Thursday, 30 September 2010


What have I learnt over the last few days? That no one should ever travel anywhere. Or at least Tom and I shouldn't. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love being in new places - living abroad is never as scary as you think it will be - but the process of getting to the new place is invariably nightmarish. Science is not spending enough money on teleportation.

On Friday, we got our visas, and were told that we should be in Korea by the following Wednesday. On Monday, our flight wasn't booked: we were told that at 10am KST (3am in Europe) the next day, we would get our e-tickets. I got up at 4am on Tuesday... no tickets. After a slightly disgruntled email sent at 7:08am, we got our e-tickets by 8, finished packing, and were on our way to the airport five hours later.

Two planes later and we were in Seoul. The bus we were supposed to get from Incheon wasn't there (were we late? Had it already gone? Or did it ever even exist?) so we got a manic taxi ride into the heart of Seoul, where the substitute bus... had left two minutes before. In the taxi I had been struggling to keep my eyes open, to the point where I was practically having waking dreams, but after the excitement of taking a shortcut to our bus through a few hundred other moving buses, I stayed wide awake for an hour and a half until our bus finally left for Gwangyang.

From 3:30 to 5:30 we slept; the bus stopped at 5:30 at a petrol station. We stayed on the bus, having absolutely no idea how long we were going to be there, and a complete stranger unexpectedly bought us each an energy drink! The countryside was beautiful, and just before 8 we got into Gwangyang and were driven the couple of blocks back to our temporary apartment.

The flat is actually okay. Our first impressions, after a long day travelling, were of course negative. That said, the greasy pan left on the side is pretty grim. It's huge: a big open space, with a little, usable kitchen and a balcony with a washing machine. Not even the bathroom is truly small. All it needs is a good clean... and a bed. Sleeping on a thick blanket on a hard floor is not much fun, in case you weren't sure about that.

Today was much better. After some trouble with the alarm clock - the voltage difference makes the clock run fast, and made the 9am alarm go off at 7:30 - we got up at 10, discovered the internet connection, got up, and wandered around town for an hour or so. I took some pictures, Tom whined about how I was embarrassing him by looking like a tourist, we bought some food for dinner and returned to the flat before being taken to Tom's new school.

I'm getting far too tired to write about our day of training, sadly, but suffice to say it was fun. Tom and I are much reassured.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Getting to Korea

It was a little under a year ago that Tom and I first started thinking of moving to South Korea after university. A couple of months later, Korea became our exclusive and definite post-graduation plan. However, it wasn't until May that we started Getting Serious about it - applying for jobs, doing a Teaching English as a Foreign Language course, getting our visa documentation together - and July had nearly arrived when we finally were offered contracts. In early August we had received our degrees and could send them to Korea for the first stage of the visa process, and by next week we should have our visas and be in the air.

We never really considered teaching in another country, because even the minimal research showed that Korea was the best place to save money. As third-year students, particularly in post-recession, newly-Tory Britain, it was comforting to have another option: somewhere else to go, where we were guaranteed jobs and enough wages to start some savings. Many of the other students we know have been unable to find work in Britain, except for those who have returned to their pre-university jobs.

However, before we can take up our jobs as teachers in the south-western Korean city of Gwangyang, we had to go through the visa process. In fact, we're still going through it, which means that our flights are not yet booked and we start teaching in thirteen days. I won't delve too far into the details now: suffice to say that my partner and I are International, and that many institutions can't accommodate people who refuse to stay in one country. In fact, they simply don't like us. Our flights will hopefully be booked this week; our visas will come through on Friday or Monday; we shall fly at some point next week.

I might write more about the entire, ten-month process at some point, but for now Tom and I are preparing to start afresh on the other side of the world.