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Archive for October, 2005

Turns out I’ll receive my work visa days after I arrive in South Korea. Since a lot of foreign teachers are hired only a few weeks before their contracts start, delays are expected. However, my paranoia has led me to wonder what I’d look like behind bars.

The representative from the recruitment agency gave me my itinerary over the phone. Turns out the school is sending me a one-way ticket to Korea and a one-way ticket to Japan. Needless to say, I was a bit concerned.

“I don’t even know Japanese,” I said, wondering why the school would expect me to get my visa in another country all by myself.

“You won’t go there,” he said. “You just show this to them at customs. When they ask you questions, you tell them you aren’t staying in Korea–that you’ll be leaving for Tokyo in a month.”

A few days ago, I was worrying over whether or not I would be allowed to carry my knitting needles in my handbag. Now I have to memorize a song and dance for customs! This little trip of mine is turning out to be more adventurous than I’d planned.

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Abroad the Crystal Ball

“After you start teaching in Korea,” my mother asked, “you’ll keep writing, won’t you?”

Two days ago she told me that I when I was seven I dressed up in traditional Korean attire for a school play focusing on various cultures throughout the world. (This was taking place in the Philippines, so obviously they already had an abundance of Filipino girls.) So I rummaged around our photo albums, and I found the photographs.

(11/06/05: I removed the pictures from this site. But trust me, I was quite fetching in my costume.)

I quickly observed that seven-year-old “Pia” and her 24-year-old counterpart look identical. Really, there’s only a two-inch difference.

Now, if this was a straight-to-DVD movie, these pictures would foreshadow my trip to South Korea as an adult. I studied literature in college, so naturally I look out for these sorts of things. They also made me recall last year’s trip to Burlingame.

I had driven to the tourist town to visit one of my former roommates. The two of us, while total opposites career-wise, were the epitome of the quarterlife crisis. At the time I was unsatisfied as an assistant editor in a boring little hick hole in northern Nevada, and S was growing wildly successful with her job but didn’t think it was what she wanted to do. On a lark we decided to visit a local fortune teller, who held shop in a furniture store owned by her nephew.

Surrounded by Mediterranean-inspired chairs and tables, she felt my hand gingerly, her heavily-lined eyes searching mine. Since I typically don’t believe in psychics and astrology, I was just bummed that I’d spent forty dollars on a palm reading that didn’t involve a crystal ball, incense or Satanic chanting in the background.

After briefly touching on my love life–and lack of one–she said, “Next year you will cross a body of water.”

“You mean . . . Tahoe?” I asked, slightly disgusted at how lackluster the upcoming months appeared.

“You will fly over a body of water,” she insisted, dismissing me with a wave of her pointy-nailed hand.

As we left, S and I discussed our readings. Mine had been rather brief and boring, so all we could touch was my supposed flight over water. “Maybe you’ll go back to England,” she said, recalling my internship in London years ago.

“I don’t think so,” I said. “I won’t be able to afford a European vacation for at least ten years.”

“The Philippines?”

“I don’t care how poor I am–you couldn’t pay me to go back.”

In spite of my overall disappointment, however, I felt a glimmer of optimism. I’d always wanted a job that involved traveling and immersing myself within different cultures, and as fabricated as that vision was, my wanderlust had blossomed once more. My short-lived career in journalism was dying, but I still clung to that one ideal, which would prove to define me in every period of my life–past, present and future.

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In order to ease my way into a new time zone, I have started going to bed at 4 a.m. Staying up all by myself isn’t easy–I haven’t resorted to porn (yet)–so I’ve devised a nightly ritual. This is what the kitchen table looked like ten minutes ago.

As you can tell, I’m more awkward fiddling with a camera than posing in front of one. But you can see that my first knitting project–a crudely stitched scarf–is coming along quite steadily. Yesterday’s Appeal-Democrat goes unread (why do I even bother?) beneath my knitting bag. And I’m drinking my third cup of tea–Tazo Sweet Orange–in my favorite coffee mug. What’s missing is the slab of Mud Pie I devoured within a minute that is making my insides churn. Forget I’m slightly lactose-intolerant. Before going to bed, I have to have ice cream with my hot drink. All my health-nut paranoia, thrown out the window over this job search.

Twelve hours ago I told my supervisors about my new job. I got emotional, once again. You could see it in their eyes: Awkward! The night before I told my mom that telling my coworkers would be the hardest part, and it was. I don’t think I’ve ever bonded with a group of people in such a short period of time.

I’ve written a long and rather personal post about the coworkers I’ve grown to call friends. But now that they know about my blog–my choice–I’ll reserve that for a later date. I don’t want to get too mushy while I still have two weeks left at the bank. The IP department, while the most supportive round of individuals you’ll ever meet, still enjoys taking jabs. (I’ll miss that, too.)

Speaking of closely knit relationships, last night I received a call from my best friend from elementary and middle school, W. We haven’t spoken since we were in high school. I didn’t even know who she was for two minutes. If contacting me right after I’ve announced my plans for South Korea isn’t a sign that ours is a lifelong friendship, I don’t know what is.

As I gabbed my way through the crafts section of Wal*Mart, I felt as if we’d kept in touch everyday for the past ten years. In spite of our social anxieties–we have made progress when it comes to socializing with the everyday folk, but my shyness is still an obstacle–we were able to divulge on every aspect of our lives, our trials and comforts, our plans and doubts for the future.

At the end, she said, “I don’t care how long the drive from Cheney to Seattle is. I am going to meet you at the airport. (My flight might stop in Seattle for a few hours.) You’re leaving and who knows when we’ll have another chance to see each other.” I feel bad because she’ll have school the next day, but after that heart-to-heart, why wouldn’t I feel desperate to see one of the few people who could really understand me? The only friend I have left from my childhood? I hunger for companionship–whether it be romantic, platonic or one-sided.

I want to keep writing, but my just-awakened father is giving me a suspicious eye and silently contemplating what I’m doing at this ungodly hour. More later.

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Pia In Wonderland

So it’s non-official until I sign the contract, but I will fly to South Korea on November 7th and teach kindergarten/elementary classes.Now you’ll recall that this particular school was my second choice. However, according to my recruiter, they were persistent and vocal of their admiration for your devoted scribe. For some reason I found that especially endearing. N has worked with them before and finds them accommodating. Since they have only two other English teachers, I’ll be valuable–as opposed to the other school, which has 12 and would most likely find me disposable. Also, their class size ranges from six to ten students, which is perfect.

I’ve checked out the city’s official website and it seems like a well-populated, safe and aesthetically pleasing area. Plus it’s only a half-hour bus trip away from Incheon and Seoul.

Soon after my shift ended last night, I woke my mother and cried, which resulted in a lecture about being strong and keeping the frustration inside. Ahhh, Asian mothers . . . After we both calmed down, we laid out a game plan. I’m sure she remains skeptical on whether or not I can really do this, which will drive me to succeed as an ESL teacher more than anything else.

Why the tears? Well, I’m still concerned about learning the Korean language and alphabet. And making friends. When I spoke to one of the school’s teachers, she encouraged me to bring as many tampons as I could carry, since those are hard to find. Do women not menstruate there or something? (Please feel free to email me an answer.)

While my parents are busting their minds wondering if my apartment is furnished and if I really, really want to do this, a majority of my thoughts lie with my reclusive, self-indulgent and short-lived hobbies. Do Koreans know about Teflon and should I bring my non-stick frying pan? Can I have my French Press mailed to the apartment? Are there running trails or a running group I can join? Tae Kwon Do and English classes? Will I have enough mind-blowing experiences for this blog? Comic books! And for heaven’s sake, where is the closest fabric store?

And friends, of course. My hugest beef with Nevada was the loneliness. I’m severely introverted but extended periods of solitude pain me. Last night I searched online for American expats in the area, emailed a woman interested in forming a women’s social group and joined the English Speakers in South Korea community on Yahoo.

But I shouldn’t have the time to worry! I have to register with the embassy, buy trinkets for my future students, pay off the remainder of my debts (while beginning new ones with my parents) and humor a legion of concerned relatives. I hope my boss accepts my two weeks notice, otherwise I’ll go crazy with all these preparations.

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Still In Orbit . . .

No, I’m not. Just ended another interview. C was very enthusiastic and wanted to know if I would sign a contract right away. Call me old fashioned but I like my potential employers hard-to-get. (Let’s not follow that up with the obvious.) However, I will look into their school before I make a decision. Which must be made by tomorrow, apparently. I’m an idiot for promising her a call within the next 24 hours.

I feel like I need to get a job ASAP, mostly out of concern for my father. I just want him to be proud of me and feel secure in my future. The actual job is a distant second as far my desires with my career right now. I could end up in Hellhole, Nevada for all I care. I don’t want him to think of me as his deadbeat daughter.

I want to sleep so badly, but I’m wired from two interviews within the past hour. Back to my knitting.

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Knitpicking

Just finished another interview. It didn’t go so well as the first–I was rather weary from work, and my interviewer was kind of distant. The agency I’m working with is contacting another school, but I finish the night discouraged.

Fortunately I have started knitting–it’s very therapeutic, and very addictive. Everyone says my stitches are too tight, but I’m so driven to finish it that I don’t care if people think it looks like shit. I’m rather proud of what I see so far.

Aargh, N just called. She’s set up another interview that will take place in a few minutes. I love how hard she works but I’m still recovering from my previous disaster. I’ll boil myself another cup of tea . . .

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A school called me yesterday for an interview, but I had my phone on vibrate. I keep forgetting about it . . .

Hmm, I’ve been sending my resume/photo to recruitment agencies in South Korea like my ass is on fire. A couple of schools have emailed me, requesting availability dates. It’s kind of a tough spot because I want to give my current boss at least two weeks notice.

Some also want a passport scan to show I’m really an U.S. citizen–at least, that’s what I hope they’re thinking. I tried scanning it at Staples, but because of that pesky immigration problem it’s apparently illegal to copy your passport. Bah!

Other news: bought NIN’s “The Downward Spiral” and “With Teeth” (or, as I like to call it, “A-With-a Teeth-a”) and officially obsessed with Trent Reznor. No, really, the “Closer” video is being freeze-framed on my laptop as I type this. And I bought the Fiona Apple album, which I’m super-duper excited about, at least until she convinces me to slit my wrists or cry myself to sleep or whatever.

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