I have a new cell phone

Having been without a completely working cell phone for about two months was an interesting experience. Although I used data only on my phone overseas I rarely used it because I was afraid of going over the limited amount. Which brought me to the realization almost anyone who owns a smartphone has a slight addiction to it. And when we are without it for a while we feel disconnected from the world.

I finally got a new cell phone about two weeks ago and it is the best thing ever. Having a new phone has been great! I can keep in touch with people back home and here in Korea via Kakaotalk. (An awesome app which is free texting/phone calls over wifi, or minimal data when on a data network.) I can call my friends here, meet up with them and not have to wait around for others because we have no way to communicate. Looking up the bus schedule on my phone has been rewarding as well.

As  most of you back home know, I loved the giant screen on my old phone. Some people thought it was too big. Anyways, I wanted a Galaxy Note but I decided not to get it because of the price and got another giant screen phone instead: LG Optimus. In a few words: I love it.

The best part about buying a phone in Korea especially an android based one is that he phone comes with a second battery and battery charger so there is no extra expense. Two,  you get a free case and screen protector as a service and you can come in anytime to the store and they will put a new screen protector on for you. That is what I call service. My phone plan is roughly 78,000 won ( ~$70) a month for a 30 month contract.  This includes 5 gb of data, the cost of the phone, and low calling minutes and messages. Almost everything is sent via a kakaotalk app so my data is what is really used.

So without further ado, here is my new phone :

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Banking 101

Living as an Expat there are a lot of Banks that are recommended to go with when you live in Korea. KEB and Citibank seem to be the two that most people recommend. With that being said if you live in a city your options are pretty limitless, however, living in a rural part of the country your options are normally limited to one. My only option is Nonghyup bank as that is what my school uses.

So a few weeks ago as you know I set up my bank account by myself, and once I was paid I have been trying to figure out how to send money home. My online banking would not let me do it. Although there is an option to do so it is a no-go. So I had to take the bus for a 40 minute ride into the city and head to the bigger branch of the bank. With my limited Korean we got the online banking working although they told me it was cheaper to send money online so go do it at home later.I was okay with this solution as I am always looking to save money. However, I went to school the next day to see if worked and it didn’t. At first I thought it was because the amount was too high but that wasn’t it either.  My co-teacher looked over and said you need to make ‘another’ bank account it seems at the main branch.

A different one?…. my words were less than wonderful as I said, “stupid fucking bank,” three students happened to be in the office and giggled after hearing me swear.  So my co-teacher said to try the bank next to my other school I teach at, however, I was weary of this option as the other school is much smaller. Yet, they have a ‘real’ Nonghyup bank. I am banking with Nonghyup bank but it is more for farmers? (Something along those lines..they are connected but I can’t do certain things because of it.)

So I went in and showed them my scribbled note of what I wanted to do and the guy told me, ” No, go to Gangnueng or the post office.” I have never walked out of a bank hating it so much. I’m just sending money home it isn’t some weird shit. So I trek back to the school and talk to my male co-teacher who I work with on Mondays. I showed him my note and he called the bank and then the post office and we walked over together. I had to send money via the post office and the limit is $1,000/ a day.  So I sent that and had to run over to the bank to withdraw the money. Now, I could have waited until another day to fix the mistake but at the time I wasn’t sure when I would make it to the real bank and the tax man is waiting to be paid back home.

So today came and I was lucky enough to get off early and receive a ride from another teacher who also had to go to Gangneung. My co-teacher fixed my note and I handed it to the lady at the counter who spoke a little English and shuffled me over to the side that wires money. The funny thing is I ended up with the same lady who helped me with the online banking last time and she said it should work in Korean and was really surprised. So she called again and double checked everything.

We then went over to another computer and she watched as I tried to do what I normally do and when it didn’t work she realized it was because of my bank account. So we made another one quickly and moved enough money over so I could transfer what I wanted. We ran back to the other computer and successfully put the transfer through on the third try. This was after I changed the amount I was sending and I finally remembered my password for transferring. Thankfully, I am not very original with passwords because I have moments where I blank out completely what they are so they are always simple enough for me to remember. After successfully finishing I thanked her very much.

So now I can send money home when I want. I need to transfer my money from the account where my wages are deposited to the ‘official nonghyup account’ and then I can send money overseas. However, I can only send roughly $800 at a time.  The exchange rate also sucks for me. Coming here from the USA it was great. Sending money home not so much. So I think I’m going to skip a month at a time and send a bit one month and then make a larger transfer every two months.  I wanted to send another $500 home but I didn’t have enough moved over as it was 576,000 won, and  I only  put 519,000 won in the new account. So the exchange rate is definitely in favor of the dollar.

Finally this banking debacle is sorted the only thing left to do is get a check card so I can use it at stores instead of just the ATM.

My lovely note in Korean. As you can see I have writing everywhere and definitions for words I didn’t know. My grammar isn’t perfect but it was my attempt to jot down my ideas before I walked in and forgot everything I wanted to do.

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My co-teachers note, much shorter and straight to the point.

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Shampoo surprise

Shampoo surprise

I was in need of Shampoo and Conditioner which is called ‘rinse’ in Korean. I saw this deal for what I thought was two shampoos and two conditioners, at first I was going to end up with one smaller size bottle. But the kind lady at the store switched it to 4 full size bottles, and threw in a small free shampoo and sample body lotion. Apparently this is an expensive brand, which I suppose is good. However, upon opening it I have found it is all shampoo. I might need to go back and see if they make a ‘rinse’ lol

Update!

What the hell have I been up to?

Good question. Not  so great an answer awaits you.

I have a lot to catch up on and now it is almost time for bed so I figure during my desk -warming time I will update my blog. My laptop isn’t reading my pics which is pissing me off and that is also delaying me from posting.

One reflective point I felt is necessary to say: I am thankful for my co-teacher.

Others ask me, “Why doesn’t your co-teacher go with you?” or ” Why isn’t she helping you?” If I were illiterate in Korean or I did not know how to speak the language a little I might be upset. Yet, at the same time knowing myself I would have sucked it up and figured it out myself. Having another person help you out is wonderful, especially if you do not know the language. But after having gone to the bank the other day to open up an account by myself I am really thankful. Thankful for my co-teacher giving me the opportunity to go alone and use my knowledge to do a much more difficult task on my own. I do not know banking terminology at all. I walked in and said I wanted to open a bank account. The words is “계좌” I said, “좌계” and realized my mistake when the lady stared at me. As I realized I switched the word because I was a little nervous I fixed it and she understood me. I wrote  and drew pictures of what I wanted to do with my money. I declined a credit card, which I am thankful I did. I recognized the word for credit card in Korean but I wasn’t 100% sure I was right so I just said I don’t know and ended up with just an ATM card. I am fine with that. The whole experience taught me that no matter how broken my Korean is and how short my sentences are I can manage to do basic tasks on my own. Patience and persistence are key.

 

That being said, my co-teacher is coming with me to get a cell phone after payday. I asked if she would come as I do not want to get a bad price or plan. She agreed and I told her I would buy her a treat. Independence in a foreign country is a very refreshing feeling. Even if it is the smallest of victories.

Off to Gangneung

Today I met up with a few other English teachers who are placed in Gangneung.  I am about 25 minutes away by bus. So this morning I set out early to leave and I asked to make sure I got on the right bus even though I knew it was the right bus. I like to double check these things. A middle-aged man befriended me and talked to me a bit on the bus and then before I knew it, I was at my stop, luckily I saw Home plus out of the corner of my eye. I arrived around 9:30 a.m. and I wasn’t supposed to meet up with anyone until 11:45 , so I grabbed a coffee and enjoyed the wifi. I decided to take an aimless walk and found a historical place in the center of the city and then I went to Daiso (A cheap store similar to the dollar tree kind of), and then off to Home plus I went.

After eating lunch with everyone I remembered the directions from the cafe we went to early that I wanted to go to a bookstore. The cafe shop owner told me to go straight. So that’s what I did by myself and I walked and thought that maybe I had walked too far. So I asked an older gentleman where the nearest bookstore was and he pointed behind me. He turned his bicycle around and walked back with me and then I saw the sign with flashing lights in english “bookstore”. {Insert dumbass moment here.} I laughed and said thank you. I was looking for a vocabulary book but I couldn’t find one. The lady in the store at first avoided me and muttered something. I don’t think she wanted to help, so after looking around a little confused I asked her where the TOPIK books were. She led me to the right section and I was able to pick up a grammar book and a test book. I can now start studying and figure out when I will be ready to take the test. I am thinking maybe July or October.

After my purchase I headed back to homeplus and found the others. I left and realized I had just missed my bus, that comes every hour and a half in the evening. So I waited for a bit at a coffee shop and came out again when it was time to get on. I feel exhausted today. However, I managed to muster through it all. Carrying shit with me all day was kind of annoying. It is times like this I wish I had a car and at the same time I realize maybe I will lose weight just from walking. Hah~!

I suppose I should give an update about my life too in the process of today’s adventure. So, my apartment is cute. I live above the gym teacher and his family on the second floor apartment. My gas range stove isn’t hooked up yet, need to ask about that.  I have a washer in my apartment, however, it isn’t hooked up and I don’t see the hookup hardware. My shower I have figured out how to turn on the boiler and get in, however, I think I can’t run the water for the whole shower. So it has to be a rinse, soap up, rinse, and get the fuck out shower. I have had two cold showers in less than 6-7 minutes. Starts out nice and warm and suddenly its cold. A little much for the winter. I have a heated floor, but I barely turn it on. I don’t know how long it takes to warm up but it is too long for me. I heard it is expensive as well. So, I have been using the heat fan that my neighbor gave me. I have had a debate with myself for the past 3 days on whether to get  a heavy comforter or not. They are expensive and I am cheap. So the combination is not in my favor. So I have resorted to the tactic of layering, fuzzy socks, two pairs of pajama pants and two sweatshirts. I sleep in that too. Call me crazy but my mother used to keep the heat in our house very low it was always  cold. Her solution but on some layers. So, since winter will be ending soon, I will just suck it up and layer.

On another note, I am also the type of person who does not like to bother others. With that being said I have been needing to do laundry. But my washer isn’t hooked up. So today I just decided  that fuck it, I would wash my clothes by hand in cold water.  And the solution seems to have worked rather well. Half of the clothing is drying and I still need to do the other half once the other clothes have dried. I will get around to the washer later it really isn’t really a priority on my list.

I met my co-teacher and she seems very nice, she is two years older than me and it is her first year teaching too. When we met for the first time she told me her English wasn’t very good, so I told her in Korean that I can speak a little Korean. Well that made her sigh with relief and then we went to meet the principal. Who she told that I can speak Korean. I did mention that I only understand probably half of what she was saying. Needless to say the whole meeting was in Korean and I was a bit lost. I will have to ask about details later as my co-teacher left on Thursday to go to Incheon and will be back at some point before school starts. I report to work on Monday at 8:30 a.m. Not sure what I will be doing, but it should be interesting to say the least. So in my co-teacher’s absence the special education teacher took me out to dinner on Thursday night and I ended up eating Cow-head soup. (Basically all the meat from the cow’s head.) The soup was good and I decided not to question the types of meat I saw in the soup. Sometimes it is better not to know. I did identify a piece of tongue though.  We went to my neighbor’s house and had a beer and ate fried chicken. The gym teacher’s wife told me to treat her like an older sister. Which was very nice of her. I went with the gym teacher’s family to E-mart on Friday to get some supplies that I needed. And fast-forward back to today and I went on my adventure.

I have realized a bicycle might be a worthy investment. I don’t mind walking but I am lazy. I want to go to the beach but I don’t know if I would make it there and back walking. I think it was a 10 minute ride by car so that would translate into maybe a little under a 2 hour walk.  Living in a rural area makes me think of how nice owning a car is. Yet, at the same time I am surprised that even small towns like this have public transportation.

2013-03-02 13.18.42 ( A lovely cow head at the market in Gangneung. Never have I seen so many shops selling Cow Head Soup (소머리국밥) I’m thinking it may be a regional thing.

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