teaching English

Just Around the River Bend: Nobody gets me like Pocahontas does

The past few months have been filled to the brim with activity. Trips and adventures, anticipation and hard goodbyes. Since my last post I have been to my sister’s high school graduation in Louisiana, to my best friend’s graduation from her Master’s program (see the picture – Master Christina), on a weekend getaway to Washington DC, on an anniversary cruise to the Bahamas, to visit sweet friends Thai and Lanise in Wilmington, had our dear friends Brandon and Christy visit us and went to a Durham Bulls game, and had a crazy girl’s weekend in Chicago/Wisconsin with my roomies. We found a wonderful girl to keep our sweet kitties while we are gone, sold both of our cars, and moved out of our beloved apartment in Raleigh. We said goodbye to a place we love and many of our closest friends, and drove 17 hours down to my parents’ house in Louisiana to store all of our furniture and visit my family and grandparents (aren’t they the cutest?) From there we spent a few days in Orange Beach, AL on vacation with Jonathan’s family (which included the sailboat cruise pictured below  – most terrifying thing I’ve ever done) before making the 14 hour drive back up to their home in Cincinnati where we have spent the last week trying to fit our entire lives into four 50-lb suitcases.Durham Bulls Game Washington DC Bahamas Landscape Bahamas Christina the Master Grandparents sailboat

Girls WeekendI have cried more times than I can count, but I am still incredibly excited about the adventure ahead of us. While it has been harder than I imagined saying goodbye to family, friends, pets, and a city I have come to think of as home, the prospect of all we will learn and see and experience in Korea and wherever else we may make it to on the way has given me hope and excitement about the future. The world feels full of possibilities and even the most ordinary things seem beautiful.

A few months ago I was watching Pocahontas on Netflix (hurray Netflix for getting that contract with Disney, but boo for not being available in South Korea) and as I was singing aloud at the top of my lungs to “Just Around the River Bend” (what…you mean you don’t do that every time you watch a Disney movie? What…you mean you don’t just watch Disney movies by yourself?) I was really overwhelmed by the lyrics. Pocahontas is trying to decide whether to do what is expected and traditional by marrying Kocoum or keep chasing her dreams.

You have to admit, Pocahontas is pretty bad-butt.

You have to admit, Pocahontas is pretty bad-butt.

“Should I choose the smoothest course
Steady as the beating drum?
Should I marry Kocoum?
Is all my dreaming at an end?
Or do you still wait for me, Dream Giver
Just around the river bend?”

And I wept. (What, you mean you don’t weep openly while singing along to Disney songs in Disney movies that you are watching by yourself?) Because I knew exactly what Pocahontas was asking…well, not the marrying Kocoum part, but the rest. Should I choose the smoothest course (stay put, settle down, find a desk job, start a family)? Is all my dreaming at an end? Or do you still wait for me, Dream Giver? I thought, “Pocahontas really gets it.” She gets what it is like to feel deep down that there is something else out there for her, even though everyone else is content to stay where they are and do what is expected. Pocahontas understands what it means to follow the Dream Giver (even though her Dream Giver was probably some sort of weird-looking cloud spirit, judging from the controversial Mother Willow).

“Just Around the River Bend,” has become an anthem for me over these last few months. In the harder moments as well as in the exciting times I have been spurred on thinking about what I might find beyond this particular river bend. I think the Dream Giver is still waiting for me there.

Jonathan and I have set up a new blog to chronicle our Korean adventure together: Two Sore Thumbs…Because two redheads living in Korea stick out like sore thumbs. We would love for you to follow us there so we can continue to share life with you, even from the other side of the world.  Such Small Hands will stay up and may still be used occasionally for non-Korea related posts, but most of our adventures will be posted to Two Sore Thumbs. Hope you check us out!

Start Spreading the News!

Hear ye, hear ye. The Dunns have some exciting news. I know where a lot of your minds just jumped. No. It’s not that. Didn’t you read my last post? My uterus is still Baby-Free since 1987. (Though that would be just like God…tell him what you don’t want and SURPRISE! While He chuckles on his heavenly throne. “Hey Gabriel, check this out. Lily thought she was just gonna decide not to have kids. But look what I just did there.”)

So no, we are not having a baby (that I know of). Nor are we buying a house (no money), getting a dog (too much work), traveling to Europe (again, no money), joining the circus (no skills), becoming professional ballroom dancers (no rhythm), or taking up archery (although that would be cool.) What we are doing is moving…

…to South Korea. Mid-August. To teach English in a public school. Aaaahhhhhh!

How This Came About

First off, those of you who know me know that teaching abroad/living abroad is something I have been interested in for forever. So the interest is not new. We considered teaching abroad right after we got married, but ended up getting jobs in Illinois and decided it would be best spend our first year of marriage in a bit more familiar surroundings. Additionally, most of the places we were really interested in teaching (Europe/South America) were the types of schools where we would either have to get teacher certification/advanced degrees or would have to raise support like missionaries, neither of which we wanted to do. So that idea was put on the shelf.

Fast forward to this past fall. We were having dinner with our friends, Aaron and Caitlan Small, and they were telling us about some Christian schools they had visited on a recent trip to Indonesia that were looking to hire American teachers and provided housing as well as a salary. When Jonathan and I got home from that dinner, we immediately started researching those schools. Unfortunately, it turned out that we needed degrees in education to apply at these particular schools, but the fire had been lit. We decided to re-visit the idea of teaching abroad being more open to different areas of the world than we had looked at before. We felt that the timing was really good for us to be able to do something like this, and while we didn’t have a clear sense of direction yet, we decided to start exploring and see if God opened or closed doors.

Of course, Asia has the highest demand for English teachers of any area in the world right now, so we started exploring programs and countries there. Essentially what we found is that there were three categories of Asian countries:

  1. Countries where you need no qualifications to teach except for a high school diploma and the ability to speak English, but where you get paid about $300 USD/month, which is enough to live on, but not much more. (Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia)
  2. Countries that paid teachers well and covered housing and airfare, but were also much more selective and preferred teachers with certification, years of experience, degrees in education and/or Master’s degrees. (China, Japan)
  3. Country that paid teachers well, covers housing and airfare, and only require that you have a degree in English or TEFL certification. (South Korea)

We decided to apply with recruiters who work in South Korea. We applied to the public school program (called EPIK) where you essentially apply to the program, have to be accepted and then public schools will fill openings from the pool of accepted teachers. We also applied to be considered for private school jobs (which are special language schools that kids attend after regular school) but those are on a case-by-case basis rather than a formal program.

After many months of working on applications and acquiring documents, we found out two weeks ago that we had been accepted into the EPIK program. We FedEx-ed our paperwork to South Korea yesterday.

What We Know

  1. We have been accepted to the program, but do not have contracts yet. We have been told that it is 95% certain that we will be placed and have contracts within the next 2 months. (Only extremely rarely does something happen to mess this up, usually the applicant having been dishonest about something or withdrawing themselves).
  2. We will arrive mid-August, complete 9 days of training, and then head to our schools and new home to start teaching.
  3. We will not know where we will teach until the job offer comes in. We have requested the metropolitan are of Daegu, which is in the southern part of the country and is the 4th largest city in South Korea (about 2 million). We were told that Seoul and Busan would be much more selective and would probably choose teachers with prior experience so we chose the next biggest city we could find although we don’t know that much about it. We are not guaranteed to be placed in Daegu although they will get our applications first.
  4. We will be provided with a small, furnished apartment free-of-charge. We will also receive a relocation allowance that should nearly cover our airfare. We will have health insurance and will each be paid a salary equivalent to somewhere between $1700 – $2000 USD/month. Our only expenses will be utilities, food, and transportation, though we plan to do as much traveling as possible while we are there. The money we save will help to pay off my student loans from Wheaton and my current grad school tuition.
  5. I will plan to continue my grad school classes distance from South Korea.
  6. We will be eating a lot of rice, sweet potatoes, and kimchi.

How We Feel About It

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Ok, mostly we feel like this, but it is also a little bittersweet and scary. We really love Raleigh and could see ourselves back in North Carolina when we are ready to settle down. This has felt like home to us and we will miss it, especially our friends.

One More Cool Story

My biggest concern with all of this was having to tell the family I work for that I was quitting and moving across the world, especially since the kids really rely on the stability that I (and their old nanny before) provide since their parents are so busy and all over the place. I was also hesitant to say anything before we were sure this was happening. After we got accepted to the program, I decided to go ahead and tell them we would probably be moving at the end of the summer so that they would have plenty of time to find a new nanny.

The day I was going to talk to them, the mom came out of her office (while I’m sweating and my pulse is racing) and says, “I just want to update you on our situation. We are moving to Shanghai on July 13th. We don’t want you to quit before them, but wanted you to have time to find another job.”

Which made it so much easier for me to say, “Actually I think I have a new job and it is teaching English in South Korea starting in August.”

Perfect timing or what?! AND now I will be able to visit them in Shanghai where they will have an incredible 4 bedroom apartment overlooking the river. Amazing.

So, sorry for the long update, but so excited to share this with all of you!

And also, we desperately need a home for our darling kitties for 1 year. We want them back when we return! If any of you would seriously consider taking 2 wonderful cats and loving them for a year, please let me know!