Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Talk to me like I'm a child...

K: Last year we bought Korean textbooks with every intention of becoming fluent in the language. Easier said than done. We memorized each letter and what it's supposed to sound like. But Korean seems much like English in that there are exceptions to nearly ever rule. And then there is the oddest practice of just throwing letters that are not to be pronounced in the front of words for the heck of it. Anyway, we learned the alphabet and deciphered several words, trying to figure out what we thought they should sound like... and then we'd listen to the online tutorial and hear words that sounded nothing like what we thought. Needless to say, this became a very frustrating experience.

My co-worker, who also happens to be 1/2 Korean, mentioned that she was using the Rosetta Stone. Apparently it is used by ambassadors and is billed as the "fastest way to learn a foreign language." The program teaches you to speak the language much like a child would be taught, through pictures and immersion.

Mark ordered it today, so we'll see how well this miracle product works... Won't you all be shocked if our next post is in Korean!?!?!?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

What we're perusing

K: Now that we're 99.999999% sure that we're going to make every effort humanly possible to get ourselves to Korea, we've been checking out blogs of people who are actually there. Our favorite so far is Lee's Korea Blog. Lee was also adopted from Korea but calls Australia his home. How cool is that?!?!? Mark and I just love his attitude: completely laid back and willing to eat anything, go anywhere, meet anyone. He also puts a ton of great pictures on his blog, which are fun to look at and to learn about the country. Lee actually works in Busan/Puson, which is where my American brother, Kevin, was born. If you have time, check it out...

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The perks of being a kyopo

K: Lately it feels like we've been learning new information non-stop... this blog has never been busier! We've gotten a majority of our information from the message board I referenced in an earlier post. The experience of having complete strangers from all over the world who are caring in their messages and willing to take time out of their day to share their experiences and advice with us has been so refreshing. All I can say is Mark and I are going to be very busy sharing our experiences and advice with the "newbies" when this is all said and done.

We have learned that I am eligible for a returnee (F4) visa, which is a special visa for Koreans who have immigrated (or been adopted) living in another country. This would enable me to work as a private English tutor, which is far more lucrative than teaching in a school or hakwon. Plus, I wouldn't have to be tied to a contract with a school, which is nice because the school wouldn't "own" my visa - meaning if I hated my job, I could quit without being sent back to the U.S. From what I hear, this is the problem most westerners have when teaching in Korea - tthey get suckered into a bad contract and are stuck since the school technically owns their visa.

We also received this very specific advice today, which is so cool:

"Many organizations offer help for Korean adoptees wishing to visit or re-locate to Korea. KoRoot has a lovely villa near the Blue House, the Korean White House, where you or your family can stay for a few dollars a day. Only adoptees and their families can stay there and it's a great place to meet others in your situtation. Check it out online---- www.Koroot.org Also contact www.goal.or.kr This organization has around 200 active members who are currently living and working in Korea. They will help you with everything. And, on top of that, they're a lot of fun to hang around with as they have weekly activities, and occassionally score free tickets to theater, etc."

Mark and I looked at both websites. The KoRoot house is located in Seoul and looks kind of like a dorm, but the price is unbeatable at $15/day. They seem like a group primarily dedicated to helping to ease the transition for kyopos. They provide events for adoptees to attend to get to know each other, offer various tours of Korea, provide Korean language lessons, teach about the culture, and even provide career counseling for adoptees (like me!) who would like to stay in Korea and work. After seeing that web site, Mark and I were thinking it would be cool to possibly stay there for a month to acclimate ourselves and have the opportunity to travel and improve our Korean before trying to start full time jobs. Just another idea to throw into the mix. :-)

The other organization seemed like it would be helpful as well: it seems to have similar goals to the KoRoot house. From the website:

Global Overseas Adoptees' Link (G.O.A.'L) is a non-profit organization and a NGO consisting of overseas Korean adoptees (OAKs) and native Koreans working together to locate birth families and experience Korean life and culture.

1. Contribute to adoptees in identity formation and understanding Korean culture2. Share the anguishing experiences of unmarried mothers, adoptive families and adoptees3. Improve Korean domestic adoption culture and contribute to the betterment of adoptees' rights.

Just knowing that we would have these resources available to us to help ease the transition and provide support is so important. This information has sort of answered my decision (or rather indecision) from my earlier "Would you rather" post. There is no better time, this is something we can do, we can scale the hurdles and make this a reality. WE ARE GOING TO LIVE AND WORK IN KOREA FOR A YEAR!!!!!!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I am a kyopo!

K: I just found out today that when I go to Korea, they will call me a "kyopo" - meaning Korean-American.

Oh and something on the lighter side: I read a post earlier that said that Koreans get kind of mad when they see a Korean woman with an American man. People said they experienced dirty looks and mean glares. All I can say is that will be one nervy Korean who stares down (haha - or maybe the better word is UP) at Mark. Having that experience will be reason enough to relocate for a year... hahahha...

No rent..no way?

M: As Kim wrote in an earlier post "Would you rather...", she mentioned the dilemma that we're facing about how long our visit should be. If we choose to go with "Option B", we will try to find a job teaching English (ESL). There is an abundance of jobs in Seoul and the hours are not as demanding as in a business position. While teaching might not provide us with the international business experience on our resume that we were hoping for, it would provide us with more free time to explore Korea.

Preciously, Kim mentioned a message board, Dave's ESL Cafe, that we joined. The website is dedicated to foreigners teaching English in Korea. Through this site we learned that a typical ESL contract will provide you with:

  • 2 to 2.5 million Won per month (roughly $2,000 to $2,500 in American dollars)
  • Paid overtime
  • Roundtrip airfare
  • Apartment (utilities not included)
  • Anywhere from 25 to 40 hours per week of teaching
  • Medical benefits (not sure yet what these include or how they vary among contracts)

The free rent is what first caught our eye. Kim and I have been very worried about how we could afford both living in Seoul and paying our mortgage. If this is true, that would lift a huge burden off of us.

We have learned that the ESL business in Korea is very competitive and that some schools will make false promises to teachers in order to get them to sign a contract. So obviously, Kim and I will need to do as much research as possible before we make a decision like that.

I do believe that this information provided Kim and I with a little resolution about our decision as to how long our stay should be. Finding the right teaching job could subside most of our financial worries with our house here is the US.

We've gone public!

K: Well, maybe not as exciting as it sounds... we've joined this message board, Dave's ESL Cafe, and posted our blog. This board is so cool - filled with people who are either currently living in Korea or like us, hoping to get there. There's such a wealth of information.

Yesterday we got a message from someone who's IN KOREA teaching English who read our blog! Such a mindtrip to think there's a complete stranger who's actually interested in our story... the power of the internet bringing people together to share stories, experiences, and advice! Maybe someday when this is all said and done I will write a book about this whole experience.

Anyway, I've been telling Mark that I'm carrying the load with this blog, so he promised that he'd write the next update with some new information we've learned about from the people on the message board. So keep an eye out for that!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

What the 中国北?!?!?!

K: So I FINALLY heard back from my brother. Apparently I now have TWO brothers who are communicationally challenged. At least from time to time.

I wrote him nearly a month ago asking for an address. My mom had put together a creative memories scrapbook for my birth father chronicling my childhood through our wedding. It's pretty awesome and he'll be absolutely obsessed. Anyway, before she shipped it off to never-never land, she wanted me to confirm an address with Sang Kwan. So I emailed him and waited and waited for a response... Here's what I received:

"Kim: I am sorry .these days I am very busy .I ofen went to other city . I am ok don't worried about me .^-^ Appa can't speak chinese ,I afraid he can't recive it .so you can send it to me .and then I will take it to ded. my address: 中国北京市海淀区动物园世纪天乐国际服装批发市场11层1109 . (ZHONG GUO BEI JING SHI HAI DIAN QU DONG WU YUAN SHI JI TIAN LE FU ZHUANG PI FA SHI CHANG 11CENG 1109)KIM SANG KWUN PHOTO: 13391912403 13552020704 this is my shop's adress."

So, I'm confused. Do we just slap this address on the package and cross our fingers or what? I mean, will it even get out of St. Louis with a bunch of symbols like this on the box? Mark and I are thinking we'll take this email to a chinese restaurant or something and see if they can tell us at least where we should put line breaks in... Anyone else have any suggestions?

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Current events

K: It's been shocking to us when we tell some people of our plan to move to Korea how they completely freak out. And no, they're not worrying about our mortgage, our jobs, or any of the issues discussed on earlier posts... they're terrified for our safety.

We've heard comments from, "You should look into getting the latest military intelligence," to
"You should put it off a couple years until things settle down there."(Granted, the last comment was from someone who was scared for our physical safety while we were on our honeymoon at a resort in Mexico.) Mark and I do our best to calm these people down, telling them that South Korea is a developed, stable country - we will not be living in a bomb shelter there.

But for those who are still nervous about the stability of the country, they will be happy to learn that "North Korea pledged to detail its nuclear programs and disable all activities at its main reactor complex by year’s end, then signed a wide-ranging reconciliation pact with South Korea Thursday promising to finally seek a peace treaty to replace the 1953 cease-fire that ended the Korean War."

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Would you rather...

K: This morning it occurred to me that in order to fund our dream of living in Korea, we'd probably have to sell our house. There's just no way we'd be able to pay rent in Korea as well as our mortgage and all those utility bills back home. There's always the option of renting, but that can be just so messy. Plus, there's a little thing called money that the collateral we've built up on our house could help us out with.

To be honest, I've been waffling back and forth. One minute I am gung-ho on selling our house, quitting our jobs, and just GOING. And then the next minute I'm thinking about stability, money, putting off starting a family, and (this is silly, but I'll admit it) leaving Riley and wanting to throw the whole idea out.

So I've come up with two scenarios and major pros and cons of both. Readers... what which would you choose and why?

Scenario A: We plan a two week to month-long visit to Korea. We keep our respective jobs and just take "leaves of absences." We learn just enough Korean to get by while we're there.
  • Pros: Stability. We keep our house. We'd only have to find someone to watch Riley for a month. We could move ahead with any family and/or higher education plans. We wouldn't have to work while we're in Korea, so we'd have quite a bit of time to do all the sightseeing and spend time with my family.
  • Cons: Not truly immersed in the culture. Finding an apartment/hotel to stay in that whole time could be expensive. Dependent on whether or not our jobs would allow us to take a leave of absence. There's a possibility of having a short period with no paycheck.

Scenario B: We stick with the original plan and move to Korea for a year. We sell our house. We find someone who's willing to 'adopt' Riley for a year. We start some intensive Korean language classes. We both quit our jobs and make plans to teach English abroad. When we return to the US we can start/continue the job and home searches.

  • Pros: A year we'd never forget, living in a foreign country for a year would be unbelievable. An opportunity to really get to know my birth family. Probably get to see more of Asia, rather than trying to cram it in. International work experience to add to the resume.
  • Cons: Money. Not knowing if everything will work out when we return to the States. Postponing our "everyday" lives by a year or longer, depending how long it takes us to get back on our feet after returning (that means children, higher education, career advancement). One of us could have difficulty finding a job. If we are totally broke, we might have to live with parents until we can save up for a new home/apartment (yikes!).

So readers, please weigh in. What would you pick? Why? Or are you like me and just plain... confused...