Sunday, June 23, 2013

How to Earn Money Teaching English in Colombia

Dancers in Cartagena, Colombia
 In early 2012, I decided to head to the beautiful country of Colombia to teach and travel. I had a wonderful experience and had the chance to meet lovely people and see spectacular places.

Lots of people would love to try out teaching in Latin America. However, they are reluctant to make that jump for three main reasons: there's very little information out there, they're worried about safety and they've heard about the very low pay in many Latin countries.

If you want to teach in Latin America, Colombia's a good choice. That's because the country has some of the best pay rates in the region and that there are plenty of jobs to be had. One can stay for as long as they want. For those with an adventurous spirit who are willing to put in hard work, the opportunities are endless. Here, you can meet fellow foreigners who were very successful at starting their own businesses.

Colombia's for the more independent worker. If you need someone to hold your hand, Colombia's not the place for you. However, if you like freedom of movement and opportunity, then Colombia's a good place to get started.

Learn more about my personal experience from my blog post.

What types of jobs are available? What qualifications do I need?

Monday, June 17, 2013

South African Barbecue at Nanji Hangang Park (Camping Site)

Me at the event :)

Not too long ago, I met a new friend at the Cinco de Mayo party that we both attended. He happened to be from South Africa, and he invited me to an annual get together for South Africans (and friends) in Seoul.

The event was a big barbecue where folks brought their own food and drinks. They cook, eat, drink and have a good time with friends. That reminds me of what I used to do with my own family in the USA, so I couldn't wait to attend.

Unfortunately, the South African friend who sent me the invitation ended up double-booking and wasn't able to attend. I was on my own! I ended up inviting a few of my friends to the event and met them there.

Sitting at the table
The event was held at Nanji Hangang Park (난지한강공원), at the camping site (캠핑장). The closest subway station is the World Cup Stadium station on line 6. In theory, one can walk there from the subway station in about 20 minutes by supposedly leaving out of exit #1 and following the signs. However, after talking to people who attempted to walk, it seems like it's very easy to get lost... and one of these people was Korean. The easiest way is to take a taxi. I took a taxi from Seoul Station which cost about 8,000 won.

We brought some of our own food. I prepared and brought chicken, salad and macaroni and cheese. My friends brought various other things. Luckily for us, I was able to get in contact with someone else to hold a spot for us. One man helped me get started, and I was able to make some BBQ chicken. Their grills were nice and easy to use. It was probably my second time being responsible for working the grill, so I was excited!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Life in Korea Requires a Thick Skin ... Really!

Living in Korea isn't always easy

After having a rather intense conversation with another westerner last week, I began to think about how we even survive here.

Well, overall life is pretty comfortable in the land of the morning calm. From my blog entries and Facebook posts, Korea may look like it's all fun and games. However, some actions or episodes can really make me hate certain aspects sometimes.

You may be saying, "Well, that's just culture shock." But it's beyond that. Foreigners have been saying the same thing to each other ever since I first came here. You need to have a thick skin to survive in Korea.

It's the reason why many people don't see themselves staying longer after a year or two. And it can be even worse for those of us who aren't white westerners. Seemingly tough and secure people can break -- emotionally -- after just a couple of years on the peninsula. Some folks break quickly and pull a midnight run. I've seen friends suffer and leave with no intentions of returning.

Why is that so? Certain experiences can be really grating, even if they're from students.

For example, during a recent discussion on basic hygiene vocabulary, a student declared that I must be dirty because my skin was brown. She said that over and over again, and the class thought that was hilarious.

I've also been called a monkey, and have gone through classes with disruptive students making gorilla noises.
Letting the hate get to you will make you lose your mind  

I've had children and adults say awful things about my natural hair. According to some people, it's bad, ugly and dirty.

On top of that, imagine watching television. Every commercial break shows advertisements featuring skin whitening creams. In its seasonal peak, summertime, every commercial break promotes three or four ads telling me that I'd be more beautiful if I bleached my skin.

As soon as the summer sun comes out, so do the parasols ... the pretty umbrellas designed to block sunlight. That's to keep them from getting darker. There's even a joke claiming that the quickest way to make a Korean woman insecure is to compliment her tan.

Now, after experiencing these sorts of events, imagine not having anyone to talk to about them. For example, my English-speaking coworkers are white and seemingly would never understand. In my time here, I've seen the locals give favorable treatment to my whiter counterparts. It's difficult to talk to a very average looking man who's constantly being told he's handsome by the locals.

As a result, it can be very easy to feel alone and helpless.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Finally, Gay Pride in Seoul 2013

A parade float

Last weekend, there was a gay pride march in Hongdae, the area near Hongik University in Seoul.

Now, I have been attending gay pride events since I was a teenager, starting with NYC. They're always high energy family events where everyone seemingly has a spectacular time. I've attended pride events in New York City, Washington DC, Philadelphia and Buenos Aires.
Standing next to a sign

They have been having an annual queer festival in Seoul for about 13 years now, and they've obviously held them in the time I was here. However, gay pride, or the Korea Queer Cultural Festival as it is known locally, isn't a widely known event. Most people have no idea it even exists. As a result, I have always tended to not get wind of the festival happening. This explains why I missed it both times the first two years I was here. In 2010 and 2011, I heard about the event after it was held, which was unfortunate.

Last Friday, the day before, I heard of this year's event from a small post on facebook. I knew I was going to attend this time!

Being L, G, B or T is quite taboo in Korea in general (and yes, it's taboo in much of the USA as well). In the years that I have been here, I feel like I've seen the dialogue at least being started, which is an improvement. People, the young in particular, are more open minded to the existence and tolerance of LGBT folks.

This year, the event was held in Hongdae. I wanted to see the parade in particular, so I used this map as a reference. I went to the neighborhood, ate lunch and studied with a friend. We then walked outside at about 4:30 pm to look for the parade.