DMZ Visit

Disclaimer: I started writing this a long time ago….

This week South Korea celebrated 광복절 (Gwangbokjeol) on the 15th of August, the date that in 1945 Korea was liberated from 40 years of Japanese occupation. This happened at the end of the Second World War when the Axis forces were defeated. The withdrawal of Japan left a power vacuum in Korea. The US and the Soviet Union became potential parties to claim responsibility for administering Korea until it could become independent. Being unable to reach a joint agreement Korea was divided into two along the 38th Parallel. By 1948 governments had formed in each section, both desiring the unification of Korea following their respective visions of communism or capitalism. Tension between governments increased until 25 June 1950 when North Korean forces invaded South Korea. This was the start of what we know to be the Korean War.

One of the things that first fascinated me about South Korea was that they had pulled themselves from the devastation of war to become the 13th largest economy in the world. At that early point I had not heard about the Japanese occupation that had oppressed them just a few years beforehand. Their progress then became all the more impressive.

A year after deciding to move to Korea I had learnt a little more about the war but, not being a fan of military history, had never really delved into it. A trip to South Korea would not be complete without a visit to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that separates North and South Koreas. So when the opportunity came I booked myself on a tour to visit the two main tourist areas of this infamous strip of land (a day which would then be followed by a second of whitewater rafting and bungee jumping).

At first going to the DMZ may sound like a bit of a stodgy thing to do, unless you’re a military buff or have some sort of personal connection.  But when you think about it what you’re doing is travelling to the front line of a battle without fear of being shot at (or at least very minimal justified fear). That was one thing I did know, that this is not a border. The Korean War is not actually over. There are also vantage points from which you can look into what is perhaps the most mysterious country in the world. If you don’t think it’s mysterious, check it out on Google Maps. In what strange land will ‘Google it’ not answer all your questions?

Before my trip I decided to get a little bit more educated. I headed to Youtube and found this 30 second clip showing the change in territory over the course of the war. I could not believe that at different points the peninsula had been almost completely overtaken by each party. I then found a semi decent looking documentary to fill in some blanks (But of course I can’t find it again to share with you).

The tour fell on a weekend where my usual travel buddies were busy. I knew there would be other tours, but I particularly liked the itinerary of this one, so decided to sign up by myself. I was relieved to spot a number of familiar, faces as I boarded the bus.

The journey from Seoul to the DMZ is short, taking less than two hours. As we traveled our tour guide briefed us on the history and significance of the area we were visiting. It was interesting to hear a Korean talking about these things. I thought he did well to give a balanced presentation. At the end of WWII communism had promise, and North Korea initially fared better than the South as the Soviet Union provided a great deal of support. Both sides desired to see Korea reunited, which seems like a good goal to me. Oddly the person who was spoken of most critically isn’t Korean at all. According to our guide, progress was being made in peace talks. Things were looking so promising Dorasan Station (more about this below) was refurbished in South Korea, in the anticipation that travel from the South into the North would soon be permitted. Then George W. Bush won US presidency and named North Korea on the ‘Axis of Evil.’ North Korea got defensive and peace talks were halted. Now they wait to see what direction Kim Jong-un will try to take the North. It was the hope of our guide that he would resume peace talks and that the North will begin to make moves towards capitalist trade like those being made by China.

Our first stop was Imjingak (임진각). Here we saw a number of different monuments, but bypassed the main facility. Our main point of interest here was the Freedom Bridge over which prisoners of war were returned from the North. The bridge is covered in emotional photos of that famous day and of colourful ribbons on which people’s prayers for peace and reunification with family are written. There was also a train punctured with bullet holes rusting away. I couldn’t quite work out its story, but I love trains, so I was fascinated nonetheless.

From here we went through the military checkpoints and to the Dora Observation platform. Here we could see across the 4km wide DMZ into North Korea. We were told that on some days you could see people working in the fields by using the binoculars there. On this day we didn’t see much.

We drove from here to the third of four tunnels that have been discovered by South Korea. These were dug from the North into the South. They appear to have been dug for a surprise attack on Seoul. They’re not big enough for vehicles to pass through, but they estimate that thousands of lightly armed infantry could pass through every hour. We were able to enter the tunnel through a tourist access shaft. Donning our yellow safety helmets, and getting our ajuma bend on to avoid hitting the ceiling with our heads, we walked through the roughly cut tunnels. How thousands of troops could travel through here at a consistent pace beats me.

From here we moved on to the Cheol Won area. Here we visited a peace observatory. There were binoculars here, but no towns to look at. Instead you looked over the green of the DMZ into the fields and hills of North Korea. It was really pretty. The DMZ, an almost surely fatal place for people to wander, has become a safe haven for many rare species of birds and animals. Many people hope that this area will remain protected if ever the two countries are reunited.

We got back on the bus and travelled to Dorasan Station. This is a railway station on the Gyeongui Line which runs between Seoul in South Korea and Pyongyang in North Korea. Services do not run across the DMZ, but at the height of peace talks it was hoped that it would just be a matter of time before they would resume. The station was restored and outfitted to be a customs port for travel in and out of South Korea. Instead it stands as a weird monument of hope and disappointment. The station is large and spacious, the departure gate is labeled Pyongyang, there are metal detectors and luggage scanning machines. It looks all set to go. But there are no passengers. The station is open as a tourist destination, not a thoroughfare. A world map above the ticket booth links rail lines from Busan, at the Southern tip of the Korean Peninsula, through to tracks in China and into Europe via the Trans-Siberian. What a magnificent trip that would be.

After this we went to the second tunnel, which was much like the first, and to a memorial park where an English speaking soldier gave us a tour and told us about the Battle of White Horse, a name given to a hill the park looked towards. I don’t remember too much, as I was pretty tired by this point, but I do clearly remember looking at a gun that was on display. It had got so hot from use that the barrel was bent about 20 degrees.  With thoughts of war and peace, conservation and trains I settled into our accommodation for the night.

A couple of years ago I didn’t know much about Korea (quite likely I would have got the North and South confused in my head), except that they made Hyundai cars and that there was a war there. Now that I live here these would not be the first things to pop into my head when you said Korea. When I first got here I was driven crazy by the prevalence of Hyundai cars, trying to spot non-Korean model cars whenever I was out and about. But I’ve (mostly) gotten over that. In the same way war doesn’t quickly come to mind. But there are certainly frequent reminders. Young soldiers are frequently seen particularly about train stations. Military training is compulsory here, so I guess all my male Korean friends have been in training, and if things don’t change my students will have to do it. You also see weird military outposts dotted about the place, and every now and then a raid siren can be heard. The war is not officially over, and so South Korea remains prepared to defend themselves. I’m aware that people around me have differing opinions about independence or reunification. Either way I sincerely hope no act of violence takes all this progress away from them.

 

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Haves and Have Nots (Part 2)

So this is part two of my blog “Haves and Have Nots”. Part 1 took a look at just some of the things I have experienced since moving to Korea. Part 2 is a look at the things I haven’t experienced since being here either because I cannot, I dare not, or am yet to seize an opportunity to do.

Let’s get the most obvious question out of the way.  No I have not eaten dog.  Gaegogi (개고기) literally dog (개) meat (고기) is eaten in Korea. I have done my best to remember the name of the soup bosintang (보신탕) which features the meat, but still have to look it up. I originally wanted to remember the name of the soup so that I could try it. Provided an animal is fit for human consumption I don’t really see why anyone should take offence to it. I can understand that endangered species, such as whales, should be protected from ships hoping to stock the black market with some colossal kaimoana, and that whole deal of cutting the dorsal fins off sharks seems rather senseless. But what should make a dog (or horse or whatever) any different from a cow, a chicken a sheep or a fish. If you think it’s wrong, go the whole hog and become a vegetarian, and then I’ll respect your stance a lot more. Having not remembered the name of the soup, and hence not having found anywhere to eat it, I haven’t tried it. I’ve since heard tales of how terrible it tastes and how bad it smells. Having not liked much of the Korean food people think is good, I don’t really think I want to try something that is generally thought to taste bad. So now I’m trying to remember the word bosintang so that I can avoid it, if the smells emanating from the restaurant don’t warn me off first.

The second most popular question I hear is have I found myself a Korean boyfriend. The answer to this is no. This of course tends to be quickly followed up with the question “Would you?” I might try and share my thoughts on that in another post, as I’ve found much of what I’ve learnt about Korean dating culture and relationships very interesting.

Have I had tea with Kim Jong-un yet? No. It seems the majority of people think North Korea is completely closed off to foreigners, but you can legally enter with an approved tour company. It’ll cost you an arm and a leg, and your time there will be highly regulated, but a visit there would be pretty special. I have just read that 2012 will be the last year that the Ariring Mass Games will be held. This event sounds absolutely mind blowing, and something I would have really liked to see. But none of the tour dates I’ve found seem to work in with my holidays here. It seems the closest I will get will be a trip to the DMZ in a couple of months. I will then have pretty much traveled the length of South Korea.

Still left high on the agenda of places to visit is Jeju-do. Labeled the ‘Hawaii of South Korea’ and ‘Honeymoon Island’. There are many things to do here, including hikes up Halla-San, and trips to the teddy bear museum (precisely where I’d want to go on my honeymoon) and Love Land (a park full of sexually themed sculptures). Of course if I’m there and I don’t have a boyfriend, (or suitable substitute), with whom I can wear matching outfits I’ll feel rather left out. This is very common in Korea. Stores specifically stock his and her outfits, even your underwear can be matching.

I’ve been really surprised to have not yet met any kiwis here. I’ve met people who know kiwis here, and have met Koreans that have studied in NZ, but I haven’t had the opportunity to practice the theory of two degrees of separation. I have had a NZ Pure Lager, and have seen Villa Maria wines in restaurant menus and Mainland cheese in E-mart.

I have not run out of Marmite.

I have not stopped saying ‘Kia ora’ to people despite no one knowing what I’m saying.

I have not (despite determining to at some point almost every day) learnt how to say “I can only speak a little Korean” and “I do not like spicy food.” This is especially pathetic since I think ‘a little’ and ‘spicy’ are the only words I don’t know. I think once I learn these terms I know enough Korean to put together decipherable Engrean (I’m penning this term as the opposite of Konglish – where the known language is Korean, and English is the attempted language) sentences to communicate these ideas.

I haven’t failed to learn my students names because I think they all look the same. I’ve actually been surprised at how different everyone looks. It actually took me some time to identify common facial traits that seem to be Korean.

I haven’t lost weight from eating all the Korean food. I’m not eating a lot of  Korean food, so am instead eating western food. I can get stuff from the supermarket, but with meat, fruit and vegies so expensive and working till late I don’t really feel that motivated to cook. As such I’m visiting the western style food stores in my neighbourhood a lot more than I should: Pizza School, Paris Baguette/Tours Les Jours Bakeries, the Belgian Waffle and Gelato café and (whilst considered Korean, it feels pretty universal to me) the BBQ chicken restaurant. As such I’ve put on an unknown amount of weight so that some of the clothes I brought with me, and even things purchased in Korea no longer fit.

I have not become a K-Pop fan. I can however hum along to a few songs that are big right now.
Wow. Fantastic Baby.

I have not picked up any tutoring jobs to supplement my income (which would be breaking the terms of my visa). What’s surprised me is that I haven’t really been asked by anyone. I think the guy who sold me my camera is about the only person who’s really asked.

I haven’t paid off my student loan and don’t expect to be the end of the year, or next should I stay. I have however put a little bit aside to send home. And hope to have a bit more go heading that way in the next few months.

I haven’t gone to a dentist or an optometrist. But these are definitely things I want to do, as their services are much cheaper here than in NZ.

I haven’t felt homesick for my family. I haven’t lived with them for 5 years. People don’t seem to appreciate that if you’re not making frequent visits there’s not much difference being 10km or 10,000km away from someone.  People who I spent a lot of time with before my departure have been missed more frequently. Mostly when I’m doing or seeing something I know they would appreciate.

I haven’t kept a regular, informative yet insightful blog that is of interest to both my friends and other people looking to share a similar experience. My close friends, however, tend to have Facebook to follow me on, so I hope they’re not feeling too neglected. And look, here’s two posts in as many days. That’s got to be a record.

For your pleasure

Today my training was interrupted by a trip to the hospital in order to complete a medical for my alien registration card.

I was accompanied by one of the operational staff from the school as we travelled by taxi to the ‘hospital’ which I would have called a medical centre, or a Labtest.

My completed forms were traded at the reception desk for a plastic cup. I was then directed towards the nearest bathroom. I figured there wasn’t much point asking anyone to translate into English what I was expected to do.

The next test was to measure my height. This involved a bit of balancing and hopping about as I tried to yank my boots off. And a similar amount of balancing and wiggling as I tried to get my boots back on again.

An eye examination chart was then flicked on and a black line pointed to on the floor. Excellent. An eye examination chart. I have a wealth of experience with these. They let me keep my glasses on, if they hadn’t I would not have been able to ready the top line if it had been in Hangul, English or Punjabi, I really wouldn’t have been able to tell. She skipped the large Hangul characters at the top which I could see, and could have sounded, if not named but I guess they figured I didn’t speak Korean, and went straight to the teeny tiny numbers at the bottom. It was true I knew how to name these, but my ability to identify them correctly was seriously questionable. I took my best guess, trying to act confident in my answers (quite the opposite of how I would approach an examination for a new prescription), but I had no hope of reading anything on the bottom line. I wouldn’t have even been able to tell that they were anything more than dots on the page. Hopefully I did satisfactorily, but I don’t think eye examinations are part of the alien card application.

I was then ushered into a sound box and given a headset and a button. “Click when you hear a “b.” Huh? When I hear the letter ‘B’? When I hear a bumble bee? Having them repeat the instruction didn’t prove any more enlightening. Ah “Click when I hear a ‘beep’?” Yes, Yes. Ok. Clearly their onomatopoeia is slightly different, Korean words normally ending in vowels.

The beeps were so quiet I wondered if I had the headset on properly. Bebebeep……. bebebeeep. They’d start in one pitch very quietly and then grow louder, before starting faintly at another frequency. They didn’t really mix up the delivery intervals, so I pretty much just sat there pushing the button every 2 seconds. I started to wonder if I was imagining beeps, or if I was missing beeps when I swallowed because I heard that louder than the beeping. I started to wonder if I’d been forgotten, but the beeping stopped and the nurse soon opened the door of the sound booth.

I then went into a room with a female doctor. She spoke a bit of English, enough to say ‘blood pressure’ as she indicated that she wanted me to roll up my sleeve. Thankfully my sleeves, which after taking off my coat and cardi were now a tightly fitting thermal and an equally tight merino, could be forced far enough up my arm to satisfy her. They probably worked equally well as a tourniquet as the inflated blood-pressure arm band. My sleeve then stayed up whilst she took a blood sample. This was the only part of the test I knew was coming, and I’m not fussed about needles so this was fine. She laughed kindly at me when I said ‘kamsahamnida’ (thank you) as she applied a bandage, I think both out of surprise and mild amusement that I at least knew one work in Korean.

I went from there into another room with a new nurse and a new pointing game began. She pointed at my boots, so I took them off again. She pointed at the bed in the room so I sat. She then pointed to the pillow on the bed so I lay down. She pointed at my feet, so I took my socks off. She then pointed at my necklace and bracelet, so I took them off. I lay back down and she pointed at my earings – just simple sleepers – but I took them out. I then had to lift up my top. I had no idea what was going on. She started wiping down metal clip things which went around my ankles, and then my wrists. I began to wonder if I should be concerned that I had been instructed to take off metal I was wearing, but that I was still wearing my glasses and had an underwire in bra. I don’t think my pointing at these objects was interpreted properly. Metal clips were added to my wrists and then things like plugs positioned at various points around my chest. A machine was turned on. I assumed since I was lying down I was supposed to try and relax. Readings of my heart beat or something were taken on a machine. The clips and plugs were removed, and I got myself presentable again. If the metal I was wearing was supposed to contribute to risk of electric shock during this procedure I’m really not sure. Perhaps after 3 nights on my fluffy purple bedding I’ve been desensitized to shocks. I’m honestly subjected to a crackle of shocks every time I get out of bed. It’s nuts.

I was then directed into a final room with a male doctor. I figured the machine in the room was a chest x-ray. I’d had one before, so it looked vaguely familiar. The old doctor put his hands flat on his chest and said “For your pleasure.” Huh? He then pointed to me “For your pleasure” Clearly he was talking about my chest, not his. My ‘pressure’ had already been measured (Koreans often get ‘R’ and ‘L’ mixed up for reasons related to their own language) I figured he didn’t mean that. His guestures then seemed to indicate that I needed to take my top off – which I figured went with the whole x-ray thing, but I was still puzzled “for your pleasure”. What did he mean? Surely me taking my top off would be more pleasurable for him than for me. He then pointed to a gown in the corner. I nodded and he left the room, coming back when I was appropriately robed. I then played some weird game of heads, shoulders, knees and toes as my chin, hands and shoulders were appropriately positioned in front of the machine. He called these words out in English as be moved me into place.  When I had replaced the robe for my thermals and merino I came out to see my x-ray on the screen. He told me my lungs were clear, and that my heart was of normal size.

I get the rest of my results in a few days.

I’m still not sure about my pleasure.

Not your average Friday

As far as days go, yesterday was pretty huge.

I submitted the final essay of my degree. Wehoo!

I sat the last exam of my degree. Wehoo!

As I am confident I’ve done enough to pass I can now say I have completed my degree. After 7 years of on-off study I have a Bachelor of Arts with double majors in Education and Sociology. WEHOO!

That was my morning, which did I say started at 5:15am for some last minute study?

I decided to celebrate my newfound freedom with lunch in the sun.

An hour later I was in the office, having re-entered the world of full-time work.

A contract was signed increasing my temporary office work from part-time to full-time for the duration of the summer.

I also accepted another contract. One offered by a school in Balsan, Seoul! This Korea thing is getting official now!

Here’s a quick rundown of the main details of the position.

I arrive in Seoul around the 24th February 2012 for a brief orientation before starting work on the 28th February.

The school will cover my airfare to Seoul, and also a flight home (or wherever else I choose to go of the same or lesser value) at the completion of my one-year contract.

I will be teaching 7-12 year olds in 45 minute teaching blocks with no more than 12 kids per class.

It sounds like our schedules for teaching/prep hours vary a bit from quarter to quarter, but I shouldn’t have more than 6 classes a day, totally about 20-25 hours a week. With prep time I’m expected to be at the office from 11am-8pm Mon, Tues, Wed, Fri and 1pm-10pm Thu. These may seem like quite strange hours, but classes have to run after the students finish their normal schooling. They’re quite long days, but seem to be pretty consistent with other jobs around and I figure not that different than you’d get in your first week teaching here.

I’m getting paid 2,600,000 Won per month. I know 2.6 M I L L I O N ! How awesome does that sound? On today’s exchange rate it’s worth NZ$2936.20, so it’s actually not too different from what I’d earn in my current job, but way better than what I’ve been living on as a student. The cool part is that my costs of living should be a lot less in Korea, so I’ll be able to make the most of my weekends and still pay off a good wad off my student loan. It’s actually a really good salary for a first-time teacher. I’m sure I will earn every won of it!

I’ve been put in contact with an American teacher based at the school who will likely be the one training me. She sent me a massive email explaining all sorts of things about the school that really helped me make my decision. She’s clearly really willing to support new teachers coming through and promises that the managers are also really awesome. She’s just signed up for a second year with the school, so that’s always a good sign.

I’m still pretty nervous about a lot of things, there is really so much that I can’t know until I’m actually there, but I’m pretty happy. It’s particularly nice to now have an idea of when I’ll be going so that I can get myself organised. More on that to come.

Right now I’m celebrating the end of study and my new job. Wehoo!

The CV is in. Let the constant guard of the phone and email begin.

Today a new phase of waiting starts.

After lying fallow for a year and a half my CV was pulled out and polished up to make me look like a promising teaching applicant. Hopefully I was more successful at this than I think I was. There really seems to be far too much admin work, and far too little teaching, which lets face it is the reality of my work history. I just hope that I show enough potential in my application to score some interviews. Once I’ve got their captive audience I’m sure I can win them over with my charm.

In today’s blog I intend to summarise nice and succinctly what it is I hope to be doing in Korea. I have made a number of attempts at this, but it’s REALLY hard to do. So in trying my bestest to be direct and to the point I will have to cut out the entertainment for now. No doubt I’ll still leave a lot of questions unanswered, but at least we will have made some progress.

Today I submitted my CV to an agency that recruits applicants for the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education. If accepted I would have to be in Seoul (which is the capital of South Korea) by the 19 February 2012. I would participate in an orientation with other new teachers then begin teaching at the start of March. In this programme I would be teaching in a public primary school. I would work fairly normal office hours Monday – Friday with 22.5 teaching hours. The school would provide my accommodation, a salary of 1.8-2.0 million won/month, pay half of my insurance, reimburse my airfares etc. In applying to SMOE I won’t be able to choose the specific school I would work at, so I would not know until I was placed what suburb I’d be in, what my accommodation would be like etc. I’ll definitely post about these things as they become clearer.

Feburary 19 places me on a very tight schedule, one which I may find is just not doable. To be eligible for this programme I must have a degree. I will be finishing my Bachelor of Arts mid November. As graduation in March will be far too late to get my certificate I will have to request special documents from Massey once my marks are released to say I have met the requirements of my degree. These then have to be verified and sent various places in order for me to get a job and a Visa. The SMOE programme is apparently quite popular and they place people on a first in first served basis, so the earliest I can get these documents may prove to be too late.

If I am too late for SMOE I have a couple of options (as I don’t want to wait around for their August intake). I could try and get a public school job in another South Korean city, the smaller ones being less popular, so likely to be accepting applicants after SMOE. I’ve really got my heart set on Seoul, so I’ll only explore this option more if I have to. My other option is to try and get work in a private school known as a Hagwon. Because Hagwons are not centrally controlled the conditions there are much more diverse. There is the potential to score a really awesome job, but there are also a lot more risks. The main deterrent for me is the working week. Hagwons generally operate in the evenings, and sometimes on the weekends. In a city where things are happening 24hours this isn’t really a problem, but I just think that I operate better when I work in the day then have the night at my disposal.

Apparently the next stage in the process is for someone from the agency to contact me and arrange an interview. Once this happens I guess I will have a better idea of what I can expect. Until then I shall remain a bundle of excitement with a headfull of possibilities, and wait.

Kiwi to Korea

This week in my Sociology of Work lecture I learnt that a persons career consists not just of the series of jobs a person has in their field of interest that move in a stepwise fashion, but all the jobs a person ever has.

At the age of 25 I therefore have had a rather diverse career, featuring, but by no means limited to; babysitter, cleaner, line dance instructor, newspaper deliverer, registrar, usher, nurseryman, student, fast food crew member, painter, interviewer, retail assistant, camp counsellor, bank teller, fruit picker and peg maker.

Whilst this summary may provide interesting reading to you, the diversity of the collective masks the sheer monotony found within. Hours scrubbing black shoe marks off the school floors, filing for weeks on end, mindlessly entering data until I’m seeing double, asking for the fiftieth time that day “would you like to upsize your meal for 50c?” printing and binding student handbooks every semester, taking thousands of cuttings from big plants then trimming, slicing, dipping and setting them in potting mix in a some damp shed in the middle of the winter holidays…

To mix things up there were of course moments of panic; such as when my count of campers finished at 14 when I was supposed to have 15, disgust; as when finding the remnants of attempts to make 2 minute noodles in the basin of the boys bathroom (and other things I won’t mention), worry; which escalates after every passing hour that missing $2000 from my till remained unaccounted for…. all rather different emotions which seemed to manifest as an ominous feeling of sick in the pit of my stomach.

I have of course had many great moments during these jobs… or at least in a few of these jobs. But great moments do not prove to make particularly entertaining blog material and so have not found a place for themselves here. Blogability, of course, is not the canon by which I evaluate my life experiences. I do hope to have great, fulfilling, awe-inspiring and challenging experiences, I’m not prone to sentimental or inspirational monologues.

Consideration of employment options post graduation have led me to choose a rather unexpected career move. As it stands today the plan is to move to Seoul, South Korea, to teach English. I anticipate the challenges and rewards of teaching will be greatly fulfilling, as teaching and training has been an area of passion for a number of years. What is more the experience of living in a completely foreign environment will be hugely fascinating and growing.

I know that I cannot begin to anticipate what all this will really be like, in both good ways and bad. I do, however, expect that I will encounter moments of panic, disgust, worry and “what the?” No doubt my mind will be running on overdrive in the early months as I try to grapple with my new surroundings and establish a life for myself. The oddities I encounter in my daily life will surely have entertainment potential and as such I have determined to share these with you, and my future adoring fans, here in this blog.

In the months leading up to March when I hope to embark on this adventure I shall begin writing. I will first take a bit of time to explain a bit more about what I hope to do in Korea, and why I have chosen to teach there. March is really not that far away and there is a lot I must do between now and then. There may be ways that you can help me prepare, and no doubt opportunities to laugh at my feeble attempts to learn Korean and reduce my life to a 20kg suitcase. I also want to make sure I take opportunities to connect with friends in NZ before I go, and pencil in some couch bookings from those with future Asia travel plans.

So whatever your motives, whether they be for entertainment, cultural insight, interest in teaching English or you feel that as my Mother you should know what I’m doing with my life, I encourage you to follow me on my Korean, teaching and blogging journey. I look forward to your support, laughter with me, laughter at me, words of advice, encouragement and care packages of Whitaker’s chocolate, Kiwi music and Marmite.