Saturday, April 25, 2009

See Visa. See Visa Run. Run Visa Run

Since my E-2 (teaching English) visa is tied directly to my employer, I need a new visa before I start at my new job. The Korean Government doesn't allow you to get a new visa in country. Instead, you need to leave the country, go to a Korean Consulate in a different country, and get the visa there. It's called a "visa run." My new employer few me to Japan and back with 11,000 Japanese yen (about $110), 39,380 Korean Won (about $30) plane tickets, a hotel reservation, and a instructions to bring back receipts: I set out on my 2 day Japanese adventure.

My first challenge is to get to the airport on time. My flight leaves at 09:30. Giving myself a 2 hour cushion, I need to be at the airport 07:30. I can catch the airport shuttle bus outside my apartment (living across the street from city hall has some advantages). I'm about a 2 hour ride away from the airport, so that means taking off at 05:30. In the morning...ugh... But to be on the safe side, I set my alarm for 04:00 and hit the hay at the abnormally early 11:00 at night.

I woke up, opened my eyes, and reached for my alarm. Just then it goes off in my hands. SWEET Who needs an alarm clock when you've got an internal clock like mine!!! I've got a lazy hour and a half to get up get ready. I admire the sunrise, start the hot water for my shower and coffee.

That's when I notice the clock of the stove.


I run and check my watch...yep I've overslept by TWO HOURS. So my for my internal alarm clock. So much for my lazy morning ritual. I grab my backpack and head downstairs.

I check the times posted for the airport shuttle bus. One bus just left and the next shuttle leaves in 45 minutes. I have 3 options: I can wait for the next shuttle, I can take the subway, or I can hail a cab. The question is am I mover or a shaker? I choose both, I shake a leg and get a move on.

I hop on the next bus to the nearest subway station. After a 20 minute bus ride, a 1:30 subway ride, and a 30 minute airport train, I'm at the airport. I've just traveled from the far east to far west side of the world's great cities in about 2 hours and for about $3.50.

Public transit rocks!

I get to the airport at about 8:30 get on the airplane at 9:10. I've learn 2 things so far.
1) I need a new alarm clock
2) A Snickers for breakfast doesn't "Really Satisfy"

The flight over to Fukuoka (the city I'm getting my Visa at). I notice a few foreigners on the shuttle to the subway way system. Before I hop on the subway, I grab a bag of peanuts. Breakfast at last!!! But sadly no receipt...

I hop on the subway with my trusty set of Visa Run instructions. I notice one of the foreigners from the airport shuttle holding the same set of South Korean consulate instructions that I have. Sweet...a partner in crime.

There are 2 ways to get to consulate. One that involves a subway stop and then walking for a mile...or...we can take an earlier stop, catch a bus, and get dropped off right in front of the consulate. We choose the option where we get dropped of right in front of the consulate (the bus option) as there there's less chance of getting lost. Right?
We hop off the subway and walk up to the terminal. My first thought is, "It's HUGE." This isn't a bus stop. It's a shopping/corporate/tourist complex/bus stop. We don't see a bus stop. We see 20 bus stops. We pick a bus stop at random and check our insturctions. This stop doesn't have any of the buses that we need. We walk 20 meters and check the next bus stop...This one has 3 of the buses that we need. We wait 10 minutes and hop on the 155 bus.

The instructions indicate that it's about a 20 minute to the Fukuoka Tower/Fukuoka Dome (whatever those are) . After 20 minutes of riding on the bus, we are at the bus station, it's the end of the line. We haven't seen anything resembling a dome or a tower. I wouldn't be surprised if we weren't in the same city anymore. We pull into the bus station and the driver indicates that this is the end of the line.


My companion walks up to the bus driver and asks him where the tower is.

He gives us a blank stare.

She decides to switch the the universal language...pointing at the map.

She whips out the map and point to the tower and dome.

His eyes light up and he begins to chuckle. He begins to speak, but then realizes we won't understand him. He chuckles again.

I think I understand.

I give him the thumps up sign and jerk it over my shoulder.

He smiles, nods, bows and we groan.

WE WENT THE WRONG WAY. At least we are at a bus station. All we need to do is wait for the next 155 bus leave.

We attempt to pay, but he refuses!!! Not only that but a minute later when we are on the 155 leaving the station, he runs up and tells the bus driver where we are going. What an awesome guy!!!

Let's see...we got the the consulate, submitted the paperwork, and walked around town. She checked into hostile and I went and found my hotel. I checked into my undersized room and fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

I woke up and brushed my teeth the the complimentary tooth brush. When I say tooth brush...I mean a brush so small that is only big enough for cleaning only one tooth at a time. I head down to the first floor restaurant for the complimentary breakfast. I submit my meal ticket, pour myself a cup of coffee, sit down, and wait for my meal.

The next hotel patron (a Japanese man) comes in, submits his meal ticket and gets served breakfast as soon as he sits down. As does the next Japanese guy and the one following him. Meanwhile, I've had 2 cups of coffee and no breakfast. It may not look like the most appealing breakfast in the world (seaweed, something that might have been fish at one point, etc) but what happened to that great Japanese service I experienced with my bus driver? But I'm hungry and will eat just about anything!

Just then, a waitress comes over and sets a plate down in front of me. I understand the delay now. On the plate are sausages, rolls, a banana, and an egg sunny side. A very American breakfast if I ever saw one. Made just for me.

I took some pictures of a Buddhist temple that I found picking up my visa via the "scenic route" I took.

I can't much else on my trip is worth writing home about.

Well, there is one more thing. I arrived at the Incheon airport and proceeded to look around for the signs to the train back into Seoul. While I was waiting, I got hassled by 3 taxi drivers itching for fares. Apparently, my white skin and the backpack I was wearing screamed tourist as opposed to "I live here."

P.S. Oh and I went to a parade and moved.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Another One Bites the Dust

Six months ago there were 120 students that paid to attend our after-school English Academy. Now, the school has only 90 students. After Wednesday, the school will react to the natural consequence of losing 25% of it's customers. A 25% reduction of it's teachers.

Or more

I've been laid off.

However, with the help of my boss and the franchise of schools that my school is a part of, I already have a new job lined up. After a brief, free and legally necessary trip to Japan (visa laws...), I will start my new job next week.

My address will change (the reason I've been anti-mail this month) The scenery will change. My students will change. My co-workers will change. My classroom (the picture) will change.

Lots of change...and much will remain the same.

I will still live on the outskirts of Seoul. I will still be teaching English. I will still have to dry my clothes on a rack (rather than in a dryer). I will still call "sushi" well that's "gim bap", "won tons" those are "mandu" , and "bacon" tasty tasty bacon is "sam gip sal"

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

So apparently they had the Olympics in Korea at one point. I kept seeing signs for this Olympic Park when I hopped on the bus. So on Saturday, I decided to go exploring.

I took the bus to the mall and walked about a mile down the road. There was a giant park in the middle of Seoul. I can't say I remember much from when I was 8....but I'm fairly certain I don't remember watching the Olympics. (ok for the record I don't remember much of anything...ever...)

So I walked around the park for a few can see from the sky that it was a beautifully, smoggy day. After enjoying the weather, I stopped by the bookstore in the mall, picked up a few books and headed home. This was most of what I had planned for the weekend.

And then I got a phone call.

My British friend (that teaches in central South Korea) was visiting Seoul (which is in northern South Korea) and want to know if I wanted to hang I didn't have any back on the bus I go...down into the depths of the emerge at Seoul City Hall. cell phones make meeting friends just a wee bit easier...especially in a city of 10 million people. So my friend is meeting her Amercian friend from Australia in Seoul ( that...2 British English American working in Australia)

They are going to a musical (called "Miso")...well sure...why I grab a ticket and we catch dinner.

Now, I'm not a big fan of musicals to begin sitting thru something that in a different language is not on top of my list. I ended up watching the band play more that anything else. I was almost thru the entire thing...when 2 of the drummers got up and started walking in the audience.

So one of the drummers picked a random Korean girl and brought her up on stage. How do I know she was random...and not some plant that just pretended to be surprised? ...Because they picked me too!!!! For the record I did not volunteer and I am definitely not a plant!!!

They drag me on stage and have me take part in a twirling plate-thingies on a stick thing they were doing. It looked a lot harder when they were doing it. After that part of the show, they finally let me back to my seat....but not before giving me a bamboo pipe.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

In Defence of Y'all

So one of the natural consequences of teaching English is that you very aware of all the weird little things about the English language that drive everyone else crazy. Things that never caught my attention when I glanced over it in reading or writing.

One of the worst is the lack of a plural form of you...Hold on I will explain.

When we talk about different people using verbs....we alter the verb to fit our relationship to whatever we are talking about. Most of us do this as second nature. Think about the following statements.

I am happy.
You are happy.
He (she/it) is happy.

There's nothing wild...nothing crazy about these sentences...and yet at the same time notice the change in the verb. It went from "am" to "are" to "is" depending on who was happy. Again...this we do this without even thinking.

But one thing you will notice about the 3 sentences above is that they only talk about one person. "I", "you", "he", "she", and "it" Well, that's easy enough to fix.

He/She/It turns into "They"

I turns into "We"

You we have a problem!!!

There is no plural form of you. Oh sure you can use you again....but that is awkward and strange sounding. (but is strangely enough grammatically correct) (I first learned about this in Spanish class a decade ago in high school...but like everything in high school I promptly forgot it...they have a little thing called the "ustedes" version of verbs)

So what to do....what to do...

Well I grew up using "you guys". Which works...but has downside of using the word "guys" Well, in our new age new found age of post-modern-neo-uber-feminism...any reference to a girl using the word guy is going to start offending someone...and quick. Instead we need to find a new word or words that work whenever a teacher addresses their students.

I'm choosing Y'ALL !!!

It's short, sweet and people from all over American already use it. Now the problem with it is that is not considered "proper" English. Says who! The same people that let one sixth of the English langauge remain broken for hundreds of years? They say it's not correct? Well then let them propose a fix before they start complaining!!! That's the beauty of languages...they evolve. We do not speak in the same way as people did 100 years ago... and they didn't speak the same was people 2o0 years did. So with all the changes that has happened in the past hundreds of years... NO ONE HAS FIXED ENGLISH.

Well some people have at least. Those crazy southerns fixed English years ago...we've been too blind to see it.

So the next time you see someone watching a car drive in a circles for hours and hours and hours....know something. Their language has evolved and yours has not.

Oh...and the picture. Almost the same view as last week's picture...but taken from about 4 steps back. That is the room I've called home for almost 2 months now. Hardwood floors...rock hard bed...and a little laptop I use to keep in touch with the rest of the world.