Kate Teacher - the adventure begins

I made it.  What up, Korea?  I'm surprised that I'm not really having any culture shock yet.  I feel totally comfortable and ready to start remembering the things I need to know (jet lag has done a number on my brain).  It's been a whirlwind.

So far I've had a couple of hours of training at work and I even taught a few classes, covering for a teacher who went home sick. "Taught" is a term used loosely since I was covering without a lesson plan.  Really, we just chatted and played.  The kids were cute and when I asked what they knew about me, they said "You're Kate from Texas, you like dogs and don't eat meat."  Spot on, kiddos, spot on.  They asked a lot of questions, like why my hair is yellow and if I'm married or have a boyfriend.  And when I responded "no" to that, they told me they felt sorry for me.  Evidently we are not through with those questions/reactions.

Yesterday we  took a field trip to the amusement part in Gyeongu.  THAT was nuts.  At first I didn't recognize whether the kids I was watching were ours or not since I had yet to meet most of them.  I just kind of took charge of anyone who was shorter than me.  I got a few crazy looks from some as they ran back to their parents yelling about the crazy yellow haired lady who was trying to kidnap them.  But, by the end of the day I had a good grasp on who was who and their silly little personalities.

They are hams, all of 'em.  Ulsan is actually the wealthiest city in Korea and many of these kiddos have lived abroad in America with their parents, so we are pretty lucky with their advanced language skills.  This guy (I won't be posting any kids names) picked up a lot of tidbits from living in America and his sense of humor about is hilarious.  Here he is "being emo" aka cutting his wrists furiously and emotionally in a corner:

I mean.  So weirdly witty.

This little guy jumped to the top of my favorite list.  He was so intrigued with the clown:

Here's the whole crew:

Kids who look tired but are actually freakishly energetic at the end of a long day.

I'm not totally sure how much I can post of the kids on a public blog...I know at home it might not fly, so if this post comes down, just know that they are all pretty awesome.


Korea is a dirty little tease

I'm pretty sure my boss thinks I'm some kind of mirage in a desert.  He keeps trying to get me to Korea, but I'm always juuuuust out of reach.  And then he's having nightmares like I don't really exist, I'm just some kind of rapture-esque otherwordly, fooling him into thinking I'm going to be teaching for his students this next year, only for him to wake up on my first day of work to hear a big 'psych!  got your nose' and never hear of me again, thereby leaving him stranded without a teacher so his business goes crashing into the ground. And when he asks what happens, no one knows who or what he is talking about, it was all in his head.

I tried tonight to convince him that I am really not a difficult person.  Things are usually pretty seamless for me, I am well prepared and organized.  Not that he would know any of this based on all of the visa issues up to this point.  Believe it or not, there were more at the end of last week where it looked like everything would be delayed 2 weeks, and I am happy to announce that I remained Griswold-free and handled it like a pro and it all worked out after a mere 48 hours.

I was packed and ready to go tonight with my 70lb suitcase because I refuse to be the girl with more than one bag.  I haven't checked a bag in 10 years - having to check 1 bag, let alone multiple bags...it's a pride thing, let it be heavy, I'll pay the fee.  My friend Zha picked me up to zip me out to the airport because Old Man Pops didn't want to drive.  I really thought he'd be more upset about my leaving, but he just hugged me like it was nothing and walked back up the steps into the house, despite all of my best efforts for a sentimental goodbye.  Old Man Pops is such a cold hearted snake.

Long story short (don't people always say that after talking too much in the first place?), my flight was canceled, but I didn't sweat a beat.  Surely there are 9879687589 flights from Dallas to LA tonight, right?  I'll totally make it to connect to my flight to Seoul at midnight.  Zha was kind enough to park his car and come in with me to help figure it out.  As soon as we walked in (well, I walked in, Zha was crawling about 10 miles behind me with the bag full of sand), we saw lines.  Around the building.  Everyone on cell phones, on  hold.  Turns out every flight in America is delayed or canceled; those tornados in Missouri yesterday clearly didn't cause enough grief.  It was going to take 4 hours to even reach the ticket booth to discuss re-routing options, and the hold times by phone at all the airlines were hovering around 45 minutes to an hour.  WELP!  Home then.  I overheard enough people talking about their delays and realized that I was not making it to LA to catch my flight to Korea tonight.

So, I'm re-booked for tomorrow, driving my poor boss insane.  I feel so bad about how much money he has spent on me and how much grief all of this is causing him.  BUT, I get one more night with this guy, and I can't complain one single bit:

There's only one thing about leaving Dallas behind that gives me the sads and it's saying goodbye to my love.  My life anywhere in the world would be better with him by my side, but his happiness is my top priority and I know that there is no comparison between 10 hours locked alone in a tiny Korean apartment versus a big spacious home with multiple doggie companions, big yard and pool, and OMP at his beck and call all day long.

So, one more night of Mikey kisses and then I'm really outta here (right?).


I'm gonna be a sister-in-law!

Pollyanna.  I love her.  She's been a theoretical big sister to me for years now, but it's soon to be official:  M'bro proposed and she said yes!

What do I love most about Pollyanna?  She loves my big-headed licky-licky dog.  Also, she's the queen of advice and the voice of reason, and she allows me to steer every conversation back around to the grand topic of 'me,' a highly important component in all of my relationships.  And, she makes M'bro the most gleeful man on earth.  I couldn't ask for anything more.  She's a straight up sunshiney day and we can't imagine our lives without her.

Three cheers for the lovebirds!

(Don't get married until I'm home from Korea, k?)



What I know:  being a dog is hard.  Anywhere.  Well, to clarify, being a voiceless, sentient being (I.e. any animal) is hard anywhere, but of course domesticated pets break our hearts more than others.  I realize that statement lacks rationality, as it doesn't make sense to be concerned about the welfare of one animal over another.  Truth be told, people are simply more upset over the inhumane treatment of dogs and cats than pigs, chickens and cows.  Pets are just a lot more accessible than farm animals, which is a shame since they are all deserving of our awareness and advocacy.  This argument could go on forever, listing circus animals, wildlife, etc, etc.

That said, this post is about a specific dog rescue organization in Korea - while being a dog is hard anywhere, there is no question that it is ten million times as tough in Korea.  I started networking with Busan Abandoned Pet Sanctuary the moment I targeted the region/city I wanted to live in.  BAPS is close to Ulsan, where I will live in a few short days, and they have a great reputation for doing good things in dog rescue.  I jumped on their Facebook page several months ago and introduced myself and have been following their stories since.

About BAPS:

BAPS is privately owned in order to maintain their no kill policy.  Were the government to provide money for their group, they would be legally required to take in every dog sent to them and overpopulation would require euthanasia.  For this reason, they survive on donations and lint from their pockets in order to keep the shelter running.

BAPS was founded by Jin and Leo Mendoza and they fund the majority of the costs for the dogs themselves.  There are some monthly donations, but not enough to fully sustain the the shelter.  This is fairly typical in dog rescue.  Our work usually leaves us broke and covered in dog hair, but there is no question of it's worth.  Serious high fives to this couple for their dedication to this operation/organization in a country where so much adversity is thrown at them for their compassion.

How BAPS works:

The rescue process in Korea is similar to ours here:  pull the dog from a kill shelter, take care of the medical needs, and post for adoption.  Foster based rescuing is more difficult.  Accepting dogs into the home as pets in Korea is slooooowly gaining momentum (so I've read), so few dogs get home based foster care until they are adopted.  Most wait out for their adoption in the no-kill shelter, which is pretty crude by most standards.  Most dogs have heartworms and have to wait for a coveted foster home to open up for them to go and quietly recover.  After recovery in their posh new digs, they then have to go back to the shelter in order to move another dog into foster care for recovery.  Totally sad and confusing for the dog.


There are bigger and more bizarre problems, though.  For example, a few months ago I was watching updates from Leo about the shelter during the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak.  Korea was quarantining various areas, and one of those happened to be where the Busan shelter is located.  No one was allowed to enter or leave.  Not even to feed or provide water to the dogs.  Quarantines can last weeks!  I mean.  Seriously.  Would this ever be a dilemma in the USA?

The biggest problem BAPS is facing now is pretty huge:  the land their shelter sits on refuses to renew their lease in August.  It looked like BAPS would shut down.  There was no way to afford to rebuild on other land, nor did anyone have any idea where any other land was available.  It was a sad message to read from Leo, stating that BAPS would be finding the remaining dogs homes and likely closing its doors.

How to help:

It seems BAPS has crazy awesome volunteers and they are now fundraising the money in order to move and rebuild.  Now, I'm not living in Korea yet, and everything I know to this point is what I read and infer online, but I don't believe many organizations in Korea have people betting on them like this, with so much furor to keep the good cause alive.  Particularly in a country that so desperately needs the knowledge and awareness of the presence of humane organizations like BAPS.

I see this as a total testament to the good being done by this group of people.  I can't wait to meet and work with them, and I want to help already.  Don't you?  YOU CAN.  Donate!  Skip your Starbuck's tomorrow, $5 goes a long way.  Listed below is the bank information to send donations in Korea and in the USA:

KB Bank (Kook Min)
Account:  126302-04-048456
Name on the account: Shin Jin Young
Via Credit Union at 4505 S Adams, Marion, IN 46952
ABA number: 274975152
Account number: 502000
Name on the account: Ligia Mejia

I know, it's totally weird to post bank information like this for donations.  Of course Paypal would be much easier, but unfortunately Korean Paypal is run by Paypal Singapore, which doesn't recognize non-profit status for animal shelters.  The crazy logistics and injustices continue...

EDIT:  BAPS has now tied their American account with Paypal, so donations can go to daniel4jin@yahoo.com.

Go forth and donate.



Cannonballing, body surfing, parasailing, sunburning, champagning, and wedding'ing.  I'm home from Mexico, battered and bruised, but couldn't have asked for a better weekend.  My bestie knows how to have a wedding.

21 days until Korea.  Hopefully my sunburn will be gone by then.