Travel Review: Boracay, Philippines

Hey folks!

I know it’s been a while, but I’m back with a review of my latest travel destination. As you know, I currently reside in South Korea and we recently had an extended 10-day national holiday called Chuseok. (Korean Thanksgiving plus another holiday I’m not sure of)

I knew in advance when the dates for the holiday was, but I didn’t know as soon as people who were already here. Therefore, I paid a little more than I wanted for the flight since the prices had been basically doubled and tripled to all destinations out of Korea for these dates. I was lucky to even get a seat though because most return flights were sold out.

I went with my two friends who also reside here as well.

We ended up finding a hidden gem for our lodging. The initial plan was to find a resort on booking.com (since you can usually book now, pay later with them) but I stumbled on our resort on airbnb for much less than resorts on booking. (If I told you the price, you wouldn’t believe me anyway) It was a fully serviced resort and it did not disappoint AT ALL!! I have been sworn to secrecy by my friends on the name of it because they don’t want the prices to rise lol.

We reserved a 2-bedroom 2-bath villa overlooking the water. The villa was HUGE and the balcony was even bigger. We could have easily housed 6 people in there comfortably so you can imagine how comfortable it was for only 3!

When I say the resort was full service I mean FULL SERVICE. Most airbnbs don’t have housekeeping services. Not only did we have housekeeping but we also had room service that was so cheap all we could do was laugh once we left. We had breakfast and dinner almost every night charged to the room. In addition the resort had a free shuttle that took guests to the main beach in Boracay (White Beach). There was also the prettiest infinity pool on the premises that changed colors at night and the water was soooo warm.

Now if all of this doesn’t sound amazing, the icing on the cake was the in room massage services that were provided by a 3rd party company. A full-body 65-minute massage cost us each a whopping $12!!!! Yes you read that right, 1-2. We ordered massages two nights in a row before bed. (It was heaven)

Ok, I think you get the point on how amazing the resort was. (and no I still can’t reveal the name)

I need to back track a bit to explain our arrival into Boracay. Boracay is a small island in the Philippines. You can’t fly directly into it. We flew into Caticlan airport. (The smallest airport in life.) We landed on a random runway and then had to take a 10-minute charter bus to the cargo area. It was literally a room with a single carousel for luggage.

Once we got our luggage, we then took another van to the jetty port. We had to take a boat from Caticlan onto Boracay island.

 Once we arrived on Boracay island, we took one more shuttle to our actual resort. (It sounds like a lot which it was, but it didn’t take a long time)

We arrived kinda late in the evening our first night, so we opted for dinner at the resort, welcome drinks, and the pool.

Day 2:

We started the day SUPER early (earlier than I wanted but my friends are early risers and they wanted to see the sun rise!)

After a delicious and filling breakfast at the resort, we put on our swimsuits and set out to see the beach that Boracay is famous for. (White Beach) As mentioned our resort shuttle drops off for free in D’Mall which is the shopping strip along the beach.

We made our way down the strip and WOW!!! The water!!!

We ended up finding beach chairs that belonged to a resort and just paid the fee to rent them for the day. It was only $20 to rent three chairs with umbrellas and side tables for the full day. It was also a perfect spot because it was in front of a restaurant that served us on the beach as well for no additional fee. We spent about 6 hours just eating, napping on the beach, and cooling off in the water. (We even rented a paddleboard for an hour)

After literally spending the WHOLE day at the beach, we took a tuk tuk (a local transportation car that is powered by a motorbike) back to the resort.

It was at this point that we discovered the in-room massage service. One of my friends called the number to see if they had availability within a hour for all 3 of us, and sure enough they did!

As requested, and on-time, 3 Filipino women knocked on our door for our massages. Let’s just say we were all snoring not even half way through the service. That was probably the best $12 we ever spent.

The plan was to go out and see some of the nightlife on the island (which I hear is pretty popular) but after those massages we didn’t really make it. It was lights out for us since we had a big day head on Day 3!

As you can see this was just a 24-hour period and I have so much more to talk about, but I will stop it here for now.

Until next time…

Happy Traveling.

 

 

 

 

The things you NEED to know before moving abroad!

Hi folks:

So many of you have expressed interest in teaching abroad, and I highly recommend doing it. Cause well…YOLO! Anywho, this post will give you some tips and tricks to help prepare you for such a big move. (at least these are the things I think are helpful)

  1. Try to learn some of the language of the place you are going. I feel that Americans are very spoiled (yes I said it) and we think other countries should cater to us even while in that country. Ummmm NO! Do you follow other people’s rules in YOUR house? Ok, well it’s the same concept. Before I came to Korea, I watched a few simple YouTube videos that helped me to recognize and read the alphabet. (it’s a lot easier than people think because they have less letters than us) Being able to read Korean by far has been one of the most helpful things I did. From there, I also enrolled in free online course to begin learning to speak and say some basic phrases. (coursera.com and they have an app)
  2. Do your own research before going! In the months before my move, I watched several YouTuber’s vlogs to get a general sense of what to expect. I also read lots of blogs and even reached out to some of the people. Of course, their experience won’t necessarily be yours, but it’s good to have a general knowledge of what to expect. I don’t recommend going in blind, but going in with an open mind.
  3. You must be able to adapt easily. Again, moving to a brand new COUNTRY is major. It’s not like moving to a new state. Things won’t necessarily be like what you’re accustomed to. They may do things different. (They WILL) But you have to be a person that’s able AND WILLING to accept this and adapt accordingly. That’s why point 2 is important so you can begin to get an idea of the differences.
  4. BUDGET! It’s likely that wherever you go will be cheaper than the country you came from (ex. US to Korea) but don’t let that allow you to mismanage money. You still need to be mindful of what you are purchasing so that you are not scraping pennies well before the next pay period.
  5. This brings me to point 5: have backup money just in case! Always have a credit or debit card as backup. You will need to have money with you if you become a foreign teacher when you first arrive since you won’t be paid until a few weeks after you arrive. So you need to notify your bank about foreign purchases ahead of time. I say have about $500-$1000 dollars at minimum when you first come. You may not need most of this but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
  6. As I stated in number 2, having an open mind is key! Once you get to your respective country, make native as well as foreign friends. (So native to that country and then people from the country you are from) Having both will help you to survive. The way to make native friends is to participate in school activities (if you are a teacher), go to cultural events and actually talk to people, and go to local restaurants. Surprisingly, it will be easy to find other people from your country. Although the people you meet may not be what you would hang with at home, having someone who understands some of the struggles you face from being away from home is very comforting. You never want to feel alone in a foreign place.
  7. This ties in to point 6: don’t be afraid to try the local food. Again, this is where I say Americans are spoiled. YOU ARE IN ANOTHER COUNTRY, THE FOOD WON’T ALWAYS BE THE SAME. Coming to Korea, I knew that my diet would change. But to my surprise, Korean food is really good and healthy. (minus all the rice they eat) Don’t be afraid to go to restaurants and try new stuff or even eat foods with your coworkers. Eating local will also help you to save money. Yes, you can find most of your staple items in a market, but they may be more expensive if it was something that needed to be imported. (This goes for toiletries too). I actually stocked up on certain toiletries before I came because I knew they weren’t available or they were super expensive here. So research this ahead of time too! BUT, if you must have American foods most countries have popular fast food and restaurants. (we have McDonalds, Outback, Chilis, KFC, Popeyes, Starbucks, Subway, Burger King, and I’m sure there’s others in Seoul)
  8. Ensure that your cell phone is unlocked before time. Unless you are rich and can afford an international phone plan, getting a local number will be something you’ll eventually have to do. Since my phone was unlocked, I was able to just get a SIM card with a local Korean number and plan. If your phone is not unlocked, you will have to purchase a phone AND plan in your new country.
  9. Research the weather of your new country to prepare your clothing. Most likely, your airline will allow two checked suitcases and then 2 carry-ons. Some people pay for the extra luggage too. Whatever your case may be, make sure you are bringing clothing for the weather in your new home. Korea has all seasons so I had to bring a little of everything. (Of course I couldn’t bring everything!) Obviously you can also purchase clothes in your new home, but again be mindful that the sizing may be different. The one things I wish I would have known was that we don’t wear regular shoes at work, we wear new slippers or slides around school. I could have brought more casual shoes for the weekends when I’m out.
  10. Pray and GO OUT ON A LIMB! Many times we get so stuck in comfort zones that we hold ourselves back from what could possibly be the best experience for us. People asked (and still ask) are you not scared there? My answer: I feel more safe here than I did in the states. I hear about murders daily back home. Guns are illegal here. Are Koreans perfect people? No! But if you can live a normal life in the states without fear, you can do the same in another country. So don’t let fear stop you from the opportunity of a lifetime. The same things that happen in foreign countries can easily happen at home but it’s not always the other way around.

Bonus: Research the healthcare in your new country! I knew prior to coming to Korea that they had great healthcare and that it was cheap. Therefore, I cancelled my American insurance once I got here.

I hope this post has helped in some way. As always, Happy Traveling!

So you want to teach abroad?? Here’s how!!

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Hey folks!
So I’ve had several people ask how I ended up teaching in Korea and was the process hard. In this post, I will walk you through the steps including the info for the coordinator of the program I am employed with. I’m posting this now since most programs will begin the application process this month to come in February. The next one will be around February/March to come in July/August.

Contrary to popular belief, the process isn’t that hard (if you go through the right recruiter). I heard about teaching in Korea (and China) from a few friends that had done it in the past. I knew I wanted to live abroad but I also wanted to get paid in the process. This was the perfect way.

I initially wanted to go through  EPIK  (English Program in Korea) which is probably the most popular option that people seek. I did some research via the Dave’s Esl cafe website. It posts job openings for Korea and China. You then contact the recruiter to start the application process. Now choosing a good recruiter is all trial and error. You will get some who reply and some who won’t. You will also learn quickly that some recruiters only look for certain skin tones. (I’ll let you assume on that one but don’t let it stop you)

My first recruiter was staffing for the EPIK program. He was recommended by others but we quickly didn’t mesh well. He would schedule things for me at unreasonable hours and then talk down to me when I couldn’t make the online interviews. He eventually dropped me as an applicant. (Thank God!) I wrote in a forum that I am apart of on Facebook (Brothas and Sistas of south Korea) and also found that several other people had run ins with him too. A girl in the forum messaged me and told me about the program she went through (which is the one I ended up in!). In the meantime, I also sought out one more recruiter just in case.

The program that the girl suggested was in a city called Cheonan (about 1 hour by express bus from Seoul) and it is run through a Christian college here. (It is not apart of the EPIK program) I had to first contact the American recruiter ( Martha Wilson: pastormom1985@yahoo.com) to get the application sent to me via email. She instructed me to get a copy of my undergrad college degree, get that apostilled, get an FBI background check, get that apostilled, and of course complete the application. EPIK asks for the same things in addition to two sealed college transcripts and a 120-150 hour TEFL or TESOL certificate (which I completed online after purchasing the class on Groupon for around $40). Luckily the program I ended up going with provides an in person TESOL class which is more useful even after I leave Korea. (so you won’t need to do the online one if you go through my program)

Once you get a copy of your college degree you send it off to the secretary of state in your respective state (regardless of where you attended college) to have it apostilled. (Some states may have a different office that apostilles but NC is the secretary of state in Raleigh) You can go online to get whatever forms you need and find out payment info before sending it off. The turn around was less than a week.

With the FBI background check, you have two options: go directly through the FBI’s site (which takes up to 10-12 weeks) or spend a little more money to go through a 3rd party to have it done within a week. Once you get the background check, you have to then send it off to D.C. to be apostilled. (I believe it’s through DOJ but I don’t remember. This is where you use GOOGLE lol) There is a fee for each step just FYI. I know the 3rd party background is around $50 but the apostille is only like $10 at most.

In the process of gathering all of this, I sent my application back to Martha. We then did a Skype interview. Once she approved me, I had to mail all of the documents I collected to the Korean recruiter. The documents are used to issue your E-2 visa which allows you to work and stay in Korea for the year. It takes a few weeks (up to a month depending of when things are sent) to get your Visa number issued.

At this point, I had was offered the job and signed my contract to work as well. (this was also sent to issue the Visa) I then received my Visa issuance number from my program coordinator in Korea and from this point forward Martha was no longer needed.

Once you receive the visa issuance number, you must fill out yet another form to send to the respective place to have your passport officially stamped with your visa. (I was a bit nervous sending my passport in the mail but it worked out with no issue). The visa is about $40 and I had to send it Georgia along with return postage. The turn around here was about a week as well. At this point the only thing left was to schedule my flight.

The program I ended up going with did flight reimbursement (which is pretty standard now). So I paid for my flight initially and once I arrived they reimbursed me in my first paycheck. (another reason why I love my program because I have heard horror stories about people not receiving their money back or being paid on time).

Now for the deets on pay and housing.

We receive about $2100 a month (2.1 million KRW). Our housing and utilites are paid for. (We pay our own internet and phone bill though) I live in a studio apartment which is actually has loft and still has a separate small bedroom too. (my view is amazing. I live in the downtown area of my city). Health insurance is included and the insurance here is very good and SUPER cheap. (to get my wisdom teeth pulled will be less than $100) I try to send about $800-$1000 to my american account per month and keep about 1 million KRW in my Korean account. (that is more than enough if you budget properly and yes I travel around on weekends sometimes.) Once you complete your one year contract you are also given a $2,000 severance and a $2,000 pension. (So an additional $4,000) For every full year that you renew your contract your pay increases and you add another pension and severance bonus. (So after two years you would take an additional $8,000 plus your monthly salary) So as you can see you have the chance to save a good chunk of money.

My program did a 1-week orientation when we arrived which also included taking us to the office to apply for our Alien registration cards. (this is like your Korean ID but is needed to pretty much purchase anything in which you need to be billed.) They also set up our bank accounts for us. (And again we are paid ON TIME)

After our 1-week of orientation, we started our 4-week TESOL (teaching english to speakers of other languages) program. This certificate is recognizable in Asia, so we can pretty much teach English all over Asia now. (remember I also have my online TEFL too) so I could probably come home and become an ESL teacher as well.

Once TESOL is complete we begin teaching officially. (However, depending on when you do intake, you may start teaching then go back and do your TESOL. It varies but EPIK does not provide the in person class so you are basically thrown into the fire once you arrive.) Although TESOL was long, it was very helpful and made me more comfortable when I actually started my teaching.

We are required to teach 22 hours per week but have to be present at school for 40. (The down time is called desk warming since you are in your office/at your desk during this time mostly) The typical school day is from 8:30-4:30 (may vary by a few minutes depending on your school) The teaching is pretty straight forward. We use a book to help us as far as the lessons go. The students also take English class other days of the week, but I see most students only once per week. (6th grade 2x). We are off for all Korean holidays and also get two weeks off in January and two weeks in July. You are only allotted 6 sick days per year though. If you need more, they take it from your other vacation time. (Still a pretty good deal if you ask me. Also we are so close to other countries like China and Japan that you can still fly out for a weekend trip for only $200 or less)

I’m very thankful that I chose the program that I did. (Well God chose it for me) They have made this transition thus far pretty smooth. (yes there are hang ups here and there but they always get resolved) If you aren’t a person that can easily adapt at a moment’s notice, this may not be the thing for you. Koreans tend to be very last minute people at times and you have to be able to adjust.

I hope this post has been helpful for those considering moving abroad. If you have any additional questions don’t hesitate to contact me!

Happy Traveling.

 

Korean School Lunch vs. American Lunch

Hey folks!

So I am almost finished with another full week of teaching in Korea. Things are actually going really well and the kids seem to like me.

In this post, I want to talk about the Korean school lunch experience versus American ones and also show you some of the meals I have had so far.

So, when it comes to Korean lunch the kids first go wash their hands. They then walk together with their homeroom class to the cafeteria. Once they get to the first station, they grab a spoon, a set of chopsticks, and a tray. (Everything is stainless steel/metal)

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From there, they walk up to the window where lady one serves the rice, lady 2 serves the main dish, lady 3 serves the side dishes/desserts, and lady 4 serves the soup of the day. As I mentioned in an earlier post everyone eats the same meal so the students do not choose what they want. Everything being served that day goes onto their tray. (I’m assuming if a kid has allergies the lunch ladies know and handle it accordingly.)

Each lunch consists of: rice, a main dish usually with protein, kimchi (or some variation), soup, and another side or dessert depending on the day.

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I typically eat with the other teachers that speak better English.

Students (and teachers) are allowed to second helpings of any of the dishes by simply going back up to the window. Once a student is finished, they must show their tray to their homeroom teacher to ensure they are eating properly. I have seen teachers tell students to take a few more bites of food before being excused. (So yes eating properly is important here)

Students take their empty (or almost empty trays) to the food disposal area. The first bin you place your spoon then the second your chopsticks. Next, there is a food waste bin. Before you walk up, you scoop all remaining food into your soup bowl then dump it all out in the bin. You then place your soup bowl and tray into the last bin.

So, the thing I LOVE here is that no drinks are served during lunch. (not even water) This way students are actually filling up on food and not drink. After they clear their trays, they can get a small cup of barley tea (which is popular here and very refreshing.) The tea is served at room temp or sometimes warm and without any sweetener. (It’s actually not bad.)

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As you can see, Korean school lunch is different from American school lunch. Kids in America have choices, can drink during lunch, and can opt not to eat. Furthermore, I haven’t seen any of the students here actually bring lunch. Everyone eats the prepared lunch.

Thanks for reading and Happy Traveling. ✈️

I’m officially an English teacher!

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Hey folks:

So it’s been a few weeks since my last post and I wanted to update you. As you can see, I’m still alive! The last few weeks have been busy but I’m still enjoying my time here in South Korea.

I believe I shared with you all that I was in a 4-week training program (TESOL) to help prepare us for teaching foreign language speakers English. I completed the program in August 25 after passing 3 mock teaching lessons. We had a complete graduation ceremony that day and even received certificates in real diploma folders.

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Later that same day, we met with what’s called the “Head Teacher” of our respective schools. As you know, I was assigned to two schools so I met with two teachers that day. A head teacher is typically the liaison you work with in your school and at times teach with. Both of my head teachers speak pretty good English, although at times there are some words they don’t know.

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That brings us to the current week of August 28! August 28 marked my first official day of class. I teach at my main school, Seonjong Elementary, on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. I go out to Cheonan Upsong Elementary on Tuesdays only.  In both schools I only teach 3-6 grade. In Korea, they begin English lessons in 3rd grade unless their parents pay for them to go to private academy early on. (Academies can cost around $1500 per month!)

So what was day one like??? Well, I took the bus to my school which has it’s own labled city bus stop. There are 6 periods in each day and school starts at 8:40am with first period beginning at 9am. Each period is 40 minutes. On Mondays, I am with the 3rd graders only and for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th period only. So I have a LOT of down time on Monday especially since we are required to be at our desk until 4:40pm.

During my classes that day, I had three different sets of students. Since it’s the first week I simply did an “All About Me” presentation so that the students could learn more about me. They were so excited from the moment I walked in. These kids will make you feel like you are Beyonce. Everytime they see me in passing they giggle and say HELLOOOO. I can’t tell you the amount of times I had to say hello in one day.

I did the same presentation for all classes (and will do it 1000 more times this week. LOL)

Now for day 2! This school is out in the countryside of our city. So I had to take a subway then a taxi to get to it. Thankfully, we are paid extra if we have multiple schools to help cover our transportation costs.

This school is A LOT smaller than my main school. There is only one class per grade with no more than 13 students in a grade. Therefore, I will see all of the 3rd – 6th grade students in the school on Tuesday when I’m there.

My day started with teaching 3rd grade for 2 periods, so 80 minutes. Of course, my “All About Me” presetation wasn’t THAT long so I actually taught my first full English lesson. It went VERY well. The kids seemed to pick up on the key words and phrases and they enjoyed the game we played as well.

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After that, I had 5th grade for 2 periods, 4th grade for one, and then I didn’t see my 6th graders because they had a test. So just like Monday, I had a lot of down time until 4:40 pm.

Now for the question you all want to ask (if you could): Did I eat the lunch??? Yes! As a matter of fact I did! Korean school lunches are pretty good. They are prepared daily by the cooks and everyone eats the same meal. Each meal typically has: soup, kimchi, rice, a meat, and veggie. This way, kids don’t get a choice and it’s a guaranteed balanced meal. Drinks are not served with lunch either. Students can drink warm barley tea AFTER they are done. Juice is not a big thing here either. (So I expect to lose a few pounds over time) A really cool thing, is that you can also get seconds and students must show their teacher their tray before they are excused to leave to ensure they eat. See some pictures of my lunches from Day 1 and 2 below!

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All in all, my first few days have gone well. The kids are really cute, they say hello to me 5 million times, and all of the Korean teachers say WHOOOOA when they find out I’m really a lawyer since that’s a well respected profession here. I hope you enjoyed this update.

Happy Traveling.

 

Soul Searching in Seoul: Entry 2

Hey folks!!

I hope all is well. Can you believe that I’ve been living in SoKo almost a full month? (2 days away) This is crazy! Time is really flying.

In today’s post I will talk about my 2nd and 3rd trips to Seoul. (Yes I’ve already been 3 times. There’s so much to see)

On these trips I went to two of the most popular areas of Seoul: Itaewon and Hongdae. Itaewon is known as little America and literally has ALL the shopping your heart would desire. Hongdae is also full of shopping but caters to street performers too.

My trip to Itaewon happened on a Saturday. My friends and I decided to go just to explore. I had looked up some of the more popular things to do in the area ahead of time. As I mentioned in a previous post, the subway system in Seoul is very easy to use. (And super cheap. It’s like 1.25) Just like my first trip to Seoul, I took a bus to Seoul from my city and then took the subway to get to Itaewon.

Our first stop was to the Line Friends store. Line friends is a popular Korean character store. The place was huge!!! We spent about an hour walking around, taking pictures, and even having cute bear shaped funnel cake bites.

There wasn’t much else to do from that particular subway stop so we hopped in a cab and went to a popular shopping district called Myong-Deong. The cabbie dropped us off right at the main street and we were instantly overwhelmed.

The streets were lined with food and clothing vendors on top of 5000 skin care stores and clothing stores. (Korean skin care is amazing and it’s a big deal) We simply started from the beginning and made our way through. We spent about 3 hours just walking the long street and we barely covered half of it only because it began to rain and we didn’t have umbrellas. BOOOOOOOO!!! Don’t fret, I’ll be back there soon enough.

Now for my trip to Hongdae…

So, this trip happened spur of the moment. I had the day off from my training class on a Wednesday and wanted to go explore. (Yes, I’m still in training. One more week though) I had read about a few cafes in the area and I decided to venture out on my own to find them. The number one on my list was the Hello Kitty cafe. It’s exactly what it sounds like…a whole cafe dedicated to the character Hello Kitty. After stopping to ask for better directions from a random Korean girl, I finally found it. OMG!!! It was soooooo cute. As soon as I walked through the gate and up the stairs, I was met by pink everything! Once inside, it was everything I imagined.

I ordered a green tea latte and walked around the 2-story house while I waited for it. I sat and sipped my latte while taking it all in.

Next stop was CaFace. CaFace is a coffee shop where you can get your picture printed in the foam of your drink. (So cool) I ordered an iced vanilla latte. The picture came out so clear. I was amazed. I still don’t know how they print it on the foam but I enjoyed it.

After spending a few minutes in CaFace I walked around Hongdae some just taking in the sights and sounds. Hongdgae is known for housing aspiring singers and artists. They set up shop to display their talents along the streets. I was able to catch a few singers and they actually sounded really good.

After all of that walking I got hungry so I found a super cheap noodle shop and had lunch for about $4.

Once I recharged, I ventured out to find the Kakao friends store. Kakao is a popular messenger app here in Korea with its own set of characters. They sell all types of merchandise with the characters and they are the competitors of Line Friends. (To me they are both SUPER cute). The store was packed, so I only got in one good pic.

My last stop of the day was to DB Story Café. DB Story is a DIY cell phone case and coffee shop. YES! You create your own cell phone case while enjoying the coffee or tea of your choice. I walked in and once again was overwhelmed by everything to choose from. Luckily, they have pre made cases on the walls to give you some inspiration of what you want to make. You start by picking a basic case for your phone, then you go around picking out whatever trinkets and jewels you want to glue on. I chose a cute girly look dawned in pink. You pay for each item a la cart but it’s all super cheap. My case cost about $8 total to make. (You can’t buy a pre made case that cheap anywhere.) Once you glue everything the way you want it, they let it dry for about 20 minutes and package it up for you to take home. They tell you to give it an additional 2 days of drying time. The lady also gave me a free gift for coming in, which was a cute cosmetic bag that I picked out.

It was getting pretty late so I headed back to the subway stop and back to the bus station to head home. As you can see, Seoul has sooooo much to offer and yet I still haven’t covered half of it. Stay tuned for more entries and thanks for reading!

Happy Traveling.

I wore my birthday suit and soaked in green tea!

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Hey folks:

In today’s post I will tell you all about my first experience at a 찜질방 aka a Korean Bathhouse.

I had heard how great the experience was from a few of the other women in my program. I wasn’t able to go with them but made a vow to myself to go as soon as possible. The place was literally a 5 minute walk from where I’m staying.

So here it goes:

I walked in and paid the 5,000 won (a little less than $5) fee. I was handed a ticket with a number and two small towels.

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I then walked to the door for the ladies side of the building. To paint the scene a little more, the building also has a full gym and a virtual golfing center inside plus a men’s and women’s locker room and spa.

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Once you get inside the ladies side, you find the small locker that coincides with the number on your receipt (so for me #429) you place your shoes inside and take the electronic key to find a larger locker with the same number. This is where it gets fun!

You then strip down completely (and I mean completely) and lock your things up. You head into the actual spa area. Once in the spa area, I had to take a shower. (And yes the room is completely open so you have to be comfortable with nudity)

After a shower, you then begin your spa experience. The spa area has 5-6 small jacuzzi like pools each set at different temperatures from cold to hot. One of the pools even has green tea in it. (Yes real green tea) You go and soak from pool to pool as long as you want.

After you get tired of soaking, there are two saunas that you can go in. One is a normal dry sauna and the other was more of a steam room. In the steam room was a large clay pot full of salt. (I think it was sea salt but not 100% sure) You grab a handful of salt and scrub your body down then just sit. Within seconds you start dripping in sweat! The salt pulls water from your body. Once you’ve had enough of the heat, you go back and soak some more. You just keep repeating the process as long as you want. They also have a section where for an extra fee, an older lady will scrub you down and perform cupping on you to help with soreness! (Gonna try that option next)

Once you’re finished, you head back to the shower area and take another shower. They also have these seated bench style showers and it’s very interesting to see. (I won’t go into detail here but ummm just imagine ladies sitting down scrubbing everything from head to toe 😱)

After shower 2, I returned to the locker area to get dressed and head out.

Despite the nudity factor, it was the most relaxing thing ever. I slept like a baby that night. And yes, I will go back!

As always, thanks for reading and happy Traveling! ✈️

 

Soul searching in Seoul: entry 1

Hey folks:

This past weekend I took my first trip to Seoul. When most people hear of South Korea they automatically say oh Seoul? Yea, that place.

My good friend and I took a 45 minute bus ride from her town to Seoul for less than $4. You can’t get a ticket that cheap within a city in the states.

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Once we arrived in Seoul, we then took the subway to the area that we were going to. The subway system is Seoul is very cheap and easy to use. It’s actually easier than the NY system in my opinion with just as many lines.

We were headed to the Sinchon area in a well known neighborhood called Hongdae. Seoul is comprised of bigger neighborhoods that each have their own feel. Within those larger neighborhoods are smaller neighborhoods. (Crazy right?) So if you live in Charlotte think about living in south Charlotte and then having smaller areas like Steele Creek or Ballentyne. That’s kinda how it is but bigger.

My friend had gotten word of a festival in Sinchon that weekend. What kind of festival you ask? It was a WATERGUN festival. OMG!! Yes, there were two days dedicated to people having a giant watergun fight in the middle of the streets complete with a DJ and food vendors.

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It was pure craziness but so much fun! We spent about 3 hours in the madness.

After getting completely soaked we headed to our airbnb to dry off and change.

We decided to walk around to find food because we were starving. We stumbled upon a very nice Bulgogi restaurant and boy was it worth it! We had this large spread (see pic) that only cost about $8 each. Yes, all that for $8 each. And get this…you can ask for more of the sides if you want for no additional price.

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After stuffing our faces, we decided to do some exploring to walk some of the fullness off. We headed back to the main area of the watergun fest and they were having a full on block party. It was super cool. The DJ booth was shooting fire off to the beat of songs.

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We walked even more around the area and decided to stop in what’s called a 노래방 (which translates to singing room aka Karaoke) It’s a very popular pass time here.

We paid $1 to sing 4 songs. It was the funniest thing ever. (Yes, they had American songs. I did Drake so just imagine how that went) They give you a score after your song based on your accuracy. I got a 100 on one song!! (I’m going to try out for Americas got talent because obviously I’ve missed my calling!)

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We also stumbled upon several themed coffee shops which are a big thing in South Korea. I’ll do a separate post to highlight some of the most interesting ones (and trust me they are very interesting!)

After exploring we headed in for the night.

We got up the next morning and headed out to search for some American style breakfast. (Which is rare here unless you cook on your own)

After getting lost a few times from our online map, we finally found the restaurant we were looking for. It took 30 minutes or so to get our food, but it was decent considering it’s a rare find.

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So as you can see my first trip to Seoul was very fun! I will definitely be back a lot over this year so stayed tuned because Seoul is a HUGE and very interesting city!

As always, thanks for reading and Happy Traveling ✈️

I changed my life…About a week Agoooooo!

Hey Folks:

So it’s been a few weeks, but I’m finally able to breathe a little since moving to South Korea a week or so ago. I still can’t believe I’m actually here. It blows my mind everyday.

Anywho, as I sort of explained in previous posts, I’m here teaching English to Elementary school aged Korean kids for a year. I’ve been assigned my schools (yea that’s school with an ‘s’ meaning they gave me 2). I haven’t officially started teaching yet because I have to go through a 4-week training called TESOL (Teaching English as a Second language) which I’ll get a certificate for after. (Yayyy another accomplishment) After that, I’ll be fed to the wolves aka I’ll begin teaching 3-6 grade Korean kids. (The equivalent of 1st – 5th in America)

So now that you know why I’m here, I can tell you what I’ve done thus far. Well for starters…I’ve eaten VERY well. (Like a little TOO well smh) Korean food is absolutely delicious. Yes they still have most American fast food places but why eat there when you can get a FULL  fresh cooked meal for $2-$8? I promise I’m going to sign up at the gym tomorrow before this gets out of hand…because ummm yea!

Outside of eating, I have done lots of exploring in the city that I’m living in. The set up in Korea amazes me so much. As you’ll see if the top picture, buildings stack about 5-7 stories high and cram multiple businesses in each building. Literally each building has 500 food places, 350 coffee shops, 20 skin care stores, a couple gyms, and then random businesses. ( There may be a slight exaggeration on those numbers but whatevs) In Korea, your main modes of transportation (and cheaper) are walking (lots and lots of walking), the city bus, the subway, or trains. So far, I’ve used them all. All are very efficient and it’s pretty easy to catch on to if you aren’t afraid of public transportation.

The program in which I’m employed through, treated us VERY well in our first week of orientation. During the day we took cultural trips to places such as the Korean Independence Hall (Korea’s version of the DC monument and a museum), The city hall in our city to meet distinguished people which also had a trick art museum (sooooo cool), to the Gakwon Temple and the Big Buddha, and then to do important stuff like apply for our Alien Registration cards which make us official residents. (WOW I live in South Korea)

As you can see, I have had quite a busy first week. I even took my first trip up to Seoul for the weekend, but I’ll talk about that in a separate post. So far, I’m enjoying my time here. I’m trying my best to learn more and more of the language each day. I can read and sound out anything but I don’t always know what it translates to. (Praise the tech Gods for Google Translate) My goal after this year is to be able to have basic convos. I know it will take a few years to fully learn everything though.

Aside from the staring (more so at my braids) the people are nice. The kids are sooooooo freaking adorable and will say hello to you 500 times when they see you aren’t Korean. (It’s cute)

Yea, so this is my first week of living in SoKo (South Korea) in a nutshell. I’ll definitely be bringing you lots more…the good…the bad…and the ugly.

As always, thanks for reading and Happy Traveling!

 

Why Broke and Abroad is going…abroad!

5E1B2D63-8C9D-4964-AA2F-DCD8E0BDC20DHappy Tuesday folks!

As you’ve heard me mention in several posts now, I’m moving abroad. When I say Abroad…I literally mean halfway across the globe and in two weeks! (Insert omg face)

Over the last several months as I’ve told people about my decision, the first question I get is WHY?! I always counter back with…why not?!

As many of you can gather from reading my blog, traveling for me is more than just seeing a new place. You see, I’m a Sagittarius(if that means anything to you) and while I’m not big on the whole zodiac thing, the one thing I do know is that we are free spirits and have a great need to travel/explore. Traveling for me is love. Aside from the planning of it all, once I get to a new destination my whole attitude changes. My eyes open just a little bit wider and my smile gets even bigger. My appreciation for the life I’ve been given becomes greater. So the thought of actually living abroad was alway in the back of my mind, I just had to find the right way to do it!

After months of research, reading blogs, and even talking to friends who have lived abroad, I knew it was something I needed and wanted to do at this stage of my life.

This brings me to the next thought or question that many express: what about your career as an attorney and do you not want to start a family? Why would you go now? And again, I counter with why not?

Yes I know I’m 25 (give or take a few years. Don’t judge me) but I’m also a believer of God and his plan for my life. Yes, I want to fall in love, get married, and have a cute kid. And while I’ve dated over the years, I’ve come to the realization that my timeline and God’s timeline of when that’s supposed to happen aren’t the same. So after several (and I mean several!) failed attempts at love, I’ve decided to sit back and let God work his magic in that department. With this move I’ve prayed and prayed and asked whether this was where he was leading me. Sure enough, other plans failed and this one somehow just worked out perfectly.

As far as my career as an attorney, I’m not quitting. Thankfully, once you take the bar exam (and pass) you’re pretty much an attorney for life as long as you pay those annoying dues and complete your CLE hours. So we’ll just say I’m taking a little sabbatical over this year away. And when I decide to come back to the states, I’ll be able to pick back up where I left off. Who knows, I may even discover a new skill set while abroad to come back and cultivate. You never know.

Now for the questions I get when people realize my mind is pretty much made up on going:

1. Am I scared? A little. I’m more anxious to get there and to start adjusting to the inevitable culture shock that I’ll go through.

2. Are you worried about Trump/North Korea/ being an American over there? Ehhh my thoughts on that is that I’m in more danger here in the states. Do you watch the news these days? Sheesh! South Korea is one of the safest countries and guns are illegal too! The biggest thing I’ll have to worry about is being stared at for being brown and having different hair. Of course I’ll always be aware of my surroundings though. I’ll never go anywhere totally naive to the fact that something could still happen. (Which reminds me to get some pepper spray)

3. Speaking of hair, girl how are you going to keep your hair done? Now I know hair is a big issue with us brown girls. But don’t worry, there are black stylists over there. So getting braids or a sew-in is only a bus or train ride away. I’ll be fine in that area.

4. Do you know Korean? I’ve actually enrolled in an online class to learn the language. I’m proud to say I can already read most of it and I’m picking up on necessary words and phrases as well. So by the time I come back your girl will know yet another language (English, Spanish, and Hangul)

Like I said, this opportunity just fell into place so I know I can’t pass it up. Yes I’ll miss home, I’ll miss my routine, and I’ll miss friends and family, but it’s only 1-year. Thanks to technology I can still keep in contact with you all whenever. (just remember there’s a 13-hour time difference though) So I’m going to go into this experience with an open mind and heart. I plan to also travel throughout Southeast Asia as much as I can so stay tuned for more travel reviews. Oh and if you miss me THAT much, my door is always open for visitors. ❤️

In closing, I ask that you send up a few prayers for my journey and that I’ll get out of this experience exactly what God wants me to. I’ll really appreciate it.

As always, thanks for reading!

안녕힝가세요 (goodbye)

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