Monday, August 27, 2007

Day Four - Or Is It Five?

Well, we have been in orientation now for three days and so far it's not going too bad. We've had some lectures on things such as how to teach English in Korean schools, Conversatonal English, Co-teaching, being an ESL teacher...it's been interesting but nothing too exciting.

On Sunday we went to a Korean Folk Village. That was pretty interesting. It is a village done up to show and tell about the Korean history and culture, with replicas of the types of houses the Korean's lived in, their lifestyles, etc. It is fully a working village and has actual people planting and raising crops, taking care of animals, etc. As I said, it was pretty interesting. There was only one thing that really ruined this trip for me and that was the heat. It was so uncomfortably hot! I don't normally do well in heat, so I'm surprised I didn't totally faint or anything. I had about 4 bottles of water during the course of our stay there (about 5 hours), and a slushie which was really refreshing! My stomach was turned from the smells of the food being cooked in the eating area so I didn't have anything to eat. I was also not really hungry because of the heat but I had a couple of cookies to help me get by.

I've actually not been eating a lot - not because I don't like the food or anything, but because of the heat. I just haven't felt like eating. I've tried a little of the Korean food - Kim Chi, which was too spicy for my liking, and some kind of vegetable dumpling things (don't know what they are called). There was a couple of other things, but can't remember what they were. Today was special, food wise. For supper they served spaghetti and french fries, among other items to choose from. I was so excited to eat "real" food - not that I haven't eaten it already this week. They have salads of different kinds, lots of fruit, cereal and scrambled eggs at breakfast, chicken wings, and some other items I can't recall offhand.

Tonight we're going to a movie they are showing in the auditorium in one of the university buildings. It's a Korean movie with Englih subtitles, and I hope it will be good. We went to one last Friday night as well, and that was rather enjoyable.

I've had an answer to prayer today. We met a couple of other Christians at orientation, and they informed us that they've met other Christians here too. I was beginning to think that we were the only Christians here. Two of the Christians are assigned to the same province we are assigned to, but I don't know about the others. We don't know if we'll be in the same city or not though because we only find that out at the end of the orientation.

Please keep praying for my back as it is still bothering me. It is getting better, and is generally the most stiff and painful when I wake up in the morning or if I've been sitting any length of time. I'm getting better walking without the muscles clenching up and can also walk a little faster. I'm still praying for healing, and I know that God can heal me.

Well, we'll probably be heading to the movie very soon so I'm going to sign off for now. Have a blessed and Christ-filled day!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Korea

Well, we made it safe and sound to Korea. We left my hometown and arrived in Toronto and had no problem finding our gate where we had to board our flight to Korea. After a roughly two hour wait, we left Toronto and arrived in Korea about 4:00 pm, Korean time.

We are staying in a dorm at a university where we have our orientation, and it took us about four or so hours to get here from the Inchon airport. We had to go through customs, get our luggage, get some money changed to Korean Won, and finally make our way to the counter of the organization we signed on with.

On Friday, we didn't have anything to do because orientation only started today. It's been extremely HOT and humid here and thankfully we have air conditioning in the dorm rooms. Sarah, Lorie and I didn't do much of anything because we were feeling the effects of jet lag, so we stuck around campus and ended up having a three hour nap which helped a little.

I've been suffering from back pain - muscle spasms it looks like to me. It's rather painful at times and I've been taking some muscle relaxers that help a little. Unfortunately I hadn't planned on it lasting this long (I had it a day or so before leaving for Korea) so I only brought a few. I've got 3 left. I spoke with some of the women who are coordinating the orientation and asked them if they could tell me where the nearest pharmacy is. They asked what I needed, so I told them I wanted something for the muscles in my lower back. They got one of their co-workers (she was on her way to the university we are at) to stop and pick up something for me. It is some kind of medicinal patch type thing that you peel off one side and stick it to the area you need the relief. This has helped quite a bit as I have longer periods of time when I'm not in pain (or very little). It doesn't help, though, that we are sitting a lot and that is when I get stiff and find it hard to move because of the stiffness and pain (it also happens after I wake up).

I've been praying about this, my back, and have got others praying too and I am trusting that God, the Great Physician and Healer, will take care of things. The pain is affecting me here, in that I feel frustrated at limitations I have and that I have to be slow. I just want this pain to go away - now!

Other than sticking around the campus the last two days, we haven't gotten out to explore the area. We're hoping to do this some evening before we leave to our schools. We don't find out where we are going until the end. This, I have found out, is because they have had problems in the past of people finding out where they are going and then for whatever reason tearing up their contracts and not honouring them.

I've only taken a couple of pictures, but not of anything really important or noteworthy. Unfortunately I forgot to bring the cable to hook up to my computer so I can download them so it will be a little while before I am able to share them. We also found out that it's going to take a little while before we can get internet hookup in our apartments...just the red tape that needs to be dealt with first. So until then, I'll probably have to use a computer at whatever school I am placed with. At the moment, I'm using one that is on my floor of the dorm.

That's all for now. Time is running out and our lunch break is almost over. We have to go back for more orientation this afternoon, and then this evening they are having a welcoming get together for us so I'm not sure if I'll have time to update later. I will try to update as often as I can.

So, until the next time I post, have a blessed and Christ-filled day!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

T Minus 10 1/2 Hours

Well, it's down to the wire. In less than 12 hours I leave for Korea. My back is still hurting, so please be in prayer about that.

I think I'm all packed..."think" being the key word. I've got two bags to check, and hopefully they aren't over the 50 lb weight limit (or else I have to pay extra). I also have my laptop to take as a carry-on, plus one other bag. If it wasn't for taking my laptop, I could have taken another piece of luggage for carryon, and I might have gotten everything packed. I know there are things I couldn't get packed, and that disappoints me. I don't think I'll have them shipped to me because mailing things from here in Canada (at least from the east coast) to South Korea is EXPENSIVE! Alas, but my knitting items will have to come from Korea...though I did get a little bit of yarn packed and some double pointed needles to knit socks. Otherwise, I'll have to make a special trip to Seoul to get knitting things. Somehow, that doesn't disappoint me, LOL!

I still don't feel as though this is really happening. I still feel like I'm not scheduled to leave for a few more months. I had a little bout of fear/panic earlier this week, but that has passed. Maybe that's an answer to prayer. I'm not as excited as I thought I would be, but that just might be because I'm still feeling like I'm not all packed.

Please pray that the flight goes well, that Sarah, Lorie and I have all our necessary documents with us - that we don't forget them. Pray that everything goes well for us.

I'm off to bed now, and hope that I'll be able to sleep. The next time I'll write will probably be in Korea...unless I can get a connection on the plane for a little update!

Have a blessed and Christ-filled day!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Two More Sleeps!

It's Monday. That means in two days I will be leaving Canada for a year, and heading off to South Korea. Things are starting to come together, but at the same time there still seems to be a ton of things to do - pack, call the bank with regard to banking matters (of course), getting a few more small items to take (sheets, towels, pantyhose, makeup - things like that), getting my hair cut...I've got my list started of what to pack (quite a bit on it so far), so that will be a help.

Last week we got our Korean money that we had ordered. We didn't get a whole lot, just enough to get by on until we get there. Apparently there is a place at the airport in Korea where you can exchange money. It was actually suggested to us by the company we were hired by to only take a little bit of Korean money with us, and then exchange the rest when we get to the airport; that's what we're going to do.

I've had my dentist appointments to get my teeth out. They weren't hurting or bothering me in any way, but I thought it might be a good idea to get them out while I'm still in Canada. I didn't want to get to Korea and end up having them start aching or something. I don't know what the dental system is like over there, though I'm sure they are good. Still, I didn't want to take chances - especially since I am really, really, really phobic of going to the dentist!

My face was a little swollen after the first appointment (looked a little like a chipmunk), but I haven't noticed any swelling after yesterday's appointment. My mouth is healing nicely, but I'm still taking it easy on what I eat so that I don't accidentally jab the wound with something sharp (like chips or the crust off a pizza). I'm also taking antibiotics so that the wounds don't get infected, and those will be done on Thursday.

I ran into a bit of a problem yesterday morning. My lower back got wrenched or something and it's been bothering me since. It feels like it's the muscles acting up (spasms or something), and I've taken some muscle relaxers which seem to be helping. For awhile yesterday afternoon it was rather excruciating...well, it was when I would try to get up off my bed (I had taken a little nap after my dentist appointment because the pills I had taken to relax had really made me relax - they pretty much knocked me out for a few hours) and try to walk for a bit. I was in tears. By the evening it was a little better, and I took some muscle relaxers then. It's better today, but I am still slow in standing up and walking for a bit. I hope this is all better by Wednesday - after being on a plane for nearly 24 hours, I'm sure my back would really be hurting!

This whole experience still doesn't seem "real" to me. I'm leaving in two days, but it still feels like the trip is going to happen sometime in the distant future...like in a couple of months. I've had moments of feeling a little anxious, and even scared; I've had a few moments of feeling a little excited, but it still doesn't seem like the trip is taking place in only a matter of days. I'm sure once Wednesday morning dawns and I'm putting my luggage in the car and heading to the airport...and even moreso when I'm at the airport...the excitement (and/or the fear) will really set in.

I'm trusting God in all of this, and I've been praying a lot as well. I know that He will protect me, guide me, and is going ahead of me. A lady at church told me yesterday that this is a perfect opportunity in which to trust God. I don't know anyone there (aside from the Sarah and Lorie who are going with me), I don't know the culture, customs, etc. I'll be doing a lot of leaning on God - especially when I get homesick.

Well, I must head off now and go do some packing, shopping, etc. I'm not sure if I'll get to post here again before I leave or not, but I'll try to. Until my next post, have a blessed and Christ-filled day!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

One Week Left

In roughly exactly one week (by roughly, I am meaning the time as it is 10:00am now and I leave at 10:05am) from this moment, I will be on the plane that will take me to Toronto where I will wait for an hour or two (can't recall the exact waiting time offhand), and then board the plane that will take me on to South Korea!

Lorie, Sarah, and I got together for a little while yesterday to talk. We haven't been able to do that in a long time. Usually it was only two of us at a time, or we'd send messages on Facebook or email between the three of us. This was because our schedules were never the same for all three of us to meet up at the same time. Anyway, yesterday we got together for coffee and just talked about what to expect, what we need to get before going over...that sort of thing. I think the next time we'll all be together will be when we get to the airport.

I have to pick up more little things to take - makeup, toiletries, maybe another pair of jeans or dress pants or a skirt. I also haven't started packing yet. I've started the thought process of what to take, but haven't actually started to pack. I'm afraid that if I start too early and get it all done, I will worry that I forgot to pack something and have to dig through everything to see if I packed it. I also don't want to wait too late to pack (like the night before) because then I'll get frustrated and wish I'd started earlier...and then might forget something. I think I'll start by making a list of what I need to take, and what I want and go from there. I need to pack for a year, but at the same time the luggage has weight restrictions (70 lbs each for checked, and 10 lbs total for carry on).

I still have other running around to do as well. I have to go to the dentist tomorrow afternoon to get a couple of teeth pulled, and then I have another dentist appointment on Saturday to get another tooth pulled (and possibly a second one that day...the dentist recommends it because he thinks it's going to get abscessed). This is an unexpected expense - an expensive one at that. My teeth aren't bothering me, but I thought I'd get them pulled (they had old fillings in them that fell out and parts of the teeth broke off so they are beyond fixing - according to the dentist) before heading over to Korea and have them end up aching over there. I have no idea what dentists are like over there, or if they even use freezing. I detest going to the dentist so much that I don't want to chance having to get them pulled without freezing. I'd probably pass out or scream loud enough that everyone at home would hear me from way over in Korea. Nope, I'll swallow my pride and fear and take my prescription for the pills (from the dentist) to knock me out and get them pulled here.

Anyway, I'm off to do a little relaxing and write up my list. I'm going to try to get some knitting done today too because I haven't done any for a little while now. Have a blessed Christ-filled day!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

God Is Good

You know how God comes through on prayers, often times at the last possible minute? You pray and pray and then as the last of the sand slips through the hour glass, you begins to wonder if everything will work out or if you'll have to change your plans. Then, everything falls into place - God has answered your prayers!

Well, God has answered my prayers (and the prayers from others who've been praying for our situation)! Sarah, Lorie and I got our visas yesterday! We were also able to book our flights for Korea - the one we wanted with the departer and arrival times being half-decent and not at terrible hours (like leaving at 6:00 in the morning or arriving at 4:00 in the morning).

Because we were only tentatively reserved for the flight, we had to have payment into the travel counsellor by closing time yesterday. We could only actually get our flight once we had our visa (or at least knew that we were getting it and it was on its way to us). So, in order for us to confirm our flight and make sure we were on it was to get our visa yesterday at the latest (with enough time so we could get to the travel agency).

My dad had called me at work to let me know that the envelope from the Korean Consulate had arrived, so I got him to open it for me to see if the visa was in it. After figuring out that it was IN the passport, I got him to give me Lorie's phone number so I could let her know and to find out which travel agency she had booked us with. When I called her she said she was finally able to get through to the consulate (prior to that she couldn't get an actual human on the phone and the extention number she was given was wrong) and they told her we were getting our visas. I told her I already had mine and she should check her mail when it comes in. From there I got the travel agency info and got my mom and dad to go down and make the transaction complete for me since I was at work and I didn't have a definite time that we'd be finished (we are finished when the work is complete, even if we have only been there 6 hours. They are actually able to do a count and figure out an approximate end time). My parents were great and went down and took care of things for me and now all I have to wait for the departure date - and pack and spend time with family and friends.

Praise God for answered prayers!

Just wanted to post a little update on the visa/flight situation. I'll try to get something more about the preparations and whatenot posted as I get closer to my departure date. I'll probably be using this blog to talk about my experiences over in Korea and post some pictures here (and on Facebook as well). Unless I create a blog that is simply for my Korean adventures...I haven't figured that out yet...but I'll probably use this one.

Have a Christ-filled and blessed day!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

A Little Setback

We've had a little setback with our visa applications. We were required to send our diplomas, official transcripts, 2 passport size photos, and a couple of other things to the Ministry of Education in Korea back in June. These were to be used for our visas, and the people in Korea were going to be helping us get the visas.

Well, the three of us (Lorie, Sarah, and I) sent off our contracts, visa applications, the "certificate" of notification that we have our jobs, and an application fee to the nearest Korean Embassy/Consulate to us; for us, the nearest is in Montreal, Quebec. I think Sarah and Lorie may have included a copy of their diplomas as well but I had read over the note that came in our packages with the contracts and certificate of notification, and I included what they had put there.

To make a long story short (if that is even possible with me!), Lorie received a phone call from a woman in the Korean Consulate in Montreal saying that she wasn't going to put her application through because she needed a picture and her official transcripts! Lorie told the woman that we sent all of those items to Korea back in June, but the lady wouldn't budge. She said that the person who would be issuing the visas wouldn't pass the application. She told Lorie that she would hold on to her application (and mine and Sarah's once Lorie mentioned that ours were on the way as well minus the pictures, etc.) and wait for the pictures and official transcripts and then pass it on.

We've since called our contact in Vancouver and told her what was going on. We're miffed because we spent a LOT of money in getting everything together and in sending it via courier (which is what we were supposed to do) and now we'll have to spend even more money we don't really have to go through this all again! Our contact, Jenny, is going to call the people in Korea and explain the situation and find out what we should do and then email us back to let us know. We should hear something by tomorrow (Monday). We were told that because we sent everything to Korea that we wouldn't need to send it to Montreal.

We still need to get our airlines tickets booked, and we aren't supposed to do that until we get our visas. Our time is running out. We need to leave by August 21/22, and we won't have our tickets by August 7th, which is what the Ministry of Education in Korea requested to be notified by with the details of our flights. Jenny will also be informing them of this.

When Lorie called to tell me of this new setback (regarding the pictures and transcripts), I was rather angry. After I cooled down, I prayed and told the Lord that I am giving the entire situation to Him to handle. He's in control, and only He can make things smooth from this "storm". Since I did this, I haven't worried about anything regarding the situation, and I haven't taken it back from Him - which is something I normally do. Hmm, maybe I'm doing some growing in my faith!

So, prayers regarding this situation are most welcome. I know God is in control of it and He can handle it, but prayers are still good!

Have a blessed and Christ-filled day!

Edited on Monday, Aug. 6 to add: Our contact in Vancouver has emailed us to say the woman she was talking to from the office in Korea will be personally in touch with the woman who had called Lorie from the Montreal office of the Korean Consulate. The contact in Vancouver will keep up on the progress, etc. and let us know what's going on with our situation. I do hope it gets resolved very quickly...time is ticking away and we need to get our airline tickets very soon!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Countdown Is On

In twenty-three days I will be in Korea...maybe even twenty-two (depending if we leave on August 21 or 22)!

For the entire month of July we waited and waited and waited to get our contracts and what we need for our visas. Finally, on Monday (July 30) we got our packages. Inside the envelope was two copies of our contract, a letter explaining things, and our notice of appointment - no visa application or anything like that. Turns out, we have to get the application online, print it off and fill it out to send in along with the application fee (which is $65).

Reading over the information, we are told that we need to have the contract signed and taken to the nearest Korean Embassy/Consulate by August 3 - that is this coming Friday. Needless to say, we were very stressed and worried about that. You see, the nearest Korean Consulate to us in in Montreal - a 10 hour drive (and much cheaper than flying). We can't really afford to spend money to go up and get things taken care of as it would cut into the funds we'd be taking with us to Korea. This was causing some major stress, big time!

I fired off an email to our contact in Vancouver, and she replied back not to get stressed as things would be fine and she'd get in contact with the company over in Korea to find out the answers to our questions (including the whole August 3rd cut off date). We have been informed that the August 3rd date doesn't apply to us, but to those who applied for an ESL job through the Korean Consulate directly. We basically have until we leave to get our visas. So now I need to fill in the form, sign the contract and send it and the application fee and the passport to Montreal and wait. According to the Korean Consulate's website, it should only take 5 days.

The next "big" thing we need to do is book our flights. One of the girls contacted a couple of travel agencies to inquire about flights, when we'd need to book them, and if we can do so without getting the visas first (since we only have 3 weeks). I was told that international flights need to be booked at least 2 weeks in advance of traveling, but my friend was told by the travel agent that it is ok if it is less than 2 weeks (people book last minute all the time). Our problem is that the flights we were looking at are booking quickly so we'll have to at least have them hold our seats for a few days...but one agency said they can only hold them until Friday. So, we should have our flights booked by Friday. We aren't sure if we have to pay for them on Friday, or if we can pay next week or some time before we go. If we have to pay by Friday, I may have to leave work a little early to get to the agency in time before they close (they aren't open on the weekends during the summer). That shouldn't be a problem though because the supervisors are well aware that I'm heading to Korea for a year.

Other than all of this, my big task is getting packed - what to take, what not to take, what I can take in my carry on bags or what has to be packed in the checked bags - all that sort of stuff. I've been told that it might be good to check with the airline we end up flying with to see if we can actally take extra luggage - apparently some airlines allow you to take more luggage (like maybe another suitcase or two, thought I'm not entirely sure) if you are going to be gone longer than two months - a year is definately longer, so we might be able to take a little more. I've been getting hints and tips on things to take, things to not bother bringing over, things to take into consideration, weather tips, etc. I think what I'll do is create a list of what I want/need to take so that I hopefully won't forget anything...oh, and I will definitely be taking my laptop with me, that's a given!

So, please pray that the visa thing gets done and returned to us quickly, that there are no problems with booking our flights, and that things in general run smoothly. I appreciate all the prayers I can get! God bless, and have a Christ-filled day!