Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Setting up Online Banking with KEB

Amanda has written a fantastic guide to setting up online banking at KEB.

Reposted here for your convenience.


  • Go to your nearest KEB branch. 
  • Bring your wire transfer information
             i.     Receiving bank’s name (Bank of America, etc).
             ii.     Your account number (or recipient’s number)
             iii.     Receiving bank’s address (can be the national or local address)
             iv.     Receiving bank’s SWIFT code or ABA #  (call your bank to find this out
  • Bring your Passport, ARC card, and KEB bank book
  • Plan to spend at least an hour at KEB getting everything set up.  Bring a Korean to help you.  Yes, they will probably speak some English, but just bring a Korean.
  • Once they have everything set up, you should be good to go to set up your online banking.

ONLINE BANKING   http://bank.keb.co.kr/index_en.jsp -- English KEB website 

There will be a number of pop-ups, add-ons, and plug-ins that you will need to install.  Pretty much everything that pops up, click okay.  You may also have to restart your browser a couple times for the new installations to take place.

Password Registration (You will need your ARC card)
  1. Click “Individual.”  Click “Foreigner.”
  2. User ID:  You should have chosen this at the bank.
  3. Registration Number:  your alien card number
  4. Click the boxes for “agree” and then click “next.” 
  5. When it asks for a pin number, this is the 4-digit number you should have chosen at the bank.  Mine’s the same as my ATM pin number.
  6. Follow the steps.  It’s easy.

Issue a Digital Certificate  (You will need your KEB bank book, KEB Security Card,
  1. Start over.  Next to where you clicked “Password Registration,” click “Digital Certificate Issuance.”
  2. This will prompt you to log in with your user ID and your password. 
  3. Choose the free certificate option (obviously) and click “agree.” 
  4. Type in your account number (on your bank book), and enter your 4-digit PIN
  5. Now get your KEB Security card (plastic card with bunch of numbers on the back – DO NOT EVER LOSE THIS CARD!)
  6. Enter the missing numbers of the serial number on the FRONT of the card.
  7. Enter the numbers they ask from the back of your card.
  8. Check to make sure your personal information is correct. 
  9. A window will pop up asking you to choose a storage device.
    1. If you plan on using the same computer to access your account, then you can just choose “Hard Disk.”  If you work with a couple different computers, then you should choose “USB Drive.”  This is where your Digital Certificate will be stored.  Every transfer from here on out, will require you to have this certificate. 
    2. Create a password for your certificate.  I use the same password for my bank account to save my sanity. 
  10. Congratulations.  You now have the ability to wire money home, and do immediate transfers to friends/businesses in Korea.   

You basically have two options for transfers.  “Global Wire Transfer” is any sort of international transfer.  “Immediate transfer” is just like an ATM transfer – people or businesses in Korea.  Buttons for both of these are on your dashboard (icons on the left side of the screen).
Global Wire Transfer (You will need your KEB Security card)
  1. Click the icon for “Global Wire Transfer.”
  2. Wire-transfer purpose:  Click the 3rd one (Foreign Resident or non-resident’s salary not residing over one year)
  3. Transfer type:  Check the button for “Remittance No.”  A window will pop up with the information you have already set up in person at KEB.  Click the underlined number in the far left box. 
  4. Select your account number, enter your pin, and select your account number again as the fee payment account.
  5. Now choose the currency you would like your bank to receive (Americans = US Dollars).  However, you can choose to type the amount to transfer in either USD or KRW.  (Like if I know I want to send 1,000,000 won home, I’ll chose KRW and just type 1,000,000. If I know I need $800, I’ll choose USD and type 800.00.)
  6. For “Relationship with the Sender,” just choose “in person”, then enter your email address.  
  7. Click agree at the bottom of the page and get your Security Card for the next page.
  8. Enter the numbers they ask for from the back of your Security Card.
  9. Now a window will pop up asking for your digital certificate. 
    1. If you saved your certificate to your hard drive, it should show in the window. 
    2. If you saved your certificate to a USB drive, navigate to find your certificate. 
    3. Make sure the file is highlighted.  In the box near the bottom, type in the password your created for your certificate. “Enter.”
10.  A page should come up confirming your transfer.  You will also receive an email that confirms your transfer.

Immediate Transfer (You will need the recipient’s Bank Name and Account Number.  You will also need your KEB Security Card.)
  1. Click “Immediate Transfer” and follow the instructions. 
  2. The process is pretty much the same as Global Wire Transfer. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Paying your bills online with KEB

One of the things that attracted me to KEB was their promise of online banking in English. Since the banks share the same hours as schools, it's almost impossible to get to the bank without ducking out of school during lunch, and even then, I have to hope and pray that a taxi will stop to pick me up.

So now that I've set up online banking, I decided to try to pay my bills. I've never paid bills before, but this seemed easy enough.

I logged onto KEB and used the digital certificate that is saved to my USB drive, and clicked 'Pay Bills'

That took me to a menu where I could choose from all the different kinds of bills. I decided to do Electricity first because Gas wasn't on the list. It popped up with a request for an e-payment number. Ah. See, the problem is that the whole bill is covered in numbers and hangul, and none of the hangul translated as e-payment number. So I searched online and they said there's a list of bank names next to the e-payment number for each of those banks.

NO. THIS IS NOT THE E-PAYMENT NUMBER. Damn you, internet. This is the account number if you're doing a direct transfer to the Electricity company's bank account.

After a long chat to a nice English speaking guy on the KEB helpline, I was told to give up and pay at a convenience store.

Give up?


I decided to try one more time. And this time I tried a different number. The big number above all the bank account numbers. And guess what? That is the e-payment number! I filled in the other details and success - my bill has been paid. Easy peasy. Pretty fool-proof once you get past the hangul bill.

I was feeling a bit cocky so I decided to try to pay my gas bill too. This one is a little more tricky, at first. Because you'll notice that the menu for bill payments does not mention Gas.

Do not be afraid! Click 'Pay without Inquiry (With GIRO no)'
The giro number (7 digits) is written in blocks on your bill, next to the words OCR or MICR. The hangul next to it is the phonetic spelling of Ji Ro.

Fill in yours and hit 'next'.

Oh no! It's a form with a whole lot of fields and you have no idea what they mean? Fear not. KEB provides a handy diagram.

It's like colour by numbers, only more expensive. Fill in the details as described, hit next, punch in your assorted passwords, and you're home free.

Fool-proof banking guide:  that little card in the plastic wrapper is very important. Open it, and don't lose it, ever. You need the numbers in it if you want to do any kind of transaction on KEB. It is your Safety Card.

So, not as scary as it looks and a hell of a lot easier than rushing to the bank. Plus, if you make 'pewpewpew' noises every time you kill (a) bill, it's way more fun. Good luck!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Getting a phone and a bank account without your co-teacher, in Daegu

As I've said before, my co-teacher is ridiculously busy. I also may have mentioned how expensive that first week in Seoul was, and how I brought enough money to last a month but didn't really count the weeks properly, or factor in the expense of a week-long party. 

Anyway, last week I found myself down to my last ₩50 000 and the lack of a phone on top of that was making it very hard to coordinate with my friends, and co-teacher. As it stood, I would send her an email and then hope that she would check it and reply, and then I'd have to be home and near my laptop to see it... Eh. Not great.

On top of that, being that broke meant that I was avoiding spending money like the plague. Taking the bus downtown? Oh, don't mind me. I'll walk. It's only a 40 or so minute walk, after all. I even figured out how to get free food 7 days a week: 

Monday - Friday: Eat in the school cafeteria. Eat a lot. Eat until you're stuffed. At least you won't have to have dinner. Make sure to store all the free cake and treats you get in your school. 
Saturday: Eat your week's stash of freebies. 
Sunday: Not religious? Who cares? Go to church. They serve a full lunch, such as Bulgogi. 

Cake and a Ferrero Rocher? Breakfast of champions. The best free staffroom food so far has been a burger and a coke.
Alternatively, make friends with a co-worker and let them treat you to a five course meal.
So, walking everywhere and eating for free, and trying not to spend all my money on beer, I've been able to stretch out that last ₩50 000 and live quite comfortably. But I want a bicycle, and I needed a bank account before payday, and, well, there's a reason EVERYONE has cellphones these days. They're quite handy. 

My co-teacher had tried to take me to the bank, but they wouldn't accept my ARC certificate of application, even though they were supposed to. They said they wouldn't accept it without picture ID, and my co-teacher took that as a flat-out no. I wasn't so sure, but I didn't want to be with Daegu Bank anyway, because I want to travel all over Korea and having an account with a national bank is a bit more convenient. Also, I had heard about all the perks foreigners get with KEB, like the cheap rates for sending cash home, and I have a big loan to pay off. Not to mention online banking in English. 

So I took a walk to the nearest branch of KEB during my lunch period. It was a 20 minute walk. It looked much closer on the map. Whoops. I got there, and the very nice clerk told me that they couldn't do anything without TWO forms of picture ID as well as my ARC, and all I had was my passport. So, not one to give up, especially after teaching a week of "Never Give Up", I took a cab home, fetched my South African ID, took a cab back, and got a bank account. 

Except they couldn't give me a card or online banking until my ARC arrived. Well, I was willing to wait for that. At least with a bank book I could get a phone.

How to get a smartphone in Daegu, without a co-teacher

1. Email Eliza at auikorea (at) gmail (dot) com. She speaks fluent English and she will save your life. Ask her for any information you want, and set up an appointment. My lovely friend Rene had heard about her on an online forum, and she'd gotten several phones from Eliza. 
2. Make sure you have a bank account. Even if you don't have a card yet, or any money in it, you just need an account number and your bank book. 
3. Visit Eliza (near Kyungpook University Hospital) at this building.

It's on Google Maps.
Stuff you should take with you:

ARC card or certificate
Bank Book
Some money (About ₩60 000 , although you probably won't have to pay anything).
A book to read, or something to keep you busy. It takes her a while to set everything up. 

4. Once you're inside the building, head to the right, to the elevators. Take one of the three elevators on your right. The ones on the left don't go to the 10th floor, which is where you're going. 

5. Step out of the elevators and go into this office:

It looks like this inside: 

Have a seat, chat to Eliza, and drink some tea while she sets everything up for you. 

She'll lead you from there, and then, you can enjoy your shiny new smartphone. I got an amazing discount, and my monthly bill is about ₩55 000, which is a hell of a lot cheaper than you would pay for a Samsung Galaxy S3 in most other places. Eliza gives you the discount, and she also throws in a bunch of freebies. She's lovely.

You have to sign a 24 month contract, but if you're only planning to stay for one year then contact her before you leave so she can organise to transfer your contract to someone else, so she doesn't lose money and you don't have to pay a huge fine for ditching your contract. Basically, don't screw her over.

No queues. No upfront fees. No language barrier. This was the best thing ever, and I could never have done it without my friend Rene's help.

My phone once belonged to Edward Cullen. 
Now that I have my phone, I took lunch today to go back to the bank and update them on the existence of my ARC card (it arrived on Monday) and my phone number, without which my dad couldn't send me money. I got back to the office and set up online banking, at which point I discovered...

I have been paid early! I gave my bank book to the admin wizards the day I got it, and they made a copy and put it on file, and paid my settlement money sometime between then and now. So this whole week, I've been living on free staff room dduk, when I could have been eating steak every night. It's like the worst episode of Secret Millionaire ever. 

I could have been using that money to fill out my pants
Just in time, my bills have arrived, so there goes a chunk of my money already. Except, it's Korea. So my bills are only $7 and $30 each, for electricity and gas. And that's ridiculously cheap, when you're a millionaire. So I don't mind. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Daegu Map

I've been slowly but surely making a map of interesting places in Daegu. I pulled some data from some old expat maps, and have been adding in updated information as and when I find it.

You can view the map by clicking the link up there on the navigation bar. Alternatively, you can click this (link).

If you think something is cool in your area and should be added to the map, send me a link to its location on a google map, in a comment on this post, and I'll add it to this one. Because of Korea's phobia of street addresses, that's really the most certain way of me being able to find it as well.

Go forth and explore! And then share so we can all enjoy the city.

Also, this is my 100th post! Hooray! :)

I'm a person!

This morning, I was this:

Then I got my

ARC = Alien Registration Card, the only ID accepted by anyone in Korea

And the result is this:

Thank you, Korea. Thank you for seeing me as a person now. A phone should follow shortly.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

White Day

On valentine's day, in Korea, the girls give the boys candy.

I missed that by a day. Bwaha.

However, a month later, the boys reciprocate by giving the girls candy and lollipops. So this morning I walked into the office to find delicious nutella-filled bread things, ferrero rocher chocolate and a lollipop on my desk. Every female teacher got that.

But you know what? That's okay. I don't have a boyfriend. I wasn't expecting anything.

Then, about five minutes ago, the kid who catches me arriving late to school every morning (except today! SO THERE!) gave me a lollipop.

White Day rocks.

EDIT: As I posted this, I GOT ANOTHER ONE! Korean kids, you're going to make me fat.

Oh, and if you don't get anything on White Day, you get to have the noodles of sorrow, on Black Day (April 14th).

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

First Week At School

Monday: I stayed up late perfecting my introductory lesson plan. I wasn't sure when I'd be teaching and wanted to get my bearings so I left early, getting to school about half an hour before the staff meeting.

Of course, the door to the "English Lab" was locked. Yep - that's what our office is called. Like we're scientists or something. Or maybe it's a reference to whatever has been growing in the dustbin next to my chair since the start of vacation. Apparently some students are going to come clean in here but right now they're just moving furniture and books.

Our school has a lot of different departments rather than one main staff room, so I went to one that I think is the main one and hovered around uncertainly. The look of terror when I walked in - I could hear them all thinking, "Please don't make me speak English!"

We deskwarmed for the whole day. All that frantic preparation in case I was teaching the first day was wasted, so I spent most of the day figuring out how to change my browser and Office languages from 한글 to English. Because I have no idea what 'Insert custom animation' is in hangul. It was challenging, and I contemplated the pros and cons of spending the day making a cheat sheet for hangul to English commands (Pros - it would take all day and I had time to kill, Cons - Eish. What a mission!). My office was quite nice - it was a room specially for guest English teachers and temporary ones. And the other ladies in the office are lovely, and very helpful when it comes to finding out about last minute schedule changes, of which there were many.

Something that did spice up the day was the opening ceremony or assembly. Now, I went to a very strict, very formal (and pretentious) boarding school. We clapped like ladies and whispered commentary under our breath behind folded lace fans. All right, maybe not the last bit. But we never, ever speak over the principal or wander around in the middle of the ceremony.

In Korea, or at least, at my school, things were less comparable to the Queen's garden party than they were to a nuthouse. I’d never seen so many kids in one place at the same time – there were about 1500 of them, and that’s only half the school. It was my first sighting of them, other than the hoodlums I’d spotted sitting on the roof of a car when I visited the school the previous Friday. The kids were standing in rough lines, but these lines got progressively squigglier. The teachers were milling around, high-fiving and joking with the students. And the headmaster just kept talking over them, into the microphone. Some girls were doing each others’ hair (and I learned some Korean hair-dressing secrets just by watching them).  I had no idea what anyone was saying, so I stood near my co-teacher, thinking she’d translate if there was anything important (she didn’t). Then, all of a sudden, I was being shoved into a line of wide-eyed and well-dressed new teachers and sent up on stage to be introduced and to bow to the school. Basically, the school wanted to show off the new foreigner to all the new first graders’ parents, who were sitting miles away, snacking on kimbap and watching TV on their phones.

An hour or so of computer-fiddling later, my co-Foreigner took me to lunch at the cafeteria (another madhouse). All the students eat in this one little cafeteria at the same time, over the space of an hour. The lucky ones get there first. The rest stand in line (girls and boys segregated, of course). It feels like I’m teaching at two single sex schools that share a building. Very strange. The teachers eat with the kids, but we have our own line so we get to jump ahead. We also get slightly better food than they do. The food generally looks like this:

(From eat yourlunchee, as I haven’t got the nerve to photograph school food yet).

The food on the first day was supposed to be dokpokki (best described as rice gnocchi arrabiata with fish cakes) but apparently the students aren’t huge fans of spicy food so this was just sludge with chewy bits in it. My heart sank. Gone are my dreams of delicious food for free (well, deducted from my salary but it’s not cash out of my pocket so I’m happy).

It was a long day but I made it through. The next day, however, I was immediately yanked to teach a class, first thing, with no prior warning. So having done all that preparation paid off after all. Since then I’ve taught about four or five classes a day. And boy is that exhausting. Still, at least I only have to plan 2 lessons per week, so that’s a plus. I’ve already planned for the next 3 weeks for the 3rd graders. The first graders’ work is more of a challenge as it’s 3 times as dull, and I have to spice it up.

My lessons have been going all right, but I’ve had a lot of constructive advice from my co-teachers so it is constantly getting better. My biggest challenge is simplifying the lessons for the lower levels without dumbing them down. Another problem is that I forget my flash drive at home almost daily, so when I *do* remember to bring it, that thing is going to live here. I took it home optimistically thinking I could fix up a really awful lesson, and I have forgotten it every day since then, as I keep running late and rushing off.

This post is getting long, so maybe I should throw in some subheadings.

Making friends with staff members
In Korea it’s very important to show that you consider yourself to be part of the team and are willing to work on the relationships with your co-teachers in order to make that relationship stronger. So, standing with them at assembly, and eating with them at lunch – these are highly recommended, and they’ve been doing wonders for my experiences here at the school. At my second lunch, I sat with the Geography teacher, who is also new to the school. He has a very pretty wife and an adorable baby boy, and we chatted in adequate English and terrible Korean about travel and blogging. That afternoon he sent me the link to his blog. I was a bit nervous about reading it, as I can’t read Korean, but it’s mostly photography from what I can tell.

The maths teacher also kept popping into our office, as she only teaches the first and last lessons of the day and so she was bored and lonely, so she came to hang out on our couches. She’s not very confident with her English but we got on like a house on  fire and she’s looking into finding out where I can have free Korean classes, as I’ve heard rumours of one at one of the universities. She invited me to dinner tonight, so that will be fun, and we’re considering having some sort of weekly language exchange dinner.

Getting to know the neighbourhood
As I had spent the first weekend here lying in bed, coughing up a lung, I met up with a friend and we walked along the river. Well, we tried to meet up. For future reference, when you tell someone to meet you at a bridge, you need to be specific about whether you’re meeting on the bridge or under it.

Especially when you’re meeting at this bridge. 

We walked for hours, all the way to Costco along the river. Walking along the river is becoming one of my favourite things to do. Especially since I have a secret hope that one day I’ll spot an otter there. 

Since then I’ve managed to find my way downtown (a 35 minute walk) and back again, and I’ve been steadily adding markers to my GPS’s map, whenever I find a good restaurant or a particularly popular hang-out spot. I’m also getting more and more confident at finding my way around without it. One thing I haven’t quite gotten used to is the way that my students bow to me if they see me in the street, or how very young children gasp and say, “Oh! Waygook saram imnida!” when they see me. “waygook” is apparently a little derogatory but the polite “imnida” makes it adorable. Yesterday on my walk home, a child leapt out of a door and shouted hello at me.

Language Barriers
On my third day at school, my co-teacher rushed in and gestured frantically at the timetable. She asked me why I hadn’t taught a particular lesson the day before. I told her I had taught it. Apparently I went to the wrong classroom. It turns out the numbers that I had thought were home room numbers were in fact the name of the class that uses that home room, but the kids move around and combine classes for English as they are streamed according to their level. So I asked my co-teacher how I was supposed to know which class to go to, and she said, “It’s written right there on the timetable. See? Here.”

Scribbled in rushed and hard to read handwriting were the words , , , and . Typed out all neatly like that, they look different. Scribbled in handwriting, I had thought they all just mean ‘Room’. Those are the names of the teachers with whom I would be teaching those lessons. But how was I supposed to know where to go? Ah. This is Korea. So I explained to the co-teacher that I still don’t know people’s names yet or where to go for the lessons, and now she’s made me a spectacular timetable with rooms, teacher and which level the students are, very clearly written. I heart my co-teacher.

However, my co-teacher is very busy, so when I found that I had 4 periods plus lunch with nothing but deskwarming I decided to take the opportunity to open a bank account, but she was teaching so I was on my own. I walked to the nearest branch of KEB (recommended for foreigners especially if you want to send money home) and tried to open an account.

After a lot of calls to customer service, who translated between me and the clerk, I was told that I couldn’t open an account without two forms of ID as well as my ARC certificate. I’d only brought my passport. Not to be beaten, I took a taxi home to pick up my ID. Only, I didn’t know my address, so I tried to get dropped off at the huge church near my apartment. The taxi driver spoke no English so I drew a crucifix and said the name of my neighbourhood.

He drove about 10m, stopped in front of a church and pointed. The church had the name of what I thought was my neighbourhood. So… Ouch.

Good thing I’ve figured out my way around! I directed him with handwaving and we ended up at the right church, which was only one syllable different (unfortunately it was the syllable that means East or West). I picked up my Saffer ID, wrote down the hangul address for the bank (I learn from my mistakes) and got another cab. Except Koreans don’t really use addresses except for post, so the taxi driver had no idea what I was talking about. So again, with some miming and drawing,  I got us to the right spot. And now I have a bank account. However, I can’t get money til I go back to the bank and give them a phone number to attach to my account. I can’t get a phone until I have money. Catch-22. So I’m going to use the school’s phone number temporarily, if and when I ever make it back to the bank. I might just wait until my ARC arrives and then I’ll sort it all out at once. Once you have an ARC, you’re a real person.

An alien. But a real one.

It’s been a crazy week but I’m getting the hang of things. Slowly but surely. 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

How my co-teacher went from being a co-worker to being family in less than 48 hours

So, my first encounters with my co-teacher were a bit terrifying, as we struggled with understanding each other's accents, cultures and the nervousness of putting my life (and her students) in the hands of a stranger. I didn't know much about her, other than that she has a young daughter, but what I did know made me understanding of the load she's bearing and how much I add to it.

Not only is she my handler, which means she drives me around, stands in queues with me, discusses things with bureaucrats in Korean, does all my paperwork, listens to my complaints, and is responsible for my well-being, but she also has to do all those things for the other Native English Teacher at my school. Add in the planning, admin, and marking that comes with teaching 3000 students. Throw in the administrative work she's expected to do, as Koreans take the 'Civil Servant' aspect of being a government employee very seriously. And the four hours of translating work she does as a favor for a foreigner who attends her church, every night, so that he can understand the sermon. And caring for her parents. And being the single mother of a very gifted, and very sweet little girl. The number of things she has to deal with, or is responsible for, is absolutely staggering. So that's why I am glad that I am independent enough to be able to do a lot of things without needing my hand held.

I find a lot of Native English Teachers (NETs) complain that their co-teacher is absent, forgetful, or unreliable. But a lot of the time these NETs seem to think that they are their co-teacher's sole responsibility. And that's not really fair, is it? They forget that these amazing people are human beings with their own commitments, and often, as in my case, they were forced to do this job despite their already-full workload. Of course, in conservative Daegu, the hierarchy is everything, so if the principal or administrator says jump, you fetch your trampoline and start hopping, while juggling rabid monkeys.


Anyway, at first my relationship with my co-teacher seemed a bit hesitant. We were being very polite and friendly, and neither of us wanted to accidentally offend the other. She was also very busy, so at first I was left on my own a lot - and this was most difficult when I had to try to find a doctor, on a public holiday, in a city I'd only just arrived in. I was feeling pretty low, and scared, and was wondering if I'd really made the right choice in coming here. It was starting to feel a lot harder than I thought it would be.

Then, yesterday, when she came to drop off some things I'd forgotten in her car, she invited me to dinner at her house. Bringing someone into your home is a pretty big deal in Korea, and to even be invited made me feel incredibly flattered, so of course I agreed immediately, and enthusiastically. The prospect of having company and food without having to wander around, lost in the cold, also helped to convince me. So off to dinner we went. It was nothing fancy, and her house was in a general state of lived-in comfort, rather than like the 'show homes' you might see on K-dramas. I have a few friends with small children, so I understand the scattered comforts of children's toys, clothing and books. This house was full of books, in both English and Korean! I immediately felt at home. She left me to watch K-pop on TV with her daughter while she went out to quickly buy some food for dinner. That immediate sense of trust was incredible, and her daughter seemed to feel very comfortable with me as we commented on Shinee's hair, or SNSD's dance moves. She prefers the girl groups to the boys.

My co-teacher returned with food, and I helped her to make a salad while she cooked some marinated beef (불고기). Her daughter insisted on kimchi (hooray!), and we had some healthy brown rice. We sat at a low table, on the floor, and snacked on some oranges as well. My co-teacher is very big on using food to cure ailments, so she insisted I eat at least two oranges, and a lot of meat. After dinner we had some tea, and talked late into the night about teaching methodologies, South African and Korean culture, South African history, and other such deep topics. She also opened up to me about more personal things, showing me her vulnerable and sensitive side, and showing me how strong she is to have gone through some really hard times.


It got so late that she suggested I sleep over. ANOTHER big deal. She said she wouldn't normally suggest it to foreigners, as we're so individualistic and like our privacy. She mentioned a Canadian NET from long ago who had refused to go on a school field trip because she didn't want to share a room with a Korean teacher. She felt comfortable asking me because I'd been so open from the start. Her daughter and I read a story together, alternating who read the English and Korean parts, and her English is definitely much better than my Korean. I borrowed her largest PJs and a new toothbrush, and slept in her daughter's room, on a traditional yo, or sleeping mat. It reminded me a little of sleeping on the floor in my parents' room in summer, when I was a kid, as that was the coolest place in the house when it got too hot to bear it. Here, on the other hand, Koreans sleep on a yo on the the floor so they can use the ondol (underfloor heating) to keep warm. It was toasty warm, comfy, and I had a huge fluffy duvet to snuggle into. Another bucket list item ticked, without even trying.

This morning, she asked me if I wanted toast for breakfast. Foreigners usually have bread in the morning, right? Well, bread gives me pretty bad indigestion, so I went for the Korean option. We had soy bean paste soup with tofu, left-over bulgogi from last night, kimchi, seasoned tofu, and rice, followed by some strong and delicious Dutch coffee and a Korean snack that is basically a healthier version of Rice Krispy Treats.

from AliensDayOut
We talked over the textbook for the grade we'll be teaching together, and came up with ideas of how to divide the work and make things more engaging for the students. Usually NETs cover the speaking and listening, and the Korean teachers cover writing and and reading, but she wants to try to see if I can help out with the writing, and combining writing with speaking. We also thought about using real pictures of ourselves and our students for dialogues, stories and speaking activities, which could be fun. I'd quite like to get together with some of the other local NETs and make videos and 'photo stories' (like comic strips) that we can share, particularly if we're using the same textbooks. We also spoke about after-school programs, and the difficulties they've had with NETs in the past.

We spoke so easily, and freely, and with such shared ideas of compassion and a passion for teaching and learning, that it seems like we'll work really well together. She made me feel so welcome in her home, and her family. I feel like I've been accepted into her family, and that is the biggest honor of all. It just took one night. Her daughter invited me to come to church with them tomorrow, and even though I'm not religious, I was flattered to be invited and I'm curious to see how Korean church services are different to the ones back home. It's also an opportunity to meet some more people and expand my network a bit, so I said yes.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Going to the Doctor on a National Holiday

At first I thought this would be pretty simple. I google translated 'Ear Nose and Throat' specialist and plugged the results into google maps, looking for one nearest to my house. Marked it on my GPS and set off to see a doctor and get some meds.  Forgot my GPS at home and decided to try find it anyway.  begged someone to show me which building it was in.

I trotted up the stairs, saw the doctor and everything was hunky-dory. and met with disaster. The doctor had decided to embrace the National Holiday that has closed businesses up and down my street. I decided to try to walk to the hospital I'd seen on the way to my flat yesterday. I remembered it being quite big, and I thought I could find it.

I didn't.

I did get insulted by a small yappy dog though, while spending ages trying to explain that I needed to see a doctor but had already seen that the ENT the guy was directing me to was closed, because today is a National Holiday. Try to mime THAT!

Fed up, I went home, cried, ate popcorn that I couldn't smell or taste (but I bet it was delicious) and watched some k-drama.

Then I decided to try again. This time I over-prepared. I loaded more detailed maps onto my garmin, found a promising location called 'Daegu Bukgu Health Center' which had a big green cross, healthy people, and men in white coats on their website. It wasn't too far away; in fact, I think I walked right past it on my first attempt. So off I went again.

The building looked closed, but there were a couple of people sitting at the desk in reception. I asked if anyone spoke English. Nope. I coughed and mimed dying. They pointed at the date and said 'Holiday'. I cried a little bit and coughed for realsies. And suddenly things started happening. A nice man pulled me out of the building and instructed me to get in his car. But nooo, not in the front seat! That wouldn't be right, considering we'd just met. He threw me into the back seat and we zoomed off. I kept my garmin on so I could find my way home if I had to make a quick escape mark the clinic he was taking me to on my map, and we went into a small clinic.

It was clean and the nurses had very nice pink uniforms. They seemed concerned over my ARC certificate (as I don't have a card yet) and asked me what my Korean name is. Um. I don't have one yet, so I just said 'Katie' which is easiest for Koreans to say. They sat me down for a bit, and then stood me up and took my temperature. Then they sat me down again. After about ten minutes of waiting, I was hustled into an office, met a lovely doctor who didn't speak any english, and once again did my cough-cough-sniff-sniff-death routine. He whipped out his stethoscope, probed my mouth, and asked if I still had me tonsils (via mime). Then he explained that he was going to prescribe some pills, cough syrup and a bum jab. I especially liked it when he mimed the bum jab. The matronly nurse rushed me into the bum jab place and did what it said on the tin, with a little more rubbing and spanking than I'm used to. Maybe she couldn't find a vein because it's cold and I'm a fat foreigner. It was the most action I've gotten in months.

Then I handed over some money ($1.20 for a consultation?!), got some money back, and the nice man from earlier took me to the pharmacy to fill my prescription, which also worked out a lot cheaper than any stuff back home, and this was without the National Health Insurance that I'm supposed to have. We fiddled with my garmin for a bit while the guy tried to work out where I lived, and then settled on me directing (with mime). I don't know how he fit his car into the teeny tiny alleyways that lead to my house (smaller than he needed to because alleys aren't on the map so it was the most direct route) and then there it was! Chateau le Sparkle. Home sweet home. He dropped me off, I thanked him, and bowed almost to my feet with gratitude.

And here I am, with a mountain of pills in little partitioned bags, and a pile of revolting cough syrup. There are weird cartoon characters on the cough syrup, and their facial expressions pretty much match mine when I first tasted this crap.

Finding Home

My plan for today is to see a doctor, although I think I need my ARC certificate for that, and clever-clogs over here left it in her co-teacher's car, along with all her other important documents, and the textbooks she's supposed to be going through. Maybe they'll accept my passport for now - surely they treat tourists, and you're supposed to apply for your ARC within 90 days of arriving, so this can't be a first... But there's no knowing for sure with bureaucrats and I don't want to walk all the way there for nothing.

Anyway, I'm still not entirely sure where my apartment is, in relation to the rest of the world. Neither google maps nor Naver maps have ever heard of my sparkly vampire building. So I marked home on my GPS and grabbed the coordinates from that.

Now I know that I'm about 100m from the river I've been wanting to walk along. So maybe after my co-teacher (hopefully) brings my stuff, and I've seen the doctor and been medicated, I can go for a gentle stroll down the river. I still have a lot of unpacking to do while I wait for my co-teacher to reply to my email, but I doubt she's even awake yet.

I've been up since 5. Need to unpack so I can find my own medicine and self-medicate. I think I might have a kettle.

The vacuum cleaner only works for about 2 minutes at a time. But alternating between vacuuming and scrubbing, I think I've gotten most of the hair and gunk out of my flat.