Ah, this randomly popped up one day after posting. WordPress usually gives some kind of random inspiration to bloggers, like a muse or excessive drinking. This title caught my eye. “What travel lessons have you learned the hard way?” Let me put this out there and say I am in no way a globe trotter. I have been to my share of strange, different, and exotic places but I haven’t been everywhere. But in my time overseas and a few self-planned trips I can say mistake were made….
# 5. No Faffing About: On the way to Sokcho, Chad and I were almost left behind during a routine pit-stop in the lovely countryside of middle-of-nowhere Korea. Luckily, Chad and I can run fast. However much time the bus drive says you have, just take a piss and hurry back. Whatever you want to buy, or do, or look at, forget it, just pee and hop back on the bus.
#4. On the Map: maps, most are for free, we have them on smart phones and GPS and navigation systems. There are all kinds of neat and niffy way to access a map nowadays. Don’t waste your vacation time lost- look at a map! Everywhere I go, I bring a map or get one at the local tourist information center. If you don’t want to look touristy, cause you’re just too cool for that, check your map in a private location, like a bathroom. Just check it. Most places in Korea (if you look pretty lost and are staring at a map) some kind Korean, will an urge to practice English, will ask you if you need help. You never know, you can make a friend!
#3. Sail the 7 Seas with me, just find your own way: don’t book trips for friends. It’s been a few times now that I’ve planned and booked a trip and was a kind and handy travel agent for my friends. But unlike a travel agent I didn’t get paid and got the shaft. Then I’m left to pay the bill and make the recalculations. (Ya know like reckoning the price on sharing a condo with 5 instead of 6.) If you want to travel with friends, that’s find and it’s a great idea to travel with others, but have everyone book their own way and meet up later.
#2. 867-5309!!! This may seem simple but make sure you have the address and phone of the hotel or hostel or where ever you are staying. Lots of things ask for this. Customs want to know it, some random forms at the airport want it and it’s good to have it on hand if you get lost. (Also try to have it in English and it that country’s language/alphabet.) Even if you know the location and everything- just in case! I knew exactly where our hotel was from the subway station, unfortunately, I forgot which subway station and the name of them hotel once we arrived in Tokyo. It wasn’t until I was staring at a neighborhood map that it click, we were at the WRONG subway station…. This may seem like a no-brainer but simple things just confuse and scary me.
#1. Ah, take the Cash in hand: This may seem strange to some, and I’m sure some people will say I’m all wrong about this one, but trust me when I say, keep cash on you. Not a lot, and always enough to get a train, or bus, or cab, back to the airport, ferry or whatever that brings you home. The morning we were headed back from Tokyo we had spent all our cash, not wanting to carry a bunch of yen back to Seoul. “I’ll just use my card” I thought. Except in Tokyo the only ATM’s that have any English options require you to withdraw a minimum of 10,000 yen which, at the time, was roughly 100 USD. We had just under 100 bucks in my home account, because the night before I used my card to buy dinner. We were stuck with the crippling fear of no way to buy a train ticket to get back to the airport. We were stuck in Tokyo! We had Korean won and even a 50 US dollar bill in my wallet but no Japanese yen. Luckily, the other train company in that station opened at 6:00 AM and Chad was able to scrap enough Japanese to buy two tickets to the airport. This train company had a ticket booth that took card. Thank God for the JR line (Japan Railways Group.)
So these are my top 5 tips for travelers. Bon voyage!!
Here are some pictures of our DMZ trip. We took the USO tour which is by far the best tour available because it’s the only one that allows access to the Joint Security Area (JSA) in the Panmunjom area. KoriDoor is the company and the tour takes you to JSA, Third Infiltration Tunnel, Dora Observatory, and Dorasan Station. It cost a bit more but it’s worth it, about 92,000 won or 80 USD.
First we went to the Third Infiltration Tunnel. This is the third out of four official tunnels found that lead from North Korea to South Korea. Stooping all the way, we made it to the end of the tunnel where we could see the third concrete barricade. In that barricade you can see a tiny window where the second barricade is visible. The first barricade is not visible. Also taking photos is prohibited in the tunnel. There is a movie about the war visitors can watch and there is a small exhibit filled with items from the war and miniature models of the DMZ.
There was this amazingly campy tourist sign of the DMZ outside so of course we need a picture of that.
There were a couple of other cute things that you could take pictures next to.
After the tunnel, we drove to The Dora Observatory on the top of Mt. Dora. From there you can see into North Korea. We ate lunch at the Inter-Korean Transit Office. After that we were scheduled to go to Dorsan Station but we had to change plans and get to Camp Bonifas.
Camp Bonifas is a United Nations Command military post located 400 meters south of the southern boundary of the Korean Demilitarized Zone. There we received a briefing about the JSA and the DMZ. We got on a military bus and headed to the JSA.
We were not allowed to take photos of Camp Bonifas or the Freedom House in the JSA. But we could take photos inside the UN Command Conference Building and outside of the Freedom House that looks towards the North.
Inside the UN Command Conference Building there were two ROK (Republic of Korea) soldiers. All ROK soldiers stand in a taekwondo stances wearing dark Ray-Ban sunglasses and helmets. They wear these to show no emotion to North Korea. While inside northern part of the UN Command Conference Building you are technically standing inside North Korea.
We walked back outside and stood on the edge of the top step of the Freedom House facing Panmungak the North Korean building. While there we could ask any questions to our US MP tour guide as long as you don’t point or gesture.
Finally we made our way to Dorasan Station, with it’s motto “Not the last station from the South, But the first station toward the North.” In hopes of reunification, the train tracks lay there new and quiet waiting for that day.
Day 8: A little trip to the DMZ. I’ll write more about it later when I have more time but for now enjoy this picture
So I have a couple of friends that are coming to Korea this year and I realized I never made my list of “What to Bring to Korea.” Truthfully Chad and I packed pretty simple and light because in reality we have bought a lot of stuff here, from a Samsung HDTV to Pokémon figurines.
So here is my list of things to bring for those worried about space, weight and necessity.
This is the primary thing to pack because nudity is only acceptable in the Jjimjilbang. Working for a school they have dress requirements and you should check your school’s to see what the dress code is. At our schools men need: ties, dress shirts, slacks, dress shoes and polos.
Ladies need: dress shoes, skirts, dresses, sweaters, hose/leggings, slacks, and blouses.
And it all depends on your style and comfort.
Also bring at least one formal/semi-formal outfit (like a suit for men and nice business dress or outfit for women) Most schools have important events that are big photo-ops for the school, as a foreigner your job is to look great in those pictures.
Good shoes to walk in: my first day here I got lost and walked for about two hours in a new pair of dress flats. My first meeting with my new boss I asked her for some band-aids. I felt like a horse’s ass. So good walking shoe, very important you will do some major walking and standing.
If you are a larger bra-size or shoe size bring enough bras and shoes for the season you arrive in Korea. You can always have stuff shipped to you or you can go shopping once the seasons start to change.
laptop: it will be your best friend at times and for awhile the only way to connect with other people.
iPod/MP3 player: If you have one bring it, but if not you can buy one here.
camera: You’ll want to take pictures of your students, of your place and that random drunk Korean changing pants on the sideway. If you have one bring it, if not you can buy one here.
video games/DVD/Blu-Ray: Bring your handhelds (Nintendo DS, PSP, whatever you have bring it) We also brought our PS3 and Wii. But for those Wii and XBOX360 owners you’ll have to get a power converter because of voltage differences in Korea can fry your console. But limit your game selection because if you’re in Seoul, you can find most new games you want in Yongsan Electronics District. Same goes for your DVDs/BlueRays bring the ones you can’t live without but for the most part you can download or rent movies. But watch out for region locks.
**Leave your hairdryers, curling irons, straighteners, teapots, coffee makers and other electronics and appliances at home because you’ll run into voltage and adapter plug problems. You can get all of these things in Korea and cuter ones, I’m in the market for a Hello Kitty hairdryer myself.
For your apartment:
Fitted sheets- at least one fitted sheet set for your place. Most beds provided are twin or double/full size. Ask your school what size of bed they provide. It was a pain in the ass running around looking for an affordable fitted sheet. I spend over 10 bucks on a fitted sheet/pillow set that would have cost 4 bucks back home. They double the price here when it comes to bedding.
Towel- one of the first things you want to do once you get here is take a shower after traveling all day. Some places your school may house you temporarily (like a love motel) don’t have body size towels provided. The last thing you wanna do is run around looking for a proper size towel or dry off with a hand towel.
Blanket- most schools provide you with a blanket but if you have a favorite one to snuggle in or even better a SNUGGIE then bring it.
Deodorant- the hardest and most over priced thing that Westerners use that Koreans do not is deodorant. It’s used here as more of a perfume so it’s priced like perfume. Bring a years supply, don’t negotiate this and think ‘oh I’ll just have mom send me some’ because as soon as you run out you’re gonna be like “OH SHIT I’m all out and it’s 98 degrees Fahrenheit outside!!”
Toiletries- to last till pay day, so bring your favorite soap/body-wash, shampoo, conditioner, perfume/cologne, facial cleansers, and make-up. But if you shop around you will develop your own favorite brands for these things that you can find at places like Olive Young, Etude House, It’s Skin, Tony Moly and there’s about 5 more bath and body product stores in Korea.
Toothpaste- They have lots of brands of toothpaste here and most likely you’ll get some in a giant package for the holidays but I really don’t care for Korean toothpaste. It’s just not minty enough… So bring some tubes of your favorite and mine too while you’re at it.
Chapstick- I’m a huge Chapstick user and my favorite kind is Chapstick Moisturizer and that’s the ONE kind I can’t find in Korea. They have cherry, original, spearmint, and for men but no Moisturizer. Also Chapstick here is around 3 bucks a tube vs the 99 cents you pay back home. So stock up on your favorite kind. But they do have Burt’s Bees, Nivea and several other brands of lip balms.
Vick’s Vapor Rub- I found Vick’s in Itaewon for 5,000 won for a little tub. So if you like using Vick’s when you get sick (and Chad really does) be sure to pack at least one.
Midol-for the ladies, if you use Midol back home for any regular basic it’s good to bring at least a few bottles. I haven’t been able to find a Korean equivalent but then again I haven’t tried that hard to search for some.
Food and Food Related Items:
You’re coming to South Korea not North Korea so there is plenty of food. But somethings that are over-priced or not easy to find you might want to bring some
Season Salt, Garlic Salt (not powder they have that here), gravy mix, mac and cheese, and a couple of your other favorite spices. But don’t bring too much because it start to weigh you down. We brought a cansiter or Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, and Cavender’s Greek Seasoning.
Money- it makes the world go around. Be sure to bring enough to last you before your first paycheck which may not be for 6 weeks! Also budget in spending mistakes, going out with new found friends and co-workers and things you might need for your apartment. I’d say around 600-1000 buck will be pretty good.
Bank account info of course you need your passport and visa and other documents but don’t forget your bank account info for international money transfers. That may seem like a given but I thought it was important enough to put on the list.
Okie that’s all. For the most part you’ll find what you need in Korea. South Korea isn’t a 3rd world country. In fact it’s one of the world’s fastest grown and most competitive countries in the world so finding the comforts of home all over. It might be harder if you are outside of the Seoul area. So in that case if you are teaching in a smaller city or town you might bring what you can now and have things shipped to you. Korea has amazing postal service, it’s fast, reliable and cheap! For those who want more ideas check out these blogs:
The won (원) (sign: ₩; code: KRW) is the currency of South Korea. A single won is divided into 100 jeon, the monetary subunit. The jeon is no longer used for everyday transactions, and appears only in foreign exchange rates. From Wikipedia Here is what the won looks like!
This was my first sunrise in “The Land of the Morning Calm.” I took this photo on the bus from Incheon to Seoul. This was crossing over the part of the Yellow Sea that divides Incheon and the main land of Korea.
Chad and I ate gogi gui all weekend long! It was so good and so fun!! Sunny, my Korean friend, took Chad, Jamie and me to a Korean barbecue place too. It was a fancy had tons of different lettuce to wrap the meat. They also had capsule toys machines there and I got some! I love Korea there are toys everywhere!! This is my kind of place Chad and I went to a place called “Cow Luck” 3 times! Cow Luck, cows have awful luck! How morbid…. Sunny also took us to a coffee shop and I had what I assume is patbingsu. It was very refreshing and so tasty!!
Korea is so beautiful. This is a photo from the bus ride I took from the airport to Seoul. The bus driver told me to get off on the wrong stop. But luckily I was only one stop away and a very nice Korean man that spoke fluent English help me and called Jimmy (the manager’s assistant) and told him where I was. I also got lost walking around my first day here, once again a nice Korean man asked me if I needed help but I knew where my school was so I just walked back there. Jimmy once again drove me home. Jimmy is awesome
The flight was so long, 13 hours from Chicago to Seoul. And the plane was SO HOT! I thought they were trying to cook me!! I couldn’t sleep at all. It sucked bad. But I’m here now in Seoul! Wish me luck!!
So Chad and I finally got all of Pepper’s documents to bring him to South Korea! However we didn’t bring him, due to the heat. They won’t fly animals if it’s over a certain temperature. It’s for their safety. I would have had to wait and most likely miss my flight to Korea and be really delayed. I was heartbroken that I couldn’t bring him but he’s going to provide my mom company. Which is really great cause Pepper loves Mama and Mama loves Pepper.
So after getting an official health check for him and his rabies certificate, at the Oklahoma State University Vet Hospital and going to the USDA we left him at home in Enid. It’s better this way for now. Hopefully once we get some vacation time we can come home and bring him.
As the days get closer to my departure date I think about things I’ll miss about the US. Of course I’m gonna miss my mom, family members, and friends- that’s a given but I’m not here to write about that. With Chad’s help, I have compiled a list of things we’re going to miss about Oklahoma/USA
10. Long distances between towns/cities- Seoul is a metro area full of people and districts and neighborhoods. (I compare districts to counties and neighborhoods to cities.) So here in Oklahoma if you want to drive from Enid to Lahoma (which is the nearby town) that’s about an 20 minute drive. But it’s only a 5 minute train ride from one district to another! It will be something to get use to going from once town to another without a wheat field in between.
9. Over hearing conversations- Most likely the conversations I’ll over hear will be in a language that I don’t know, i.e. Korean. It’s one of my favorite things to sit in a restaurant or coffee house and over hear bits and pieces of surrounding conversations. The best part is laughing at younger middle schoolers and make fun of them trying to act grown-up by talking loudly about something they think is “deep”
8. Mexican Food- I’m sure they have Mexican restaurants in Korean especially in the Seoul area. But authentic made by Mexicans, serviced by Mexicans and you order in Spanish! I doubt they’ll have….
7. Tornadoes- Of course tornadoes are scary and devastating but they are also fascinating!! Like any good Oklahoman as soon as the sirens go off, it outside to look for it. I’m sure Korea has it’s own natural disasters to grow fond of, but tornadoes will always have a special place
6. My Bathtub- I need bubble baths, so I’m not sure how I’m going to deal with no bathtub. It drove me crazy living in Stillwater with only a shower. Most apartments for teachers in Korea just have showers so I don’t know how I’ll deal. Maybe I’ll set up an inflatable kiddie pool in my bathroom
5. Drinking Crown Royal- Chad and I have been long time Crown and Coke drinkers. This Canadian whiskey is the best, but I’m not gonna spend tons of money on a Crown and Coke! I recently discovered Crown Royal Black, which is the best thing ever. It’s so smooth and delicious! Well good-bye Crown and hello Soju!
4. Stillwater, OK- Going to school, living and working there for 5 years “Stilly” will be a hard place to leave. I’ve made life long friends there, met Chad there, cheered for OSU there, did tons of theatre there, and countless other things in Stillwater. My great-grandpa’s and grandpa’s homesteads are not to far from Stillwater. Tons of my family have gone to OSU. So Stillwater is full of memories and reason to call it “home”
3. Drive my Car- With public transportation what is the point in driving anywhere. But I will miss listening to my ipod and just driving around.
2. White Trash/Rednecks/Hillbillies- These people have been the source of humor for Chad and I for years! So once in Korea who will we make fun of and laugh about??
1. Sooner Fans- I know that seems crazy but it’s the same as above. Endless supply of laughter! But Sooner Fans have to have a category of their own! There is something special about a rivalry. There is also something special about laughing at bandwagoning ‘folks’ who have never stepped foot on any college campus, but cheer for OU football like it’s the NFL. And once OSU wins something, they jump ship. Also they fact that Sooner means land-stealer (a Boomer was someone who took part of the Land Run of 1889), and their mascot is a mobile home.
This seemed to be the most difficult thing to do out of this whole process. But Chad, Jamie, and I finally got our E-2 work visas!! They look so awesome and official. They even have a little golden embossing on it! We had lots of trouble with communication problems with the secretaries at the Korean Consulate in Houston, TX. They would never talk to us for more than a few minutes, never fully answered our questions, hung up on Chad several times, and accused me of being rude, when I was nothing but polite. Then once we got there the secretary was texting and messing around, being completely unprofessional, and took her sweet time to help any of us.
Yet, the other employees there were nice and polite. And the man we all interviewed with was super nice and sweet. So in the end after jumping though hoops, dealing with that rude secretary on a power trip, and having to fly all the way to Houston AND back, we got our visas. We’re official, we’re going to Seoul, South Korea, departing Monday July 19th, from Will Rogers World Airport!
What an AMAZING DAY IN FOOTBALL!!!! Holy Crap!
South Korea beats Greece 2-0 and US tied England 1-1. Tim Howard you are my hero, I love him. Clint Dempsey you are beautiful and Robert Green- sucks to be you. If you watched the game I’m sure your heart stopped a few times like it did mine. I hope some, if not most, people understand the importance of this game. Here is just a quick run down of the stats:
In the 1950 World Cup, the United States won 1–0 against England in what is widely considered one of the greatest upsets in football history, England having recently beaten the rest of Europe 6–1 in an exhibition match. This is the one time that the US beat England in World Cup play. And has history would have it US has always lost when England scores first, not this time. Also the last time US won against England was 1993 in a friendly match. People didn’t except US to win or even tied. A tied is as good as a win!! If our team goes far this World Cup maybe it will change the mind of those would don’t care about US soccer. Maybe it will become as important as it is everywhere else in the world!!! Hopefully… someday…
If you missed the game don’t miss the next US vs Slovenia June 18 on ESPN. US has a great chance this year so support your team!!