Sunday, July 25, 2010

New Layout

I woke up quite early today. Evidently God really wants me to be on time for church. Aaand jet lag helped me wake up, too.

Anyway, I have tweaked the blog around, giving it a new look.

Do you like it???

If you have difficulty reading it, post a comment, so that I can change things around.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

First Impressions

I have safely arrived in Korea.

It's been a been a bit over 24 hrs since I arrived, and I definitely have a ways to go before I feel comfortable? familiar? confident? in my surroundings. Not gonna lie, I feel like a total dork/loser walking around on the street. In Korean, the phrase for that is "Chashin opsoyo" trans. "I have no confidence." Sooo I need to make some friends. Soon.

Anyway, I have the weekend to myself - time to acclimate and explore, though I haven't done much exploring yet. I'm not certain where I'll go to church tomorrow, I have a few options, but I'm trying to decide whether I want to meet more Korean or more foreigner/ex-pat/American people at church... Either way, I'll have to brave the subway... Not that I don't enjoy subways, or whatnot, but I'm going to have to know my stops, etc.

So far, I haven't done too much, but I'll tell you how things have gone, anyway.

To quote Maria from The Sound of Music, "Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start..."

It was a very late night before I left - I think I fell asleep around 2ish. KK, as per my request, woke me up around 5:15. There was some last minute packing, saying goodbye to Gram, eating some breakfast, then we (me, Mom, Dad, and KK) went to the airport. As is somewhat expected, there was some re-packing at the airport to get the suitcases at the right weight. However, everything fit in somewhere, so nothing had to be sent home. The flight to Atlanta was uneventful, but I did enjoy the On-Demand entertainment - making a tidy little playlist that I listened to for most of the flight. One of the songs was Jai Ho from the film Slumdog Millionaire - I've determined that Jai Ho was my theme song for the trip - it played several times in my head, along with another song...

The layover in Atlanta wasn't bad at all. When I went to the Korean Air counter to get my ticket/boarding pass, the agent hooked me up with a more spacious window seat as opposed to the middle seat I was initially to get. My last meal in the States was an Arby's Beef n Cheddar Melt with a medium Jamocha shake. (I do love Arby's, even though they do top their Beef n Cheddar Melt buns with onions...) I met a few people in the airport waiting for the plane, one family of four, and a Filipino mother with her son (who were on the flight to ATL, too - they've lived in the States for several years and were en route to visit her family).

It turned out that the gate agent's good intentions were in vain - when I got to my seat, the passenger who was to sit next to me asked if I could switch with her friend so that they could sit together. I was a little grumpy about losing the extra space, but I went ahead and switched, moving up 6 rows to another aisle seat. Naturally, it was a providential switch, and the girl sitting next to me was also moving to Korea to work for YBM (my company), but in Daegu. We were going to exchange contact information, but I wanted to give her one of my calling cards, which were packed overhead somewhere, and after I had corralled my carry-ons and disembarked from the plane, she had already gone on to her connecting flight. Hopefully, we'll still be able to get in contact some way.

I'll insert here that the Korean Air flight attendants are very helpful and polite: For example, as I was stowing my bulky-and-heavy-but-still-carry-on-size bags, the attendant insisted on helping me find a place for my first bag, then encouraged me to allow her to find a place for my second bag instead of keeping it under the seat in front of me so that I could have room for my legs to stretch out. I really appreciated the thoughtfulness.

The plane was warm throughout the trip - not very good news for me, as I had worn pants that aren't very good for warm weather in anticipation of a cooler plane. It was not exactly uncomfortable, just warm. Most of my flying time was spent watching movies: Date Night, Invictus, The Spy Next Door, and Valentine's Day. For the record, Valentine's Day was lame. Invictus, however, which I watched on Dad's recommendation, was very good, not only am I now more able to appreciate the strides South Africa has made (even though there is still a long way to go), but I now want to watch a real rugby game. The rest of my flying time was spent chatting with Kelly (the other new YBM teacher), listening to another playlist, and, sometimes, catnapping.

I got through passport control and baggage collection without too much trouble (except for those heavy carry-ons that didn't always cooperate with what I mentally ordered them to do...), and learned upon meeting my school's manager that we were going to stay awhile at the airport because the other new foreign teacher was arriving in another 1 1/2 - 2 hrs. In the meantime, I settled in before a display TV showing clips of StarKing, a Korean variety show. I also had an iced tea, courtesy of Mr Choi (the manager). When the other teacher arrived, it hit me that I had packed like a girl. Here I was, with 4 heavy suitcases on a luggage cart, and there he was, with one larger suitcase, a backpack, and one small (and I do mean small) carry-on rolly bag (rolly bag = suitcase with wheels). I have no idea how he fit everything in, or how our concepts of "everything" compare.

We drove to Hwajeong (the area where we will be living), which was about a half-hour trip (I think), and in the meantime I learned that Hwajeong isn't part of the city of Ilsan, but part of the city of Gokyang/Kokyang, and Ilsan is another part of Gokyang. I really need to find a good map to get all of that... Moving on... We drove past the hotel and made a circuit of the area, while Mr Choi pointed out significant places: stores, restaurants, and the school. Upon entering my room, I was confronted with a new reality: house shoes. I'm still getting into the habit of wearing them around and switching from regular house shoes to bathroom shoes/sandals.

The house shoes and the bathroom shoes

I'm still getting the hang of the whole "insert picture" thing...

I've also been confronted with another reality (for now): No A/C. I think you have to pay extra to use the A/C, which requires a remote control, and we didn't get A/C remotes. Right now, Korea is humid and warm, with highs in the upper 80s and lows in the mid 70s... yeah, it's not super comfortable...

There is also a very interesting shower - there are no shower walls - just a large corner tub with a shower head. It took some adjustment...

Some of you may be asking "Why are you in a hotel?" Well, it's really more of a motel, evidently, but it's because we (we here means myself and the other new teacher) will be moving into our apartments on Tuesday.

Anyway, we got our luggage into our respective rooms and when asked, I confessed that I was in fact hungry, so Mr Choi took us to a nearby Paris Baguette Cafe (a small version of Paris Baguette - a bakery, etc. chain in Korea), where we picked out sandwiches (mine was a BLT), and popsicles (green tea flavor! Yum.), then returned to the hotel. Mr Choi will pick us up on Monday at 11 with our large luggage (I think it's mostly b/c of me) so that we won't have to wrestle it out on Tuesday (instead we'll wrestle it out on Monday...), but until then, we are at our leisure. (The idea is that we recover from jet lag, I think.)

My ideas for going out and exploring fell by the wayside today - I wound up waking up around 8, trying to sleep longer, getting up around 9, putzing around all morning, eating the sandwich and drinking some instant coffee, discovering that I could get a wifi signal, then sleeping from about 1-3:30. I had set an alarm for 2:00, but the program didn't sense the new time setting, so I just woke up at my leisure.

After I got up, I watched some tv, then went out. My primary visit was to "E-Mart", Korea's version of Wal-Mart. I think it should be called Sigma Mart, and I will probably call it that around friends I've explained it to...

Tell me that ----> is not a Sigma!

Anyway, at E-mart, I managed, through the language barrier, to order some food and then made the mistake of mixing everything up, spreading the chili sauce everywhere. Next time, when I'm asked for how much hot I want, I am replying "opsayo" or "none" for now. Anyway, despite the fact that I really hate wasting food, I couldn't finish and left a regrettably large amount of food uneaten. Afterward, I found my way downstairs to, where I found a headset (as in, microphone and headphones) for 8,000 (Won, not dollars) and an umbrella, which is a pretty blue plaid, for 11,000. I considered shelling out the extra 4,000 for an umbrella which opened AND closed at the push of a button, but decided to go with the cheaper option. Next time I go out, I'm bringing along a tote bag, because it was decidedly uncomfortable to walk around carrying my purchases under my arm. On the way back to the hotel, I stopped in again at Paris Baguette Cafe and bought another Green Tea flavored popsicle.

And it is now time for bed. I plan to leave somewhat early for church to allow time for breakfast, transit, and finding the place, so I will finish for now. (By the way, I've decided to go to a church where I'll meet Americans.)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Leaving on a Jet Plane

I should really stop writing these when I'm tired, but this post has been building in my head for awhile, and I suppose there's no time like the present... 'cause there may or may not be a good point in the near future for writing. Carpe momentum, I suppose.

I'm leaving next Wednesday.

It's still surreal to say and think that in a little over one week, my life is going to dramatically change.

I was cutting out pretty pictures to use for decorating in Korea, and thought, 'I think I like these pictures because I really want to travel. No, duh. You're going to be using these in KOREA. That IS travelling!' It was mildly amusing to a. be talking with myself (which kinda happens often, not gonna lie...) and b. realize that I was still thinking about travelling when I am about to travel.

One of the things on my 'to do' list is to sort my things and either
a. get rid of
b. pack away
c. pack to take along
everything I own... pretty much. It's not an intimidating task, not at all, certainly not intimidating enough for me to put it off for a good 2 months... of course not... Okay, so I just really got started today. I've decided that I need more sleep and more iron because I was definitely doing caffeine today to keep working. (If you know my caffeine habit, you'd know that it's pretty much nonexistent - I try to avoid caffeine dependence as best as I can.) Of course, all the sleep in the world won't help much if you're low in iron, which I often am - Iron deficiency is often responsible for why girls feel tired easily, and often attributed to lack of sleep (according to a website produced by some branch of the British government). I guess I'll be popping some iron pills tonight, 'cause we're cleaning the garage tomorrow. Whoopee... About as fun as cleaning my own room, but Mom wants to get it done while J and I are still in town/in the country/on the continent of North America. I will also be given the opportunity to mow the lawn one more time before I leave (Read: Mowing the lawn is not something I particularly enjoy and something I avoid if I can.)

Madeline's version of an advertisement/product plug:
This is the part of the blog post where I throw in the fact that I love this stuff called cooling powder. Yeah. I discovered it because of my thing for the Korean band Super Junior, who were part of a funny commercial to promote/endorse a particular brand (naturally the brand I use now ^_^). Watch the commercial here. ^_^ When I watched it, I thought, 'If that stuff really works, I could use it in China! Wait a minute, I live in Florida, for Heaven's sake! I'm in the perfect place to be using cooling powder.' To make a story short(er), I found an ebay seller in Thailand who carried the right brand, etc, and bought a bottle. I was in l.o.v.e. It works, no lie. When I mow the lawn (sometimes I really can't avoid it) in the Florida heat, a cold shower really won't cool me down all the way, but once I put on the cooling powder after drying off most of the way, I am coooool. Like I said, I love the stuff, and if you live in a warm climate (or something... it's nice for summer, too), I would encourage you to check it out.
[End of advertisement/product plug. Note: I am not sponsored or paid in any way by the company 12 Plus. I just think that if you find something that works, you should share it.]

I visited Atlanta last week - I was required by the Korean Consulate for the Southeast to appear in person for an interview with the Consul to get my teaching visa. It was really something God was working in, of course. I took Greyhound to get there - the cheapest short-notice flights I could find were about 300 round trip (And the little bank account said "Ouch!"), Greyhound was 145 round trip (And the little bank account said, "That isn't as painful!"). I stayed with the Hildebrand family, who are connected with CCC (I actually stayed with them as part of a group en route to the Student Global Impact conference in Detroit). Now, I don't really like asking people I don't know very well for favors (although my sisters have called me 'demanding' on occasion. Ouch.), but I think God was using this trip to say, 'Madeline, your pride really doesn't matter. You need to be willing to ask people for help, even if you don't feel like you're in a position to ask.' It turned out really well. The Hildebrands are super hospitable, and I was pretty much absorbed into the action. Because I stayed with them, I also got to help out some with the soccer camp at Killian Hill Baptist Church (the Hildebrands home church, also the home church of several others who go to CCC), and I got to know the ladies who prepare the delicious food for the staff meal every night - I re-learned how to play Hand and Foot (it had been 7 years since I last played it), and enjoyed the fellowship. (I also had to grin whenever they said, "If you can move to Korea in two weeks, you can _____." :-D) The visa was obtained without difficulty (Praise God!), and I returned safely to Clearwater via Greyhound (And MARTA, Atlanta's rail transit system). During the last three hours of the through-the-night trip, I talked with a fellow by the name of Max. Pray for him.

It was weird to get home and be so close to leaving and not have Dad home. He returns from Cambridge a few days before D-Day (I suppose here D-Day is Departure Day). It'll be good to see him. Yeah, I'm a Daddy's girl.

I mentioned my 'to-do' list earlier, and another job on it is 'write thank you cards'. I'm not an ingrate... I just haven't sat down to finish writing the cards. Sorry that it's taken me so long, but they ARE coming! Scout's honor. (not that I ever was a scout...)

Pray for me
- that I won't be overwhelmed in preparing to go
- that I will enjoy and value the remaining time with my family
- that I won't forget something important
- that I won't pack things I really won't need
- that my family won't take our (myself and J) leaving too hard
- that I won't be overwhelmed when I arrive

Thank you, all for your prayers. (and for making it to the end of the post)