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Okay, so I’ve gotten majorly off track this past week. I blame finishing up my job because it’s thrown off my sleep schedule. I’ve pretty much studied zero Korean for several days now. And yesterday my TV remote completely disappeared so I think that’s a sign I need to get back on track.

I will say the one Korean-related thing I’ve been doing (although even that I haven’t done since Friday) is check out the website Galbijim. I put a link for it on the Korean Resources page, but thought I’d just check it out here. It’s a wiki of Korean culture and actually has pages dedicated to people who are going to be teaching English in Korea – people like me! That page was really helpful and I’ll definitely be writing some of this stuff down so I can have it when I first go other there, since I don’t know how long it’ll take me to get internet set up. It has a lot of other information too, like free online resources for learning Korean and pages for geographical areas.

Also, here’s the blog by the guys who run Galbijim.

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Oookay, so now I’ve officially signed the contract and am in the final stage of the Visa process that will get started with teaching English in Korea. Even though I wasn’t happy with having an hourly contract, I decided to settle with it because if I pass on this one it could be another several weeks before another position opens for me. And frankly, I’m tired of this song-and-dance routine! That sounds awfully jaded – like I said before, this process probably goes smoother for other people, but I pretty much had problems every step along the way (and that’s seriously not an exaggeration…). So now I just need to sit back and wait to get my Visa code from the Korean immigration office. Then I can go to the Korean Embassy in DC (It pays to live near the capital!) and apply for my Visa.

This time around, I’m working in Hwaseong City(화성시), in Gyeonggi Province which is just south of Seoul. Hwaseong’s name is a little confusing because the city is outside Suwon (수원시), the capital of the province. Suwon is Korea’s last walled city and is the location of the Hwaseong Fortress… That is, the Hwaseong Fortress is not in Hwaseong… But apparently the two cities were once together referred to as Maehol-gun (매홀군). On a side note, I learned today that the ending -gun means it’s a county while -si (시) is a city.

I couldn’t find a lot of information about Hwaseong, at least not as much as I wanted, mostly because all the searches are coming up with the fortress and not the city. But I did stumble on the city’s official website. The places listed on the Culture and Tourism page look pretty interesting. I’m actually really looking forward to visiting the hot springs they talk about. I do love hot springs.

On thing about Hwaseong, its geography is eerily similar to my hometown. It’s a just off of a bay, surrounded by farm land, a stone’s throw from the capital. Hopefully this will make dealing with culture shock easier.

Okay, so here’s the deal. Yesterday I received the new contract which has me working in Hwaseong starting December 4th. Although the date is better and leaves me more time to get ready (oh by the way, my old contract had me going over to Korea before my Visa was ready – that’s why it was cancelled), there are two things “wrong” with it.

  1. I’m no longer working in Gumi. This isn’t really something wrong, but it does make me a little sad. I only knew I was going to Gumi for a couple of days, but I actually got kind of attached to the city. It was described as an “industrial, mid-sized city” and the word “industrial” really turned me off, but I liked the idea of being in the land that used to be the Silla kingdom. And I was looking forward to visiting all the temples and historic sites in the area.
  2. My old contract paid me using a monthly rate salary. This new contract (although for more money, woot!) pays me with an hourly rate salary. I won’t bore you with the details about the difference between these (unless you want me to) but basically, I would MUCH rather have a monthly rate salary. Hopefully I’ll be able to negotiate for a monthly salary. I don’t know how flexible Chung Dahm is with this sort of thing.

I probably won’t be able to talk to the Chung Dahm representative until next Monday or Tuesday, so we’ll have to wait and see what happens.

So last night I did three things: I signed, scanned and emailed in my official contract; I gave my ten day notice for quiting my job and I put in the application with my recruiter’s travel agent to get me on a flight to Seoul on the 19th. And then this morning I got a call from my recruiter saying the November 20th arrival date is too early and they won’t have my Visa information ready in time. Which sucks because now I have to try and figure out what to do about my flight (and I am really glad I did go through their travel agent now instead of buying a ticket on my own). And I also have to go back to work today and tell them that I will *in fact* be able to work through the Thanksgiving holiday.

Now I know that this processes has been really smooth for some people and not-quite-as-smooth for others, but this is just getting a little silly in my case. I was originally scheduled to leave in July and I had to call them up and tell them that was way too early. So they pushed me back to August, which I thought was still too early, but whatever, I could deal. Then, like a lot of people scheduled to leave in August, there was a mini-crisis on their end that pushed us back ’til later in the year. And now that I’m all set to drop everything and leave in November, what do you know, I’m really leaving in December. Hopefully they won’t push me back any further because 1. I don’t want to be working in retail during the Christmas season (because the shoppers are already getting crazy) and 2. If I start in January or later that will really screw up my plans for when I get back from Korea (aka grad school).

The school is supposed to email me today  with my new contract and I’m also suppose to get a call from a representative to iron out the details (of course, it’s suppose to be the details of the old contract). Hopefully from here on out things will go smoothly…

On a random and slightly less important note, now I shouldn’t have a problem with NaNoWriMo, because I realized that I’ll be over in Seoul, possibly without internet during the last week of November. Not anymore!

In August when my departure was delayed, I was told the earliest time I could leave was probably December. Today I received the final contract from Chung Dahm Learning and they want me to start training in Seoul on November 23rd. Which means I need to arrive by November 20th. Which probably means that I’ll be leaving the country on November 19th. So sooooooon!

But I now know that I’ll be teaching in Gumi (구미시), South Korea, which is a “mid-sized city” in the Gyeoungsang (경상도) province (or Yeongnam (영남) region – I can’t figure which one is more correct) in the east. The region is where the first unified Korean country, Silla (신라), was formed. Very cool.

This new departure/arrival time is a little bit daunting because I haven’t even packed/ don’t know if I even have everything I need yet/ have to now quit my job, like, three days ago to give proper two-weeks notice/ still know basically no Korean. I better start getting ready.

November is shaping up to be an interesting month for me. First of all, it’s November 5th and you know what that means – it’s Guy Fawkes Day/ Bonfire Night in the United Kingdom and some of its former colonies. Some of those colonies are not the United States, where we do not celebrate the Parliament-burning adventures of Guy Fawkes, although the day is a good excuse to watch V for Vendetta.

In other news, I’ve got a good amount going on this month, which has unfortunately been taking away my time that I’d normally use to study Korean. First of all, I’ve worked about 12 days in a row this month, which is crazy but 1. I need the money for Korea and 2. I’m actually not burnt out. At least not yet – with Christmas coming up, work promises to start getting very busy…  Fortunately, next week it looks I’m getting four days off. Which isn’t so great for earning money but it will give me time to get back into studying Korean more seriously and to really knock out the next thing I’m doing – NaNoWriMo.

I had heard of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) before but for some reason this particular November it finally caught my eye and I decided to do it. Write one 50,000 word novel in one month. I’ve actually typed a lot already and will easily make the deadline, but I’ve paid the price in not studying Korean as much. But it’s a lot of fun so I’ll take the break from studying for now.

Out of curiosity I looked up how many people were signed up for NaNoWriMo in Korea – not very many. Or at least only a few have actually registered what region they’re writing in: 52 in Busan and 327 in Seoul. In comparisons, my region (United States:Maryland) has 2929. I guess I’m just going to have to participate next year when I’m in Korea and help get their numbers up.

So between working, writing and sleeping, there’s not to much time to study. BUT November is also the month I’m supposed to find out when I’m going to Korea (and maybe even where), so I’m looking forward to that. Hopefully they’ll tell me very soon because I’m starting to get antsy.

A few days ago, my dad recommended I take a look at Live Mocha, which is a free language learning website anyone can sign up for. I’ve been checking it out for the past couple of days and I’m fairly impressed. It’s billed as a superior alternative to Rosetta Stone. I don’t know that I would necessarily call it superior but it’s definitely a very good learning tool. And if you don’t want to pay a lot of money for an expensive class or a program like Rosetta Stone, Live Mocha is a really good alternative.

Once you’ve signed up with Live Mocha, you can enroll in up to 30 different language lessons. There are also premium lessons that you can pay for, like a Travel Crash course (which is unfortunately only available in Spanish, French, Mandarin, German and Italian) but even these are fairly cheap. After you sign up for your language(s), you gradually progress through the lessons. Each lesson starts with introducing you to knew words using pictures, audio recordings and the words in the target language. Once you’ve finished those, you can choose to finish the lesson or do one of their practices. There’s reading, listening and ‘magnet’ practice (magnet is basically sentence construction practice) and you can also quiz yourself. To finish the lesson, you have to complete exercises from the practice sessions (so it’s useful to do them, even if you don’t have to) and you’re done! You can move onto a new lesson or redo your earlier ones.

Right now I’m doing Unit 1 Lesson 5 of Korean, which introduces numbers 1-20. Unfortunately, it’s only introducing the set of Korean numbers used for counting things, while Rosetta Stone does both. It’s a little hard to learn both at once but I like knowing them both. There are a few things that Rosetta Stone has that Live Mocha doesn’t. My big issue with Live Mocha is I feel there’s way too much English being said. For the magnet exercises, example sentences are given in English but it wouldn’t be hard to have them in Korean.

But there’s also one major thing Live Mocha has that Rosetta Stone doesn’t: social networking. Aside from being able to have friends through Live Mocha, you can also interact with people who are fluent in the language. You can also do exercises, either written or spoken, in the target language, which native speakers can then correct. It’s pretty cool. So far, they don’t have any of these exercises in Korean, but they do have them in English so I some times correct the exercises of people learning English. I really like the feature so I hope they expand it to all of the 30 languages you can learn.

If you want to learn a language for free, Live Mocha is definitely a route you should consider. If you’ve already paid for classes or software like Rosetta Stone, I would still recommend checking this out. It’s important to vary the things you do to learn a language and this is definitely worth incorporating into the other things you’re doing.

PS. Just for fun, I also signed up for the introductory lesson of Japanese. They present new words in both Japanese and romanji, which is nice but I think I’ll be focusing on just Korean for right now!