So, Nancy wrote her first blog post (ok, it was her third), and I cannot possibly let her get ahead of me on this. I don’t know if I’m being competitive so much as it’s a matter of balance. Let’s say you’re a car nut and you have a good friend whose idea of car maintenance is filling the gas tank and the tires, who just drives to and from work, and they suddenly decides to build their own car. So I think it’s time for me to be a bit more consistent and disciplined about posting, to walk my tech talk.
A lot has happened in the last few months. We had lost, through no fault of our own, a couple’s position at a private school in South Korea. That was a difficult and emotional time for us, and it was very frustrating to see to know that it wasn’t going to happen for us at that school, that we would have to start over looking for other positions. Finding a couple position at the same school is particularly difficult, and that’s why losing that job was so challenging. Well that’s one of the reasons, the other reason is that our FBI background checks were going to expire in mid-January and getting new ones would involve time and money. While money was short, time was much more valuable to us. There are two main times of the year which schools hire, and our background checks were going to expire around the beginning of one of those main periods. To give you an idea of the of the timeline, it takes about five weeks to get a background check and another week to a month to get the apostille necessary for the background check from the US Department of State. Those are the most difficult component of the visa paperwork, but certainly not the only one. The other components are getting a apostate deal and notarized copy of your college degree, though that takes only about two weeks and it doesn’t expire. Background checks expire after six months, and Nancy and I had gotten our background checks done back in June. Nancy wrote Nancy’s post about the position that fell through is a short but good explanation of what happened.
Because my job at The Buck ended in October (and it had been tapering off already) money was becoming an issue, so I decided to apply for work until we could get to Korea. I started working at Meijer in late November in the meat department, knowing that I would be leaving in 3 to 6 months. Or at least I hoped I would be leaving in 3 to 6 months, since the challenge of finding work in a much more competitive market in Korea was a bit of an issue with Nancy’s and my ages. For whatever reasons, Korea has an obsession with hiring younger teachers (I’ll probably go into this topic at a later date.). All of the recruiters we had talked to told us that it would be difficult to find work because we were old, old in their eyes being over 30.
Because I wanted it to happen so much, I tried to remain very optimistic, at least on the outside when Nancy and I would talk about the hurdles that we faced. But inside, I was struggling to remain so, knowing that our ages were a high hurdle, and the competition was much more stiff than it had been when I started two years ago. Nancy and I were both desperate to be somewhere else, doing other things, and my job at Meijer wasn’t exactly something I wanted to turn into a career for number of reasons, the first one being that it started at minimum wage and getting up to just $10 an hour would take three years working full-time, based on the union’s pay scale. The other tricky thing about finding work in Korea is that there aren’t a lot of couples positions available and trying to work out a living arrangement with a decent-sized apartment while working at different school was going to be challenging. I was also very tired of us being on different schedules, even though Nancy had bent over backwards with her position at Whirlpool to match my schedules both at the restaurant and at Meijer, which were not very flexible at all.
So it was with a cautious sense of optimism, or veiled pessimism, that I took a friend’s suggestion, someone who was already working in South Korea, to follow up on another mutual friend’s job posting for two positions at her hagwon. The positions are in Dongtan, where I had first worked when I started teaching in South Korea in June of 2010. The job landscape has changed somewhat in the last two years and it seems like schools are taking more of a direct role in hiring teachers directly instead of going through recruiters, though a majority of positions are still done through recruiters. And it was the recruiters mainly who were discouraging about our ages. Lo and behold, my friend’s hagwon, bit right away, and we had two interviews in short order and were hired very quickly. Thank goodness! Fortunately our paperwork, and by that I mean our background checks, would be ready in time for their new school year. When we got them back from the FBI, as we did before, we used a courier service to get them to and from the State Department as quickly as possible, about a week round-trip. We sent visa UPS all of the documents that weren’t already in Korea with our previous recruiter, who we had sent them to back in September for the jobs which fell through, so they could start our work visa application with Korean immigration.
Because I actually started the my first job in Korea without a visa and flew to Guam to get one, which is called making a visa run, I had forgotten, scratch that, never knew the standard process for getting a work visa, and remembered only last Thursday that we needed to do something with the visa application numbers that the school gave us. So there was another mad scramble to get things together and mailed, so the Korean Consulate in Chicago received our applications yesterday and they will be processing them this week. Hopefully we’ll get our passports back with work visas this coming Monday. We already have our plane tickets that the school bought and we’ll be flying out of Chicago on February 21. Woo hoo! The next few weeks are going to go quickly and neither of us have started packing or wrapping things up here in Benton Harbor, so we have a lot of work ahead of us, but the joy will make the work relatively light and our future stretches out in front of us.
We could not possibly have done this without a huge amount of financial and emotional support from our families. I’m also extremely grateful that Nancy has been willing and able to do this. I’m really looking forward to having some wonderful adventures together there and in other parts of Asia when possible. I have a lot of friends in South Korea, both Korean and foreign, and I look forward to them meeting her. She’s at a great time in her life for this type of adventure and I can’t believe how lucky I am to be in this relationship. I think she’ll really love it and I know that I’ll love spending time with her in Korea and taking the next step in our lives and our relationship.