Packing for Korea

There are about a million how-to-pack-for-Korea posts out there, so I’m not going to try to reinvent the wheel. This is mostly for my own amusement when I look back at it in six months and think “Why on earth did I think I needed to bring that?!”.

So, my quest to fit almost everything I could need for a year in South Korea into one large 50 lb suitcase failed – but I did manage to fit in almost everything I think I need:


  • 2 pairs of jeans
  • 3 pairs corduroys
  • 2 pairs dress pants (I brought far too many pants)
  • 3 short-sleeve tops
  • 4 long-sleeve tops
  • 2 work-appropriate dresses
  • 2 blazers
  • 3 casual t-shirts
  • 1 sweatshirt
  • 2 sweaters
  • 2 cardigans
  • Enough underwear and socks for 2 weeks
  • 4 bras
  • 3 pairs of tights
  • 3 pairs of Uniqlo Heattech leggings (school hallways aren’t necessarily heated)
  • 3 Uniqlo long underwear tops
  • 2 pairs pajama pants
  • Black boots
  • Flats
  • Heels
  • Sandals/flip-flops
  • Raincoat
  • Winter coat
  • Gloves/scarves


Other Items

  • Misc office supplies (post-its, paper clips, scissors)
  • Gifts for my co-teachers (I’m bringing maple sugar candies)
  • Extra toothpaste with fluoride (not sure how available that is in Korea)
  • A few DVDs (in case I can’t get Netflix to work)
  • 4 sticks of deodorant
  • Umbrella
  • Korean plug adapters 
  • Extra contact lenses
  • And probably a few other things I’m forgetting…


The real challenge for me was having to revamp most of my wardrobe around Korean dress codes. Most of my professional wear conformed to American standards of decency, meaning no cleavage but a modest v-neck or scoop neck. Apparently Korean standards around the neck/chest area are much more modest, and I heard stories of teachers being reprimanded for wearing a shirt that even showed too much collarbone. So I had to hunt (and I mean hunt) through American stores to find work-appropriate shirts/dresses that wouldn’t make me look unprofessional in the eyes of my coworkers. And since I won’t be able to fit into any of the clothing in shops over there (other than, perhaps, a few stores in the foreigner district in Seoul), I have to just guess and hope for the best!

Because I’m taking a somewhat circuitous route to Seoul (by way of visiting my cousin in France) I decided to ship my luggage rather than drag it through seven different airports. I priced out several options and read so many reviews that my eyes started to glaze over, but I finally settled on Luggage Forward. It’s a bit more expensive than I’d like, but they were wonderful at answering my thousand and one questions. Plus, they track my luggage and take care of any hangups that happen with customs, etc. so the convenience factor makes it absolutely worth it to me for this trip. I’m just crossing my fingers it gets there in one piece!



My not-so-little suitcase, just before I handed it off to be shipped




Dynamic Busan, City of Tomorrow

After sleeping in this morning and lazily getting around to checking my email, I almost fell over when I saw a message from EPIK with the subject line “Final Approval Received”! In it, my coordinator informed me that I had been accepted by the Busan Metropolitan Office of Education and they would be sending me my contract in the next few weeks. I am so excited/relieved to finally have confirmation that this whole crazy thing is actually happening…

The email also informed me that they would be confirming the orientation dates soon, and warned against purchasing my plane ticket before receiving my visa. I don’t really understand how they expect us to wait until mid-January to purchase a ticket to fly mid-February, but I suppose they don’t want anyone complaining that they bought a ticket that conflicted with the orientation start date. I’m going back and forth on when I’m going to buy my ticket…it’s just such a tough decision! The only thing to do, if you’re me, is mounds of research and spreadsheets. 😉


But back to our topic – Busan! Also known, in the charming way that most Korean metropolitan areas have of giving themselves slogans and nicknames by seemingly appending random English words to the city name, as “Dynamic Busan”. (My favorite slogan so far of any city is “It’s Daejeon”, a rather uninspiring welcome to the city of Daejeon, if you ask me.)

But Busan, known as Korea’s “City of Tomorrow”, also apparently has some fantastic pieces of its past to recommend it. This little seaside metropolis is one of the few pieces of territory never captured by the Northern Army during the Korean War, and thus it served as the capitol of the wartime Republic of Korea. That unique history also means that it contains neighborhoods and areas that were untouched by much of the destruction of the 1950s.

The city of Busan has a population of approximately 3.6 million people and is the regional center of the southeast portion of Korea. It is the largest port city in Korea and its port is actually the fifth largest in the world! In other fun trivia, Busan is also home to the world’s largest department store – Shinsegae Centum City is over 5 million square feet of shopping and is part of an even larger 12 million sq-ft complex. I will be avoiding that place like the plague, I think.

Much more inviting is the idea of the plentiful hiking opportunities in the nearby mountains, temples dating back to the 7th Century, and the apparently gorgeous Busan Aquarium. Busan is also home to varied and delightful festivals, such as bonfire festivals, flower festivals, lantern festivals, sand castle festivals, international film festivals, and – to make my mother incredibly jealous – a hydrangea festival in July.

I’m still researching this incredible city that will be my home for the next year, but I can’t wait to share it with all of you!




Busan’s Gwangandaegyo, or Diamond Bridge






I can’t believe that it’s only just over 6 months until I ship out from DC! This milestone brings about one of the least fun bits of preparation – making sure I have all my jabs in order to not come down with the Black Plague (or worse, typhoid) while traveling.

The CDC recommends a number of immunizations for U.S. citizens traveling to South Korea long term, but the total for getting all of them would add up to over $2,000! So I’m choosing instead to be judicious about which ones I get here in the States – I figure if I decide to take a trip to somewhere more tropical, I can get shots for Japanese Encephalitis or anti-malarial drugs at my local Korean hospital (right?). I’m sticking to getting the Hepatitis A/B combo series and the Typhoid single jab (I’m going with the injection (protection for 2 years) rather than pills – even though the pills are good for 5 years – because I’ve read that the pills can cause nausea and I’m already dealing with some annoying digestive issues (yay job stress)).

If you’re looking for travel immunizations in the Washington, DC area, I’d definitely recommend the Washington Travel Clinic (really the practice of a single doctor – Dr. Akl). First of all, they have their price list prominently displayed on their website (these shots were definitely something I needed to save up for, so that was very helpful) and they are quite upfront about the fact that none of these shots are covered by insurance. Secondly, when I went in for my appointment, Dr. Akl listened carefully to where I was going and which shots I wanted to get – never tried to upsell me on any additional vaccines – and actually suggested that I get a blood test to see if I already have antibodies for Hep A&B. Based on my age, I should have gotten the Hep A/B vaccines when I went to college – but for the life of us, neither I nor my parents can remember for certain! On top of that, the medical practice I went to as a teen closed up years back and no one can locate my medical records from that time. It’s times like this that I wished I lived somewhere like the UK, where apparently they put all of your immunization records in a little red booklet (like a vaccine passport) that your parents keep and give to you when you’re an adult. Something like that would be SO useful right about now.

Thankfully, Dr. Akl told me that a $30 blood test is all I need to find out whether I’ve actually got the antibodies for the Hepatitides already floating around in my bloodstream. If so, I’ll be able to save almost $400! So I’m hopefully awaiting the results of that test – if it comes back positive for the antibodies, I’ll just have to schedule my typhoid jab for December (just before I move out of DC).

Fingers crossed!



UPDATE:  The test came back that I’m immune to Hep B but not Hep A (lord only knows how that happened). So I set up a second appointment at the Clinic and was in and out in 10 minutes with the first in the Hep A series of shots. I’ll just have to go back in 6 months (December) for the second Hep A shot and the Typhoid. Done and dusted – and still saving about $200!



Travel Blog Rec

I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I’m planning a trip I spend a good deal of my free time cruising travel blogs and daydreaming/making spreadsheets. It gives me a chance to test-drive different places, side trips, and so forth in my brain and let them percolate a bit before I’m rushed to make any sorts of ticket-buying decisions.

One of my favorite blogs to dip into is The Nerdventurists, a blog run by two awesomely nerdy people – Kristina and Sora. Kristina I actually know through various nerdy groups (most notably the writings of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle), and I can say she has a great grasp on both the sublime and the ridiculous when it comes to travel. She and Sora do a fantastic job of both dropping practical tips and painting a picture of what it’s actually like to travel to a place. I can’t wait to try out some of their recommendations when I’m over in Asia!

I also can’t help but think a few of you would also enjoy reading about their adventures – for a taste, check out their latest post on 24 Hours in Hiroshima (& Miyajima!)

Springtime in London

Looking back at my trip to London almost a year ago now (May 2014), with some belated photos…

I miss that city so much. Can’t wait to go back!