June 19, 2009: Today is My Three-Year Anniversary of Moving Back to Asia, and Tomorrow I Go to Taiwan
That's right. Three years ago today, I moved to Korea. And Tomorrow I'm moving to Taiwan. Which makes just over three years as a resident of Korea.

I'll arrive tomorrow at the Kaohsiung International Airport. Where in Kaohsiung do I plan to live? Cijin Island.

It's a very long, thin island just off the coast. There's a cheap ferry connecting it with Gushan. Why do I want to live there? The beach. My entire life, I've waited to live on the beach, and now I can.

Since I've lived 22 long years and never been able to be next to a beach, I'm bound and determined to live on Cijin Island. Even if I'm just a 20-minute bus ride from the island, I'll never go to the beach because I'm a penny saver. So I MUST be on the island, no questions about it.

As long as I can find an apartment (or maybe even a room) on Cijin Island under 10,000 Taiwan dollars, I'll probably take it. It's that important to me.

Of course, living on Cijin Island will probably mean taking a ferry to the mainland every day to get to work, wherever that is. That's fine. I love boats and don't get seasick. I want to FORCE myself to ride boats and be near the beach. This is a lifelong dream come true, to live on the beach. Anyways, better get packing.

Here's my plan of action when I hit Taiwan:

  1. Clear immigration and customs at the airport.
  2. Find a hotel ASAP, anything under $30 (US) will do.
  3. Immediately afterward, buy three days worth of food from a Wellcome or other supermarket to resist the urge to eat constantly in restaurants and run up a bill.
  4. Get a good night's sleep.
  5. Wake up and start an apartment/room search. I hope to be in a hotel for two nights or less.

My Tourist Visa for Taiwan
June 18, 2009: I Got My 60-Day Tourist Visa
Today is the three-year anniversary of when I ceased to live in the United States. Coincidentally, I also got my Taiwan tourist visa today.

I hope to go to Taiwan, cruise for jobs for a month, and spend a month getting my papers processed to convert the visa into a working visa. However, I'm concerned about the "NO EXTENSION" part.

I'm worried that I may not be able to convert visas in-country. If this is the case, I can still work in Taiwan, I'll just have to make a visa run to Hong Kong or another nearby country. As long as my employer pays for that, I don't mind.

I'm checking into the "NO EXTENSION" thing on Dave's ESL Cafe. I asked the folks in the Taiwan Mission, but they didn't know.

Anyways, the day after tomorrow, I set out for Taiwan. This visa lets me stay there for 60 continuous days.

June 17, 2009: I Applied for my Two-Month Tourist Visa Yesterday
The day after the day after tomorrow, I get on a plane and head to the ROC! Yesterday, I applied for my tourist visa.

I don't actually need to have a tourist visa to enter the ROC, in fact, I don't recommend one for most tourists since it's so expensive (167,500 won for Americans at the Taipei Mission in Korea). However, it allows people like me to stay for up to two months instead of just one. What this means is theoretically, I can spend one month looking for a job, and one month after submitting all my papers to get my Alien Residency Card and Work Permit. Theoretically, I won't have to go to a third country to do visa processing.

Of course, whether these things can truly be completed from within Taiwan is less clear (some people on Dave's ESL Cafe have said it could take five weeks or more), but getting a two-month visa is a good gamble because it could save me hundreds of dollars in the long run.

The guy at the Taipei Mission in Korea was unfriendly to everyone who came in, not just me. He wanted a friend's contact information in Taiwan. I told him I didn't have it, because I didn't have any friends in Taiwan. He asked how I was going to get around if I don't have any friends there. I said I'd make friends, just like I did with South Korea. He didn't press the issue further. He accepted my application and the fee, so I must have a reasonable chance at getting that visa. We'll see tomorrow at 1:00 if they issue the visa or not — that's the pickup time. Since Americans are visa-free up to 30 days, I'll go to Taiwan regardless of whether they issue it or not, but if I get it, it'll make things quite a bit easier.

My Receipt for Picking Up the Passport with Added Pages

*UPDATE* The Newly-Added Pages which Are Taped into the Middle of the Passport

June 10, 2009: Adding More Pages to My Passport
I just went to the US embassy here in Seoul. I needed more pages for my passport. I was down to just two empty pages (even though the passport was issued just over two years ago). I've been doing quite a bit of traveling, which is why it's filled up so fast. Fortunately, American citizens can go to the embassy without an appointment, hand in their passports without even having to take a number (though no one had the thought to tell me, so I took a number and waited anyway), and get pages added for free by the next day.

Tomorrow, I will pick up my passport at the US embassy and then walk to the Taiwanese embassy and apply for a 128,000 won two-month tourist visa (I get 30 days for free, but figure I'm going to need some extra time just in case).

Anyways, the reason this is relevant to Taiwan is that I need to get the pages added for visas, etc. while I'm still in Korea because the US doesn't have official diplomatic relations with Taiwan, so there is no US embassy in Taiwan. I may not be able to get these pages added there, because the American Institute in Taiwan does not carry out every function that an embassy does. I'm just playing it safe.

*UPDATE* I got the extension. It appears they taped in (with a packing tape-like tape) 22 extra pages — enough to keep me going for another couple of years. They have various American motifs and quotes on them. Cool.

My Plane Ticket Invoice from Seoul to Kaohsiung (this is it, I've put money down on this scheme)
June 9, 2009: I Bought My Plane Ticket
It's official, I've bought my plane ticket to Taiwan. This is no longer just a reservation. Either I leave Korea on June 20 for Kaohsiung, or I'm seriously wasting my money.

To be honest, my lack of Chinese language ability is intimidating. Here in Korea, I can do many things — I can communicate with almost anyone, I can perform non-English teaching work (heck, I've been offered jobs in Korea ranging from interpreting for sports players, to 7-Eleven, to restaurant work). However, my Chinese is not nearly good enough to do any of those things. I'd estimate my Chinese vocabulary only numbers in the hundreds of words, and my Chinese characters are in the hundreds as well.

I'm intimidated, but I will rise to the challenge. My goal is to learn 3,000 words and 1,800 characters by the time I've been in Taiwan six months, and spend the remaining seven months honing what I've learned and using my newly-acquired language skills to do some fun things.

I'll just worry about things as they come. Let's be realistic, I probably won't solve my daily communications issues and be able to pick up hot women like I can in Korea until I've acquired at least an intermediate Chinese proficiency level. I predict this will go faster than with Korean (quite frankly I'd say Chinese is an easier language than Korean), but there will still be that period in which I'm pretty useless for anything other than teaching English and sitting in my room, moping.

Anyway, it's time to stop sucking the withered teat of Old Mother Korea and expand my horizons. Taiwan, ho!

The Box for Mabeop Cheonjamun (, photographed by me)

The In-Game Undersea Palace of the Dragon King

The "Place for Practicing Chinese Characters" (Hanja-Yeonseup-Jang, and this scene shows the intermediate-level Level 4 Chinese characters)

June 8, 2009: Mabeop Cheonjamun ()
Despite severely lacking money, I went and shelled out 90,000 won on a Nintendo DS and Nintendo DS game. I did this on Friday. Why?

Because it's Mabeop Cheonjamun (), an excellently-designed game that teaches 1,000 Chinese characters! That's right, I've been playing it for over 20 hours, and it's as addictive as crack cocaine, and I've already picked up a ton of characters. It's so addictive that I didn't post about it until my weekend was over and Monday began.

My goal for Chinese is to learn some key phrases from a phrasebook to impress people and work on Mabeop Cheonjamun. Seriously, it's so addictive, it works wonders on one's Chinese characters (too bad it's all in Korean, otherwise my non-Korean-speaking readers could try it out).

My new goal for Chinese is the following: memorize 50 phrases before hitting Taiwan, and complete Mabeop Cheonjamun before July 4.

My schedule for Taiwan, as it stands, is this:

  1. June 8: Begin preparations to move to Taiwan in earnest (start learning 50 key phrases, review the material from Chinese 101, and finish half of Mabeop Cheonjamun DS for Chinese character knowledge by June 29 (I'm planning to fully review 500 characters, and leave the hardest 500 for Taiwan).
  2. Arrive in Kaohsiung, Taiwan on June 20.
  3. Get acclimated until Monday, the 29th.
  4. On the 29th, start handing out resumes — try to hand out 50 of the buggers by July 14.
  5. Wait two weeks to see if I get any replies. If not, the job situation is so poor, I ought to go back to Korea. I really hope this doesn't happen.

June 4, 2009: I Just Reserved My Plane Ticket to Kaohsiung
I just reserved my plane ticket from Korea to Taiwan. It'll be 370,000 won (slightly less than $300). This travel agency says the round-trip and one-way fares are the same, so I'm going with a round-trip ticket just in case.

Here's the plan. I arrive in Taiwan at 11:00 PM on June 20. I spend two weeks getting acclimated to Taiwan (getting my Chinese up to speed, getting acquainted with the public transportation, etc) and then at the two-week mark (July 4) I start handing out resumes.

I plan to hand out 50 resumes in four days. Then I'll wait a week. If no one replies to my resumes in one week, I'll start to pack up my things and get ready to take the return flight back to Korea where finding a job is a sure thing. If I get no callbacks at the 29-day mark, I'm getting back on a plane and returning to Korea.

In the mean time, before leaving Korea, I'm going to apply for the TaLK Program and possibly GEPIK in Korea. That way, if I fail in Taiwan, I'll have a job when I come back to Korea. This will be good insurance.

However, I really hope I succeed in Taiwan. I don't want to spend ANOTHER year in Korea. By the way, here are ten reasons I think I'll like Kaohsiung better than Seoul:

  1. Apartment rents are cheaper, so I can rent an apartment on the same amount of money I rented a tiny room on here in Korea.
  2. It's below the Tropic of Cancer, so it's tropical. Average temperatures are between the 60s (Fahrenheit) in the winter and the high 80s in the summer. This is in contrast to Seoul, which is bitter cold during the winter.
  3. It's right along the ocean. There are beaches in Mituo. According to someone I know who's been to Kaohsiung's beaches, they are pretty clean.
  4. It's level, so biking should be easier than Seoul (less reliance on public transportation).
  5. The population density is less than 10,000 per square kilometer, less than half of the population density here in Seodaemun. Therefore, the lifestyle is a lot more "placid" and less "hurry hurry" than Korea, says someone I know who's been to Kaohsiung.
  6. They speak Chinese there, which is a much more useful language to know than Korean. The traditional Chinese characters written all over the place, if I learn them well, will greatly assist me in learning Japanese.
  7. There are no US military bases there, and it's the headquarters of the Pan-Green Coalition (anti-Chinese reunification) so they're bound to like Americans more than Seoul.
  8. Taiwan has franchises Seoul doesn't, like Wal-Mart and Wellcome (a supermarket chain I used to shop at in Hong Kong).
  9. Taiwan doesn't have the same annoying nationalistic hangups that Korea does (Dokdo, hate Japan, Great Pure Korean Race of Supermen, etc). Of course, Taiwanese may have hangups of their own, and who knows, maybe I'll find these even more annoying, but it'll be a breath of fresh air for at least a while.
  10. No country led by a crazy dictator who just declared open war ending a 55-year armistice last month. Sure, China is threatening too, but not as irrational as the Kim clan.

May 7, 2009: I Have Decided to Move to the Republic of China (ROC) Instead of Mainland China
Six weeks from today, I intend to pass through customs and be in TAIWAN. WHAT?! TAIWAN?!

That's right, I'm not going to mainland China. I'm going to Taiwan!

American TESOL Institute sent me an e-mail informing me that "[they] are making this effort to make things uncomplicated and favorable for [me]" (their exact words) and they changed the location from Beijing to Shenzhen. And changed the dates. Oh, and they were planning to have us working near Shenzhen, which is a legal impossibility for me (proving that they weren't planning to give me a Z visa to work legally).

Obviously my confidence in that organization was destroyed, and the new dates did not agree with my schedule. If I can't go to China until July, where do I go in between Korea and China when my Korean visa expires?

I told them to give me a refund. They did, indeed, refund most of the money.

Since I'm going to have my associate's degree soon, I can just work in Taiwan. I'm sick of the dishonesty and smoke and mirrors associated with mainland China. I'd rather save $1,000 a month in Taiwan. Live in the tropics, near the beach. Be working for an employer with some basic shred of honesty.

However, one thing is not going to change — I'm still planning to learn Chinese. I used to know quite a bit of Chinese when I was a middle schooler, but by the end of high school, I had forgotten nearly all of it.

My goal is to cram 1,000 words (in pinyin) before entering Taiwan. This will give me an edge as I get acquainted with the place, look for a job, etc.

By the end of my stay in Taiwan, I want to know 3,000 words and 1,800 traditional characters. This means that I will cram 1,000 words before going, and once there, learn approximately 10 words per day (should be a piece of cake), until I have fully conversational Chinese slightly before the halfway point of my stay there.

April 9, 2009: Went to Washington, D.C. and Got a Picture of Chinatown's Gate

Over the weekend, I went to Washington, D.C. and got some stock images of both Washington, D.C. (for teaching English) and for my Web site. Above is Chinatown's gate.

March 30, 2009: I Paid Two Thirds of My American TESOL Institute (Beijing) Tuition
I just wanted to update my readers that I have made my first payment of $500 to the American TESOL Institute, the folks who will be training me in English teaching methodology and then setting me up with my first official, paid teaching position. I got a "welcome aboard" e-mail, so things are looking good.

I am not sure how credible they are, but will update my readers about the process as I go through it. I have been able to ascertain from one guy who did their Thai program that they do indeed exist, and the guaranteed job is genuine and does pay, and I have talked to a university that deals with ATI, and I have also seen a quote from Frank Dong, one of their instructors, on MSNBC. I take all these as signs that the place isn't a scam, but beyond that, I know very little about the quality of the education or the quality of the job afterward. My expectations aren't that high. I guess I'll be satisfied as long as everything is roughly as represented. I guess we'll see.

March 21, 2009: UPDATE 2: The Coding for This Site Is Basically Complete
After a long day of coding, all the coding for the first edition of the site appears to be done. I can't guarantee there isn't a hidden bug somewhere that I haven't discovered yet, but the coding now seems to be finished. Guess I should give myself a pat on the back!

The site now has two IFrames — one for navigation, on the left, and one for content, where this blog is. The navigation menus return to a default state at the count of 8000 (a matter of seconds, in real terms). There are rollovers. Keep in mind, so far, only the coding of the site is finished — graphics will come later, and for now, I have some poor-quality GIFs made in MS Paint as "programmer art." The only piece of "programmer art" that will remain in the final site is the favicon, because there's only so much a person can do with a 16x16 icon.

Content for the site will on-going as I live in China. I have created the basic pages for the content (such as a blog page, a home page, a links page, and navigation pages for specialized things), but there is barely any actual content right now. This will change when I enter China.

Here is a screenshot of how the site appeared on March 21, 2009, on the first day of its existence:

March 21, 2009: I'm Establishing a New Web Site for My Adventures in China
I'm establishing this new Web site because I'm going to go to China and work, starting this summer, first as a student, then as an English teacher. I have been accepted into the American TESOL Institute in Beijing, and plan to learn how to teach English for three weeks, then be placed in a guaranteed position at a school. The cost of the program is $750, which covers my lodging in Beijing, my training, and the guaranteed position at the end of the course (the course begins on June 15 and the first day of on-the-job training begins on July 1). I plan to live in China for slightly over a year.

Since I'm moving to China, I think it's time I start a new Web site. The old one on Korea will still be here, but I've run that site for exactly three years as of today, and I believe I should start a new site to cover a new chapter in my life — China.

Perhaps I should discuss my reasons for moving to China:

  1. I want to earn money to pay for my education and to repay debts that my education has unfortunately incurred (I hope that if I stay in China for a year, I can make $7,000 beyond my living expenses to go to education and repayment of student debt, which should be doable on a 5,000+ RMB salary provided the exchange rate doesn't worsen).
  2. I want to have the cultural experience of living and working on the Chinese mainland before tensions between China and the US escalate to the point where this is no longer possible for Americans.
  3. I want to learn enough Chinese language that when China has risen past the level of global influence of the United States, I will be prepared with a good foundation of Chinese. I hope that by the end of my stay in China, I will be able to recognize and write approximately 1,800 characters and know 3,000 words. That should bring me to a basic conversational level of Chinese. Then, after leaving China, I can add on new words and characters matching China's rate of ascension in the world.
Finally, I would like to mention that I already have some experience with China. I am not a raw beginner. I have already lived in Hong Kong (for three years, where I started and finished middle school), traveled on the Chinese mainland for a while in the summer of 2007 (visiting Dalian, Shuishiying, Yanji, and Shenyang), and studied Chinese at both Hong Kong International School and Northern Virginia Community College. I also studied Chinese characters at Yonsei University in South Korea. So I already know some spoken Chinese and some Chinese characters, and already know something about Chinese culture — I'd just like to bring my knowledge level about China up to spec, while saving some money to continue my education.

Well, enough about my plans. I dedicate this site to my adventures in China