racism. But it makes sense when being sold in Asia. But I realize that I see results when I use the higher end products. Thus I keep using it.

People in Asia are so very obsessed with spending lots of money on these luxury items, it’s almost absurd to an American. We brag about how cheap we bought something, while they brag about how much they spent. Now, this is not true for everyone, but often times it can be. Depends a lot on one’s age as well. I thought another interesting point was the sexism within this culture. If a man buys expensive, luxurious products, he is called a 도시만 (doshinam), a smart, city guy, or even a 차도남(chadonam), a suave, car-driving guy (since a man having a car is like the senior quarterback in highschool with his car- oh so cool and sexy). But, a girl would be called a 된장녀 (duenjangnyuh), literally, a duenjang stew girl, but means, a girl who lives outside her means (it comes from the idea that someone will eat only this stew, which is one of the cheapest dishes in Korea, in order to save up the money to buy these luxurious products.). There is the male version, but it’s not used as often as the female version. This blatant sexism is also fascinating. I mean, there are more working women these days, especially in the middle aged and young generation so they can afford it.

Anyway, I know it is in Korean, but google translate it sometime if you want. I read some of it, but found the idea of the topic fascinating. I wonder what others think.


Categories: korea, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Quality over Quantity – A World Over

I’m a big girl. And I have a large chest. Anyone who has ever met me probably knows that is the first thing anyone notices about me. And it’s fine. I have grown to love them, despite the problems they give me (see:back problems). With a voluptuous chest comes great responsibility to hold them up. So I must get bras. And any full-figured, large chested woman will answer, “Right, and have you seen the bras they have out there for us? Something out of Grandma’s closet.” And most of the time, they are right. We always complain, “Why aren’t there any pretty bras for me?” But this problem isn’t exclusive to just large-chested women, but also plus-sized women. Our choices for clothes continually seems to be those of a handful of brands: Lane Bryant, Ashley Stewart, Oldy Navy (online only now! Thanks, ON!…)(…I hope you caught that sarcasm…) and Torrid. If you are lucky in some areas, another low-budget pop-up plus-size store will be open in your mall, like Fashion to Figure, or the like. And most women think this is all that is open to us. So young 20/30 year-old women are doomed to look like either 40-year-old woman or the other side of the spectrum, teenyboppers with our muffin tops, breastages, and other parts of flesh popping out of ill-fitting clothes in an attempt to look semi-youthful but looking immature due to our inability to adequately dress ourselves (When were muffin tops ever okay? Really now?)

This has pissed me off. And we let this cycle keep going because we refuse to actually venture out of our comfort zone. I hear a lot of “well, I tried this store and they don’t fit me.” or “I don’t like shopping online.” And I understand these complaints wholeheartedly. But women, we need to stop being irresponsible. That’s right, I said it. When was the last time you measured yourself? I mean, really measured yourself? Go ahead and do it now. Then write those numbers down. Yes, it sucks. But it’s necessary. And guess what? Numbers are an objective element. They have no soul. They have no meaning other than numerical value. If you want to attach positivity or negativity to any number, that’s humans overthinking stuff. The only think I can kinda understand is negative numbers. It’s in the name of the word, I mean. But I actually think they are kinda fun. Things go apeshit when you start multiplying them and dividing and squaring. Woo!! But besides negative numbers, why are we negative about numbers? If you wanna get cranky about big numbers, go look at other countries.

Europeans are ok because they go by 28, 30, 32, 34 since those are based off of actual inches. That’s fine and dandy. But look at UK sizing, our lovely neighbor… They are literally 2 sizes higher than US sizes for the same thing. A size 12 is a size 16. A 14 is an 18. And so on. Why? BECAUSE THEY SAID SO. Why not? Aren’t sizes arbitrary to begin with? Why not go crazy? How does that make you feel? Confused? Me too. Who cares. Korean sizing goes by 44, 66, 88, then 105, 110, 120. Or something like that. What on earth is this? It’s your circumference in milimeters. Why milimeters? WHY NOT? But then bra sizing is in inches. 28, 30, 32…. And then cup sizing is a whole other ballgame. Am I DD or an F or a FF? Wha? That’s right. FF and GG’s are something. And quite normal. But people must remember, bra sizes are NOT universal. A UK 40E and a US 40E are not the same. Let me explain it this way. I’m a 40GG. I thought I was a 42DDD. But if a bra band is loose and comfortable, you are wearing the wrong size. Straps don’t hold puppies up and support, band holds puppies IN and supports too. Oh yeah. Think about that. But the 40GG is a UK size. Why? America doesn’t have GG’s. They stop doubling letters after D’s… Britain doesn’t. So I’m a 40J in America. But you know what? I don’t care. J means nothing. It just means I just have to look harder. But you know what? These bras exist. “But not in America!” Right! Because we have let them run us around. We have let them steal our money and satisfication.

Full-figured women, get your asses over to the other side of the pond. What I mean is, go online and look at British sites. Or European sites. They have demanded fashion at all shapes and they get it. Simply Be, Asos, Eloquii, etc. Stop limiting yourself to the mall. You have freedom, you just have to be willing to give them a shot.

Now, my other qualm with some people are the ones who are like, “It’s too expensive. I don’t wanna pay $30 for a T-shirt.” That’s fine. Don’t pay it. But don’t expect to get good quality. And don’t expect to NOT be supporting companies who utilize countries with lower wages, poor working conditions, among other problems. Do you remember the Indonesian Manufacting Complex Building collapse a few years ago? Companies like Old Navy, Banana Republic, United Colors of Benneton, etc were all producing their clothes there. I know you think “These companies probably never realized it. They were too removed from the process.” But actually, they aren’t that far removed or even removed at all. Profit margins are more important. And we gotta cut costs somewhere. You wanted your shirt cheap. It comes at a price. But even Banana Republic, Gap, the clothes aren’t very high quality. But they charge more. Because they play you.

Sometimes the higher prices ensure good quality, sometimes they don’t. You really have to see about the brand. Check tags. That’s why they are there. To ensure quality. And while the quality is one thing, people must also remember to learn how to treat good quality garments. You can’t just throw everything in the washing machine, no matter how convenient it is. Those bras you just spent $60-70 EACH on? Yeah, just carelessly toss them in the washing machine and dryer and allow them to be thrown around at speeds of 40mph give or take. And you are putting your lace through that? Sure, I’ll do that. Let’s be practical, Yes, they go through some wear and tear through the day but you can make things last longer by taking care of your garments, especially lingerie. You can make any pantyhose last months with daily use if you know how to wash it correctly.

This is a reason why many Europeans don’t own many clothes and clothes are priced higher. The quality is better, they take of their clothes better, and they understand that clothing is an investment. They don’t buy just anything for the sake of wanting something. They spend more of their budget on eating, or something else.

Another fascinating point is, when I got to Korea, I noticed everyone had designer goods. Why? One reason, they want to look good in front of others. Koreans don’t invite people to their house like Westeners. So the only thing they can show is themselves. Their clothes make them presentable. Americans want a clean and presentable house, others prefer making themselves presentable since that’s what people see EVERYDAY, vs. just at a party. It’s a better reflection of themselves in their opinion. Another reason, most Koreans will say, “They have good AS.” meaning, it lasts a while and if something breaks or gets ruined down the line, they can get it fixed by the manufacturer. Can your walmart bag come with that guarantee? Nope. But most high-end brands here do, such as Prada, Burberry, Coach, etc. They will fix it for you at a small charge of about $10-30. Sure it’s a bit much for scuffs or ripped leather, but beats by a whole new bag. So when our Walmart bag gets ripped, we just chuck the whole thing and toss a whole new, adding more trash to the landfills. Some people repair it, sure, but who has time for that? You can’t even handwash your bras but you will sew shut a $10 Walmart bag? Priorities…

An interesting concept to wrap ones mind around is the idea of carrying around luxury goods. Now, in Korea, we carry it around to show how much wealth we have, among many other reasons. We want to look good and give a good impression to others. But Americans flaunt their cheapness. And I mean, “Oh, this little thing? I bought this at Walmart for a steal. It was really cheap.” or “Look at those people. I don’t have enough money to ride around in a Benz. Like I have money to burn on that.” First, you are flaunting your poor status in the eyes of some people. While we might think we are flaunting “our shopping-savvy mind” and our ability to “get the best price”, to many cultures it can look like you just can’t afford the real thing. A lot of my students used to be very surprised that we would happily say we got something very cheap. It is looked down upon in their culture. But this is just a different way of thinking, not a wrong one. I’m not criticizing the American mindset either. Getting a bargain is great, but there is something as too cheap. Remember that stores buy stock with intentions to discount it later to ridiculous levels. Higher end brands don’t always do that.

Just some things to think about when shopping. I know my shopping style has definitely changed while being here. Some might think I am fancy because I buy high end cosmetics rather than some cheap stuff. But when after buying cheaper and more convenient products I ended up with cystic acne scars and have been able to heal my skin plus get my skin good enough that I get compliments on a weekly basis for it, I’m convinced I’m investing in worthwhile products that really do make differences.

Which is cheaper, paying more money upfront, take care of the product, and enjoy it for years? or spend very little, put less effort into maintenance, but have to replace it every 6 months to a year? Depends on the product, sure. But my current philosophy, quality over quantity.

Categories: fashion, korea, life, plus size, rant, shopping, style | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Performances in Insa-dong

I would like to say that I get along with my British friends because I am able to contain my enthusiasm for certain in the way that British people express themselves. Americans are quite known for being passionate, enthusiastic, etc. I like to think I’m not easily impressed or enthused by things. I do get excited, though much of the time I feign it to get reactions. I remember growing up, my mother would cook a meal and ask the family how it was. My brother and sister would always say “Oh, it’s great, Mom!”, though later confiding that Mom really can’t cook well. But they were very encouraging. I, on the other hand, would be the less enthusiastic one and remark, “Eh, it’s not bad~”, much to my mother’s dismay. Understandably so.

When I went to see my favorite Korean band in concert, while everyone was screaming and chanting, dancing along, I merely stood there and bobbed my head lightly, singing along as well. I’m not much of the fan girl type. I would think my British friends would approve. They always jest that their wedding vows would be along the lines of, “Dear wife, you’re not that bad. I guess I can live with you for a bit. Just make sure the tea is warm when we get home.” I know they are just joking but that’s the English personality. Scottish, a little bit different. But English is quite like this.
So today I was on my way back home after getting a few things for the house and then lunch/dinner. I bought it for take-out so I could come home and watch TV while eating it. I was out until about 5:30 this morning with my British friends so I just felt like relaxing today. Nothing too crazy. I even cancelled my plans to go visit a friend and his fiancé as a result. I really cannot stay up all night. I get grouchy, tired, my stomach hurts, I get nausea, etc. I am just a pain in the ass. I give them a lot of credit for sticking it out with me.
Anyway, that’s beside the point. So, I was on my home and I noticed a performance going on right in front of my apartment building. That always happens because it’s Insadong, the commercially traditional part of Seoul. They always have these performances on the weekends for the foreigners here. I always say that I dislike Insadong because it feels so fake. It’s like a giant, living museum of old Korea with way too many souvenir shops. The name Insa-dong, means “Greeting Area”. It’s a bit obnoxious as a foreigner who lives here because I’m automatically assumed to be a tourist or a Russian Karaoke Room worker. Yeehaw.
So I decided to stop by and see what it was. To my luck, it wasn’t just the normal Sameulnori group (traditional farm music celebration group) that usually plays, it was another drumming group. Many people are familiar with Taiko (Daiko) drumming from Japan. This was similar. They play the drums frequently used in Sameulnori and they set it up on a stage on the floor. You have to sit and play it. I really love Percussion-based performances, such as Nanta or Taiko, due to the energy they bring. It’s one of the reasons I really enjoyed being apart of my high school’s drumlins group and did front line percussion. You cannot believe the rush it gives you to play in one of those groups.
Drumming in Insa-dong performance

Drumming in Insa-dong performance

So, I thought it would just be another boring group. But they were amazing! I don’t know how to explain it. They were just so into it. I can’t even describe it. It was so amazing, I found myself crying. Just tearing up and running down my cheek. It was odd. It was like, tears of happiness. I’ve never really experienced that before. What made it more lovely was looking at the crowd. Most people weren’t really foreigners. They were Koreans. Especially older Koreans. This area is filled with older Koreans. And I saw these two men dancing to the music. Yes, they were a bit off, mentally. But they were dancing to the music in that old, traditional style you might see at a Pansori (Korean traditional folk storytelling music) that accompanies it. And I realized that the music isn’t just for the foreigners, but it’s for the Koreans too, primarily the older generation. It gives them a way to remember they old days, their youth. Back in the 50s or 60s when Korea was still a poorer country and these were more common place. It gives me a release that you just don’t see everyday. I just loved the atmosphere. I loved the performance for so many things.
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Old man dancing in front of the drummers

It made me appreciate the area and the performances they do there. Sure, it’s artificial in nature, but I think it does some good. I think I can lessen my hate of this are for it. I just wish it wasn’t so commercial, with all the souvenir stores and makeup stores polluting the area. I like the local artists, the painters there. I just don’t like these stores.
I’m glad I got to see this performance today. I have this energy in me to restart music and restart mallets again. I just wish it was easier to do so.
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Just my luck~

I’m not a religious person. I do respect other religions and understand the need for them. I merely wish they didn’t drive people to do hateful things to each other.
But when I was growing up, I was quite fascinated with Asian religions and mysticism. I love mythology and all the ideas people came up with to explain how the Earth was made, how humans came to be, and how the world works. The Zodiacs are also fun to believe in as well. That different signs match and others conflict. And when you look at the Zodiacs, sometimes they really do make sense. And when I look at Chinese astrology, although it’s a different culture, sometimes I feel like it applies to me as well.

But at the end of the day, it isn’t real. Though we really want to believe it’s real. Though sometimes I really wonder how real it is.
My father was also interested in Chinese zodiacs and would look it up online to see what his sign was and what his fortune was like. My father even bought a charm and a jade tiger to reinforce his luck. I remember him telling me that it said he was born on an extremely lucky day and that he was supposed to be a very lucky person. But he wondered why he had lead such a miserable life and felt that the reading might be a mistake about his luck. My poor daddy… He has lead such a miserable life.

Last spring, I had the chance to go see a Taro card reader near my house with a fellow instructor at the institute. I went with little expectations because the last fortune teller I went to wasn’t very good. It was a $5 palm reading in Washington D.C. when I went to go visit my friends Lily and Mariana, and the woman told me I would be conflicted between two loves and to pick the newer love. There was no two men ever and I thought the woman was a bunch of crock afterwards.

So my coworker and I got two readings (also $5) and this time was for Love AND Work. The woman said for love, that I was in a relationship but the person I was with was more in love with me than I was with him (True). She told me it wouldn’t get any better and that I should just break up.
As for work, she said that it looks bright and that I should change my job in the fall. I was surprised by this response because everyone’s contract starts in a different month, but mine is in the fall, in October. I asked her about the Summer or Winter and she told me the cards say Fall and only Fall.
I had this reading and didn’t think too much of it. But then during the summer, an opportunity presented itself and I was able to start as soon as my other contract ended in the Fall. And that is what happened, just as she said.
It could be luck, it could be timing, but the way it worked out couldn’t have been any better.

Also at the time, I was looking for a way to break up with my ex and had finally found a way. At the same time, a friend of mine offered the services of a Shaman. You see, in Korea, they used to practice Shamanism, and the priests were very often women. Those charms you often see in Japanese animes at the shrines, well, Koreans have a form of them as well. You can buy cheap Japanese charms from these shrines for yourself. I bought one for my dad in Japan when I studied abroad there in hopes that it will improve his luck. He keeps it in his car and drives around with it. Sometimes I think it keeps him safe because he has gotten into accidents that could have killed him but he came out perfectly fine, just needing a new car. So maybe it is working? I can hope, anyway.

Anyway- my friend said she could get a charm for me from this old woman who could help get rid of my ex-boyfriend and improve my life. I was interested until she told me about the price. $300. Yes, you heard that right. It’s quite expensive. But the difference, I was told, is that these are personalized, rather than just a general one written for anybody. Those are less effective. So many laugh at me for having one and then spending so much. But the old woman prayed day and night for 3 days straight to make this charm.

And was it effective you might ask? Yes. Very.

I am a lucky person. It sounds odd but I can feel my luck. I know I was born lucky. I can’t describe it but good things (as well as bad) happen to me but the usually in a very good way. The bad is just momentary. And the bad only happens when I am around negative people. There are really negative people who just suck your luck and energy away. My mother and ex were those kinds of people. Once I got away, life improved drastically. Once I got away from my ex, I felt better, I got better housing, and I ended up with a nice bit of extra money in the bank almost immediately after receiving this charm. It has paid itself back many fold.

When I met my friend this weekend during Chuseok, she told me that the old Shaman woman said that I was a very lucky person, that she felt it too. But she also said that this year, I won’t meet anyone for love. It’s too soon yet. And it makes sense with the charm. They usually last for a year. So she told my friend to tell me to hold off and just wait until next year. Next year will be a better year.

And it sounds really strange but it is really comforting to hear that. I always think I’m doing something wrong but it’s not me, it’s just timing. It’s just not the right time. Later. Now is the time for learning. Learning how to be me again. Learning what me is. And it’s nice to know I don’t have to focus on that right now and can focus on other things. And although it’s odd to say I believe, I kinda do. It’s that reassurance I needed right now. The push to focus on things that need more immediate attention. I’m so worried now about some people in my life but it’s like life telling me, if they’re there next year, they’re worth it. If not, they’re not. Don’t bother yourself with those who don’t stick around. But I think everything will turn out just fine.

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I see this word and I immediately have the image of the priest from the Little Mermaid standing on the crate speaking “Mawwege~”, yes, like the priest from the Princess Bride. I’m not sure why this comes into my head but it does. And it makes me giggle on this inside. And think how absurd it all can be.

This past weekend, I had to attend two weddings, one each day. One was for a coworker and one was for a member of the swim club. In Korea, getting married is a big deal. People will constantly ask you, “When are you getting married?” even if you don’t have a boyfriend and they know it. It’s a constant question. I’ve heard of people dating for 3-4 weeks and then decide to get married. We see it in our movies sometimes where people fall in love at first site and then elope. But we think of those as just silly movies with no basis on reality. I think my friend getting engaged within a year of dating was the quickest anyone I know had gotten engaged. But Korea has changed that idea completely for me.

But yet I was just overwhelmed with sadness at each wedding. For a couple reasons, actually. One, I realized just how alone I really am and how far away that wedding feels. It didn’t help that a guy I am/was kinda interested in was there and kinda just avoided me for most of the ceremony. So that just made me even more tired and frustrated.

But, the other reason was the guests of the wedding and how insanely rude they can be. I was sitting at my coworker’s wedding and these two old women were just talking loudly the entire ceremony. And they weren’t the only ones, tons of people were just talking through the whole ceremony. And a bunch of people just completely ignored the wedding and played on their cell phone. And once the 20-30 minutes ceremony was over, people ran quickly to the buffet hall for the food (it’s not a sit-down meal, it’s a buffet line. And then the bride and groom will walk around and greet everyone, introducing the group to their new spouse). A whole Korean wedding doesn’t take longer than an hour and a half. But the wedding is so short, and people can’t pay attention for 20 minutes? Especially your friend’s wedding? That’s a shame. And disappointing. And childish.

How is it that the thing everyone asks you about, the thing you worry about and stress about is something you don’t even pay attention to? It’s like asking a question but then listening to something else while they give you a response. I admire Korean weddings for their speed, no frills, and a great buffet(I gotta get me one at my wedding). But the lack of courtesy exhibited by guests and attendees is appalling.

And another thing. In America, we have a dress rehearsal the day before to run through how to do everything and then you can go do it the day of the wedding? Well in Korea, that doesn’t happen. What they do is have “convention center staff”, or wedding hall staff, whoever they are, basically move you around to the right spots and help guide you through it. They do some ridiculous stuff like shoot streamers at you, hold up arches for you, etc. The guests don’t take part in the ceremony, nothing. No rice or anything. I know I’ve been to one before but this just really reinforced my dislike for Korean style weddings. Koreans will really hate my wedding because I might just have a no-cell phone rule during the wedding. And ushers. Wouldn’t that suck?

So overall, I think I don’t want to go to another wedding unless I absolutely have to, like for work. Otherwise, count me out of the rudeness. But the one good thing about this? I saw a Korean celebrity- the giant comedian Choi Hong Min. That’s always a plus.

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Where have I been? Oh, just the ER

Hello all, long time no talk to.
It has been quite a while since I’ve updated, though not necessarily on purpose. I have been lying around, but not in the lazy kind of way but more the incapacitated kind of way.
Let me explain.

About the first week of June, I suddenly started feeling sick. I couldn’t place a finger on it. It was odd. It was right after a beautiful picnic at the Han River with some old colleagues and a lovely lunch with another old colleague as well. It felt like a cold, a stupid summer cold. Except no stuffy nose or anything like that. Just general shittiness. So I went to the doctor and he was like, let’s run some tests. But quickly after listening to my symptoms and a urine test later, he told me I was having problems with my liver/kidneys and if over the weekend, I felt worse, go to the hospital. I was like, Umm, sure. Well, sure enough, that weekend, I went to the hospital. I was in so much pain, I thought I was going crazy. I had told some swimming friends how I felt and that I might go. So luckily, they messaged me and met me at the hospital. They were nice enough to stay until 3:30am until I was released. Poor guys…. They gave me some medicine and told me to come back in about a week to do a check up. I was like, fine, whatevs. I felt better. So I started the meds and then did a week.

But then, that Thursday, I caught tonsillitis. It wasn’t too bad at first, just uncomfortable. But by Friday, I was so uncomfortable, I went home early. I figured, I’ll just sleep it off. I had gone to the doctor again on Thursday and he was like, “Yeah, it’s tonsillitis. Just take the meds you’re taking and you’ll be good.”

Over the weekend, I got worse. So worse than by Monday, the day of my follow-up appointment, my tonsils and uvula (that hanging thing) had swelled so much that it was cutting off my airway. I couldn’t speak starting Friday. I spent the whole weekend silent. And by Monday, I couldn’t speak normally even if I really wanted. It was awful. I had an appointment at 1 and I had called out for the day. I tried to just be a champ about it. “It’s just tonsillitis. Tons of people get it. I will be fine. I’ll get better!” I’m that kind of person. Yeah, by 11:30, I couldn’t take it and went to the hospital by 12. I had to do a urine and blood test before I have my consultation so they can see if I’ve improved. But I went to everyone, asking what to do to get help for my throat. Everyone just stared at me. In a hospital, nobody knew how to help me. Even the lady taking my blood was like, “Are you OK?” and I was like, “No.” I was practically in tears because nobody would help me.

I finally asked one desk and they were like, well, you could just go to the ER, but you’d void your appointment. I told them I didn’t care. I couldn’t breathe. So I moved as quick as a person without energy or air could to the ER. I went to reception and they quickly rushed me along. When the ER nurse/doctor saw me, she was shocked at the condition of my throat. “There’s no hole to breathe!” She exclaimed. And then, “Stop talking!” she kept yelling at me when she was rushing around, trying to admit me. She kept asking me questions and she just wanted the simple answer but the answers are never simple. She didn’t mean it in a mean way, just she knew I wouldn’t be able to breathe if I kept talking.

So they rushed and admitted me in immediately, putting me in on a stretcher. I felt weird. Then she started talking about surgery and stuff. I started getting worried. They started talking blood from everywhere, even my ankles. Literally grabbed both at the same time, and stuck needles in for blood. That hurts more than the arm because there’s no fat.

So they moved me into another room and kept asking me for a guardian. But I live in Korea alone. What do I do? I call my Korean friend from high school who happens to live only 20-30 minutes near by and is a medical student. She doesn’t come right away, her sister comes first and talks to the nurses for me.

So they prep me for surgery and get me into the operating room. I’ve never been in one before but it didn’t seem too scary. After 15 minutes, thry give me the gas. I’ve always been afraid of this part because I’ve always worried “what if it doesn’t work and I feel everything?” So we wait for me too be knocked out. 4 minutes pass and I’m still awake. They’re a bit confused. Then someone says, “Wait. She can’t breathe so the gas won’t do.” Genius. So they use an injection and within thirty seconds I’m out until the next day basically.

I wake up and I have tubes in my throat. Supposedly, after the surgery, I wasn’t breathing on my own so they had to tubes and a catheter in to keep me going. How nice of them. I also wake up to arm restraints. I also apparently fought back and they had to restrain me. So they only way I could communicate was through a dry erase board the nurse let me use sometimes if I flailed.

All my coworkers came to see me, my swim friends too, and another good friend. I was in the hospital for about a week and then went home. Going back to work was hard but i went back just two days later. Now I feel much brtter.

So we are all wondering what caused this ridiculousness. Well, what happened was is I caught a cold and then bought some OTC cold medicine. But, my kidney can’t handle NSAIDS. These are things like aspirin, Tylenol, normal OTC cold, flu, and pain medicine. It makes my kidneys go nuts. So that just kept piling on. And supposedly, tonsillitis is easy to get during this period too. So it all just stacked up against me.

Now I’m a healthy, albeit very sleepy, person. So that is how my month has gone. I just started swimming this week. But it is so tiring. So I will try and take my time. But I must say, if I get sick again, SNU hospital is definitely thr way to go. I had a really sweet male nurse in ICU. I tried asking for his number while i was there but he told mr to come back and ask again. I’m tempted but I doubt it would work out well. So I shall just dream of the what could have been…

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As I you all may know, I work for an Korean company, rather than a private institute. When you work at an institute, some companies allow you to make up your own lesson plan, giving you control of the class, while others give you a pre-set lesson plan that you must follow to a T. Both will you give some independence, though not the same kind. In both you will assume control of the lessons and putting them into practice. You will become masters and respected authorities with each method. At least, that’s the goal, somewhat.

However, a company is very different. I am literally on the lowest peg of the system. I’m often excluded or forgotten about when discussing company stuff. I feel as though I have to watched constantly to make sure my work is good enough, if it’s “Korean enough” and fits their standards. Especially since Koreans have different approaches and standards for education. Any project I do get must have supervision. I can’t do anything by myself. Except maybe check a forum to reply to user comments, though sometimes I have to check if it’s OK to reply. They don’t allow me to be included in learning how to upload my online videos or check the sales and profits of classes. I truly am just a writer.

I feel so strange in this position. I feel like I have little control. Like I’m a child that must never be left alone or else I could hurt myself. It’s slightly understandable since I’m a huge risk to this company. I’m the first one to assume this kind of position here. And I’ve only been here about 6 months. So why should I assume any leadership? It’s just that, I’m so used to being in a leadership role in all my jobs before or at least been able to be left alone to hone my skills that I was able to rise faster. It took at least a year to get good at those jobs before. But I wonder if I’ll ever be able to be like my one coworker.

She’s only been here 3 years but she is like the leader of the department. She takes control of everything, especially this big project. She divides the work and gives out the orders. I admire her a lot. She is very knowledgeable and contributes a lot to the general fabric of the department. I don’t know what we would do without her. I want to be just like her. I don’t mind having a head boss, I don’t want to be department head, per se. I just want to be in-charge of something or an expert at something.

Although I’m technically the “English expert” in the department, they really don’t consult with me very much. They just do their own thing. And generally decide to ignore a bunch of stuff in order to simplify things and not make their head hurt. But by simplifying it, it sometimes feels like an insult. “Just get rid of it~” “Ehhh, just lump it with them!” Those sorts of things. But you can’t just lump it together like that. But they will. To make their work easier. That’s all.

All of this makes me realize that I just need to get better and better at Korean so I can get more self-sufficient. I need to be a lot better so they’ll trust me more. I’m not good enough yet. But there’s always potential. I’m more free than most foreigners, but not free enough. But then again, in Korea, is anyone ever really free? Not really…

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