Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Fun with the Flu

I went to the doctor today and it turns out that my "plague" is actually influenza. As my mother nagged me for three months to get a flu shot, she couldn't wait to say "I told you so!" I guess I deserved that.

Luckily the doctor prescribed some good meds that should knock this thing out of my system. She assured me that I'll be just fine for flying in a week and a half, which is probably about when I'll be leaving.

In the meantime, this really puts a damper on things. I feel so lousy that I can't pack or clean, and spending time with friends and family is out of the question. I can certainly think of a lot of ways I'd rather be spending my last days at home.

I guess the moral of this story is, you should probably listen to your mother. (I just hope mine doesn't read this post!)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

One Thing I Am Not Going to Korea for

I have noticed that aside from pointing out things that they think I should be afraid of, the most popular comment people keep making is something along the lines of "you'll get an Asian husband/boyfriend while you're over there."

While I realize that people mean no harm in saying this, I feel I should make one thing perfectly clear:

I am NOT going to Korean to find a man.

I am an independent single woman, and I am enjoying my freedom and lack of "significant other." While much of the Christian community seems to think that a woman's goal in life ought to be to marry and produce offspring, I beg to differ. I do not want to be married right now, I do not want to date, and I do not want to "hook up." I am content being single. I like being able to come and go as I please. I like being able to pack up and move across the world. I like not having to worry about someone else's goals/desires contradicting my own.

I am not saying that I never want to marry. I very much want to have children someday. But I wish people would stop trying to plant me in some bygone era and realize that a single Christian woman is not necessarily looking for a man every place she goes.

Good News During the Plague

My paperwork was approved by the Korean immigration office in Daegu yesterday. I am supposed to be issued a visa number by about February 4th or 5th, after which I have to proceed immediately to the Korean consulate in Chicago for final paperwork and a brief interview. I am on countdown to leave by about February 6-9th as things currently stand. Apparently there was another unforeseen delay.

I'm actually rather glad about the delay as I am sicker than yesterday. I now have a rasping voice that would be the envy of Jimmy Durante or Bette Davis in her older years. I am going to the doctor tomorrow, so hopefully this "plague" of mine will clear up before I leave.

I definitely do not want a repeat of the experience I had coming back from Mexico a year ago. I was so sick and miserable then that I completely lost my voice and hearing, which made going through customs a bit more interesting than usual! Then I wound up in tears on my final flight because the pressure made me hurt so much. The only nice thing about that trip was the friendly French lady next to me who gave me wonderful cough drops that worked so well that I suspect they are illegal in this country.

Anyhow, at least I have a rough idea of when I'm leaving, which is something of a relief to me. I just hope my health comes back soon. This new voice of mine is most unpleasant to any listeners, and would certainly make things miserable for my students.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Down with the Plague

This would happen to me! Any day now I'm leaving for Korea, and here I am sick and miserable with some dreadful virus. I'm coughing like a chain-smoker, my lungs feel like they have a California wildfire blazing in them, and my entire body feels like a village that has just been pillaged by the Vikings.

Please pass the cough syrup.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Introducing Darcy

Allow me to introduce the new dragon in my life:

His name is Darcy (yes, after Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice) and I fell in love with him after we met at Hobby Lobby. Ever since I was a little girl, I have wanted a pet dragon. Particularly a blue one. Ah, a dream realized!

Darcy will be journeying about with me while I'm still in Kalamazoo, and then will be going carry-on to Gyeongju. So get used to seeing his cute sparkly blue face; he'll be posing for quite a few pictures in the future.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

So Which Korea Are You Going To?

People amuse me greatly. I can't count the number of times I've been asked whether I'm going to North Korea or South Korea. And people are actually serious when they ask me! LOL! I'm always really tempted to say I'm going to North Korea to spy on the commies, but I worry that people might take me seriously. So, I behave myself, smile, and say tell them I'm moving to South Korea.

(This image shows electrical usage in the evening in the Koreas. Note the difference between North and South. I read that North Korea turns off their electricity at 9:00 PM, leaving the country in darkness - except for in the capitol, where their dictator is able to enjoy luxery living.)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Back on Track and Eager to Go!

I received word today from the director of my school that my paperwork has arrived to her safely, and everything is correct now. What a blessed relief! Marilyn Innes (director of World English Service Ltd) has sent me a truckload of information to help me prepare to leave. I must confess, I'm feeling a little out of breath!

I thought it had sunk in before, but I was wrong. The knowledge that I'm really leaving is just now truly sinking in. I find myself feeling almost sentimental over the silliest things, like the hamburger I ate the other day (could this be my last American hamburger for over a year? Oh my!).

I am really glad that I'll be missing the 2008 presidential election. After the last two dramas, I'd just as soon be across the world from it all this time around! And if a particularly distasteful and idiotic candidate wins (yes, I am thinking of one in particular, but I am keeping my mouth shut as to whom), at least I'll able to live overseas during that individual's "reign."

I've been thinking today about what I will miss the least when I'm in Korea, and have come up with four things that I don't anticipate missing at all:

1. DRIVING!!! My stress will be so much lower now that I won't have to contend with driving everywhere.
2. The depressed Michigan economy - I don't have to worry about it for at least a year, and I don't have to have every other conversation dominated by it. I'm free!
3. The afore-mentioned election. Let's just say I get really tired of hearing everyone follow the advice of a bunch of overpaid actors on who to vote for. I also get tired of the dirty campaigns, the empty promises that only God could keep, and the mindless drones who believe said promises and insist on trying to argue with those of us who don't.
4. The dull state of mind that comes from working jobs one doesn't care about, having no defined purpose in being where one is, and being afraid to dream again.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Apostilles Are Almost There!

I went on to track my documents, and learned that they made it to Incheon, Korea a few hours ago. Praise God! So far, so good. I guess my apostilles are going to hang out there, maybe do some sightseeing, and then head over to Gyeongju on Monday (Sunday here).

So maybe, just maybe, I'll finally learn next week when I'm actually leaving!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

It's in Fed-Ex's Hands Again

I am so, so, so glad that I insisted on doing all of my paperwork in triplicate. It took a little extra time and cost more, but at least I was prepared when this latest calamity took place. I had copies ready and notarized, so last night I drove to Lansing and got the apostilles. And this time, I know for certain that they really are apostilles. After I got back from Lansing, I went to Fed-ex. Seventy-eight dollars later, my documents were on their way to Korea.

Mom asked me yesterday if all this stress and hassle were worth it. I didn't even hesitate to answer her: "YES!!!"

On another happy note, I gave notice at my current job today, informing them that next Friday will be my last day of work. I figure that should really cut down on my stress, as well as give me some time to visit relatives and finish my packing and cleaning.

I am still feeling pretty stressed and on-edge, but at least I'm better than I was yesterday and last week (no cry-breaks so far today). I guess I am still rather upset at having to wait even longer for a concrete travel date, especially since I did everything right and it was someone else who made the mistake, plus I had to pay (literally) for that mistake. But, I guess that's just life.

The Straw that Broke the Camel's Back

I got to work early this morning, checked my e-mail, and found 6 e-mails from the agency and the school. It turns out this document issue is not a simple matter of confusion.

Apparently, the Michigan Office of the Great Seal did not apostille my documents correctly. Even though I specifically told them what I needed, and even though the lady assured me at the time that everything was correct, I have now learned that this is not the case; they just authenticated them instead. So in a nutshell, I paid $99 to ship the wrong documents to Korea, and I now have to drive back to Lansing, get the apostilles, and ship those to Korea, at my own expense.

I would love to scream right now.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

No News Is Not Good News

Still no idea as to when or if I'm going. The problem with my documents has still not been resolved, at least as far as I know. I talked to the school last night, and it sounds like they're confused now, too.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Caught in a Whirlwind

I feel so overwhelmed. Every day that passes brings new anxiety. I just wish I had some idea of when (or if) I'm going. No one really seems to have any idea just how much South Korea and this big move mean to me. Let me shed a little light:

One year ago, I was helpless, shattered, and floundering. The dream I had worked years for had been snatched away, my brother-in-law was battling aggressive cancer, and I felt like the entire world was viewing me through scornful eyes as the greatest failure and lump of worthlessness ever to draw a breath. All the insecurity from school that I had overcome in college had suddenly sprung to the surface again. I tried to cover it all up in cynicism.

Then, I let myself be led by someone else, and allowed everything that was "me" to be painted over by something else. I was afraid of losing something I never had. Eventually it cost too much, and I awoke. I realized what I had become and after a few weeks of floundering again, I finally found my way. Korea is not just a place; it's a destination in my life. It's me finally up on my feet again, making my own decisions, no longer catering to other people's wishes or expectations. It's me being a woman again.

Some people were hurt or insulted because I didn't ask for anyone's opinion or advice when I made my decision. They completely missed the point! Finally I was ABLE to make my own choice, and I did. I had to break free of what was still tying me down; namely, the opinions of the "people who care about me."

In school I often referred to myself in poetry or stories as a vision, because I had no idea who I really was, and I didn't feel concrete or defined. I was so easily molded by other people, either by what they wanted or a reaction against their opinions. Finally I'm a concrete individual. Finally I can be who I want to be. This is a victory! But at times the people I love feel like multiple tentacles, grasping at me and pulling in all directions except the one I'm aiming for. I sometimes feel like some people want to keep me that helpless little girl who feared her own mind. Well, the little girl grew up.

Now that I have finally made these important steps, culminating in the decision to move to Korea, it's only natural that I should feel concern when that move is threatened. Of course I'm worried. Of course I'm anxious and stressed. I'm so ready to take that leap finally, and now the ledge I'm supposed to leap from is so shrouded in fog, I can't see it. And back in the woods I hear people calling me back, trying to change me again.

It has never been my goal to hurt anyone. It has never been my desire to cause any harm, or to hinder others from what they're seeking. Yet people keep demanding explanations from me, as though I've committed some heinous act of treason by getting back on my feet and making up my own mind. Why do they need an explanataion? Why can't they just be happy that I'm happy? I wonder if the people I love really love me as much I love them.

I feel a little better having put this all into words. I doubt that all of the right people will ever read this, but at least the thoughts that have been spinning around in me are no longer unsaid.

And with that, she published the post and went to bed. "To sleep, perchance to dream..."

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Crossing My Fingers

It looks like, assuming World English Service can convince the immigration officers that I really did have the police check apostilled, I should have a visa number and, hopefully, a travel date by Monday or Tuesday (crossing fingers, toes, and anything else that crosses).

Friday, January 11, 2008

A Hitch

As you may have guessed, there is a problem in my visa process.

In a nutshell, the Korean imigration officers have rejected my police check as "not apostilled" (even though it was apostilled). Because the State of Michigan Office of the Great Seal does not put the actual word "apostille" on apostilled documents, the Korean imigration office thinks the document was not apostilled (understandable).

World English Service Ltd is currently doing all that they can to convince the imigration office that the documents are apostilled. The wonderful director, Marilyn, has assured me that this should be straightened out in just a few days, and has also assured me that I did everything correctly.

Obviously I'm uber-stressed right now (although my stress is mostly about work), as well as a little nervous/upset about this hitch in the process. I really, really, really want to be in Korea, and I desperately want to know when I get to go. At the same time, I realize that this is just a delay. I did everything correctly, down to the most minute detail. I believe that I am supposed to go to Korea. I really think God wants me there. Why else would I have such peace about the decision to go, and how else can you explain everything working out so well before?

This is just a small delay, like many people often have. It doesn't mean I'm not going, just that a few things have to be worked out first. When I'm finally in Korea, I'll laugh about this. In the meantime, I'm just going to pray very hard that it gets resolved. I trust World English Service, in particular I trust the director, Marilyn, and I know that they will do everything they can as quickly as they can. More than that, I trust God! I don't doubt for one moment that I will soon be fulfilling my dream of living in beautiful Gyeongju.

I really shouldn't complain too much about this rejection of my police check. Up until now things have gone swimmingly for me with the visa process. How many people get a background check from the FBI in only nine days? Granted I have had some small difficulties, like having to drive to Lansing in a snowstorm for an apostille, but honestly, this really hasn't been that hard.

On the bright side, things could be a lot worse!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Coffee Shop Apartment

I've settled on a theme for the decor of my new apartment (which I of course have yet to see). I'm going to do it up like a coffee shop! I was thinking about what makes me happiest, and after decided that I cannot use Frasier as a decor, my thoughts naturally turned to coffee shops.

I bought beautiful, rich red sheets and towels yesterday, as well as an uber-soft blanket the color of foam on top of a cappuccino. I picked out adorable coffee-themed place mats (2) and one coffee-themed kitchen towel. I already have two Van Gogh prints to help tie things together. Once I get there, I plan to pick out some cappuccino-colored curtains and a few brightly colored coffee mugs. Then voila! Coffee shop apartment!

If only I could convince Starbucks to deliver to my door...

Monday, January 7, 2008


I learned today that I've been mispronouncing the name of the city I'm moving to. No big surprise, since I don't speak Korean! Turns out it is pronounced key-young-jew, not kung-jew like I kept saying. At least I figured that out before I got there!

Darn! Now I'll have to find another way to look stupid when I get to Korea!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

She's Makin' a List...

Actually, I've made about half a dozen lists. I am so paranoid about forgetting anything (I do have a habit of always forgetting something when I travel), that I am driving myself insane making list after list. Everything that goes in a suitcase or bag is being carefully documented, so I have a complete list of what exactly is in each bag. Yeah, I'm going OCD.

I got both carryons and my suitcase packed today, so all I have left to pack is my HUGE dark blue duffle, which will be holding all of my heavy clothes and my remaining two pairs of shoes. So far the suitcase is less than 40 pounds, so I'm hoping that if the duffle stays under 50 pounds I can stick some of the stuff from the bigger carryon into the suitcase. Then perhaps my back will still be intact by the time I get to Korea. I have such lofty goals...

I have been checking my e-mail about five to six times a day, desperatly hoping for some word as to when I leave. I hate uncertainty! I must sound like a wacko control freak, and the funny thing is, I'm normally not. Normally I like a plan, but I'm fine with surprises. Not knowing when I'm leaving the country is a horse of a different color, however.

I'm beginning to think that if I make it to Korea with my mind intact, it will be a miracle!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Classic Film Fanatic Shall Live on

Many of my friends have expressed concern as to how I, a confirmed classic film addict, will survive in a foreign country without Turner Classic Movies or my VHS collection of nearly 700 old movies. Rest assured, dear friends. I have the situation under control.

I already owned several of my favorites on DVD, but tonight I wisely ordered the two absolute essentials, which I had suddenly realized I was lacking on DVD: You Can't Take It with You and My Best Girl. Having ordered these two essentials, I can now tackle anything.

ARGH!! Just Give Me a Departure Date Already!

I am going stark, raving mad. I am leaving behind everything familiar, leaving the COUNTRY, and I have no clue when! All I have been told is to "be on countdown to leave by mid to late January." (Direct quote from an e-mail)

I know that dates and times aren't all that important to Koreans and that I've got to get this American time obsession out of my system, but sheesh! Can't I just know the week??? I feel like I'm juggling five things that are on fire, while on rollerskates on ice. There is so much left to do, and I have no idea how long I have to do it all in.

I need Starbucks.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

My Future Rests in the Hands of Fed-Ex

Yesterday I went to Fed-Ex and shipped my paperwork to Korea. It will arrive at the school on Thursday, so I will have a definite departure date within ten days from then. At last!

There's a lot left to do, but at least the hardest part is over. Well, technically the hardest part will be actually living overseas for a year, but you know what I mean. The hardest part of getting there is over. What a great way to start a new year!

I've thought long and hard about what to make my New Year's resolution for this year. I know it's kind of corny/silly to make resolutions, but at the same time, I think making practical, non-shallow ones can be a good idea. So I'm not resolving to lose weight (although it would be wonderful), get a man (don't need one), or make a lot of money (with a history degree?!).

My resolution this year is be non-judgmental and to learn as much as I can about Koreans and their culture/customs. I resolve not to look down on aspects that to me are odd, but instead to accept and attempt to understand. In short, I resolve not to be an ugly American.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Goodbye 2007

Goodbye 2007. I am not going to miss you in the least. In fact, I think I shall look back on you as the single worst year of my life. I always thought that 1996 would be able to hold onto that distinction, since I came within milimeters of death or permanant brain/heart/liver damage that year. But congratulations, 2007, you managed to top 1996 for sheer crappiness.

You began with the uncertainty of my dear brother-in-law's battle with cancer and me in a fragile, broken emotional state after having a goal I worked toward for nearly five years go up in smoke. You teased me with opportunities that were glimpsed then snatched away, the ideas of possibilities that could never really happen, and a fight for something that wasn't worth fighting for. During the summer you allowed me the opportunity to suffer third degree burns from my stomach to my leg. You let me fall victim to misplaced trust and shattered illusions.

You were not a good year, 2007. You were fraught with pain, fear, betrayal, heartache, and even tedium. You are now ending the way you began, with my brother-in-law preparing to fight cancer once again.

But rest assured, 2007; you may have won the first several battles, but I am the winner of this war. I'm ending on my feet, courageous and independant once again. You may have thought you'd crush me, but you unknowingly made me stronger.

Today is your final day of life, 2007. Tomorrow, you'll just be a memory, which will diminish and weaken as other years come and go. Meanwhile, I'll keep growing stronger and stronger. Then someday when another year replaces you as the hardest year of my life, I won't flounder about like a lost child the way I did with you.

Goodbye 2007. There's so much more I could say to you right now, but only two words are really necessary:

I win.
"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"