Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Bling Ring: Preparing me for Korea

At the beginning of summer, knowing I would be leaving for a year at the end of August, I kind of started to form a Madison bucket list in my mind.  It wasn't until August that I actually wrote it down, but I completed nearly all of the items (in no particular order):

1. Go to Picnic Point

2. Go to Spring Green

3. Go to Chad's cabin

4. Go to a movie! (Bling Ring)

5. Take brother T.J. to Mickie's Dairy Bar

6. Dinner with Jim and Kris

7. Dinner with the Fab Four

8. Visit the younger brother in La Crosse

9. Hang out with JJ and his cousin Sam

10. Do something with the sister in Milwaukee  (I say State Fair counts)

Ever since I'd read Soren's post with the Bling Ring trailer back in April (which led me to read an interview with Emma Watson about the film, which led me to wiki "bling ring", which resulted in me watching the whole series of Pretty Wild in 3 days), I wanted to see the film this summer.

The Bling Ring
The Bling Ring

Well, it never happened.  And on Wednesday, after having packed for my year away on Tuesday, I was off to Chicago for a 3:00 check-in at the hotel (the program puts us up for the night).  The orientation began at 3:30 that afternoon, and lasted for about two hours.  Then dinner was served in the same room.

It was great to finally meet the other UW grads that were also going to work in South Korea.  Many questions were answered, though I'm still surprised at what things aren't known / communicated to us beforehand.  I think bringing in a past TTG participant (who finished the previous year) sometime in May or June would be most beneficial.  You can't do much the day before you leave.  Also on my list of improvements: creating a more comprehensive guide/resource (like my WIPT Madrid Bible handbook) and creating a database of past TTG teachers containing their current contact info and Korean school address.  I will probably delve in and see what I can make myself, to benefit future TTG teachers.

So after dinner on Wednesday we were free to do whatever.  Some people went swimming; I stayed in my room with three other TTG participants and chatted.  On Thursday we were up by 7:30, and a shuttle (also paid for by UW) took us to O'Hare at 9:30.

Nice and cozy in the back of the hotel shuttle

After getting to the terminal, we all had two hours to kill.  This was going to be a long day.

When we finally boarded the plane, I discovered my seat was in the middle of two other TTGs, but since there were only 3 seats in that section of the row, I was only one person away from the aisle on both sides: not bad.  We all got pillows, nice blankets, mini water-bottles, slippers, toothbrushes, and toothpaste on our seats.  I sat down, shoving my white track jacket behind my back, and started looking through the in-flight movies.

The second movie in "New Releases" was Bling Ring.

Woo!  Watching this movie had been on my mind all summer, and now I would finally have the chance to finish that last item before I got to Korea.

I started it right away, and was pleasantly distracted for the next hour and a half.  Although I was just watching a movie, and silly as it sounds, the action really helped bring some closure to my time in Madison so I could start my new life in Korea without any lingering shoulda coulda wouldas.  I'm also a list freak, and having any sort of unfinished task really weighs down on me more than it should.

So having watched The Bling Ring, I was now ready for Korea.  I still didn't know all of the letters in Hangul (Korean alphabet), nor could I say more than "hello" and "thank you" in Korean, but I was ready.
• • •

Packing for South Korea

Guess what?  I do have internet in my apartment right away after all!  So now I can tell you all about my last full-day at home (Tuesday), spent packing.  Splendid.

Here's how my room looked in the morning.  There were no clothes in the suitcases, just various toiletries* and other items I wanted to bring along:

There was also still an unpacked suitcase (from when I moved out of my apartment on August 10) and a box in the hallway outside of my bedroom, not pictured above.

Before I show the next photos and time, let me say that I did G+ with Hannah for at least an hour later that morning, and chatted with CC and my grandma for a bit on the phone as well.  

So at 2pm, I had started to make clothes piles of each different type of clothing group (e.g. shorts, dress pants, socks, leggings, sweaters, etc.), so that I could then select a few from each pile to bring along:

About fifteen minutes later, I discovered my clothes that had been hanging in the sister's closet.  Whoops, forgot about those.  So I pulled them all out and stacked them up, then went through one by one taking off the hanger and throwing the item in its correct pile:

I had made good progress by 5:30pm when papa and I left the house for dinner and drinks with mother and a family friend.  So we didn't get back until 9pm or so, and I had finished packing by 10:11:

Also not pictured above, but I would like to note that I made both of the beds in the room; the bedroom is looking good.  (And sister, I expect it to look no messier when I come back!)

*Note: Having packed for a year twice before (Madrid), I've acquired some year-long packing habits.  I usually buy multiple toothpastes, deodorants, tampons, and a thing of shampoo.  I bring along some cue tips, floss, etc.  All this stuff will get used up during the year, meaning I'll have more space for the return trip.  If I bring along a regular-sized towel (which I've done for both years in Madrid and this year in South Korea), I leave it behind at the end of the year, again making more space in the luggage for the return trip.  I've learned that you can buy anything you need, so when in doubt leave it behind.
• • •

Friday, August 30, 2013

South Korea 101

There's a brief chapter at the end of the book Culture Shock! Korea (given to me by Soren @ World of Soren!) titled "Fast Facts about Korea".  So, since I'm still on my way flying to Seoul (I wrote this post before I left and scheduled it to publish), I'm sharing some of these facts with all of you so we can get the basics down together.

Official Name
Republic of Korea


Korean flag

Greenwich Mean Time plus 9 hours (GMT +0900)
(Central time is GMT -0600, for reference, so I'll be 14 hours in the future!).

Located at the southern half of the Korean Peninsula, the country is bounded in the north by North Korea.  The Sea of Japan is found off its western coast and the Yellow Sea off its eastern coast.  The Korean Strait to the south and southeast of the country separate it from Japan.

Telephone Country Code


Korean won (KRW)
(And $1 USD = 1,114 SKW, so I'm going to be making millions at this job! ... of Korean won).

Temperate climate with heavy rainfall in summer

Korean culture

I took some notes on the other chapters of the book, just some important things that I wanted to remember.  Here are a few of the more interesting cultural differences:

  • Everyone's age is one at birth, and everyone's age advances on the same day each year: New Year's.  (So, say you're born three months before New Year's; you are one year old.  On New Year's your age becomes two, even though in the western world you're only three months old.)
  • Don't write people's names in red!  This is only done if the person has died.
  • Use your right hand when giving an object to a person of higher status.
  • Don't pick up a rice or soup bowl to eat!  Leave it on the table.
• • •

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Thankful Thursday: 8/29/13

[Thankful Thursday is a weekly segment that began 1/10/13 - read why here.  I invite you to join me in practicing gratitude!]

When this post publishes, I'll be on my 14-hour flight to Seoul, South Korea!

At Luke's last Tuesday (which I can't believe  was over a week ago, by the way) I made a Google Form so friends and family could sign up to receive biweekly emails while I'm living across the globe.  I was debating whether or not to add any fields apart from name and email, but in the end I included an "Additional Comments" box -- and am I ever glad that I did.  So today I'm thankful for all of the well wishes and supportive comments that people left me through that form, on cards, and in texts & emails.  

It feels a lot more difficult leaving this third time than it did the other two, and I'm sure it's not any easier on my family and friends.  So thank you, parents, for letting me leave again; I know I will learn a great deal this year, and plan to share as much of it as possible on this blog so that others can learn/benefit from the experience as well.  Thank you family and friends for entertaining my crazy idea of moving to South Korea, and a preemptive thank you for keeping me informed of what's going on in all of your lives : )   

"Trade your expectation for appreciation and your world changes instantly."
-Tony Robbins
• • •

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Time flies, f'real

This past week has absolutely flown by.  It may have been the fastest week in the last 12 months.

Since my trip to La Crosse I have:

-- Received this slip of paper from UW in the mail.  So long loan #3!

-- Eaten for the first time at AJ Bombers in Madison, which surpassed my expectations.

-- Gone shopping with my mom and sister, buying three (much needed) pairs of shoes and various toiletries for the next year.

-- Gotten my hair cut really cutely by my cousin.  Third time's a charm!

-- Made $41 and got rid of / donated lots of stuff at my free garage "sale" on Friday.
(Yes, this is still on our driveway, a week later)

-- Helped my aunt "stage" for her move.

-- Gotten brunch with my old boss and friends.

-- Tried to bake cookies in Luke's car before a family dinner on Sunday.

-- Gotten all the siblings together under one roof for the final time in 2013

.... and probably some other things that I'm forgetting.  So I was mostly spending time with people, not packing.  The packing all happened today, and I've got some messy pictures to document the process.  If I get on top of things, I'll schedule some posts to go up while I'm in travel mode, otherwise it could be a few days until you hear from me on the blog.

Tomorrow I leave for Chicago in the morning, where we'll have an orientation at 3:30, followed by dinner and a night in a hotel.  They'll bus us to the airport on Thursday, then I'll take off for my 14-hour flight.  We arrive in Seoul around 5pm on Friday, but I'll have a few hours in the car after that to get to my little town.  You're so jealous of my next two days, I know.

I won't have internet in my apartment right away, but I'm expecting to be working at school on Monday (Sept. 2) where I'm also expecting internet.  Until then!
• • •

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Thursday, August 22, 2013

La Crosse with hermano: The Root Note, hiking the bluffs, and jazz

Since I'll be away for a year in South Korea shortly, and since my younger brother Luke has been hiding up in La Crosse all year, I drove up on Monday evening to visit him.

On Monday we went to trivia night at The Root Note.  Even though he plays with the 3rd Relation Jazz Quintet at The Root Note every Tuesday evening, I had never been to this cafe before.  It was so neat inside!  There was lots of art work on display, a bathtub fish tank, a typewriter, and books & prints for sale.

Root Note LaCrosse WI

We got fifth place, which wasn't so bad.  And we learned that Superbowl L will take place in 2016!

On Tuesday we went for a hike in the bluffs on the Hixon Forest Trails.  The trail Luke has taken before was closed, so we took another path until we found a way to go up.

There were nice views of La Crosse at the top:

At one point during the hike, Luke nearly fell off a steep rock.  I found him holding on to the edge of this rock for his dear life, so I took a photograph (below, left).  Believe it or not, I climbed up the side of a rocky cliff, using my powerfully strong arms to pull myself up.  This was also documented by photograph (below, right), as Luke knew I could pull myself up at the top without any of his help, so he was free to take pictures.

We ate lunch at the bluffs once we hiked back down to ground level.  Then we drove back to Luke's house to grab books and more water, before walking to the river for a bit.  We both read and snoozed in the grass -- it was perfect weather for naps in the park.
La Crosse River WI

That night Luke's jazz quintet (now a quartet, since the trumpet player moved away) played at The Root Note from 8-11, as they do every Tuesday (check them out sometime!).  It was fun to meet everyone in the quartet, as well as Luke's friends in the audience.  I liked that in the second half of their gig, the quartet invited musical audience members to come up and play or sing with them.  One guy came up and sang an amazing My Funny Valentine.  Another man came up and played drum set for a few pieces.  A friend played bass for a song or two, and there was an energetic trumpeter who snuck in for a few songs as well.

Thanks for a great start to the week, hermano!
• • •

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Fab Four: On the lake at Chad's cabin

Given everyone's busy summer plans, we hadn't had a Fab Four get together since the May cookout at Bill's.  This past Saturday we all got together at Chad's family's cabin for a final reunion before I leave for South Korea.  It was a gorgeous day, and we were luckily able to spend time out on the lake courtesy of Chad's family's pontoon:

The Fab Four, August 2013

We joined Chad's family out there, who made for wonderful company:

They gave us a lake tour, pointing out the main attractions.  The first was Willie's Wharf, a nautically-decorated area along a rocky coast.  I guess an older man (Willie) used to sit up in the wharf and play music as boats passed, but Chad et al. hasn't seen Willie for about two years now...

Also included on the tour were some amazing houses on the lake.  We'd slow down and majorly gawk: 

^^If I remember correctly, this house had an outdoor and an indoor pool. Yup, on the lake.

This one is rumored to be Oprah's "cabin":

Seeing the sailboats out on the lake made me think of Hannah and all our time spent out on the water in Hudson, QC.  Being on a lake didn't feel so foreign anymore!

To end the tour, we pulled off to grab a drink at a bar on the lake.  The water on that coast was so green!

We finished the day (welcomed the night?) with dinner at the local bar:

I know it won't be for over a year (hard to fathom), but I'm already looking forward to the next Fab Four outing!
• • •

Homemade garam masala

Every Thanksgiving on my mom's side of the family, we draw names for Christmas.  You get a Christmas present for whoever's name you draw.  This past Christmas my brother T.J. had my name, and this is what he got me:

ingredients for garam masala
A mortar and pestle, with many different spices

Included was a recipe for homemade garam masala.  The box of goodies sat in my room all winter, while I worked 7 days a week during tax season from January through April.  And once the weather got nice, I kept finding myself outside: at frisbee campMUFA spring league, etc., bla bla bla.  

Excuses aside, this past Thursday -- two weeks before I leave the country for a year -- I finally put the mortar and pestle to good use, making said garam masala.

Here are the ingredients I used for this recipe:
  • 1 cinnamon stick (4", broken down)
  • 3 cloves
  • 3 black peppercorns
  • 2 black cardamom pods, with husks removed
  • 2 teaspoons black cumin seeds

And the instructions went like this:
Gently heat spices in a sauté pan until you can smell them.

making homemade garam masala

I didn't break down the cinnamon enough in the first batch, as seen above.  It was harder to grind at the end, so for the second batch I was sure to mash up that cinnamon a lot more before putting it in the pan with the other spices.
Remove from heat immediately and let the spices cool for a few minutes. 
Then either grind finely with a mortar and pestle, or grind with a coffee grinder.

making homemade garam masala

Additional ingredients may include bay leaves, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, star anice, nutmeg, etc.

My second batch was definitely finer than the first, but both smelled great!  Anyone have tips on grinding techniques?  I went back and forth between pounding the spices and scraping the pestle against the mortar wall.  T.J. will have to experiment this year, as little does he know, I'm letting him borrow it while I'm gone.  (Yup, not packing it in the suitcase, believe it or not.)
• • •

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Juicing with JJ

A week ago today, JJ and I bought a bunch of veggies and fruits to juice.  He's staying at his parents' house while they're on vacation, and they have a juicer -- hence the juicing project.  He's been trying to go 10 days on pure juice.  It feels inspired by the documentary Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, but I can't speak on his behalf.  Watch the trailer if you've never heard of the movie, then check it out from your local library and give it a watch!

Here's what we bought last Tuesday on Juicing Day 1:

juicing fruits and vegetables

The list includes:
  • apples
  • lemons
  • limes
  • ginger
  • carrots
  • cucumber
  • kale
  • celery
  • swiss chard
  • avocados

The first batch of juice was really delicious -- I hadn't expected it to be that good.  JJ says he feels great.  Maybe I'll look into purchasing a juicer in South Korea... 
• • •

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Thankful Thursday: 8/15/13

[Thankful Thursday is a weekly segment that began 1/10/13 - read why here.  I invite you to join me in practicing gratitude!]

I am so grateful for all of the help and advice regarding South Korea that friends and acquaintances have provided me.  On Monday of this week I finally got to meet the blogger Soren (World of Soren), who generously gave me the book Culture Shock! Korea, as well as much advice, kindness, and an introduction to his friend who taught in the Korean elementary school I've been placed in.  A professor from my job I just left has introduced me via email to a past Korean PhD student of his.  A friend's roommate who I met for the first time sent me a blog link of her friend that's currently teaching in Korea.  So many people have asked me if I want contact info for their friend/acquaintance living in South Korea.  The advice and willingness to help has been outstanding!

I'm doing the same for people headed to Madrid for the first time, as some emails with questions have started to trickle in now that it's nearing fall once again.  I'm trying to get out as many more "how to" posts as I can on Oh No She Madridn't -- before I overwrite all of my Madrid street knowledge with South Korean cultural smarts!  I have found that expats are generally willing to help a fellow newbie expat, so I'm not necessarily surprised by all of the Korea advice offers, but rather, appreciative.
• • •

Teaching English in South Korea: TTG application timeline

We got an email this past Friday from the Teachers to Gyeonggi-do (TTG) program assistant about paying for our flights to Korea through the travel agent, and were told that we'd get our placements on Monday.  So this Monday I found out that I'll be teaching in Wangsan Elementary School this year.  If there is only one school with this name in the Gyeonggi-do region, then it's in Yeoncheon:


To help any future applicants of the TTG program (run by the ESL department at UW-Madison), I've kept a timeline of the application process.  At times it was frustrating that all of the communication was virtual (through email), and said communication unfortunately wasn't always the clearest.  There were a few times where if I had known deadlines/requirements up front rather than at the last minute, it would have saved me some panic time and needing to take off from work to obtain documents.  So hopefully this overview will help others get an idea of what to expect:

3/?/13 - Take passport photos at Walgreens

4/1/13 - Turn in application and interview

4/2/13 - Take fingerprints in the morning at the campus police station

4/5/13 - Mail fingerprints to DC

4/5/13 - Ask BK to write letter of recommendation

4/15/13 - Ask EE to write letter of recommendation

4/26/13 - BK shows me letter before he submitted it

4/26/13 - Never got reply from EE, so I email Spanish CC and ask her to write letter of recommendation

4/26/13 - Apply and pay for TEFL course

4/28/13 - Ask KF to write letter of recommendation

4/30/13 - Spanish CC shows me letter

5/08/13 - Background search is complete

5/13/13 - Receive background check back from DC in mail

5/15/13 - Send background check with the apostille application back to DC

5/28/13 - Walk some documents over to the ESL office.

6/1/13 - Receive criminal background check with apostille back in the mail

6/3/13 - Walk criminal background check to the ESL office

6/5/13 - Receive email saying all documents are due on June 10.  This is the first email I have received anything with that due date on it, so I panic because I haven't finished my TEFL course yet, and it takes time for the certificate to be created/mailed.  I decide to take off of work the following day to take the exam, instead of waiting to take it on Saturday as I'd planned.

6/6/13 - Take ITTT exam

6/14/13 - Turn in TESOL certificate to program coordinators.   I tell them that according to my records, this is the last item I need to turn in.

6/25/13 - Get email from ESL office saying I've turned in all my documents except the background check.  What??  Panic mode again, because I dropped this off in person three weeks ago, and said (three weeks ago) that I thought I'd turned everything in.  I respond, telling her the day and where I had dropped it off.  Hours later, I get a response saying they had it -- it was still where I had left it. Phew.

7/9/13 - Receive email saying that the office in Korea did not provide the UW office with the correct forms for 2013.  Could we please submit this updated health form and teacher eligibility (pay scale) form.  The original application instructions said that if you're claiming a pay rate for those who have taught English full time for a year (which I have, in Madrid), then one of your letters of recommendation must be from a coworker at that school (which I obtained and submitted).  But when we were asked to resubmit the teacher eligibility (pay rate) forms, I was told by the ESL office that if I wanted to try to claim one level up from the bottom, I would need proof of having taught English full time for a year (not just the letter of recommendation I'd already submitted, apparently).  I do have letters that prove my employment in Madrid.  They're written in Spanish and are at my parents' house in my closet.  Since I'm leaving the country in two days for a two-week trip, I use personal time the next morning so my mom can pick me up, take me home, I grab the two pieces of paper I need, and then she drives me back to Madison.

7/10/13 - Obtain letters from parents' house.  Scan them, translate them, and submit to ESL office.  Had I known a month ago (or back when I originally submitted the application) that this was necessary, I could have gotten the letters the last time I was home.

8/7/13 - Receive an email saying not to worry about not having received placements yet.  There was also a booklet attached with information about teaching in South Korea.  It's helpful, but I wish we would have received it back in June...

8/9/13 - Receive email saying the assignments have just arrived from Korea; they'll send them out on Monday.  We also receive information and are directed to call to pay for our flights.  I call the travel agent to book / pay for my flight.

8/12/13 - Receive teaching placements via email.  All we receive is the school's name in English -- no address.  This afternoon I happen to meet with a guy that taught in Korea two years ago.  His friend taught at the same school that I'm placed in, so he (by texting her) helps me find it on a map.  (Googling "Wangsan Elementary School" got me nowhere)

8/15/13 - Receive email stating that the consulate now needs an official university transcript to issue the visas.  This is a new requirement that wasn't communicated to our ESL department until now, so I order a transcript right away.
• • •

Friday, August 9, 2013

Skirt game

Last night was my second to last ultimate frisbee game of the summer league.  This is the first summer that I've played with this particular team, but the team has existed for years.  And every summer, one of their games is dubbed the "skirt game".  Everyone wears a skirt!

And our skirt game this season took place last night.  Here's a team pic:

We had lots of fun!

Throughout the game, catching views of multiple guys in skirts always made me smile.  Enjoy!

• • •

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Thankful Thursday: 8/8/13

[Thankful Thursday is a weekly segment that began 1/10/13 - read why here.  I invite you to join me in practicing gratitude!]

Today was my last day of work at the University.  Every job has its ups and downs, but overall I was very lucky to have had the opportunity to work where I did at the University.  I never would have guessed that my first job as a freshman undergraduate would keep me employed off and on for six years!  I'm grateful for all of my coworkers and supervisors I've had, and especially the lifelong friends I've made through this job (Yes, that includes you in the Fab Four!).
• • •

German in Madison (Part 2)


Max returned to my apartment around 10:30 on Monday.  He had a wonderful time at the wedding in Portland over the weekend. (Part 1 of his visit can be found here).

Suprisingly, Max was set on going to Ian's Pizza -- again!  And he was able to eat three whole pieces -- again!

After Ian's we stopped at A Room of One's Own used and new bookstore just off of State Street, so that Max could look for a new French book to read.  Their foreign section was quite small, but the bookstore itself is so much bigger than I expected it to be.  The store goes way far back, as you pass through room after room after room.

I also discovered this place is heaven for paper enthusiasts like me.  There's a huge selection of cards up front -- so the next time you need a unique birthday, greeting, or thank you card, be sure to come here!  There were also great journals, notebooks, and stationery.  It was so tempting to purchase some of the on-sale stationery kits, but since I'm soon leaving the country with only two suitcases in hand (and keeping in mind my August focus of less is more), I happily left empty handed.

After nap time, we stopped at a grocery store to pick up a few more items to have a taco dinner.  I also made Max try some Wisconsin cheese curds I had bought at the Farmer's Market on Saturday.

We watched a ridiculous movie that night, A Night on Earth.  It's about five taxi drivers from different cities of the world, and their passenger.  Max had seen the first two scenes at school once, in English class.  The first two were pretty entertaining, especially since the movie was made in 1991.  The third scene took place in Paris, so everything was in French.  The fourth was in Rome (Italian), and the fifth in Helsinki -- so we both fell asleep during the final segment, because we couldn't understand anything and were tired.


On Tuesday my grandma picked us up and we went to the Wisconsin State Fair (near Milwaukee, WI) with the sister.  This was my first time being at the State Fair, but I'd been to the Dane County Fair before and generally knew what to expect.  Max, on the other hand, had no idea what to expect at said "fair".

We saw lots of animals -- most importantly the pigs and steers that my cousins brought to the fair.

We saw Kids from Wisconsin perform, some cute baby donkeys, and Max ate a cream puff:

I enjoyed the indoor cakes/crafts/plans/etc exhibits.  These cakes were amazing!

Max and I gave archery a try:

It was a fun day at the fair, and great to spend it outside in the sun, rather than cooped up in my office.


On Wednesday I went to work while Max shopped on State Street, visited the Monona Terrace, and ate lunch at Rocky Rococo's!  That night we went back to the Great Dane for dinner: our last supper!

Max spent the rest of the night packing, as he left very early on Thursday morning to catch a 5am bus to Chicago.  From there, he'll take another bus to Ann Arbor to hang out with Chris Michigan.  Thanks for visiting, Max, you're welcome back any time!
• • •

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Visiting Picnic Point

This evening JJ and I biked to Picnic Point -- well, as close as you can get before the walking-only path begins.  I've somehow never been to Picnic Point, even though I did my undergrad in Madison, so it made a good biking destination.

Picnic Point is a peninsula along Lake Mendota's southern shore.  Here's an aerial view:
Picnic Point

Many people go to Picnic Point for campfires or picnics, but we just walked out to the tip and back to appreciate the scenery.

Wisconsin State Capitol as seen from Picnic Point

If you live in Madison and have never been to Picnic Point, I highly recommend visiting before summer ends!
• • •