Visa Escapades – Part 2

Visas are a complicated mess only if documents do not come to you quickly. Another bonus is working with recruiters that truly care about you and how you are doing through the whole process. My first recruiter is a friend now and called me up after I told her what had happened before, and she said I needed to change my visa status a.s.a.p. before starting my contract or I would not be able to start working. I couldn’t believe this, but she said if you work in a public school than you must be on an E-2 visa when you start working otherwise the contract is void and you will have to start the process all over again. I called my current recruiter at the time if he had heard of that and he hadn’t but he advised me to call immigration more than once in order to receive the correct answer.

So that’s what I did. I called immigration twice and they told me that yes, I had to be on an E-2 visa before my contract started. So I told me recruiter I would rush down to the immigration office the next day and change my visa status once again. I also had to apply for a new ARC card again as the status on the card would be changed.  So I was out another 120,000 won. I did learn a few valuable lessons, one I did not want to wait until the day my visa expired to go down to immigration. My contract arrived a few hours after I had gone down to immigration the first time to get a D-10 visa. It came one day before my visa expiration. Had it come earlier that day or a few days before, I never would have had to go on a D-10 visa. Go figure.

That being said, I knew I had to change my address again once my new school gave me address. So I made the trek to the immigration office alone fully thinking I would need to pay for a new ARC card, I went through the process two times at this point. However, the woman at the counter told me that I did not need a new ARC card, because I could just change the address on the back of my new ARC card. She even updated everything in the system for me and said I was all set and I could leave.

The immigration office website and what people know can be conflicting. It gets harder when you have time between contracts or when you are switching schools as well. But if you take the initiative to reach out and talk to others , as well as, the responsibility to call immigration yourself, things will get resolved. It might make you want to pull out your hair, but at least I have my new ARC card with an awesome picture.

Visa Escapades – Part 1

As an American we can stay in Korea for up to 90 days with no visa, which is awesome if all you are doing is traveling. If you are coming to Korea to teach as an English teacher you will most likely be on an E-2 visa for work after receiving your work contract and NOA (notice of appointment). Once you come to Korea you will go with your co-teacher and apply at your local immigration office to receive your ARC (Alien Registration Card) or 외국인등록증. You need this to sign up for cell phones and bank accounts, it is also your main form of identification. Luckily, your ARC is good for up to 30 days after your school contract ends.

For most English teachers resigning or transferring in a timely manner renewing your ARC is not very painful. However, if you happen to fall into limbo like I have it can break the bank. I have been accepted to be a teacher in Incheon and therefore have a month of limbo between contracts.However, my lovely visa and arc expiry date is the 15th of this month. Two bloody days away. Well, Immigration has decided to do some changes this year, now you need to know where you will be living and provide an address before you can renew your visa/ARC. This is great if you have a personal address provided from your school or have your own accommodations that you are paying for yourself. I happen to be living with a friend and therefore the address I am currently residing at is not valid for me to get a new E-2 visa. The kicker is I’m still waiting for my contract to arrive in the mail, it should be any day now. My orientation is one week away and I will start my new contract at a new school March 26.

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So, because my contract is not delivered yet and it is no good to me as I do not know where I will be teaching. If I don’t know where I will be teaching then I have no physical address in Korea. Two strikes and two days to fix this before my ARC is invalid, my recruiter told me to run to immigration and get a D-10 Visa, it’s a looking for work visa. It basically enables me to legally live in the country until I can find out where I will be going and can then change my visa over to an E-2 again. So if you are searching for information on the D-10 visa on the internet the prices have gone up effective January 1, 2014. The visa went from 50,000 won to 100,000 won, a 100% increase. It sucks to pay and it sucks to pay for another ARC card (because my address and visa changed) which is another 30,000 won. Roughly 130 give or take. (it is slightly less but I’m lazy at doing conversions.)

The process of changing it is rather simple though. I filled out the form provided by my recruiter for the D-10 Visa, but didn’t fill out the application which was fine as the woman gave it to me to fill out at the counter. If you are renewing you need your ARC, Passport, Passport size photos and the forms. Some people in the past have written about a letter of release (LOR), but I’m still waiting on mine and luckily I had a pdf of my NOA that hasn’t arrived in my email available if necessary.  Supposedly before you get in line you are supposed to pay for the arc at the 우리은행 (woori bank) inside the Immigration office. I asked for help but could have done it myself if I had been told to go directly to the ATM. Basically you can use your card or cash to pay the fee. You put your passport down as the picture says and press the button that says ARC(외국인등록증) on it to process payment, you must keep your receipt. You also need to pay the fee at a small booth and the lady will give you stamps in place of your cash called 대한민국정부 수입인지 (this is what is written on the stamp.)

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(These are what the stamps look like or something similar.)

You bring both the receipt and the stamps to the immigration person. I did this step after the fact as I did not know to do it first. The person helping you will wait until you have done this and come back to sit down. Many of the immigration officers speak English, I used mostly Korean to perform this process.

I am currently staying at my friend’s house and because of this I had to fill out a form for my residence. Normally the person you are signing with should be present when you are filling out this form. The lady told me to sign in her place and to bring her along next time when I come. I received a receipt with a date to pick up my card at immigration in 3 weeks or I can have it mailed to me. I didn’t pay for this, so most likely I will have to return on that day and do the process all over again. So in three weeks when I have my contract, NOA, and new address I can switch my visa to the E-2, pay another 100,000 won for the visa change, and another 30,000 won for another new ARC card which will take another 3 weeks to come back to me.

I found a few useful links about this process. If you are looking for which Immigration office you need to go to you can use this link. It is entirely in Korean, but it lists all of the immigration offices, click on the different cities/provinces to find the one closest to you. If you don’t know which one your school should know.

My friend wrote a post about her D-10 Visa process here. Her prices listed were before the new fee schedule was imposed.

HiKorea lists the new fees here.

ModernSeoul has a post on how to get to the Incheon Immigration Office here.

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(This is what the Immigration Office looks like from the outside.)

I took a taxi and it was about 4,000 won each way.Just tell the taxi driver, “인천출입국관리 사무소 가세요.” If you don’t make it through the whole sentence don’t worry the taxi driver will probably know where you are going.

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( The forms to fill out are located in the center of the 1st floor when you walk in the building. Go to the right if you are a non-Chinese immigrant. If you are Chinese, go to the left.)  우리은행 is located at the back of the 1st floor on the right side.

I will write more about the E-2 visa change when I go back to the Incheon Immigration Office.

Useful Files:

Korea Visa Application Form

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D10 Visa Form

Oops…

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Well, I have been neglecting my little blog for awhile. I actually have about 6-7 posts that are half done,but were never finished. Things like:
– goodbye (different schools and classes)
– bus apps
– summer vacation
– lady doctor
– coffee museum

Then there are the posts I never got to but should include:
– winter camp
– useful apps in korea
– winter vacation
– transfering provinces and the process
– taxes abroad (maybe if i understand my own after submitting it)
– Graduation
– 회식 (Korean office meal/party) culture at my old school

I’m sure there were other things I was going to write about, but I got sidetracked and never updated this blog. So for those who read my tiny little blog is there anything you would like me to post on? Or would like to hear more about? Let me know and I’ll try my best to deliver on it.

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Some exciting news to pass on: My little sister, Jessica, had a baby girl, Gabrielle, so I am now an Aunty. Though I won’t see her until she is about 6 months old, congrats to you and Cale! I would post a picture but lil babies shouldn’t be passed around the web in my opinion. So instead I will share a picture of the baby mobile I made…

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On another note, I haven’t seen a day of snow since I moved. Spring is coming!!

A Year Ago Today…

A year ago today I boarded a plane at JFK Airport and met new EPIK friends in San Francisco before boarding our plane to Incheon International Airport in South Korea. Thinking back on the past year it is interesting to see how far I have come and how much my life has changed. A year ago, I went through orientation and upon completion was ushered by bus to a city in my province. I remember meeting my co-teacher the first day and  the car ride back to where I was going to live was awkward but friendly.  Fast forward to now and I can say that my co-teacher, 라미, has been my biggest supporter. She has been there every step of the way and  has helped me with anything I had a question about.  I’ve learned about cool new apps to make my life easier, she has helped coordinate camps so I can go on vacation when I wanted, she has given me many rides to places I needed to go, and countless other things. I’m truly going to miss working with her and though it was the first year teaching for both of us, I think we worked well as a team and I will be sad to say goodbye.

My kids. What can I say? I remember waiting to be told when my first class would be held. I felt nervous and uncertain the first day I walked in to see my kids.  I felt nervous three different times, at three different schools. But I overcame that quickly and tried to teach to the best of my ability making mistakes along the way. My kids taught me a lot about myself, especially some of the rowdy ones. My patience wears thin quickly when I’m not being listened to; however, as the year went on I was able to control my patience better. My older apathetic to learning English kids reminded me of myself. They reminded of me of what I was like during classes I hated. They weren’t going to listen to me even if I told them ten times and you know what at the end of the day I came to terms with that. Outside of the classroom those kids were just as lovely as the students who paid attention.

Today we were supposed to have graduation at all of my schools. Because of the snow my main schools graduation was moved to Monday. My other two schools graduation ceremonies are on Tuesday, however, I will not be able to go to them. I already asked to go to the other middle school one , but was denied that request. In many ways, that breaks my heart that I can’t see all of my graduating students receive their diplomas. But, I am glad I took the time and foresight to say goodbye to my other schools in December when I knew classes were winding down.

For the last week I have been debating how to say goodbye to my main school. I love my students and I wondered should I just give them a hand shake, congrats and goodbye. Just wave goodbye to the kids? It didn’t sit well with me to be untrue to myself and my nature. I’m a very affectionate person and I like to say goodbye with a hug, if you are close family or a friend your receive a kiss on the cheek, unless you are one of the few who gets a kiss on the lips. Today while we were practicing congratulating the graduating class I hugged a student. The principal then said that we can shake the kids hands or give them hugs. When we sat back down I turned to two older female teachers and asked them if they thought it would be okay if I gave the kids a kiss on the cheek goodbye. Would it be strange?  They smiled and said nowadays that isn’t seen badly in Korea and to go ahead. I feel glad to know that I can be my authentic self on Monday. The kids might be squeamish and some do not like hugs, like one of my sisters does not. But at least I will feel I have said goodbye to my students that have become like extended family to me the way I want.

A year ago today I would not have imagined that I would get so attached to the teaching staff at all of my schools, nor to all of my students. Especially my middle school students. I bonded with some elementary students, but not as many of them. Of course with all endings there are always new beginnings. I will be moving to a different part of the country to start teaching at a new school and to experience the process all over again. As always a year moves quicker than we think and we learn more about ourselves than we expect.

Now to ponder what the next year will hold. I will keep my eyes open and enjoy the journey.

Do you wanna build a snowman?! Damn you Frozen.

For those of you who haven’t seen Disney’s new animated movie, Frozen, you are lucky. Personally while the story was cute there was way too much singing for me. Unfortunately, if you are an English teacher in Korea this movie and its songs are pretty popular. My co-teacher wanted to do a lesson on the song, “Let it go,” lucky for us most of the students didn’t show up to school because of snow on Friday, and the teacher’s also showed up late.

For those who don’t know…it’s been snowing. And snowing….and snowing…for days…for four days. It started last Thursday night and it has not stopped. These are some lovely pictures of the snow this morning, it’s now Monday. And it is still snowing. So lucky for me the stupid Frozen song got stuck in my head…curses.

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This is when the shoveled path ended and my trek to school began, it isn’t too far.  However when the snow begins to fall we all turn to children inside. SNOW!!!! Is it snowing?! OMG SNOW!!!!! Everyone stare out the window…oooooooooo.  We get excited like little kids at the fluffy glistening winter wonderland in front of us. Sometimes we have ideas to build a snowman, go sledding, make snow angels or have a snowball fight.

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Sometimes….we have a screw loose. I decided that it would be great fun to not follow the snow footprints already made but trek across the snow covered soccer field. Brilliant! Brilliant my ass it took me over ten minutes huffing and puffing. I came out feeling like I had an asthma attack and thought I had just run a mile. Snow is deceiving. Oh it isn’t so deep…when it’s up to the middle of your thigh its not such a bright idea to trek through snow.

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What the entrance to the school currently looks like. I went to school and of course like I thought nobody was there…except the gym teacher. He told me to go home as the students weren’t coming to school today. Not only are the students not coming, but the buses aren’t running. Hooray! A snow day!!! Why did I trek across this snow?!

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I just received a kakao message from my co-teacher. Come to school late. All the teachers from Gangneung got on a bus at 8:25 and should be arriving sometime after 9. There goes my bloody snowday. I haven’t seen a real plow since I’ve been here. I’ve only seen farmer plows. The students aren’t coming to school…why the hell are we?? Sometimes things don’t make sense.

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A little bonus for all those out there. I’m one of the lucky few whose ondal doesn’t function in their apartment and can’t be fixed( I’m supposing this is a fuck up from combining two apartments into one.)  So I have this lovely little heat fan to keep me warm. Isn’t it lovely? Don’t you feel all toasty and cozy looking at it?

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As of yesterday there was 54 cm of snow where my smallest school is, however, I don’t know the local total here. All I can guess is that it is close to two feet most likely. It’s a lot of snow. So  off to school I go …again! I’ll enjoy looking at the snow all day…perhaps it will even surprise me by continuing to snow until tomorrow…perhaps.

Walking in a Christmas Cookie land~

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It is Christmas cookie season!!!! I love making Christmas cookies! I think they are a wonderful thing to eat and they go straight to your hips. But they are worth it! I will be the first to admit this was a huge undertaking here in South Korea. At first, I thought I would bake the cookies alone and then I decided to make them with a friend. Now transportation took two trips because moving everything from one place to the other was a bitch. But that’s okay it all got done.

I was super lucky in the fact my uncle sent me some cookie cutters, vanilla extract and cookie frosting from home. (Thank you Uncle John!) This gave me a good start and I scoured easy recipes online for simple cookies. Why do people make 20 ingredient cookies? Are you fucking nuts??? Let me tell you when you start to see shit like shortening, cream cheese, 20 thousand spices etc…in your cookie recipe you say, ‘fuck that.’ So I found some simple recipes with ingredients I could use through all recipes and replicate easily. Iherb is amazing for spices! And you can get powdered sugar (organic only) but hey it works! And the shipping to South Korea is not that bad.  Sugar and Flour is not too expensive here in Korea.

but Butter….motherfucking butter…wants to give me a heart attack. There are no substitutions when baking christmas cookies. You cannot use margarine! No no no . So butter it is…butter that is about $6 a pack. And so I spent roughly $40 on butter because believe it or not many small grocery stores don’t sell butter so you must have enough so you don’t run out. Isn’t that amazing?

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(Our lovely baking supplies)

Anyhoo, originally I was ambitious and wanted to make cookies for all of my students. I then realized that would make me kind of loopy to churn out that many cookies and it would break the bank. So I settled on the alternative of baking cookies for my three schools staff. But there were extras that I was able to give out as well. All in all after 6 hours of baking I was exhausted but I had all of my cookies made. So we had sugar cookies, gingerbread cookies, walnut snowballs, thumbprint cookies, snickerdoodles, and peppermint chocolate cookies. A bit ambitious but it was a nice selection.

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It was nice to hear the teachers exclaim that they were too pretty to eat. The only thing I could think of was, eat them. Cookies are for eating.

And I have polished off my own Christmas cookies. There is a reason you never bring too many home. They will always disappear to your ass and your thighs.

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Winter Garden BBQ Party!

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My school wanted to have a garden bbq party.  My principal bought wine for the occasion and we were going to grill fish and eat cows hearts (쇠염통).

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At first, I thought I had heard this wrong as it was in Korean. The more I thought about it the more I realized we were indeed going to be grilling cows hearts. So on Tuesday, we had our small garden bbq party behind the school and it was a lot of fun but I didn’t get to eat much. I have eaten both types of the fish that were served before but they had been grilled a lot more. I like the crunchy skin and cooked meat. 

The texture of the long thin fish 양미리 (Lance fish) was a bit mushy inside this time and I didn’t really like the taste of it not cooked all the way. imageimage

The big fish 도루묵  (Sandfish)I didn’t really get to eat. I don’t eat the eggs though. Everyone else can eat the eggs.

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I did try the cow’s heart. It is chewy. very very chewy. And I’m not too sure that I am a fan of it. Though I did eat it. My principal was telling me that cow’s heart is extremely expensive. Not sure why that is but it certainly isn’t a delicacy I enjoy.image

The wine was made locally and we had 복분자 (raspberry wine) which was delicious. One of my favorite moments was the gym teacher saying Franzia was from France. I told my co-teacher it’s from America. It says right on the box, ‘California Red.’ I got a good laugh.image

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The sweet potatoes we tossed in the fire and were absolutely delicious!

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I stealthily took photos with my silent camera app. I like things more candid when documenting an event. Although I didn’t eat much at the party, I had my fair share of wine!

Oh my I’ve been MIA

Lately, I haven’t been as good about updating as I would like to be. I have many things to write about, and I plan to make a few posts about that in the near future. I have been busy with the application process for next year, more on that later, lesson planning to submit to the poe by friday, went to a wedding, and making a larger nontextbook related lesson to span a few classes. I will go into more details in future posts. But I figured I would let people back home know, I’m alive.

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Oh and today is 빼빼로 day! For those back home 빼빼로 is similar to Japanese pocky. I don’t know all the details behind this silly day, but it has been pleasant receiving and sharing my 빼빼로.

It’s that time of the year– to resign or not

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( We all hope our reccomendation letters make us out to be fabulous.)

As most people teaching with EPIK know there are two main intakes one in February and one in August.  As I am part of the February intake, my school should approach me soon to ask me if I am staying and resigning with them or not. About three weeks ago I asked my main co-teacher for a letter of recommendation as I have decided not to remain with my current school. I’m sure she has conveyed this on to the vice  principal and principal, but who knows.

My co-teacher actually asked me back in May if I would stay for another year as she really likes working with me and it would be nice to work together for two years. My school actually can only contract me for two years and then I would have to go to a different one. At the time I told her I was unsure but I would think about it. One of the elementary school teachers asked if I would stay next year as well and I said no to them, that I wanted to move to a different place.

Most of the teachers actually understand when I say I want to move to somewhere else. I live in a small town and I am the only foreigner. I can get to the city above and below me but the last bus is at 8 or 9 p.m. which doesn’t leave much room for staying out unless you are close with someone.

To be honest, I love my schools. I think all three of my schools are fabulous. My students are chaotic at times but all of them are loveable, and enjoyable to teach. My co-teachers at the two middle schools are very good. My main co-teacher has been wonderful with helping me with my needs, eating together, working on lesson plans together and just being a friendly person. The other teachers, vice principal’s and principal’s at all three of my schools are very good people. Everyone is friendly and nice to work with. To have my first environment be really diverse and friendly has been a great experience and I am really happy that I started at a rural school.

One of the main reasons to change schools is that it is hard to get out easily and that I am a bit lonely. However, one of the great things about the EPIK orientation is that you meet many great people some of whom are not part of your class in orientation, but are part of the incoming group. I have met quite a few close friends this way and it is one of the reasons I want to move to a bigger city.

Epik only lets you have one choice, so I am picking the Incheon MOE. However, I am also filling out the Seoul supplement form. Many people may say don’t bother with that as you aren’t applying for Seoul. Yes, you are correct, however, I want to be in that direction, so the more I can show I would like to go that way the better it will be. I remember my EPIK interview last October and the person asking me why I chose Gangwon-do. I told them because I thought it would be pretty and I have never seen the countryside of Korea before. They asked about where I lived and what I liked and I told them I grew up in a small town next to the water. I told them I liked the ocean. Well, wouldn’t you know that I am in a small village next to the water.

They try their best to match you and the earlier that you put your request in the better. I figure as long as my interview is before the first week of November is over, I have a good chance of getting what I want or at least close to what I want.  I’m a flexible individual and I can live alone well, but when it comes to interviewing about the place you want to be, you need to know how to say why you should be there. Why it is best for you or what you like. So, hopefully tomorrow I will have two more recommendation letters in hand and I can finally send off this application to get the ball rolling.

images This is how I feel about most required writing.

Chocolate Waterfalls

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Today I have to fulfill my promise of giving a treat to the kids who did their 추석 homework.  (추석 Chuseok is a Korean Holiday with similarities to Thanksgiving.) My promise was food.

So my mind thought what can I make that they haven’t seen yet???

Cake! A chocolate cake! Decorated with a lovely coffee buttercream frosting ~ yum!

I don’t care if they don’t like coffee, I do. And if there are leftovers I am eating it.

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Which leads me to some challenges unique to being in a foreign country. Buttermilk. There is no buttermilk. Buttermilk is what makes cake soft , fluffy, and moist. The reasons why cake just happens to be so delicious!

So I found online that you can add vinegar to milk and it can be substituted for buttermilk. Mind you it said white vinegar. I went to the biggest store in my area. No white vinegar. There is apple cider vinegar. Some form of vinegar from wheat. Pear vinegar. Drinking vinegar. But there is no white vinegar. Apple vinegar it is.  (I have since ordered dry buttermilk from iherb.)

So my dilemma came to how do I make cake for 25 students? I have one cake pan, muffin pan and large cookie trays that are kind of weird by my standards. The sides are about an inch and a half tall. So why not put the batter in that?

Because batter is deceiving. It’s a deceiving little bitch. I thought my poor cake looked like it wouldn’t even reach half the pan it was only a quarter of the way filled with batter. So like any normal person who doesn’t want a slim piece of cake…I doubled the recipe.

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Utter brilliance in my opinion! Brilliance! I pop it into the oven and change in to my pajamas.

I come back out to check on my cake and realize I have chocolate waterfalls coming out of my oven. OMG! Chocolate waterfalls are coming out of my oven! My precious resources! I must save the batter – bowl and ladle to the rescue!

Only idiots sit and scoop batter off the door of their oven and out of the baking tray to realize the potential in cupcakes. Why waste such delicious batter??

I might have looked strange to an onlooker inwardly panicking and hurrying to save what I could. But one cake and 18 cupcakes later. I’m a winner.

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