Friday, December 20, 2013

My Re-Kindled Romance

Grades are all in for my TEFL course. I got an A, in case you were wondering. :)

So, now I wait for my certificate to be mailed. I should be expecting it around the same time as the documents sent from EPIK for my new position.

And so I wait. I've done a lot of waiting, some of it with more patience than other times. I have been distracting myself with books, and it is AMAZING. Books, books and more books!

I've had my attention pulled this way and that way for the past few months. With my online course, work, practicum hours, volunteer stuff and such, I haven't had much time to think, let alone comprehend what I'm reading in my free time.

I would get books at the library, start reading them, and then set them down to go finish a project. Those poor books would barely get any attention before the library due date arrived. I just didn't feel like thinking very much, and I was feeling a little impatient with the plots. I don't have any time for you to build up the tension for 20 pages! I want to know [insert plot twist, climax, relationship development, etc.]!

So, maybe having less on my plate -- or less plates to balance at once -- has re-kindled my desire to lounge with a book. Any book. I like reading the good ones and the bad ones, though I sometimes can't persuade myself to finish the bad ones. And, surprisingly, I'm picking up more romance novels (not the bodice-ripping ones *shivers*). I don't really like straight-up romance, but I've been introduced to some I actually like.

Right now, I am reading Charming by Elliot James. I saw it in the new section of the library and, okay, I like to judge books by their covers... or their spines. Initially. I liked the pretty font, okay?

Then I judged it on its cover, which almost had me putting it back on the shelf. There, staring intensely back at me was your typical hot bad boy. Tall, dark hair, stubble on his chiseled jaw, wearing a leather jacket and holding a sword... sword optional. I saw that guy and thought, this is going to be filled with cheesy romance and pseudo-independent women who fall for pseudo-bad boys with mysterious pasts, isn't it?

So chiseled...

This is why I decided to read the back cover. The back, while shrewdly crafted to intrigue, is a better representation of the contents than the front cover. You can find that easily online, so instead I'm going to share an excerpt close to the beginning that made me decide that I might actually like this book:

"The vampire didn’t walk into the bar so much as flow. Like water. Like night. He was wearing a tight black T-shirt and dark jeans over muscles that seemed to have been sculpted from ivory. His hair was black and tousled, framing piercing green eyes that burned with blanked passion in spite of the cold smile on his cruel slash of a mouth.

OK, just kidding. Sorry. The whole thing about vampires being ubersexy Euro-trash? It’s a myth..."

And little further down...

"Popular young adult novels notwithstanding, vampires only sparkle when they burn."
So, there might be a possibility of romance and the male protagonist will probably have some bad boy moments, but I think it's going to be worth it if there are more excerpts like these. Has anyone else read this, or have any suggestions for what to read next?

Thanks for reading!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Check, Check and Check

I have lots of good news this week.

1. I've been notified that I'm going to my city of choice in Korea to teach!

2. I finished my final project and turned it in.

3. I finished my practicum hours and turned the packet in.

This week is officially the week where things end. My time as ANWA newsletter editor is pretty much ending this week. Not really good news, since I enjoyed it (despite the occasional stress situation...), but I'm looking forward to focusing on other things in its place.

So, what am I looking forward to now? Let's see...

- Receive TEFL certificate.
- Receive documents.
- Apply for E-2 visa.
- Buy plane ticket.
- Pre-orientation.
- Fly to Korea.
- Orientation.
- Move into apartment.
- Teach.

It's all moving so much faster now. I'm so excited, but nervous at the same time. Still raising and saving up money, but I'm getting there. Some stuff was more expensive than I thought it would be (like the IRS form for tax exemption, which I will write about later) and some things were a lot easier than I thought.

Thank you for reading. 'Til next time.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

What I'll Miss: Part 2

1. Turkey dinners with stuffing, mashed potatoes, stuffing, those yams with marshmallows on top...

These things combined, I may or may not see them while in Korea. I've heard there is turkey. Probably pricey. Thanksgiving is going to be interesting, that's all I'm going to say.

2. Mexican food

Living in Arizona means there are aisles at the supermarket dedicated to Mexican food ingredients alone. While I don't feel the urge to eat Mexican food every day or even every other day, it's kind of a staple in Arizonan homes. You don't have to go far to find a Mexican food restaurant - both Americanized and authentic - but in Korea, I'm told, they are scarce. I have no idea how close the few restaurants are to real Mexican food, but it's going to be a hunt. I may not often crave Mexican food here, but I have a feeling I'm going to miss it while I'm away.

3. Eggnog

I'm reminded of the things I'm going to be saying goodbye to for a while by the holiday season. Try to describe this delicious drink to a Korean and they may look at you in disgust. It has the consistency of drinking yogurt, a slight custard taste with nutmeg and creamy goodness. Something like that. I'm going to have to MAKE this stuff if I want to drink it in Korea. There's no grabbing a carton or bottle from the market.

4. Root beer

Koreans aren't familiar with the flavor and, from what I've heard, think it's disgusting. I personally like it. I think cola and coke taste like medicine personally, which is popular in Korea, but to each their own. You CAN find root beer in some foreign food markets, but it's scarce and usually not a brand familiar to Americans. I will miss Barq's, A&W and Mug root beer very much.

5. Harkins movie theatre popcorn


It's salty, buttery goodness and I could probably overdose on it along with some root beer. Maybe it's a good thing that I will be away from this stuff for a while. Obviously they have movies in Korea and popcorn to munch on, but whether or not their snacks will trump Harkins popcorn is up in the air.

6. Spices in general

They don't have the same range of spices there, which is why I will be packing some just in case. I don't really know what Korea has to offer spice-wise, but most teachers going there suggest packing some of the spices you'd rather not part with during your time there. I love rosemary (some don't, but I do) and I will definitely be bringing some spices to make eggnog and hot apple cider. I've heard they don't have cinnamon, but there is a dessert in Korea that uses cinnamon so maybe it's just not easy to find. Or expensive. Who knows if I'll see cinnamon sticks anywhere though. I definitely won't be seeing any Mexican spices unless I pay a lot for it.

7. Cheese

I'm not a cheese connoisseur or anything, but I like cheese. I've heard people grieve over the lack of cheese variety in Korea. They have the processed yellow stuff, mozzarella and Parmesan from what I have gleaned from others. I really like provolone (apple-wood smoked!), swiss, feta, brie and others, but I'm not sure if those are also sold in Korea. I'll let you know what kind of cheese I do manage to find, though I'm probably not going to trek the entire country just for cheese.    


And that concludes part 2 of the things I'll miss. I should probably write a post on things to pack (since I've already brought up some things here), but I will wait until I've actually packed everything.

Meanwhile, I'm still waiting to find out where I'm going exactly and the exact date I should be there. I've been going through blog posts and videos about orientation, which I should probably stop because it makes me anxious to get my paperwork.

Next blog post... I have no idea what I'll write. It will be witty and/or informative though. If there is anything you are dying to know, let me know. If you just want to let me know that you are reading my blog, feel free to comment about that too. If you just want to talk about how much you like cheese, that's a good reason to leave a comment as well.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

What I'll Miss: Part 1

It seems fitting to have this blog post on the week of Thanksgiving.  You could say that this post mentions some of the things I am grateful for. They are also the things I'm going to miss while I am in Korea. I look forward to the experiences this new adventure has in store for me, but these are the things that will make me homesick.

1. My family

I've never been this far from family. Ever. It's nice having family close by, but that's not possible while I'm in Korea. I can't just take a quick trip home for the weekend and I even have to figure out time differences before calling. I'm just glad that Skype makes it a little easier.

2. My friends

I really hope that I will be able to make some good friends while in Korea, but I'm definitely going to miss the awesome ones I have here. It might not be easy to find people in Korea who share my same strange interests, like my unnatural investment in the lives of fictional characters... Thank goodness for the Internet, right?

3. The holidays

Ok, so there are some holidays in common, but they don't celebrate in the same way. It's going to be great to see the differences, but at the same time I'm going to miss things like the family gatherings that typically happen.

4. Being in my "culture bubble"

This one will be a bittersweet departure. We can all live just fine experiencing a single culture for our entire lives because, well, it's our culture. It's comfortable. It's familiar. But, at the same time, there are so many possibilities when you step out of the bubble and into the unknown. I am sometimes more adventurous when I step into an unfamiliar situation. The stranger it is, the more comfortable I am because knowing that no one expects you to know what you're doing is somewhat freeing.

Or maybe I'm just strange that way...

So, that is the first installment of my "What I'll Miss" posts. Look forward to part 2 next week, where I'll be talking about one of the loves of my life -- food. Thank you for reading!

And Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Korean Food: Love or Hate?

There was a webinar on food and eating culture in Korea yesterday, which I unfortunately missed because I couldn't log in. In its place I decided to browse videos on Korean culture, particularly ones made by teachers. Then, I decided to search for thread topics on Waygook.org discussing food.

Which brings me to my blog topic for today.

I came across this interesting forum topic here, which had people discussing how they felt about Korean food. More specifically, they were ranking its level of deliciousness in comparison to other countries' foods.

Now, I wouldn't say that one countries' dishes are better than another, simply because they are very different areas of he world, with different ingredients available to them. If you're comparing how they prepare the same dish across countries, then fine, but saying one countries' food is better than another is like saying apples are better than oranges -- it's your opinion, not fact.

What really got my blood boiling was how vicious some people on the forum could be in terms of expressing how much they disliked or down-right hated Korean food. First, I want to note that pretty much everyone on Waygook.org, as far as I know, came to Korea to work as teachers for at least a year. They knew that Korea meant Korean food, and yet they act almost as if they were tricked.

What? Korean food? I thought I was going to get NORMAL food. What is this soybean stuff and pepper paste all over my meat and vegetables? 

Going through this forum thread alone, keywords that pop up are: disgusting, puke, dog meat, bland, not spicy...
While some Koreans do eat actual dog meat, not everyone does. And they definitely don't eat it like this.

A number of people on this thread are under the impression that if you do love Korean food you need to expand your food experience, have an emotional attachment or have deluded yourself into liking it because it's either below average or simply disgusting to them.

I admit that I haven't had a chance to try a large variety of world cuisines, and I'm still working my way through Korean dishes, but I actually do like Korean food.

*gasp* You uncultured, numb-tongued woman!

I admit, there are some dishes I like more than others, but most countries have dishes that you are going to like and some you don't. Don't write off a whole country's food simply because of some bad experiences. It might just be that one dish or that one restaurant. And, you definitely should not base your opinion of all Korean food off of what you get in a Korean school's cafeteria -- actually, don't base your opinion of any country's food off of what you eat in a cafeteria.

Now, there is something I find questionable about Korean food culture, and that's the Koreanization of food from other countries. Pizza, hamburgers and burritos particularly come up in North American bloggers' rants or videos. I have heard and seen some horrible things about the Korean versions of some of these. Pickles in the burritos, sickenly sweet hamburgers, corn kernels in the pizza (okay, not so bad), and weird sweet cream cheese layering in meat pizzas. This makes you want to stay away from food that looks familiar.

It's a trap! 
This might be a picture of the pizza monstrosity I wish to avoid...
I intend to eat plenty of Korean food while I'm in Korea. I don't mind occasionally ordering a dish and then finding out I made a horrible, horrible mistake. So long as that mistake isn't food poisoning, I will boldly journey forward... unless it's still alive on my plate, or brains. Okay, so there are some things I won't be trying no matter how open-minded I decide to be.

Any questions, comments? Leave in the comments, and I'll get back to you as soon as I can or make a blog post to answer. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Do's and Don't's of EPIK Interviews

I passed!


I'm super excited and happy to say that I have officially been notified that I passed the EPIK interview. That means I'm moving on to the next stage, and then hopefully the next. I'm not really sure how many more steps I have left. Send documents, wait for them to verify and review, sign a contract, get hired, get a visa and buy a plane ticket... something like that.

So, what did I do to successfully pass?

The answer is kind of difficult to give. Part of it is luck, but most of it is preparation. Let's go over the preparation part:

1. Have a professional appearance: This tip applies to pretty much all interviews. If you're a girl, make sure your top is conservative and simple. Avoid red -- blue is the typical go-to color for interviews. Keep makeup simple, and your hair nice. No need to get elaborate. I definitely didn't.

2. Look at the camera: My interview was through Skype, and while I thought it would be hard to look into the camera rather than at my interviewers face, it was actually easier than I thought. I put a sticker next to the camera, but it turned out I didn't really need it. When I'm thinking about what I want to say, I like to sometimes look to the side rather than directly at someone and so it ultimately worked to my advantage.

3. Smile and be friendly: Okay, so your interviewer might not look up at you much or respond that well to what you're saying -- Don't worry! Personally, my interviewer was friendly, but some people have crashed and burned because they felt like they needed a positive response from the EPIK interviewer. Keep your smile on as much as you can, and say thank you at the end of the interview.

4. Have a simple background: Not sure how much this affects the outcome of your interview, but I just had a plain white wall behind me. Some say too many objects in the background can be distracting, but a messy room or naked roommate (someone failed an interview because of a naked boyfriend wandering past near the end) might be deal-breakers. Who knows.

5. Talk slow (not too slow) and clearly: Pretty simple. Nerves can make you mutter or ramble, but just keep in mind that your interviewer might not be able to understand you that well if you do so, which equals a bad outcome. 

Interview Questions?

I can't give you any specifics, and everyone gets different questions, but I can tell you a few things. (Disclaimer: A lot of this is personal opinion. I have no way of knowing exactly what works, but this is just what worked for me.)

1. They WILL review your EPIK application information, so make sure you remember what you wrote down.

2. Make sure you know what EPIK stands for. If you don't and you fail as a result, it's your own fault. Read EPIK's website info while you're at it.

3. Keep your questions to a minimum and general. EPIK doesn't like it when you ask tons of questions, especially if they are questions that could be answered by your recruiter or are best answered later. They can't tell you about the school you're going to be hired by because it's likely they don't know where you're going to be placed yet. I asked my interviewer if there was anything that I should know or might not expect as a foreign teacher in Korea, which was a good move for me because it really got her talking and allowed for me to slip in one more positive blurb to show that I was hire-able.

Okay, there it is. Some basic info and advice. I'm so excited about all of this!

If you have any questions, comments or maybe want to make a contribution to my adventure, please feel free. Comment below, click on the gofundme button on the left... whatever you feel like.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, November 8, 2013

The EPIK Interview

I couldn't help but write that title...

Anyways, I had two majorly nerve-wrecking things to do this week: Have my EPIK interview and teach a phonics lesson to a 3rd grade ELL/ESL students. They were less than 24 hours apart, and I still felt unprepared even as I was saying, "I can do this!"

I won't hear if I've passed the EPIK interview until maybe next week. My general feelings concerning the interview are teetering towards good with a heap-load of worry and doubt waiting to shoot me into a worrying oblivion.

The interviewer and I got along relatively well. There were moments when we laughed a little and both of us smiled, which is much more than some interviewees get from what I've seen in blog and forum posts. She ran through my application, confirming information and then threw in the occasional question to throw me off or expand upon my listed information/something I said.

To be honest, I was expecting more questions than I got, which has me worried. Did she not ask me a lot of questions because they planned on passing me up and were just giving me a pity interview, or had she already gotten a good feel for my qualifications from what was submitted? Do they give pity interviews?


Whatever happens, happens. I won't go into detail about the questions, but after I get my results I'll do some kind of "How to Prepare for an EPIK Interview" post.... Unless I didn't pass, then it'll be a whole different post involving some margin of self-pity and a long list of what might have gone wrong.

As for my first ever classroom teaching experience... I was so nervous! It didn't really hit me until I was in front of the students, which meant I was up there trying to read what I was familiar with a moment ago. So, I might have gone a little fast and messed up one of the exercises, but the teacher reassured me and gave me a few pointers.


Overall, super nervous week! I think I'll be planning some more teaching opportunities with the teacher, but for now I just need to get things on my To-Do list done and patiently wait for results.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Koreans Are Creepy Too

And I mean that as a compliment.

It's that time of year again! The season I love and the holiday that lets you show a bit of your "weird" side. Halloween! I love the colors, the nights getting longer and the mystery that comes with the holiday.

When I learned that Halloween is a very new concept in Korea, I was a bit sad to be honest. But, I can't expect a holiday like Halloween with its roots in Anglo-Saxon, Celtic and Germanic tradition and superstition to be the same in an Asian culture. Christmas isn't even the same, which I'll get into for a later post.

But, yes, Halloween is fairly new to Korea. Trick-or-Treating, specifically, was introduced mainly through ESL teachers because that's the simplest and probably most interesting thing to explain to a class of hyper-active kids. Most of the time, however, the Korean students (like many other students of that age) hear CANDY and things go a little mad:

Ok, so this might have been staged, but you get the idea. From what I've gleaned from other English teacher's in Korea, they cover the details of Trick-or-Treating pretty well with their students. What else do they tell their students, though? I loved Trick-or-Treating when I was younger, but it seems like there is so much more to Halloween than that.

There's haunted houses, corn mazes, pumpkins, ghost stories... It's All Hallow's Eve, people! You better be teaching them about the other traditions besides demanding candy from strangers. There's nothing more fascinating, to me, than the old traditions of this day and seeing how they evolved.

Just don't bore your students with complex details, though.

Korea has its own fair share of creepy stories, and they definitely know how to scare people. There are plenty of superstitions in their culture, pretty similar to many other Asian superstitions, and teacher's could spend some great class times swapping stories. It would be a great way to get your students to practice translation and speaking, though this is probably best for more advanced groups.

There are some pretty disturbing Korean horror movies, and then there are the ones that mix humor into them:

Master's Sun (Kdrama about a woman who can see ghosts. She meets a man one day who keeps the ghosts away when she touches him.)
Chilling Romance/Spellbound (A film about a magician who meets a woman who can see ghosts and is haunted by her dead best friend. The woman pushes everyone out of her life because the ghost of her friend terrorizes anyone close to her.)
 These can both be found on Hulu if you are in the US. Spellbound has more of that creepy factor than Master's Sun, but there's humor and romance thrown in there. Just be careful of the ghost scenes if you're not a big fan of shows like The Ring.

Anyways, I'll leave with a Happy Halloween and this creepy Korean song:

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Week Two: TEFL Course

I'm probably not going to do this for every week of my TEFL course, since you guys have better things to do than read about every detail of my life, but here's an update on week two!

Is it strange that I'm actually enjoying my "homework" so far? I began writing my entry for peer participation last week, thinking that my entry would be a lot shorter than what resulted. I found that I had more to say than expected, and even had to tell myself to stop because it was getting too long.

As for this blog post, I'm going to just keep it nice and short. I have lots of things to do in the next few weeks, so my updates might be a little brief for a while.

So, until some giant milestone happens... take care!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Week One: TEFL Course

I have managed to survive the first week of my TEFL course!

Okay, so it wasn't that tough. First weeks are usually pretty easy, and this course is no exception. As I have mentioned before, I am taking my course through International TEFL Academy (ITA). It is a 170 hour online TEFL/TESOL course, which also requires 20 hours of practicum. I should be starting in on the practicum part of the course in the next 2 weeks (probably next week).

ITA sets up their online course in a similar way to other online courses I've taken. You must comment in the forum for participation points and then submit assignments called "tasks" every week. The tasks seem to consist of one quiz and a worksheet. They keep it all very organized and you can keep track of your grade as you go fairly well. Then, there is a midterm and final, of course.

While I keep myself busy with studying, doing homework and other work, my application to EPIK is currently in a pile at the EPIK headquarters -- I'm not sure if they actually call it that, but why wouldn't you take the opportunity? -- waiting to be fully reviewed.  Once that is done, they will schedule an interview with me and the nerves are going to shoot up again!

This interview is going to be a lot more formal than the last one, so I better put my best foot forward. I was told that I should makes sure to keep smiling and stay peppy. I can pull that off, but I just hope I can answer all of the questions clearly.

I've found a few blogs where EPIK applicants describe their interview experience, going as far to list some of the questions they were asked. So, I'm preparing myself with those resources in hand!

Wish me luck!

P.S. If you're interested in taking a course at ITA, click on the link above or here and tell them I sent ya. You can get a $50 discount if you do! If they ask, my admissions adviser was Lindsay Krasinski. Use the coupon code AlumniReferral50.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

EPIK Applicants Kill Trees

I think half my brain is already in Korea. This has to explain my tendency to begin a thought and then have it peter out before I even figure out... yeah.

I think that I have just been distracted while focusing on getting things DONE. I've had editing to do, my EPIK application to send, gathering proper paperwork and more. Meanwhile, I'm anxiously awaiting the start of my TEFL course (starting next week!) and then this picture shows up on EPIK's Twitter and Facebook:

See full tweet here.
Do you know what that stack is? THAT is a stack of already processed applications sent in directly to EPIK. Yowza! I know that each application consists of at least 10 pages -- hopefully more, because they ask for quite a few things to be included -- but that is a mighty tall stack. And how many of those applicants have more experience than me, a higher GPA, or know how to charm an interviewer better than me?

I have been told that I am a decent applicant, but I still feel nervous. Another part of me, the part I really should not be listening to, secretly hopes that half the applicants are super picky about their placement and don't want to go where I put as my preference. But, let's face it, the city I want to go to is pretty awesome. The more and more I learn about it, the more I want to at least take a trip there if not live there for a year.

I'll talk about my preferred placement in more detail later -- maybe when I find out where I'm actually being placed. I feel like I shouldn't talk about it here just yet, just in case I jinx myself or something.

If anyone has questions or comments, please leave them. I will do my best to answer.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Getting things done... sort of...

How do I describe how I feel right now?

Let's see... I feel like I've just leaped off the diving board. I haven't hit the water yet, but there is no going back. And, depending on the trajectory, wind speed and possible freak accidents where I perhaps collide with fellow diver I didn't notice, I could be hitting that water a lot sooner or later than I anticipated.

Yeah, that's how I feel...

Now that I have confused you, I will explain why I feel like this today. I have my EPIK application filled out (hopefully correctly), I have a photocopy of one recommendation letter and the physical copy of another (both of which are missing one small element that they require, eek.).

So, now I'm waiting for a number of things to arrive in the mail, and for all I know they could have been sucked up into a black hole and will never actually get to me. That, or they could show up tomorrow and all my under-the-surface panic attacks would be for naught. 

Pray for me. Wish me luck. I think I need it this week.


All is well! I am such a worrier. Got what I was waiting for in the mail and all of my paperwork is in order.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Be Brave in the Face of Adversity

I had a crummy morning yesterday, but I learned some valuable lessons from it:

  1. Being polite in the face of hostility is the way to go.
  2. You don't have to take hostility alone.
  3. You don't have to take hostility at all.
  4. Virtual hugs are awesome and always welcome.
  5. Dancing like a crazy person to some music for a while makes me feel better.

Also, I noticed today just how much I've changed when it comes to how I react to unpleasant situations. I used to internalize it so much that I would eventually shut down, or explode. I have learned to channel it into more productive things, which means I got a lot more done, including figuring out the whole lesson plan part of the EPIK application.


I have also learned how to talk more about the things that upset me. Whether it is through prayer, a friend, or family members -- do it. I chose all of the above. Let the emotions work their way through your system, because bottling them up makes them fester.

Just don't channel them towards anyone in a vicious way, because I think that's what happened to me...

Thank you to those who helped me feel better! A great big thank you! I am grateful to have you guys in my life.

And now, a song. Enjoy!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Why Teach?

Children are entertaining. They just are. They say things, do things, and even though those things occasionally mean you're cleaning up a disastrous mess or calling the doctor to schedule the removal of a foreign object from said child's ear, the entertaining or warm n' fuzzy moments pretty much make up for it.

But, mostly, it's the entertaining moments.

I might be saying this simply because I don't have kids of my own, but it's the fun moments that make it worth it for me. At least, that's what makes being around kids in a school environment worth it to me.

I was helping out at health fair this year (where they weigh you, see how tall you are, check your eyes and ears). I've helped out a number of years with the hearing part of the health fair, and it's always fun to test the really young ones who are doing it for the first or second time.

Most of them raise their hand so fast, they raise off their seats from the momentum. Others hesitantly lift their hand to touch the headphones for the first few frequencies, their hand getting higher as they go along. Each student seems to have their own unique reaction to hearing the strange warbling, alien bird sound in their ears. One kid even turned around and told me that I needed to turn it up because he couldn't hear it very well.

Well, I'll get right on that.

The point of me posting this is that I realized that I haven't really talked about the student side of teaching abroad. I've been keeping you guys posted about the application process, South Korea info and such, but I haven't told you about why I specifically decided that I wanted to work with children for a living.

This is why.

Kids are fun. Kids are great. When they get something, and they are enthusiastic about it, it's even better. I was kind of tired after a full day of health fair screenings, but I wasn't exhausted and I didn't feel like my day had been wasted. Today, I woke up at 9 since I didn't need to be up as early and felt like my day was half gone.

A while ago, I watched a video about motivation. My dad showed it to me, and now I'm going to share it with you on this blog:

The video is kind of long, so I'm just going to pin-point the one thing that is significant to me at this point in my life. I have some great jobs right now from some great companies, but it took quite a bit of work to find them among the crowd of "make $200 every day" and "Easy, Great Pay" jobs that weren't actually all that great.

There are more and more jobs out there that are asking freelance writers to write more for less. What they want is quantity over quality, and in the end you, the writer, hardly get paid and actually feel a little... icky.

Then, there are the jobs that offer decent pay, but are so monotonous that banging your head on the keyboard would be more interesting and meaningful. I had quite a few of those jobs in the past, and while people were telling me how great it must be to be able to work wherever and whenever I want, I was getting headaches.

There was no satisfaction of a job well done, no feeling like I'd made a positive impact on the world and half the time I felt like my work was being deconstructed in front of me to be worked on a hundred times more.

So, I put my foot down. I decided that I wasn't going to do those jobs anymore, even if it meant more time in between jobs. This decision has done wonders for my mental state. I feel less anxious, even though I'm making less money, and I actually look forward to the work.

Which is why I decided to finally work towards teaching ESL abroad. For me, the meaning behind the work outweighs the possible disasters. I get to spend time with students who are bound to surprise me and amuse me, and I get to learn more about a different culture. To top it all off, I get paid and I get housing.

Sounds good to me.

If you have any questions, comments (maybe you want to help me out a little...) feel free to leave 'em where I can seem 'em. I'll do my best to respond. 읽어 주셔서 감사합니다!

Friday, September 13, 2013

This is a blog update

So, I don't really have much to fill an entire blog post with this week, so I'm just going to keep this short and sweet, like me. *cough* *cough*

I'm working on filling out all the sections of the EPIK application right now, and waiting for my recommendation letters to arrive. Meanwhile, I'm taking on more jobs (both paying and volunteer), which are keeping me busy. I feel like I've been living inside a bubble this week, a busy and "what am I gonna put in this part of the application" bubble.

So, progress:

Application - Still need to finish the personal essay (1st draft nearly finished) and lesson plan (Worrying about this because I want it to be good).

Rec. Letters - Waiting.

FBI Background Check - I feel like I sent that through a black hole, but I might have a status update in a couple weeks.

Other stuff - What other stuff? I can't even think past the next few days right now.

That's it. Questions? Comments? If you have any, send them now or I might never write a blog post about them. Details or otherwise.

Thanks for reading. I'll keep you updated with anything that pops up.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Korvia Interview

First, I got my passport today. Yes! Only took about 2 weeks!

Second, after lots of thought and endless amounts of videos/posts/blogs, I decided to go with Korvia Consulting to help me find a job in South Korea as a teacher. I sent in my online application at the start of this week, and they contacted me soon after. I was surprised by the email, because they took the time to calculate my time zone for an interview time. They are in Korea, I'm in Arizona -- big time difference. They were an hour off, but the fact that they did that extra step made me feel pretty good about my decision.

For those who do not know what Korvia is, it is a consulting agency who works with some of the more common teaching programs in South Korea. They work with public schools, and they make sure that you get all of your paperwork in correctly. They also provide support, like helping you transition into a new culture, connect with other teachers who applied through Korvia and offer a free phone until you can get your own.

The interview I had with them Thursday night was my first of hopefully about two that I need to go through to hired. Korvia becomes a third recommendation when you apply through them. You need two recommendation letters from an academic or work related individual, but Korvia looks at your resume, asks you some questions and then sends off their impression of you and a recommendation to your potential employers.

I didn't really know what to expect from the interview before it happened but here's what did happen: We talked for about an hour, there was a lot of laughing, and we went off topic a LOT. So, hopefully that is a good thing. The agent I spoke to was very nice. She seemed impressed by a lot of my answers to her questions, but I'm not completely sure. She reassured me that she saw no reason why I shouldn't find be hired. I told her I was pretty flexible, adapted well and I was genuinely interested in learning a new culture. I also seem to have given the right answers to the questions concerning teaching children. Hopefully...

The Korvia agent talked about how competitive the job market was, especially for EPIK (the program I'm applying to). She saw no reason why I shouldn't be hired, but she did say that it was first come, first serve. She also suggested a few things, which I will be considering to improve my chances.

I marked on the questionnaire she sent me that I didn't have any Korean skills, because I really don't. I see being able to form a sentence as basic, which I can't do. What I do know are a few words here and there, and I know about half of the Korean writing system (Hangul) without having to stare blankly at it for a few minutes. Still learning how to read it faster, which is a good thing to learn so I don't look like a crazy foreigner, staring intensely at a sign and sounding out the letters like a 4-year-old.

When it came to that part of the interview, the Korvia agent told me that she was really surprised by pronunciation of a province I had mentioned earlier when asked about locations I might prefer. I realized later that I had no idea whether or not that was actually the correct pronunciation, since I'd never looked up the name in Hangul. I suppose I've become more familiar with it than I initially realized, and I might just be able to indicate that I have some Korean language skills on the application form.

What Korean words do I know? Well, I know a basic greeting, how to say thank you, sorry, ask for water. I know how to say tree and can name some fruits... So, if I ever need to apologize to a tree, I'm all set.

Now that I have done the interview with Korvia, I need to prepare my application to send in later this month.

Things I need to finish:

 - Application
 - Lesson plan (part of application)
 - Personal essay (also part of app)
 - Receive recommendation letters (expecting one very soon, yay!)

There is more to do, but much of it will be done later and would stress me out if I thought about it now. I'm also starting my TEFL course at the end of this month, and planning to volunteer to help tutor ESL students soon as part of my practicum experience. I think I have one location where I can do this, so things seem to be going well.

Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Wanna know how I got these bruises?

I left on Wednesday to go east for a wedding. The wedding was lovely. I'm very happy for my sister and my new brother-in-law. I'm just not going to go into great detail about that in this blog post, mostly because it feels awkward talking about my sister's wedding on a blog.

It went well. They're officially married. The End.

This blog post is prompted by something else: bruises. I have a lot of them after this trip. On my legs, on my arm and on my upper back. I can't remember how I got one of my bruises, but I do recall how the other ones came about.

Don't worry. I didn't get the bruises from the wedding or the wedding reception. I went to Saint Louis's City Museum, which is much like a jungle gym on steroids and museum wrapped into one. We did this they day before the wedding, and it was a blast... even if I did end up with bruised knees and lost my chapstick somewhere in the man-made caves.

I didn't take that many pictures, because I was too busy climbing and slipping into narrow spaces that only my 5'2'' frame could fit, but it was an experience. The first crawl space I came across upon entering made me feel claustrophobic. My brain kept telling me I wouldn't be able to fit in there. I'd get stuck and they'd have to call for someone to pull me out, or chisel away the walls.

So, I skipped the first crevice I saw and opted for a passageway where two could pass each other, while standing, and with plenty of room to spare. It took me around the back of a water fixture, to the other side of a giant whale, which was the center feature of that level.

At this point I'm feeling a little underwhelmed by my safe trip around. My sister has already moved up to one of the levels between the levels, and shouts down to me. We've lost track of our mom and dad, but you soon realize that this is part of the experience of City Museum -- finding yourself utterly lost, but someone managing to make it back to where you started simply by going, "I wonder where this leads?"

Seeing my sister up in a higher level lead me to my first "I wonder where this leads?" moment. I found an opening within some twisted branches that reminded me of a giant nest, and I went for it. Next thing I know, I'm crawling through spaces that I never thought I'd go and climbing through tubes of wire like I've been doing it for years.

I came across a guy while climbing through two gutted out planes and he said, "You've done this before, haven't you."

Nope. Just bringing out my inner monkey. Just remembering that up until about age 9 or 10, I climbed trees and crawled through tunnels all the time.

I need a place like this at home. Arrows show most of my trip around the outside of City Museum.

And then I went down that slide right there. Best slide I went on. 
I have to be honest. I wasn't sure if I'd enjoy the climbing and the crawling part of this place. I kept thinking that I was too out of shape, I hadn't done anything like this for a while, I was going to have a panic attack and end up stuck somewhere where they wouldn't be able to get me out...

I had a lot of fun, though, and wish that I'd had more time to explore. I am definitely going back there some day. If anyone happens to know of places similar to this elsewhere, let me know. After this experience, I'm considering taking up climbing. Maybe not cliff climbing, but rock-wall climbing.

Baby steps.

Enjoy some more picture:

You can get to that dome on the other side.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Intrigued with a dash of Grammar Nazi

There are 2 things in this world, which I find I know a lot more about than I initially thought. Those are: technology and grammar.

When you grow up around technology, are older than the Internet (It's true) and take a hand-full of classes that require you to use computers on a regular basis, it sort of creeps up on you. You know how to navigate computers and the Internet fairly well, and when it comes to the continuing growth of technology you tend to pick up on the new basics faster.

But, this post is not about technology. It is about grammar.

I am not an expert on grammar. I know that there are many things that I still do not have memorized. Half the time, I can't even remember the proper names. The more and more I read things online, however, the more I am aware that my level of grammar skills are actually quite good. And, unfortunately, there are a number of English teachers abroad who have grammatical errors up to their ears, and you wonder what they are teaching those foreign kiddies.

They probably have great luck when it comes to conversation English, most definitely. When it comes to writing... not so much. I have seen apostrophes where they ought not be and misused words, my grammar-aware friends. I have even seen an English teacher write a sentence that went along the lines of: "I was talking to this girl, who's English is quite well."

Now, I'm not a Grammar Nazi. I don't have the qualifications to be one. However, if I see a sentence like this I'm going to think, "This is very, very off." Then, I'm going to write about it in my blog. :)

First of all -- the apostrophe. From what I've seen of their posts, they seem to be under the impression that apostrophes must be used as much as possible. This is incorrect. Use them rarely.

Second of all -- "English is quite well." It sounds awkward, like you're saying that a guy named English is doing well, thanks for asking.

In the end, it should have been something more like this: "I was talking to this girl, whose English is quite good."

I'm not trying to be mean. I didn't furiously begin typing up this blog post, trying to convey my anger and annoyance to the world. I just want to point out something I've noticed over the last month or so while browsing the Internet for information on South Korean English teaching. I get punctuation wrong all the time. ALL THE TIME. I'm just not the worst offender out there... thank goodness.

Let's hope that this means I have an even better chance at a job.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

How does an Arizonan survive in South Korea?

I'm an Arizona girl -- not Flagstaff, Arizona, but in the center of the inferno Phoenix area Arizona. This means I am not accustom to cold weather, and as sure as the frosty tuber nose of a snowman I am not used to snow. Snow doesn't really happen here. When it does, it doesn't survive. We once had a hail storm that left piles of marble-sized ice in our backyard, and my sisters and I played in it like it was snow. A hail-man is just not the same as a snowman, however.

What am I, a girl who has never owned a winter coat or hat in her life, supposed to do about surviving South Korea's winter?

I decided to first google "winter in South Korea", to see what I was getting myself into. I encountered a number of images such as this:

From Zimbio

and this:

From Zimbio

Well... that has really made me feel better. Seriously... 

Moving on, I decided to simply browse the Internet for winter wear. At this point, however, I was still oblivious to how much winter wear there really is in this world. Silly desert-dwelling girl. Don't you know that you need long-johns, thick socks, ear muffs, hats, scarves, gloves, sweaters, coats and enough layers to look like the Michelin Man? 

Okay, I probably don't need that much. It's very likely that I will be wearing a lot more layers than those used to the snowy weather, though. I'll probably be identified as a Waygookin (foreigner) from afar simply from the amount of layers. That, or I might just slowly turn into a human ice sculpture from sheer stubbornness, not wanting to look like I can't handle the cold like everyone else. 

Either way, I'm getting a whole new wardrobe. I do like new clothes, and I like the fact that I'll actually be able to wear modest clothing without melting into a pile of goo. I just hope I get things that will actually keep me warm. 

Any tips from winter savvy people?

(If you would like to help keep me from freezing to death, feel free to make a donation at my gofundme page or buy something from Etsy!)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Fingerprinting Is NOT Fun

I went to my local UPS store to get my fingerprints for the FBI background check request. Immediately, I grew nervous when I discovered that there would be little guidance and that there is a very small margin for error. I was under the impression that they literally guided your hand. That didn't happen until the very last finger, and only because I'd had to do it over and over again.

Fingerprinting is hard.

Fingerprinting is not fun.

Fingerprinting sucks.

I went through about 3 fingerprinting cards and a pile of white stickers before the UPS worker said it looked like it might work. Might work? Might? What if that might is a might 'bit too much on the "might not" side.

Around this point, with my fingers covered in black ink like I'd just decided it would be a good idea to dig into the wound of an orc, just to see what happened, the finger-scanning option was looking very nice.

It would have cost a little more, but it's faster, less messy and tends to be more accurate. Also, a local company that does the electronic fingerprinting offers a re-scan for free if things go wrong.

I was nearly done, though -- I had all my paperwork with me and was ready to mail everything out. I just had those two pesky fingers that refused to roll and press my fingerprints just right to pass inspection from the UPS worker and his superior. I was going to do it even if I felt like just sitting down on the spot, and crossing my arms as a signal of surrender and frustration (not a good idea, since I still had ink on my hands).

So, I stuck through it, getting a little edgy as I went along, but I pulled through. There will be plenty more stressful moments ahead of me but, I have to say, this one was probably the most frustrating because it seemed so simple until I found myself covered in orc's blood ink.

I got my paperwork mailed out at least. Let's just hope that I didn't mess up, which would mean starting the whole process over again...

Monday, August 19, 2013

Funding, background checks and paperwork -- oh my!

Image courtesy of 

Gualberto107 /FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I feel like my head is ready to burst at the moment and the first thing that came to my head was, "Hey, I should write!" The second was that I should go play this zombie trailer park game I like for when I need a break (I have that open in another tab).

I have been collecting information for my teaching abroad adventure. I have watched soooo many videos and read so many blog posts in the last couple days. Kimchi Teaching has been really helpful, and the information I gleaned from a number of random videos have made me feel a little less stressed about getting all my ducks in a row.

What I have done so far:

- Recommendation letter requests
- Ordered official transcript (I'm gonna need at least 2, apparently...)
- Started my gofundme page
- Gotten 1/2 my needed vaccination doses

Right now, it's a bit of a waiting game. I have 2 promised recommendation letters, which I will be receiving as soon as they are written. I've met some wonderful people, both academically and professionally, who are fully willing to help me with my next big adventure (Yay!).

Which brings me to another topic -- I was wavering with my decision to teach abroad for a while before I decided to do it. I've been considering the possibility for over a year now, but if I'd actually made this decision back then I wouldn't have had one of the recommendations I have now. I'm grateful for what hesitations can bring me and also grateful that I finally made the decision.

Now, these are the things I want to do and might have done within a few weeks or so:

- Get my passport renewed
- Send out background check request (need, need, need, to get the FBI seal and the signature of a division official on that)
- Notarize copy of diploma (need to get that apostilled, but I'm probably going to wait a bit)
- Decide whether I'm going through an agency or not

I occasionally go into panic mode, thinking about all the things that I need to get done. I have to remind myself that worrying won't make the process go any faster. I have to just start from the beginning and work my way down the line. There's no use worrying about or thinking too much about things I can't even do right now.


In the meantime, I'm spending my time collecting paperwork and information. I'm also working (You know, 'cause I kind of need the money. At least I'm doing some interesting work right now.) and developing new products for my Etsy shop.

I'll keep you posted on any mishaps and/or great successes in the next week or so.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Go Fund Me.... please?

Guess what everyone? I started a GoFundMe page to raise money for my crazy dream! I'm going to make a short video to add to it soon, but for now I have some written details on the page, which you can visit here.

I need all the help I can get. Part of the reason I'm doing this -- other than the personal self fulfillment, getting to teach little munchkins and experiencing/sharing a culture -- is that I have no money. I'm hardly making enough money to pay my loans at the moment, and I really want to do more with my life (and paycheck) than pay off loans.

I also have a widget to the side of this blog that will be there even when this post has been pushed out by a new one. Just click on the gofundme widget and you can donate through there. I would like to ask that, instead of gifts for Christmas this year (far way off, I know) from family and friends, a donation through GoFundMe is all I'm asking for. Any amount you can give would be fantastic. Also, you can check out my Etsy Page, where I'm selling polymer clay figurines. Thank You!

Monday, August 12, 2013

When Life Changes

Someone said something recently that I want to share with those reading this. I was talking about how I planned to go to South Korea for a year, and they brought up the number of differences I was going to encounter. Different customs, different food, different everything.

I was aware that I would be encountering things like these, but I wasn't AWARE. As they talked to me, it just suddenly hit me like it hadn't before when they used two words -- BIG CHANGE.

My life is changing. Holy cow.

I've had a good life up 'til now. Great family, friends, mentors and experiences. But this... it's a big change for me, and I got more than a little emotional about it (I may have been emotional before that, whole other story). I can't think of any changes in my life as dramatic as this one, or where I haven't had my family by my side for the majority of the process, if not all of it.

Then the person I was talking to brought up one more thing, which I hope I'm remembering correctly, though I am definitely paraphrasing:

Big changes open us up to greater growth. 

There's a chance that things might not turn out the way I plan or the way I hope, but they could also exceed my expectations and introduce me to new wonders. I'm not going to find out unless I go for it and make the change.

Monday, August 5, 2013

I'm Going On An Adventure!

Bilbo and I have a few things in common. We're both short in stature, we both enjoy food and we've both been content to just sit in our comfortable homes until someone or something came along to remind us that we're adventurers at heart. I've dreamed of traveling, but most of my trips have been short and far between. A while back, however, I decided that I was going to do something a bit crazy -- go to South Korea and teach English for a year.

Yes, a year.

I may not be facing goblins, orcs, giant spiders (let's REALLY hope there won't be any giant spiders) or dragons, but I will be facing culture shock, a language I can barely understand and children who speak said language I can't understand.   And, let's not forget co-workers who I may or may not understand either.

There are a number of reasons why I decided to do this. First, I want to see more of the world and its cultures. Travel Channel can only show me so much. Second, I want to share my own culture with others. In order to better understand another language, understanding its culture is required, after all. Third, South Korea is intriguing. I'm not just talking about Kdramas and Kpop, here. There are symbols, customs and foods I'm itching to experience.  

I could probably keep listing reasons, but this post would get exceptionally long...

So, what have I done so far?

  • Researched agencies
  • Researched TEFL courses
  • Registered for a TEFL course 
  • Started to get up-to-date on vaccinations (Can I just say -- Ow!)
  • Started passport renewal process

The TEFL course is through International TEFL Academy (ITA) and takes 3 months to finish. They have job guidance and the admissions advisor has been pretty helpful in answering my questions. She even helped set up an installment payment plan so that I could register now and simply pay in 3 installments.

I'll be starting my course in about 2 months. It's an exciting and nerve-wrecking experience. Meanwhile, I have a few things to attend to, like funding and getting paperwork together. Anyone who is willing to help me out, I'm coming up with some fundraising ideas right now.

I'll keep you posted.   

Monday, July 29, 2013

What is strange?

Strange. Foreign. Unfamiliar. Outside the norm.

This blog is not about the weird and wacky (not always). If you are expecting me to talk about a two-headed calf, alien abductions or conspiracy theories, you've probably stumbled upon this site by mistake and should hurry along your way... or subscribe. Up to you.

So, why is the theme strangeness? Well, I am strange and I am a stranger to many out there in the world. It's as simple as that. I'm not living under any delusions that I'm entirely normal. Normal does not technically exist. As the world shrinks, we are encountering more and more people who are significantly different from us. We have our similarities, which are amazing to discover, but the differences are what we often step out of our comfort zone to understand.

So, I decided to call my new blog "Only Getting Stranger" for that reason. Plus, it's kind of fun to call myself "Emily the Stranger". I'll probably be the only one doing that, though...

Moving along, this is all pretty new to me. I am a writer, mainly writing for others at the moment, so writing a blog to share with friends, family, colleagues and the random Internet Surfer is definitely a different experience. I don't really allow such a direct line into my mind. That's usually reserved for password protected journal writing, which I plan to take to me grave or ask my children to burn after reading.

The time has come, however, where blogging has become necessary. I'm making changes in my life. I plan on going abroad some time in the near future, procrastinating working on my novel and experiencing new things. While Facebook status updates have been enough for the occasional sharing-time, it's now time for something a little different.

Bear with me, Readers. We're both journeying into unfamiliar places.