Tuesday, 14 June 2011

All aboard the Foreign Express

So I probably had the most random as week you could ever imagine, to start off, I was running low on money, and when I mean I was running low, I was basically down to my last 12,000 won which is the equivalent to $12 or a little more in N.Z. dollars. So anyway, I thought, "okay sweet, I will be able to draw out money FROM MY N.Z. VISA DEBIT CARD to be able to survive," boy was I wrong or what.

Apparently because I live in the wop wops/stix/ country calendar, my visa debit card wouldn't be able to work because the atm machines here a not equipped to handle my card which is relatively new....MEANING... I would need to find an atm machine that is equipped to handle my card which also meant that Chungju does not provide that ATM machine, only the bigger cities such as Seoul, Busan or Daegu were sufficient. I was like " are you for real," I felt like a poor student again, having to live on a shoestring diet for the next week, wondering what or when or even how I was going to do this.

I was so angry, my bank promised me that my card would work everywhere in Korea, well weren't they wrong, it does not work everywhere (like the brochure says) and there are limitations. It can only work on places that accept Visa or plus cards which in Korea are very few in between, and if you were put in the same situation as me, remember its Global plus or Citibank ATM that you need to find, if you know your going to a small rural location, then its best to get as much money as you possibly can from Seoul or Incheon or as soon as you get off the plane, have it ready, in your hand.

Anyways, so I was having a dilemma, I didn't want to go to Seoul just to get money out of a cash flow machine, I wanted to shop and to experience everything it had to offer as well, but I knew I didn't want to
go alone.

 Then like, out of NO WHERE...as though someone had heard my cry for help through the vast world we call " the interweb" well facebook for all you practical nut-jobs out there...as it happens...a wonderful girl from N.Z...she requested to be anonymous, so i'm going to refer to her as Ekoorb (hehe), and all I can tell you about her, is that she was born and bred in Kaikohe, went to waikato uni, is of maori decent, likes long walks on the beach etc, and like me had a similar situation. So I told her I was going to Seoul and she said she was too for a big social gathering and said I should come tag along with her and she will be able to help me out, and so we both planned to meet up at the express terminal and this is where my adventure to the big city began.

 I've found that because Chungju is so isolated, not many people venture out to the other cities, I've talked to people here who have said they have never been to Seoul, and Seoul is at least 2 hours away by bus. Thats the equivalent of me driving from Whangarei to Auckland, I was surprisingly shocked; back home in N.Z. its typical of people to venture far and wide; its all about the outdoors and having the mentality that nothings too far....... if you have a car and some mean sounds. Its a small country but bigger then Korea in terms of Land mass but no where close in comparison to population.

So anyways, the day I left for Seoul, I was a bit nervous, I hadn't actually planned anything such as where will I stay? what should I take? I thought I would just wing it like how my whole day ended up turning out. I ended up packing a few items into a plastic bag, I didn't have a carrying bag or over night bag, nothing of that sort, just my trusty plastic bag from the supermarket, so I used that to go to seoul.

 I also became accustomed with google translator so that the people at the bus terminal knew where I was going if it was written in Hangul...too bad...all it said was SEOUL but translated into Hangul, I could have easily said it to the person at the desk but knowing me, I just wanted to have a play around, see if it actually worked, which of course it did.

Five minutes before leaving to walk 30 minutes to get on a bus to meet with Ekoorb in Seoul, I had realized that I didn't actually know when the bus was coming, thats when I began freaking out, I decided to go onto the Chungju Bus terminal timetable but that was hard to read because of the whole language barrier thing, and I was stressing, thank god for facebook, been my savior through some pretty desperate times. Ekoorb posted on my wall bus timetable website for foreigners to check which is :


This website is for everywhere in Korea, it was so helpful, I don't know what I would have done without it. Found out my bus leaves every 20 minutes which I thought was quite uplifting to know that there was a bus every 20 minutes and that the bus fare would cost only 7,000 won ( which is 8 bucks N.Z. including stopping at various locations) or 10,900 won ( which is about $11 N.Z. for express which is basically straight through, took the bus lane the whole way, awesome).

I of course took the express bus which turned out to be the right idea, one of the most comfortable rides I have ever had the privilege to encounter, oh and the chairs, OH MY GOSH cannot forget the chairs a.k.a LAZY BOYS, seriously, you have the option of popping open the leg rest and having the seat lie back while a movie is playing. It was the best thing for me as I was suffering from a severe hangover from the night before (when a group of the teachers decided we will go and do Noraebang AGAIN!! I physically lost my voice, but I'm determined to do whatever it takes to make Kiss and say goodbye by the Manhattens popular again, hey I'm an English teacher, teaching the Koreans a bit of English, at watever cost).

On the way to Seoul, I had realized that I had forgotten Ekoorb's cell number, stress began to settle in, I didn't realize how hard it was to live without a cell phone, I live and breath communication, and not having a cell phone just added to my constraint, but I was determined to get through and to show that anything can be possible without a cellphone, I thought "hey! Seoul bus terminal can't be too hard to find a Maori girl," clearly I was wrong, once I arrived at the bus terminal, it was like stepping out into a city of its own, It was magnificently ginormous (gigantic/enormous). I couldn't believe the enormity of it as well as the mass of people filling every white space in the terminal.

Stress then began to boil over, so I thought, " I have to act cool, look like I know what I'm doing, don't have a massive breakdown in the middle of the terminal, people will just think I'm crazy," so I casually got money out of the money machine, like I had been doing it forever, $600,000 won, "yes, thank you very much Global ATM," enough to last until July, looked around like I was just casually taking my time while at the same time casually strolling, putting a little swag into my step as you do when your trying to look like you know what your doing then suddenly, I came across a PC BANG or Internet cafe and basically bolted like an energizer bunny on redbull as fast as I could possibly go.

Almost knocked over some korean guy pulling a wagon, at that moment, I didn't really care, I was all about getting her number, thinking " I need the number NOW, I need the number NOW, I need the number NOW...why is that guy pulling a wagon" (discreetly laughing). Internet is pretty cheap, and when I mean cheap its 1,000 won for 30 minutes, thats only $1 in New Zealand, seriously, I'm beginning to love this country.

So once I had found the number, I started calling; phone engaged, "WHATTTTTTTTT!!!!" just my luck, could my day get any worse; First its the whole, don't have a phone saga, loose the number for some girl I haven't even met before, get to Seoul terminal bus station to encounter a man-made concrete jungle, almost run over a guy and his little kiddie wagon and then spend so much time getting the number to only find out that its not in service, what a wonderful day this was turning out to be, but I wasn't just going to give up, I decided to ask random people, "if in doubt, ask someone", that's what I've always thought, I went to the info desk, the young woman was very gracious, english was minimal but she tried her best even though all she did was smile politely while bowing her head in a yes position.......she of course had no idea what I was talking about (just like the taxi driver who I tried to explain the directions to my house after I got of the bus from Seoul, had the address written out in Hangul for him to understand, and he still didn't understand, so frustrated and angry, I just ended up getting out and walking the 30 minutes home in the glorious sun with all my luggage in toe, using abusive language to vent my frustration the whole way home, made me more determined to learn the language).

Then out of the blue, a voice called out my name, as soon as I heard her, I thought, "oh thank god, I don't have to wonder around like an aimless tourist like my exasperated encounter back in Chungju. She greeted me, I don't think I had been so happy to see another New Zealand let alone, a Maori.

She ended up basically being my savior that whole entire day; after having the best Mc Donalds I had ever encountered, oh my gosh, I can still taste it in my mouth, the mc chicken burger and 6 pack chicken nuggets with sweet and sour sauce, I was over the moon. Ekoorb told me we were going to the subway station, I instantly thought, " what subway... EAT FRESH," I've never been on a Subway, so how was I suppose to know there was an actual train station under the bus terminal.

Korean public transport is probably the best I have ever encountered, but the bus program was really hard to follow, if most things are in Korean, all we could read were the numbers, thats what got us to Itaewon....And so began my adventure to ITAEWON....the FOREIGN CAPITAL OF SEOUL KOREA.

Seriously, every second person was a foreigner, it was like being back in Auckland, only difference is, non koreans are the minority but still a populated group of people if you were to visit this area. After going shopping to find me a bag and Ekoorb a dress, we then took the subway to Itaewon, once we disembarked from the train, it was like snakes and ladders, trying to find the exit, good thing Ekoorb set me up with a train card because you have to swipe them to go through, and we had to use them quite allot as well as walk on the right basically stayed on the right in a number of circumstances that I encountered.

Once we found the exit up onto the main street of Itaewon, I found it to be very busy and overflowing with so many foreigners ranging from ESL, Military and Migrant workers. Ekoorb ended up finding her other friends, this token aussie girl who is awesome and a few people from the U.K.

They were staying at some run down motel located down a very exuberant street; apparently there was no more room left for us so we ended up going further up the road to the Hamilton Hotel, the only room left was the delux sweet for 140,000 all up, of course we took it, why not, first time in Seoul, can't miss an opportunity like this. Best idea we had, that night we went to the Nashville tearooms and met up with an assortment of other Kiwi's, South Africans, U.K., U.S.A., Canadians and of course the token Aussie girl.

 It was so good to catch up with Kiwi's, they are a wonderful bunch, they introduced me to Poju, the new 42 below only 10 x cheaper, which is powerade mixed with soju, my new favorite drink here and we basically hung out together the whole night, we even made a make shift table outside some convenient store and a few metres from some traffic lights and started drinking, found it exhilarating to be drinking in public, knowing the police wont arrest you, they would probably just smile and keep on walking, it was awesome, as well as catching up with the assortment of kiwis, learning about there backgrounds, where there from, how long they had been here, who they know that we may know, laughing about good times, understanding jokes that we were talking about in relation to New Zealand, other foreigners would just laugh but you could tell the blank look on there face.

 It was a breath of fresh air being around so many positive kiwi people. Most of them came from Auckland, its funny how your away from your home country you can decipher the different Kiwi accents, makes me appreciate how proud I am to be a kiwi because of how different we are in comparison to the rest of the world ( WORLD FAMOUS IN NEW ZEALAND).

The next day, suffering from a hangover, well I wasn't too bad, but Ekoorb was a bit under the weather, we took our time going to the Subway station, ended up meeting the other expat Kiwis and a few south africans in a very random area in the subway, so we all decided to go and get something to eat, ended up at the only place we knew best......JESTERS PIES....we traveled all the way to a place called Hyundai, thats how committed we are, taking two link trains just to get there.

Was the best hangover food I have tasted since I've been here, they even had the famous Billy T pie, made me proud to see a bit of Kiwiana making its influence on the world.
We stayed chatting there for a while, patiently waiting on our order, I don't think the workers at that particular store had seen or taken so many orders for pies; I even got frozen pies to take home, yeap, I'm stacked for the next week and a half, don't know when I will be back there again, gotta love steak and cheese.

Anyways so after we had finished absorbing some much needed nutrition, we all ended up saying our goodbyes, half of us were heading to the Bus terminal, the other half were heading somewhere else, the funny thing about this lot, they all don't live in one location, they are all situated in different areas of South Korea, its unreal how everyone can congregate like this and actually make the effort to be there.

 I found in comparison with New Zealand, what use to stop me from visiting other people in other parts of auckland or even further was just the cost of the bus, taxi, even petrol was hard to come by that it was easier for me to stay on the shore and just be around all my shore friends. Not here, transportation costs nothing, even taxi's, we took a taxi back to the bus terminal, took a solid 20 minutes to get there, if we were back home, it probably would have taken a good 50 minutes to get there. Taxi drivers here DRIVE FAST, and when I mean they drive fast, I mean there metres run so that the faster there driving the higher the price is of the fare, not like in Auckland where its the other way around. The taxi came to 110,000 won, pretty good considering we basically went through nearly every red light and almost got sandwiched between two buses, yeap..that was a bit of shock to the system but thoroughly enjoyed.

Once we got to the bus terminal, we paid for our tickets, we all were leaving basically at the same time, so we all said goodbye to each other, it was so funny, coming together in seoul, having one of the best nights I have ever had, spending it with positive and energetic people who have the same job as me so we were able to relate and then dispersing like wild fire, hopping on different buses to take us back to our home towns. It was truly on honor to spend my most unplanned weekend with these crazy and wonderful expats.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Feels good to be able to stretch my legs!!

Went exploring today, I knew Chungju had a lake somewhere, so I was tempted to find it. Feeling so much better compared to yesterday where I have to admit, yes I was a little hungover and yes I do blame it on the al al al al al-co-hol....but hey, first night out in Korea I had a good night, and definitely won't be my last, I'm here to experience!

Anyway, so was determined to find the notorious Chungju lake that I had heard so much about. 35 degrees outside so I made sure I dressed light, had my map that was left over from the other foreigners that use to live here and began my treck to the infamous geographical feature.

I ended up walking around for SIX HOURS....so tired.... and my feet are killing me, stupid map, didn't come in handy at all, its one of those ones that are very simple and only show the main roads, so I thought, "sweet, I will be able to read this," I find that main roads look like any other rough looking road, not particularly main road at all. 

Was absolutely frustrating, and because I didn't want to seem like a tourist pulling out my map every 2 seconds; I would have it folded up in my bag and then look like I'm rummaging around in my bag looking for something. Stupid...I KNOW...but hey!! had a reputation to uphold, still trying to define that reputation so watch this space.

I did however run into an older American teacher while I was on my trails and he pointed me in the direction to find the lake and then we got to talking, well he mainly got to talking and boy....could he talk, I could understand why he was a teacher, he was telling me about how he's worked in Korea on and off for the past 12 years going back and forth from the U.S, he also told me he use to work for the government, and gave me some survival tips to get around and to find other expats in Chungju.

He told me to visit 3 distinctive websites that will help make my time in Korea much easier:

http://www.korea4expats.com/- Expats can be updated on up and coming events that they can participate in.
http://www.tour2korea.info/- General information about the place as well as information on where to stay and how to be set up with a tour guide.
http://www.bbbkorea.org/eng/- If you ever need help in Korea with the language, then there is a number to dial on this page which will transfer you to someone who knows how to speak korean as well as english so they can be your on call translating service.

I was so thankful to see him, he was like a breath of fresh air as well, hearing someone else speak native english just made me feel as though I didn't have to watch what I was saying, I didn't have to try so hard, it was good, I could talk as fast as I could, knowing he would be able to understand every word I said, like I said, breath of fresh air. He did warn me though, that my accent will change, it will change into something more simplified because where always around people who are needing help with there english so we need to use "simplified english" in order for them to understand.

He asked me what school I was working at, I told him I was working at Chungju Wonderland, as soon as I mentioned that place, his whole face dropped, he said " I've heard of that place before, theres a web posting about it," I had heard of the web posting too prior to coming to Korea.

The web posting was created by a Canadian couple who were only working at Chungju wonderland for no more then 3 months, they lived in the same apartment that I'm living in now, and I absolutely adore this place, but in the web posting it goes as follows : 

  • Didn't pay for healthcare insurance as promised.
  • Employee was forced to pay over 3,000.00 us dollars in medical bills out of own pocket. The school is probably going to get sued over this.
    An employee was let go one month before their contract was finished, so they didn't get their bonus.
    Contract is written saying you have to comply with rules and be professional. The owners turn this into "You have to do anything we say
    Contract states hours that are not accurate. The owner expects you to work OVER 45 hours a week.
    Owner does not allow you to do what you would like to do on your break, even if it is your break.
    Owner goes through personal things on your desk, claiming to look for lesson plans.
    Owner and contract says you will be in a 2-3 bedroom flat, but were put in a one room studio, this was a couple (two people) living in ONE room. Where the bed takes up most of the space.
    Owner expects you to work the weekends without any notice.
    You are not allowed to talk to employees about things that frustrate you.
    Owner uses fear and punishment to discipline the kids, this includes hitting the kids or yelling at them. (The kids learn this is how you handle your frustration, and do the same thing)
    Owner uses this fear and yelling on the teachers as well.
    You aren't allowed to use your computer to talk with friends during your break.
    You are not allowed to wash your hands in the only clean sink available until all 50 kids wash their hands first. The owner yelled at one of the teachers for doing this.
    The owner has fired teachers then an 30 minutes later said no, you get one more chance.
    The owner denied one teacher to take an hour and half off to go to church for a religious holiday they observe. Even though her classes would be covered, and the teachers are working more hours than stated in the contract. No consideration or sympathy.
    Teachers were told to come early to start teaching, then told that was wrong and they had to find and pay for their own place to stay for 10 days.
    Schedule changes often, including the day of something else you planned.
    Owner expects you to plan for everything, and organize things. Then things will change last minute and all of your planning has gone to waste.
When I read this while I was in New Zealand, I was skeptical at first about going, thinking I may be worked like a slave with no life basically and I had to admit that I was scared, but then I thought, I'm different, I can handle myself in any situation, I'm young, confident and I'm someone who can get on with anyone and if I don't like it, I can always hop on a plane and come home, but I'm not the type of person who is going to trust the opinion from one web posting, this is the opinion of a Canadian couple who in the end didn't acknowledge the agreement of their contract and did a disappearing act. I think there back in Canada now, but they told Meg, who is the principle of the school that the mother of one of the two had died so they needed to go home for bereavement leave, but ended up not coming back. 

  • If you ask me, that reflects poorly on themselves, they came into the job expecting allot, and weren't open to the idea that they were experiencing a totally different culture to the one that there use to back home. The web post has had an effect around the world, including N.Z...another girl from New Zealand was meant to come to work with me but she pulled out two weeks before because she saw the web post. Not only has that web post reflected badly on Meg and Chungju Wonderland but it also has reflected poorly on the institute I belong to in New Zealand. They are working hard to bring potential teachers over to Korea and when someone pulls out, then it doesn't look well on them.

  • At the end of the day you have to take into consideration that these people were only working there less then 4 months so do you think its okay for Meg & Mr Jung to be disrespected in this way? to have a business they have created from the ground up, be slandered by a couple of english speaking teachers who have only been in the country less then 6 months. I have found the Korean culture is built on the ideology that respect comes first and everything else comes second. 

    At Chungju Wonderland, they expect you to put the children first before your own needs, korean children are taught differently in comparison to westernized culture, particularly in New Zealand, study is there main priority, they have to do well, it is mandatory, and if they don't, then there punished where as in New Zealand, we start class at 9am, finish at 3pm, go home, watch tv, kick it with mates or play some sports, these kids, the babies ranging from 4 to 7 are in the morning from 9.30am to 2.30pm then its the bigger ones from 8 years and onwards, they go to public school and then when school finishes they come to Hogwan for private tutoring in english. Sport is not their first priority here.

    I know I've only been here just over a week, but I feel as though I know allot about this place already, and in regards to the post, I seriously don't know what they were on, I'm having a totally different experience compared to them, it must be the different cultures, coming from a Maori background, where taught to respect others, needs of others come first, when we visit someone, where always respectful and make sure we don't come empty handed, always offer other people food before you receive yourself. Taught to finish everything on our plate, regardless, and just to be kind and considerate if you are visiting other peoples homes. Shoes off at the front etc. But I'm sure allot of cultures are like that.

    I'm not trying to judge because I believe everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but it doesn't mean you have to bare your complaints for the whole world to see ( pun intended) so as to criticize the schools problems, if any for that matter, at best.... let the next teachers sort it out for themselves, regardless of the outcomes; its all about living, and you haven't lived if you haven't experienced it for yourself, and if they don't like it, then they can go home, they can't force you to stay.

    But anyways, getting back to the american I met on the streets, I explained to him about the school and my hours, and he thought that was really good, he was actually quite surprised that I had really good hours, it made his view on the place seem different and thats all it takes. It takes one person to get the message out that if its heard first hand, then it doesn't seem so bad after all.

    After I finished speaking with him, I walked for about an extra 15 minutes and I hit the hoamji reservoir, it was quite beautiful as expected of any reservoir but I was still content on looking for the Chungju lake but it was getting late, I had spent so much time trying to find the place that I needed to get back home. Getting back was a mission in itself and yes I'm still blaming that DREADFUL map, completely and utterly useless, I actually had to stop and ask someone where to get back to my apartment, she pointed out that I was in one certain area and that my apartment was right on the other side of town, I was like, "huh, how the heck did I get so far away," so I ended up doing the long trek home making sure I stuck to the map as best as I could and within an hour I was home. 

    You can't believe how glad it was for me to be able to sit down, within ten minutes of me sitting down, Meg and her family all showed up, they brought me food, and asked if there were any problems with my apartment, I told her that there are cockroaches, but I thought," there okay, I'm not really that affected by them", and Mr Jung said he will be getting an exterminator in and then he was able to make the T.V. work so yay...I HAVE T.V....sadly...its all in Korean though. 

    Then Meg wanted to have a sit down conversation in relation to the web posting, she was surprised I had found out about the posting but still decided to come, she didn't understand why I would want to come after so many horrible things were said about the place. I just told her that it was only one post and its the opinion of a few people and I'm completely different in comparison to them, I came here expecting it to be hard but also came with an open mind, and people act differently towards different people. I expected that I am a guest in another country, therefore, I should respect everything in relation to that country and I feel its not what I expected, I'm actually having fun and getting along with everyone, sure, it will probably get harder the longer I'm away from my family, but there only a phone call away and I love my country, and I want to represent the country I hold so dare to my heart at the highest level and would like to promote more kiwis to come to Korea, especially Chungju.

    Meg, was so relieved to hear me say that, she has had a difficult time with the posting, and it was difficult for her to work with those teachers, but since I've come to know her, I can understand how she can be misinterpreted by the other teachers, her english is good, but shes still learning, and those other teachers should have caught onto that as well as realized that there comes a time when they will be thrust into a situation and just told to teach and I mean, when it comes to lesson plans, take the initiative and sort your own lesson plans, no ones going to hold your hand, like the nike brand says... just do it, thats why we graduated from University with degrees, because its believed we have the potential to take initiative to do the work. 

    Overall, the teachers expectations were too high, you need to understand that when you come to Korea, your not coming for a holiday, your coming to work, and if your on a 12 month contract like I am, then you have 365 days to have a look around. Thats just my opinion...anyway.....

  • Friday, 3 June 2011

    One week down in Chungju

    So my first week settling in to Chungju lifestyle has been great, although, all that I have done is gone to school  then walk home from school, its never ending, but I'm hoping to settle into a pattern. Yesterday, all the teachers from the school that I work at went to dinner at a traditional korean restaurant where we had to sit down on the ground. For someone like me, I don't mind sitting on the ground, but everyone when they sit down, they usually cross there legs while seated. Not for me, advice if your tall, it is hard to cross your legs if your sitting down in a restaurant where the table is also quite low, meaning, you won't be able to fit your legs under the table if they are crossed, I did, however, try it for about 5 minutes, until one of the teachers said it was okay for me to have my legs spread out under the table. You don't know how thankful I was to hear that because seriously, it was painful.
    Ended up going to a Karaoke bar or Noraebang as the koreans call it, it was quite eventful, I was expecting to walk into a bar and there would be a stage with a microphone. Not at this place, they have private rooms for each group to go into with a big TV screen and sitting area. It was so much fun, I introduced a few of the korean teachers to a bit of Malvin gaye, The Manhattens and  Jason Mraz, and the good thing about that was they didn't judge at all which I found truly wonderful because I was seriously flat.
    Then afterwards me and a couple of the other teachers went to a night club which was also quite eventful and I also found that I was the tallest person out on the dance floor, so funny looking over everyone, nothing different from being at a New Zealand club apart from if they don't like a song, you know it because the whole dance floor would just clear. What I have noticed is that I have been getting allot of stares, and I mean, I knew that would happen that locals would stare at me, but if I see them staring at me and I stare back they quickly look away, which is weird, I'm not use to that.
    Back home, if someone stared at me, I always stared back then basically a staring competition would commence. Getting use to the roads have been a headache, everyone drives on the right here so when I'm crossing the road its hard for me to look right, I keep wanting to look left so while i'm crossing the road I just end up shaking my head from left to right, unsure of what I'm doing and I probably look a bit retarded while I'm doing it so that part is still taking some getting use to because I found they don't have pedestrian crossing heres where cars have to stop for a pedestrians to cross, its basically walk or run as fast as possible because they are not going to stop for ANYONE, seriously I almost got run over the day, what an eye opener that was.
    But anyways, a bit tired today, so am probably going to go to sleep, have a three day weekend because of memorial day so looking forward to seeing a bit more of chungju, but then again I do have a whole year here. But will keep you posted.

    Wednesday, 1 June 2011

    Entry #1= Butterflies

    Since I was younger, my mother always believed I would be better suited as a teacher; that my type of personality allowed me to get along with anyone, it didn't matter what race or religion they belonged to, I always adapted, and I always made sure that they felt comfortable with me and that I was always seen as someone people looked up to. I didn't know if she meant that because I am tall (186cm) or because she believed that I could actually make a difference. But I have to admit, I thought I would never move to South Korea, let alone be a teacher. I had always dreamt of travelling the world, but I didn't want to just go somewhere and be the typical tourist, camera out every 10 seconds, money/bum bag strapped around my waist wearing those out-dated amusement park hats and tour buses that drove you to and from your expensive hotel to every market, souvenir park, knowing you wanted something to take back to your home country saying you have been there... oh god!! flash backs of Disney land 1996 coming back.....moving on.
    I always wanted to experience a country that was not heavily publicized through mainstream ideologies but making sure I experienced the REAL side to that country. Sure, I am still open to the idea that one day I WILL be backpacking through Europe, South East Asia and South America, but I always had in mind that I wanted to help people, sure the idea of becoming a doctor or a nurse popped into my head on countless occasions, but at the end of the day, Seeing blood or anything that involves cuts freaks me out, so sorry, no thankyou.

    The opportunity to become a Foreign english language teacher fell into my lap by chance, I never thought that an opportunity like this could exist for someone like me who has no teaching experience and I didn't ever believe that two months after I walked into the New Zealand Institute of Education I would be sitting here, in my apartment after a long day of teaching 4-12 year old Korean children, typing my very first blog about a Tall girl in Korea.

    I studied Graphic Design and believed like many graduates who leave University, it will be easy to find a job because we put the hard hours in to completing the course, well... at least we should be rewarded....WRONG, its much harder then you think and when it comes to Graphic Design, the jobs are limited in terms of finding full time employment. So it was very difficult for me. I didn't thoroughly enjoy having to look for work constantly, and when I was given work, all my focus and effort would be put into making that job a success and to have the client take you for granted just made me feel like I couldn't accomplish anything.

     It was only two months ago when I approached my friend Lando, he invited me to come to this course that helps prepare you to work in South Korea. I had never really thought about South Korea, nor did I believe I could even live there, I thought it was like China, you can only work there under special circumstances meaning, you had to be highly experienced so I never thought much of it once I went to class. It was when our wonderful teacher Geoff was telling us about what we can, can't, and see over in Korea that I began to be more interested. At the end of the class, I asked Geoff;

    "Geoff, I don't have any money, I'm an unemployed graduate, I'm struggling to make ends meat and at the moment, I'm living with my sister who is already finding it difficult to live with me as I am crowding her house while she is looking after her new born baby; Geoff, how will I be able to pay for flights and accommodation if I can't even pay for these things."

    Geoffs reply was so simple, "Pauline, the school you will be working at will pay for your Flights and Accomodation, all they need from you is to make sure you have a degree, do you have a degree Pauline?"

    "Yes I do Geoff, where can I sign up". At the end of the class I didn't think twice, I signed the bottom line (4 weeks later I was issued with my TESL certificate), I was going to Korea, I told my sister that very day, she was eager to help me with everything so for a couple of weeks I was making sure I got all my paper work sorted.
    By this time I hadn't told my parents because I wanted to make sure, I wanted something that was confirmed so that my father didn't think that I was all talk and no proof, so I wanted to make sure that I had everything sorted before I told him. I was even tempted to tell him once I had been issued with my e-ticket but I knew that it would mean I would be leaving within 24 hours, so I quickly disposed of that idea and once I had told my father and mother, they were very shocked, but then they were surprisingly supportive, I guess they have always seen me as the type of person to get out and experience life, they have always known that I'm not the type of person that follows in the footsteps of others but I have always tried to make my own footsteps and they have always known that my future would lie outside of New Zealand, although I believe they were thinking I would have moved to Australia rather then South Korea but everyone moves to Australia and I'm not everyone, I can only be me.

    Once I had my paperwork sorted, it was saying goodbye to everyone that was the most difficult, although, nearly every single one of my friends told me I would be the tallest person in Korea and that I would have to start buying my close online because I'm considered a Giant over there, my only response was "thanks guys, and I thought you were my friends, yeap, no christmas presant for you, sorry," or if it was said from a family member of mine then I would tell them, " well I haven't been shorter then you since I was 11, so I think once I get to South Korea I should be fine because I've known even shorter people."

     But since I've been here, I think they may be right. I have always been tall, my father is tall and my brother is tall, so I've heard every tall joke there could ever be. I love being tall, even though growing up, in highschool, all my friends were quite short, I found I use to slouch in order for me to look like I was at the same height as them. I think over it now, and wonder, what an idiot for not showing how tall and proud I was.

    I am living in Chungju, Chungcheongbuk-do which is basically smack in the middle of South Korea, apparently its meant to be almost like a country town compared to all the big cities over here, but its the size of Christchurch and there is over 200,000 people living in this so called "town", it does however remind me allot of Whangarei, which is my hometown in New Zealand, although that place can only fit 45,000 people.

    The School I am at is Chungju, Wonderland, and since I have been here, there has been no problems at all, I read a post online before I came to this school, written by an American teacher who was here before I came and he said how no one should work at Chungju Wonderland, and listing all the different problems with the place. I think that was one reason why a girl from Christchurch pulled out, she was going to live with me, but her father pulled her out of working at the school two weeks prior to leaving.

    When I read what the American had to say about the place, I even thought about pulling out as well, but then I thought, that what he has written is his decision and how he felt and its different for everyone, so I shouldn't trust everything he says and I was right. I feel really comfortable at the moment, my principle is very lovely and she's always helpful, she's the type of person that if you have a problem then tell her, don't leave it to the last minute because then she will be able to help you quickly.

    The school is cute and adorable, it feels like a big adventure playground with colourful interactive rooms and the children are absolutely wonderful and highly intelligent, I'm actually surprised at there level of intelligence, Koreans are a very unique race indeed, they thrive off being competitive and successful.

    I love my apartment, it is quite old but its spacious and warm, there are two bedrooms, a bathroom, a room for the washing machine, a living room, a deck and a spacious kitchen, and when I mean spacious, I mean, theres no table or chairs in there, just empty room with a kitchen haha. My bedroom is massive, bigger then my room back in New Zealand. My bed is as hard as a rock but I keep thinking, that its better then no bed. There are a few things I'm still getting use to such as the washing machine and turning on the gass to heat my water to make a cup of tea. Those two things took some getting use to. The washing machine took a little while because it was all in Korean but I eventually got the hang of it. The Gas was like a foreign object to me, I don't think I had encountered that before because coming from a western culture where electronic goods come so readily and available, it was a bit hard to adjust to but once I figured it out, it felt like a milestone, like I had actually achieved something worth being achievable.

    But so far, it is wednesday, I've been in Korea since Friday of last week, and I have to admit, I don't think its actually hit me yet, that I'm here, in South Korea, right in the middle, teaching english, going to and from work back to my apartment, I thought about this when I was walking home from work today, it had been raining the night before and there was allot of thunder and lightening, more then what I was use to, and while I was 10 minutes away from my house, I could see the sun in the distance, it was red, I had never seen a red sun like this before, I actually had to stop, stare and to check myself, I was thinking "is this for real, am I imagining things," Then I was thinking "there must be something wrong in the atmosphere if Auckland's getting this" then I thought " hold up, i'm in South Korea" then I remembered being told about the red sun and how it is frequent up here, oh well, its still going to take a little while for me to get use to, either way, I can't wait to unlock more hidden treasures that South Korea may possess....