August 8, 2008
Excelsior College informed me that even if I finished my courses by the end of August, I would not have my associate's degree until November -- and it wouldn't do me much good then. So I decided to track down information on substituting a college transcript with two years of courses instead of the associate's degree.

I called the Korean Embassy in Washington. There is no better source of Korean visa-related information specifically for Americans. This is what I learned:

  • A transcript is FINE. You do not need an associate's degree, just a transcript. This means I could be teaching in Korea by October instead of December.
  • You can do your interview in Fukuoka if you arrange it with them beforehand, but an interview may not even be necessary (supposedly interviews are only required for people who work at hagwons, I'll be working at a public school).

    So now my priorities have shifted. Rather than try to finish my associate's degree by the end of September, I should put two of my classes on hold (ENG 111 and HIS 282) and BEAR DOWN on the other two to get them finished by August 22. The most important thing here is getting 60 credit hours, NOT getting my associate's degree.

    I think I can do it. I think I can teach English in Korea, maybe even get my E-2 visa before October 24. I can also save $495 on my associate's degree graduation fee (and postpone my $895 matriculation fee until I have a lot more money) because I won't be needing it. Good news!

    August 5, 2008
    I may be staying in Korea for at least another year.

    "Why the hell would you do that, don't you want to get out of Korea? You can't even work there legally!" you say.

    You're right, I do want to get out of here (kind of, although it's been tolerable over the past month). However, soon, I will be able to get an E-2 visa to teach English here for 1,800,000 won a month! That's right, I found out from a Dave's ESL Cafe job ad that the Korean government is now allowing people with two-year degrees (and transcripts showing two years of university coursework) to teach English in Korea. I fit this bill, just barely!

    Rather than making about $11,000 in China, I can make $21,000 in Korea by working at a public school.

    So why would I choose to do this? Well, remember, I'm still putting myself through university, and I'm trying to finish quickly. If I can stay in Korea, that means not having to deal with culture shock, a language barrier, and lower pay en route to my bachelor's degree. So it's a justifiable evil!

    I went to the Immigration Bureau today and talked to an immigration officer, who informed me that the rumor is indeed true. I can apply to any job in Korea that's a public elementary, middle, or high school. It doesn't matter where it is, either -- if I can find a job there, I can even go for the subtropical Jeju Island!

    The immigration officer told me that all I need to do is transfer my credits (at least two years' worth) to a US college and get a "jaehakjeungmyeongseo" (transcript) and then I can get the visa. She says I need to interview in the US, but I've heard rumors that although the immigration office may not like it, you can do it in Fukuoka too. It's just that officially, you're not supposed to do it that way.

    So my game plan is to rush and finish all my associate's degree material by August 31. Then I can get a transcript within two weeks showing 60 credits and go job hunting in Korea from September 15 to early October. Then I can hopefully get a job here in Korea paying over $21,000 a year (tax free, free apartment, and medical insurance included). This will make paying for college a cinch.

    I'm still a little bit skeptical. The idea that Korea actually threw me a frickin' bone is a little bit unbelievable. I won't thank Korea until I've ascertained that that frickin' bone is actually a frickin' bone.

    August 4, 2008
    Note to self: buy new shoes.

    Today, I was walking up and down the length of the subway train between Noksapyeong and Hapjeong (because I lead a basically sedentary lifestyle and get restless). As I walked past an old lady in the senior citizens' part of the train, she pointed to my worn-out shoes and started asking about them.

    Indeed my shoes are in sad shape. The jangmacheol (monsoon) rains have destroyed the leather, causing holes. I can feel a considerable draft in my left shoe, and the insole sticks out through a hole in the back of the shoe if I'm not careful to tuck it in! The sole, meanwhile, flops around, and it has been recommended to me by the ajumma (middle-aged woman) in Pizza School that I reattach it with super glue.

    I explained this, or some element of it, to the old lady in the senior citizens' section who had just asked me about my shoe.

    This is the greatest part of the whole story: SHE TRIED TO OFFER ME MONEY TO BUY NEW SHOES. Like, I'd never even met her before, and she was offering me cash to buy new shoes. I told her in Korean "thank you, but I have enough money, the reason I haven't bought new shoes yet is because I am too busy, so I have not had time to go to the department store." She appeared to be hard of hearing, but one of her elderly friends repeated what I had said VERY LOUDLY, and she understood.

    At least Seoul's elderly are generous. They sure have a lot of jeong. And I need to buy a new pair of shoes.


    A Scan of the First Page of My Chinese Form, the PHYSICAL EXAMINATION RECORD FOR FOREIGNER
    July 31, 2008
    Well, I just got a clean bill of health from Severance Hospital! I was pretty sure I was healthy, but this five-page report confirms that there are no nasty surprises.

    As for Inner Mongolia, what did I say, smoke and mirrors! The headmaster informed me via the recruiter (Sophia) that they can't seem to get any letters of sponsorship for foreigners in Inner Mongolia right now. So I can submit my documents and wait three weeks, and MAYBE I'll get a "yes," but the chances are low.

    That's obviously not acceptable. I have a time table. So I asked my recruiters again about a job in Yanji (the capital of Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture of China) and it turns out they now have a job there! It pays 7,000 RMB a month and has an apartment included (this is a very good deal for China). However, I was supposed to have the job interview today at 2:00 PM, but Mr. Wang, the guy who was supposed to make the interview happen, forgot to contact Ms. Jiang, so no interview yet. I hope it happens soon. I need a job, especially as I wait for my Stafford Loan from the US government, which has so far taken well over a month after telling me I was approved to get the funds. I estimate it will have taken more than a month and a half when they finally get the funds to me, lazy bastards.

    I'm afraid I can't make the Olympics in Beijing, either, because I have too much school work to do, and I cannot finish by the time of the Olympics. I want to have all my associate's degree work done before I land in China, because the end of the term is coming up and I don't want to risk not being able to find another proctor in time. It's okay though, now I have less pressure to finish my work. I got a 100% on Exam 2 for History of Virginia I and a 100% on Exam 1 for Precalculus with Trigonometry, so I'm cruising right now.

    July 28, 2008
    Today was an industrious day:

  • I completed three weeks' worth of HIS 281 (History of Virginia I).
  • I did all of Week 5 for ENG 111 (College Composition). I handed in my final draft for our explanatory thesis. Honestly, I don't think I'll do very well. It was pretty crappy, in my opinion. I just got to the point where I thought "I should just hand it in and let the dice fall where they will."
  • I did my laundry. So now I have clean stuff to wear.

    I think that before I leave Korea, I'm going to upload one final photo essay on Korea called "Korea: My Exit Essay." It will highlight the important things from my 2+ years on this stint, and have never-before-seen pictures of YSKLI graduation, the Boryeong Mud Festival, and whatever else I fill my disposable camera with. It will cover the three things that eventually made me decide that this place was not suitable for long-term residence. Then I'll spend the last paragraph explaining my plan to live in Japan before I turn 23, and why I think Japan will be much better in terms of those three attributes.

    By the way, I got my medical checkup over the weekend. Now the only document I need to procure is the criminal background check and we can get the Inner Mongolia process started. I don't know what service they want me to use. It'd better be a quick one.

    June 26, 2008
    Well, I just woke up. It's just after 5:00 AM.

    Yesterday was a productive day. I had been studying Virginia history pretty much the entire night, and covered basically 1/4 of an entire Virginia history course in one day. I went in and took two tests, one right after the other. I think I did quite well on them.

    I'm relieved to find that when I'm in a big hurry, the Virginia history courses can be studied for VERY efficiently. If I take no breaks and keep my pace up, I can finish an entire week's worth of work in about two hours. One of my Virginia history courses is about early Virginia history (our test covered the Virginia Algonquians and early colonization attempts up to Jamestown). The other was about ante-bellum Virginia until Virginia's secession following the federal troops suppressing the rebellion at Fort Sumter.

    I guess the courses are kind of refreshing, both because combined, they're six very easy credit hours, and also, they remind me of my home state. No matter how much I dislike it when I'm actually there, when I'm overseas, I begin to forget its detestable elements. :-)

    Just as this week was a huge flurry of massive amounts of studying with two near-all nighters (about three hours of sleep each), today won't be easy. Here are the things I want to/need to accomplish today:

  • Before 1:00 PM today: finish all Week 5 homework for my English course. This will require writing a final draft on youth hostels in Asia, my chosen topic. Unfortunately, my rough draft came back with a terrible review that made me realize how badly the rough draft was written, so I will need to write a completely new paper in the next seven or so hours.
  • I need to go to Severance Hospital and get a checkup for all kinds of different diseases, or at least schedule one. I need these for my Chinese Z visa to teach in INNER MONGOLIA. I promised Sophia Yue, my recruiter, that I would do this "this week," so Saturday is the last day I can do it!

    I should also try to get three other "units" done to stay on course. So here's my plan:

  • I will do two units of Precalculus in preparation for Friday's scheduled exam.
  • I will do one unit of Virginia history (probably for 281, the introductory course, since I want to go mostly sequentially).

    If I can do that, I can go to bed thinking "good, I'm on track." It's incredible to believe that meeting the requirements for my associate's degree is just one month away...

    July 23, 2008: UPDATE 2
    I finished Exam 1 for Precalc this afternoon. I felt VERY good about it. I felt like I got them all right. I felt like I knew how to do every single one of them, and there wasn't a single one where I was like "I'm not 100% if it's this or this."

    Maybe I'll get an A on it. Maybe this is a good omen for this class -- maybe I'll get an A in the class, as well. I felt VERY good on that test. I finished it in only an hour and then used a half an hour to go back and double-check everything.

    Now, of course, you know what happens when you feel good on a math test -- you get it back with a 50%. Still, I'm holding out hope.

    July 23, 2008
    I just want to briefly say that my waking period (since yesterday afternoon) has been a model of efficiency:

  • I went to Korea National Open University and scheduled my math test.
  • I completed THREE math assignments.
  • I completed approximately a week and a half's worth of HIS 281 (History of Virginia).
  • I called NOVA and got the ball rolling on Sallie Mae actually disbursing my student loan which I am OWED.
  • I completed a math quiz in Scientific Notebook (a sort of mini project) and submitted it.

    I will only get about three hours of sleep, but today was a model of efficiency. I also feel very prepared for the math test I will take soon, even though it'll be the first I've taken in almost four years.

    July 22, 2008
    I am thrilled to announce that NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC has asked me to contribute my YouTube video on Geumgangsan, North Korea (with footage that I took there) to their new site, "Everyday Explorers." I have taken them up on their invitation and done so. National Geographic documentaries have always fascinated me and were an important part of my youth. I would not be the man I am today without them. You may have seen this video before, but here it is again, at National Geographic's new site (which is currently in beta):


    Me, Tomas (France, and I hope that's how you spell it), and Seira (Japan) Getting Ready to Play Volleyball with Some Koreans that I Found
    Picture Courtesy of Lynn Nguyen
    July 20, 2008
    I just got a nice picture from Boryeong courtesy of Lynn. Thanks, Lynn! I don't know why Seira is looking like she's about to fight me, though. Is that a pre-game pose?

    I took a nap this afternoon because I was tired. I dreamed I ate a piece of Hershey bar pie. Then I paid $9 for a full pie, because the piece had been so tasty.

    I woke up not quite sure if it was a dream or not. I waited a minute or so for my Hershey bar pie, but realized I wasn't going to get my Hershey bar pie. Then I realized something that was wrong with the real world.

    My room was TOO QUIET. Not a sound. On closer inspection, the computer seemed to have turned itself off. I reached for the light switch, and sure enough, the lights didn't turn on, either.

    What was going on? I had never experienced a real power outage in Korea before. The only time I can remember power going out here was one time when someone had plugged too many things in at Windroad Guesthouse and it'd blown a fuse.

    I saw this guy walking around the floor and asked him. The rain had caused a power outage. The ajeosshi was coming to fix it.

    Meanwhile, even the emergency power in the hallway dwindled. Soon, it was completely dark. I opened the door to the roof briefly -- the wind was blowing like crazy. Eventually, the ajeosshi came and fixed the problem, though.

    July 19, 2008
    Well, finally, my China recruiter, Sophia, got back to me. The school in Inner Mongolia (Baotou No. 1 Senior Middle School of No. 1 Machinery Group) has agreed to my contract changes, and we are now going to move into the Z visa processing stage.

    I had added some things to my contract, like a clause stating that I would only teach senior middle school (high school) students, and that I would only work at one school. Provided the employer is honest and the job is as presented, this should be no problem. However, I also added a clause about getting my own apartment (since my recruiter had said so but I didn't see anything in the default contract about that).

    Well, the principal has apparently agreed to my terms. He also thought my picture was very handsome. So provided that my Z visa works out all right, I should be good to go to China in late August.

    I know I won't have any problem with the criminal background check, since I've never been convicted of any crimes in the US. I think I'll be okay on the medical checkup too, except that there's more potential for doctor error or the risk that I'm carrying something that I don't know about (because I've traveled so much to poor countries and done so many things). So I hope the medical check goes okay.

    Provided they don't suddenly change their minds, and provided that I pass my medical exam, I can't see any reason why I won't be teaching in Inner Mongolia in less than a month and a half.


    Thanks, Mi-hye, for sending me this picture by e-mail. The Boryeong Festival is a time of great joy.
    July 16, 2008
    Well, special thanks to Hye-mi, one of the mud girls, for sending me that picture to the left. I know I uploaded pictures last year, so you may already have an idea what the festival looks like, but now you have a better one. I know, I'm just another "chauvinist male pig" but isn't that a great picture?

    As for other news:

  • It looks like I've finally found a proctor through Korea National Open University (a Korean distance school). They seemed reluctantly willing to proctor at least once for me (which should take care of the most important test and buy me time to find a more steady proctor). I just hope NVCC approves them.
  • I hung out with this American guy named Matt and we went to the Yongsan Electronics Market and we looked for a Slot 2 memory cartridge for his Nintendo DS for web-browsing purposes. Unfortunately, we couldn't find one. However, I did find out that Nintendo Wiis are going for an unheard-of low 170,000 won! I might buy one, if Square-Enix will just give me some real information on which system FFXIII will be released on.
  • I walked several miles and am now at an internet cafe, typing this update (a special kind where I get my own room, mwa ha ha ha ha). I will continue walking all the way home soon. Then I plan to do some MTH 166 homework in preparation for the first major test of this term.

    All in all, today was pretty successful. Some cool things happened that I really shouldn't talk about on here.

  • July 14, 2008
    Well, I just came back from Boryeong (with Lynn, Seira, and this French guy) last night. It was pretty good overall. We got there on the KTX. We lost the French guy on the way to the beach. I tried looking for him for a while, but couldn't find him. Then we decided to have fun on the beach anyway without him.

    We created a little "island" in the sand with a moat that went all around it and got our pictures on it. We dug the trench with an army foldable shovel and it took quite a while. Pictures will come later.

    We got painted in mud. The odd thing was that the people doing the majority of the painting were these volunteer ajummas. I guess I don't picture a Korean ajumma signing up to volunteer-paint the naked flesh of foreigners in mud, but they all did it with smiles on their faces. Oh, and I assisted this pretty western woman in a bikini in communicating with this Korean guy who had just taken her picture, and she seemed to take a liking to me after that and painted me with mud and even gave me a muddy handprint on my butt so it would "look like [I'd] been molested!"

    Then I managed to recruit a bunch of Koreans (starting with a group of four mud-covered Korean girls) to play volleyball with us. Then I recruited these Korean guys as well, because my group suggested I do so. Then things turned into dodgeball.

    We had dinner at this place where the ajumma said she'd buy me new socks if I came back, because my socks had holes in them. Then we got onto the train back for Seoul and had to sit in various uncomfortable places because we had gotten standing tickets. Overall, though, the one-day adventure, my second annual Boryeong Mud Festival, was successful. I talked with Ka (Korean-American Hawaiian fire dancer dude) and he hadn't been able to do his fire dance the preceding night because the cops were on the lookout for any fire-related activity, and prevented him and this girl from doing a fire dance. Oh well. Anyways, I will upload pictures of the rest of the stuff later, when they're developed and people send them to me.

    July 12, 2008
    I just finished reading The Abs Diet. It arrived on Wednesday. I read at quite a rate of speed and finished it today.

    Admittedly, it was slightly different from what I'd expected. The Abs Diet is centered around losing weight by developing abs (and other fat-burning muscles, since one pound of muscle supposedly burns 50 calories a day). I originally thought it was more of a book about the ultimate diet for bodybuilding, but it was just another book written for overweight Americans -- a category I DO NOT yet fall into. However, building muscles was one of the main focuses of the book, so I won't declare it a complete failure for my purposes of getting buff in the next year or so. However, it doesn't talk about things like creatine, developing your arm muscles, or anything like that very much.

    Another thing about this book -- it's extremely America-centric. With almost all the recipes in this book, all I can say is "good luck if you don't live in America finding those ingredients." I mean, I can't even find relish at my grocery store -- how can I expect to find "Benecol spread" or some of these off-the-wall ingredients if I can't even find relish? The book talks condescendingly about diet books that have you cook overly complicated "masterpieces" like mango shrimp, then turns around and does exactly the same thing, except that I think it'd be harder to find some of The Abs Diet's ingredients in Korea than simple mango and shrimp.

    The idea of The Abs Diet is that if you develop enough muscle, just maintaining those muscles will burn off a ton of calories. If you can add six pounds of muscle, that's supposedly 300 extra calories that you can eat per day without gaining weight. The Abs Diet also tell you things like why flaxseed is important, how to protect your prostate, etc. I know these are important and I know I'll wish I had cared more about them when I'm 50 or 60, but right now, they aren't even on my radar screen. I've got more imminent things to worry about.

    Was it a useful read, overall, and was it worth the steep $11.95 shipping that I paid to have it air mailed to Korea? I think so, even though I'm not overweight. At least it gives me a place to start on my muscle-building process. There may be more optimal diets for adding muscle to more than just your abs, but at least this one isn't sub-optimal. The recipes, advice, etc. pertain to a high-protein diet like the bodybuilders use. I learned how to use some substitution to eat a lot healthier (for instance, start using olive oil instead of corn oil).

    As for other news, I'm going to the Boryeong Mud Festival soon, and my attempts to find a proctor have been foiled so far. The Ewha Women's University Career Development Center that I'd been told about (a possible testing center) is nothing but a bunch of empty rooms under renovation, with no human beings inside. Yonsei University doesn't even have such a center marked on its map, and asking regular Yonsei students was fruitless.

    I'm really worried about finding a proctor. Mijung says her friend (who is a middle school teacher) might proctor for me, but only if that person is actually in Korea next week. I know what the secret weapon is to finding a proctor -- offering 20,000 won or more an hour and making posts on Dave's ESL Cafe (an internet site for English teachers, a lot in Korea), but I HATE Dave's ESL Cafe and just KNOW someone will flame me if I put an ad up there. So that's a last resort. If I can't find a proctor by July 15, though, I'm posting an ad on there. So I guess I'd better work hard to ensure that I don't have to do that.

    July 11, 2008
    It's 7-Eleven day! Three years on ago on this day, I was handing out free Slurpees at 7-Eleven in little paper cups!

    It looks like a school in China is finally willing to sign a contract with me. Here are the details of the school:

  • It's in INNER MONGOLIA. So I can experience mainland Chinese culture and Mongolian culture at the same time.
  • The salary is 6,000 RMB ($877.95) a month based on a 20-hour teaching week. Overtime pay is 100 RMB ($14.63) per class.
  • The school is a senior middle school (known in the west as a high school). The ages of the kids I'll be teaching: 14-18. It doesn't seem as optimal as university students, though I think someone with my lack of a bachelor's degree and age would have a VERY hard time finding university work in China at this time. I think those kinds of opportunities evaporated forever earlier this year.

    If I do end up signing a contract with them, I will start teaching on September 1. I will be a free man again in mid-July 2009. At that point, I could use the remaining 3+ months before my birthday to go to Ireland and work on the Working Holiday visa scheme, then end up in Japan before my 23rd birthday. That way, I will be able to say "I had lived and worked on three continents at the age of 22."

    July 8, 2008
    I hate to say it, but I'm going to have to call off my trip to the Yeongjong-do's Eulwangni Beach for several reasons:

  • No one has answered my proctor ad, so I'm going to need to step up efforts this week to find one. Apparently offering an extremely easy job with nearly three times minimum wage isn't enticing enough for anyone, so maybe I'll have to up the ante, or work through personal connections. I hate how everyone except me can just look at "10,000 won an hour for doing basically nothing" and say "nope, not worth my time." I guess this should show you that Korea's economy isn't in the "pity me, we're so poor" dire straits that many Koreans will lead you to believe...
  • I STILL haven't gotten my English textbook, which is a big problem since I ordered it two weeks ago. I need to stick around in Seoul tomorrow -- that is my LAST CHANCE to intercept it and do my assignments before they're graded late.
  • I woke up late this morning, meaning I wouldn't be able to have much fun on a sunny beach, anyway.
  • I should be at a computer tomorrow, since I'm supposedly going to get word on a job in China tomorrow (Changchun, only two prefectures over from Yanbian). Of course, these damn recruiters are just a bunch of smoke and mirrors who never seem to give you useful job leads. I just made contact with the FOURTH one, and talked to her on the phone, but I doubt she'll be of much help, honestly, because the other three sure havent. We'll see...

    So screw the mini-vacation, I guess. Looks like I'll be enjoying more of cantankerous old Seoul until the weekend. Then, on Sunday, hopefully I can still go to Boryeong with my friends.

    July 7, 2008
    Well, no one has answered any of my online proctor request ads yet (the one on this website and the one on zKorean). Therefore, my mission for this morning was to put up a bunch of flyers at universities. If someone replies, hopefully NOVA can approve them as my proctor and I can resume taking exams.

    I posted three ads at Yonsei University Korean Language Institute, then I went to Ewha Women's University and was going to post one (I was asking on the office) when a woman there told me she teaches at a hagwon and would be interested in doing it. So I gave her a flyer and held off on posting another one at Ewha.

    Next I hit Yonsei regular campus. I posted two there. So altogether, I've deployed five flyers.

    I still have five remaining, and if I don't get any replies today, I will post two at Ewha Women's University, and three at Sogang University. Apparently Ewha Women's University has a place called the Gyeongnyeok-Gaebal-Senteo (The Career Development Center) which might be able to help me. I need to find a proctor within two weeks, or I'm screwed. Once again, if anyone who is a teacher (hagwon teachers included) wants to make the world's easiest 10,000 won an hour, just contact me.

    As for other news, I'm planning to go to Yeongjong Island tomorrow. It's the island with Incheon Airport on it. I'm going there to hang out on Eulwangni Beach. I plan to be there for three days and two nights. I think I could benefit from a little vacation. It should be extremely cheap -- I plan to take all the food I'll eat with me (lots of rice and jjajang pouches) and stay in public bathhouses (7,000 won a night, usually). The subway goes all the way out there. I reckon it'll be about $30 for the whole three-day beach vacation.

    While there, I want to get a little bit of sun for the upcoming Boryeong Mud Festival this weekend. I also plan to do a lot of walking and swimming, and aside from that, I'll just bring my textbooks with me and do some schoolwork.

    July 4, 2008
    Happy Independence Day! I'm really pissed off!

    That college in Tianjin, Tianshi College, just told me that I'm not hired. Fucking assholes -- they string me along for WEEKS, interview me over the phone, and tell me I'm hired, but then, oh, wait... They have to wait until the school's headmaster comes back (they told me this the day after I was "hired"). Then he hands down his verdict today that I am "too young." So the fucking assholes waited several weeks (and waited until they'd told me that I had a job) to go back on their word -- FOR SOMETHING THEY COULD HAVE TOLD ME IN 30 SECONDS JUST BY LOOKING AT THE FRONT PAGE OF MY PASSPORT.

    I hate the ageism in this world. The damn thing is, I'm too young now, but in about eight years, I'll be too old. Apparently, in life, I need to completely succeed in about an eight-year time frame, or I'm screwed.

    So I need to look for another job. Because I don't have time to be rejected multiple times by universities that string me along for weeks and then tell me that I'm too young, I'm going to have to lower my sights a little bit. I'm willing to consider teaching "middle school" (secondary school in my country). At least they're young adults, even if they aren't full adults. That way I could still get some arguably adult-level teaching for the resume later, and save my sanity.

    My recruiter has only found me one job that's arguably satisfactory -- it's in Shandong Province. In terms of benefits, it's about the same as the Tianjin job I applied for -- the salary is lower, but the meals are provided, which they weren't at the Tianjin job. She claims she may be able to get me strictly secondary school students, without any elementary school teaching. It's a Korean international school, so I could keep up my Korean and I wouldn't have too much trouble communicating with the management. There are just two things that worry me about that job: 1) They'll tell me I'll teach a "mix" of secondary and primary school students, which will end up equating to 21 periods a week of elementary and 1 period a week of secondary, and 2) they have an "aged 25-50" on their job advertisement, though Sandy, the recruiter, claims they'll probably be flexible (and I agree, since I have qualifications from South Korea and this is a Korean international school).

    Just in case, I'm going to try to reapply at Paul's English in Yanbian. That would be little kids, but at least it'd be in mini-Korea, so life would be more comfortable (less language barrier, ability to make friends, and communicate with the boss). I'm also going to work through another recruiter, Anita, who says she can introduce me to a job in Shenyang (I may not have liked the city too much, but at least it was modern, and I have connections there [Danyang and May]).

    It amazes me that after over 21 years on this earth, ageism is still such a problem for me, despite the fact that I've built up so many sector- and location-specific qualifications (CELTA, certificate from Yonsei, seven years on this continent, Chinese courses in college, etc) that make me better than a lot of the competition. I'm discriminated against in job applications, loans from my own government, dating, etc. because I'm "too young." If I were some 40-year-old who'd screwed up in life and was just now starting his career, then I could scream "Ageism! Ageism!" if someone refused to hire me because of my age, but unfortunately, ageism against the young is considered completely acceptable even though we're the hardest workers, we have the fresh new ideas, and we don't have a bunch of other baggage like family interfering with our work (especially important when you have to go overseas to work). Well, I'll just hope it gets better when I "grow up." Then I'll have a few years before I'm considered "too old."

    This world hates young men. It also hates old men. Too bad you're only "just right" for 10% of your life before you cross from one into the other.

    July 1, 2008

    YES!!!

    More good news -- I got the job at the college in Tianjin, China! Yahoo!

    According to what I've been told (which may be too good to be true, I admit, and that possibility scares me) I will be paid 6,000 RMB ($875.36) a month, get free accommodation, teach only 16 hours a week (Mondays to Fridays only, supposedly) and TEACH COLLEGE STUDENTS! Wait a second, aren't I still a college student?

    I still need to get my Z visa (working visa) sorted out and that worries me, because I hear Chinese immigration is getting really strict with the Olympics. However, provided that I get my Z visa (no reason why I should be refused, I meet all the requirements that I'm aware of), I should have a job in China that pays quite well for China. If my Z visa goes through, I will probably make the move in mid to late August.

    June 30, 2008: UPDATE 2
    I have been awake for over 27 continuous hours without a minute of sleep, and I'm just about ready to hit the sack. Before I do that, I just want to inform you that it was worth it, I passed Bio 141 Exam #7 with flying colors (beat the class average), and while I failed Exam #8 (the final) by a little bit, my average was still okay overall.

    So I just obtained four credits towards my bachelor's and associate's degrees. As for my associate's, it now stands at 77% completion (versus 70% before). My bachelor's has gone up from 40% to 43%. Gradually, I am clawing my way up...

    June 30, 2008
    Well, it's just after 4:00 AM. I commence the taking of my final exam for Bio 141 (Human Anatomy and Physiology) in less than 11 hours.

    I need a C in this class to transfer it. If I do acceptably on the final exam, I will achieve this goal, but the way my last exam went, I'm going to need to pull my act together. This has been one hell of a class in terms of the amount of random information you're supposed to absorb through osmosis -- or is that facilitated diffusion? If I pass it with a C, I will have 52 credit hours towards my bachelor's degree (it will be transferable to Excelsior College). If I fail it (or get a D, which is failing for transfer purposes), I will have just wasted approximately $400 and countless hours of study time. So let's hope I pass it!

    I'm not going to sleep tonight, because I have to read a ton of material, do a bunch of online labs, and do an estimated 1,000 very quick study guide questions (each question can be done in a matter of seconds, but that's still a lot of work). I estimate that if I get started right now and only take a few very short breaks, all this is feasible, but just as I'm doing now, I'll get sidetracked, and then in the last two hours, I'll be saying "oh shit, oh shit, why didn't I manage my time better earlier?"

    So I'd better get to work. I look forward to plopping into bed at 6:30 PM tonight and being able to sleep as long as I want, without any alarm to wake me up.

    Want to earn some money? If you're a teacher or a librarian living in Korea (English teachers included), read on. I need a proctor for my exams and am willing to pay you a decent proctor fee (negotiable).

    June 27, 2008
    Well, I'm just about to take my Bio 141 exams, and I'm just killing time on this computer so nobody else takes it (I plan to take the proctored exam on this computer). �ӹ�?says she won't proctor anymore exams after Monday, because I've graduated and because "it's painful" to come to the computer and type in the password and walk away. I don't get how you can call that task painful -- it only needs to take three minutes. So I offered her 10,000 won (about 10 bucks) every test -- she'd just come to the computer, type in the password, and go back to her office like she always does. Basically that's a pay rate of $10 for three minutes. However, she said she wouldn't do it.

    I don't get how people can refuse offers like that. I mean, come on, that's a couple hundred EASY bucks that she's just saying "whatever, I don't need it" to. If someone asked me to proctor an exam and I was in a position to do so, I would DEFINITELY do it for $10, especially if I could just enter a password and go back to my office.

    So I guess I'll have to find a new proctor, maybe one who isn't free of charge. If there is anyone reading this site who is a teacher (E-2 visa English teachers in Korea count as long as they have an official e-mail address) I'm offering you cash to proctor my exams, so if you're interested, let me know. You tell me how much you want to charge, and we'll negotiate from there.

    June 26, 2008
    I just had an extremely productive waking period (can't really call it a day since it straddled two calendar days). I got the following done:

  • I went grocery shopping and bought all my staple food items for the next week.
  • I helped Hyejung with her English.
  • I did six assignments for my English composition class. That's literally an entire (heavy) week's worth of work in 12 hours.
  • I ordered my books for the courses I just signed up for.
  • I finished my Stafford loan application and found out some great news -- if approved, I will not just receive reimbursement for my summer term NOVA expenses, but a total amount of $3,500! This is great news, because it means my bank account will be approximately $2,000 bigger than I had expected. This will make a HUGE difference in the upcoming international move I'll have to make (hopefully to China).
  • I called �ӹ�?and scheduled my Human Anatomy and Physiology tests for tomorrow.

    So it was a productive day. I wish all days could be this productive.

    June 23, 2008: UPDATE 2
    As any reader who reads even 10% of my posts should be well aware, after doing a stint in China or Russia or wherever, my ultimate destination is Japan. I first decided to make living there my goal when I visited it in September, 2007.

    I need a bachelor's degree to get a visa to teach English in Japan. On my current schedule, that will take a little more than one year.

    However, when I get there, there will be a major language barrier. I have been worrying about how on earth I'm going to study Japanese while I'm in China. All I could think of was self-study, which is almost never an effective method for languages. I could just picture slacking off and not learning much of anything, then arriving in Japan clueless.

    Fortunately, I was overjoyed this morning when I discovered that my community college back home, Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) is offering Japanese 101 ONLINE. So it doesn't matter if I'm in China, Russia, or Timbuktu -- I can take a class in Japanese anywhere I am.

    Judging by the difficulty level of Chinese 101, it will probably be ridiculously easy. I have this learning Asian languages thing down to a fine art. However, it'll give me the kick in the pants I need to start studying Japanese formally. So my goal for Japanese is this:

  • Take JPN 101 in the fall term and learn all the JLPT Level 4 (remember, the JLPT is descending by skill level, so Level 4 is the lowest level, not the highest) words (728 words). Get an A in the class. Then, in December, take the JLPT. Get a Level 4.
  • Take JPN 102 if it's offered in the spring semester (I think it will be, why would they offer 101 and then not offer 102). Learn all the JLPT Level 3 words (this will bring my total vocabulary up to at least 1,409) and get an A in the class. Take the JLPT again in July. Pass with a JLPT Level 3.

    At that point, I will speak basic Japanese, can put it on my resume and maybe get a better English teaching job when I hit Japan because of it (JLPT Level 3, CELTA, and a year of English teaching experience should all converge to make me a little less green than the other fresh-out-of-college kids), and even if I don't, I'll have gotten a head start on learning Japanese and can get around Japan much more easily and play Final Fantasy XIII and understand a good deal more of it than if I hadn't studied Japanese!

    Maybe this plan is too ambitious on top of all the other school work and actual work that I'll have to do, but I don't picture learning Japanese being a huge burden once I'm in a class to get me started.

    June 23, 2008
    Today, Mijung taught me how to make kimchi jjigae (kimchi stew). It's one of my favorite Korean foods.

    Since I'm planning to leave Korea within the next three months, I need to learn how to cook Korean food -- that's the part of the country I'll miss the most. I hope to learn to cook my five favorite dishes before I leave. That way, I won't need to shell out a load of cash to eat at a Korean restaurant all the time later in life.

    Here's the recipe, as taught to me by Mijung:

    Ingredients:

  • 200 grams of kimchi for this recipe, preferably homemade
  • 1 onion
  • Sugar (about one teaspoon was okay for this batch) -- this may not be needed depending on the quality of your kimchi
  • 1 250-gram can of tuna -- this is optional
  • 1 square of firm tofu (�ܴ��� �κ�), NOT soft tofu (���κ�) -- this is optional

    1. Peal the onion.
    2. Wash the onion.
    3. Cut the onion in half.
    4. Pour the tuna oil off of the can of tuna into the pot. You can just use regular oil instead, but if you use tuna oil, it'll be more delicious, apparently.
    5. Fire up the stove and boil the oil. The heat on the stove should be pretty high.
    6. Dump in the kimchi.
    7. Dump in the layers of the half-onion.
    8. Dump in a little more than half the can of tuna.
    9. Keep stirring the ingredients so that they don't burn. The kimchi should get its yellowish fried appearance.
    10. Add water so it covers pretty much all the ingredients in the pot, except maybe the topmost part. So you don't want your ingredients to be completely submersed, but nearly submersed.
    11. Keep stirring and cook the kimchi jjigae for a while. As you cook it, taste a little bit every once in a while to see if the taste is acceptable. When it is, turn off the stove and enjoy.
    12 (optional). If the taste is too sour, you can add sugar to make it tastier.
    13 (optional). If you decide to use tofu, perhaps you can cube it and put it in now. I'm not sure exactly how this is done, because for this lesson, I bought ���κ� (soft tofu) by mistake.

    Now I know how to make kimchi jjigae. I hope to learn how to cook four more things, then I'll be able to live in another country and eat awesome-tasting Korean food without having to go to an expensive restaurant.

    June 22, 2008
    The last 16 hours have been pretty productive. Things I've done today:

  • Met Hye-jung. Helped her with her English.
  • Talked with my recruiter about a job in China. Sorted out some visa-oriented things.
  • Did TWO assignments for Precalculus (remember, Calculus was too hard, so I dropped it). I was on a roll, so I did two whole assignments! Yes! I got this awesome notebook that I'm totally dedicating to Precalculus for 840 won -- it's called "Ryukendo" and has these pictures of these awesome mechs on the front cover and TIMES TABLES on the back cover. It's really cool.
  • Signed up for three additional NOVA courses. I wanted to sign up for four, but I'd waited too long on PHI 220 (Ethics). So I'll need to take that next term. It's okay, it's no big deal.
  • Contacted Geoffrey See Kok Heng about the goshiwon situation.
  • Began concluding the day with some makgeolli. I got two bottles but actually only needed one, so one's left over. Now I only have about $1.40 to spend tomorrow on food (because the makgeolli cut into my food budget). So how will I best spend my $1.40? All I have to eat is 11 slices of bread and two hotdogs. So I guess I'll have two hotdogs for breakfast, I'll use the money to buy 30 mechuri eggs and a square of tofu, and I'll have toast and eggs for lunch, and maybe fried kimchi (free) and rice (free) and tofu for dinner. Kind of basic foodstuffs, but edible. When you live at a goshiwon that provides your rice and kimchi, you simply cannot starve.


    Left: Original Image
    Right: Using a Lomography filter in GIMP, the picture explodes with more verdant forests, skies that are no longer gray, and less haze overall. Does this mean that I don't have to buy a new digital camera?
    June 20, 2008: UPDATE 2
    Some good news first, I found this GIMP plug-in called "Lomo" that makes a lot of my crappy old digital photos from my cheap camera look semi-acceptable, especially ones in which the trees were originally yuck-green, in which the sky was gray, and in which there was dust over the lens. It makes water look nicer too. I'm happy to discover a free software solution to my bad camera -- with this new plug-in, I can get better quality images for free. Maybe I won't even need to buy a new camera, saving me money! Yay! Really, the main problem with my camera is washed-out images, and as you can tell, this Lomo GIMP plug-in makes the colors a lot more, well, colorful.

    As for bad news, I have confirmed my inability to teach in China. Actually, the age thing appears to just be a rumor created by some disgruntled old guy who was fired for someone younger and wanted to stir things up, and a whole bunch of sites took what he said as truth and the rumor looked convincing for a while. The actual problem with teaching in China is that they make you buy a $2,000 plane ticket and go back to your home country to pick up your visa. This is a new regulation, inspired by the Olympics.

    The school then supposedly reimburses you for your plane ticket at the end of the contract. Of course, that doesn't change the fact that if you don't have $2,000 NOW, you can't do it, because they don't pay your plane ticket in advance. Plus, if they fire you in the 11th month to avoid paying bonuses and plane ticket (the way lots of schools in Asia do) then you don't get anything. I confirmed the flying back rumor today through a recruiter.

    So good news on the Lomography filter, bad news on teaching in China (though if you've read any of my recent posts, you'll know that I was already 90% sure I couldn't teach there). Well, looks like I'm going to Russia!

    June 20, 2008
    Today is a significant day. It is the beginning of my fifth year in Korea (if you count the time I spent here as a little kid).

    Yesterday was the second anniversary of my coming to Korea to study Korean. So I've toughed it out for two years here, and I'm not going to lie, I'm ready to go.

    Of course, China decided to make things harder for me by adding a range of new restrictions (even if people under 25 being refused visas is just a rumor, they now require you to fly back to your home country to get the visa, as well, which is about $2,000 that I don't have). Taiwan isn't an option either for aforementioned reasons. So where will I go?

    Russia seems like a good idea. I checked on Sakhalin (the place with all the North Koreans) and they only have one school. I contacted them and they have no vacancies. So Sakhalin's out, although making $1,200 a month in Sakhalin no doubt would have been a blast.

    Maybe I could go to Moscow and teach. I could combine it with Russian history courses from NOVA (since I still need six history credits) and make it into a true DIY study abroad experience, the same way I lived in Korea and traveled to Japan during my History of Asian Civilizations class. I could make somewhere between $910 and $1,200 a month (accommodation provided), meaning that I could theoretically save more than in China (well, at least if I were making $1,200, because I hear that in Moscow, food is pretty expensive). Then I'd be strategically positioned in Europe at that point, so I could do a nearly four-month Working Holiday in Ireland, then fly to Japan after that to resume my plans.

    Maybe a break in Europe is what I need. I could dress like a local and blend in for a change and not have all the little children proclaiming, in a loud voice, "IT'S A FOREIGNER!"

    Of course, no doubt that after spending some time in Europe, I'll get bored (like I did when I moved back to the US in 2001) and want to come back to Asia. Then I'll be ripe to hit Japan. Sound like a good idea?

    I'm being forced to think of radical changes in plans thanks to China's obstinacy, but maybe it's for the better. If I had gone to China (or Taiwan) and taught, it is quite possible that I could go through my whole life never having worked in Europe (and never having set foot in Russia). So maybe this is a good thing.

    June 17, 2008

    HOLY SHIT! SOMEBODY JUST THREW A MONKEY WRENCH INTO MY PLANS!

    I had been planning on going to Taiwan with my associate's degree and teaching English there, but realized if I did that, I would have no money to pay for fall tuition.

    So my plans changed. I planned on going to China and teaching while studying online and getting my degree. I would graduate in debt, but at least I could make it and pay my student loans off later. However, that will no longer be possible.

    China has decided to make it literally impossible for me (or anyone under 25 to teach there).

    Yes, that's right, in a sudden reversion to Confucianist principles, China has announced that it will no longer give Z (working) visas to anyone who was born after 1983.

    Basically, someone can be 24 and have a master's in English, and fuck them. They're under 25. Can't work in China.

    So I'm going to need to find a new place where I can work, put food on the table, and pay my tuition, because China just decided to be arbitrarily ageist. Had I gone to China as an 18- or 19- or 20-year-old, I could have gotten a job as an English teacher, because the law hadn't changed yet. However, now, as a 21-year-old, I cannot get a job there. In fact, if I want to work there, I'm going to have to wait about three years and four months.

    Well, whatever, I'll find some other place to go and earn money. So far as I know, I'm still eligible to teach English in at least 10 very desperate countries. I should be thankful for being an American and a native English speaker -- at least a lot of countries are still interested in employing me.


    Korean Version
    June 16, 2008
    Well, just thought I'd post my two Yonsei KLI graduation certificates -- the full one in Korean and the translated one (without the cool seal) in English. I mainly just stuck them in a folder on my website in case I needed to access them for employment purposes. Then it occurred to me that I should probably post them so everyone could see what they looked like.

    English Version:


    Our Class at Dinner
    June 12, 2008
    This will just be a quick update. Last night, my class went out and had dinner and barbecue, along with plenty of beer and soju. Then several classmates realized they couldn't get home because public transportation had stopped running, so they went to a public bath house to sleep. Fortunately, I was the one guiding the group, and I had steered them into a bar that was literally on a lower floor of the building that I live in! So all I had to do was walk up a few flights of stairs and plop down in my nice cozy bed.

    Anyways, click here to see six new graduation-related pictures!


    Me Graduating (being presented my certificate by Moon-Gyoo Choi [Director of the Institute of Language Research and Education] with Hwang In-gyo [my Level 2 reading teacher and major big wig at the KLI] standing nearby)

    Most of Our Class (including the teacher, with the blue shirt in the middle) in Front of the KLI
    June 11, 2008: UPDATE 2
    Well, I graduated! Our class will have dinner together (we're meeting at 5:00) so expect more updates.

    I got two graduation certificates (one in English, one in Korean) and a Yonsei paperweight, in addition to the flowery thing that they pinned on my shirt. I also got something that's similar to a yearbook -- it contains the theses for the people that wrote them (including me) and has lots of assorted pictures of students divided by class, and people's e-mail addresses. I'll make sure to scan some of this memorabilia and post it later on...

    Oh, and the most interesting piece of memorabilia was definitely a bouquet of red roses that I received from a cute girl from Uzbekistan who I did not know before today...

    June 11, 2008
    Today is graduation day! It's just after 9:30 AM. I came to school early (I misunderstood the directions which stated the WOMEN should be here early [due to having more complicated ensembles and the risk of them being late]). So it turns out that I'm early, and I don't have to do anything for close to another 50 minutes. So here it goes, I'm just about to graduate.

    I've prepared two cameras. One is a disposable and the other is my trusty cheapo digital camera. I'll give each one to people in different parts of the room to cover more than one angle and ensure that there isn't a problem that prevents there being any pictures.

    I'm wearing a dress shirt and some black pants. The teacher said that was okay. A lot of the other people are wearing suits or hanboks, but I couldn't find a place that would rent a suit, and buying would be like 250,000 won. I'm sure as hell not wearing a hanbok. So I won't look too flashy, but at least the stuff is clean.

    June 10, 2008
    Today, just for the hell of it, we took a TOPIK (Test of Proficiency in Korean) listening exam from a past year. I got 60% on it. We took the advanced level test. So basically, had this been a current test, I would have gotten a Level 5 in listening (enough to enter pretty much any South Korean university directly without needing to spend a term in their Korean program). Too bad I now have little interest in doing that! It seems like such a waste to reach this level of Korean, to the point where I can randomly pick any Korean university on a list and say "I could get in and take classes there" and not even want to...

    June 8, 2008: UPDATE 2
    I'm putting my INSANE plan to go to Taiwan back into effect in light of some things that I discovered a while ago. Here's my plan for the next seven weeks, starting with today (I get to choose when to take my exams, meaning I can make this fit my time frame):
    Week:Exams to Be Taken:
    Week 1 (starts June 8):BIO 141 Exam 5 and BIO 141 Exam 6
    Week 2 (starts June 15):MTH 166 Exam 1 and BIO 141 Exam 7
    Week 3 (starts June 22):MTH 166 Exam 2 and BIO 141 Exam 8
    Week 4 (starts June 29):MTH 166 Exam 3 and HIS 281 Exam 1
    Week 5 (starts July 6):MTH 166 Exam 4 and HIS 281 Exam 2
    Week 6 (starts July 13):ENG 111 Exam 1 and HIS 282 Exam 1
    Week 7 (starts July 20):ENG 111 Exam 2 and HIS 282 Exam 2

    If I manage to follow that insane test schedule (believe me, it may not look hard, but it will be) then I'll be merrily on my way to Taiwan with an associate's degree by September.

    June 8, 2008
    Well, I'm back in Korea again. I'm back from Japan.

    I didn't have much time in Japan (Izuhara, Tsushima) so I basically just found a minshuku (cheap hotel) and ate. I tried to set up a bank account (because I heard it takes six months, so I figured I'd get started early) but the bank told me that I can't set one up unless I have a job in Japan, but once it's set up, it only takes 10 minutes until you can use it. So I didn't get it set up, but at least it sounds like it won't be a huge hassle in the future -- unless they didn't know what they were talking about, which is always possible.

    For the third time in the last year, I was struck with how much BETTER Japan seems than Korea. People are polite and don't try to get on your case, yell at you, make fun of the way a foreigner talks, etc. Right after coming back to Korea I started experiencing that shit all over again and remembered what an abrasive country this is.

    Well, no doubt the nationalistic Korean-American is saying "if you don't like it, then leave." Well, that would be somewhat unwise with my graduation from Yonsei just around the corner, but soon after that, I plan to get the hell out of here and go to Taiwan. I'm not qualified to work in Japan yet (that'll come next) but at least in Taiwan people aren't having a so-called "peaceful candlelit vigil" against the US in which they rip the armor off of armored police buses and firebomb the interiors (then complain excessively when the police respond in self defense with water cannons).

    Sure, there are western guys who, despite the anti-white hatred and overall xenophobia in this country, still manage to love it. I'm just curious, though, have those guys ever lived in another Asian country? I have a feeling it's a frog in the well type of thing. Guys come here and say "this is great, I can go to internet cafes whenever I want, the language is cool, and the women are all so attractive." The thing is, you can get that in ANY East Asian country, not just Korea. Some guys come to Korea, decide they love Asia, and then assume that these things must just be Korean. Little do they know, there are other Asian countries out there too with all the good things of Korea -- and with 75% less bigotry!

    Man, I wish I could live in Japan. Just another year and four months or so of perseverance (until I'm well-qualified enough to get the work visa) and it can become a reality.

    June 5, 2008
    Well, I've got to make this update short because I have to pack my stuff for Japan (I plan on being there tomorrow morning).

    I got my final test grades back. I found out my grade for Level 6 (75% [C] ). So not only do I graduate, but since a C is high enough to transfer, I knock another 6 credit hours off of my bachelor's degree. I would say I'm ecstatic, except that I already said that yesterday. I actually got a better grade this time than I did in Level 5 -- Level 6 was actually EASIER than Level 5, imagine that!


  • Speaking: 81% (B) (composed of newspaper article presentations: 18/20, the Graduation Roundtable Discussion: 31.5/40 and a research presentation: 31.5/40)
  • Listening: 85.5% (B) <- I INCREASED MY LISTENING SCORE BY MORE THAN 30 POINTS OVER MIDTERMS! HOLY SHIT!
  • Reading: 71% (C)
  • Writing: 77.5% (C) (composed of a research paper: 24.5/30 and a test: 53/70)
    Well, I'd better pack for Japan now. Maybe I'll update again from Busan.

    June 4, 2008

    BARRING AN EXTREMELY UNLIKELY EVENT, I WILL GRADUATE FROM YONSEI UNIVERSITY KOREAN LANGUAGE INSTITUTE!

    Today I took my reading test. She graded it on the spot and I got 71%. This averages with my midterm reading exam (55%) to make 63%. Yahoo! I passed reading by a 3% margin! As for listening, I don't know what I got on the final, but it must have been at least a 62%, because the teacher said she calculated my average listening score for the term and it exceeded 60%. I haven't gotten back my speaking or writing results yet, but since I had more than 80% on each one of those at midterms, I would need to literally get less than 40% to fail either one of them.

    My attendance currently stands at 166 hours (you must attend 160 hours of class out of 200 to pass). So I pass in that respect.

    Unless something catastrophic and bizarre happens, like my teacher inaccurately reporting my listening test score, or deciding that she hates me and giving me a 0% participation grade, I'll pass the class and graduate from Yonsei University Korean Language Institute.

    So now I can just sit back and relax. Oh wait, I can't. I have to go to Japan tomorrow. Oh well.

    I hope I got at least a C this term, but if I didn't, just graduating will satisfy me. I am so ecstatic right now. I stayed up all of last night and didn't get a minute of sleep, and if I hadn't done that, well, since I passed it by a mere 6% margin, it seems unlikely that I would have passed it had I not studied that hard. Today has become a very good day. I celebrated by eating McDonald's, watching American TV, and taking a nice, long nap.

    Graduation day is on June 11. Then I'm a free man, free to go to any country I'm able to go to, free to study the things I want to (admittedly I got a bit sick of studying Korean), etc.

    I'm going to try to knock out my associate's degree over the next seven weeks, then after that, start studying Information Technology full-time (my major for my bachelor's degree), while continuing to live in Asia (though not necessarily Korea).

    June 3, 2008: UPDATE 2
    Well, let me tell you, those tests WERE NOT as easy as lying down and eating ddeok, the way the teacher had said they would be. Both of the ones I've done so far (writing and listening) were quite hard. So I'm a little bit pissed that our teacher said that when pretty much none of the students found them to be "as easy as lying down and eating rice cake."

    For the writing test, I don't even need a 40% on the final to pass, so I'm not too concerned about it (because I did well on the writing midterm). Listening is a different story. I need a 62% this time. I got a 58% last time. I truly have no idea if I reached my target or not. It was, just like the midterm, one hell of a test that few people found easy. I guess the Yonsei KLI doesn't care if seven people in our class of 12 fail.

    Since the finals for writing and listening have been anything but easy, I see no reason to expect the reading final to be easy, either, so I'd better prepare with everything I've got, even though I really don't want to study right now (in too much agony about whether I passed listening). I mean, I could have already failed the class based on my listening scores, so the hours of study I'm about to do could be for diddly squat.

    Deciding to take a break from the testing hell, I got two bacon cheeseburgers and some fries from McDonald's and turned on the TV and watched an English channel. Saw "A Cinderella Story." What a bad movie. It was so incredibly unrealistic, it just irritated me. You can't have an unpopular/nerdy girl played by Hillary Duff. It just doesn't work. There is no such thing as an attractive high school girl who doesn't know her true attractiveness. They're all QUITE aware. I remember that period quite well -- every girl without some sort of horrible disfigurement was doing QUITE well, so the whole idea of "actually a beautiful girl but doesn't realize it" is the stupidest premise for a movie that I've ever seen.

    I want to see a real movie. When finals are done, I have to go to Japan, but after I come back, maybe I'll see the new Indiana Jones movie.

    June 3, 2008
    Well, the final exams for Level 6 have begun.

  • If I fail them, that's a bad thing. If that happens, I won't graduate from Yonsei University Korean Language Institute this term. I might be able to swing another term, but it might get in the way of getting my bachelor's degree on time, and of course, I don't want that, either.
  • If I pass the exams and get a score in the 60s overall (looking likely given my midterms) I'll graduate but not be able to transfer Level 6, meaning that I will not be able to double major in IT and Area Studies: East Asia (instead, only single major in IT). This is because the major requirements for Area Studies: East Asia state that you must have two classes of upper-level language. Only Level 5 and Level 6 are likely counted as upper-level.
  • If I'm very lucky, I'll get 70% overall or higher. This is what I'm aiming for. A 70% would mean I could transfer the credits to the US, and double major. Of course, I would also graduate from the KLI.

    So there are three possible outcomes. I hope I don't get the first one, but if I get the second one, it's acceptable, and if I get the third one, graduation day could be one of the best days of my life.

    I have good news. I had found a mistake on my listening midterm in the grading. I just found out yesterday afternoon that it had been bumped up to 58%. So I just need a 62% on this final listening test, not 65%. May not make a huge deal, or it might completely save me. I'm glad I caught that error and notified them about it!

    Oh, and if I can't double major, it's not the end of the world. It's not like employers here in Asia care much whether I majored in their culture anyway. It's more a gimmick for US employers to hire me and send me overseas, and that's not what I'm shooting for. Majoring in Area Studies: East Asia would largely be a vanity thing and a resume filler.


    The Entrance to the Amsa Prehistoric Ruins


    Inside an Umjip (움집, pit house)


    This is a map of the grounds. However, besides the nine restored pit houses, it doesn't seem like there is much prehistoric stuff to see. Let me know if I've missed something important!


    Maybe a Monolith, Maybe a Bench, Maybe a Bench Meant to Look Like a Monolith, Maybe a Reconstructed Monolith, Maybe a Reconstructed Bench, or Perhaps Even a Reconstructed Bench Originally Meant to Look Like a Monolith


    This is the entrance of an umjip, but it's such a horrible picture, I'm only including it because I want to include 100% of the pictures on my disposable camera.


    This is a photo of a village of umjip. There are nine reconstructed umjip in total, though obviously not all are shown. People are thought to have lived in structures like these on the Korean peninsula around 6,000 BC (according to one of the plaques, others say different dates).


    Umjip from Back


    Umjip from Front


    Nice Forest (these are almost impossible to see anywhere else in Seoul)

    Information Plaques:

  • Information in English
  • Information in Korean (actually different from the above English information, so maybe worth a read if you know Korean)
  • Umjip Information (very hard to read, sorry, that's the best my disposable camera could do)
  • June 1, 2008

    Click on the pictures to enlarge them!

    Just wanted to make sure you KNEW that you could do that, since the shrunken versions are kind of ugly. These are the pictures that I took at the Amsa ruins in Amsa-dong. A flood in 1925 uncovered the remains of an ancient settlement there, including stone axes, arrowheads, etc. Then they decided to reconstruct nine prehistoric pit houses, or umjip. The umjip are pretty cool to see. Unfortunately, there isn't a whole lot else to see. It's just basically a big park with the umjip taking up a small section of it. Of course, nice parks are hard to find in Seoul, so that was nice, too.

    I wrote a thesis for Level 6 on this, which I'm almost 100% sure sucked. That's too bad.

    So I'm throwing all these pictures up here for your enjoyment. Now I'd probably better go and study because of Yonsei Level 6 finals which start the day after tomorrow.

    May 28, 2008
    I have been planning on writing my Yonsei KLI graduation thesis on the Ark of the Covenant Korean prehistory.

    It had been rumored (via whispered tales) that there were the ruins of an ancient settlement in Amsa-dong, said to be 8,000 years old. I had no idea if the rumors were true, or if I could find them, or even if I would come back alive! However, needing to get some pictures for this thesis, I boarded the train and embarked on a journey to Amsa-dong. Who could POSSIBLY know what adventures I was about to encounter?

    The first sign that something was VERY wrong was when I got off the train. T-MONEY CARD ERROR! The gates locked down in front of me. Knowing I had to act fast, I JUMPED over the gate to freedom. I hurried out of the underground passageway and into daylight. Close call.

    Needing to go native, blend in, and disappear, I spoke the local language, Korean. I inquired at the LG Telecom cell phone store for the location of the fabled ancient settlement. I also attempted to gather information from (Mormon) missionaries, but with no success. I trudged in the direction that the ruins were rumored to be in...

    Ah, but another complication! The ruins are guarded. You cannot enter after 5:30 -- because after 5:30, the sun sets, and the land is covered in DARKNESS, and with darkness comes DANGER!

    However, the guards, obviously deceived by my local-like language skills, figured I would be safe if I only stayed until 6:00. Little did they know that I was actually an undercover white guy on a mission...

    I knew I did not have long to find the ruins of the ancient settlement! After bushwhacking my way through forest paths, there it was -- THE ANCIENT VILLAGE!

    I took the necessary photos for the thesis paper, and then entered one of the Neolithic huts. NATIVES! OH MY GOD!

    Fortunately, it seemed they were not actually real natives, but merely representations created to look like natives. However, I wasn't out of the woods yet (literally or figuratively). I attempted to exit the 8,000-year-old settlement, but THE GATE HAD CLOSED! I had reached the climax of my adventure. It was now or never. I knew that if the gate did not reopen, and if I did nothing to escape, I would starve to death in about three weeks. Actually, that was the least of my worries -- if I did not escape the ruins and didn't drink anything for three days, I'd be a goner as well! So I had to come up with a plan...

    Throwing my trusty 3,000 won backpack on the top of the high wall, I climbed up the wall via a part of the wall that protruded. Then I JUMPED! Fortunately I didn't break my neck, or end up impaled in a stake-lined pit. Free at last, I headed to the photo development shop to get the photos developed, and prepared to write up my paper for the university.

    By the way, on a completely unrelated note, I really want to see the new Indiana Jones movie, but money and time are an issue.

    May 26, 2008
    The most incredible thing happened today. Let me give you some background first.

    When I went to Robinson Secondary School in Fairfax, Virginia (2001-2005) I knew this Korean guy named Charles Yang. We were in the same Pre-IB Geometry and IB Physics classes. I hadn't seen him since 2004.

    I was just adding a bunch of people that I'd known from before on Facebook. This morning, I got the notification that Charles Yang had added me. And sent me a message: "Woah long time. This is so weird but I think I saw you in ���� [Gangnam] two saturdays ago. Anyways its pretty cool that you are going to Yonsei. I was there two years ago. Maybe i'll cya around."

    HOLY SHIT! What are the chances of running into someone you knew from high school on the other side of the world, without having planned it, just in public like that? It's a Festivus Miracle!

    It's also occurred to me that I don't have much time left until the finals begin. So here's the new study plan for the next eight days:

  • Everyday: Watch Korean TV or listen to Korean radio for one hour. Review old Level 6 vocab (100 quiz rounds each day). Look up, input, and learn new vocab.
  • 5/26: Write my 연구 발표 (research report) for presentation in class tomorrow. Look up half of "우리들의 일그러진 영웅" ("Our Distorted Hero").
  • 5/27: Prepare a 신문 발표 (newspaper presentation). Look up the second half of "우리들의 일그러진 영웅."
  • 5/28: Have Koreans explain the first four pages of "우리들의 일그러진 영웅" to me.
  • 5/29: Have Koreans explain the second four pages of "우리들의 일그러진 영웅" to me. Read through ALL of the 듣기 연습 (listening practice) to get the patterns and words "engraved into my chest," as the Koreans say.
  • 5/30: Have Koreans explain the last four pages of "우리들의 일그러진 영웅" to me. Read through ALL of the 듣기 연습 five times.
  • 5/31: Read through the whole story of "우리들의 영웅" and do a second pass for things I didn't understand. Read through ALL of the 듣기 연습 five times.
  • 6/1: Do a third pass through "우리들의 일그러진 영웅," because I simply MUST get at least a 65% on the reading test to make up for my 55% earlier this term. Read through ALL of the 듣기 연습 five times.
  • 6/2: Do a fourth pass through "우리들의 일그러진 영웅" and review ANYTHING related to reading in the second half of the term. Read through ALL the 듣기 연습 five times.

    If I do all these things, I should be as prepared as can be expected for the final reading test. I need a 65% on that to pass the class. I think it's POSSIBLE if I know the story really, really well, as well as all the practice paragraphs, and 90%+ of the words we've learned this term.

    Reviewing the listening comprehension practice and practicing by listening to the radio/TV is about all I can realistically do to prepare for the listening test, but I'm not as afraid of that because it will have to be easy for the class to pass it. Remember, in our class of 12, seven people failed the listening test, so either they make it easier than last time, or nearly everybody is going to fail.

    The speaking and writing tests should be no problem. Basically, I'd like to get at least a 70% this term, but if I am only in the 60s, it's not the end of the world. I'll still have my graduation certificate from Yonsei University Korean Language Institute, the only difference it'll make is slightly more work that I need to do for my bachelor's degree (since I'll be missing six credits) and I won't be able to double major (in IT and Area Studies: East Asia), only single major (in IT only, which is actually the only useful major anyway for employment purposes).

    May 25, 2008

    My Grade Report for HIS 253

    'A' in History of Asian Civilizations I!

    I had a hunch I'd get an A in that class, but since the final was 30%, and the final was the last thing left ungraded, I wasn't sure. The final had been pretty easy up until the essay section, where I was really crunched for time and REALLY dashed off one of those essays. I got a 91.67% on the final, and therefore got an A in the class.

    It was a pretty tough course considering it's NOVA. I doubt I would have gotten an A had I not had extensive experience in Asia. Well, it's nice to have another official certification for things I feel I already know (although it taught me a lot, too).

    I am now 70% of the way there to my associate's degree and 35% of the way there to my bachelor's degree. To celebrate, I'm going to go to the barbecue restaurant next door and order some �߾�ä����?amp;#65533;� (chicken and vegetable fried rice) that's only 2,900 won. I just discovered it yesterday. Less than $3, but very tasty.


    What the Site Looked Like Roughly Six Months (CORRECTION: Eight Months) After Its Creation


    One of the Earliest Files on the Site: May 21, 2006: Admission Letter to Sogang (CORRECTION: March 21, 2006)

    May 21, 2008

    TODAY IS THIS SITE'S BIRTHDAY!

    Today is this site's second birthday (CORRECTION: actually it's two years and two months old). Two years ago (CORRECTION: two years and two months ago), I created the first page on this server, and that began my site on returning to Asia. The site has changed A LOT. It was originally just a few images and files stuck on the web as a web-based storage drive with only one page -- one where you could download my Korean keyboard font and type Korean with the on-screen keyboard (the page is still accessible here, because I have a policy of never deleting pages that have been made public: Charlie's Korean Font for Microsoft On-Screen Keyboard). Later, it evolved into a multiple-page website. Take a look at the screenshot from December 15, 2006 on the left side of the screen -- that's what my site looked like roughly 1.5 years ago.

    You'll notice that it has changed a lot. 1.5 years ago, the logo was crudely drawn on a piece of paper and photographed. It had ad banners (which generated basically no revenue, so I removed them). It had no frames and was cluttered with links. Still, it had kind of a neat, hobbyist look to it, don't you think?

    I've learned a few things about web design, and a few things about maintaining something over a long period of time. I bet most Korea blog-type sites don't last two years, but mine has, so I feel kind of proud, even though it isn't the world's most amazing accomplishment. I guess paying $4.95 a month for my web space reminds me to update.

    Though the site's focus may shift to other Asian countries (or heck, even life elsewhere, too, should I decide to go and live on another continent), I plan to update it for a long time to come. It's a great to have a journal, even if the journal isn't really private.

    I have used less than 90 megabytes of the 500 available to me before I have to upgrade. So at this rate, I have enough space for the next eight years. Then maybe I'll need to start paying $8.95 a month instead of $4.95 a month. :-)

    UPDATE
    Now I feel like an idiot. This site isn't two years old as of today -- it's two years and two months old as of today. I misread "March" as "May" when going through my old records. Okay, but even better! I'm not going to take down this post just because it isn't the site's second birthday, though, since my site never got to have a birthday party on the actual day.

    Copyright (C) 2008 Charles Wetzel. All rights reserved.