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Feb. 19th, 2013

Home stretch

Last night was the third night in a row at the hotel, and tonight will be the fourth and last. After that, I have Wednesday to catch up on a bit of sleep and maybe try to get some things done, and Thursday to pack. Plane leaves Friday at 6am.. Last day at the helpdesk is Thursday. It's a bit surreal living my everyday life and going through the same routine as if nothing is changing, when in just three days my life is changing in a huge way.

6am, depart from Little Rock. Arrive in Chicago. 14 hour flight direct from Chicago to Seoul. Arrive in Seoul at 2am back home - it will be 5pm Saturday there. My boss is picking me up at the airport, then I don't know what. I finally find out where my apartment is and what it looks like and what's in it and what I'll need to go buy? He does a brief orientation over coffee or tea, then shows me the school? Some sort of staff meet and greet, or is that saved for later? I start shadowing Monday? I think? I honestly don't know.. my contract says three days, so maybe it's Tuesday since next Friday is a holiday.. At the very least, I'll have a full day and a half to get settled before I start the three training days. And the following week, my contract officially starts and the classes are mine.

Once I get there my phone will stop working on the network.. I'll be 100% relying on wifi connections until I get the phone thing sorted out. Does my school have something planned or set up for me? I don't know.. For knowing a lot, I feel like I don't know anything.

Here, the thing that sinks the hardest is realizing that almost every time I do something, I'm doing it for the last time. Like enchilada Wednesday tomorrow. Resetting that person's password that gets lost or forgotten once every two weeks or so. And god, every time I see or run into someone - a former classmate, an acquaintance even - I think to myself, "this might really be the last time I see this person." I even felt like I needed to say goodbye to that kid who works at the gas station across from the hotel.. the kid who wears headphones and doesn't even look up or acknowledge me while I'm buying a drink before work. Does he even know I've been coming in there nearly four times a week since July? He probably doesn't, but nevertheless his cold way of treating me like some annoying customer he needed to quickly get rid of was a part of my life here, which means he was a part of my life. So when I nodded, took my things, and mumbled "goodbye" as I was leaving (knowing that he didn't see or hear me), in my mind it hit me that I was actually saying goodbye - to him and that overpriced gas station where the police car is always parked at night making me feel somewhat safe if I'm working and paranoid if I'm driving somewhere. The gas station where I've used the same pump for six years for countless trips to Hot Springs, Malvern, Little Rock, and Texarkana. If I can get this vivid and nostalgic over something like a gas station, imagine how I feel about things with actual substance.. I mean we are talking about me here, is there anyone in this world who's more sappy? Don't answer that.

I've decided I'll keep posting here occasionally. Tumblr makes more sense for most of my Korea posts because I'm making "friends", or at the very least connections, there. People who are doing the same thing as me who will be there for advice and support during tougher times because who else do we have out there? But at the end of the day, it seems like these are all temporary. Conditional, dependent on us being in Korea. Once one of us leaves that life, we leave the people who are still living it. So for that reason, things can't get too serious and I feel like posting a giant wall of text like this is too much of a burden for that blog (although it does happen occasionally). So when I feel a post like this coming, I think I will always come back here for that.

It occurs to me that it has now been almost a month since I've heard anything from Jose. I've been good. I know that it's ultimately his decision, even if I think it's a shitty one. I said what I needed to say and didn't get a response, and no, I didn't keep pushing after that. After I did everything I could, I let it go. Anyone who knows me understands just how difficult that was for me. But in the back of my mind, I had a feeling that if anything ever happened to our friendship, it would be over something like this. So.. I guess I was prepared for it. Jose doesn't just get into short casual relationships, or relationships that don't work out. Once he's in, he's in, even if it sucks (aka the latter part of our relationship when we were together), and he'll stick it out until something drastic happens. I guess this is really it then. Right now I'm trying to think of what I would want to say to him, if anything, if I knew I was going to die soon (morbid, I know, but being someone who thinks of everything has its downsides). Once I figure it out, I'll write it down and keep it somewhere just in case this really is the end of our friendship. I'm just having a hard time.. And I don't want to be told that I'm being a baby or that I should just grow up and leave him alone - for one, I AM leaving him alone. Jesus christ I haven't even spoken to him in exactly four weeks today. What, does she think I'm gonna try to seduce and take him away from her? Wtf? And two, how am I supposed to act? Less dramatic? Are you kidding me right now? Do you think I'm over dramatizing the fact that for at LEAST the past two years I've had one person who has listened to EVERY SINGLE PROBLEM I've had - down to the ones I couldn't bring myself to talk to about with anyone else in the world - and he made the decision to pursue a relationship in which, as it turns out, there's no room for a friend like me? Isn't that supposed to make me feel like I'm dying? Siiiighhh..

Jan. 26th, 2013


I guess I really am a coward. I've sobered up some. Whatever's going to happen will happen, I just thought it would never happen to us. I'm staying out of it because it doesn't feel like my place, but if he returns I'm not sure things will just be okay. This is a weird situation.. It feels almost as bad as when Dustin left me without a reason.. even almost as bad as the last time Jose shrugged me off for a girl, and in that situation I was being cheated on. In this situation.. It's nothing like that. There's nothing for him to cheat on, he's perfectly within his rights to see her and nobody from this end was trying to stop him. That's why it feels so weird.. I'm not trying to fight with him over a girl. But he's still leaving me for a girl regardless.

I'm having a hard time even feeling mad or upset over this because it just doesn't feel real. I think, "maybe he just needs time to cool down." Cool down from what exactly? Maybe it's just me, but it feels like this is really ending right now. It's just like the last time he had a girlfriend, when for the entire duration of their relationship I never saw or heard from him. Who knows, maybe in six months I'll get a phone call from him and I'll answer in a hurry because I just want to hear him tell me how he's doing. Right now, though? I think I'd hit the reject button again and again because while I'm sitting here fuming over him not contacting me, I don't think I'm really in much of a hurry to talk to him either. I'm pretty hurt, too, and no, it doesn't matter who hurts more. It's petty to even try to compare. And doesn't it seem like both of us are just fine anyway? He has his new girlfriend and I have Korea in a month. Well, the reality is that I have Korea yet I'm sitting here not eating and crying at random over not knowing what's going to happen to me and my best friend. Because I was honest with him about something. And right now I think I've hit the root of what has me so shaken. How terrifying is it to suddenly realize your relationship is so weak that, by clarifying your preferences for how you spend a few hours in a single day, the entire thing can unravel? And it's not even like I shot his idea down or said anything bad about her.. No, it wasn't even that, but these are the consequences? That's why I don't feel like this is real..

I have so many things that I want to say but I have no basis to say any of them because I don't know anything. In this situation, I really am completely clueless and here's the reality: neither of us is wrong. We can't try putting ourselves in each other's shoes, because it's not a matter of needing role reversal to understand each other. In fact, I think understanding each other on this would be nearly impossible. We just have wildly different opinions on the situation as a whole. The truth is, if he was in my situation he'd just go along with meeting and hanging out with my new boyfriend and never utter a single complaint about it. He'd approach it with enthusiasm. Meanwhile, I would be watching him cautiously and waiting for him to show the slightest sign of discomfort or make any implication that he felt like the third wheel, and I'd be prepared to spend alone time with him if that was needed. Being honest, without a sign like that I probably wouldn't make any changes. Thinking of when be was in Arkansas last, did I do anything to change the situation then? No, I waited to make sure he was okay with it, and if he wanted me to change then of course I'd do so without questioning it. Because I feel like as my best friend staying with me as a guest, he has a right to be somewhat demanding of my time. When he sat at my house all day during my work and school hours and while I was driving to teach lessons.. Since he came all that way, I owed it to him to be generous to him with my free time. I guess he disagreed and felt like my time belonged more to my boyfriend, regardless of how far he'd traveled to see me. Maybe I'm just not that nice.

So in essence.. Of course I'm not angry that he wanted her to be there the entire time.. I just wanted something different is all, and I'm upset with him for not respecting that or defending me in that situation, or even talking to me about it before he got his feelings hurt. I'm upset that he let it escalate and he allowed his girlfriend to decide she didn't like me before he did anything to stop it from happening. I'm upset most of all because he didn't fully resolve his dispute with me before he went talking to her about it, and now no matter what I say to her she's going to feel disrespected by me because he let her feel that way.

Not much I can do at this point besides let it all out here.. I don't have many people to talk to anymore, and those I do have, with maybe one exception (Alex), don't want to hear me whine about the same thing over and over (although I'm sure Alex would prefer me not whining as well.. that's why I try to unload here and keep venting with actual people down to a minimum). Anyway, without thinking, I sent out my distress signal, and for the first time in a while I actually waited for the rescue. It was reckless and I won't expect it next time, but for this time.. thanks.

Jan. 24th, 2013

24 hours and counting

Silent treatment? Fine. We're going to act like kids? Then let's act like kids.

One week. I give it one week, after which I start treating this like a high school breakup and removing you from my life.

Jan. 23rd, 2013


No. No no no. This can't happen to us. Aren't we stronger than this? Aren't we on "if anything ever happens to me the first person you call had better be my best friend or else" status? Then what is this? I feel like my heart is being crushed right now.

I've been looking forward to the day when I can make friends with your girlfriend for years. When you said you want your future girlfriend to be almost as close to me as you are, I wanted that too. Then what is this? How is it okay for you to just say to me, "She's not too fond of you," and for it to be okay that you just said that? I get it if you disagreed with me on something, and considering what it is, I can almost understand WHY you disagreed, but why take it to her and allow her to make her own unfair opinions? Don't you owe it to your best friend not to let that happen? Isn't it your job to make sure that when she hears about me, she doesn't get worried or scared? That she understands our relationship and how important we are to each other, and would never want to do anything to get in the middle of that? And if you did all you could and she DOESN'T understand that, then who the fuck is she? No offense, but am I not making a little bit of sense here?

In less than a month, I'm moving to Korea. I'm getting on a plane and going to a place where no one will be able to physically reach me without an expensive plane ticket for AT LEAST a year. Maybe more. And I won't be able to come back for a long time, possibly for the entire time I'm there, although I sincerely hope that's not the case. In the worst case scenario, you and I will not be able to see each other in person for several years. So when I found out my flight would likely have a pretty long layover in LA, you have no idea how much comfort that gave me. That my best friend would be the last person to see me leave the country.. It meant so much to me. And if I was going to get 8 or more hours there where we could just hang out, that's even better. I was arguably more excited about being able to do THAT than about stepping off the plane into Korea for the first time.

How am I supposed to react when you then tell me that you have a new girlfriend and you want me to meet her during my layover? First of all, as if I haven't said this enough already, nobody said I didn't want to meet her or even that I wasn't still JUST AS EXCITED to meet her. That's a given. Nobody said that I wasn't willing to meet her when I'm there during the layover. But it's your idea to hang out with her the entire time leading up to my flight? Do you realize what this means? She's a new girlfriend, a person you're already pretty much ignoring me for. Not that I don't expect that, it's cool - enjoy your honeymoon period, it's how new relationships are supposed to go and I'm not trying to get in the way of that. I'm happy for you. But are you really telling me that during my last 8 hours in the country you want me to be watching you flirt with your new girlfriend, making small talk with her so she doesn't feel awkward and left out? What about how I feel during this? Meeting a new person, while maybe slightly nervewracking for some, is A HUGE ORDEAL for me. Anyone who's known me for any length of time knows that. And during the last 8 hours before I embark on several years of "meeting new people", you want me to be worrying about whether or not I'm making the absolute best first impression with her so I can be sure she likes me before I leave?

So I desperately try to compromise with you. I ask, "isn't it okay if she meets us somewhere and we get to know each other a bit, but she isn't there the whole time?" And that's not okay, either? Not only is that not okay, but that's the reason she "isn't too fond of me," because I would like to spend some time not being the third wheel with my best friend before I leave the country? How is that acceptable to you? How is it that anything about this situation is acceptable? It's okay for me to be sitting here in my living room not even thinking about lunch but trying to get this crushing feeling out of my chest, while you're enjoying your first few days with a girlfriend who "isn't too fond" of your best friend? What happened to "if she can't accept you, it's an instant deal breaker?" It's one of those things you've always said ever since breaking up with Kristina, and I always laughed and rolled my eyes thinking, "Yeeah, we'll see when he's with the girl of his dreams and she ends up hating me." But this.. You've been with her for less than a week, you've been talking to two weeks, and she already isn't too fond of me? If you can honestly tell me she's the girl of your dreams, then I'll back the fuck off and sacrifice my relationship with the one person who knows me better than anyone in the world so he can be happy. But as someone who knows you just as well, even though I'm not there to see and understand the situation, I just don't think that's the case with this girl. At least not yet.

I'm not asking you to break up with her. I would never pull something like that in a relationship where it was obvious that you were happy like this one, new or not. I'm asking you to fix this fucking mess so she can stop forming shitty opinions about a person she's never even spoken with.

Dec. 30th, 2012

Strange week

I could handle it if I didn't have to go to another funeral for a while. None of us saw this coming.. Just last week she was calling everyone in Mena making sure the family knew about my situation with HSU and collecting money to help me out. On Christmas, she texted me asking if I'd gotten the box they set up for me the night before. She said she'd call around, because she was excited to find out how much they collected. Two days later my brother calls me while I'm driving home from Hot Springs to tell me she died in Fort Smith while visiting a doctor about some seizures.

It's hard when someone has done a lot for you and you feel like you'll never be able to repay their kindness or their efforts; then you find out suddenly you can't even begin to try. I know I said thank you more than once, but each time I thought of how I would say thank you appropriately afterwards. Now I just feel like I haven't gotten the hance to really tell her just how appreciative I am that she helped me during a time when it was very difficult for me to ask for help. Her efforts were so overwhelmingly touching and I will never forget that kindness. She really did think of others more than she thought of herself.

The only thing I can think now is that I can't mess up. I have to make this happen no matter what, because she was so thrilled about my opportunity to teach in Korea, and she wanted to get the entire family together to help me get there at all costs. This cousin who I only barely knew over the past several years, who I respected and admired so much as a teenager, who I watched struggle over and over with health issues, with having children when it was said that she couldn't, and with raising a family despite her health. The best way I can think of to show my appreciation is to work hard and not take anything for granted.

Posted via m.livejournal.com.

Dec. 7th, 2012

Next step: Accepting a job

I sent in applications to somewhere around 10 different recruiters, and I was pleasantly surprised at the positive responses I got from everyone. I interviewed for 4-5 schools, and got offers from 4. I was waiting to hear back from the 5th school, because in my mind, I already knew that was where I wanted to work. Then I got a phone call from a recruiter I hadn't heard from yet. After about 30 minutes on the phone with him talking about teaching and Korea in general, I knew that he would be able to help me find the perfect school. He got a good general idea of what I wanted from the phone call, and within a couple of hours I had my first request for an interview that night. That interview didn't really go well. We had a hard time understanding each other, and I got the general sense that everything felt rushed. She said she wanted to offer me a job before I even got off the phone with her. It turns out I never heard back from her, but I don't think I would have accepted that job either. The recruiter knew this, and he told his partner, "I don't think this is a good match. Let's find something else."

The "something else" came from another one of his partners in Korea. Again, it seemed like the complete opposite of what I wanted - right in Seoul, 5-12 (as in not preschool), ASAP start date when I want to start in March. I said something about this, and he said "Oh no no no, the start date is in March!" Again, the recruiter said, "I'm not sure about this one - let's look into other options." But I shrugged and took the interview anyway, expecting nothing and knowing that I would be hearing back from the school I REALLY wanted any day. When it was time for the interview, I waited for a phone call, but instead of the school calling me, it was the Korean partner. He needed my Skype ID. I took that opportunity to do a mad dash into my room and put on some business clothes and smooth out my hair (it was 11pm, what did they expect), and finally the Skype call came.

Again, I had never heard of this school, I wasn't expecting anything special, and I had already told myself I was just doing it for the experience. But within about five seconds everything started to get surreal. The director waved at me, then introduced the woman sitting next to him, "This is my current music teacher, Seon. She is leaving in March, and we are looking for another music teacher to replace her." I'm not sure if I looked surprised or not, but internally I know my jaw dropped. I've been applying for jobs as an English teacher because I felt sure that was all I could get. This turns out to be a full English academy that teaches multiple subjects - all in English. My job would be primarily teaching music classes in the morning, but I would also have a few English classes in the afternoon.

Throughout the interview, the school sounded busy and I could hear people hurrying through the halls and passing by the office. The director told me that classes were letting out for the day, so everyone was going home. A few teachers passed by, and he waved them in so he could show them to me as well. A white girl around my age introduced herself to me and the woman next to her waved. Then a little boy came in and started to climb into the director's lap. He sat the boy down next to him and tilted the camera down, saying, "He wants to introduce himself." So I said hi and asked him for his name. In a very shy voice, he said clearly, "Malcolm." I asked, "How are you today?" And he laughed a little trying to think of an answer. The director whispered to him, and he said quickly, "Iamverywellthankyouhowareyou?"

Then the director turned the interview over to his music teacher so I could ask questions about class sizes, curriculum, students, etc. She gave me a ton of very detailed information, so basically after the interview I knew exactly what would be expected of me there. She even mentioned that I might want to keep practicing, because the schools there are so competitive that the parents like to hear the teachers perform once in a while. :P Once the interview was over, he explained to me that he can't make any offers to me directly - he has to go through his agency and I have to go through my recruiter. I knew this, so as soon as we ended the call I emailed my recruiter. I told him enthusiastically, "If the school offers me a job, please give them a very emphatic yes from me!" The director of the school also sent me an email right after we ended our call telling me how nice it was to speak with me. I told him that I had given my recruiter very positive feedback regarding the interview, and he said he had done the same for me. By about 1:30am I already had the contract sitting in my email. In a matter of hours, I had gone from "waiting to hear back about this job" to "accepting another job entirely". But who could blame me? I knew within moments of meeting the director and music teacher that this was right.

The very next day I heard back from the preschool I'd been waiting for. They did offer me a job.. and even though I'd been anxiously waiting for their answer for almost a week, I turned it down. I guess timing really is everything. I'm glad it took them a while to get back to me, because the job I accepted is clearly where I am supposed to be. I'll be teaching in my field while still getting to have this wonderful experience I've been dreaming about for years. This is actually going to happen. :)

Nov. 29th, 2012

Trip to passport agency: success

Tuesday's appointment was so incredibly simple. I don't know why anyone would ever mail off their passport applications if they're able to get an appointment and just drive to the actual agency. Sure, if you don't need it for a while it's no big deal.. But if it's actually somewhat urgent, BY ALL MEANS make an appointment with the passport agency. This is what happened:

1. After leaving the USPS, I called the number here to make an appointment:

2. The appointment they gave me was at 9am for Tuesday. Unfortunately, the agency does not actually accept appointments at this time, so the next day they called me and said, "Whoops! Glitch in the system. Can you come at 10:30 instead?"

3. I showed up at 10:30 with my passport form (filled out online and printed out from the website), PHYSICAL copy of my birth certificate, my driver's license, and a COPY of my driver's license (both the front and back).

I also had passport photos which I took myself:  I used my ipad to take the picture of myself sitting up against a white background, used photoshop to crop them to the proper size (using the guidelines posted on the website), and sent them to Wal-Mart's one-hour photo service using their website. I went and picked them up right before I left for my appointment. The passport agency had absolutely no problem with this. It cost me 48 cents to do it this way, so I HIGHLY recommend this method. Walgreens passport photos cost somewhere around $10, and it's $8 at the UPS store.

4. When I got to the agency, the speaker on the doorbell asked for my confirmation number which was stored in my cell phone. I read it off, but then I had to go put my phone back in my car because no electronic devices are allowed in the building. I walked in and waited for just a few moments until it was my turn, but since the appointments seem to be in 30 minute intervals (while the actual appointments themselves do not take NEARLY that long), the wait time was not very long at all.

5. I had expected them to give me an estimated delivery date and offer me the option for overnight shipping. What I did NOT expect, although in retrospect I'm not sure why, was the option for me to pick it up myself. The appointment was two days ago and she said I could pick it up today at 2:30. Once she ran my debit card, she gave me a receipt and a "pick up" slip. On the slip, you can indicate if you want to authorize another person to pick up the passport for you, but I'm going in myself to get it so I'll be able to start sending copies of it to agencies/schools that have requested it immediately.

Cost: $195 for the passport book + expedited service fee (if you have an appointment with an agency, paying the $60 expedited service fee is required)

Yay! I have to remind myself at this point that the cost of this procedure did not break me (it just forced me to be a bit smarter with money for a while), and it will more than pay for itself in a few months. The background check which I mailed off last week is officially showing up as DELIVERED according to my tracking information, so once it has been processed and my debit card has been charged, I will receive that back and I can get it apostilled. This is the process I am most worried about because I'm scared I'll mess something up. After all, I was positive that I had all of the documents absolutely in order - application form, fingerprints, and method of payment - and I STILL missed one very important detail. If you are going to need an apostille on your CBC (which is REQUIRED by Korean immigration), you have to let the FBI know that so they can send back an authenticated (signed and stamped) copy of your record. Otherwise, getting the document apostilled will not be possible.

Note: I have read experiences from other people who received their CBC without a stamp, and they WERE ABLE to send it back to the FBI to get the stamp. You do not need to request an additional CBC if this happens, just send the one you got back to them with a note and you can get the stamp. It will just set you back a few more days, and since the process already takes a very long time, it's best if you don't lose a few days because of something like this, as I am finding out.

Most people, from what I've seen, include a cover letter along with their request. Since I did not do this, I was a bit frantic thinking I would be set back or send in a completely new request.. Luckily, I was able to find the customer service number and the man I spoke to was very helpful. He gave me the fax number so I would be able to send in my cover letter detailing my request. His advice was to include the tracking number if I had one (I did), the date it was mailed and/or expected to arrive, my full name and contact info, and the note saying that I needed it to be authenticated with stamp and signature so I could get it apostilled. Sent the fax, and it arrived before my envelope did, so I should be good to go. If anyone happens upon this who did the same thing as me, and would like the fax number, I will gladly give it to you if you send me a message. :)

Nov. 25th, 2012


Even though I'm struggling a bit to put this all together financially, I do feel a bit relieved because it is.. slowly.. happening. I think about it sometimes, and I have to reassure myself that this is actually finally happening. It's not just some dream I've hidden away in the back of my mind because I didn't think it was possible. It IS possible, I CAN do it, and it's happening as we speak.

When I look back on my computer science teacher in 2006, with his little anecdote about teaching in Japan with his wife for a few years, I remember being completely taken by the idea. I thought immediately, "If I could.. I would do that." Then almost just as immediately, I pushed it away. It would never happen because I would never have enough money, it's too far away, it's too drastic of a change to just run off with something like that. Still, I would mention it in passing to people: "Wouldn't it be nice to go teach english in a foreign country somewhere? I had a teacher who did that, I think it would be a really cool experience." And everyone's like, "Yeah dude, that would be awesome." And then the conversation is over, and I'm left still thinking about it while the other person thinks it was just a comment. What some people might not have realized, though, is that over the years those comments started to get more and more serious. Less like they were just little passing thoughts. I'm actually surprised that people like my mom and brother, who have heard me talk about this for YEARS, and Jose, who I tell everything - were all a bit surprised when I told them I was for real gonna go for it.

My mom actually took it better than everyone else. I had originally (as of about 8 months ago) settled on the JET program, and after watching countless videos and reading hundreds (seriously) of articles, I decided it wasn't for me. At least not yet. Around September, I decided I should keep my options open so that if JET didn't accept me I wouldn't be too heartbroken. So I started considering Korea. At first, it felt like my "second choice" and I felt guilty doing it. But the more I looked into it, the more appealing it sounded. I even spoke to my Korean piano teacher who made me even more excited about it. The JET program started to feel like that really cool club that I wanted to get into, but after they rejected me I was able to see that it wasn't quite so cool. I didn't even give JET the opportunity to reject me, lol. I figure I'll apply again later on, maybe once I've had an opportunity to actually visit Japan and I have a decent answer to the "why Japan?" question. Pfft. Why, Japan? Currently, my answer is "I don't care where I end up, I just want to teach somewhere outside of the US where I can save money and have an exciting experience."

So, my mom. I explained to her what I was going to be doing, explained the benefits.. Basically, I told her, "The school will pay for my apartment, I will only be responsible for a small amount in terms of utilities, and then I can save the rest. I'll be able to send some home to Dustin so he can take care of the house while we're gone, and I really want to help you and the rest of the family get out of the financial mess we're all in. I can save a lot back and start paying off student loans, whereas I wouldn't be able to do anything even close to that if I lived here." And all of that was true. I have GREAT reasons for wanting to go. Financially, this is an excellent choice - even if I ate at a restaurant three times a day I would still feasibly be able to save back close to $1000 a month while there. And I would be able to spend time traveling (weekend trips and such), see other parts of the world, do things I would never be able to do otherwise. While I'm young. While I still have the opportunity. For my career? When I go to graduate school, I will have had 1-2 years of real, concrete teaching experience. Without it I won't be guaranteed an assistantship and everyone knows I can't PAY for grad school. I've said that a million times. With this experience, it will be a likely shot that once I come back to the US I'll be able to apply to graduate schools confidently, with a very good chance of being given an TA spot my first semester - that's something that a lot of grad students don't get until later.

But I didn't even have to tell my mom most of this. I mentioned the idea, the pay, covered airfare, and the benefits (health care being covered + a pension), and her eyes just got wide and she said, "Wow. That's awesome." Then she told Dustin's mom and her only question was "Is Dustin going with you?" to which we both responded with "Not this time, but maybe in the future if it turns into a more long-term thing" and she seemed satisfied with that answer. Dustin has been awesome. I know this must be really scary to him, but we've been through so much at this point.. He understands my desire to do this, and he understands how important it is that I do it while I'm young (a lot of schools are wary about hiring older teachers in Korea). Besides, I have no career ties here and I would be making more money doing this right out of college than I would be able to get anywhere close by. He's open to the idea of living in Korea at some point, but we both know that's not feasible right now.

At first, Jose was really upset by the idea. We just got to a point where we can actually afford to see each other once or twice a year, and now I'm moving halfway across the world. Yeah, I understand that. But he's my best friend, and my best friend understands when things like this are important. And the only thing that will really change is the time zone.. Anyway, now he's super excited along with me. He's helping me prepare for my interview on Wednesday and seriously bless him for listening to me talk nonstop about Korea, telling him what I learned to say, sending him pictures of my writing in the language.

My CBC will arrive on the 27th according to USPS, and after that I have no idea how long it'll take to get back. Then I have the passport agency appointment, my interview on Wednesday, potentially more interviews if this one doesn't go well, and from there who knows? I'm really excited. I feel like a huge lifelong dream is happening, and everything is just unfolding right into place. This is something I never dreamed could ever happen to someone like me, and I couldn't be happier right now.

Nov. 23rd, 2012


1. FBI Criminal Background Check.
Went on this huge wild goose chase for a fingerprinting service - called the local police dept. They sent me to the sheriff's office. They do fingerprints but you have to bring your own cards. UPS store. Some locations take fingerprints, this one doesn't. They don't have the cards. But she did give me some cardstock so I could print my own. Went to Wal-Mart, bought an ink cartridge for my printer that's been out of black ink for ages. Came home, printed cards (and every other application form known to man), went to sheriff's office. Had to call the front desk to figure out which door to go in. Guy shows up to take care of me, looks at my printed cards and is like, "Oh we have those, you don't need them." Haha, oh well. So he took my fingerprints making pleasant small talk the entire time, made a weird face at the screen when taking my thumbs (I had to explain the giant scar I recently acquired across my right thumb). Then it was over. Painless. So I go to the post office thinking I'm gonna mail this off along with my passport application.. 

2. Passport application.
Why do they even approve USPS as a passport acceptance agency if the people who work there don't have their shit together? Seriously, the woman I spoke to had no idea what she was doing. I did most of the work for her online, got a total, already had pictures printed, and I walked in with all of that plus a check written for the exact total (application fee + processing fee + expedited fee + overnight shipping). She gives me a total that's about $80 less than what I had been given FROM THE TRAVEL.GOV WEBSITE, meaning she was counting something up wrong. Somehow. I explained to her exactly what I was paying for, how much each item is, and what my EXACT total should be. She just looked at me frankly and said, "Well, this total is what I have here." I just stopped for a second, thought, and said, "Okay thanks." She protested for a moment saying that she had everything right, but I just took my documents from her and left without saying anything else. When I got home, I called the passport agency in Hot Springs for an appointment. I'm going up Tuesday morning to get it taken care of - it'll be cheaper there anyway (at least I think it will be, since the USPS lady said there was a $30 fee from their end), AND probably faster. As it turns out, when I was rechecking everything at home I realized she would have messed up my application anyway had I let her do it. She kept insisting that I didn't need a page I brought with me (additional lines for the "other names section" since I go by my middle name and was once married), even though I DID need it.

3. Finishing everything up.
I went back to the UPS store because I was so irritated with the lady at USPS that I didn't even want to try to mail off my CBC form. They were.. closed somehow? Anyway, I didn't want to give up so I went home instead and printed off my postage. Put the forms and fingerprint cards (I sent 2 just in case) in a manila envelope, slapped on the label, and stuck it in a USPS dropbox. Now I'm just waiting for my passport agency appointment and I'm good to go on those annoying documents (minus the diploma, of course, which I will receive in a month if all goes well with financial aid).

So why am I frantic? I've been getting responses from recruiters, a lot more than I expected, and job offers are actually coming in pretty quickly. Not all seem like fantastic offers, but to be honest I was worried that I wouldn't get ANY. This is very encouraging. Now, the biggest and most exciting thing for me is that the school I want has offered me an interview next Wednesday at 7pm (Thursday at 10am their time). The school is adorable, it's in a great location, and I would get the age group I want (preschool - kindergarten). I know a lot of people say "NO KINDIES" in the ESL community, but I swear this really is what I want. 20-30 minute classes consisting of me singing, dancing, playing games, making faces, acting silly, and otherwise entertaining a group of 2-5 year olds? YES PLEASE. I get that I won't be going in and sending home little fluent English babies on a weekly basis, nor will most of them be able to communicate with me outside of us both miming at each other. But if I hear from a parent that one of my kids was singing a song he learned in class before bed, while brushing his teeth, riding in the back of a car, etc.. I think I'll feel like I achieved something.

I guess this is as good a time as any to explain (to anyone who might have come across this and doesn't know what's going on) that I'm applying for English teaching jobs in South Korea. I'll have a lot more detailed information about the process once I have an actual contract signed (hopefully with this school), but for now it's all going to be here in a jumbled mess. :)

Nov. 14th, 2012

Just when I start to feel discouraged

I had pretty much given up on this because the chances of me getting picked are slim to none.. I kept thinking about how upsetting it would be if I applied and didn't get chosen, and then there's the wait time and if I didn't get picked for this I'd miss out on a lot of other chances.. Then I spoke with my pianist, of all people, and she asked if I had been thinking about SK, which is where she's from. When I said yes, her face lit up and she immediately turned into a girl, telling me about the nightlife in Seoul and how much fun it is to shop for clothes and buy food there. Then she offered to write me a recommendation letter and give me contacts to some of the public schools where she lived, and insisted that we meet up when she visits home during the summer. She's typically so mellow and calm, seeing her get so excited about something is a rarity. I can't believe so many students complain about her being harsh, judgmental, overbearing, etc. when she's really one of the kindest people I've ever met. She still hasn't given me a price for her accompanying me. I figure on Sunday I'll show up with a check and she can take it or not; either way I'll figure out a way to get money in her hands. This is, after all, why I have a second job right now.

Last weekend, she sent me an email asking me to play flute at her church and offering to rehearse with me afterwards. I felt horrible, but my boss had asked me to work Saturday night and so when I got there Sunday morning I was running on two hours of sleep. The entire church service was a painful mixture of my head spinning and lack of coordination. She was incredibly complimentary though, and afterwards she asked if I was going home for lunch before our rehearsal. I said "yes, probably" and she asked me if I wanted to go to KFC with her instead "so I didn't have to do that". She lives out of town, so she needed to pick something up for lunch anyway. She then asked one of her piano students who sings in her church choir if he wanted to join us, adding quietly with a slight laugh that she "didn't want to eat alone after all". Something about that small admission was really touching to me.

I kinda spaced out there.. talking to one of my HSU friends who's been in Korea for a while (I miss him!) and figuring out what my options are for paying off this semester (if financial aid doesn't go through). It'll all work out.

edit: I'm pretty much so irritated right now that I can barely think. If I tell someone that something bothers me, I feel like it should mostly be out of my hands at that point, rather than what happened just now.

Me: "When I get home, it would be considerate for you to ask me if I would like to use my computer rather than saying hi and continuing to do what you're doing."
Reaction: "Well you should just ask me to get up."
Me: "I honestly don't feel comfortable asking for the use of my own computer when it would make more sense, being that it doesn't belong to you, for you to notice I'm home and offer to let me have it back."
Reaction: "Why don't you feel comfortable doing that?"

The words "I don't feel comfortable" don't always have a reason. If I could explain it I wouldn't be so frustrated over it. If I could explain it, we wouldn't be having this argument. All I'm saying is that I can't do it, I don't feel like I should HAVE to do it, and I want you to understand that and just say "okay" so we can be done with this. Now I could even understand if you said something like "okay, I'll try to remember that from now on. but can you help me out with that if I forget?" That tells me 1. that you're trying. and 2. that you might make a mistake here and there and I should be patient with you. But what do I get instead? "Oh, you're upset? I'm sorry, you should do THIS instead of being upset." You don't get to tell me what will solve my problems because I already KNOW what will solve the issue and I just asked you to do it.

I don't understand why more people don't get how impossibly frustrating it is for some people to have to ASK for things.. I feel trapped and helpless, what else am I supposed to do? I don't feel powerful enough to tell people what I want until I'm pushed to my limit and then I just flip OUT on someone for not offering to let me use my own computer when I get home. Seriously for the past month every time this has happened I've just sat ten feet away on my ipad without saying anything, or I'd start cleaning, or I'd go sleep in my room or something. Anything but having to say, "uhm hey.. I hope you're not busy with that game you're playing or whatever, but could I possibly use my computer now?" It's terrifying! Is it too much to ask that someone be aware of that? Or to be understanding of the fact that if I just had this conversation with them about "hey maybe you could offer to let me sit there when I get home from now on", that ALONE was very hard for me? How can they expect me to have this discussion on a daily basis..

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