Korea diaries: ahn nyeong ha se yo

It took some time, but I learned to LOVE kimchi while living in South Korea. We always have kimchi in the fridge. Sofia eats it straight out of the jar like a pickle, and I love throwing it on a rice bowl. The other night I made sheet pan Korean chicken bowls with sweet potatoes and yum yum sauce, found over at Half Baked Harvest. Tieghan’s creations are perfection-she had me at yum yum sauce! I’m making it again this week!

A lot of you have asked me about how I ended up teaching English in South Korea. Honestly, I didn’t think it through. I was twenty-four, had two degrees, and was living with my parents again without a single clue about what I wanted to do professionally. Basically I was young, lost, and looking for an adventure.

“The adventure” all happened relatively fast once I found the right situation. One of my favorite professors in grad school would tell us stories about the years he spent teaching English in China when he was younger. I thought that was the coolest thing I’d heard AND it seemed doable since the only professional skill I needed was my own native language.

I started researching ways that I could teach ESL in a foreign country. My first very mature thought was that Paris sounded amazing. Thanks to my parents, I’d been able to visit France a couple of times during college. I knew I loved the food and to my young naive self, what else was there to really know? I was also obsessed with the French film Amelie at the time and couldn’t wait to start living my own beautiful French life. Clearly I was making sound, well-thought out decisions. Thankfully, I eventually realized that if I followed my Parisian plan to fruition, I would more than likely end up sharing a sparse, small living space with strangers, not the fabulously furnished Montmartre flat I was dreaming of. Nor would I be eating overflowing plates of fresh pasta, seafood, and croissants. More than likely I’d be eating tuna from a can. So I said au revoir to my fantasy.

At one point I briefly exchanged messages via Skype with a person claiming to represent a host family in Turkey, who was looking for a nice American girl to move in with them and tutor their children. They would cook all of my meals for me, he said, and we’d be like a family. I was like hmmmm homemade Turkish food or OH HEY BYE OMG.

Then I clicked on a People Recruit link that I came across in my search and the rest as they say is history. I don’t know if they’re still around, but at the time they had a reputable website and professional application process. I read through everything, filled out the application, uploaded my resume, and thought I’d have to wait for awhile to hear back. While I was running just a few hours later though, my phone rang. It was the bubbliest most excited person that I’ve probably ever spoken to calling from the recruiting agency in South Korea. I remember thinking that I couldn’t believe I was talking to someone in South Korea!!! In 2004, to this small town Texas girl, that seemed so crazy. The recruiter wanted to verify my qualifications, schedule interviews, and send me more details about what I was potentially getting into. I was definitely shocked and excited.

If I remember correctly, the interview process took about a week before I accepted a position with a private chain of English schools. The branch I would teach at was in a suburb about 20 minutes outside of Ulsan. They would furnish my airline tickets, pay for my living accommodations, and provide a cell phone. I’d be financially responsible for only my electricity and water bills. They handled the visa process for me, and a couple of months later I found myself on the longest flight ever to South Korea.

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