Volunteering at Mulmangcho.I miss my hair this color. (2014)
Getting ready to depart Korea has left me with a lot of emotions. I
have spent the last 4 years of my life in this country, and for better
or worse, I have grown a lot as a person. There are a lot of things that
I will miss and not miss about Korea, but as I’m winding down I thought
why not close out this year with writing about those things.
I have a good friend I have met here that volunteers a lot and I was always inspired by him. One day I happened to notice that he was going to volunteer on an event on facebook and I thought to myself, why don’t I sign up as well. I was a bit apprehensive about volunteering by myself in a foreign country at first but this experience at the Aemin Orphange made me feel more comfortable with it.
The first part was looking for sponsors for the 48 children for Christmas presents within a set price range. The event was also looking for 20 volunteers to donate their time. I decided to sponsor a child and to volunteer my time. I did not get to meet the child that I sponsored, but I did get to meet a lot of other children and watch them enjoy playing with the volunteers and each other. They also enjoyed opening up their Christmas gifts.
The man who organized the event told us a bit about the orphanage, that many of the children aren’t necessarily orphans. Many times their parents just don’t have enough to raise them so they give them to the orphanage. They may see their parents from time to time. Some of the other children are orphans though and they range from infants until college age kids. I was amazed that even kids going to college were able to stay at the orphanage and continue to be taken care of while they go to school.
We were asked to bring games or make activities for the kids to do while we were there. Someone made cookies to decorate and a little girl gave me a cookie. I felt really special receiving that cookie.
Volunteering that one Saturday opened up my eyes to many things, but more importantly that it is all right to stand on a limb and do things alone sometimes. Granted I ended up seeing two people I knew, but it made me feel whole inside like I had spent my Christmas the right way by helping others. Living in another country that may give me a new meaning to the holiday and shape how I celebrate it in the future. This was definitely a very great experience and I was happy to share my candy canes with the kids.
So I didn’t really go anywhere exciting for summer vacation. As
in I didn’t leave the country or end up on some island with nice
beaches. Luckily for me, I didn’t book such a vacation, because my foot
still doesn’t let me walk more than a few hours at a time without
swelling a bit and then I need to rest and it goes back to its slightly
swollen self the next morning.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I like to challenge my students. I like to make them think
outside the box. When I teach alone this definitely fails on me.
However, when I am able to teach with my co-teacher the meaning isn’t
lost in context and I can talk about interesting subjects. I think the
students can get to know more about me through these types of lessons.