Korean Immigration Update

I only just realised that I didn’t update on the extension of my ARC card with the complication of the new passport.

Turns out the only complications where due to the information I got from immigration.

Now, I’m not saying the hotline lady was wrong, but I didn’t need all the stuff that she thought I needed, and I needed stuff that she didn’t tell me that I needed. Apparently, if a Korean calls, the requirements are different. I dunno why.

In the end, Mr. Money and I went to immigration together. I had to bring my passports (old and new), my ARC card (Side Note: I know technically that “ARC card” is “Alien Registration Card Card”, along the lines of an “ATM Machine” being an “Automated Teller Machine Machine”, but I don’t care. Everyone says “ARC card”, because just saying “ARC” as in “Bring your ARC” sounds hella weird.), and proof that I had my flights out of Korea booked.

That’s right. I needed to bring proof that I was leaving the country, something that the hotline lady failed to tell me.

However, those three things where all I needed to bring. There was a form filled out (Mr. Money did that for me) and then he like… invented? some sort of certificate (as in ‘hand-written’) that I signed (it was in Korean and he doesn’t speak English, so I signed that blind).

That was it. Didn’t cost me any money and the entire time in the immigration office was about 12 minutes. And now my ARC card is sorted until the end of May. Awesome.

One other thing to note: The officer at the immigration office didn’t seem to care one iota that my passport had been updated or whatever. So being beyond the “14 days” that you have to let immigration know that you’ve gotten a new passport isn’t nearly as bad a situation as hotline lady made it sound.

ARC Extensions and New Passports

For my next adventure…

So today I called Korea’s immigration helpline for foreigners on 1345 (3* for English). She was very helpful and I realise that my employer really isn’t.

New Passport

If you get a new passport, you must inform immigration within 14 days. Yikes. I’m beyond that time frame already. First, I didn’t know. I thought you could roam around with both passports. Yes, I know I should have looked into it. Bah. Second, the issue date on my passport is 24 March but I didn’t receive it until 04 April, just six days ago. I didn’t think I had proof of that, but I might… an email from the Consular saying they didn’t send it until 03 April. So I’ll print that and see if it helps. It means I’ve got to go and get all this done this week. Let’s see if I can get Mr. Money on that one.

ARC (Alien Registration Card) Extension

For this, I need a contract extension and to go to immigration. The issue with this one is that I never got a copy of my contract in the first place. I’m not sure what the dates on them are. I think they are much earlier than what I actually worked, in order to avoid having to get an extension last year. So I need to sort that out. In the meantime, I need to try and get a contract extension done and get Mr. Money to immigration. Before Friday.

 

Decisions Made

Last week we had a quick meeting with the bosses. There was no “offer”.  We aren’t even sure why we had to meet with Mr. Money, he had nothing to add to the meeting. But we have come to a decision.

I will be leaving in May to move to Hanoi, Vietnam. Dan will follow when his visa is finished in September, as long as there is no monkey-business that prompts him to leave earlier.

I’m going to try and chronicle what we are going through a little with this transition. I was very curious what others in a similar situation (moving from Korea to Vietnam, moving as a couple, moving with pets) have gone through and there isn’t a lot out there. Or, rather, there is a lot, but trying to get through all the (often conflicting) information is a nightmare. So this will be our simple story about what we had to do.

Waiting (really is) the Hardest Part

We are definitely a couple on edge right now. Yesterday I went in to ask my director if we could meet this week to finalise what will be happening, especially in regards to dates. She said that she knows we need to meet, but she was waiting because her husband (the ‘money guy’) wants to make us an offer.

We have NO idea what this could be.

When all this started, I was told that my contract wasn’t being renewed, end of story. In a nice way. She doesn’t really want us to go, and I believe that. But the business can’t support as much staff as they have now, etc., so a couple of teachers are getting the axe.

When she told me that they could only keep one foreigner, I asked if she had considered keeping me and losing Dan. That was kindness to him, by the way, not cruelty. He has only worked at the same school in his nearly three years here and has often expressed a want to get some experience in another school. It would also buy us another year’s time, as was our original plan. I also suggested that Dan and I could both go in May, but she didn’t bite on that idea. “I can’t find a new teacher that quickly,” she laughed. I wasn’t laughing; she expected me to find another job that quickly. But anyway. She *did* like the idea of keeping me a year and said she would talk it over with Mr. Money.

The next day we met again and nothing was finalised. She was still mulling over the “keeping Jodi for another year” idea, but by that point Dan and I had already decided it was not a good idea for us, for multiple reasons. We said in that meeting that the options had been reduced to two: Either we both leave at our contract ends (May for me and then September for Dan) or they could let us both go at the same time at any point between when my contract ends and when Dan’s contract ends. And nothing was decided. We believe she still thinks me staying another year is an option. It’s not.

So now we are still waiting. We are giving them until Friday and if we hear nothing by then we will tell them what we are doing – I’m gone in May and Dan is gone in September. But in the meantime we are left puzzling over what this offer could possibly be. We aren’t holding out hope, any offer they make will be for their benefit, not ours. But we can’t help but be curious, and talk it over. And over. And over.

So we drink too much coffee. And think too much. And sleep too little. We start making plans and then have to stop as we don’t want to go too far down a path that isn’t going to take us anywhere.

Waiting. It’s a frustrating time, but at least it isn’t a boring one. Too much to think about!

Movin’ On

We (my husband and I) have been chatting for months now about what we are going to do when our current contracts run out. We’ve been thinking about trying somewhere other than Korea, you see. We enjoy teaching ESL in Asia, but Korea is no longer the best place to be doing it in my opinion. I may write a post on why I feel that way another day, but for now: recent events.

We’ve mostly decided that we would like to give Hanoi, Vietnam a try. From everything we’ve read, it sounds equally exciting, trying, and interesting. There are definitely good points (like making your own schedule and not being tied to one school) and bad (like not getting a bank account or being able to send money overseas unless you are with one school). But it sounds like it could be a great experience.

Before making a move, we wanted to be financially ready. All our debts will be paid off this year (Korea has been great for that – eliminating my debt is something that would have been very difficult had I stayed in London) so we were going to take some time to save to be really steady before we made a move… which would have been at my contract end in May 2018 or even Dan’s in September 2018.

Looks like that wanted delay has been taken from us.

I found out last week that my contract isn’t being renewed. Like many hogwans (private academies) all over Korea, our school’s enrolment numbers are down and so our director has decided to make some staffing cuts. Namely a bus driver, a Korean teacher (who was hired not even two months ago), and a foreign teacher. My contract is due up, so that foreigner is me.

We think that they (the director and her husband, the ‘money man’) are being reactionary and not really thinking through beyond freeing up some cash asap. But hey. It is their business.

I feel more for Dan (my husband and I worked at the same hogwan) – they may combine classes and drop the ‘speaking’ portion of a few so he is still not teaching more than 30 hours a week – but there is still going to be double the amount of kids. Double the amount of books. And he’s going to be the only foreigner at the school. Not fun.

We have had a stressful week thinking about what to do next. We thought through every possible scenario. We’ve tried to think how we could make our original plan of being in Korea another 18 months work. And we’ve come to the conclusion that it isn’t worth trying to stay here.

So it looks like sometime in May this year, I’ll be moving to Hanoi. Yikes. I have so much to figure out (and do, like that TEFL course!) before then. And I’m not too excited about going on alone to do something Dan and I were going to do together. In short: I’m terrified.

But the positive is this: If I go first, I can see if it is going to be something we actually want to do before we fly the cats over. I can get an apartment ready (with a litter box in it – the cats are a major complication in this scenario). I can see how easy it is to get jobs. I can start the network.

I’m scared about this one. It’s a bigger adventure than I was looking for in 2017. But the last time life shoved me around it worked out for the best. I moved to Korea, met Dan, and got my money in order. I’ve been more happy and relaxed than I have in years. I just got to stay hopeful that life is pushing me in the right direction again.

TEFL’ing

As part of preparing to move on from Korea, the husband signed us up for a TEFL course so we could grab ourselves some certification. There are a lot of countries that require teachers to have certificates in TEFL, even if they have experience.

It’s clearly a box to tick.

I’m only in the second module and already a bunch of it seems like utter bollocks. Okay, maybe that’s not fair. I’m sure it is all soundly based in linguistic studies and has been tested in particular classrooms. Just not classrooms in Korea. I’m sceptical how much will be useful in classrooms in Vietnam.

So far, there has been extremely little that I could use in my teaching here. Firstly, it has been geared primarily toward teaching adults. If you are teaching in Korea, you are most likely going to be teaching kindergarten and elementary, maybe middle school. There aren’t too many jobs teaching adults. Secondly, much as I like the laid-back, natural-acquisition of language stuff that they are laying down, that’s not how it works in a classroom that is part of a Korean business. You need results. You need concrete results, such as fully completed books and ever higher test scores.

I think the issue is that the goal of EFL in Korea isn’t to become fluent in English, it is to pass a test to get into a good university. It *is* grammar focused. It *is* rule based. It *is* about being right or wrong so it does need to be corrected. And it does start when they are about 5 years old.

To be fair, I’m only in the third module of the course, and am hopeful that in the ten modules (eleven if you count the grammar module) that there will be some other things that I can take away and use while I am here in Korea. I don’t mind the studying, and I don’t even mind spending the money… I would just like the effort and expense to be worth more than a ticked box.

To finish up today, I can see now why so many new, fresh-faced young teachers that pop up in Korea with their TEFL certificates are often so disillusioned about what teaching English as a second language here is really like. It is so idealistic in the course, as though you will have all the time in the world with a class full of laughing, engaged kiddos hanging on your every word, eager to learn the mysteries of English, to teach them how to be fluent speakers and writers. Again, hopefully as I move further along the modules, they will have more information on how to deal with communication and cultural disconnects within the school administration, how to deal with just pushing through books because completing them is more important than teaching them, or students who are exhausted, bored, and wanting to be anywhere else in the world but in yet another hagwon class before they go home to have their supper at 10 o’clock at night. Because that information would still, even after five years of teaching here, be hella useful.

Something to Blog About

It is unreal to me that it has been more than a year since I’ve last added a post to the ‘Tales. Unreal, and a little sad.

There was a time when I was a regular blogger, and I think the writing was good for me. There are a lot of reasons why I haven’t been blogging, even though there has been loads happening.

  1. After the Immigration Debacle of 2013, I felt like most of the people who were coming to my blog were only interested in reading about that nonsense, and for me that chapter is closed.
  2. I started blogging as a way to keep family and friends updated about what was going on in my life when I first moved to Korea in 2005, but with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and a million other places to keep folks in the loop, blogging started to fall away as seemingly archaic and a bit much when my snippets and stories were so readily available in other, more convenient places.
  3. Blogs these days seem to be more about specialisation, not about personal spaces in which to just write and share thoughts about whatevers. Maybe that’s not true, and I’m out of the “blog loop” (probably not a thing), but it feels true. People are experts in things and they write about those things. I’m an expert in nothing, without anything really to add to what scores of others are already saying.
  4. I’m lazy.

That last reason is the biggest problem. I’m lazy and writing is work, even if I enjoy doing it. Still work. And I’m definitely work-adverse.

But recently, the husband (yah, got married since I blogged last year… this is what I mean. Shit is still happening in life – new job, new city, two new cats, new husband – but I just don’t bother writing it up) and I have started seriously talking about “what next”. What we are going to do after Korea and how to go about doing it.

We think we know the when and the where – a move to Hanoi, Vietnam in late 2017 or spring 2018 – and now we are going through the steps of figuring out here to there. And I think that could be a cool process to blog bits about. Someone might find it useful, but more importantly, I may think it is cool to look back and use the blog as a memory aid.

Part of what triggered the idea to write about all this was looking back through my pictures of my trip through Vietnam in 2007. I was lazy then and didn’t label any of the pictures – not even to differentiate between Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi. I can look some of the places up now and try to piece it all together… but I wish I had been smart enough and motivated enough to just put a blurb on them in the first place. It may have really helped me attach more concrete memories to that trip.

I promise nothing. But I’m seriously thinking it may be time to fire up the old brain again and get writing.

The Outcome of My UKBA Debacle

It’s been a long time now since I first got that horrible letter telling me that I was in violation of the UK Immigration Rules and would be expected to leave (or be made to leave) as soon as possible. It’s been so much time since I sent in my appeal that I figured I was just never going to hear from the UK Courts either… I mean, if the UKBA is so poor at communication I wasn’t exactly expecting much from other British institutions.

I was wrong.

Better (very) late than never, I received this past week the First-tier Tribunal’s determination of my appeal.

TL; DR – I WON THE APPEAL.

I hope that this is good news for more than just myself: I hope all the people that come to my blog desperate for answers to their own situations will find this update and know that it is possible to fight. It is possible to win. 

I wanted to share some of the sections from the Determination, as I believe some of the wording may give hope to others who have been (or who are currently being) screwed over by the UKBA. Check out what a judge thought of their monkey business… there is some key stuff here that could really be useful if anyone is having similar issues (note “the respondent” is the UKBA):

11> I accept that the respondent has the burden to establish the facts that give rise to the power to remove. For example, the date of expiry of leave is not conclusive on the issue of overstaying since if a valid in time application for a variation was made before the expiry of the limited leave, that leave is extended by statue while in the decision on the variation application is pending. If the decision is negative, an in time appeal could be brought.

13> A more important consideration for me is that when removal decision is taken under section 10 of the above stated Act, the exercise of discretion is involved and the burden of proving overstaying or breach of conditions is on the respondentWhilst the Immigration Rules are silent on how the discretion is to be exercised, the Rules set out factors, which the respondent must take into account.

14> Paragraph 395B of the Immigration Rules requires the respondent to have consideration of all relevant circumstances including the appellant’s age, length of stay, strength of connections with the UK, personal history including the character of the appellant, employment record, domestic circumstances, criminal record, compassionate circumstances and representations made on behalf of the appellant.

I sincerely hope reading what a judge thinks about how my case was handled will give some people the confidence they need to fight back with their own cases.

For me, now that I’ve already left the UK and established myself elsewhere, at the end of it all, all that matters is the Decision:

The appellant’s appeal is allowed on grounds that the decision is not in accordance with the law and the Rules.

My life was still horribly uprooted and I was put through a terrible ordeal… but everything has turned out well for me. And to find out now that I was right all along?

I’ll take it. Being right isn’t much, but I’ll take it. 

Draft Trash

I just went through my draft posts and trashed them all without even bothering to read them – the most recent one was from a few months ago. I can’t imagine there’s anything there worth salvaging.

New Year, New Beginnings

I know most of the people (if there is still anyone) who read my blog will think it’s a bit late to be writing a New Year post. But I’m here in the land of the Lunar New Year, which was just this past weekend, so I’m rolling with that. 

It’s been quite a year. 

For all my silence here on the blog, there has been a lot going on. I just don’t share as much as I used to. Or write as much as I used to. It was also a strange year for falling out of many of my old habits, some good, some bad. 

It’s been more than a year since I left the UK. I was going to write a post in October saying how I felt about it all, but that is right when I met an awesome guy and being here in Korea became so much more important than not being in the UK. And I didn’t write about the guy because that’s not really my style. 

Although I’m still not happy about being away from all my great friends in the UK, I am very happy here in Korea, so I’m mostly okay about the entire situation. Unless, of course, you get me drunk and ask why I had to leave. Then I still get Ranty McRagepants about the whole ordeal. 

I’m happier here in my work. Who’d have guessed it, but it turns out I’m a good teacher. And for the most part, I enjoy teaching. The kids are great and it is so rewarding to know what a huge (and, if you are doing it right, positive) part you are playing in their lives. I laugh a lot at work and although there are bad days, and tough days, there are fewer of the than there were when I was working in tech London. And when you do have a couple of rough days, at least the beer here is cheap. 

As I mentioned above, I’ve met a really great guy. This is uncharted territory for me. After a million first dates in London that went nowhere and a handful here in Korea that went straight to disaster, the date with this guy was going to be my last online date for awhile, regardless of how it went. Well, it went well and I find myself in my first really-real relationship (I’m intentionally discounting the “relationship” I had in London that went on about 11 months longer than it should have – we really shouldn’t have gone past the second date) in nearly a decade. It’s still early days (not even six months yet!) but I’m happy in it and I believe that he is too.  

Another real positive is that I’ve managed to lose just over 20kg (about 50 pounds) this past year. I was pretty strict about my consumption for about 8 weeks in the autumn, but most of it is just about eating better, not having a desk job, and stressing waaaaaaay less. With 20kg more to go, once I’m settled into the new flat and new job, I’ll be putting some real effort into it again. 

Not everything this year was great. The school I had been teaching at was less than ideal. Minimum possible pay without actually having a go, the most idiotic waste of space I’ve ever had the displeasure of working with, a greedy boss, and a flat that was more like a prison cell (except in prison the windows would have been bigger). I didn’t blog about it (although the idiot was so bad we made a Tumblr just of his quotes) because it was still okay day to day. My supervisors were great and, other than the idiot, my coworkers were fantastic. The kids were a joy and so overall, I decided not to complain or praise too much. We’ll see if there is a fight about my final pay though – that may push me to write more about what wasn’t good at that particular academy.

I’ve also been sick for a lot of the past year, which isn’t really like me. I mean – a LOT of the past year. At first I thought it was just “new to the country” germs. Then maybe because I’m old (haha… but kinda really). And even maybe because I teach a gaggle of 6 year old germ bags. Or that when you are sick in this country, you don’t get to take sick days, so you never get to rest long enough to get over it. But you know what I think it has been? My flat. The windowless (more or less) wonder palace of stagnant air. We’ll soon find out – I’m typing this out en route to my new neighborhood. And I’ve been assured that my new flat will have “normal” windows. I’m excited. 

So what will the Year of the Sheep (or goat, or ram, however you roll) bring? I don’t know. I do know that I’m starting at a new school tomorrow and I’m excited. It has already been a better experience working with them and I’m not even there yet! Just altogether smoother. Even the recruiter was amazing (Cindy at Good English, if you are looking to teach in Korea hit me up and I’ll get her deets to you) which was a nice change from the last guy. 

The new school is in Jamsil, which is actually in Seoul proper instead of lurking just outside of it as I had been.  It’s on 12 minutes to Gangnam by subway. Exciting. I can’t wait to explore the city more this year. 

I’m hoping to travel SOMEWHERE this year. I’m very focused on repaying my debt though, so we’ll see how the money goes. The new school came with a large pay-bump, so hopefully I’ll have some funds for fun this year. 

Other than that, I’m happy to roll on with whatever the year might bring.