Getting Ready to Leave Korea

Now that I’ve gone through the process of leaving, I thought I’d share with everyone what it’s like. First, you have to set a clear date on when you move out and tell your co-teacher. Mone totally forgot and when I told her I was leaving on February 25th, she said that was too late but said I had to leave early morning (even though many other people left on this date so idk).

1. Final Bills

  • Bills cause me headaches. So, before you leave you need to pay your electricity company the money due for the amount of electricity used between your last bill and your leaving date. My landlady just came over, called the company, asked how much it was, and had me pay her in cash to give the company.

2. Leaving Your Apartment

  • At the same time, my landlady came to look at the state of my apartment. My sister was visiting me and all our luggage and stuff was everywhere and she wasn’t pleased. She thought we wouldn’t be able to clear the place up before the next morning. I was like “whatever” because it was dirty, our stuff was just laying out so we could organize everything. She said she would drop by the next day since we said we would leave in the morning. She ended up coming inside while we were still sleeping at like 4 am and promptly left after she saw us. How she got in I don’t know. We said we’d leave in the morning not at freaking 4 am. A few hours after, I called a jumbo taxi, or 대형택시, and paid about 60,000 to get to the bus station. My landlady saw us off with smiles after she saw how empty the apartment was. I did have to pay a 50,000 won cleaning fee, as did everyone else I knew. So, don’t bother making your apartment sparkly clean when you leave since you have to pay for it to be cleaned anyway. Just…don’t leave it in a horrendous state and you’re ok.

3. Getting Your Contract Bonus

  • My school gave me my bonus on on March 7th, which was the date I asked for. Schools vary on this aspect so you’ll have to talk it out. Everyone should get: housing deposit (500,000), contract bonus (one month’s pay), plane reimbursement (up to 1,300,000 I think).

4. Filing for Pension

  • You have to Google the nearest pension office and file at earliest a month before your departure date. I just walked in, no need for appointment. I wasn’t sure what to say so I showed them my application and they understood immediately. You should have the application (my school gave me mine), a copy of your electronic plane ticket, and your passport. You need to know your home bank information as well, so keep that in mind. They told me how much I should expect and by when, which was around the end of March or first week of April (Recieved mine safely ~). The whole process was like less than ten minutes on a weekday.

5. Cancelling Your Phone

  • If, like me, you had to buy a phone and a 2 year contract, you will need to cancel it. I went to my provider’s store (any location is ok!) while I was in Seoul the day before my departure. I paid an unexpectedly small fee, which is just the remainder of how much I needed to pay for the phone. Don’t be a jackass and leave without paying. There are no more cancellation fees that are too costly. I don’t remember how much I paid but I remember how elated I was since I didn’t pay like 300 bucks or something.

6. Cancelling Your Bank

  • I did this the day I left Korea at the airport, but make sure your bank has an office at the airport, not just an ATM, or else you’ll be screwed. To be safe, do it the day before or so. I said I was leaving the country so they cancelled my account and converted that amount into US dollars for me to take automatically. Took about 15 minutes!

7. Getting to the Airport

  • I’m including this because of the crap I had to go through. I found out that there was an early check-in service and Seoul Station for those traveling with Korean Air or two other airlines. You can check in there and just take the train to Incheon Airport and then go directly to security instead of checking in at the airport. See this link for more details. So my sister and I took separate taxis to the station since we had a lot of luggage. We dragged our baggage with much difficulty into the station only to find that they said they weren’t allowing early check-ins for people going to the States. Um…what??? That was NOT stated on their site and I blew a fuse at them. How were we going to make our flight?! We took the next express train to the airport and thankfully arrived 1.5 hours before our departure time. We had to move. So, I recommend either taking a taxi, jumbo or regular, or taking the train. Just…be prepared for any situation.

Also, those with an E type Visa will have to turn those in either to an immigration office or at the airport. I had an F-4 so I was able to keep mine.

I hope I went over most parts of the leaving process! If I forgot anything or if you have any questions, please feel free to ask and I’ll do my best to answer!

Advertisements

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple

Hey, it’s been a while since I wrote, I know. I completed my year of teaching and was busy with packing and then readjusting myself back at home. Now that I’m more available I though I should give ya’ll a post!

First off, the temple I’ll be writing about today is by far one of my favorite locations in Busan. While most temple are in foresty or mountainous areas, this one is by the sea!!! But, it can be quite a commute.

I went during this time of year- a bit before the beginning of May when all temples are preparing for Coming of Buddha Day. Admission is free so you can just waltz right in.

As soon as I reached the temple area, I saw vendors selling food and souvenirs. They’re not really worth getting since you can find them anywhere. After that, I walked a bit more to find statues lining a street, and not just any statues either. They were statues of the zodiac. Many people would leave coins placed precariously on their zodiac

Keep walking and you come to a set of stairs leading down to the main temple. The view is breathtaking. No need for words. Here are some pictures!

Many people can be seen admiring the view. Some were adventurous and went down to the rocks by the coast. The sun was starting to set though and cast the temple in shadow. It was also pretty windy since we were by the ocean.

We also explored the temple itself as well.

To get here, take the subway to Haeundae station exit 7 using Line 2. Then walk a bit to find the bus stop and take bus 181to Yonggungsa Temple Bus Stop. It took us over an hour from Deokcheon, so be prepared!!!

Gamcheon Cultural Village

Known as the Macchu Picchu of Busan, Gamcheon Cultural Village is a popular tourist destination found in a small neighborhood of colorful houses and quaint little shops. I went there back in April and I highly recommend you go if you have the chance!

You can get there by taking the subway Line 1 to Toseong station, Exit 6. You can then either walk or take a small local bus up to the village- Saha 1-1, Seogu 2, or Seogu 2-2 to Gamcheon Elementary School Bus Stop. Walking takes maybe 20-30 minutes or so? It’s up a large hill so be prepared!

You’ll soon see the entrance to the village:

20170430_102543

You’ll then be greeted by a small street selling all sorts of things like refreshments, snacks, accessories, stationery, and more. Go up onto the roof area on the right to see the view!

When you’re done enjoying the view, go ahead and feel free to browse the many shops nearby! My friends and I found a little postcard shop where they sell various art of the village. You can also send a postcard to anyone in the world, and you can even decide what day you want to send it on! There are little cubbies with dates on them and you put your postcard in the cubby of the day you want to send it on. I wrote a postcard back home and decided to send it the next day.

20170430_111027(0)

Some other things to see here include this colorful mural, steps painted with various literature (the variety show 1N2D was here!), and a figurine of the little prince overlooking Busan.

20170430_11204720170430_114441

1493550169793

photobombed by a little kid haha

When we left, we took a back road and enjoyed the green, terraced mountains.

20170430_123222

Overall, I’ve been to many places within Busan but Gamcheon Cultural Village is definitely a must! It’s not a place where you spend an entire day, but you can absolutely have fun here for a few hours!!!

School Lunch in Korea

I thought it’d be super interesting to show you guys what a typical public middle school lunch in Korea looks like.

First off, almost all the teachers eat lunch provided by the school. I pay about 80,000-90,000 won total for one month. Pricey, but it’s easier than making your own. Also, lunch is served buffet style- but that doesn’t mean you can heap piles and piles of food onto your plate and go back for seconds (though that doesn’t stop some teachers). Sometimes there are little signs telling you how many pieces of each thing you can take. This is to ensure that everyone has access to everything. After everyone has taken their share, you are of course free to go for seconds.

School lunches are made by the lunch ladies, who often go in and out of the teacher’s eating area to make sure everyone has enough to eat.

Lunch usually has: rice, and of course, kimchi. There is always a type of soup or stew as well. The lunch will also typically have a type of protein, whether from seafood, pork, or chicken, and various side dishes. Sometimes they will serve Western style food, but it’s…not that tasty most of the time. If you’re lucky, there will be dessert such as juice, fruit, or sometimes a nice pastry.

So, enough explaining! Here are some pics I’ve taken over the year.

20170907_120328

Fried chicken, rice, radishes, garlic stems, budae jjigae

20171115_115453

RAMEN AND ONIGIRI with juice

20171117_120146

rice, beansprout soup, chicken, radishes, some fish thingy

20171120_115503

mystery meat, rice, egg, seaweed, tofu soup

20171122_115626

rice, SULLUNGTANG MY FAVORITE SOUP, a fried…incredibly difficult to eat thing, pineapple

Aaaaand, those are all the pics I have! Even though some lunches here have been….questionable, I can say that they’re at least tastier and healthier than American school lunches. What are your school lunches like?

Hydrangea Festival

I’ve been to so many flower festivals. I can’t help it. I love flowers, especially hydrangeas.

20170624_131857

What’s more, I love pressing flowers I collect. Especially since I lost my old collection.

Anyways, the Hydrangea Festival in Busan occurs every year around June. And it’s pretty popular from what I’ve seen.

My only complaint would be how long it takes to get there. After taking the subway to Busan Station, my friends and I tried taking a bus to Taejongdae. A whole bunch of different buses all head to the island where the Hydrangea Festival is located, but because of all the people going there, we watched as numerous buses packed to the brim skip the bus stop at Busan Station. When a bus does finally arrive with space to spare, people crowd and push until there’s no space left to breathe- but you made it onto the bus. But you’re sardined and surrounded by festival hopefuls and now you’re also stuck in, you guessed it, traffic. It takes over an hour to reach our destination. A ride that normally would take maybe 15-20 minutes.

People pour out of the bus and we did it! We’re finally at the Taejongdae area! But we also had to take another  bus, the Danubi bus (er…bus….train? bus-train?), to the actual Hydrangea Festival area within Taejongdae. We bought our tickets and waited another half hour. But eventually, our bus arrives and our numbers are called. The buses are super cute, having been adorned with hydrangea shaped decorations.

20170624_130833

One we reach the festival area, we branch out and- oh my goodness. Hydrangeas, EVERYWHERE. But also people taking selfies everywhere. Myself included. I should also mention that Busan summers are extremely hot and humid. It became rather foggy and super muggy as the day went by, so make sure to have some water with you.

There’s a trail that weaves between the bushes of hydrangeas. You just follow it to the end and when you’re done looking around, there are a bunch of snack stalls you can visit. To get back, take another Danubi bus. You had to pay to get on it the first time, but the return trip is free.

Overall, the festival itself was lovely. I picked a few flowers for my collection and took a lot of pictures. But i HIGHLY recommend going as early as you can to avoid the rush that my group unfortunately encountered. I should have known better, but eh, oh well.

Desk Warming

Fun. Joy. Ah, yes, the absolute wonder of having to come to school when no students are present and you have no further lessons to plan since you’re leaving Korea in a month.

As contract workers, EPIK teachers have to desk warm at least 1 week in both summer and winter. Most likely more since, you know, you have sooooo many important things to do sitting at your desk all day. During student vacation. You know, because it was soooo expensive for the school to hire a NET and they need to milk you of your use as much as they can. I’m just super bitter that I’m basically doing at my desk what I could have been doing at home: nothing.

I wake up at 7:50. That’s pushing it. I get to school by 8:30. Barely safe! Then I sit at my desk and zone out for an hour. Maybe read the news. Bad idea. News is rarely ever good these days. When it hits around 10:00, I get sleepy. Commence trying to sneak a nap in while looking like you’re actually doing something. Leave the screen on something like a book on my Kindle app on my laptop and I’m set.

It’s now 11:30. and I blearily open my eyes as the four other teachers stuck here with me start getting ready for lunch. I placidly observe them as I pull out my hastily made leftovers from last night. At noon, we all sit together and share what we eat. Did you bring a sandwich? How selfish of you to not bring something to share. Did you bring side dishes? Expect to share. It’s communal eating time. After lunch I make coffee, which takes all of one minute to make. I sit back at my desk and zone out again for an hour, but while listening to some non K-Pop music. The next few hours are the worst. I’m not sleepy and I have nothing to do. Time ticks by unceasingly slowly and I question whether they’d even notice if I left.

It’s now 1:30. Time is not moving. Nothing is real. The next three hours drag on and I consider watching videos but my desk is in the teacher’s office where they can see everything I do on my laptop and I have no choice but to pretend to work on something. Like writing this. Or reading from my Kindle. Because it’s so important.

It’s 4:25. I pack my things. Then I sit watching the hands of the clock. As soon as it hits 4:30, I bolt out of the office and into freedom.

And then I go home and watch videos and play games all night. Then, rinse and repeat for the entire week.

Deokcheon Area and Gupo Traditional Market!!!

I’ve had this post in my drafts since last March lol…

Oh, my goodness. I meant to write about my neighborhood a lot sooner. So, I live near Deokcheon station in Busan and it’s just about filled with anything you might need: a young life area with restaurants, clothing stores, and more, an underground shopping mall, and a traditional market.

I don’t really know what to call the young life area. I go there most of the time since the street has a plethora of restaurants, cafes, and dessert stores. It also has a food mart and clothing stores I like. There’s also an Artbox (my fav!!) which is a stationary store, and Daiso, which is like a dollar store. There’s even a cat cafe! But the highlight for me was the Sim Sim Doorim Cafe. It’s a comic book cafe!

You go in and pay for how many hours you want to stay- about 2000 won for the first hour. You take off your slippers and you can browse all sorts of comic books (all in Korean, of course). They even have Japanese manga, but in Korean. The store also has these little secluded reading areas that I adore. You can just go in and lie down and do whatever, so I usually came here to use the wifi in the quiet, secluded setting before I got internet in my apartment. You can also buy coffee, snacks, ice cream, or ramen!

Moving on, this young life area also has a mall: Newcore Mall. It’s not too small and has a good selection of clothes, though pricey in my opinion. It’s worth checking it out when they have sales. Next to the mall, however, is a used bookstore! MY FAVORITE. It’s called Aladdin Used Books. It’s rather easy to find except for the fact that the signs for the store are entirely in Korean. Here’s what it looks like from the outside:

20170408_144928

They have a wide selection of books in Korean, English, and even Japanese! I was surprised at how many English books there were, to be honest. I’d been to bigger bookstores in department stores and was disappointed when I found that they didn’t sell books in English. Aladdin Used Books is therefore a great, and even better, alternative. The books are relatively cheap and are in good condition. The inside is pretty quiet and has areas for people to sit down and read. You can sign up for a membership without using your ARC so it’s pretty handy!

Deokcheon also has an underground shopping area. It’s pretty large! One reason why I like it better than Seomyeon’s is because it’s linear. Seomyeon is very broad and has stores literally placed every which way, which makes it easy to get lost because it’s very confusing. Deokcheon is just a long, straight line with stores on either side- and that simplicity makes me like it more. It’s nowhere near as big as Seomyeon but it still has a wide collection of clothing items.

Last is the Gupo Traditional Market. I rely on this area for the majority of my groceries.  I go there multiple times a week but I still get lost whenever I go…because I suck at finding my way around lol. Anyways, as soon as you enter the area there are some ajummas selling seafood in the middle of the street. If you go past them and down the stairs, you reach the seafood/fresh market area. They sell almost everything here. Fish, octopus, vegetables, rice, traditional crackers, meat- just name anything Korean and you’ll find it here. I have to make sure I go there on a full stomach because otherwise I’m just tempted to buy everything! The people here are generally friendly and often give me extra when I buy from them. I honestly prefer buying from the traditional market so I can help support local farmers and businesses. Plus, the ingredients feel more…fresh?

20170405_171844

Overall, my area has anything I’d need within arm’s reach. Although my apartment is small, I’m thankful that everything else is so close. The location is also good because I’m near lines 2 and 3 and can get to most areas of Busan fairly easily. It’s been a wonderful experience wandering around and I will admittedly miss it when I leave.

Canola Flower Festival

I’m currently desk warming and have nothing to do, so why not update this with my past adventures? Back in April, I went to a flower festival near where I live- the Canola Flower Festival (also known as the rapeflower).

20170416_131301

Located near Gangseo-gu subway station, which is two stops away from me, the Canola flower field can be seen from far away for a rather breathtaking view. A yellow field filled with flowers- and people- draws many people per year. Upon getting off the subway, I was surprised by just how many people there were. It was so crowded I almost felt like going back home!! The field is pretty easy to find if you just follow the massive crowd of Koreans along the streets filled with food vendors. They sell everything from corndogs to boiled silkworm cocoons (which I loved and craved as a child but abhor as an adult). I would have taken a picture of the silkworms but the smell made me feel nauseated….so no. One pleasant surprise, for me at least, was that the vendors were also selling flower crowns! I wanted one but I was too embarrassed to get one. I liked seeing people wearing them, even the men!

Once arriving at the field, I found my friends and we looked around the vendors under the Gupo bridge for a while. I discovered another kebab vendor, which sold lamb this time, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. We took some pictures in the field and people watched for a bit. I made sure to pick some flowers to add to my pressed flower collection (which I no longer have bc I’m stupid and lost all my flowers).  The flowers also smelled really nice! But, the pollen was getting everywhere- my friend’s leggings were covered in a light, yellow layer. Overall, the view was amazing….too bad I forgot my selfie stick this time around though 😛

20170416_135508

Around 3 PM it became so crowded I felt a little overwhelmed. We decided to call it a day and I went back home after that.

So, if you’re ever in Busan in the springtime, definitely go check this festival out! I do recommend going early though, like around noon, to avoid the rush people swarming to see the flowers.

Going to the Dentist in Korea

If you’re an EPIK teacher, you’ll get health insurance, which is nice. Anyways, one day, I was flossing and my tooth felt weird- the floss felt stuck so I forced it out…and a piece of my tooth broke off O_O

Flash forward a week later and I’m at the dentist. Keep in mind I went to one that doesn’t speak English- Eastern Dental Clinic in Busan. You can take your CT with you or find an English-speaking dentist. Back to the topic, I was really nervous. I never had good experiences with dentists in America. I walked in and they took me in right away. They asked me what was wrong and I told them.

After waiting a few minutes, they led me inside. It was white, clean, and very modern. They took an x-ray of my teeth and many, many pictures. What I found interesting was that they covered my face with a green cloth with a hole in it for my mouth. It covered my entire face and they would only see my mouth- which was nice so I wouldn’t have to worry about where to look lol. So, they then explained and showed me all the things I needed fixed: 3 crowns, cleaning, and the removal of the remaining 3 wisdom teeth I had left (I didn’t take good care of my teeth >_>). Ok. I can do that. In America, the dentist tried to get away with making me get fillings on everything- which isn’t necessary. I could feel that the Korean dentists were honestly telling me only what needed urgent attention.

I scheduled an appointment for the crowns. A week later, I went back and got the crown done- but it was weird. I had to get it done in 2 steps. They would clean and put “bond” or “glue” on the tooth and I would have to wait a week. Then I would get the actual filling. Weird. Anyway, I did so and one crown was 200,000. This wasn’t covered by insurance apparently so I paid a lot, but still way less than what I would have paid in the States.

A while later, I went back to remove my wisdom teeth. And I was scared. In America, it hurt like hell. But then, BAM! Korea! I felt NOTHING. It was amazing. I didn’t feel a thing! The after-care was wonderful too. They told me to come back the next day for a simple cleaning with topical medicine and salt water. They also gave me meds, which I picked up at the pharmacy next door for about 2,000 won. Amazing.

Overall, I would recommend getting all your dentist stuff done in Korea if you don’t have good dental care where you’re from- especially America. Dentists there rip you off like hell. Anyways, have fun!

Contract Renewal

It’s that time of year when Fall intake EPIK teachers are asked if they’d like to renew their contracts…

I said no.

My CT was like, “Nooooo, whyyyyyyyyy.” I just gave her some offhand, vague reason like ohhh it’s personal and family-related (which is true actually).

To be accurate, it’s more like I don’t think I can stand another year in Korea. I don’t know if my mind could handle it. I have a looooot of things I want to say about my experience in Korea, but I won’t say it until I’m done with EPIK because I think I’m pretty contractually obligated atm not to say anything that could cause my school (or Korea in general??) to lose face.

This is another reason why I stopped writing this blog. I’ve lost a lot of my joy and purpose for writing about Korea. But, make no mistake. I wouldn’t exchange my experience I had here for anything. I learned a lot. And I loved my students- they were the only thing that made me even consider staying. I just didn’t want to stay another year in an environment that made me start dread teaching.

I’ll update my blog about why I left later…