Friday, September 7, 2012

Immigration and Chicken Costumes

Today was a particularly long day. Not so much due to work, just sheer hours on my feet. Just so you know, this is going to be a longer blog than normal (I can just hear you: "wait, it can get longer?!"... yes, it can.) I will discuss: my walk to work, going to apply for my Alien Resident Card, and things that happened at work. Here we go...

This morning, I slept in past my alarm. Not to worry, my alarm is set for 5 hours before I actually need to be at work. So, sleeping in an extra 30 minutes is not an issue. YAY! So, I slept in a little, then got ready for work. I'm loving my own apartment, by the way. It's so nice to have my own little space. Even though the actual physical place is not tooooo much different than the motel, it's wonderful that I can make myself at home. :) 

Heading to work today with my UH cup! Thanks, Dad!
I had to be at work by 12:30 to leave to go to Immigration. I knew I had a few things to prepare for before classes, and I didn't know when we would be back from Immigration. So, I decided to go to work extra early, to make sure I was adequately prepared. This means I left at 11:30. Since I didn't technically need to be at work for an hour (and the walk takes around 15 minutes), I decided to take some photos for my loyal fans. :) I have an interesting walk to work, so I'm going to share some familiar sights with you...
First, my view crossing the street, looking back towards my apartment. 

When I get past the major street (which the photo above is crossing), I enter the neighborhood. I live ~3/4 of a mile to a mile from work. I zig-zag through a neighborhood most of the way, and there are some interesting things to see, and some interesting people who stare at you. My first favorite sight going into the 'hood is this thread store. They open up the wall in the mornings and you see this huge color-arranged wall of thread. The photo is blurry, as I was walking while I took it to avoid looking extra-weird. And there was an old man walking behind me that said something when I took this photo. I smiled and said "pretty!" as if he understood. Which he did not.

Next, I aim for alleyways, since there are fewer people to gawk at you. There is usually a lot of trash piles, which are gross, so I spared you guys a photo of that... You're welcome. After a few blocks, I see a lot of fruit and vegetable shops. They have palettes of their foods in front of tiny stores. A few places you can see old women and their daughters picking the seeds and stems off peppers, or other fruits. The piles of pre- and post- stemmed peppers are oddly beautiful. These women work hard.

Pre-stemmed on the left, stems/seeds in the middle, and ready-for-sale peppers on the right. 
I am nearing the end of my journey when I enter a traditional Korean market. I'm not sure what makes it traditional, because it's just a lot of fresh fruit/veggies stands, and a few small shops selling junk. But the big sign you walk under to go down the street claims it's "traditional." Here, I usually see ajummas (old Korean women, usually with a tight perm and permanently pursed lips) browsing the wares and gossiping (I assume), all while blatently staring at the freakish girl with "yellow" hair. I sneakily snapped a photo, pardon my finger in the frame. :( Oh, did I mention that if you're over 30 in Korea, you permanently have an umbrella in your hand (rain or shine)? These Koreans prize white skin (damn, I must be of more worth than gold!), so they must shield themselves at all times lest the sun rays get you.

After passing through the market, I cross another major road. Today, this little hunched old man with a cart loaded with cardboard and other junk he can sell (which he salvaged from trash piles) piled higher than his head, just started walking across this street. There is a "walk/don't walk" sign, and it was currently red. This little old man was either blind and deaf (the lady next to me started yelling at him) or just felt that he had paid his dues and the cars would stop regardless. All I know is I held my breath for the minute or two it took him to cross the street, grabbed my camera, and snapped a few pics. Brakes were screeching, but this old man just kept hobbling along. I suppose this is Korean culture. This man was old, probably older than anyone I've ever met, and he earned the right to do whatever he pleased. This idea is also seen when little old ladies no more than 4' high push and shove past you to get on the bus first. No one yells or curses or complains (well, that I can hear or make out), they just accept it because she is older and therefore deserves respect. 

When I finally got to work, I was extremely efficient. I like going early, when there are only a few people in the office. It's not crowded and I can work much better. I plugged in some country music on my iPod, and got nearly everything done that I needed to by 12:40 when Sean, Jamie and I left for the Immigration Office. We had to take a cab, and it was only $8 after 30 minutes. Wow! 

Our school had set up an appointment for us with Immigration for 1:40. We arrived around 1:20, and found our way through the office. There was hoards of people, and it looked like if you did not have an appointment, it was a "take a number" system. We found the desk for "Reservation" and waited a while for someone to come and actually sit behind the desk. Finally, though, a woman helped us. I kind of had no idea what was going on, except that she took my paperwork and my health check, stamped some stuff, took $10, and gave me a receipt. It was stamped 9/20, and since today was NOT 9/20, I assume that is the projected day I can get my Alien Resident Card. 

^^The rows of stations to help people, which were
not doing any good for the 100+ people I was
too scared to take a photo of behind me.
<< Sean getting fingerprinted during his turn.

When we finished up like 10 minutes later, I smile apologetically to the masses of people still waiting the multiple hour waiting period (should have gotten an appointment, folks!), and we left. Jamie and Sean wanted lunch, so we figured since the appointment took about 10 minutes, and our school assumed it would take longer, we had some time to spare to get some food. We walked down a large street with many vendors and shops; Sean and Jamie had been here before. It was called Insadong.

Sean stopped in a bakery for a pastry, and the smell of sugar lured me in as well. When I walked in, the woman had just cut this churro in half. It looked, and smelled, heavenly. If I'd have had some money, I would have gotten one. Alas, luck was not with me and I had to settle for a photo.

We walked along the street and there were tons of touristy souvenier shops. I didn't even care how touristy I looked with my camera out, snapping photos of everything.

And then I saw them... 3 chickens walking down the road. Well, one rooster, and two chicks is more accurate. They were passing out flyers or brochures about something or other, and I stopped dead in my tracks. I took a photo, and when they saw me with my camera, they pointed and ran over to me. I just wanted a photo of them, but they crowded around me to take a photo with me, instead. I quickly handed off the camera to Sean, who did some nice spontaneous photography, and I couldn't help but laugh out loud.
Of course, we must do a Korean peace sign. Alright!!! 
Apparently, they were advertising 99day Festival.
Who knows what that is, though, because once you
opened the flyer it was all in Korean. Score!
Passing out flyers!
 After 15-20 minutes of walking, we headed for the main road to get a taxi back to school. The ride back had loads of traffic, but since the fare was around the same as the way to Immigration, I assume Korean taxis charge by distance, not time. Good thing! :)

Once we got back, it was 5 minutes til first period. Good thing Tuesday/Thursdays I have break first period! I got to eat lunch and relax until 3:30 when I had class. I won't go into too much detail about my first few classes, since I've already elaborated quite a bit on my morning. We will just say it was a fairly good day :)

During several classes, Jackie Teacher came in or sat in, and I felt like I did a great job in front of her, getting the students talking and repeating and answering questions. Go me!

During my 5th period class, I had a girl tell me she had a loose tooth. I told her "Don't pop it out!"... what does she do? Twenty minutes later,  she raises her hand (the one that is not in her mouth) and asks through slobber and blood, "Teacher, can I go to the bathroom?" Sighing, and not a little grossed out, I send her to the Desk Teacher. She comes back a few minutes later with a tissue in her mouth and proceeds to do the rest of her assignments in such a state. Oh my... little kids.

In my last class, I learned about Koreans' fear of all things bugs. The classroom was hot, so I let the kids open some windows. It was around 7:30pm, and the sun had gone down. We were working on a review and we had the lights on. Suddenly, one of the girls lets out a scream. Of course, even if they don't know why they are screaming, the whole class suddenly has to contribute to the screaming. I finally figure out that a moth had come in the open window. These kids are terrified of this moth. When I grab a rolled up notebook and head over to kill the thing, I hear one girl say in tone which combined amazement and total confusion: "Teacher isn't afraid!"

I turned around "No, I'm not! But if I am going to kill this thing you have to be very quiet!" (As if the bug will let down it's guard if they are silent.) Well, it worked for a few seconds; the kids shut up and I crept toward the moth. Of course, it fluttered away when I got anywhere near it, which prompted more blood curdling screams. I was afraid that Jackie Teacher would hear and come running, and since I had finished early, I did not want her to come in and I have to figure out how to extend the lesson another 15 minutes. I told everyone to pack up and move to the classroom across the hall. If I couldn't kill the moth, I'd just move the kids away from the moth.

Good thing my lesson was over already, because the resulting breathless chatter in Korean - which obviously went something like "Oh my gosh. Can you believe we just survived that death defying ordeal?! I mean, a moth. Can you believe it? I'm going to write about this in my diary tonight!" - could not be quelled.

During my last hour in the office, I had nothing to do. I finished a few things here and there, but was killing time by around 8:20. Michelle Teacher and I talked about food, TV, and other silly things. She asked me to help her with her Phonics class. She has the hardest time saying the sound "Jj" - like in Jet. She kept cracking up when I would say it - she thought it sounded like a Chinese sound (she studied Chinese). And I kept laughing at her pathetic attempts, which came out more like "Ss". It was hilarious. I felt mildly guilty for not doing anything productive during the last 40 minutes, but since I had gotten to work over an hour early, I cut myself some slack.

After work, I went to the bank near me to get some cash out. After I did that, I stopped at the dollar store called Dison. I got some kitchen stuff - another fork (I currently owned 1, and about 5 pairs of chopsticks), a sharp knife, a colander for pasta, a pasta utensil (the kind that looks like a spoon with points at the end), a set of cups, a set of bowls, a few plates which I suspect are actually for kids but were the cheapest and the cutest there, some rubber gloves and scrubbies for washing dishes, and maybe some other things I can't remember. I paid $13 total for everything! Ya, what a great deal!

 I walked home and contemplated going to the crappy grocery store under the BauHaus department store to get some meat to make for dinner, but decided against it. It had been a long day, I'd been out of my apartment for 11 hours, and on my feet for most of them. It was time to get home and write a really long blog with a TON of photos! I hope you enjoyed today's edition. :)

Tomorrow is Friday, and although I don't have any set plans for the weekend, I'm definitely looking forward to it. :)


  1. I love reading your blogs!!! sounds like an awesome adventure, love the pictures!! keep them coming :) -Candi

  2. This was so great! So descriptive! I know I'm repeating myself. Well, all I can say is THANK YOU for taking the time to do this! Miss you loads, you are a hoot and I LOVE YOU! -- Love, MOM!!!

  3. Yes! Thanks so much for taking the time to upload these pictures and type these blogs for us. Gives me something exciting to look forward to in my boring life in Houston lol. Love love love you! Keep attaching pictures- those are fun! xoxo

  4. I like the pics! The chickens look like real people! I think you should be a screenwriter because this is goooood stuff baby girl. Love you.

    1. Hey, I think you're making fun of my sign-off!

  5. You did have a busy day. I love the blogs too. Keep it up. As someone earlier said I look forward to them to see just what its like there. Love the pix. Is January really cold there? I know, you haven't been there in Jan so you don't really know. Love you sweetie ...........Gramma

  6. Hahaha that was a test comment and not a last gasp from your Dad!

    1. hahahahhaha first time i read this, thought you said just "gasp" then i realized you said "last gasp" which made me laugh out loud!!! awww poor dad LOL

  7. Hi Chelsea! I just wanted to tell you I am loving reading about your experience, so I hope you keep writing often! My husband lived in South Korea with the military for a year when we were dating, and I am eternally jealous of you both! I have wanted to live in Japan or Korea teaching English since I first heard about it when I was a teenager. If I hadn't been married by the time I graduated college I probably would have, but it's not really possible with my lifestyle now. So I am living vicariously through you!

    1. Hey Alyssa! Thanks so much for the encouragement! That's awesome your hubby was here - did he like it? I was on the post last weekend and it was lovely to be around familiar things :) I wish you'd gotten the opportunity to do this; so far I love it. I know you lived in Italy for a while, and I bet you had some great experiences there! I'm jealous of that! Glad you're enjoying the blog!

  8. LOVE it Love it. Your writing and choice of words is masterful. Having lived in Japan and loved it, I enjoy hearing your descriptions of Korea. Very similar... but don't tell them- The Koreans and Japanese don't have a very amicable relationship. My mom asked about the weather. My co-workers said Seoul has 4 very different seasons. You will see cold and probably snow. Enjoy. Your life is changing everyday with every new experience. Embrace it and KEEP WRITING... WE ARE ALL ADDICTED NOW. :) love ya, Aunt Ina.


Subscribe via email

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner