Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Greetings from the East

I have arrived! In one piece, with no problems J I am currently at orientation at Jeonju University, in Jeonju City, doin the damn thing. So far, things have been kind of a blur. My roommate is cool, internet is working, Korean TV is entertaining, the humidity is...high.

Feelings so far? It's hard to say. Now that I have internet access, I do feel better, as it was making me kind of anxious not being able to talk to friends and family and let them know that I'm okay. That, the jet lag, and the jam-packed orientation schedule was making me feel just exhausted, mentally and physically. Today feels better, as I slept like 9 hours and I think my jet lag is just about gone, and I'm getting into the step of things. I was e-mailed by the teacher I'm replacing at my school in Busan, and she let me know almost everything I'll need to know about my apartment/school/grades I'll be teaching/etc. Super helpful! Except that my new co-teacher would like me to make an appointment at the immigration office for the day I arrive, and the website is entirely in Korean. Yikes! Another unnecessary stress factor that I would like to eliminate as soon as possible!

I do really miss my fam and friends. It's only been 2 days and I already can't wait to talk to them on Skype. Orientation classes start today, which is good, because I am feeling very intimidated right now. It seems like so many of the people here are not nervous at all and I feel like I am the only one who feels like a deer in the headlights. I have taught a bit before, but I've never had a job outside of school so not only is this my first time really teaching, it's also my first real job so I am beyond nervous. I remember my first job (hostess at a restaurant in high school) and the first day when they tried to explain everything to me; I immediately felt confused and terrified because I thought Oh my god, I can't do this. But I had to do it, and eventually it became easy and habit. I'm expecting this will be a similar experience, and I hope to do as much prep work as I can to make it a little less painful. First stop: Make a powerpoint!

In other news, I need to learn Korean on the double. Last night I went with my roommate (who is ethnic Korean and speaks some) to the cafe across the street, and felt too intimidated to say 'Lemonade.....kamsahamneda', so she ordered for me (using many more words than I could have concocted). That feeling of dependency and total ineptitude on my part brought memories of being younger, before I could speak Spanish well, and visiting El Salvador. I had to follow my mom everywhere because I wasn't able to communicate with people, and I hated that feeling so much that I vowed to learn Spanish upon my return (y aquí estoy yo). Now that fire has returned, and my next conquest is Hangul. Bring it on!

Now I'm going to lay down in front of the A/C unit, because it is as humid as Virginia right now, and watch cute K-Pop stars on TV. 

Until next time!


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Blast off!

My bags are packed and I'm ready to go (I'm standing here...outside your door..). But really though, I am ready for take-off!! It's kind of crazy to pack for an entire year. It feels like you need so much (but probably don't in reality), and then step back and realize that practically your entire life can be put into 4 bags.

I'm sitting here in Phoenix Sky Harbor airport, waiting for my flight to LAX (where I will have a lovely 5 hour layover, ain't it grand!). I'm hoping to buy some food and furry socks while there, and that I will have no problem with my carry-on weight (Thai Airways allegedly weighs your carry-on item...who knew?). Feeling a combination of excitement, anxiety and actually a little fear (hey, it's the unknown you know).

I've got my flight comfort crew with me which consists of my trusty stuffed bear Gus (pics of him later), a fully charged iPod that my boyfriend updated, his hoodie and several books:

  1. Les Choses by Georges Perec
  2. Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen (duh)
  3. The Corset & The Crinoline: An Illustrated History by W.B. Lord
  4. Bare Essentials: Bras - Construction and Pattern Drafting for Lingerie Design by Jennifer Lynn
I'll be a seamstress with no machine in Korea, so I have to make do with a brand new sketchbook, some colored pencils, drafting books and the knitting I brought with me. My hands can't be idle for too long!

Part of me is wondering what kind of experience I'll have. Admittedly, my life's goal is not to be an English teacher, so I do find some of the zeal with which the other teachers have for teaching to be kind of intimidating (I think I'm a better dance teacher than an English teacher). Will it be great and interesting and rewarding? Will I just so happen to only experience the horror stories that people speak of? I guess we'll find out! 

I do feel kind of sad, as I'm leaving behind my fam, friends and beloved boifu, and I did do all the crying (to which the TSA people were lovely about btw, they gave me tissues and comforted me as I went through security) but life is ahead of me and there's no turning back!

My next post will be from South Korea, wish me luck and safe travels!


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Mogi Crackdown

I am just one of those people that attract mosquitoes. For whatever reason, I will get 20 bites while the person next to me gets maybe 1. I have been known to douse myself in DEET when visiting the East Coast in the summer or the woods; it becomes my regular perfume (everyone always says it smells bad, but I suppose I don't mind it because I am so comforted by its presence). It also just happens that I am allergic to mosquito bites as well. When most people say "Oh look, I got a bite", I am in the corner nursing the giant mega welts that formed as a result of several bites being close together. Now living in San Diego and then Phoenix, mosquitoes aren't too much of an issue. Depending on where I am, I get the occasional bite, but I keep a tube of hydrocortizone or calamine lotion in the bathroom and usually I'm fine in a few days. However, it just never occurred to me that mosquitoes would be a big issue during my travels. So wrong.

While researching about South Korea, I came across a topic that grabbed my immediate attention: the Korean mosquito. Now, after reading several blogs and forums on this topic of people who are suffering night after night because the mosquitoes in Korea are like little blood-sucking ninjas, I have made it a top priority to bring as much anti-mosquito shit as I can fit in my suitcase. Why? Cos I don't play. In addition to that, Busan has recently had a rise in Japanese Encephalitis infected mosquitoes. Hell nah. 

Call me paranoid or whatever, I do not care. I will take garlic supplements and wear DEET by DEET every day if it will keep bites to a minimum. 

So I've been doing my research, and I have prepared my little mosquito fighting(!!) kit to hold me over until I can get to the store. 

Clockwise from bottom left

  • 2 cans of OFF! and 1 bottle of Repel: I know people have weirdness about DEET, and everyone wants to go natural, but sometimes there are just jobs that only chemicals can do (i.e. baking soda v. Ajax, sorry honey, gimme dat Ajax!), and I will employ whatever works. You will soon realize that I'm only a half-hearted naturalist. Also, will spray my window screens with this Off. I bought the DEET-free Repel for good measure so I don't poison myself all at once. 
  • Duct tape: Until I can get my hands on some silicone caulk or mosquito net repair tape, I will crush the shit out some garlic and duct tape every single crack. And it's just handy. 
  • Garlic supplements: Read this is a big mosquito deterrent and would rather not rub raw garlic all over myself. Let's get this shit going on a chemical level. You know what, why don't I just put garlic in everything I eat. I'll be that teacher that smells like garlic and kimchi. You love me. Note-to-self: Experiment with making garlic-centered bath products that fuck up mosquitoes. Make a million dollars.
  • Citronella candle madness: Wanted to get the big candle pots of citronella but, packing room! Again, another smell that does not bother me. I actually think it's kind of nice and smokey. Makes me think of being in the woods, if I could be in the woods. 
  • Bug Band Water Resistant Repellent Band: Basically a reusable band that can be worn or just placed near you that repels all these mo'fuckin bugs. We'll see how it works. 
Not pictured:

  • After-Bite ointment + hydrocortizone. The hydroC has been my friend and companion for many years now. When the inevitable bite does happen, then I will be equipped to deal. I have only recently heard of After-Bite, as my 'outdoors' time is either dry as hell or on the Southern California coastline. But if it works, I will try it!
  • Benadryl + Claritin. I already have a bottle of Benadryl from my Wisconsin adventure, but the Claritin will come in handy. Sometimes I want Benadryl to make my ass drowsy, maybe I won't think about itching for a while (must remember to stock alcohol in the house too, for those nasty bites so I can get drunk and not give a shit). If I need to go to work, Claritin would be better. 
  • Mosquito coils: Heard these come in handy as well, burn them everywhere!! 
 Something I would like to find eventually:

  • Peppermint, eucalyptus and citronella oil + oil burner or reed diffuser. Read that they hate this shit with a passion, so naturally it's on my to-buy list. In addition to this, reed diffuser bottles and reed replacements. They are small, pretty, portable, and no flame needed. Depending on how many bottles I can get, I could even bring one to class (to put on my desk of course). Can be placed near windows and other openings and they last for months. 

Stuff I will buy upon arrival:
  1. Mosquito nets: I have been perusing GMarket and came across what looks to be the most beautiful invention ever made. A mosquito net for the bed that looks like a giant tent (tucks under the mattress) looks like it's going to be my savior. Also saw some mosquito nets for the doorways that close magnetically. I'm on it!
    Mosquito net side note: It occurred to me that the more barriers I have, the better. And those mosquito nets that hang from the ceiling are not as effective for sleepytime. HOWEVER, they can and will serve a purpose. I have read many a tale about mosquitoes coming in through drains and a/c vents. Oh but wait! Why not cut up one of those big flouncy mosquito nets and put the pieces over all of these openings? Water can still get through (in the case of the shower drain) but the netting should be tight enough to prevent mosquito entry, oui? Well, it's worth a shot in any case! I'll have scissors and duct tape, I'll document the results. 
  2. Wall plug thing: I have heard that these are rather effective, so add it to the list!
  3. Electric Bug Swatter: I had never heard of these before I started my Death to Mosquitoes campaign and they sound pretty awesome. I feel that it even if I do get bitten (which will eventually happen), I will get so much joy out of killing these little dicks with electricity that it will almost make up for it. 
  4. Silicone caulk: For any cracks in the window screens. Whilst in Wisconsin, we had window screens, yet there was a small crack all the way around the edges. I woke up the next morning to find them desperately trying to squeeze through. Naturally I pulled out the fly swatter and went ham on them (and god did it feel good), but yeah. Cracks need filling. 
  5. Mosquito screen repair tape: Apparently this is a thing, which is cool, because I can put it over my a/c vents as well. 
  6. Fans: Two by my bed (I fear no fan death), maybe another to spread the scents around. Get bent mosquitoes. 
I know this all seems rather ridiculous, but do I care? It's not even worth answering. I want to be able to have my windows open, or walk around in my underwear in my own damn house. There are other variables here, where my apartment is, is it old, is it new, etc. So we'll see! I'm looking forward to taking that picture of my place once it has been mosquito booby-trapped, it might look like a fantasy hospital. 


Saturday, August 3, 2013

Welcome to SamTime

Well, my first post in what I hope will be a really great chronicle of my Korean adventures and then some. It must be said that I haven't yet left for Korea. I leave at 7 AM on the 18th of this month, so I've still got some time to get all my stuff sorted.

A little background on myself, so you know who you're dealing with. Born and raised in San Diego for half o my life, and the other half spent in the cruel heat of Phoenix, I'm a recent college grad from Arizona State. I'm an aspiring polyglot, as I aim to learn as many languages as I can fit into my head (currently speaking: Spanish, French, basic Portuguese, really lame Swedish, and baby-level Korean). I'm a person of many, many (many, many...) interests, so I guess you can expect a wide variety of topics to be covered here, but my biggest passion in life is costume design. I'm an anime/history nerd so my dream job is to one day do costume design for film and TV. Gimme dat Oscar (or BAFTA...)!

So what am I going to be doing in South Korea? Well, following the tradition of travelers who need money, I will be teaching English with EPIK. I applied to go to Busan because a.) it's really difficult to get into Seoul b.) Busan is the second biggest city behind Seoul and I'm a city girl and c.) THE BEACH. I can't handle being hours from the coast anymore, so now I will be in a city by the sea and can pretend like I'm Kiki. My biggest dream in life is not to be an English teacher, but I'm willing to learn anything new so I thought I'd give teaching abroad a shot to take a break from student life for a while and see a bit more of the world.

As the big departure gets closure, I'll update post a little more, so until then!