In October 2013, I moved to Daegu, South Korea and started what would be a yearlong journey of teaching English Monday through Friday and traveling every weekend. I met a man in May and quickly fell in love as we explored Korea together. When my contract ended in October 2014, I set out alone for two months traveling through four S.E. Asian countries.
Once I returned to the U.S., I embarked on a two-week road trip through America with Chris, the man I fell for in South Korea. Now, I am packing up my belongings at my parent’s house in Kansas and preparing to move to Georgetown, Texas, a town outside of Austin.
As I settle into my life stateside, my goal this year is to blog about my time in Korea, my trip to Cambodia, my weekend in Shanghai, my adventures in Japan, Thailand and Myanmar, and continue to push myself to be honest, open and informative. And, of course, plan for my next trip…
One thing I did not mention in my first two posts about applying for a job in Korea is that my job includes a pension plan. The pension is on top of the salary, severance pay, round-trip airfare, health insurance and furnished apartment. Not bad, eh?
The pension is called a lump-sum pension refund. If you qualify, a small amount of money is taken out of your paycheck each month and matched by your employer. Unfortunately, my British and Kiwi coworkers pay into the pension yet do not qualify to receive the pension at the end of their contracts, yet Americans and Canadians can expect to receive their lump-sum pension refund four to five weeks after ending their contract.
My pension is meant to be around 1.6 million won (or $1,550)** after working in Korea for 12 months. For me, the best part about this money is that it was an added “savings” account for me. While I was able to save about 59% of my paycheck, this is added savings that I did not have to account for.
Collecting your lump-sum pension refund is easy. The woman in the office in Daegu speaks English. Some male foreign teachers have tried to snag her number, so she is good looking, too. I recommend visited the office four weeks before your flight out of Korea to give you time in case you’re missing documents.
It is an easy trip to the National Pension Service Office.
Be sure to bring:
Alien Registration Card
Flight ticket (should be within one month of departure date)
If you want your money transferred into your KEB account, bring your KEB bank account passbook
If you want the money transferred into your home country’s bank account, bring the following information: bank’s address, phone number, account number, routing number, and a copy of a bank statement.
Where’s the National Pension office in Daegu?
Beomeo Station (범어역), on the green line. The LIG building is between exit 1 and 4. It is a huge building, you cannot miss it. The office is on the 11th floor.
If you want to be lazy and take a taxi (you are about to get 1.5 million won, so you can afford to splurge) Tell the taxi: 범어역 출구 1번으로 가주세요 – (Boh-Moh-Yuck-Chool-Goo-Eel-Bohn-Euh-Roh-Gah-Choo-Say-Yoh)
Korea Burn was held on 4th of July weekend in the town of Taean, which is on the east coast a few hours south of Seoul. I arrived late Friday night on the Enjoy Korea bus. Enjoy Korea is a solid travel company ran by an awesome American girl, Stacey. She has done a great job putting together trips and packages for low-stress, high-satisfaction fun. I highly recommend going on an Enjoy Korea trip.
The Burn was something I was really looking forward to, and it did not disappoint. My friends from Cheongju put together an awesome themed Camp of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.
While costumes are not required, it is one of those things you will wish you had put some time into a costume. Korea Burn is an event where the more you put into it, the more you will get out of it. The biggest lesson from Korea Burn is BRING BUGSPRAY.
Chris ordered this headdress off of Etsy in preparation for the event.
My coworkers and good friend Rikus, who the students call Matt Teacher, went on vacation for a week. It was during middle school testing, which is a time I do not have classes but instead work on preparing test questions or work in my school’s publishing department.
Covering Rikus’s classes was a welcomed surprise because the students are a few years younger than my 12- to 14-year-old students. There were loads of differences between teaching these different age groups.
First, the students were incredibly kind and took the time to say hello. The students were happy, carefree, not stressed and seemed to enjoy being at academy (or at least better at hiding their dismay).
“Me! Me! Me!” was exclaimed when I asked,”Who wants to read the first paragraph?” It was a welcomed change from the middle schoolers averting eye contact when it came time to be called on.
During my five-day holiday, I traveled to Seoul to have a museum day, a beach day and a hiking day. On Tuesday, September 9, I set out to explore the Seoul Modern and Contemporary Art Museum and Insa-dong on my own.
After exploring the museum, I walked past Gyeongbokgung, the large palace, and one of the small gates to Insa-dong, a touristy street full of shops and many foreigners. I have visited Insa-dong before but this time was different because I was alone with no time restraints and able to take my time looking around.
A homeless man in a bright neon vest had to move his home because a generator was on fire. There was a lot of commotion and excitement.
An artist set up a table with two red plastic stools across from him. He was asking for models to sit so he could quickly draw their face with a traditional brush and black ink on a small sheet of white paper.
I sat down and the artist smiled at me with his kind eyes. A family of four stopped to look over the artist’s shoulder as he quickly drew my face.
When he was nearly finished, his phone rang. He apologized and picked up to answer. He spoke quickly in Korean, but I recognized the word, “no” and “text.”
After hanging up, he finished my portrait and asked me to sign my name. He kindly allowed me to take a picture. His goal with the project is to draw one million faces. He was able to complete a face in less than two minutes until he is interrupted by a phone call, of course.
I leave Korea in exactly two weeks and some are starting to wonder, “What are you doing?” To no one’s surprise: I’ll be traveling after my contract. Twelve weeks of solo travel to be exact.
The plan: Japan (October 7-19), Shanghai (October 19-22), flight to Bangkok on October 22. No plans from there except that I will visit: southern islands of Thailand, Bangkok and northern Thailand, Myanmar (Burma), Laos and Vietnam. The lovely Jessica will be joining me from November 4 to the 14th in Thailand for ten days of adventure. Other than that, I will be trekking solo in search of the best food and experiences Baht, Yen and Kip can buy!
The early morning ferry from Tongyeong to Bijindo was 45 minutes of blissful views. With Chris’s arms around me, I knew I was living life right. I have spent the last year pushing myself to experience more and improve myself more. I’m not perfect nor is my life, but I do spend a little bit of every day improving it bit by bit. It is moments like the ones in the ferry that I am truly thankful for.
How to get to Bijindo Island (비진도):
Take subway line 1, the red line, to Seobu intercity bus terminal (서부 바스 트름이나ㅣ). The Seobu intercity bus terminal is right outside of Seongdangmot station, exit number 3.
Buy a ticket to Tongyeong (통영) from Seobu Bus Terminal. You cannot buy tickets online, but you can call 1330 to find out ticket times
Then take the ferry from Tongyeong Passenger Port Terminal.
Tongyeong (통영) is where you take the ferry to Bijindo (비진도). On Friday night, I traveled to Tongyeong, where I’d meet Chris before heading to Bijin Island Saturday morning. I heard that Gangguan harbor (강구안) is the place to walk around, eat and sleep. I took bus 101 from the Tongyeong Bus Terminal to the Gangguan harbor. The bus costs less than ₩1,500.
At the harbor, there are replicas of the turtle ships used in ancient war times. There are dozens of love motels surrounding the harbor. I recommend staying at the Theme Motel on the west side of the harbor. Chris and I had dinner at the Jungang Live Fish Market (중앙활어시장), where we picked out what fish we were going to eat. Check out pictures of our fishtastic dinner here.
On Saturday morning, we could have walked to the Tongyeong passenger ferry terminal (여객선 터미널) but opted to take a ₩2,800-taxi to catch the 7 a.m. ferry.
I recommend arriving twenty minutes early to the ferry terminal. The terminal is a departure for nearly a dozen ferries. The hiking Koreans were clad in their uber expensive head-to-toe professional hiking gear and were eager to buy tickets. Yet, not so eager to help me. I experienced some trouble getting a ticket because the ferry was delayed twenty minutes. Thus, the Korean hikers were throwing a fit at the ticket counter. I gathered all of this from body language because no one spoke English. Thankfully, Chris and I grabbed some vanilla lattes and a spot on the 7:20 a.m. ferry heading to Bijindo.
Getting to Tongyeong: From Seobu Bus terminal in Daegu, it will take about 2 hours and 20 minutes and cost ₩13,000.
Getting to Gangguan Harbor: The local bus stop is right outside of the Tongyeong Bus Terminal. I took bus 101, but I also read that buses 10, 20, 30 and 40 (₩1,100) run to Gangguan Harbor, which is near the Tongyeong Ferry Port, where you catch the ferry to Bijindo.
Getting back to the bus terminal from Gangguan: Take local bus 501. Tongyeong Bus Terminal is the last stop.