Minnesota, we miss you so…

… we are coming home for 10 days.  We will probably be groggy and jet-lagged for a few of those days, but that won’t stop us from seeing you.

We’ll be coming home on the 13th and leaving on the 24th, it is not a lot of time to see everyone and everything, so please be kind and patient.

Mmmm…. Jucy Lucy, we miss you.

What do we want to do on our vacation you ask? Well, we miss our burgers and parks, so we’re kicking off our return with jucy lucy’s at Matt’s bar at 5 (please be prompt if you’re coming- they don’t do reservations there.) Then, we’re off to movies and music in the park at the Walker till we pass out from hugs and jetlag.

We’re gonna get in some baseball, family time including a boat ride to celebrate Patsy’s new book, hang out with the the nieces and nephews, and all that. Oh, and of course we are going to the 1st day of the Great MN get together!

Princess Kay of the milky way

We’re staying with the hostess with the mostess, Jenni Hibberd.  Her place is o the light-rail, hwy 55, which can get us across a chunk of the city pretty darn quick.  We’d love to plan our meet ups to be near the line so we spend our time with you and

The hostess with the mostest

Other than that we’d love to:go tubing on the cannon river, picnic at the Minnehaha Falls, canoe/kayak the chain of lakes,

Just chillin

sit in your backyard and watch the fire pit, run through sprinklers, go to the MIA or history museum, have a drink at a local watering hole, picnic at the lakes/river, and a million other things we can’t think of, but you can.

Relaxin

More PhotoBooth fun

PhotoBooth SuperFriends

August is peak travel season for the US and Korea as both are on summer vacation.  The tickets home were a lot more than we expected.  So, whenever possible, we’d love to go low budget.  Parks, your back yard, n.e. patio bars are all within our budget.

Is there anything you want us to bring home?  Korea really doesn’t know what a souvenir is.  Good luck finding a postcard, snow globe, key ring, or other tchochkies.  But we could bring you green tea,  ramien in strange flavors, Korean candy, berry wine, semi-obscene socks, or K-pop cute stuff .

The zoo animals will be staying with some kind friends who will hug them, squeeze them, and call them George.

FYI: International Drivers Permits

We were once told you can only get your American issued International Driver’s License (IDL) in the States, and can’t renew it if you’re already here. Like many things people say without proof, ‘they’ were wrong.  Here’s how we (legally) drive cars here in Korea without going home for the IDL:

Background information:
International Drivers Permits (IDP) are certificates of your holding a driver’s license in your home country. They are recognized by 70 countries worldwide, and provide you with the equivalent of that country’s license without the need to surrender yours or take tests to acquire a license in that country. This allows you to rent cars, buy cars, and take out insurance. More information on the treaty that created this recognition can be found at this Wikipedia page.

How to get one:

In the USA:
First, you need a driver’s license from your home state. If you’re in the US planning to move to or visit Korea, or any other member nation, you can get an IDP from any American Automobile Association (AAA) location. The cost is about 15 dollars, and all you need is your license and a couple of passport pictures. It took us 15 minutes to get ours.

Outside the USA:
If you’ve been living abroad for more than a year (as we have), your IDP has expired. How to get a new one without a long plane ride? Internet to the rescue! I renewed my permit using a form downloaded from the National Automobile Club, at this website: http://www.thenac.com/idp_faqs.htm I downloaded the form, filled it out, and sent it back with passport pictures. They charge a large fee (70 dollars US) to ship it overseas, so to avoid this, put a friend’s name on the application and have them ship it to you.

You need to send a signed photocopy of your US license, two passport photos, and payment information (Check or credit card). To protect against fraud, they do not provide online applications. The envelope left Korea, was processed, the license was sent to my (Mike’s) dad’s house, he sent it to Korea regular shipping, and we had the license in hand 3 weeks later. Easy-peasy.

It was a really simple form that took a minute to fill out, and we had it back in 3 weeks.  It is really easy to get around in Korea with the bus/train service, but we can’t bring the dog on buses and it is a pain to bring him on the trains.  It is so much easier to go camping with a large dog when we rent a car.

Warning:
There are other websites online that will provide IDP’s, as a simple Google search will return. However, there are only two organizations endorsed by the US Department of state to issue the IDP: AAA and the National Auto Club. Beware imitations.

Other options:
You can also get a Korean driver’s license.  You need to go to the embassy in Seoul or Busan in person and have your US issued license verified.  Then you can take the document and the license to a Korean DMV and take the driver’s exam. That would have required several days off of work for us to go to Seoul  for document A and to Naju for the test.  All in all, the IDL was faster and has the same effect. Plus, we’re not sure what effect that has on getting your driver’s license back when you return to the states. You’d probably need to call your home state’s DMV for that information.

Whichever license you choose, there are some major differences in driving here. The DMV has a list of road signs that will make it easier to get where you’re going. Many destinations are written in Korean and English, but a lot of the signs are just in Korean. Drivers are a bit insane. And there are also numerous camera speed traps, so keep your foot light on the pedal, Speed Racer!

side note: we live in a port town and it is really easy to bring Remi on the ferry and go camping on the islands. Oh, and since we aren’t gonna put up a pic of our license, enjoy a pic of Remi on the ferry. Can’t go wrong with a dog picture!

Update! Looks like the government will be issuing IDLs at police stations now.

Placements and Packing and Pets! News News News!

In the past week, we’ve been very, very busy. We took the train out to Chicago to pick up our work visas and relax before the final push to Korea; since our return we’ve been busy packing. And by packing, we mean we’ve been going through everything in the house and deciding whether to take it to Korea, put it in storage, donate it to ARC, put it on Craigslist, talk a friend into holding onto it for two or three years, leave it on the curb, or put it in the trash. We also had a great time at the party, thanks to all who made it.  It was a blur, but we were so happy to get in one last hurrah and hug everyone.  We were feeling so emotional it was challenging at times to keep it together.  It is a gift to have so many wonderful friends and family.

Currently, the cars are 1/2 sold, the bedroom is 2/3rds packed, the basement is 3/4 empty, the offices are 4/5ths done, the kitchen is 5/6ths gutted, and the living room is 100% filled with things we still need to deal with. (and then there is the garage)

Korea News:
We’ve received our tickets: We leave at 7:35 on April 14, and after 3 flights and 7 hours of layovers, we end up in Gwangju on April 15 , at 9:35 pm. That’s 30 hours of travel time plus 15 hours of time zone changes for a whopping 45 hours of adjustment. We’ve been working with Korean Air on the details of getting 1 dog and two cats over safely – it’s not going to be easy (or cheap), but it will definitely be worth it. (Akasha here- if we sent them with a pet travel service it would be $5,000 for one or for all, so it is far cheaper than that!)

Schools
We just learned what schools we will be teaching at, where they are, and where are apartment is. Akasha will be at Dong Elementary and Mike will be at Seohae elemenatry. Both of us will be teaching grades 3-6. Mike had been hoping for older students, but accepts elementary age kids in the spirit of adventure that began this voyage. Both schools are quite close to the apartment: Dong is a 15 minute walk and Seohae is a 5 minute walk, so we don’t need a car, and barely need a scooter. (Mike wants a scooter anyway.) Both teachers say their schools are nice and their co-teachers very helpful, though in Korean schools things can change very quickly. The teacher Akasha is replacing has been through several co-teachers, and his responsibilities have changed several times since he’s been there. Later I’ll write about the differences in principal rights and powers.  It is truly interesting.

Apartment
We are replacing anther couple who live in our apartment and teach at our schools. The couple who is leaving was kind enough to send us a video that the couple before them made. You can see where the kitties, the dog, Mike, and I will be living. It’s a good thing we love each other very, very much, but we have seen even smaller Korean apartments. It looks to be about the size of Akasha’s old place. We are excited to see the western style bathroom.They informed us that we don’t have a dryer and that line drying takes a long time in the winter and the summer. There’s no oven but there is a toaster oven. We will look at finding an air mattress for visitors.   It has a great view. All of the apartments we have seen are in the same complex, we can even pinpoint them on the map, and most have a view of another building. From this unit you see other buildings, hills, and coast. I love the patio.

Our address will be:

Yeonsan-dong                  (suburb)
Yeonsan Jugong          (Apartment complex)
Apa 402-903               (building  and apartment number)
530-752                             (area code)
Mokpo-si                           (city)
Jeollanamdo                      (state)
South Korea

Where are we going?

Yes, it’s true – we’re planning to relocate. Where, you ask? Jeollanamdo province, Korea, we say. Oh, you answer. But that doesn’t help a bit! No, no it doesn’t.

So: Jeollanam-do province is on the southwestern coast of the Korean peninsula. The wikipedia entry is here. It’s the purple part in the image on the right. (The green dot is the city of Gwang-ju, which is its own autonomous province.) Jeollanamdo is primarily an agricultural region, dotted with islands, mountains, and forests.

We don’t know where in the province we’ll be yet – that’s part of the fun. The EPIK program, which places foreign teachers in all Korean public schools, won’t have a definite list of openings till the new year.