I’m Freeee

south korea

I waiting for 12pm since I got here. It’s weird that I can close out all of my apps now because I no longer have to have my quarantine app open at all times.

It feels wrong that I was able to walk outside. I felt like I was breaking the law. Is that what two weeks in solitary confinement does to you?? (kidding)

I just went for a little stroll around my neighborhood and was able to see (up close) the progress that the construction workers had made on the building that is very close to mine. They’ve made quite some progress within the past two weeks. That has been some of my entertainment these past two weeks.

My neighborhood looked a bit deserted from my window.

Turns out it wasn’t THAT much of a desert as I thought it was going to be. There were stores and several apartment buildings and restaurants once I left my street. Everything was about a 5-10 minute walk from my place which is super convenient.

There was a lot to see in my little town; It was riveting. I only walked a total of two miles aimlessly because it started getting dark and I was hungry so I started to walk the wrong way home. Fun. I’m glad that KakaoMap works without cellular data because I would’ve definitely been lost if not. I saw the Dominos that I order from twice throughout my quarantine period. I saw a few hair and nail salons. I also saw a bunch of parks and people walking around. And this box with pet food and water inside that was on one of the walking paths which made me smile and warm inside. HOW CUTE.

7/11. Yay!

I also went to a 7/11 which brought me back to Thailand because 7’s in Thailand were literally every other building. When I went to grab some Soju, they had Singha!!!! My day was instantly made. Quarantine guys, quarantine, it is worth it. The lady inside 7/11 thought that I was younger than 20, which is the legal drinking age in Korea. Good thing is that I downloaded English and Korean on Google Translate since I don’t have a phone plan yet this came in very handy. Of course it made me laugh because that happens to me everywhere even though I’m well over 20. Everyone always thinks I’m younger than 20. Not mad about it but I didn’t have my passport soooo that could’ve been a problem.

I got 2 Singhas πŸ˜†

I got a few snacks at 7 to try because why not. I have no idea what they say on the packaging but I got Cheetos and a candy bar. I thought that the Cheetos were spicy but Google told me otherwise. I guess they’re sweet and spicy. They are sweet. Back home, the spicy Cheetos are wicked spicy. I tried.

I’ve been eyeing this place since I got here because I thought it said “Paris Bagels.” Anyone who knows me knows I am have a sick obsession with bagels. After a quick KakaoMap search, I learned that it is called “Paris Baguette.” Still, it’s bread so I thought I’d give it a try on my walk back home. They had quite the selection. I got some egg salad and potato salad to try and this watermelon bar which was palatable because I also love watermelon πŸ‰ I also got a sandwich with lettuce, tomato, imitation crab, and some spicy sauce.

Today was an interesting day and I am a bit relieved that my city has more to offer than I thought; I feel giddy. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year holds! Tomorrow starts a new day AND my first school day. I am excited to do some more exploring before school. More pictures to come!

The Flight & Beyond

south korea

Before I left for Korea, I went on a few Facebook groups and asked a bunch of questions. I was able to download apps before I left and I created a folder, just in case I didn’t have secure WiFi when I arrived. I recommend doing that, just to be prepared. However, the WiFi at Incheon airport was fantastic so I could’ve waited too. The apps that were suggested by the Facebook groups were: KakaoTalk, KakaoMap, KakaoMetro, KakaoBus, Gmarket Global, Subway (μ§€ν•˜μ² ), Lotte Cinema (the app has easier steps to change the language to English), Korail (μ½”λ ˆμΌν†‘) and Naver Maps. The desktop website for Naver Maps is in Korean but the app has the option for English. You also have to download the quarantine app at the airport. They have a banner with the QR code. If you have to delete the app and start over, like I did, this is the link where you can download it or you can simply type it into the App Store: μžκ°€κ²©λ¦¬ μ•ˆμ „λ³΄ν˜Έ.

Since I am still in quarantine, I have only used the quarantine app. Once I use the others, I will post an update on how they work and my opinions on each.

I laugh about it now but when I was leaving BOS, I paid $500 for my two suitcases through United Airlines. I did not think it would be THAT much. But then again, I packed up my whole room and also broke a suitcase while my dad was trying to bring it upstairs so I guess I should’ve known. One suitcase was 80+ pounds (36kg+) and the other was over 60 (27kg+). My brother had to come to the airport and help me bring them inside because little old me overstuffed them. Along with my 100 and 30 some odd bags, I had a backpack and a duffle bag which were also stuffed. Thankfully, I didn’t have to deal with the suitcases for a long time because the airport was not busy. I was also surprised with how packed the flight was from BOS to LAX. I thought it wasn’t allowed to be fully booked, but guess I was wrong. There was not an empty seat in sight.

Imagine walking around the LAX airport with both carry-ons, while dripping sweat wearing a jacket and sweatshirt? That was me. Not to mention when I landed in LA, I had no idea what terminal I was going to. I ended up calling one of my friends (thanks Christina) and she looked up the terminal which was TBIT and I was on my way. About 20-30 minutes later, right as I was about to walk into the gate, my name was called over the loudspeaker. What a memorable day that was. To be fair, it wasn’t my fault because the flight to LAX from BOS was delayed by 20 minutes.

Asiana Airlines vegetarian meal

But at last, I was off to ICN. Before entering the airplane, they took temperatures. I was scared that they were going to deny me because I was hot from sweating and nervous because I was hot from sweating πŸ˜… I had never heard of Asiana Airlines before but in my opinion, they were up there with Qatar. The movie/TV show selection wasn’t that great but the food was delicious. I only had one meal because I passed out right when I got onto the plane. I had the whole row to myself which was awesome for a 14 hour flight. AND for the first time ever, I actually remembered to change my meal plan when I booked the flight to vegetarian. Yay.

During the flight, I filled out 4 forms: arrival card, travel record declaration, health declaration, and traveler declaration form. Make sure you have a Korean phone number and address to use. I only had my address in Korean at the time, so that took about 10 minutes to fill out per page. The flight attendant complimented me on my Korean writing which I am very proud of πŸ₯³ I also downloaded a bunch of Netflix shows/movies, brought a book and downloaded games that didn’t require internet so I could keep myself entertained. Don’t be like me and pack your charger where you can’t find it. I went more than half the flight with thinking that I didn’t bring a charger with me when all along it was in my duffle bag. Will I ever learn to be organized? Probably not.

Since I had symptoms of Covid within the past 21 days (along with coughing on the flight) I got pulled aside once I went through customs. I got handed a lanyard with a note that said “Incheon.” I then sat down and waited to be called. The lady asked me what symptoms I had and I explained that I have allergies and also got a Covid test two days before my flight. Then, I followed these two guys and they gave me a KF94 mask and asked if I had any meal requests (how sweet). The staff asked me what my suitcases looked like so they could set them aside (if you don’t keep the sticker they give you from your suitcase, that’s okay. I only had one and they were still able to pull both of mine off the belt). Then, I was taken to a little cubicle-like area and I had to fill out even more forms. I had to write my Korean address down 3 or 4 more times. After that was done, one by one he sat us down. I gave him my visa and he called my school director and then showed me how to use the app and what information to put in.

The airport staff were super friendly and although we couldn’t really communicate, it was simple and straightforward. The three of us then went through immigration and our suitcases were there waiting for us. One of the girls that I was grouped with came from Virginia but was from Korea so she spoke English fluently and explained to me what was going on. She was so kind!

We then went onto a bus, drove for about 10 minutes and we all got tested. We were put into cubicle-like spaces again, along with our belongings and good WiFi. The room also had outlets and various chargers.

OJ, water, & (I think) milk
First Meal: lettuce, tomato, cheese, mustard & mayo

Eight hours, two meals, and four water bottles later we received our results. We were taken back to the airport and went our separate ways. My new friend helped me find a taxi. I gave the guy the sheet with my address in Korean we were on our way!

Second Meal: rice with seaweed, carrots, cabbage, spinach & some other ingredient that I’ve never seen before. So flavorful.

One hour and some change later, I was outside of my apartment building handing the taxi driver β‚©190,000 (β‚©20,000 for the tip). That’s about $172. Just to be clear, I’m not sure if that’s a reasonable price for the distance or if I was scammed. But either way, don’t make the same mistake that I did. I should’ve known to have the taxi driver use the meter because of my experiences in Thailand. However, I was tired and not all there so I hadn’t thought twice about it. So, make sure you have them run the meter before you leave the airport. Or if you have a working phone, use that to find out how much the fare.

At least we made it to Korea before breaking!

Before I left the airport, I went on Google and saw that there drivers expect a tip of 10-20%. That was a swift Google search so don’t quote me. From the airport to my apartment I didn’t have any phone service because I canceled my plan before leaving so I had no way of asking anyone how much the ride should be. If I did get scammed, oh well. I mean he did carry my two humungous suitcases in and out of the vehicle.

I typed in the code to my building, broke my second suitcase, and entered my apartment. What a relief.

A Fresh Beginning

south korea
Khao Yai National Park, Central Thailand

Who would’ve thought that I’d be going to another country during a pandemic?

I did.

After spending ten months in Thailand, I knew that living in America just wasn’t for me anymore. I didn’t even want to leave Thailand in the first place, but I had to. When I returned home, everything was different; I was different. I felt trapped- physically, mentally, and emotionally. I realized that there was nothing there for me anymore. There was no adventure, no challenge. The pandemic changed my plans, as it did with many others.

I came home from Thailand in the beginning of March. Eight months later and here I am in quarantine waiting for the day (December 8) when I can be freeee.

The hardest part about coming home from Thailand was that I wanted to leave right away. Buttttt, the pandemic. I went from having the time of my life to being locked inside my house indefinitely, just like the rest of the world.

In June was when I had enough. I started looking into countries that would take me as an ESL teacher in the middle of coronavirus. While researching, I would talk to my friends that I met abroad and they had plans to go to South Korea.

Teaching in South Korea had crossed my mind once or twice before but I initially had plans to go to Ireland when I got back from Thailand.

The two countries that were accepting teachers in early July were South Korea and Thailand.

Pha Trom Jai Cliff
Khao Yai National Park, Thailand

I applied for numerous positions in both countries, awaiting anxiously. I can’t even remember how many recruiters I talked to. My friend found a great recruiter (orrrrr, so we thought) that helped us start the initial process.

Little did we know it would take much more time, stress, and back pain.

I would wake up early in the morning and post my resume on sites such as Dave’s ESL cafe, Gone 2 Korea, Go Overseas, ESL Rok, and several others. I joined a bunch of Facebook groups and would scroll on Google for hours.

I heard back from a good amount, but the process was difficult because I was out of the country. It ended up taking a lot of time and effort to even get schools and recruiters to answer me. My friend and I joked that searching for jobs WAS a full time job.

After months of staring at my computer, I received a job… from the recruiter who I first talked to back in July.

At first, I wanted to be placed near Seoul, just like 85% of others looking to teach in South Korea. Busan and Seoul are the top locations that everyone wants. I’m only about an hour-ish away so I settled. But, if you want a specific location then you will eventually find a job, it just may take some more time, especially during a pandemic.

For me personally, I thought it would be a good idea to be placed in an area that I was unfamiliar with. I wanted to challenge myself. And so far I haven’t regretted it.