Trying to obtain a visa for a country you plan to visit while you live in a country that isn’t the same country that issued your passport (are you still with me?) can prove rather complicated, as we recently found out when we tried to get Chinese visas for our English passports from South Korea.
Recent, rather frustrating, legislation means that Westerners living in Korea who plan to visit China have to get their visas through registered travel agencies, as opposed to applying directly to the Chinese embassy in South Korea. After reading various horror stories of hiked-up prices and scams I stumbled upon Soho Travel Agency which is based in Seoul and they were brilliant. Not only were they extremely helpful in answering the bazillion questions we had about the seven pages of visa forms wanting to know our life histories, but they also replied to our emails very quickly and in perfect English.
We posted our forms, passports, alien registration cards and passport photos off, and within 5 days we had our visas. Highly recommended!
…despite having no kids of your own you still get called ‘mum‘ five times a day.
…hearing ‘nice to meet you‘ from kids you’ve been teaching for over a year makes you want to cry.
…’magic‘ becomes a valid answer to any question.
…most lessons resemble a game of charades, and you’re actually getting pretty good at it.
…you’ve given up trying to explain that dragons and unicorns aren’t real.
…you feel so proud when you hear a kid talking to their friends outside the classroom and they use an expression that you taught them.
…there’s always one child who was obviously allowed to choose his own name. In a classroom of Toms and Sophies, there’s Chocolate.
…you’ve perfected the ‘shut up and sit down‘ glare.
…you’ve given up caring when your students tell you that you’re having a bad hair day, that you’ve got dark circles or that you have ‘soju face‘.
…there is nothing more heartbreaking than planning what you think is an amazing lesson, only for it to fail. Spectacularly.
…when trying to explain some of the finer nuances of the English grammar to a bunch of 6 year olds you’re met with the same expressions as if you were teaching them the laws of astrophysics.
…every time you hear ‘so-so‘ in response to ‘how are you today?‘ a little part of you dies inside.
…your English actually starts to get worse.
This weekend, February 9th, brings with it the Lunar New Year and the start of the Year of the Snake. Although often referred to as Chinese New Year, it is celebrated in many south-east Asian countries, including Korea where it is known as Seollal. While Koreans do celebrate the start of each year according to the Gregorian calendar on January 1st, Seollal is a much bigger celebration, lasting three days.
2013 is the year of the snake, which is the sixth zodiac sign in a twelve year cycle. People born in the Year of the Snake (like me!), are said to be wise and thoughtful, people who approach problems logically and rationally. They are clever, but often conceited and egoistic. They are very insightful and naturally intuitive, sometimes said to have a sixth sense. People born in this star sign appreciate fashion and beautiful things. Determined and ambitious, they often take failures to heart. Not sure I agree with all of that…
Last year we braved the cold and spent Seollal at Namsangol Hanok Village in Seoul, experiencing lots of traditional Korean activities and games. This year however, we’re going to see how they do it on the other side of the Yellow Sea; we’re going to Shanghai!
Happy New Year!