Sunday, December 30, 2007


It's funny--the question I get asked more than any other lately is "aren't you afraid of (fill in the blank)?". Everyone seems to have something different that they think I should fear about Korea or the trip there. The prevailing things people think I should fear are: a) Not understanding the language (and the various problems that could arise), b) North Korea, and c) Getting sick from some random foreign disease.

This got me to thinking, what am I afraid of about this move? Sure I've felt mild concern at the possibilities other people keep bringing up, but the things that scare me the most aren't on that list. You know what my big fears are right now? Here's the list:

1. Eating what I believe to be chicken, and then finding out that it isn't.
2. Accidentally insulting someone through not understanding Korean etiquette. Or just being an ugly American, in any way.
3. Not being a good teacher to my students (probably my biggest fear).
4. Learning from being a minority for the first time that I am in some way racist/prejudiced.
5. A death in the family while I'm away.
6. Making a mistake in my paperwork and/or visa requirements and not being able to go.
7. Getting lost in a foreign airport on the way there.
8. Getting all the way there, and then realizing that I forgot to pack something essential.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Apostille Ordeal

It's official: I am going insane. I was just informed yesterday that I am now set to depart in mid to late January, instead of February. I love that I get to go sooner, but the mad dash to get everything done is enough to give me colitis!

On my lunch break yesterday, I went to a notary and had my diplomas and background checks notarized. The lady was really nice and only charged me five dollars, which was WAY less than I expected to pay for having six things notarized. Since I still had time left, I went over to the Secretary of State's office in Allegan, hoping to get my apostilles (when I called the Secretary of State's Lansing office, they told me I should go to a local branch office for an apostille).

That was a wasted trip. I took a number, #70, noticed that they were currently "assisting" #44, so I decided not to wait. After work, I went to the S of S office in Kalamazoo. After patiently explaining what an apostille is to not one, but three employees, they finally informed me that apostilling is not done at the local branch offices (wow, once again I hear two different things from two different people). They told me to go to Grand Rapids. Luckily, I have decided to stop being so trusting, so I did some checking on my own and learned that the only place I can go is Lansing. So, tomorrow I have to leave work early and take a little trip to Michigan's capitol. What fun.

The moral of this story: No one has a clue what they're doing.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

I Got My Christmas Present Early!

Praise God!!! I prayed last night that He would please let the paperwork come soon, because I have been so nervous that it wouldn't reach me in time. After all, I was depending on both Liberty University and the FBI to expedite processes that are notorious for being VERY slow.

Well, my prayer was answered. All my paperwork arrived in the mail today. How appropriate that I should get it on Christmas Eve! Now all I have to do is get it notorized and apostilled, which I can hopefully do by next week.

In case anyone doesn't quite realize what a miracle this is, let me fill you in. Liberty University took one year to issue my diploma the first time. They say that a reissue takes at least 8-10 weeks (often longer). I called Liberty and requested three copies about three weeks ago and begged them to expedite the process. They told me it would be after the first of the year before they arrived. As for the FBI, their background checks have been known to take 16 weeks or longer (they were estimating 6 weeks on their website). I mailed in my fingerprints and request on the 15th of this month, and it only took them nine days to send back the paperwork! Wow! I guess this proves that excedingly polite letters really do get results!

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you're all being blessed as much or more than me this holiday season.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Eight Weeks Left in America!

Scary, isn't it? Only eight weeks until I move to Korea. Only eight weeks left with the people and critters I love. And then? Uncertainty. Adventure. A whole new experience.

Am I ready? I don't know. Is anyone ever really for what comes next in life? Can we ever honestly call ourselves prepared? I guess I am pretty close to being as prepared as I can logically expect to be.

Honestly, I am nervous. I am excited, eager, exhilarated, full of anticipation...and nervous. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is what I want to do. However, taking a plunge in order to make a dream come true is far from easy. In some ways, it's downright scary.

There are loads of things to be nervous about. I'm nervous about the long journey (What if my luggage gets lost? What if there's something wrong with my paperwork? What if I miss a connection and wind up stranded in Tokyo?). I'm nervous about daily life (What if I don't make friends for a long time--or at all? What if I get sick from the food? What if my apartment is rodent-infested?). I'm nervous about teaching (What if the kids hate me? What if I'm lousy at it?). I'm nervous about cultural matters too: I have never believed myself to be racist in any way, but what if being a minority for the first time in my life teaches me that I am? With every new experience, I learn new things about myself. What if I don't like what I learn?

You cannot live life encumbered by "what ifs." They keep crowding into my head, but I remind myself to push past them. I have decided to only let myself worry about things that are real--and "what ifs" are not. They are just paper dragons, getting thrown up in my face to slow me down or stop me. I refuse to let them. I've let myself be grounded by fear for too long. As I heard lately, everyone deserves a chance to fly.

I wish I felt like more people understood why I'm going. Most people that I have told have been excited for me, but there are a few who almost seem offended that I made this decision without consulting them. I am sorry if I have hurt anyone by making my own decisions, but after all, that's how my mother raised me to be--independent and capable of knowing my own mind (thanks Mom). It hurts that not everyone supports my decision, but at least my parents, pastor, and best friend do. I know what a big move this is, and I am going into it with my eyes wide open. This is what I want. I am not settling for second best, moving away because I'm giving up, or running from something or someone. I am moving forward, following where I believe God wants me to go.

So, in eight weeks, the journey of a lifetime begins. With a single leap.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Check Another Thing off the "To Do" List!

Since sleeping isn't working out so well right now, here's the latest update on the paperwork for my visa:

I signed two copies of my contract, which are now ready to be sent back to the school once I get everything else ready. Liberty has sent an e-mail confirming that my diploma order has been processed, which I am hoping means that they intend to mail out said diplomas very soon, if not already. I already have the necessary transcripts. I got my fingerprints done on Thursday (as I already mentioned). Today I typed up a very polite cover letter for the FBI, sent Dad to the bank for a certified check, and had Dad mail the packet to the FBI, via priority mail. Extra postage, but well worth it.

I got my paycheck earlier this week, so once I deposit it, I'll be putting another $150 into my savings account for Korea. On top of what I have already, I will now have 2/3 of the money I wanted to go over with saved. Which means I should be able to bring over a lot more money than I had counted on, since I still have almost nine weeks until I leave. Security! :)

On the good news front, I also am almost over my sinus infection, which is making this whole process so much easier and less stressful (I had been feeling, shall we say, a "bit" tense).

There is still so much left to do, and so little time. I still need to make appointments with two doctors, a dentist, and the gal who does my hair. I need to get a year's supply of all my meds, fill out my health form, get all the paperwork apostilled, get a flu shot, check to see if I need any vaccinations, and get both my room and car thoroughly cleaned out. In addition, I have to figure out what I need to purchase here and purchase it, and figure out what things to pack and locate them. On a more somber note, I also need to write out my will, just in case. Of course, I still have a few debts to pay off, too (I don't want to leave my parents with any added responsibility should anything happen to me). It's a lot to do, and I'm working full time on top of it.

All in all, I am going to be a very busy girl for the next several weeks.

Friday, December 14, 2007


Despite being so sick that I was unable to go to work, I still made it to my fingerprinting appointment today (I would have crawled if I'd had too). The process was surprisingly easy; I walked right in, the guy was friendly, and the actual fingerprinting took very little time. So now I have the fingerprint card for the FBI. I just need a certified check for $18.00 and a good cover letter explaining what I need and why. As I am still miserable and typing is rather difficult right now (I keep making stupid typos), I think I'll wait until tomorrow to write the letter.

After getting fingerprinted, I stopped by World Market and purchased a pair of chopsticks. Since I'll be seeing a lot of these in Korea, I figure I'd better learn how to use them now. I'd rather embarrass myself at home than in a foreign country. I've got over half the amount of money I wanted (minimum) to take over with me saved up now! It feels so great just knowing that I am making progress toward going. It's really happening, and I am really going to be in Asia, living my dream, in just nine weeks. Somebody needs to pinch me!

I will confess that I am very nervous and scared, in addition to being excited beyond belief. I am giving up so much for this! I am also aware of the many hardships I will face, including homesickness, strange food, difficult weather, cockroaches, and a whole different way of life. But in a way, the hardships are part of the appeal. Every obstacle I overcome in life helps mold and shape me into a better, stronger person. It's in climbing mountains that we get the best views, after all. I just want everyone to know that yes, I am well aware of what I'm giving up and I have a rough idea of what I'll face. I also know that it's all worth it. This is an opportunity beyond any I have ever been given. God has been very good to me.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Background Check Headache Continues

Who would have thought something so seemingly easy could be so complicated? All I need is a national background check. Easy to acquire? I should say not!

I was told by the agency that the FBI has a 28-week wait owing to a backlog, so they gave me the name of another organization to use. I called them two days ago, was put on hold, then was transferred to someone's voicemail. I left a message and was never called back. Mom told me to try the state police post. I called them, was put on hold, and then was told that they only do state checks, not national.

Yesterday I called the place the agency recommended again. A rather rude woman informed me that they have just stopped doing checks for private individuals. My coworker told me about a website she used to get a check for a job. I went there and found out they only do state checks. Feeling desperate, I figured that at least this way I'd have something. Ten dollars later I had four copies of my Michigan police check.

Then I called the Detroit FBI post for info about how to get a check done. I was put on hold, transferred, put on hold again, and then told to call the FBI headquarters. I called them, was put on hold, then got transferred from person to person until they finally connected me with customer service. The haughty woman in customer service told me to go online for the directions (I had already tried this, but couldn't find them). Sighing impatiently, she directed me step by step. The only good that came out of the call was that she told me the backlog has cleared, and the wait is now only 4-6 weeks. That cuts pretty close, but it's feasable at least.

The FBI site instructed me to get my fingerprints on a card from a police post. I called the Paw Paw post today, only to be (surprise!) informed that they no longer do fingerprints for background checks. They gave me another number to call, for a company that does fingerprints for people. I called the company and was told to set up an appointment online. I went online and discovered that since I lacked an agency #, I couldn't set up an appointment online. I called the company back and, after holding again, was finally helped. The appointment is for tomorrow. So, assuming I'm not lacking some top-secret documents that I don't know I need, I should have my prints tomorrow and be able to mail in my request to the FBI.

Whew! No wonder nothing ever gets done in this country!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Fun with Paperwork

I received my visa paperwork this morning and the stuff I have to accomplish ASAP is positively staggering. I feel so overwhelmed just looking at the long list of documents I need. So much depends on people in high places meeting deadlines, which as we all know is often an impossible dream.

The toughest thing is going to be getting the criminal background check done in time (and then apostilled, of course). The FBI takes 16-18 weeks, so I have to use an alternate source, since my departure date is most likely February 14 or 15. I'm going to go ahead and request one from the FBI anyway (in addition to the one from the other source), just in case. Maybe if I can write a convincing enough cover letter some kind-hearted soul will take pity on me and hurry the process a bit. Single-handedly taking over Russia sounds just about as likely. :)

I am so grateful to the World English Service for all their help in this process. Anyone who wants to teach in Korea should definitely consider this agency. The director is great about answering questions promptly and thoroughly.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Map of Korea

So that you can follow my adventures once I get over there (and see where I'll be living), here is a map. Just click on the map to make it bigger.

Gyeongju (also known as Kyongju) is in the southeast area of the country, by Pohang.

Friday, December 7, 2007

The Red Tape Begins

There's been a slight delay in the visa process, which has just begun for me. The South Korean government has issued new regulations. Fun! (note the sarcasm) So the agency has decided to wait a few days while they figure out the fastest/least confusing way for me to get my visa. Apparently there will be much more paperwork than we had planned. I don't mind the delay terribly; I'd rather do things slowly and correctly than rush and make mistakes.

In the meantime, I'm still waiting for Liberty to send the copies of my diploma so I can get four copies apostilled. That process is highly amusing to me. In order to prove to Korea that I have a bachelor's degree, I have to give out copies of my diploma. Understandable. But, to prove that it really is my diploma and that the university that issued it is real, I have to have all copies notorized. Still understandable. The crazy part comes next. Apparently the signature of a notary public is not trustworthy enough. I have to have the Secretary of State attach an apostille, which effectively notorizes the already-notorized documents! Ahh, the world of red tape!

First Post!

Hello Everyone!
This being my first post, I thought I'd start by explaining where, when, and why I'm going.

I am moving from Kalamazoo, MI to Gyeong-ju, South Korea in February of 2008. I have been hired to teach English at the World English Institute there, which is a hagwon (a private school specializing in one subject). I will be living in Korea for one year, during which time I plan to travel around the area as much as possible. My purpose in setting up this blog is twofold: to help friends and family keep up with my adventures, as well as to allow others to learn more about Korea (especially if they are thinking of going there).

Next, allow me to answer the inevitable question, "Why on earth am I going to South Korea?". I actually have more than one reason:
1. It has been a childhood dream of mine to live overseas.
2. I have been fascinated by Asia ever since taking East Asian History with Dr. Saxon when I was in college at Liberty University.
3. The pay is good and I get a free furnished apartment and health insurance.
4. Korea is a gorgeous country with a rich culture that I would like to experience firsthand.
5. Life was getting too boring for me.
6. The job market is Michigan is three levels below lousy.
7. I am an independant single woman and I want to make the most of it.
8. It's easier than moving to Europe.

So keep tuning in for the next exciting installments in the life of a Michigander headed for Korea!
"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"