Tag Archives: Chungdahm Learning Academy

Gary and Lisa’s Travel and Photo Journal for Jeju Island, March 2010

Jeju Island is located south of the Korean peninsula about an hour’s flight away from Seoul’s Gimpo Airport. Gary and I spent four days visiting the island during our vacation from Chungdahm the last week of March, 2010, and even though it was too cool for the beach, we found plenty of fun things to do around the resort area, all of it within walking distance of our hotel.

We stayed at the Jeju Hana Hotel (hana is Hangul for one) located in the Seogwipo-si resort area among a cluster of hotels, golf clubs, and tourist attractions. Our hotel was reasonably priced and had a bath tub, a luxury since most officetels do not have tubs, only showers.

Though the Hana Hotel has a nice restaurant, we were visiting during the off season and the restaurant closed in the evenings. This fact prompted us to explore the area for other dining options. We included in our search all nearby hotels and found Hyatt’s accommodations to be among our best. Of course, being open might have had something to do with that.

The Jeju Hyat is located down the road from the Hana Hotel and has a stunning view overlooking the ocean. Around its grounds are a number of scenic pathways built for strolling and enjoying the local plant life. Visitors can take advantage of these pathways as alternate routes to different parts of the resort compound.

The lobby of Jeju Hyatt also features and indoor koi and goldfish pond with a half-dozen small ducks waddling about. I’m not sure what kept those ducks from flying beyond the perimeter of the indoor pond (their wings did not appear to have been clipped), but they never did. Perhaps they intuited they would get cooked if they didn’t mind their territory.

Many of the other nearby restaurants were also closed for the season, but that didn’t stop us from walking around and snapping a few pictures. Many restaurants on the island offer horse meat and, of course, all types of seafood. Here are a few exterior shots of one traditional-style restaurant near our hotel.

Up the road in the opposite direction of the Hyatt are a number of tourist attractions. We visited the “Sound Island Museum,” which includes in its collection a number of  phonographs (circa Edison vintage), musical instruments from different regions of the world and a couple of rooms filled porcelain nick-knacks and dolls arranged in a kind of diorama. We never figured out exactly why these scenes were on display or their relation to sound and music but speculated that perhaps they are some kind of personal collection belonging to the museum the owners who have no better place to store or exhibit these things. Korean people are, after all, very efficient with space.

Photo courtesy of the Official Site of Korea Tourism

Later, we ambled over to Jeju-do Chocolate Factory, famous for being the only chocolate factory in Asia in the 10 top chocolate factories of the world list. It feature an impressive art gallery consisting of a number of miniatures and “paintings” rendered in chocolate.  It also features a ‘Bean to Bar’ showroom, which shows the entire process of chocolate beans’ transformation into chocolate. Finally, there is a showroom and gift shop where visitors can purchase Jeju Island chocolate. Since the area is also famous for it’s huge, delicious oranges (which adorn trees all across the island this time of year) visitors can also purchase orange flavored chocolate.

Jeju Botanical Gardens: Greenhouse

Jeju Botanical Gardens: Greenhouse

Not far from the Sound Museum and Chocolate Museum is the Jeju Teddy Bear Museum. Korean people have the corner market on cute, and so it’s not terribly surprising that there exists a museum celebrating cuteness as encapsulated by the iconic teddy bear.

The Seogwipo-si area boasts a spectacular botanical garden and is perhaps the best attraction in the area. The indoor compound contains a number of greenhouse gardens that including a simulated desert, water gardens, and a tropical plant and exotic fruit bearing tree greenhouse.

Cacti and Succulents

Kimchi Pots

Kimchi Pots

Banana Tree

Banana Tree

Inside the top

Inside the top

View from the Top

View from the Top

European Gardens

European Gardens

Italian Gardens

Italian Gardens

Japanese Gardens

Japanese Gardens

Korean Traditional Garden

Korean Traditional Garden

Not far from the Jeju Botanical gardens is a beautiful traditional style bridge with a view of a nearby waterfall.  There is also a lovely  Pagoda and fountain nearby, as pictured here.

Good Luck Fountain

Good Luck Fountain

Pagoda Palace

Pagoda Palace

View of Falls from Pagoda

View of Falls from Pagoda

The Bridge

The Bridge

The Falls

The Falls

View of Falls Through Decorative Cutout in Bridge

View of Falls Through Decorative Cutout in Bridge

Perhaps the best part of our vacation was hanging out with Korean tourists. We are used to living and working among Korean people and Korean children and in general doing all the normal daily stuff right along side them.  Our days are made up of the uninspiring stuff that make up daily living, like taking out the trash, getting groceries, taking public transportation and paying bills at the ATM. But we got another glimpse of Korean people while on vacation – Korean people as tourists- and they are a blast. Especially the older folks, who are definitely out to have a good time (the odor of soju on their breath confirms that fact). We were approached several times by folks wanting us to take pictures of their groups. They always offered to take our picture as a return favor. Sometimes people would come up and start a conversation, never mind that we can’t speak the language. They kept talking and explaining things to us even when we gestured  our incomprehension. Really, there may be nothing more endearing in this world to me now than a tour group of vacationing older Korean women dressed in matching pink out to have a good.

I spied one fellow in particular who was dressed elaborately, especially by Korean standards, hanging around the area offering to take pictures for tourists. Koreans are  quiet homogeneous and rather prefer things that way. I mean, they dress alike on purpose and stick together. However, this man was clearly an individual, and I tried several times to take his picture on the sly. None of them came out very well though. I’d given up when he came over and offered to take a photo of Gary and I – it’s the one at the heading of this blog post (it was his suggestion that we put our hands up in the air). After taking our picture, he voluntarily posed for a picture with Gary so even though my previous efforts at capturing his digital likeness was a failure, in the end I was granted the perfect opportunity. Here’s the pic:It’s Gary’s favorite pic of the batch.

VISA Debacle I: The Apostille

The first step for acquiring  S. Korean work VISAs was to gather and mail a number documents to Aclipse recruiting agency in Boston, who in turn forwarded them to Chung-Dahm Learning Center, the school in Seoul where we will be teaching. The list of necessary documents included such items as sealed transcripts from the schools we attended, our original diplomas (which they promise they will return at orientation), copies of our passports, passport photos, signed contracts and consent forms, and background checks with Apostilles attached.

We pretty much had most everything on hand except the background checks. So, one day during my lunch hour (before I had announced I would be leaving my job), Gary and I went to a local fingerprinting establishment, filled out some paperwork, paid our $25.62 processing fee, waited in a small, stuffy waiting room with a few others for over an hour, had our fingerprints taken by a crass woman with a smoker’s voice and finally left with our fingerprint cards and instructions on where to send them in hand.  This took much longer than my hour lunch break, but luckily no one at the office seemed to notice how long I’d been gone, or maybe they just weren’t worried about it, so I never offered an explanation.

Within a week or ten days, we received our Federal Background Checks back in the mail, each  with a “No Arrest Record” stamp on them.

With background checks in hand, we set out to discover how to get “Apostilles” attached to them. Now, neither one of us had ever heard of an Apostille, but according to the checklist the recruiting agency sent us, it has something to do with the Secretary of State’s Office. (The dictionary definition of apostille is “a marginal annotation or note” – not a terribly helpful piece of information.)

I called the Secretary of State in Santa Fe to find out how to attain an Apostille and learned that all we needed to do was to send our notarized background check to the Secretary of State’s Office along with a check for the $10.00 processing fee and a self addressed stamped envelopes. Once they received our request and checks, they would attach the Apostilles to our background checks  and send them back to us within ten days.

Sounds easy enough, I thought. There is a notary on the third floor of the building I work in and Gary could easily get a notary at his bank to sign off on his background check. Only, when Gary (who was first to get around to it) went to the bank to get his background check notarized, the notary told him she could not notarize it. Why? She sited a couple of reasons; 1) There was no appropriate location to place the notarization and, 2) the FBI form clearly states that notarization is not required.

After a little further investigation and one or two somewhat frantic emails to and from our recruiter, I learned that what the recruiting agency and school really needed from us were state background checks. And here I thought Federal background checks complete with fingerprint cards would trump any silly state background check; simply not true.

Turns out the state background check is very easy to acquire. All one has to do is print off a form from the state’s website, fill it out completely, send it with a $10 processing fee and a self-addressed-stamped-envelope, then wait ten to fourteen days for a response. We quickly got the forms filled out and mailed them the day before Gary was to leave town for Paolo Alto (where he spent three weeks teaching eleven-year-old talented youth for Johns Hopkins’ CTY summer program). This was early June, well ahead of the June 24th deadline.

Gary’s background check came back in the mail within two days, a quicker than expected turn around, which seemed auspicious and promising.

After ten days had lapsed and I still had not received my state background check (and had endured comments about my integrity from Gary), I decided to call the appropriate office to inquire after it. This was on a Friday, and, in quintessentially New Mexican fashion, (NM is the land of manana), the woman suggested I wait until Monday, and if it still hadn’t arrived by mail to give them another call.

Monday came and went and still no state background check. I called the state again Tuesday morning and told the same woman that the background check had not yet arrived by mail. She placed me on hold, returned to the line and said that it would have been sent with Gary’s, since they were coming to the same address. I assured her that my background check was not in the envelope with Gary’s background check. At this point my phone call was transferred to another woman who defensively insisted that once something leaves their office they are not responsible for it’s delivery. I assured her I really didn’t care about all of that, that I just wanted to find out how to get my background check – that I had to have it for my job. After a heated back and forth she finally understood what I wanted and told me to fill out another request along with proof of payment and another SASE and they would get another one to me.

And they did.

The following Tuesday I took the morning off from work and Gary and I drove to the Secretary of State’s office in Santa Fe to get Apostilles attached to our notarized state background checks (turns out an Apostille is a letter written on very nice bond paper which bears the Secretary of States seal and is attached to the background check with a fancy brass grommet).

While we could have sent our background checks and request for Apostilles by mail, I wanted to hand deliver everything and be available to address concerns or problems in person. Also, we were past the deadline at this point. And, as it turned out, going in person was a wise choice because the woman who helped us questioned the background checks we had; she thought they typically had two pages instead of one. I assured her all we received was one page. She seemed to accept my explanation and disappeared down the hallway to do whatever it was she needed to do. I stood in the waiting area with Gary imagining the nightmare that I may have avoided by being present to address this seemingly minor question;  the woman’s concern over the correct number of pages that a background check should have might very well have been enough for them to return our background checks back to us without  Apostilles attached, thus delaying our VISA process even further.

Upon our return to Albuquerque that afternoon, we “over-nighted” our background checks and Apostilles to our recruiter in Boston to add to the packet of information we had sent ahead, thus beginning our tense wait for VISA codes…

which will be the topic of a future blog.