Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Holy @&#*


Almost everything's done, it's just a matter of the last minute things that I never envisioned actually  doing... (like packing up the final things in my bedroom and saying goodbye to my puppy.) I am in shock. I cannot believe we're so close!

Basically, all I can do now is sit back, throw my hands in the air and enjoy the ride... WHHHEEEEEEEEE!!!!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Our "Little Brother"

Last year, Kim and I volunteered for Big Brother/Big Sister (BBBS).  They have a program for couples and you are assigned one "Little".  Ideally, you are suppose to  meet with you match at least twice a month.  What you do or the amount of time you spend with them is up to you.   BBBS also encourages weekly phone calls.  

Kim and I were assigned a six year old boy named Tayvion.  This Friday will be the last time we see him.  We are going to meet up with him and give him a photo album containing pictures of us over the last year.  Below I have included some of the pics.  

While the commitment can be a little time consuming, I highly suggest looking into  volunteering for BBBS if you are ever interested.  

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Gainfully employed

After waiting over 27 years, Kim and I now have an all access pass to the teacher's lounge. We have entered the lucrative field of education. Before long, we'll be living the high life.

On Sunday night, we finalized our contracts with Poly Institute in Seoul. Our branch will be located in Bongcheon-dong Gwanak-gu. The hours are longer than we originally planned on, but we're being compensated with higher pay. We'll be working from 9-7:30 with about 6.5 hours of that being actual teaching time.

The morning will be spent teaching 5-6 year olds and the afternoons will be with primary and middle school kids. It should be tiring, but a lot of fun!

{Pictures courtesy of Poly's website}

Thursday, November 13, 2008


K: Last Friday, I got a package slip in the mail. Went to the post office and saw a package from the Korean consulate.

Upon first opening it, I began to get nervous because all I saw was my passport being returned to me. But when I flipped through the pages..................

Our trip to Chicago was officially a success! WHEW!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The visa run

K: The main point of going up to Chicago was for my F4 Visa.

**DISCLAIMER: This post will be pretty technical and may not be that interesting unless you're adopted from Korea and securing an F4 Visa. I just want to put my knowledge of the subject out there for any other US adoptees, since I used a lot of other sites to gather information and figure I should share what I know.**

I called up to the Chicago Korean Consulate to find out what I needed to secure my Visa. They told me I needed to relinquish my Korean citizenship as well as apply for the Visa.

It was very confusing and no one at the consulate speaks very clear English, which compounded the problem. I called my adoption agency and they had a post-adoptee service department, which was very helpful. A lady was able to walk me through the paperwork that I needed.

Below is the paperwork needed for approval for each step and an explanation of what it actually is.

Relinquish Korean Citizenship (this takes 2-3 months)
- Relinquishment of Korean Citizenship form: The Korean consulate will fax you versions in both Korean and English. Just need to fill out the English form if you don't speak Korean like me. The form also has spaces for Name (Head of Household) and Permanent address (as shown on the Korean Family Census Registration). Put "unknown" for both, since those were given up when you were adopted.

- Copy of Korean Family Census Registration: This is the Korean birth certificate. It should be typed up, not like a traditional birth certificate. I found mine in with my Notice of Approval of Relative Immigrant Visa Petition paperwork. It will say "Ho Juk Deung Bon" at the top of the paper.
- Copy of US Citizenship Certificate: These is your US naturalization certificate. Make sure to bring the original, they'll ask to see it.

- Copy of petition for name change: Make sure there is paperwork that shows the original Korean name and your new American name. Also, if your name changed with marriage (like mine) bring copies of your marriage certificate.

- Self addressed stamped envelope: They say to just put a 41 cent stamp on there, but at the Post Office, I was told they prefer I use an 8x11 Express envelope with tracking capabilities. The postage cost more like $16.

- There is no fee for this portion.

Visa Application (3-5 days to process)

- Original passport and copy of passport

- Completed visa application form

- 2x2 color photo secured to application

- Korean Family Census Registration: exact same paperwork as above, just make another copy

- Copy of US Citizenship Certificate: Again, just make another copy of your naturalization certificate.

- Copy of Birth Certificate: This is the new American birth certificate with your adoptive parents names.

- Copy of Petition for name change: Same as above, just make copies of the petition and marriage certificate (if applicable)
- Fee of $45: Can get money order at the Post Office when getting the self addressed stamped envelope.

- Self addressed stamped envelope: same type as envelope for the relinquishment of Korean Citizenship

The Korean Consulate is open between 9 and 5 Monday through Friday. Before making the trip, I called to make sure they would be available the day I planned to visit.

It's located in the NBC building.

Going to the office almost feels like going to the DMV, but they don't really speak much English. The people working in the office are not very helpful at all. If you're missing any paperwork, they don't offer solutions, just tell you that you need it. End of story.

I had an issue with my name change since the copy I made didn't show my original Korean name. They kept saying that I needed that and needed to either call my adoption agency or "my government." Fortunately, just as I was getting incredibly frustrated, I turned over the original and found my Korean name. Whew.

The main advice I would give is to have all your paperwork together and ready to go. If you have any questions or need any guidance, I'm happy to help (as much as I can). Just shoot me a note at Markim916 at gmail dot com.

Scenic Chicago

K: Last weekend, Mark and I traveled to Chicago to secure my F4 Visa at the Korean consulate. I will include more detail of the visa process in the next post. This post will focus on the fun part of the trip, which included a little bit of sightseeing and a lot of eating.

We left at 1:15am on Sunday morning on the Megabus. I had never taken it before, but it's basically a double-decker bus that travels around the midwest. I think the St. Louis bus goes to Columbia, Kansas City, and Chicago. (I know there are other locations I'm missing, but those are the big ones.) The bus picked us up along the side of Union Station. (Right where Have a Nice Day Cafe used to be, for those who are pathetic enough, um, like me, to know where that is.) Taking the bus ended up being a GREAT decision. We got there in about 5 hours, with a half hour break at a rest stop in the middle. Also, they have free WiFi, which is fantastic.

When we arrived in Chicago, we walked about 2 miles in the dark at 5:30 in the morning to our hotel. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express on Wabash and it was great. The room wasn't very expensive and it was right in the middle of everything. Also, the people there were nice enough to check us in when we arrived at 6am, so we got to crash for a couple hours.

Sunday morning we did the typical touristy stuff, walked to Navy Pier and took pictures of the water.

After walking around the city for awhile, we decided to check out the Museum of Contemporary Art. We figured we'd spend a couple hours there and expand our minds culturally. We lasted all of 45 minutes. Other people were gazing thoughtfully for hours at flashing neon lights with random words strung together and videos of mice running through mazes while someone pounded on a bag with a hammer. Frankly, we just didn't get it.

We decided we needed something a little more our speed, so we stopped by a nearby Mexican restaurant for... the most horrible margaritas we've ever tasted in our lives. I think the guy just poured tequila in the glasses and called it a day. I was literally gagging with every drink I took. Ugh.

Our best decision of the day was getting deep dish Chicago pizza for dinner. It was fantastic!

Look at Mark, doesn't he look like he's drooling?

There is no such thing as too much cheese!

The weather was so great, we tried to eat at outdoor cafes and people watch as much as we could!

The second day, after we got my visa taken care of that (more on the next post), we just hung out around the city -- walking around and taking it in.
That night, it was still unbelievable out, so we found a couple outdoor places to eat and have a couple drinks.

I'm posting a close up pic of this because it was melted brie in a crepe with rasberry sauce. *drooling*

And later that night we went to a local comedy club, Zanies. There were 4 comedians, and about 12 people in the audience. The main act mostly talked about what it's like to be approaching 30 and living at home with his parents. Boy, could we relate. "It's just so funny cuz it's true..."

We returned back to St. Louis on Tuesday afternoon. All in all, a great trip.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The roof... the roof... THE ROOF IS ON FIRE

K: And when I refer to "the roof," I mean OUR MOUTHS. I knew Koreans like spicy food, but good Lord, is my tongue going to survive next year?

We went back to the Korean restaurant we discussed here and here. This time we decided we were ready to order some soup, which we've heard is a staple meal in Korea. We ordered a Kimchee soup and a spicy Korean BBQ with chicken. We should've been wary when the waitress asked if we wanted our meals "normal" or "Korean" spicy. We decided to be conservative and selected normal. This can be chalked up as one of the smartest decisions we have ever made.

The Kimchee soup arrived piping hot (actually still boiling). We both took a spoonful and the extreme warmth of boiling hot soup was immediately blown out of the water by the intense sensation I felt as my tastebuds went from "on fire" to numb. My nose imediately began pouring sweat.

But the surprising thing is that the spicyness is strangely addicting. I literally couldn't stop eating it even though I was sweating and chugging water. And I really think I wouldn't hesitate to order this dish again.

One helpful tip Mark and I discovered was that after an especially spicy bite to shovel rice in our mouths. The rice kind of serves as the spice buffer. Good to know. I have a feeling I'll be eating pounds and pounds of rice in Korea. :)

Here's a picture of the mouth-burning lava soup.

And here's the spicy BBQ chicken, which didn't offer much relief to our tongues.

Moving and Selling

K: Last week Mark took a day off work and moved all the major furniture out of our house. (The rest of our stuff went in a Pod to be stored for the year.)

Unfortunately... well, fortunately for me, I couldn't get off work so Mark was on his own. He was able to score these sweet wheels from our realtor... It's actually a pretty nice service our realtor provides, a free moving truck complete with moving equipment and supplies. The only downside is tooling around the city in a huge red van with her face plastered on the side. :)

Mark takes his truck driving VERY seriously.

But in the end of the day, it was all worth it. We breathed a big sigh of relief on September 3oth when the buyer closed on the house and we realized we would be heading to Korea mortgage-free.

We will miss you Sunshine!!! But now we're onto the next chapter of our lives... YIKES!

Friday, September 26, 2008

"MOM.... MEATLOAF!!!!!!!!!!"

K: It's official... Mark and I have boomeranged back into my childhood bedroom. A bright pink bedroom at that (Mark is absolutely thrilled about that key point). Now that our house is completely empty and awaiting closing, we are officially the new roommates of my parents.

But it's not as bad as it sounds... actually it's been really nice. Riley is loving the manicured yard and spending the entire day getting treats and pets from my retired mother. My Dad, on the other hand, is still trying to deny that "that dog" exists (and is living in his house). :)

Mark and I are enjoying the opportunity to spend extra time with my parents, while still getting to maintain our freedom. The neighborhood is also 10x better than our prior East St. Louis Hills residence. Gone are the random punks hanging out in the alleys and the grown man wading around his 2-foot plastic swimming pool with a Busch Light in hand. Helloooo Mr. Roger's neighborhood with friendly neighbors and a fantastic park within walking distance. In fact, we were told by a neighbor that if we want to live in this neighborhood we are required to attend the regular neighborhood "fiesta's." Sounds good to me!

AND this morning I was greeted with a note from my Mom saying she's going to the grocery store and asking if we need anything. Geez, we may never leave.....

Slight delay

K: Our closing has been delayed a week. Our new closing date will be October 3rd.

Our realtor said it's not any sort of issue with the buyer trying to back out and we shouldn't worry. The issue is that the lender wants proof from the appraiser about the value (or lack thereof) of living next to a cemetary. I guess with Halloween coming up, and all the ghouls and goblins coming out to play, they need to minimize their risk.

Friday, September 5, 2008

I guess St. Joseph got tired of standing on his head...

... Because we SOLD OUR HOUSE!

Last Sunday we got a call about an offer on our house, we met with our agent and counter-offered. And Labor Day we found our our counter-0ffer was accepted! BOOYA!

Cross your fingers that the inspections and appraisal go well. Our closing date is set for September 25th. :-)

(It's actually a very bittersweet feeling, because while I'm happy that we won't have a mortgage while we're overseas, I'm going to really miss this cute little house where we created many of our first memories as a Mr. and Mrs. And, as my fabulous sister-in-law pointed out, this development makes it seem so much more official that we're actually leaving...)

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Just a cool pic

K: Emily sent us this picture of her favorite store (I believe it's located in Korea). Doesn't it look adorable?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Delayed post...

K: This post is about a month late in coming, but I've finally uploaded the pictures. Hannah and Michael went with us to the Korean Restaurant we blogged about earlier. Here's the evidence!

This picture can be very deceiving because it looks like the restaurant is very fancy and nice... definitely not the case. I think we posed in the one area of the restaurant with greenery and wood paneling. And that's not a white tablecloth, it's a big sheet of white shop paper. But the food is very, very tasty.

It's kind of funny the number of sides that come out when there are four of you! It's like these little white bowls went on as far as the eye could see!

Anyone else interested in trying out some Korean food? Just let us know! :)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Cross your fingers!

K: Our house is officially up for sale online! It won't be ready to show until next Monday, thanks to some scratch marks Riley left on our window seat and window sill. But we're making progress.

You can check out the official listings here or here.

Cross your fingers it sells fast! (My mom says she buried a St. Joseph's statue by our house - the patron saint of selling houses. She read somewhere that if you bury him on his head, the house'll sell faster since he doesn't like being on his head. She cracks me up...)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

My lucky day!

K: Yesterday at my office's annual award's ceremony my name got randomly drawn... for the BIG GRAND PRIZE! (I almost fell out of my chair when they said my name.)

Look what I won...............

For the camera buffs out there, it's a Nikon COOLPIX P80. So now I'll have no excuse not to snap some awesome pictures while we're in Korea!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Reservation Confirmation

K: We have confirmation! Mark and I will officially be staying in KoRoot for the first two weeks in Korea -- January 2-17 -- in a couple's room (so much better than bunk beds). We're making progress!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Metro Olympics 2008

M&K: My brother, Kevin, here in the United States, has been endlessly complaining about his lack of recognition on this blog. So Kevin, quit your whining, this one's for you.

Kevin and his wife, Alicia, spent the last 8 days here in St. Louis with us. Instead of going to the same old St. Louis landmarks, Mark decided a day of drinking and competitive bar games would show them the TRUE flavor of our city. Ever the responsible citizens, we did not want to drink and drive. So we decided to use the wonderful St. Louis metro system as our mode of transportation. Thus, the idea of the "Metro Olympics" was born.

The original intent was to play 10 games at three or four different bars, but as the day wore on (and Mark and Kim were getting solidly crushed at every event) we only ended up playing 6 games and visiting three bars.

Here are some pictures highlighting the day's events:
Kevin and Alicia showed up with team t-shirts and sweat bands for all. They got themselves these cute t-shirts that said "It's not my fault I'm AWESOME."

And, well --- to our chagrin they got us pink shirts that said for Mark: "shortie" and for me, something about being cranky but cute... Thanks guys.
After some mimosa's and breakfast, our first event was beer pong. As evidenced by this picture, the Roaches won 2-0. Kevin broke it down to his favorite singer, Nelly Furtado. Is that the air guitar we see?

Riley was on Team Pink, but after eating a ping pong ball, he was disqualified. He got so angry about being thrown out, his teammate Mark had to restrain him. It was not a pretty sight.

We took the Shrewbury MetroLink to the Maplewood exit and after a "short walk" made it to the first bar, Schlafly Bottleworks. We started with a game of pool. This was a nailbiter! On the first shot, Kevin almost knocked the 8-ball in, but it clung to the edge of the corner pocket. Alicia took charge knocking in a majority of her team's balls. After knocking in a stripe, Kim's cue-ball ricocheted into the black ball and amid tears and shrieks, all was lost for team Johnson.
Desperate for a victory, Team Johnson was determined to win the next event: fooseball. But that dream would not be fulfilled due to some questionable game play by Team Roach. Team Roach won 5-3. They, ahem... spun... into victory.
Starting the day off 3 and 0, Team Roach is all smiles.
Mark is still in shock. Both about the losses and the fact he's wearing a pink shirt in public.

We then took the Manchester bus down the street to one of everybody's favorite bars, Nick's Pub. We were the only ones in the bar and took full advantage of the facilities upstairs.
A very animated game of shuffleboard included: a hate crime by Alicia, aggravated assault by Kevin, and another crushing defeat of Team Johnson, losing the series 2-1.

Realizing that games of skill may not be their forte, Team Johnson suggested a game of luck: Pull Tabs. We purchased $20 worth of tickets and divided them up...
Well --- the gods were not on Team Johnson's side this fateful day. The Roaches won AGAIN with $18 to the Johnson's $1. This is the most money we expect this social worker to ever see in his lifetime. ;-)

FINALLY, after years of practice at Lacledes, the Johnsons were able to clinch a victory in an old favorite: Photo Hunt. In a fit of ecstacy, Kim hopped on Kevin's back for a victory lap.
But the joy was not to last long as Kevin miraculously managed to hit a double 11 to win in darts.

He took two laps around on Mark's back.
Realizing that skill and luck were not on their side, the Johnsons realized their only hope for winning was to get the Roaches drunk.
AND IT WORKED.... on both teams.
Alicia, still in competitive mode, challenged us to a fist eating contest.
She was the only competitor.

Drinking took its toll and we decided to end the competitions/beat down early. We concluded the day by taking the bus to Lemon's on Gravois and sharing some chicken wings and pizza.
When it's all said and done, we're still family and are able to put our differences aside.

........ until next year's Metro Olympic follow-up in Seoul..............

It was a great day and we really enjoyed getting to hang out with Kevin & Alicia. And to all the St. Louisans out there reading this blog, you should really consider setting up your own Metro Olympics. It was a blast... just don't ask The Johnsons to be on your team.