Thursday, 31 March 2011

Back to Seoul again

Today we got an email from the Visa centre people telling us that our application has been pocessed already. We don't know if we're successful yet as they cannot tell us over the phone or via email. So tomorrow in the morning we're making the trip up to Seoul just one week after handing in the documents.

We're amazed at the speed of it all. The application only reached Manila on Monday and already the result is in and my wife's passport is back in Korea. Do we take it as a good sign? We're finding it difficult to take it any other way but of course we can't be overly confident. Both of us feel that we put forward as compelling a case as we could. At least we won't be left dangling for a month waiting for the results.

Today I saw my wife nervous so the first time. She's shown no stress up to this point where as I've been the one fretting over things. Today for a few minutes she showed me her worries. Thankfully it didn't last long as she is back to her normal, cheerful self. I have found it difficult at work though with my mind on more important matters. There really is no great Plan B. Fingers crossed, eh.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Meaningful breaks

Yesterday was the first day of the new series at work. New students in some cases and a slightly different schedule for me. From having no proper breaks for a long time, last series I was given two by my manager, now because some of my classes have merged due to students levelling up into other classes I now have four proper breaks in a week. This makes a big difference as classes last fifty minutes. I am hoping it will improve my teaching as that has got slowly worse over the past few weeks.

Last night in my break I was able to do a lot of preperation for Wednesday classes for the rest of this series. I will actually be able to use my breaks more productively - whatever that may turn out to be. Right now my schedule is the best it has been during my three and a half years at my academy. I don't know if this will last but it is very welcome. I only teach two Midle school classes now while one of my co-workers has six. As I am leaving in nine weeks it may be difficult for my manager to give me any new classes. We shall see.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Playing the waiting game

On Friday we headed out to Seoul to hand in my wife's application for a spousal visa for the UK. I thought we had to go to the British Embassy but went to the British Visa Centre instead. We arrived ten minutes ahead of the appointment and I was politely informed that I would not be allowed in. Despite having my British passport on me, only applicatants were allowed inside.

I was told that it would take about twenty minutes to sort out the documents so I went for a coffee in the building below. I took nearly an hour. This made me a bit nervous as naturally you consider if anything has gone wrong. When my wife appeared she was in a good mood. She told me that the staff were very friendly and helpful and that the woman who aided her commented on how well laid out our application was. We take this as a good sign but are trying not to read too much into it as they aren't the people assessing the application.

This morning my wife received a text message confirming that the application has arrived in Manila where the application will be dealt with. I think the process may take a month or so don't know for certain. We've tried to put forward as compelling a case as we could. I feel that there was very little more that we could have done. Now we just have to wait for the result and try not to spend too much time thinking about it.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Nearly there

Light at the end of the tunnel. We have nearly, but not quite, finished the application for my wife's spousal visa. I've found the process very stressful at times but we're nearly there. I hope to sleep soundly tonight for a change.

We're just adding the finishing touches, have a few things to print off and one document to collect and we're done. Then we head to Seoul on Friday to hand everything in. We've given it our best shot and there is little else we think we could do.

Tomorrow we have to sort everything out into it's rightful place but we've collected nearly everything we need. Today we finished the actual application form (it is done online). Right at the end you get the amount you need to pay. And surprise surprise, it's gone up. The application fee is 1,425,000won which is roughly £775. Money well spent of course if the application is successful.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Email from the British Embassy in Seoul

When one of your neighbours has problems it is only natural to consider if these might one day affect you. Living in South Korea, the situation with North Korea is always in the background but you build an immune system to the 'threat'. Now with the earthquake and tsunami disaster in Japan causing massive nuclear problems your mind turns to the possible scenario of it affecting us here.

I feel safe. I do not worry. My co-workers consider if any radiation could drift over here but I feel unqualified to talk on the subject - a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. From all the literature I read it does not seem possible that we will be affected. But I am out of my depth on this one. I am not concerned but do check the news as often as I can.

I receieved an email from the British Embassy here in Korea, as did anyone who is registered with them as a British National living in Korea. Here is an extract:

"We are continuing to follow developments in Japan closely and reviewing our advice to British nationals in the Republic of Korea. We will monitor the situation closely over the weekend.

...Our travel advice (for Japan and Korea) is kept under constant review, and is directly informed by the best scientific advice. Current assessments suggest that the situation at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan is extremely unlikely to pose an environmental risk to countries outside Japan, but the UK Government is continuing to monitor developments closely. As such, we have not changed our advice for British nationals living in the Republic of Korea. The Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety ( assesses that the risk of radiation movement from north east Japan to the Republic of Korea to be very low. Radiation levels on the Korean peninsula currently remain normal."

Being a teacher here means I am afforded the luxury of a decent salary and given the opportunity to save money. Should the situation become significantly worse and affect Korea I am lucky enough to be able to buy a plane ticket out of here for my wife and myself. One can only feel great sympathy for those in Japan and what they are going through and consider yourself fortunate enough not to be on the sharp end of this tragedy.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Classroom trend

From time to time you notice kids pick up habits or do things that they see others do or say. Recently a bunch of my students - in different classes - have been zipping up their hooded tops right to the top making them look like they are in a multi-coloured moving body bag.

It's a bit strange but my students seem to get a real kick out of doing it even if half of them actually manage to get the zip stuck leaving them breathless and in a panic.

Even one of my co-workers has started doing it.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Proving your relationship (for visa)

For the spousal visa application to the UK you have to try and provide evidence of your relationship. Examples include photos, emails and phone records. As we have lived with each other for over a year we don't email each other or really need to phone. We have lots of photos and have begun the 'exciting' costly process of printing these out and putting them together.

We also have some MSN records of when we began dating and also up to the time where we moved in together. These records are incomplete but cover a period over around eighteen months. I hope these will help with the application. I managed to save these from my old laptop before the screen died however I was unable to open them at all or they were unformatted on any computer I tried it on.

Yesterday I tried opening the files on Microsoft Excel and thankfully it worked though everything needed formatting properly. It took me hours to sort it out but it's just about done and my wife will print the pages and pages of it out this week.

The process is ticking along and we're gathering a lot of the things that we may or may not need. It is time consuming and a bit stressful but it will be worthwhile. We've just confirmed the time and date for handing in the application. You need to make an appointment at the embassy because they have to take fingerprints for the person applying. Exciting and nervous times ahead.

Three guests

One of my students brought three hamsters to class last week - they don't look like hamsters to me though. The class ended and she whipped them out and cuddled them as the rest of the kids gathered round. Where was she hiding the pets? In a pencil case.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Partner teacher stress

My worst student who I will refer to as 'Child Y' (which stands for, "Child, WHY do you keep doing this?") is giving one of my partner teacher's a lot of stress. Ever since we moved into the new building and his class changed into a smaller one he has become a real pain. Disrespectful, rude, arrogant, a bit of a bully and in general very poorly behaved. But only in my class, not my Korean partners.

I have discussed the matter several times with my partner and yesterday things seemingly reached a tipping point. In my class he upset another student. I dealt with the issue but the boy seemed to take no notice of me, however the upset child showed no signs of distress at all so I thought no more of it. I am told now that the boy went home and cried.

Of course my partner got a call from the mother today and she complained understandably. Then, my partner contacted the mother of 'Child Y' to tell the story and to basically complain about her boys behaviour, again. The mother of 'Child Y' then proceeded to moan, shout and complain about all this and ultimately seemed to blame me but in the process giving my partner a lot of stress. Thankfully my partner wasn't taking this lightly and argued our corner.

They talked for twenty minutes and seemingly got nowhere. The problem is that in the Korean teachers class he behaves but in the foreign teachers class - not just mine but the others that have taught him - he behaves terribly. We talked it over for a quite a long time but it was clear my partner teacher was really angry and stressed out. The simple fact is that now if he steps out of line in the he will be punished in the form of detention, called jaeshi at my academy. In fact if he continues I will just refuse to teach him, things are close to reaching that point. Students like this really stick in your throat because 95% of the rest behave fantastically. I wonder who he gets his behaviour from.

Visas and hair colour

Day two of the process for gathering documents for my wife's visa and it's going OK so far. There is little that I can do to help my wife with regards to some of the things she needs but I am there for her if she needs any help or advice.

I've been able to set the ball rolling on acquiring some of the things I need including bank documents from the UK and information regarding my employment. Also I've been working on getting a letter from my brother guaranteeing accommodation should we need it. Tomorrow I am off to the bank for more statements and also to ask a former employer for some help with a kind of reference.

I am finding it a bit stressful but things like this do tend to cause me more concern that others. Luckily my wonderful wife does not worry about things as much as I do. Hopefully my concern over the thoroughness of the application makes sure everything has been done to be successful. I look forward to the process further advancing my greying hair.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Visa hunt begins

Today my wife and I sat down to figure out everything we need to collect for her spousal visa application for the UK. We've known for a while what we need to sort out but it's been good to put it down on paper and get ready to cross everything off as soon as possible. Looking at the list we can get most of the things quite easily though one or two will take more time and effort.

The application needs to be perfect otherwise we will probably either need an interview or worst case scenario is that the application to be turned down. The cost of applying for the visa right now is 1.35million won which is roughly £750 or $1,200. If the application were to be rejected we would need to pay the same just to apply again.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Short back and sides

Over the past few days I've noticed a bunch of my students had new haircuts. It clicked after a while that they were all kids who were set to start Middle school very soon, in fact I think most of mine started on Tuesday.

The boys with haircuts all looked like fresh military recruits while the girls who all had long hair had theirs snipped to a much shorter length all because their school requires them to have shorter hair. I don't know if this is nationwide or just a Daegu thing. None of them like it and a few boys had their hoods covering their heads which kind of made it worse because everyone knew what was going on and it made them look a bit soft.

Over the years several of my students who are girls have complained to me that they have to have shorter (though not short) hair. They feel it's unfair. My first thought is to feel sorry for them and have a bit of sympathy. I asked my wife for her opinion and she just said she was "used to it," and I taker this as meaning she doesn't care. For the boys it is perhaps a bit over the top. The kids who now have very short hair didn't exactly look like Billy Ray Cyrus.

Your hairstyle forms part of your personality and helps define your individuality and thus must represents a loss them. Perhaps it is their school's way of making them know that they all equal but also must all act the same way. It's probably just because it's something that has been there for a while and they just don't want to change.

The haircut is not the only change they'll have. From my experience several of them are in danger of losing some of their personality for the next six years as they have to cope with a stream of exams and flow of pressure from school/parents/social expectations. From being carefree children they may now turn into zombies whose only joy comes from the PC room or their phone. I wish them all well and hope they will enjoy growing their hair back as soon as possible

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Three months left. Plan A underway

And we're onto March. I now have three months to go before my contract ends. Time has been passing rather quickly of late, the seasons are changing and moods are improving at work. Things have been going well lately but this month is a big one. My wife finished working yesterday but it's not just me with the busy schedule.

My wife and I are starting the process for her spousal visa application for the UK. We're about to put together a list and then over the next few weeks we'll be ticking off the things we need before hopping up to Seoul to hand in the paperwork. The things we need won't be difficult to get but after that we'll be relying on sound judgement from the people in charge. I don't anticipate any problems but we have to make sure everything is perfect with the application.
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