THE LATE TWENTIES (Re.Vamp)

Blogging and my personal journal writing is always something I enjoy. I think it’s a weird self gratifying experience. You write. People may or may not read. But, you feel better.

I’ve been picking up a bit on the journal writing side, so naturally I’ve been contemplating on reviving this ol’ blog. I’m sitting here sipping on cold coffee my boyfriend made me this morning – yes, I have a boyfriend now (another self gratifying experience) – and figured what best time to pick up blogging again than now.

I did rearrange some of my posts. So odd to see how I felt two years ago when I first started posting about my move to Seoul. Seems like another life.

With the revamp, I am coining the new set of posts as THE LATE TWENTIES. Oh, if you only knew how much I have grown in the past year or so since I’ve moved back to the States.

For those still abroad, I commend you. Although I dream of moving back from time to time, life in Georgia ain’t so bad. ๐Ÿ™‚

– Stel

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2013: What is in store for me this year?

Happy New Year!

I figure that I should do a little write up of what I’ve been up to since my last update… which was… in August…

Let’s see, I finished up my second year contract for SMOE (teaching in Seoul) in late August. I visited family for two weeks and made another two week pit stop in California (LA/SF) before I finally landed back in good ol’ GA in September. Things really slowed down once I got home. Although it was nice seeing everyone again, it was definitely different because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stay in GA for good or to think of my time as another pit stop. I’ve been worrying a lot and eventually decided to make it in Atlanta. Job searching and scoring an internship (non-paid, but worthwhile) kept me busy for a bit.

I think I was pretty lucky to come home during the holidays. It made time go by in a way where I didn’t always feel like I should be working harder to find a job. However, holidays do end and my worrying has begun again.

I was hoping by now that I would have more than an inkling of what I wanted to do after Korea. Unfortunately things don’t always work out that way and while I do have a few leads, I’m hoping an opportunity will arise soon.

For now, I trying to see the bigger picture and wishing the best. Staying positive is definitely something I want to focus on this year.

… and I’m going to stop promising to update more, but I will promise to come back. Haha.

– Stel

Q/A #4

I’m sorry that I haven’t posted a response sooner!

Question:

I’m currently doing 100hr ittt course too. Ive done all 20 units and just reading through them now. I need to set a date for ma exam so I have motivation to prepare for it. Desipte reading through them, I dont think im absorbing the content right. I did not take 5 hours for each topic when I did them, but through worksheets and practice I understood. However, im stuck on how to prepare for it. Like you, I struggle/dislike grammar part, and since I never quite understood in at school I have a difficult grasping it now too, specially all the different tenses and their forms and usages.
Would u suggest to prepare before hand? If so, how? Or should I just go for the exam?

Answer:

Wow, I can’t believe it’s been over two years when I was in your shoes! Brings back lots of memories. ๐Ÿ™‚

I’d say that first and foremost, take notice of where you can find certain pieces of information. I read the material and jotted down notes in the margins, but also on the table of contents. The test is mostly about finding the answer in the material that was already given to you and then applying ESL activity ideas. The test is time consuming, not impossible or incredibly hard. The best way to prepare to become familiar with the material, look up definitions if you don’t know them and try to put them in your own words, and take your time! Huge plus if you have someone willing to help you brainstorm ideas for the lesson plan portion of the test.

Good Luck!!

 

Links to questions I’ve answered to other visitors relating to teaching abroad!

Q/A #1

Q/A #2

Q/A #3

the end that was near is finally here.

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Rice cake galore!!

While working as a teacher the past two years, I noticed that other teachers who either left or were entering as a new employee would pass out rice cakes or small presents for everyone at school. The usual gifts were rice cakes. Rice cakes are really incorporated into all major functions/holidays/celebrations in Korea. So, it makes sense to see them floating around in the beginning of the school year when the largest transition of teachers and staff happen. I decided to do something similar as well since I was leaving after serving as the only English conversation teacher for the past two years.

With the help of my co-teacher, I went to a local rice cake shop and ordered 85 individual wrapped ‘honey ricecakes’ to be passed out to every person at my school (including administration, cleaning staff, etc.). I picked this particular type of rice cakes because they are my favorite. They are rolled into little sticky balls filled with a spoon of honey/sugar that melt in your mouth. It is sooo good and usually eaten during happy family celebrations such as Korean thanksgiving (Chuseok).

I’m glad I did it because everyone was super happy and appreciated my gift. I especially enjoyed everyone eating it all around me. Good to see I picked the right kind of rice cakes for them to enjoy. It made me happy to see them stuff their faces and thank me between bites. ๐Ÿ™‚ The total was only 90,000won for 85 packages! It was 900won per pack but they charged me extra for packing (with toothpicks LOL) and delivery. I thought it was good deal.

If you leave school, the general notion is to get your principal and vice principal a present as well as the teachers in your department. However, I wanted to get everyone something as a whole just because I’ve gotten to know more of the members of the school besides the English department. Besides, I’m pretty sure you’ll be remembered for a long time since foreigners don’t really do grand gestures like buying rice cakes for everyone. Although I didn’t understand all the fuss because ย it was something I saw everyone else do, but I’ll take the compliments! ๐Ÿ˜€

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Awh, my desk is all cleared and cleaned. My first desk at my first job on my last day. Goodbye!

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I left school a bit early to go move out since my aunt came to help me around 3pm. I was running around, trying to finish up some errands thatย I wasn’t completely readyby the time my aunt came. Haha. She kept pushing me to hurry up and so we ended up moving out within like 40 minutes? Seems like record time to me. I barely had time to say my goodbyes to my first apartment that I shared with NO ONE. For the first time I was alone to do whatever I wanted and whenever I wanted. I will miss you Amsa!!

anddddd just like that, I’m back in limbo. ๐Ÿ˜›

5 days left

ย It’s like, at the end, there’s this surprise quiz: Am I proud of me? I gave my life to become the person I am right now. Was it worth what I paid? โ€” Richard Bach

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I am conscious that I am making decisions that will shape the person I will be, years and years from now. Have I made the right ones? Will I make the right ones?

ย 

My Life in Boxes

I guess it may seems silly to call a box of clothes and shoes as packing up my life, but I do believe you are what you wear, what you eat, what you… whatever else. I spend quite a long time browsing for clothes to show off a part of my personality or comfortable shoes to carry me around and back home. Although I have realized, while cleaning out my closet, that I may have a problem with buying too many cheapy tshirts. Haha. To my defense, shopping is Korea is just too good to pass up!

I wanted to document how I started to slowly move out of my apartment. A good friend of mine told me that I should act like I’m moving out a week beforehand, so that I don’t feel so overwhelmed later. Good advice, because that is exactly what I aimed to do!

The first thing I did was to separate my closet into three piles. Yes, I took out every single piece of clothing I owned. O.O The first pile were for clothes I wanted to have with me while I traveled, the second were clothes I wanted to send home, and the last pile being donations. Then I focused packing up what I wanted to send home while looking through the pile one more time. I’m glad I did that because I ended up donating more clothes. The golden rule is to donate it and not look back. If you didn’t wear it then, you ain’t gonna wear it tomorrow.

Time to pack things up and ship these babies out! There are two ways you can do this. One is to shove all your clothes into a suitcase and taking that to the post office to pack the boxes on location. This is a plus because everything you need is there and you don’t have to lug boxes to the office later. Second way is to go ahead and buy the boxes to pack and stuff at home. The plus side is that you can take your time. You won’t be stared at and asked questions. Haha.

I chose the latter and bought boxes on my way home. The post office is only three blocks away from me. I stopped by and asked them for the largest boxes that were allowed as boat shipments. This is VERY important! Sending boxes by ship is a lot cheaper, although it takes about two to three months to get delivered. However, those with a lot to send home or not wanting to worry about carrying so much home themselves, shipping by boat is the best option.

I was told to try to wrap everything up since the ship can get kind of humid and the boxes might be tumbling around everywhere. Unfortunately, you can’t find huge trash bags in Korea. They simply do not exist. So, I kind of got creative. Hahaha.

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I found these really cheap thin plastic covers that look like what dry cleaners use to cover your clothes when you pick them up. I got like 20 in one pack. I had a lot of winter jackets and stuff so I covered them in the plastic, then proceeded to roll them up to conserve space. Afterwards, I wrapped the entire thing in plastic wrap. It may seem like going overboard, but I don’t want my clothes to get musty or damaged by humidity.

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I also bought these fan stand covers from Emart. You get two for 900won! They are really just like thin fabric bags and I stuffed BILLONS of clothes in it, then saran wrapped it as well. Ahaha. Packing got serious.

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These are the size D boxes for shipments by boat. They are the biggest you can get. You are allowed 20kg (roughly 44 pounds), so stuff as much as you can! At the most, the box will cost 50,000won. Even my heaviest boxes were around 39,000won. It wasn’t bad at all!

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You can pick these package labels up or just fill them out at the post office. Just take your boxes there and they’ll do the rest!

Packing takes a while, but it’s kind of a nice feeling to start wrapping up my life in Korea. One step at a time.

The Pension

Getting ready to leave my job in Seoul has not only left me counting days, but also running around trying to tie loose ends and get my money situation settled. One of the major benefits of being an American in Korea (haha, yesss!) is that we get something called a “pension” that has been taken out of our paychecks every month — ALL BACK AT ONE TIME! Wooooooooooooooooooooo!!

Are you confused? I was too.

When you work in Korea, the government takes out a certain percentage of your paycheck (similar to the social security in America) and save it for you to cash out around the age of 65. Sounds nice, but the problem is that EFL teachers in Korea are usually only staying for a year or more and well, saving up for a Korean retirement payout doesn’t sound very appealing. However, lo and behold, several countries have made an agreement with the Korean government where if you are citizen from that specific country, you are able to get all the money that was saved for your pension plan. Yes. That’s right, every single penny.. well, this case, won.

Yes. Yes. Gimme.

You have to apply for the lump sum to be wired to your account (in Korea or your home country) one month before your contract ends and you leave the country. Once you book a flight out of Korea to leave ย forever aka without a return flight, the pension office will wire the lump sum into your account up to 2 or 3 weeks later. I had 90,000won taken out of my paycheck every month. One year’s worth would be like 2.2 millionwon (around 2,000usd). Since I’ve worked in Korea for 2 years, I would, I hope, get around 4,000usd. Don’t tell my mom, she’ll steal it. ใ…‹ใ…‹

What did Stellaface need to apply?
1. ARC – Alien Resident Card: Which is like your foreign license in Korea.
2. Passport: to prove that you are from where you said you are
3. Bank Account Statement: I need my pension lump sum to be wired to my US account because I won’t be in Korea 2 or 3 weeks after my contract. A blank check (luckily I had one on me) or a printed online account bank statement will do. If you are transferring the money to your Korean bank account, just bring your Korean bank book.
4. Flight Info: You have to have a confirmation print out or an e-ticket to show them that you are leaving Korea. From my understanding, you can’t show them a round trip ticket back to Korea because technically you aren’t really leaving.
*Some places have asked for teaching contracts. I took mine just in case.

Pension offices are everywhere in Seoul. The closest one for me was the Gangdong-gu Office in Gangdong/Line5/Purple.

Directions: Get off at Gangdong Station, Exit 3. Walk straight for about two blocks or less until you see this building in the picture below. The pension office is inside the wedding hall. It doesn’t make sense, but just do it. You can see the blue National Pension Office (NPO) sign hanging off the side.

Once in the building, walk straight to the elevators. Some of the floors are still under construction. Apparently no one knows that there is a pension office in there. Highly frustrating to find it when the office is hidden behind sheets of wood. -__- Luckily, I had a friend who went a week beforehand and told me it was on the 8th floor.

You can go straight to the eighth floor, but they are doing a lot of construction there and the door to the office is hidden. They rather you go to the seventh and take the stairs up. Then you’ll see the office right away.

Good luck!

The Twenties

T-23days

Less than a month left and I’m slowly starting to pack up my belongings to ship back to Georgia. I’m realizing what a headache it is to end a part of your life at a specific location! I mean really, it takes a small mental toll on someone to pick up their belongings and move somewhere else. Haha. I guess it’s a different experience for me because leaving Georgia for Korea was easy breezy since I was still living with my parents and nothing was “legally” under my name. Here I am now, having to make plans to ship things back, paperwork to close my bank account, getting my last paycheck, and ETC. Aiyahhh!

I made some progress today by requesting my end of employment letter from SMOE and looking up what to take with me to claim my Korean pension tomorrow. (I’ll blog about the pension system at a later time.. hopefully… muaha)

So far, my stress is pretty low and I don’t feel too frustrated. I’m trying to take everything in stride. I think I got lucky that my work visa doesn’t expire till September 23rd instead of August 24th — which is when our contract ends and it means I don’t have to sprint out of the country in order to not be in Korea illegally. I can take my time and stay a couple more days while I sort things out.

weeeee~~

Review: Cat Cafes

Cats + Coffee = Cat Cafes. Meow.

Cat Cafes are all over Seoul. It’s a very simple concept. You get some cats, throw them in a room with some toys, and serve some coffee. Genius though, isn’t it?

Last week I went to my third cat cafe in an attempt to liven up my 100 day countdown. The past two times I’ve gone, I had very little interaction with the cats because there are either a lot of people or well, you can’t really force a cat to come to you. Haha. I was reminded, once again, that I am definitely a dog person. I love the rough housing and the cute attention hoggers that dogs are. Cats are… just… there. Nevertheless, I had a great time and I hope you are able to attend one of these interesting cafe concepts!

All cat cafes are relatively the same. In order to play with the cats, you have to order a drink for around 8,000won. You can usually stay as long as you like. Make sure you use hand sanitizer beforehand!

Our drinks! I ended up getting peach ice tea and I realized later that I always ordered something else besides coffee. I guess I don’t think coffee and cats should mix. Haha.

The rules are pretty similar at each cat cafe as well. I have trouble with #3. I can’t help it, I have this urge to pull their tails. O.O

Kitty play area! Cats at the other two cafes I’ve been to have been really dull. This cafe was really great at helping keep the cats active. I loved the really fat one on the right. ใ…‹ใ…‹ใ…‹

The owner helped us get the cats’ attention by giving us free chicken treats. It was so fun being surrounded by all of them! Haha. Makes for a good photo op.

Hi there!

Overall, it was a fun experience. It was nice to sit back and catch up with friends while cats are roaming all around you. I will say that it was an advantage to go to a cafe during the weekday and not in a major city. This one was in the town next to me, so we had all the cats to ourselves pretty much.

Halfway Home

Monsoon season officially hit Korea this past week! It has been raining non-stop for the past couple of days. Investing in some rubber rainboots might be a good choice, but of course, I still haven’t gotten around to purchasing any… for the past 2 years. Haha.

Today marks the halfway point from my 100 day countdown. Day #50 just started, but already there’s so much going on from walking to school in the pouring rain, getting a free hot potato, and office drama. I don’t mind being at school sometimes because it’s just full of things/events/people to observe. I always feel like I’m walking around in bubble. I’m here, but not really here. I just kind of blend in to the walls. Which, by all means, I enjoy! I don’t think I will ever find another job quite like the one I have now. I can choose when to participate and when to disappear. Most of the time, I’m in my own world and occasionally I have to remember to look up in order to keep appearances.

I don’t feel any particular sadness about my contract coming to an end. I was a lot more nervous about my future and where I wanted to take my career this past March, but I’ve learned to throw those feelings aside. Why fret about something you don’t have the answers to. If I’ve learned anything the past 26 years of my life, it’s that the world kind of acts in its own accord. There are times when you should take charge and try to steer your life in a certain direction. Then, there are other times where you should just ride the whip. Put yourself on cruise control and enjoy the scenery. That’s exactly what I am looking forward to do — cruise.

I’m going to relish my transition into (f)unemployment. ๐Ÿ™‚