Tag Archives: expats

Free Korean Lessons in Seoul

25 Dec

In 3 months I’ve mastered the following handy Korean phrases:

Yeok – Station (like subway station)

Yogi – Here

Chang nam han ya – Are you kidding me?!

An-nyeong-ha-se-yo – Hello

Ne – Yes

Ane – No

Chin sa – Really?

An-nyong-hi ga-se-yo- Goodbye

Kam-sa-ham-ni-da! – thank you

Haaaaaa chum – a loooooooong time

Impressed? I wouldn’t be either. Thankfully in February the free Korean classes I’ve heard rumors about will start-up. Hopefully, I’ll start to get a firm grasp of that aspect of native life that has forever elude those who don’t speak the language. Or at the very least I’ll be able to order take-out.

The free Korean classes start February 18th at the:

갈월 사회 복지 회관
51-19 Galwol-dong (144 Huamdong-gil), Yongsang-gu, Seoul

There are 4 levels ranging from 0-4

0 being just the alphabet and 4 for the people who can read, write and want lots of practice. Be sure to click the link for more information.

Phases and Mazes

25 Dec

My 3 months in Korea have finally lead me think long and hard about what we go through as long term travelers and expats. We all deal with long term travel/living in pretty much the same way we deal with most things in life, in phases.

First there is a level of wonder and excitement otherwise known as the “Honeymoon” phase. You want to try everything, nothing is above or beneath you. “6 people died last year eating live octopus! Really?! Well where is that slimy sucker I want to have a go!”. Or how about baring all in one of Korea’s Jimjilbang? P.S. women… you’re in for a surprise (or so I’m told). Even I’m not that ballsy yet. There is a level of intoxication you experience during those magical first 2 to 3 months in a country.

Second comes the “Rages” (or in my case the Way gook Rages), some call it culture shock but I think that’s a cop-out. I feel we should know what we’re getting into for the most part, it doesn’t mean we won’t still be in for a surprise or two. A little research does go a long way. In my case, coming to Korea I knew I probably wouldn’t be able to find my size in clothes or shoes. I also knew I couldn’t speak a lick of Korean so communication would be extremely difficult. However when you’re in the throes of ‘the Rages” the silliest most insignificant things will send you over the edge (ie the soon to be mentioned food issues or the fact peanut butter is almost $6)

Third comes the  “Adapting”, maybe your start hanging out with more foreigners or your decided you’re going to learn your new country’s language and avoid all foreigners. Whatever it is you decide to do, you end up pulling yourself out of your funk. You find yourself looking around and remembering why you decided to come all this way in the first place.

In the last phase you will fall into one of two categories:

“The Prodigal Son” phase  involves you come to terms with the fact living abroad isn’t for everyone, maybe not even for yourself, and find yourself returning home. You gave it a whirl and even after a few months of “adapting”, something is still missing. A wise person knows what makes them happy. If happiness is at home then GO HOME and don’t sit around at the clubs and bars bitching about how much you hate it here. Go home and tell your wild travel stories to your friends and family. 

However, you may “Go Native”. Pretty soon your conversing with the cashiers and even able to order food over the phone. You’ve got it made! Those language classes are finally paying off, you’ve lost 20 pound because you can only eat half of your food because it’s either too spicy or too frustrating. Then again, you could gain 20 pounds because you now have a new appreciation for adopted country’s menu. New imports will be coming to you for advice, which you should happily dole out, after all your the expert now.

Whatever phase you fall into now, there will be an end in sight.  When in doubt, chill out, you’re not the only one going through this, you will survive.

125 lbs to Seoul: 5 Words to Remember When Packing

3 Oct

There are 2 types of packers in this world: the Kitchen Sinkers and the Chemists. I am a chemist, one of those freaks who packs two weeks before the trip, then pack and re-packs and packs again. In my head I’m slowly shaving the fat and assembling the best possible suitcase. In reality my fellow compulsive packers and I are all just waiting for the inevitable moment when we put our bags on the airport scale and receive our final verdicts is.

There are 5 word that will help you in your quest for perfect packing.

1. LimitsThe only good thing about international flights, beside free wine, yes I said free wine and beer, the only thing you pay for is hard liqueur- usually. I digress, the only good thing is you can normally take  125 lbs worth of stuff with you. It’s usually two checked bags weighing no more than 50 lbs per bag, and 25 lbs in your carry-on and one personal item (purse or murse).  Here are the links for the airlines that are heading in the general direction of Korea, Korean Air and Asiana Air . The links will help you figure out your baggage limit.

2. Weather. The easiest thing to do is look up your city on weather.com or even just Wikipedia and check out the annual highs and low for each city for the month(s) you’re going. Can you get any jackets that will do double duty? Nice enough for a night out and possibly snowboarding the next day? North Face has a new line of stylish coat specifically their Grace Trench Coat that can roll up to the size of a parka but has all the stylish of your favorite Macintosh and its half the weight. 

3. Schedule. You should be honest with your self about what your planning on doing during this trip. If it’s all beaches and night clubs, then pack sundresses and flip-flops. However, if its museums, night clubs, and a side job then pack a couple nice shirts, some pants and a going out dress and heels, you get the idea. Personally, I know that as much as I enjoy the great outdoors I will be going out four to five days a week and hiking once or twice a week.  There is no reason I would need to bring five pairs of hiking pants and my hiking boots even my regular work out stuff with sneakers will be just fine. From what I’ve heard Seoul is a city that dresses to the nines 24/7. You should also see how everyone else is dressing before you go if you can. It may sound a very conformist but from what I’ve heard if I dressed the way I do in Seattle in Seoul I would look like a bum. I understand to each his own and all that nonsense but in some countries this isn’t just an issue of fashion.  I am talking about a country’s traditions and views. In many countries all over the world personal appearance is a matter of pride for people. They do not wear ratty t-shirts, and they’ll wonder why you insist on doing so. How you dress can also help you when it comes to security as well. With many crooks targeting travelers it helps to disgust yourself as much like a local as possible not flashing around that fancy new phone or camera helps as well.

4. Duration. This is more for the backpacker question but for me a one year TESOL contract is just the way it is. You definitely want to think about how many seasons your going to go through.  Also you should know if you’ll be able to buy the clothes you’ll need in the country your going. I’ve heard it’s a problem for busty women and giant guys (or vice versa) in asian countries. My rule of thumb is for 6 months+ of travel bring enough clothes for 3 weeks. But when you have more that 2 seasons to pack for I say, for every 7 days you pack for 2 of those should be season specific.

To review the duration equation is:

(7 outfits x 3 weeks) = outfits for <6 months 

[ (5 outfits x 3 weeks)- (2 seasonal outfits x 3 weeks) ] = outfits for <6 months for variable seasons            

Total Days Traveling/2 (or 3 if your feeling really bold)                                                            

5. Money. Not really a rule but an undeniable truth. I don’t know how many times I found cool items at St Vinny’s and other local charity shops for next to nothing. Items that you can guarantee will always be available these are also items you DON’T NEED TO PACK. These “always available” items are typically jeans, shirts, or dresses. Even Helen Mirren shops at charity shops when she goes abroad.

ESL Part 3: Visa Application

11 Sep

Once you receive your issuance number your ready for your application.

  1. Visa Application (and sometimes Interview)

I foolishly thought because I received my issuance number I was all set and my plane ticket was on the way, I was unfortunately mistaken. Your issuance letter is what you need to apply, and believe it or not just because you receive you issuance letter does not mean your guranteed to receive an E-2 visa. It’s all part of the application (which is conveniently linked below).


After filling out the application and attaching a passport sized photo, you will want to run it down to the near South Korea Consulate or pop it in the mail addressed to the Consulate ASAP- do not walk-RUN! TIME IS TICKING AWAY! Below is a link to the current consulates in the U.S (as of 9/10/11).


You may also need to interview and or bring a copy of your transcripts. I personally didn’t not need to to either, but its best to be prepared.  I’ve heard the interviews can go from a few minutes to 30 minutes and can cover the obvious, “why do you want to go to Korea?”, to “what is your teaching experience?” and even “do you enjoy taking drugs?”.

On Tuesday I dropped off my application in person to the lovely ladies at the Korean Consulate in Seattle with my $45 (remember cash or money order only).  I waited about 3 days and picked it up this past Friday. After you’ve gotten over the shock of seeing your visa and holding it in your hot little hands, its best to letting you school/recruiter know your visa number ASAP. I received my travel itinerary over the weekend. Because I left things so late I only have about 2 weeks till I leave, I’ve found most people have between 4 to 8 weeks. So now its time to get some farewell drinks in before you head off.

P.S. Learn Korean!

Now that the hard parts are over its time to try to learning as much as you can because no one like being the a**hole who can’t even say “hello” or “thank you”. With a quick trip to iTunes you can find plenty of FREE ESL podcasts and lessons. Most with come with links to websites where they want you to pay  for more lessons. That being said it’s still cheaper than Rosetta Stone. Since I’m a cheap-skate I opted for KoreanClass101.com, the website is great and the dialogue shows up on my iTouch while I’m listening. So far I can say:

Hello: Ahn-nyung-ha-se-yo

Thank you: Kam-sam-nida

Korean BBQ: Bul-go-gi

Delicious: Mas-is-seo

It’s a work in progress…

Back in the U.S.AAAAAAA

25 Apr

cooplands on my days off

hollyoaks, emmerdale, home and way, neighbours, corrie

pints and the old men that drink ’em

cheap flights to europe

train trips to leed and other places

british music (kaiser cheifs, VV brown, klaxons, etc.)

duvet days

ham and cheese toasties

cheeze and onion toasties

knowing people

trips to my favorite surf shops


the beach





double decker buses

gossiping and texting with my friends

emailing with louise

dinners/lunch with nicole

going out with sarah (first person to ever get me to wear a dress out to a club!)

steak pasties

rugby games with mark and lucy

over salted and over starched meals

potatoes (I swear they don’t taste the same)

nights out in the ‘boro

whirl-wind-never-thought-it-would-ever-happen weekends away

Europe Pt deax: the REAL adventure

19 Apr


Milano continues…

18 Apr

so this is supposed to be about Milan but Paris is still nagging at me- I’ve fallen hard and I know its because nothing like this has ever happened to be before.


If I go back seeing him will be top on my list and thats just something I can’t lie to myself about. But I dont’ know if thats a good idea- one of 2 things is going to happen: a. I’m going to go and met him and see the sight and just be smitten all over again or b. its going to be shit and I’m going to hate it and never want to come back.

If with the amount of time I’m taking to think about it, I’m feeling drained.

If there was a soundtrack to paris it would be:
Eyes on fire: blue foundations
When you touch me: freemasons
Love Story: Taylor Swift
your Love: the outfield

So apparently I’m the only loser who goes to bed early. I’m just not stoked about traveling alone after having a weekend with someone. you know? Ugh! I was so amped abotu doing Paris on my own and then whatever happened happened and then the next day I just felt like one half of 2 out on my own for the day but I knew I’d be able to go back to being one. If that makes any sense at all. God you can really tell I’ve been lone for most of my life.

So laying in my cam bed in the coolest hostel I’ve ever been to i realized this trip may have been a huge mistake. Cramming 3 trips into 3 weeks leaving 3 days between each may have been a huuuuge mistake. I love traveling but I also looove sleeping.

I think the best way I travel is moving to a place and then getting some non-career job. i’ve noticed at the jobs you meet the nicest people- the REAL people who will invite you out and you can go out and have a fab time the way the locals do, like working at the ambassador I had the best summer!!! really just awesome nights out! at the mansion house- no so much.

Anyways- back to Milano-I’m in the suburbs about a 10 minute walk from Loreto- so tommorrow I’m going to the Duomo and see everything else tommorrow. So far the best part of Italy has been the people. The 2 old guys in the watch store and Christina the baker 🙂 But like a said it the suburbs- I’ve started noticing the big city centers are the same everywhere- full of non- locals and all trying to be from the city their now living it. It sound hypocritical but I hate that. I love the culture big cities offer, muesums, great sights and stuff but uuugh if I wanted to get proposioned by a guy from Argentina and Uganda I’D GOTO THOSE COUNTRIES!!! Just LEAVE ME ALONE!!!!

Ah! whatever- tommorrow will be better and i’ll get to see the Castello and hopefully take some amazing pics!!!

In he back of my head I keep thinking about Paris (the louvre, Pantheon, Catacombs and Versailies)- alll of it! You know when something is just nagging at you? Paris is nagging at me, like you didn’t already know this. I’m going- no more dancing around it- I’m foregoing Barcelona for Paris and who knows what else?! I just need to get my tickets and hostel booked and I’ll be sorted!

Ciao Bella! Milano

30 Mar

Paris is for Lovers

22 Mar

Traveling to somewhere on the cheap is always a challenge. Even more so in big city, however
large and world renowned city this can be difficult especially
as they’re museums, cultural delicacies, and sights that sometimes you may or may not want to
“just take a picture” of. But with a little planning and alot fo patience anything is possible.
And as cheesy as it sounds you never know who your going to meet and who will help you along the

This is a story about love in Paris.

It was an unusual warm sunning day in noth yorkshire. I’d been freaking about this trip to paris for weeks! Especially after
watching the movie ” Taken” with Liam Nesson. i had a contigence plan that included a detailed itenerary of exactly what
sites we were seeing and in what order, what i would be packing to where, and all my parents (In the USA) contact details

So with a rock in my gut i went boarded the train to leeds. After about 10 minutes of listening to my instant immersion
french I gave up- if i don’t have it now I never will. Frustrated at my late of discipline, I’d known I was going for the
last month and a half. By the time I boarded the bus I was in panic mode- “what if no body speaking english, omg they’re going to hate me! I am the ugly American!”. Or worse, what if they think I’m british, I’d recently perfected my “Ferne Cotton” look alike wardrobe. The flight went off with relative ease and like the tourist I am I was taking pictures of the tarmac and myself in the seat. For the best deals head to Jet2.com. 50 pound return… you can’t ask for much more.

After flying over the Paris it just hit me! THE LIGHTS! It really is just lik ethat U2 song! The city is just covered in tight and tidy rows! Again I have to give props to Jet2 on and off the plane in 15 mins. Seriously I urge everyone to be a carry on only traveler- especially given the current extra baggage fees.

So as a carry on only travel I hussled right off the plane and didn’t have to faff about with any baggage issues. Coincidentally every time I’ve had to check luggage on any airline something has always gone wrong- its a curse. So the first thing I do when I get to the airport is ask the first person I see if they speak English, in English- what an ass.

So a short walk, and a quick shit in my pant after seeing some French soldiers and carrying massive machine gun I’m at terminal 3, where the metro to take you into town is.

Its a little freaky to be honest. But anything in a city your not familiar with after dark would be.

There was a dangerously cute Parisian guy on the train in a green skunk funk jacket … big teeth, dribbly shaped nose, sad eyes, sullen cheeks, and greasy floppy hair. Unfortunately he was sitting next to an equally chic blond woman with blond razored hair cut and wet look legging- pain fully skinny but working the Paris- rock n roll chic look quite well! Topping off the look with some monochrome funky addidas sneakers. They quickly departed in to the night when I reached Gard Noord, the first real place to run off the RER and get the metro. This interchange will get you into the city, when you get into the Paris.

The most important thing you should remember about he transportation system is the metro will get you anywhere in the city but the RER will get you to the suburbs and Versailles so if you find you self on the bottom on the station with no where else to go, head up. If you jump on the wrong train with the wrong pass, if the ticketing agents (who I didn’t see any of) don’t catch you, it will still be a hefty price back. Not that I got to find that out as I had my first brush with French politics as an ATC strike shut down the trains to Versailles and kept the Louvre doors closed.

After jumping off at the Gard de Noord (North Train Station) I had to ask fro directions and then I headed up a level to the 4 to Bardes DeRochescourt, little did I know it was in the shitty part of town where all the drug dealers (big black guys/ little white thugs, as I was later told- some things are sadly universial). As I got off the train and ran like the child I am to see and smell the Parisain air I’d been dreaming about I got a whiff of what reminded me of Bourbon street on Good Friday, and what looked like a scene from the 9th ward in New Orleans, a place where my dad and I had gotten lost one night when looking for Tipatina’s so he could sneak me in to see the Psychedelic Furs :-), a fruitless journey but fun none the less . So I was definitely a little freaked but I’d see worst, even if it had been from the confines of my dad’s SUV, but I’m was 24 yrs old damn it not 16 and I was seeing “the real” Par-ee. So I asked a normal looking passer by where the hostel was and she said across the street and over- not too far if I wanted to walk in front of the creepy french g-sta’s so I walked around. But about every 5 ft I saw a group or a person that looked like trouble so I kept my head down and eyes up and looked for my hostel. I did look up when someone said something to me, and then they proceeded to say something that even in another language you knew was dirty. Then I looked up and scowled and they followed me to the hostel doors getting louder and louder.

The hostel reception didn’t seem to mind or care about me or the creeps at the door. I went to my room when my roommate from Madrid and I had a weird but funny conversation due to my lack of French and her lack of English- Spanish was our only real sort of way to communicate and even 5 minutes in I was wishing I’d not used the online translator for the majority of my Spanish homework. An Asian couple came in next. The room had its own bathroom but I was too tired and had forgot to wear sock or bring pjs so I was just going to sleep in my clothes- until I realized just how freakin hot it was in the room -ugh!

So after in a fit of heat induced rage I pulled my jeans off and got settle just to start hearing that damn snoring and as I kicked my leg out in frustration I kicked my jeans off the bed…. idiot….

The whole night between the Asian man HIDEOUS snoring and the spanish girl slapping the wall to make him shut up or at least get the hint to shut up I didn’t really get to sleep, but at least I had my shower to look forward to and on a whole the room was totally clean- mattress, sheets… everything. So 4am hit and I’m bursting, but like a moron I’ve picked the top bunk on a bunk bed with a person I don’t want to piss off below me, and I’m in a tee shirt and undies. This whole trip I was totally conscious of not wanting to be the ugly American. And I don’t care what your social bountries are in your culture I didn’t need anyone catched a glimmer of my anything in the pale moon light that lit that purple sweat box of a room up!

I waited, sleeping in 10 minute increments for Madrid girl to wake up so I could ask for my “pantalones” and to “vamo el bano”, but I ended up getting my pant and then she rushed off to the loo. So I sat there holding it for at least 20 minutes, I wish I could have wet by self- really, some times I wish it were socially acceptable, however I’d only brought one pair of pants so this was just unfeasible.

The shower was just what I needed and I got ready,packed up my crap and took off out in the world! PARIS!!!!!!!!


I went to the kebab place next door, which I’d read on the internet had the best kebab anywhere in the world. And again I was wishing I’d not given up so quickly on my itunes French lessons. The kebab shop had something that looked vaguely like a really deformed pancake crossaint thathad been fried, it was deliecous and only 3 euros (including one of the best coffees i’d ever had. The more I looked around the kebab shop it looked like one of those dive cafes you see Tony Soprano and his entourage at in the wee hours of the morning. I thought I may have once again, been in the wrong place at the wrong time. I couldn’t tell if they were Greek or Algerian, or some other nationality in southern Mediterranean or Northern Africa. They were nice enough but hadan air that said they belonged there, defanitely not the kind of restaurant/cafe where they over compliment you and are deperate for you to know they need you patronage and acceptance. Watching the old men (all 50+ walk in and out and the younger men come in and head to the back of the restaurant you had to wonder what was going on. In the 20 minutes or so I’d been out there I’d seen at least at least 4-5 guy going in the back an stay back there, all well dressed street wise, and plenty of jewelry. The best was the grandpa looking guy doing all the cooking, seemingly harmless but could have easily been a mafiaso boss.


Before heading to gay Par-ee I’d tried to make an itinerary with all the sight (Eiffel, Arc, Champs, Cimt. De Pere- jim morrison, versailles, lourve, pantheon, bastille, sorbonne). I used the Time-out Paris book as much as I could thanks to its handy metro station map. I headed to St. Michel first to catch the RER out to Versailles.

After about 20 minutes of waiting, another American tourist came up to me asking about versailles. He was either gay or very well spoken and wearing a chicago bears t-shirt and a huge bagpack that screamed TOOOURIST. The more I was talking to him the more annoyed I became with American’s and really started to doubt how much I would be able to put up with it all when I got back. But back the trains, he told me the attendent said it wasn’t running and she told me “technically it was”- the guide book said get on the vick or vero trains…. there were none on the departures board and thanks to my handy-dandy O2 blackberry the Versailles website said they would be open were as the lourve website said they would be shut due to the strike- and eager to tell anyone who would listen that he was

I’m so in love! The city is amazing! it makes you want to fall in love! Had a fabulous time-better than fabulous- they had this huge strike so the louvre and Versailies was closed so i went and saw all the other sites. When when I was searching for Jm Morrisons grave in the Cimitere du Pere i met this guy- he totally just starting speaking in french to me and and I just smiled and nodded like you do and then i tried speaking french and it just kinda snowballed!The rest of the day was me trying to speak french and him doing okay with the english, we did the Sacer Coure, so amazing! my favorite spot in all of Paris! And then he’s proceeded to eat my face- almost literally LOL, and ya it was a little too agressive for my taste but he seemed well into it hahah. It felt extremely wrong and then just felt right. When in Paris, right?… why not make out with a cute french man! (and he was older too… 30 😉 lol! But in all fair need the guy did butter me up before going in for the kill… its was wild and weird and crazy and completely random! So then we got dinner and went for a walk along the Siene and then I decided I wanted to see the Eiffel Tower at night- so we jumped on the metro and high talled in to the Tower. When we get there and its complete dark by then so we ended up making out for a couple hours in front of the Tower… dude it was just picture perfect – like a god damn movie!!!! I keep thinking I’ve hallucenated it! From the time I met him to the time we went our separate ways- it was just soooo unexpected and fantastic. It was almost too perfect, especially considering when I first met him I thought he was one of thsoe creepy guys that preys on tourist like in that new Liam Nesson movie “Taken” which is why I didn’t get into the specifics and lied about everything (said I was with 5 other girls and guys and then pretended to check my phone saying they’d been texting me so they knew where i was)- because in reality I went to paris completely on my own. So when we were laying on the stairs at the sacre clour i was like sooo have you seen this movie and I describe the movie “taken” and then he was like ohhh… and then there was this light bulb and he’s like, “do you think I’m going to take you?” and I was like “vous me dire” (you tell me) and then he got all serious and was like ” if you wish” and then gave me this killer grin… ahhh! I could have melted into a puddle of mush! LOL! I seriously laughed for like 5 minutes bc i was just soooo embarassed… I don’t think he got it lol- then I was like okay, well let me see some id. And he busted out his bus pass, work ID’s and everything- and everything he told me corrolated with his ID’s, he conducts medical trial testing for this University Dierot something something- its over by the sorbonne- he said doctor but when he was describing what he did it sounded like a research type of doctor not a hospital type. Wheeeeeeew- Paris was amazing.

On my way to the airport my pass had apparently expired (even tho it wasn’t supposed to) the night before and thankfully it was 5am and no one was a around so in frustration I jumped the gate and hopped on the first train to arrival which was maybe 20 seconds later 🙂

But after we say said adios… ahhhh which was just toooo perfect… he held my head in his hands and just,…. ahhh kissed me next to the St Michel metro stop (next to notre dame)…. my heart hurts just talking about it- just one of those kisses that makes your lips be all plumped up for hours after… omg. And then he wrote his number on my hand kissed it and said good bye- I honest to god felt like I was in a movie, I almost wanted to cry (I’m pathetic I KNOW)- THINGS LIKE THIS JUST DON’T HAPPEN TO ME… if it was a movie tho i’d have a way better wardrobe- god i looked like a hobo- theres pic of him in paris album on here.

So I stayed up all night in this cafe next to the St. Michel metro stop “Cafe depart” and people watched and chatted with the waiters, wrote some postcards, the usu.

but holy crap!

On my way to the airport my pass had apparently expired (even tho it wasn’t supposed to) the night before and thankfully it was 5am and no one was a around so in frustration I jumped the gate and hopped on the first train to arrival which was maybe 20 seconds later 🙂