14 May 2008

Back from the Honeymoon

We have been back from the honeymoon for just over a week now. Originally I planned to be a 'housewife' until the time that we would be back in the UK, but I realised that we needed a little more money for Songsu's visa application, and that being home alone doesn't suit me. To this end, I signed a 3 month teaching contract ( a rare find in Korea) for a Kindergarten school local to me, which also keeps me from feeling useless and depressed at home.

At the same time I am considering an independent recruiter position in the UK for my ex-boss at CDI, who recently set up a recruitment business, recruiting teachers into Korean schools. At first I was put off by the low renumeration, but as it turns out I misunderstood the business proposal and the renumeration is higher than I expected. This opens doors for me, as before I left Korea I considered recruiting or HR as a career, and this is certainly a step in the right direction. Working with my ex-boss, (soon to be my boss again!!!) I will be doing mostly canvassing and marketing while he takes all the responsibilty of connecting the candidates with the right employers and taking care of them for their first few months at their new school. This I will do on top of a regular full-time job.

Meanwhile I have another half-business proposal from one of Songsu's close friends to help him sell his stationary products in the UK, with no cost to ourselves. Added to this Songsu's current boss is planning on outsourcing work to him in the UK, as he has so much trust in him. It feels like people around us are jumping at the opportunity present to them by my and Songsu's possible reutn to the UK, not that we are complaining, as it benefits us too! Of course we will not be relying on any of this; we will both ensure that we get full-time jobs in the UK.

Many people have asked about wedding and honeymoon photographs. We are still waiting on the wedding hall to print them; they should be ready in the next two weeks. That's a one month wait for wedding photographs-ridiculous!!! However we have the ones from the honeymoon, and I have opened up a facebook account as uploading photographs on there seems to be more effecient than photobucket. My facebook profile is at
http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=552396510 (but you need your own facebook profile to visit it) and our photographs can be viewed here.

As for the visa application-I am still contacting various government/visa officers seeking advice about our catch22 situation: We are here in Korea but our application will be stronger if I, his sponsor, have a full-time (and preferably permanent) job in the UK. This means me arriving a minimum of 2 months in advance of him, and I may have to go back there without an offer of employment, seeing as UK employers are not flexible on telephone interviews and start dates. If I get a permanent job but his visa is still rejected, then I would have to fly back to Korea, having wasted mine and my employer's time, and my money on an air ticket. We want to know if we still have a strong enough application with us both in Korea and me with no offer of full-time employment in the UK, or if the best option is for me to fly to the UK ahead of him. The application alone costs over 500 Pounds, so we want to get it right.

Watch this space for progress on the application, and news of photos!

15 March 2008

Kinky Korea

Just thought I would share a few photos with you all (taken with mobile phones so the quality is bad).

1) The name of a bar in Gangnam

2) Found in the men's toilets (not sure where)

A new theory about love revealed on a condom machine.

3) Found in a ladies toilets (also Gangnam)

It reads:

Put the tissue in the tissue bin.

The tissue bin is hungry.

Also this is difficult for the toilet because the tissue is dry and blocks his thoat so he will vomit repeatedly.

Please put the tissue in the tissue bin for the sake of both the tissue bin and the toilet.

Apparently we still need to be spoken to like children. Though I suppose being too lazy to put the tissue in the tissue bin constitutes child-like behaviour.

4) Found on the subway train:

No drinking, no smoking and no using your super-powers to grow, take up all the space and then nod off. Also the spread-eagle position is not becoming.

14 March 2008

Catching Up

The closer I get to the Big Day, the more manic my life becomes. First we had to go to the immigration office in Seoul with the marriage certificate on a Friday morning to get my marriage/residency visa, only to be told that we had to go to Incheon immigration office instead. Songsu made a lot of effort to find out exactly what was required of us, but they failed to mention on the phone that we have to go to an immigration office in the same city or area that is written on his ID card. Songsu's ID card has an Incheon address rather than our Bundang address on it because when he tried to change it he was told that an 'officetel' address is not a real address. This meant we had to drive to Incheon, a week later to apply for the visa. Thankfully, after two weeks of waiting I got my visa.

Two weekends ago we drove to Incheon to try on the wedding dresses at the wedding hall. It was hard to choose because they all fitted and looked so pretty, but between my friend, Songsu's mother and aunt we finally picked out one. After that the make-up artist and hairdresser practiced my hair and make-up ready for the wedding. It was hard to convince Songu's mother that wearing a pink pallette may look fantastic on a Korean girl, but it makes Western girls look cheap. She still isn't happy with my final choice of make up.

Also Songsu and I have been looking at wedding rings. In the UK the engagement ring has stones, but the wedding ring is usually quite a simple design. In Korea however the wedding rings look like British engagement rings, which means that we have to look at the 'couple rings' for our wedding rings. Besides, Songsu would rather gorge his own eyes out than wear a ring with big fat diamonds in it.

Tomorrow we will go to Incheon yet again to try on the wedding hanboks (Korean traditional dress), visit Songsu's mother's friend's jewelry shop to look for wedding rings, and meet with the priest in order to organise the script for the wedding- a nightmare seeing as we are mixing cultures and languages.

This week we have finally been able to give out the wedding invitation cards that Songsu designed, along with instuctions for our guests.

For a long time I did not feel excited about getting married. Certainly having to do all these doucments has taken the romance out of it. Only when I tried on the wedding dress did I start to feel excited about the wedding, but most of the time I swing between stress and apathy. I want it all to be over and then we can just get on with our lives together, hopefully in UK ( another round of stress applying for his UK visa). However I am looking forward to the honeymoon...lying on a beach for a week stress-free is a luxury I have not experienced in about 5 years.

11 February 2008

Light of the Moon

Last night Korea suffered a national disaster: the tragic loss of National Treasure no.1, Namdaemoon (also known as Soonglyemoon). The south gate of the original city of Seoul lit up like a torch, stripping the stones bare of it's original 600 year old wood. So far there have been many theories surrounding the cause of the fire, and Koreans are unsuprisingly in a sombre mood today, seeing as the Japanese had already pillaged and plundered everything else.

Today Songsu and I got up at 6am so that we could make our 9.30pm appointment at the UK Embassy. When we got

to the city centre a newspaper reporter followed us, asking for a foreigner's opinion of what happened last night. Unfortunately we did not have enough time to answer his questions, as we were more concerned of the events of this morning: getting all the marriage documents filled out and signed.

As of this morning, Songsu and I became officially husband and wife.

Onward with visa applications and the rest of the wedding plans!

07 February 2008

새해 복 많이 받으세요!!!!

Today is the first day of the lunar year, the Chinese year of the rat. It actually feels like a new year since for the solar/western new year my hagwon did not give us time off. However we only got two out of the three day holiday off. The first day is usually spent preparing the food (usually the woman's job), the second day spent eating the Ddok Mandu Gook breakfast, praying and bowing to elder family members to receive money. The last day is usually spent hanging out with friends at the pub. Koreans visit their parents or grandparents and sleep overnight so they can share the breakfast together on New Year's Day.

I was working on the day that is allocated for preparing the food, so Songsu's mother just bought everything at the supermarket. However she made the soup (Ddok Mandu Gook) this morning and nagged everybody to get up while she was at it. Songsu's brother got back from his last day at the army 24 hours before and I had a hangover so it was difficult for us to get up. Songsu's mother wanted her daughter-in-law (middle brother's wife) to help her this time (because usually she is pretty lazy) so I did not feel to guilty about not being able to chip in.

The bowing was equally confusing this time as it was last time, with Songsu's mother wanting I do it the proper way for a female, while his father insisting that it is all right for me to do it the male way as it is easier and more comfortable. In the end I did it the female way, with my left leg placed forward as I bent my head and back as far down as I could. Afterall, Songsu's mother usually wins and I have to bow like this at our wedding anyway.

At both Chusok (Harvest Celebration) and Sollal (Lunar New Year) the younger family members usually give very generously to the older ones. Songsu's mother is quite picky so Songsu usually gives his parents a department store voucher for W100,000. Also bosses usually give a lot to their employees, usually a huge toiletry set or food basket, but the employees then have a duty to give whatever they receive to their parents. So in reality, the bosses buy presents for the parents of their employees. Songsu's parents got the toiletry set that Jimmy gave me (but I kept the tuna^^).

The translation of the title of this post is " Receive lots of good fortune in the New Year", the Korean way of saying "Happy New Year". Songsu and I are hoping that the new year will be happier than the end of the last one. To cut a long story short, a visit to Lotteworld amusement park resulted in one of the workers staring at me in a perverted manner, and when Songsu asked "what are you looking at?" we were then followed by the worker across the amusement park museum, with profanities shouted at our backs. Songsu naturally shouted various choice words back, which lead to the worker grabbing him by the collar and raising his fist to hit him. The worker suggested several times that he should 'step outside' to 'talk' with his fist still raised, but we got out of it and walked into another shop in the museum. Unfortunately the worker followed us a second time and again threatened to drag him outside. None of the other workers tried to help us or call security.

When we finally got safely ushered out of the museum by another customer we came across a security guard who did not believe our story and after much persuasion took us to the customer service centre. When the managers arrived they too did not believe us at first. One of the managers phoned us the next day saying that the worker has been 'warned', and as it turned out they did not bother to check the CCTV. As a result Songsu wrote a four page letter of complaint to the headquarters, and the president personally contacted Songsu on the phone, apologising profusely and said that the the worker had been fired.

Songsu is still considering contacting the newspapers to suggest they research the percentage of foreign woman in Korea who have had some kind sexual attack or been followed home by a Korean man. Korean newspapers scream blue murder about the American soliders attacking young Korean women...in our opinion it's about time Korea took a good look at the opposite.

19 January 2008

Normal is Safe

This week our officetel bought SkyLife, which meant that we could have all the expensive channels at a cheap rate as the whole building shares the satellite. More importantly, it means that I can watch BBC for the first time in nearly 3 1/2 years (except my visits to the UK), and Songsu can get more exposure to the British accent.

Today we will be planning the honeymoon and the design of our wedding cards. There is so much more to do and it all feels overwhelming. Most people have the usual wedding stresses of organising wedding venues, the honeymoon and so forth, but we have to organise all of this with the added stresses of visas, my parents visiting, a language barrier between the two families and trying to turn the Korean interpretation of a white wedding into a British one. The latter is impossible as half of the features that are traditional in a UK wedding are impossible to create here in Korea. We even have to write our wedding vows as they do not exist here.

The honeymoon is difficult to do too; in Korea they have 'honeymoon packages' at the travel agencies, but all of them are just 3 day tours of a bunch of islands at twice the price of a week's holiday at just one location. When we first approached the travel agencies we did not mention that it was a honeymoon, we just said that we wanted to relax somewhere quiet with a nice beach and good service. At all the agencies we visited (and the websites too) this was 'impossible' as it 'doesn't sell'. In the end we had no choice but to mention that it was in fact a honeymoon, which opened more options for us but put the price up. (" Bloody hell, I just wanna relax on a beach for a week" quote Songsu).
Anyway, we have spent the past two weeks researching the places featured in the brochures, and basing our choices on the opinions of the English-speaking, French-speaking and Korean holiday-makers that went there (as these are the languages that we understand, and it gives us a more international opinion of a place). We have finally settled on a couple of resorts, but even organising the honeymoon without a travel agency may put the price of the honeymoon at the same price as the wedding.

In two weeks we will need to sign the wedding contract 3 months in advance of the actual wedding as my teaching contract finishes soon, and I need to change my E2 teaching visa over to an F2 residency visa, just to keep me in Korea without the added expense of flying out of the country and coming back as a tourist. It's a miracle that we have not had a single arguement about the wedding.

I suppose my life was never meant to be normal. As my housemate at uni once said: " God Lou, why do you always have to be different?". I don't intend to be different, it just kind of happens that way.

07 January 2008

A New Year

A new year that came without me paying much attention to it, seeing as I had no time off at Christmas or New Year's day. My boss tried to make us feel better by providing an American style Christmas meal. This was an interesting experience for me as I had always assumed that English and American Christmas dinner was the same. In fact it was very different...no Christmas pudding, no roast potatoes, some weird thing called 'stuffing' that was eaten seperately from the turkey (i.e not inside it), and shock horror, no mince pies. I checked with my American colleagues and apparently this is a typical American Christmas dinner; nothing was lacking due to availability in Korea.

Songsu and I have been feeling stressed recently so he took us to "Spa Village" this weekend for relaxation in an outdoor hottub. I thought the facilities were terrible compared with the price; just a room and access to an outdoor hot tub for a few hours, and a small convenience store which was only half-stocked. Stepping out of my dressing gown in minus temperatures into a hot spa bath was very unpleasant at first but I got used to it after a while. It was nice to look at the stars and drink fake champagne for an hour before retiring to our room.