Monday, July 2, 2007

Leaving in 52 days... give or take a day...

With life in Calgary keeping us just as busy as we thought it would, it's taken me some time to update this here blog with the good news. Steph and I have been offered positions at the same school beginning August 30th! We will be living in Suwon, which is a city of approximately 1 million people, so - roughly the size of Calgary, I suppose. The only thing is, Suwon is very close to Seoul (approximately 40 minutes by transit), which means that we'll be neighbours with a city that currently houses 10.3 million people, which is more than 2 million people greater than the population of New York City. That's something I have a great deal of difficulty fathoming right now, but there it is - and here is Suwon, just so you can see how close it is to the big ol' metropolis...

This makes us happy, because according to this map, we will be living extremely close to our friends Ian and Bonnie who live in neighbouring Gunpo City. Seems like we'll be spitting distance from each other. Look out, Ian - 'cause I'm working on a big loogie just for you...

I am getting the impression that living in Suwon is akin to living in a place like Oakville - very close to a major centre, but still a major centre in comparison to most urban settings. It seems that surrounding Seoul is one huge developed urban landscape. My hope is that green space is a major priority in Korean culture and urban planning :)
Looking online, it seems that by far the biggest historical cultural attraction in Suwon is Hwaseong Fortress. According to Wikipedia, the fortress was "built from 1794 to 1796. King Jeongjo constructed the fortress complex to honor and house the remains of his father Prince Sado who was forced to commit suicide by being shut in a rice chest by King Yeongjo." That sounds pretty severe. But it looks like a very cool place to walk around and I'm sure we'll be checking it out shortly after our arrival. But you don't have to wait, of course - you can check it out right now...

The whole thing is supposed to be rather huge and I'm sure it will make for a few introspective days roaming about our new city.
We are very happy to finally have a start date - now all that remains is our departure date. For those of you that are in the process or thinking about applying to teach ESL in Korea, I am realizing that applying at least a couple of months in advance of when you'd like to go is a very good idea. Most schools have their own way of doing things and if you want to be very specific, you can read about procedures on another site. For us, it's been kind of a fast, but then slow process. What the hell am I talking about? Well, we applied to a couple of well-researched and well-established schools on June 16th. The next day we heard back from both and though they both seemed very desirable for various reasons, only one was able to offer two positions at the same school with a start date that appealed to us.
After arranging a phone interview, we sat and waited for the day when we each recieved a call from our potential employer and we were relieved to know that everything went very well. We spoke with a lady from human resources for over an hour and had a very fun and professional interview with a chance to ask and answer many questions on both sides. Afterwards, we both felt that we had made the right choice and hopefully, that we would receive an offer soon.
The offer did come a couple of days later for our positions at the school's Suwon location. We were each sent a contract to look over as well as contact information for one of the teachers currently working there. We were also given 48 hours to reply regarding our intentions with the contract. We promptly asked for more time as well as for two more teacher contacts so that we could get a balanced opinion. Our TESOL course recommended speaking with at least two current teachers who can answer any questions and give you the lowdown on what to expect and what things are really like there.
We were happy to exchange a few emails with each of them and were happy to hear that the most responsive one is actually going to be staying on for a contract extension - that bodes well :)
We then let the school know that we would be accepting the contracts and now begins the hurry-up and wait bit. It involves a few things - mainly reading a lot, UPSing documents to our employer, getting info back from them, sending goodies to the Korean consulate in Vancouver, getting goodies back, and then getting our tickets sent to us. We are looking at a departure date of around the 22nd of August and we have been told that the rest of our paperwork, if completed in a timely fashion, will take about 4 weeks. Whew! I guess we made it just under the wire.
So, now begins an interesting summer of anticipation and hopefully some relaxation. When you look at your calendar and realize that the majority of it is filled with work, you start to wonder how you're going to get it all done in the time you have left. In some ways, it's good to have a date so that you can know how much you can actually do within that time frame. In other ways, I kind of wish that I was leaving tomorrow so that there wouldn't be enough time for sentimentality and sad goodbyes - to which I would be the biggest contributor, I'm sure :)
I look forward to getting the ticket and having a for sure date. from there we build back, and for me - I know I'm going to work really hard to find some way to see my little nephews as much as humanly possible within the next two months. Time to buy an isight, and time to take a peak at Seoul...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

...hey, it's just 'some random guy' again. this is crazy stuff. it's all feeling quite real for me too. do you know where you'll be living, like which part of suwon??? we'll be getting back to korea a few days before you arrive... i'm sure they are arranging a ride from the airport, but if you need a lift... i'm more than happy. see ya soon and let the loogie war begin!! demilitarized zone my ass!