Hey everyone! I’m back with 3 new questions, that again, I really enjoyed answering. I’m gonna keep it a bit shorter this time…I hope.
Terri asks: I love reading about your time in Korea, and I’ve also been considering moving there to teach or work (I’m from Canada), but I haven’t had the guts to yet. What were some of the things you were really curious about before moving to Korea? What kinds of things did you have to do to prepare for the big move?
This may sound crazy to some people, but my number one curiosity about Korea was how people here were going to perceive me. As a black woman, you hear all sorts of crazy stories: about how people try to rub your skin color off of you, how students may call you a dirty monkey, or any of the other dozens of crazy things you read about on the internet. I knew I was going to work at a middle school, so I had really bad anxiety that the kids were going to be supreme assholes. They weren’t. And to this day, no one has tried to rub me, or called me dirty or a monkey (although I’ve had people try to touch my hair and I check them fast as hell). I was also worried about bleaching my skin with Korean skincare products but as you can see…that’s definitely not something to be concerned about.
I was also curious about the food. I wasn’t the most (and I’m not really) the most adventurous eater, and I’d heard stories about how awful the school lunches are. Due to some dietary issues, I actually bring my own lunch everyday, but overall, they aren’t that bad!
To prepare for my move, I made sure to watch a lot of k-pop videos. I knew that I’d be teaching middle school, and I wanted to be able to relate to them. I found out the popular groups, learned the member names, what their new songs and albums were. I also kept up a bit on Korean dramas (although I don’t watch them), and of course, I tried to learn Hangeul before I left. Also, I’d never been one to use chopsticks, so I actually bought a few to practice. I’m a pro now!
I’ve had a few people ask about how I learned Hangeul, and a really great resource is this comic by Ryan Estrada. I’m a very visual learner, so having the word associations with the Korean symbols really, really helped. It’s a very simple alphabet to learn, and pretty much a necessity from the moment you get off the plane.
Jennifer asks: You told us that you didn’t really care about skin care before you came to Korea. Sooo, how did you get started with it? Did some ads catch your interest? Were the stores too cute to not walk into and buy random things? I want to hear the story behind your skin care obsession!
I was one of the lucky ones to never have acne as a teenager, but then I ended up cursed with adult onset acne. It was AWFUL. I used retin-a for a while, and it really helped, but as soon as I stopped using it, the acne would come back. I just never really thought about skincare…I usually used a lot of makeup to cover up the imperfections. I was so naive.
I remember the exact moment when I knew I was going to be obsessed with Korean cosmetics. It was maybe my first full week in Korea, and I went to Gangnam to meet with a friend I knew from high school. We went to COEX Mall, where, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a pink and white store princess-y looking store, filled with adorable lip glosses and nail polishes. It was Etude House. I gasped and grabbed my friend who was walking in the opposite direction. I remember telling her, “what is this place?! We need to go inside NOW!” And once I went inside, it was all over. That day, I didn’t end up buying any skincare, but I bought a gel liner, mascara, and some lip glosses.
I fell in love with Korean skincare when I went into a local SkinFood. At that time, my skin was still pretty awful, so my first purchases were the Parsley and Mandarin Trouble Skin toner and emulsion and the Black Sugar Scrub. The difference in my skin happened pretty freaking fast…I saw changes within 2 weeks! I remember being pissed because I had just spent a ton of money on the Murad acne line from Sephora, thinking that I wouldn’t find any skincare here. From Skinfood, I moved to Innisfree and Etude, and then it just became a full blown obsession.
Ola asks: this question doesn’t really relate to Korea, but more general in terms of teaching. Could you please talk about Vietnam, and how you found your next gig? I’m at a crossroad also, but I don’t want to commit another year, & 6 months is ideal.
Johnny and I had always planned on going to SE Asia after we finished working in Korea. But what we didn’t expect is that we weren’t going to save as much as we had hoped in Korea, so we decided to teach just a little bit longer in a different country. We threw out all sorts of ideas: Thailand, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Turkey, Mexico…the list goes on. My requirements were somewhere warm, and somewhere cheap with lots of fruits and vegetables. A place where I could focus on the next part of my life and career. Johnny wanted to move somewhere with an MMA scene and an opportunity to maybe do some acting. We finally settled on Vietnam, as the ESL life is booming there. There are hundreds of English academies, kindergartens, private schools, and a huge demand for teachers. Unlike in Korea, in Vietnam you can work multiple jobs, and a lot of them don’t require contracts. It used to be a place where wandering backpackers could crash for a few months and save a bit of cash, but they’ve had a crackdown and are really focusing on hiring experienced teachers. From what I’ve heard, Vietnam is like what Korea used to be, great pay, and an abundance of jobs.
The cost of living is insanely low, so I’m hoping to only work part time, and focus the rest of my energy on the blog and other areas. I found this blog post by 2 Nomands, 1 Experience extremely helpful when it came down to exactly how much one can expect to earn and save in Vietnam.
As of now, I don’t have a job. According to friends who have previously lived there, it’s a million times easier to get a job once you are on the ground in Vietnam. So….wish me luck that I find something relatively fast! I have a TEFL certification and 2 years of experience, so I don’t think it will be too difficult…I hope. But I guess that’s what life is about! I’m living on the edge. I plan on blogging about the whole experience, so definitely stick around!
Thanks again for asking me these really awesome questions. I have so much fun answering them! The last edition will be next week, unless this is something you’d like to see semi-regularly. Let me know!