29 12 2010

“But it makes an immigrant laugh to hear the fears of the nationalist, scared of infection, penetration, miscegenation, when this is small fry, peanuts, compared to what the immigrant fears – dissolution, disappearance.

— Zadie Smith

Fellow Travelers, Does This Quote Describe You Too? (via Hart’s Smiling All Over the World)

28 12 2010

I agree with this wholeheartedly.

Anthony Bourdain, you hit the nail on the head.
Take me out to dinner?

Happy holidays everyone! I’m still in the USA. If JFK airport opens and runs on schedule, tomorrow I will be leaving to return back to Japan. I came back to the USA full of hope and cheer. Yet, in less than a week, I began wishing I had went somewhere tropical for the holidays; started a new adventure in a foreign place; and had two weeks full of memories. I was happy to see family and friends, yes, but there was something inside of me that couldn’t seem to fully embrace the happiness I normally feel when I visit Ohio. When I was last here in August 2009, I had visited a total of seven countries in my lifetime. Since then, I’ve visited 16 more. While browsing travel books at a bookstore yesterday, I read the introduction to The Best American Travel Writing 2008and found a quote that I believe explained why I was feeling like I was. Does this quote speak to you too?

“…travel can become a compulsion. It keeps us away from friends and loved ones – even when we’re back. When I’m away, I often yearn for home. When I’m home, I’m listless. I seem no longer to fit. History and literature are filled with characters who see Asia, or Venice, and can never go back to the way they were.” -Anthony Bourdain

via Hart’s Smiling All Over the World

Applying for a Korean E-2 Visa? Me too! (Instructions and updated regulations)

21 12 2010

This process is taking quite a while, and it has taken WAY longer than I ever expected. Waiting on documents really sucks, and sadly that’s the hardest part… other than the flaming hoops and red tape you have to navigate through.

So you’re thinking of going to South Korea to teach English? Give yourself roughly 6 months to prepare all the documents and get your ducks in a row. Right now, my college roommate Mychaela and I are applying through GEPIK (sister program of EPIK) to work in public schools in the Gyeonggi Province. We’ve been working on this since September.

If you so much as think you want to go to South Korea to teach, do these things.

  1. Call your local police department and get your fingerprints done. Get two copies just to be sure.
  2. Apply for your FBI Criminal Background Check. This took us 4 months. No joke. Directions and application are found HERE. As of November 1st, you no longer need a Criminal Record Check from your state, just the FBI one.
  3. Contact your university. You’ll need two things: a notarized photocopy of your diploma with a letter from the registrar stating that it is a legit copy, and about 3 official transcripts. If dealing with your registrar is as fun frustrating as it is with my alma mater, you’ll want to get a HUGE head start on this one, too, because you’ll need the notarization in order to get it signed by the Apostille, or authenticated by the Secretary of State in your local state capital. See directions for your diploma in Oregon HERE. Residents from other states can find basic contact info HERE.

After you have your diploma and FBI check notarized, you’ll have to send/take in person those documents to the Secretary of State’s office to have it authenticated with the Apostille, which is basically an international version of a notary. That’s the big bad scary part. Once that’s done, you can take a bubble bath and relax for a minute.

For visas and local police registration, you’re going to need a boatload of passport photos. We’re all bound to know where there’s a white wall or refrigerator or something, but have a friend take a picture that is to standards listed HERE, then load and crop it HERE. When prompted for Paypal and whatnot, click “no thanks” on the bottom and save it to your computer. Tons cheaper than the $8 at Walgreens is to make sure you have a decent picture and print a few copies on a 4×6 sheet at a photolab for something like 50 cents.

We just had our interviews for schools, and now the visa process starts. Nowhere does the internet tell me a timeline or what to expect for the time it takes to get the needed visa. We asked our program officials for a ballpark time line. Here is what we got back:

  1. Send (FedEx) required documents to hiring school/agent: 3 days
  2. School applies for the E-2 Visa with immigration, obtains visa number: 7-10 days
  3. Arrange interview with Korean Consulate (which will be in person) in order to get the visa: 5-15 days
  4. Arrange flight to Korea and peace out: 2-3 days

I hope this helps you guys out there who are crazy like us. I’ll keep the world posted as we get closer to departure!

For those who are experiencing the same chaos, if I missed something in the recap, please let me know!

My Toes are Back in Business: Story of a last minute mountain climb

21 12 2010

It’s only 8 months later, and my last toe is back to normal, FINALLY, but I figured I’d share with you a story of an adventure of epic proportions. It’s about experiencing a religious holiday in a foreign country without any religious ties. This story isn’t exactly about Jesus and the resurrection. Easter weekend wasn’t exactly full of colored eggs and rabbits. But there were volcanoes, racial slurs and clownfish.

One town to the next was like night and day. It some cases, it actually was.

Literally the night before, Carrie and I decided that we were going to climb Lombok’s Gunung Rinjani. We ran to Royal, got flights, food and headlamps, and went back to school, packed, taught, then caught a plane. Now, those of you who know me will know that I’m determined, strong willed, and am always looking for something that challenges me, but I’m not exactly the kind that seeks out mountains to climb. This time, I did.

For her first time on a motorbike, she didn't do so bad!

We flew to Mataram and took a taxi up to Sengigi Beach. We decided to stay the night, rent motorbikes and then head up the coast and into the mountains to Senaru. Senaru is the closest base camp for hiking to the giant crater of Rinjani, which is still a very active volcano. So active, in fact, that the new dome that is building up inside the crater/lake spews lava. Sweet, huh?

Beautiful coastlines all around the island

View from Senaru, our basecamp

Well, we got to where we would leave from, crashed for the afternoon and left at about 11:30 PM. We would be climbing all night to get to the rim for sunrise. Read that again. We climbed a mountain. IN THE DARK. Surprisingly, I didn’t do too bad. I didn’t die, and I didn’t run out of water on the way up. That part was on the way down. We climbed through jungle and that was actually the easier part. When we started getting closer to the top, there was a lot of volcanic ash-dirt. Powdery, soft dirt that rolls right out from under your feet as you’re climbing and decending. I crashed a few times going up and even more on the way down. We made it to the top of the crater at about 7 AM.

I almost made it to the top for sunrise, maybe next time.

Trail down into the crater. No thank you, I can see the lava from here. I'm good.

As far as we could go. Now to go back down...

Back down the mountain

View from Gili Trawangan. View of Lombok's Gunung Rinjani, which we climbed the night before.

After hauling it back down the easiest part of the mountain, we were about 2 hours from the bottom when it started really raining. The trail started running out from under us and down the mountain. Tripping over roots and branches through the densest part of the forest made me switch into rock-hopper mode, and I basically hopped down the last few miles of jungle covered mountain. This is why my toes got destroyed. I wouldn’t know it until a few weeks later when 4 of my toenails fell off.

Yep. Fell off.

When we got back to Senaru, I took off the wet, stinky clothes, tried to take a shower, and discovered that there was no water to our cabin at that time. I was so tired, by that time I didn’t really care and slept. All afternoon and into the evening. We chatted and planned out our plan of attack on getting the motorbikes back to Senggigi and getting us through the chaos at Bangsal and out to Gili Air or Gili Meno. I despise few places, but this is definitely one of them. Lonely Planet refers to the harbor as a “gauntlet,” and though most of the book is wrong for the rest of the country, it was VERY, very right in that regard. After more much-needed sleep, our sore bodies rolled out of bed and stiffly loaded up the bikes.

Back down to the Coast

We made our way from Senaru, down from the highlands through the most beautiful farm land back to the coast, rode back to Senggigi, returned the bikes and found a ride to Bangsal. I hate that place. Instantly you’re surrounded by people trying to sell you a jank ticket, or telling you that you “can’t go to the island today, you must rent a hotel room and come back tomorrow, blah blah blah.” Once we got to the ticket booth, we tried to buy our tickets to one of the smaller Gilis. No luck. The boats had already gone for the day, but we could still go to Gili Trawangan, the party island. We were so sore that as soon as one of us mentioned massages and laying by the beach, we didn’t fight it. It was just 10,000 Rupiah, or about $1.00, so we just went with it. Found a place, showered, and went out in search of a massage. Our room was hot and kind of creepy. There were strange cat paintings and the largest Cicak I’ve EVER seen. It was more like a Komodo Dragon than a gecko.

Why the cat paintings? Indos don't even have cats like that! I guess we'll never know?

Massages, good food and plenty of beach time and snorkeling just couldn’t go off without a slight hitch though. There was one guy who constantly harassed us as we walked around the island. Racial slurs, sexist comments and other just really vulgar things that constantly spewed from this guy’s mouth really got on our nerves, and we ended up speaking with a couple of the hotel managers who gave the guy a citation. Didn’t really help the situation much though. The Gili Islands don’t have police on them, so it’s up to local citizens and business leaders to maintain order in a place where every bar sells “Magic Mushrooms,” guaranteeing a trip to the moon and back.

Transport? Transport? Transport? Transport? No thank you.

“No transport needed?” Well THANK GOD, because all the guys who are chanting it every 5 feet are getting annoying.

Just kidding.

Paying US Student Loans vs. Working Overseas

14 12 2010

Sadly, the loans are winning this battle. However, I have found a way to combat the Goliath that has beating down this poor, little David of a Dani. Hopefully, I’ll be able to pay my US student loans AND live an expat life for a while.

The maintenance of a loan is much like a fire-starter for a child.

Right now, I have a checking account with Bank of America. Each month while I was in Indonesia, I was charged $12 to receive my direct deposit paycheck, plus over $400 in ATM fees to access that money. I was asked how I intended to pay for my student loans while overseas, this time in Korea, starting in February 2011. I’ve called all of my loan carriers, and they all said one thing immediately: “You need to have a US checking account number.” From what I’ve heard from friends who are already overseas, there is a long process of receiving their direct deposit/cash salary, getting it exchanged, then wiring it overseas back home to Mom and Dad to deal with. I’d like to be a bit more independent. I’m not a big fan of relying on other people. Anyway.


Panic much? Yeah... I do.

After perusing the internet for blogs and whatnot on how to actually pay for things while you’re not around without having to give up your first born, I found NOTHING. I emailed a few people, then I got a suggestion from a friend to look into Citibank. “They do have a bunch of offices in Asia, maybe they’ll work like a local bank there.” Well, I went onto the website and started a chat with a Citi customer service rep. So helpful! Turns out, they are a major banking company in South Korea, as well as many other places in Asia, and you can own both a local (international) account and a US checking account. Then, the best part. You can transfer money from one account to the other for only $10 USD. That’s less than only the receiving fees from Bank of America. There is a minor maintenance fee, but there really is anywhere you go, I’d rather pay the fees than deal with Bank of America and their crappy customer service skills. From the initial sounds of it, this might be our winner for the battle vs. my student loans.

I will definitely keep you all updated as the process speeds up and I actually get to Korea and get my ducks in a row.

Lots of ducks, lots of rows.

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