Tag Archives: gyeonggi english village

Slow Summer Beat

17 Jun

Life continues to be a bit strange and unpredictable in the recently altered and still mostly quiet land of English Village. As many of you know, work life suddenly and surprisingly changed after the tragic SEWOL ferry accident in South Korea. After so many students lost their lives traveling on a class trip, many schools, parents, and even the government responded by canceling class trips for… we don’t know how long.

With no students visiting English Village on their class trips, we now make our way following our leadership’s attempt to more actively engage our daily visitors.  The only problems is, during the week quite often… visitors are few and far between.  Often we sit at empty tents waiting for no one to come, or stand at the front gate ready to greet a handful of visitors.

There are still some students to be found at English Village.  The regular syncopation of my Saturday book club classes continues to beat consistent and strong.  But these modest Saturday classes teaching young Koreans to read are a tiny drop in a now quite empty bucket.

Despite continued change and a degree of uncertainty, there are still some things at English Village I can always count on. I can be sure, without fail, that if I give a package of crayons to my young book club students, before coloring can begin they will sort the crayons and put them in proper order.  If, after sorting them, they find they have two of one color or a color is missing, I know for sure that soon I will hear an innocent voice call “teacher” alerting me to their crayon situation that must be handled before coloring can commence.

I can also rely on my book club students laughing at the strangest things.  If I accidentally put the dot on my “i” to the right of its “base” when writing quickly, I know I will get a chuckle or two. Dropping something on the floor will merit ridiculous giggles.  And, shockingly, if they see my stomach when my shirt accidentally lifts up a little while describing something in an animated way, I can count on the laughter bringing down the room.  One time I even had a sticker on my butt… ridiculous chuckles.  Yes, some things will never change.

We have a small bundle of Russian students now visiting English Village.  Some of these students just visiting for a week or two have already come and gone.  What remains is the modest assembly of students here for 3 and 6 weeks. A handful them have our full attention with behavior busting boundaries on an hourly basis.  Others are sweet and somewhat engaged and ready for class.  When I see them move from class to class, the look on their face reflects a mixture of homesickness, heat exhaustion and perhaps just a bit of “English Village” fatigue.

Russian students typically visit English Village a couple of time each year.  It is undoubtedly a bit less “exciting” this year as the small group of students are the only ones on campus.  Typically they would be just a spot in a sea of Korean compadres.  Not this year.

We hear that our special programming in August is going to be hopping with students.  Perhaps after that a return to the regular craziness bursting at the seams with students.

In truth, aside from tragic event that caused this interruption, I am earnestly appreciative of a shift in intensity.  I was ready for a break from week after week and month after month of stampedes of Korean adolescent students.  A teacher mentioned recently that I look happier lately and in truth I think it is because I simply feel less stressed without teaching so many students in such an erratic schedule and system all of the time.

June weather has been kind in Paju so far as the humidity and heat continues to gently make herself known.  It is still nothing compared to the wall of heat and humidity I knew and sort of loved in New Orleans.

It is Tuesday, but also my “Friday” as I have a mid-week weekend.  It’s always nice to have a break for a few days, even just to have some simple time off to relax and do whatever feels good and fun in the moment.

How is summer settling in for you?  Thanks for reading and it’s always good to hear from you!

Photo of lush and green summer days at English Village.

Sound of Silence

23 Apr

It is quite a shock.  But… for now, there are no students at Gyeonggi English Village in Paju, South Korea.  In truth I didn’t see it coming. I imagine other teachers didn’t either.  But here we wait on the quiet grounds wondering what is next.

It all started with the tragic ferry accident in South Korea.  I am sure the news has made its way to you wherever you are in the world. A ferry holding over 450 passengers was on a regular route from the northwest coast of South Korea to Jeju Island, a popular vacation destination.  Who was on board?  Mostly it was a group of high school students from Ansan, a city just outside of Seoul. They were traveling to Jeju for their class trip. What followed is the tragic story of a slowly sinking ferry just hours from its destination with hundreds of people still trapped inside, mostly students.

Needless to say, the people and parents of Korea are insane with grief and outrage.  It seems true that a folly of errors, poor judgement and bad training contributed widely to the tragic outcome of these circumstances.

What was unexpected for me, perhaps as an American, perhaps as an outsider, was the government response that now has the streets of English Village in silence.  It is my understanding that the Gyeonggi Province government canceled all student trips for the upcoming semester.  Other provinces have responded in kind. I am told even China and Japan and considering the same.  And now schools in South Korea far and wide have canceled their three-day excursion to Gyeonggi English Village.

I can understand the compelling desire to protect oneself and your children particularly in the face of something so devastating.  In truth after reading about the accident my reaction was to plot and plan how I could avoid such a situation myself… should I stay off of ferries?  I am more than aware of the mind and body’s unpredictable response in the aftermath of a disaster.  I can recall shortly after Hurricane Katrina flooded my home city of New Orleans being in a second floor apartment in Texas feeling concerned if I left items on the floor they might get ruined by the flood.  However, it was still a surprise to me that the government responded in such a manner.

This is an event that Korea is taking very seriously and its people are still sifting through their rage, politics and confusion. The “no trip mandate” is just one way they are demonstrating that.  For us at Gyeonggi English Village, it leaves us for now with mostly no students (a few other more modest programs still operate lightly).  We are told programming for the next two months is practically vacant with no real plan for what is to come.  Our administration is twisting and bending itself in an attempt to recover or adapt to this new face of English Village.  There is talk of bringing in more international students and focusing on our one day programs which don’t require students to come spend the night.

In the meantime this leaves us in a great space of uncertainty.  Our work time this week has been occupied with planning our lessons for our month-long program in August that we assume will happen… but I suppose truly time will tell.  What is in store for us as teachers, foreign staff, and an institution is far from clear.

This circumstance leaves me in a humbled space.  While in some ways the quiet is a welcome break, it is also a haunting reminder. And so I pray… for all involved.  Those who survived the ferry.  Those who did not.  Those who are suffering and outraged by this tragedy. Those who are blamed.  And also quite simply for me and the other teachers at my place of work as we face some new uncertainty in our own lives.

That is it for now, writing in the unprecedented silence of Gyeonggi English Village.

The Students are Coming!

10 Apr

It was a warmish Spring Monday at English Village.  The air was fresh and clean. It felt great to be outside for a bit before our busy day began.  I was lined up with around thirty of my fellow teachers awaiting the arrival of our newest group of students. Finally, there they were, coming down main street and around the bend.  The street filled with adolescent Korean bodies diminishing in the distance into tiny beings. As we watched them descend towards us, they kept coming and coming…as if an endless assembly of students, until, at last, they had all arrived.

Later that day when students were dressed in their informal attire, I couldn’t help but notice that many of them were wearing the same shirt.  It said… “The Sexy Face” in logo fashion similar to “The North Face,” a brand very popular in Korea.  “It’s a class t-shirt,” an English Village teacher informed me.  “Surprising,” I thought.  How strange it seemed for middle school students, boys and girls, to have a class shirt with that message.

“Sexy” easily drips out of the mouths of Korean middle-school students. It helps to consider, as I am told, that the word “sexy” has a bit of a different meaning in Korea than it does in the United States and standard English.  As I understand it, in Korea it means more like pretty with perhaps less of an emphasis on the “sex” part.  Even so, when I was teaching a smallish class of girls only and removed my clumpy brown coat revealing a more form-fitting sweater underneath, the response from the students was “teacher sexy.”  Such is life in Korea.

Perhaps “sexy” in Korea fits into a category of words known as Konglish.  Simply put these are English or English sounding words that have a different meaning here in Korea.  Many of these words, commonly spoken in Korea, would likely be misunderstood by most English speakers.  Here are some examples.  “Eye shopping” is Konglish for window shopping.  “Oil” is Konglish for gas.  And “cunning” is Konglish for cheating.  Here is a more complete list of Konglish words if you are curious.

In previous posts I have been revisiting the 5 precepts of Reiki, a spiritual practice that has been a part of my world for over ten years. The precepts can be thought of as guidelines to cultivate a higher quality of life and happiness. I brought them up because, in truth, I have felt stressed at work lately. Reminding myself of these precepts is a way to re-center myself and to keep my focus on a healthy and balanced path.  The first precept is “Just for Today Do Not Worry.”  The second is “Just for Today do Not Anger“.  Here is the third precept:Gratitude

Show Gratitude to Every Living Thing.
Ah, this one is a great reminder!  Particularly when one is faced with large groups of adolescent children who mostly just want to go wild in the classroom.  Like the other precepts, I see this as a call to be more mindful and refocus attention to showing gratitude to all living things in my life.  People, animals, plants.  It helps to restore an attitude of reverence and also helps me to take it slow and appreciate the beauty and simplicity of life.

For the coming week, I will be intentional about calling my attention to this precept.  Would you like to join me?

This week I am also revisiting creativity a bit.  With my regular pattern of busy days of teaching and my desire to just take it easy when I am not, I have found my creative life has gone to the wayside.  What is creativity for you?  For me it is writing, drawing, painting, poetry, playing and writing simple songs.  When I feel connected to my creativity, it seems these things just flow like a river.  I simply dip my toe in and there it is.  But lately, it has felt dry and my desire and willingness to visit the flow has been… slim… to none.  I read a post recently by writer Elizabeth Gilbert (author Eat, Pray, Love) offering the suggestion of spending just 30 minutes a day on whatever your creative project is.  This was a big help for me as it gives me a tangible and doable way to pick up the creative path in the midst of being exhausted or busy. When I am so tired and don’t want to do anything, I can say to myself “hey, it’s only 30 minutes!”  This simple strategy has already helped me pick up a painting I started months ago but have just been staring at for weeks.  30 minutes.  Very doable!

How about you and your life?  Any gratitude to share?  Creative yearnings or frustrations to express?  It’s always good to hear from you!  Bye for now from my regular irregular life at Gyeonggi English Village!


Featured photo, “The students are coming!  The students are coming!”  Hundreds of students arrive for their time at Gyeonggi English Village.

Just for Today

25 Mar

It’s a Monday morning at English Village in Paju, South Korea.  My work week is complete and I have a few days break before it starts all over again.

This past week was bursting with middle school students and a few extra surprises.  On Thursday morning I walked out my door to find a parade of serious looking Korean men wearing black suits and ties.  I didn’t think too much of it as I have learned to expect the unexpected here.  As I walked further into campus it was soon clear that something out of the ordinary was happening.  English Village is often a hot spot for an assortment of activity – wedding photo shoots, movies and television shows, commercial shootings.  What was the excitement today?  None other that EXO.


Who is EXO you may say?  In the land of Korean K-pop, in the company of top stars like Psy and his world-famous “Gagnam Style“, is EXO.  I know of EXO mostly by way of their doting fans, our adolescent Korean students, mostly girls.  On more than one occasion a student’s art project of the day has been dedicated to EXO.  From time to time as they map out their future life for a class assignment it includes a marriage to one of EXO’s members.  And there they were… at English Village.

The guys in the ties and black suits were security.  It was a good thing too as I am sure you can imagine what happened.  Many of our Korean girl students have a tendency towards high-pitched screaming  and excitability.  It was not uncommon throughout the day to hear bursts of girls screaming in enthusiasm as they leaned their bodies at the edge of the security barricade trying to get just a little closer.  During class break, and sometimes during classes, you could see their faces glued to the windows just hoping for a glance.

EXO was at English Village for two full days until at last… they left….returning to our regular irregularity. That is until two of the students were diagnosed with the swine flu.  This required a quick health check-up for the entire visiting student body.  Then mostly healthy and drama free, it was time to go home.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, it is an adjustment for me to return to the bustling world of our mostly adolescent young learners program after my brief hiatus in the more serene world of Book Club.  I am doing my best to have a relaxed attitude with myself and the students and classes but sometimes I find this challenging.

We have had to adjust our attitudes towards programs at English Village as they have morphed and changed over the past year.  What originally was a one-week program that was fun spirited but still had some academic intent has shifted into a two-night three-day program with more of a fun camp-like feeling. It was a necessary shift.  Our students arrived expecting and being sold a fun class trip. They were ready for a few days of fun and good times – not to study English. Also our students are tired and overworked from the rigors of school and academic expectations in South Korea.

It is easy to have compassion for our busy overworked students. As you may know, life for a student in Korea is very challenging. They are in school during what I would consider regular school hours.  Most students, however, also have a busy “after school” school life when they study English and possibly other disciplines.  They attend an after school, have dinner there, and stay well into the evening.  I have heard stories of parents typically picking up their child at the Library at midnight… on a “school night.”

When they come to English Village ready to have some fun, however, this is not always fun for the teacher.

This past week I had a group of students who were very challenging for me.  They pretended they didn’t understand or speak any English when I know for a fact that they did. They wouldn’t respond to even simple requests like stand up… and acted like they didn’t know what I was talking about and continued on with their own personal parties.  They wouldn’t answer questions. Didn’t participate. Not all classes are like this.  But it wasn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last.

And so continues the busy spring world of teaching at Gyeonggi English Village.  It seems like a good time to visit some tools that I find useful to ease the mind with the ups and downs of regular life. They are the Reiki Precepts.

Reiki as some of you may know is a Japanese healing art and a practice that I have participated in for about ten years.  Once one attends a Reiki class and is initiated, what follows is a simple but powerful practice of laying ones’ hands on yourself or another and allowing the healing energy to flow through.  The precepts are sort of guidelines, or friendly reminders that support a life of happiness, well-being and balance.  It’s always good to revisit them.

I like to consider them one at a time, reintroducing them into my mind and life as a daily reminder.  Here is the first Reiki Precept.

do not worry

Just for today do no worry.
This is a great one.  Simple and true.  I often forget to be mindful of this basic but powerful precept as I go about my worrying ways.  Sometimes when I feel that my life is out of my control, I think I actually worry to give myself something “to do” about it.  Recalling this precept is a good reminder to let it go and just practice… just for today… do not worry.

I created original images for each of the five precepts. The image you see here is from that series. If you’d like to view them all and possibly purchase a print or card for yourself, you can visit my on-line gallery.

How about you?  What do you think of this precept?  Do you have any experience or related insight that would be fruitful to share?  If so, please do.  It’s always good to hear from you.

While it’s a day off for me, it is also the start of a new week at English Village and the next crew of students is arriving.  I can hear the wheels of their suitcases and happy voices rolling down the street outside my window.  And so begins another week at English Village.


Featured photo, a day off in Seoul strolling down a quiet street in Itaewon.

Awakening Spring

17 Mar

It is a quiet Monday at English Village in Paju, South Korea.  The sky is somewhat overcast, but with my windows open and the birds’ calls leaking through there is a lighter feeling of Spring… or almost Spring.  I hope.  We’ll see…  Earlier today I heard the masses of students entering through main street past my apartment.  At about 350 students, they are the first of two groups this week beginning the restoration of the often busy pace and bulging student capacity at English Village.

As my weekend is on Mondays and Tuesdays, I will not teach the first busy round of students.  But as Wednesday arrives I will join the other teachers in greeting a group of 585 students.  That’s a lot.

English Village has been through some growing pains recently.  In the Fall they lost nearly half of their staff in a quick and unexpected exodus.  Until recently, there has been a hiring freeze leaving a smaller size staff to respond to regular size programming.  Recently they have hired a modest collection of new Korean and foreign teachers, but we aren’t yet at a place to easily meet the teaching needs of incoming programs.  Often this will mean larger and more classes taught by current teachers.

I continue to find my groove returning to the busy “young learners” (mostly middle-school students) week-day programs after a four-month hiatus teaching the little ones reading in our Bookclub program.  I still teach Bookclub students on Saturdays only, appreciative to return to the small simple programming and body of students after three days in busier programs and classes. Bookclub is indeed a different world filled with typical childhood shenanigans like nose picking, hiding behind doors, and the occasional biting (… the last person to be bit, by the way, was me… but I digress…).  This has challenges all its own, but in many ways it still feels like a gentle respite.

And so I am doing my best in mind and spirit to prepare myself for the impending busier season. In the meantime, I am lost in my own diversions of chanting, Reiki, yoga and the like.  Life has been simple and in many ways good but with the slow awakening of Spring I admit I am itching for something to be different.

What about you?  Is the arrival of Spring bringing anything new in your world?  Let me know!  It’s always good to hear from you!

Featured photo a little slice of sunset on the rooftops of English Village.

Flat Stanley Visits South Korea

3 Mar

He arrived a little over a week ago.  He was in fact my first visitor.  He didn’t arrive by airplane or train or even boat.  Instead he arrive by… US Mail.  His name is Flat Stanley.

Perhaps you have heard of him… if you have children…or grandchildren or even nieces or nephews.  Flat Stanley arrived in South Korea courtesy of one of my nephews in Kansas City.  His class read a story about Flat Stanley and were then invited to send him to visit friends and relatives in other locations.  Perhaps Stanley got more than he bargained for as he was put in an envelope and traveled to South Korea.  It took him over two weeks to arrive, but thankfully he arrived in one piece… seemingly happy… and flat… ready for his week in South Korea.

Admittedly Stanley did not arrive for the busiest or most exciting week at the Paju English Village.  We are having a bit of a break now preparing for the upcoming surge of new students and programs.  But Stanley was welcome to hang around and that he did… spending time with the other English teachers and sometimes just kicking back.

One day Stanley came with me to Seoul, just an easy bus ride away.  Stanley enjoyed the bus and when we arrived in Seoul he was amazed at what a busy city it was.  Seoul as you may know has over ten million people living there.  Stanley and I perused the streets and did a little people watching.

Later I sought out a local establishment called Gusto Taco to grab some lunch.  Gusto Taco is a tiny little restaurant in Hongdae, an area of Seoul, and is known for its fabulous tacos and fresh ingredients.  They even make their own corn tortillas from scratch and slow cook all of their imported meats.  I tried the house specialty – pork tacos, and they did not disappoint!  Of course as I don’t eat refined sugar, I had to be sure there was no sugar in anything I was eating.  They assured me that everything was made from scratch and what I got was a delicious healthy and satisfying lunch.  Flat Stanley didn’t eat any tacos.  He said he wasn’t hungry…

The owner of Gusto Taco is an American who is married to a Korean woman.  He used to work on Wallstreet and a few years ago he and his wife headed to South Korea.  They started Gusto Taco to, as he said, “give them something to do.”  It seems they have put great care into the product they have created.  They even have a mascot – “Gusto Taco” himself.  Stanley got to meet Gusto and while he was friendly enough, I am not sure that he and Stanley really hit it off very well.  It was a fun meeting nonetheless.

Just yesterday Stanley had an opportunity to learn to make cinnamon rolls with me and some other English teachers here in Paju.  We were being trained in a new cooking lesson for our Korean students. Stanley had a great time with the other teachers and excelled in baking.  His cinnamon rolls were tasty and looked lovely!

Well, now our week is complete and Stanley’s visit is coming to an end.  I will be sad to see him go.  He was a great houseguest, didn’t take up much room or make a lot of noise.  He also got along great with the other teachers here at Paju English Village.

When will he leave do you ask?  Well his travel plans back to the States are not confirmed just yet.  But likely it will look something like a walk up the street to the local post office on Wednesday, returning flat Stanley to his envelope and then sending him on his way for the adventure back to Kansas City in the United States.

It’s been a pleasant visit here with Flat Stanley.  As he prepares to leave, it has me wondering… who will visit me next in South Korea?

Christmas in South Korea

23 Dec

Happy almost Christmas from South Korea!  It is already Sunday here.  Today is the last day of my weekend before returning to work for a full week on Monday.  While Christmas is celebrated here, it seems to be a rather informal holiday.  I am told it is not a big family celebration like it is in the States but more of  a special night out.

So, alas I will be working on Christmas eve and Christmas day.  It will still be a few days of rest in some capacity as there are no school groups scheduled on those days and there are no classes to teach.

My first week of work and classes overall has been very positive.  I will receive two weeks of training here at the English Village in Paju, South Korea before I am “let loose” on my own.  My task this week was to follow and watch other teachers teach.  A good way to ease into my new job and role as teacher.  I saw a lot of good teachers and got a feel for the style and way of teaching here.  I also got a dose of the sometimes needed discipline in the classroom and good strategies to re-establish order and generally maintain the classroom rules.

This coming week while I will still be in training I will start contributing to teaching the lesson plan.  Admittedly I am a little anxious about being in front of the class and teaching… but also excited about it.  Another teacher here encourages me that you just need to get up there and do it.  And, while I am nervous to do it, I agree.

This weekend has been mostly quiet for me.  It began with a little trivia game/party Friday night at the English Village pub with other teachers.  Christmas trivia was the theme.  The rest of the weekend for me has been time to relax and continue to settle into my new country and place of residence… caring for the simple things like filling my kitchen with good healthy food.

I had to smile when on Saturday I left my apartment in the English Village and was suddenly surrounded by a half-dozen smiling and giggling Korean girls about 9 or 10 years old.  Apparently they were on a scavenger hunt of some sort and I guess when they say me they found what they were looking for.  Enthusiastically they asked me what my name was and had me sign their worksheet.  It was cute.

I imagine today will be another easy day for me.  Tomorrow night there is a potluck holiday celebration for staff here on campus.  It will be nice to continue to get to know the other teachers and staff living here at English Village.

So, here I am… one week in South Korea!  I am grateful to be here!

I am also grateful to the friends and supporters who have contributed to my Indiegogo campaign “Gypsy Woman Goes to South Korea.”  The support I have received so far makes a big difference to me personally and professionally as I transition to my life here in South Korea.  Thank you!  Thank you!

My Indiegogo Campaign comes to a close on December 24 at midnight PCT.  Will you support my campaign?  Any contribution, no matter how big or small, makes a BIG DIFFERENCE!  Click here to check it out and watch my video www.indiegogo.com/southkorea.   Thanks so much!

From the chilly and snow dusted land of South Korea, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday!  Thinking of all of you wherever you are and wishing your warmth and cheer!

The Road to South Korea Just Got Shorter

5 Dec

The scenery is starting to change.  The bright leaves of fall have given way to naked trees.  My laundry that has been scattered all over my room is now finding its way in an organized fashion to my suitcase.  And my Passport, previously mostly barren except for a stamp here are there from Germany and England, now has a Korean Visa in it.  Funny, it seems I am going to Korea…

I am in that busy hazy phase prior to making a life-altering shift.  You know the one, where you tend to the immediate details at hand preparing you for something that… hasn’t fully consciously hit you yet.  Yep, that’s me.  Although it’s starting to hit me… waves of excitement and anxiety are finding their way to my body.  I wake up before the sun rises, before the busy little bodies in the home where I stay rise.  I get up and I start to work… on whatever I can think of to do next to make sure I have everything cared for before I leave.

Bye the way, did I mention that I am leaving on Tuesday?  As in less than a week from today?  I was patiently riding on the slow visa train to Korea when all of a sudden, I switched tracks and landed on the express.  And here I am wandering in everything I want to make sure is complete and wondering about the little things I am not thinking about that still need to get done.

Last week it suddenly dawned on me… that I needed to buy a plane ticket.  I felt sort of like an expectant mother who had gotten so comfortable in the process of pregnancy that I almost forgot about giving birth.  And then one day, the alarms sounded… it is time!  It is time NOW!

So here I am bustling in the wake and energy of my plane ticket purchase preparing for my imminent trip to Korea.  My new place of employment, the Gyeonggi English Village (GEV),  is ready for me to arrive and to begin training for their new program.  I will be teaching English at a hands-on-learning campus created to immerse Korean and international students in the English Language.

Happily I will be making a brief stop in the mid-west to visit with my family – my parents and my sister and her family.  My gut says its important to spend some time with them before I leave, even for just a few days.  I will leave for Korea from there.

This is not something that happens for me every day – preparing to travel to Asia!  It’s my first time there.  I am grateful for a few little tokens of comfort like knowing that I will be picked up at the Seoul airport by a taxi driver sent just for me who will be holding a sign with my name on it.  It’s funny I have always seen that scene played out in the movies, but it has never happened in my own life… until now.  I get butterflies in my stomach just thinking about it!  From there I will be taken to my apartment on the GEV campus.  Yes, my own apartment – a luxury that I have not had the pleasure of since I have been traveling.

I am wrapping up my time here at the family residence in Philadelphia that I have called “home” for the past 3 months.  The youngest boy has been feeding me a steady diet of hand-made presents, since I won’t be here for Christmas.  Practically speaking, this home has been a perfect place for me to be at this time of transition and visa making.  I have been just a stones throw away from the post office, UPS office and other “city needs”.  Additionally I have been most fortunate to have use of a happy, thriving, macintosh laptop computer.  It’s a lovely toy, if even for the short-term, and especially with the expected death of my slow but well-loved PC laptop… hanging in there for now, but… it doesn’t look good.

I am trying to make the most of these last few days here… preparing the family as best as I can to transition to life without an extra set of hands.  I did my best to stock up on groceries and even cooked a few casseroles to put in the freezer for a little added comfort and joy when I leave.

And now, well,  I keep walking the walk of “what is there for me to do next?” on my road to South Korea… getting shorter and shorter as the days go by.  A busy and expectant time!

If you’d like to learn a bit more about my journey and trip to Korea, I invite you to view the video I created.  It’s on my Indiegogo campaign at www.indiegogo.com/southkorea.  And while you’re there please consider a contribution of any amount to support the continuation of this long lovely journey and big school of life.

Thanks for joining me from time to time on the road.  Much more to come!

Photo of Forbidden Road, my favorite “getaway” in near-bye Wissahickon Park in Philadelphia, PA.

My Next Big Step!

28 Nov

Well the time has come… I just can’t keep it a secret anymore!  I am ready to share the NEXT BIG STEP on my journey.  After taking the leap and buying a ticket to Europe over a year and half ago and recently returning to the States for a few months of preparation, it is nearing time for me to depart on my next adventure.

Where am I heading you ask?  Well…I will be traveling to South Korea to live and work for a year teaching English as a Second Language!

Here is how this NEXT BIG STEP came to be.
While traveling in Europe, as I am sure you can imagine, I was always open to, looking for and wondering how I could earn some income to support myself as I travel.  I lived very modestly and simply but as time went on I was nearing the edge of my finances.  I needed to find a way to earn money and travel.  It was suggested I look into teaching English as a Second Language (ESL).  I explored this in a light and curious way about 6 months into my journey.  I searched online for jobs and schools.  I read blogs of others who had traveled and done the same. I met other travelers who were preparing for jobs teaching English.

My initial investigation was into jobs teaching English in Europe.  My inherent enthusiasm began to dwindle as I knocked on virtual door after door only to hear repeatedly that if I was not a citizen of the EU or did not have a permit to work in the EU, I would not be considered for a job.  This seemed like a catch 22 as the only way I knew for an American to get a work visa in Europe was to be sponsored by a company.  Alas, and so it goes…  I was sure there were Americans teaching English in Europe and that somewhere there were indeed jobs to be found, but how or where to find them was a mystery to me.

The next question that arose was certification.  I have a Master’s Degree in Education specializing in Higher Education, but with no experience teaching ESL. I wondered if I needed to get a certification in TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages).  The programs vary widely from quickie on-line courses to in-depth courses where you get your certification on-location.  The better courses come with a price tag which didn’t help my initial call which was – replenish the well and earn some income.

Unsure of where this would lead, I did my best to take in information and stay open to new possibilities.  Later into my journey a trusted friend urged me to more seriously consider teaching ESL.  At this point it seemed pretty unlikely that I would get a job teaching English in Europe, especially without a TEFL or TESOL certificate, so I expanded my outlook and began looking into teaching in other countries.

When I opened the ESL door wide open I started reading about and looking into the best places to teach English for Americans.  There are many countries that easily welcome Americans to teach English and many are willing to hire you without a TEFL or TESOL certificate.  Still I wanted to be mindful as I was seeking a quality experience.

I was referred to a website called Dave’s ESL Cafe by a fellow traveler.  This site lists jobs teaching English in Korea, Thailand, Japan, and all over the world and is well-known in the ESL community.  I found it to be a simple and straightforward website with plenty of job listings primarily in Asian countries.  I scanned through them regularly, curious and yet nervous about working and teaching English.

One day I found a job listing that peaked my interest.  It wasn’t a typical teaching job, but in a learning environment created to be like an English Village.   Children came to the Village for a week-long experience in speaking English.  Teachers were more like facilitators and learning was active and hands on.  With my background as a leader in experiential education and creating workshops where students learn by doing, the seemed it may be up my alley.  The job was in Paju City, South Korea, about an hour outside of Seoul.  I was interested, but I ignored it at first and continued on with my day.

Later that night as I was going to bed, my intuition whispered to me “take a leap!” and apply for the job at the English Village in South Korea.  So, excited but nervous I submitted my resume.  Time passed by and I heard nothing… but still in the back of my mind I had a “feeling” that something may come of it. Then one day, just a few weeks before my time commitment was to end at my helpx exchange in France, I got an email from the English Village in Korea asking if I was still interested in a position.  Yes!  Yes I was interested!  I was scheduled for a Skype interview at 4:00 in the morning my time…ugh…  All went well and I was offered the position.  That was the beginning of a long process in preparing to work and teach in South Korea.

This news changed my travel plans and redirected me to the States.  The process of obtaining all the documents needed for a work visa would be much easier in the US.  Presently, about three months into the process of obtaining a visa… I am getting closer and nearing the final steps.  Yippee!  And Oh my God!….

I am really looking forward to being in a learning environment again and strengthening some teaching muscles I have not used in a bit.  I am also grateful to begin a travel opportunity that will support my financial needs. In the meantime… there is a bit of a financial gap… between now and when I receive my first paycheck.  My staff contact in Korea reminded me recently that I won’t actually receive a paycheck until I have been there for a month.  With my extended time in the States preparing my visa and the continued gap of working in exchange for room and board and no income, I have some unmet financial needs.  This is what inspired me to … TAKE A LEAP…. and create a campaign on Indiegogo, the on-line fundraising resource, to raise funds to support myself during this time of transition and the continuation of my journey.

Please visit my Indiegogo campaign. Preparing this campaign has been fun and inspiring.  I have invested some time and created a video/slide show presentation called “Gypsy Woman: an unexpected journey”.  I would love for you to check it out. If you’re inspired… make a little donation.  No amount is too small… really…or too large.  I am excited to share my story and my journey with you through this campaign. Also… if you’re inspired… please share my campaign with others… maybe someone you know who might enjoy my story and mission.

And for now… the path continues.  I am not sure of the exact date of my departure to South Korea as the visa process seems to have a mind of its own.  But likely I am about 4 weeks away from leaving for South Korea.  Wow…my next big step!

Photo of Gyeonggi English Village in Paju City, South Korea.

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