Archive for October, 2012

Recruiter Kate Upton has probably been to Korea. If she hasn’t, she would at least have the decency to lie to me. NO, this picture is the right size. My blog is just small.

Let me preface this entry by saying “These blogs are my opinion. Everyone has one these days. And like so many others I make mistakes by assuming when all of the facts are not present. And I jump to conclusions erroneously occasionally if a particular subject makes me angry, sad or joyous.” Such has been the case when I have personally (through Skype and international phone calls) spoken with recruiters. I like so many others before me, who have entered this journey to “Teach Abroad”, walked into the jungle without a guidebook. But once you get into the jungle, you begin to find your way. Not a ‘GPS get you right to the spot’ kinda navigation, but the simple navigation that allows you to avoid danger and know where to look for food. The reason I’m getting all Rudyard Kipling on you is this realization: If you are applying to EPIK, you don’t need a recruiter. If you want to teach in the Korean Public School System, you don’t need to go through a recruiter. After speaking to a few recruiters last week, I realized I had done all the legwork in my OWN journey. And like I prefaced, I may have come to this conclusion from assumptions about the recruiters that I spoke with last week. In my last post, I mentioned working with a particular agency and how helpful they had been with my application to the EPIK program. The recruiter had me expand on my lesson plan and recommended I lengthen one of my letters of recommendation. AND it was really helpful. I assumed recruiters, all recruiters, either had experience as a teacher OR had experience dealing with the school system that would prove to be valuable as the process moved along. I also erroneously thought the recruiter did a little bit of the legwork as far as getting a work visa and reviewing contracts. Let me put this into context by paraphrasing the conversation I had with a recruiter via Skype. Young 20-something, sexy in a librarian kinda way, doe eyed recruiter: Well, tell me why you want to teach in Korea? Me: I blah blah rewarding blah blah experiencing blah blah beautiful culture and history. Doe Eyed Recruiter looks down at her cheat sheet and fires off about four to five “typical job interview questions” and asks “Do you have any questions for me?” Me: Well, what can you tell me about the process? What are my next steps? Before she could answer, I explained to her the status of the required documents (passport, apostille bachelors degree, apostilled FBI background check, letters of rec and my EPIK application) and asked what her experience had been. Doe Eyed Recruiter: Oh, I’ve never been to Korea. Me: Um, I didn’t hear you. Can you say that again?Needless to say, I concluded my “interview” and began to rethink my need for a recruiter. Well, that’s not exactly when I ended it. I did manage to ask if their service would assist with my work visa and was told they would not be assisting. So I asked myself, what exactly are these companies doing for me? Here’s my assumption. The recruiter identifies a prospective teaching candidate (not really, they email them photos and resumes daily) and walks them through the paperwork process prior to an actual interview. The recruiter conducts their own interview, determines how flaky the candidate is and attaches their company name to that teacher’s application to the EPIK program. A recruiting agency gets “gold stars” for teachers who excel and some kinda monetary compensation per head from schools or the government. The recruiter may prove useful once a teacher reaches Korea. I have seen plenty of recruiter sponsored get togethers on their websites, proving the familial atmosphere that awaits a potential prospect. I mean, I get it. But I’m not a young person looking to find myself overseas. I’m almost 36 years old and kind of chewed up. I don’t have to meet new people to feel comfortable around foreign language speakers. I lived in Germany for two years and my college roommate was Japanese. My junior and senior year was spent hanging (mostly getting drunk) with international students from Brazil, Korea, China, Mexico, Guatemala and Canada. I’ve been to sake parties and Quienceneras. But I digress. Here’s what I learned over the past two weeks. I as a teaching candidate have specific needs. For instance,  I want to teach at a school that offers prepaid airfare. Hagwons or Korean private schools seem to be the only schools that offer this kind of accommodation. I was told by an EPIK school teacher, currently teaching in Korea that EPIK usually doesn’t prepay airfare, but reimburses within thirty days in their case. EPIK is gearing up for a school year and hiring process that begins in February. Bottomline, I can submit my documents to EPIK and foot the bill for a flight to the school. OR I can find a recruiter (In this case, use of a recruiter is essential because they are in contact with the private schools) and always be upfront about my financial need for a plane ticket. Also, this personal prerequisite, makes other countries that offer prepaid airfare a selling point an option in my search. These journal entries might become Teaching in the Middle East, if they pay for my flight. Here’s where I stand in the journey to teach in Asia: I received another letter of recommendation from a college source over the weekend. (Letter of Recommendation count stands at five, now.) I am waiting on my FBI records check. I have apostilled bachelors degrees, a passport, extra passport pictures for the visa, TESOL certificate that came with a letter of recommendation verifying it’s over 100 hours of coursework, and a completed EPIK application. I’m only missing a job offer, contract, plane ticket and a useless doe eyed 20-something librarian like recruiter to hold my hand and tell me that I’m going to make it after all.

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I’m not killing it, but I’m definitely in the hunt.

This is my fifth installment of my quest to Asia. I am no longer frustrated with the process. I didn’t meditate, drop a tab or swim Lake Minnetonka to reach my calmer disposition. I’m simply taking a more pragmatic approach. I can only get documents when they come on the agency’s time line. If that document’s arrival exceeds the agency’s expected delivery date, only then can I raise Hell, legitimately. Surprisingly, I have not had to do much Hell raising lately. I’ve been actively in contact with Greenheart Travel, a recruiting agency for Korean schools. I submitted digitized documents and an application for the EPIK program Spring semester. I will interview with a recruiter on Tuesday of this coming week. Greenheart has been really helpful as far as sending document checklists and next steps for the teacher type of documents. One thing that impressed me and made me feel much more comfortable about the application process was the feedback my recruiter gave me. She recommended I submit another letter of recommendation because it was too short, lengthen the lesson plan required for the application and I saw that I mistakenly left an item incomplete. Sara is definitely the most professional recruiter that I’ve come across since I began submitting applications to recruiting agencies a few months ago. I am leaning toward Korea, now more than ever, even though I’ve received a solid inquiry from a recruiter in China. I received a sample contract of $6,000 yuan, shared housing and a few other amenities. I like the idea of working in China, as I know a few people who have made the trip, but one of my deciding factors is prepaid airfare. Most Korean schools have prepaid flights and/or flight reimbursement. EPIK provides prepaid flights to Korea. Chinese schools usually offer partial payment or a set price for reimbursement, but none I’ve come across have offered full prepaid flights to China. If I can keep $1,200+ bucks in my bank account, that’s more money that can be spent on food, clothes and gaining some lucky Asian woman’s attentions. On another note, my quest for apostilled documentation is nearing completion. I’m happy to report I received two copies of state apostilled bachelor’s degrees as requested a few weeks ago. (See my sarcastic big bass pose with apostille in hand above) I am currently waiting on my FBI background investigation for the second time. When I have that in hand, I will mail it off to the U.S. State Department for their apostille. AND WAIT, this time patiently. I’m hoping to have that big bass pose by mid-November at the latest. If that happens, I will have done all that needs to be done here, short of getting and signing a contract from a school and attaining a work visa and foreign identification card in Korea. Well, that’s how it’s supposed to happen. I will get there when I get there, all in all. Oh, another resource I can recommend for newbies is youtube. There are several teachers currently in Korea that have posted and continually update videos outlining anything from the application process to the price of toothpaste and milk in country. I have found this guy’s videos really helpful and he responds fairly quickly to comments and questions about content.

I’ve also joined Korean teacher and Expat forums, submitted my resume to several ESL job sites, recruiter sites and expanded my search to less favorable destinations to see what other locales have to offer. Early in this journey, I found myself latching on to only applying for positions with the Big Three (Korea, Japan and China) in the beginning of my search. Now, I have been in contact with recruiters for schools in Mexico, Thailand, Colombia (yeah, I know, thrill seeker here.) and Chile. I wish I could say I had a system and there was a method to the madness. But honestly, I’m sure I’ve sent my picture, resume and academic documents to over seventy different recruiters over the past few months. I’ve joined, by entering my resume electronically, over seven or eight recruiting agency websites. I have searched old blog posts for outdated job openings, copied the contact info and cold contacted the recruiters. I am taking a break playing tag now and focusing on EPIK as my main choice. The Korean government and their department of education have money to spend and seem to be a stable place for me to start my ESL teaching career. And I will get to Asia, God willing.

If you are a writer or of the creative disposition, this book will change the way you view your life and all its maladies. I’m writing this review as if it’s a part of the Nolan-directed Dark Knight movie series, the season finale of Madmen, Walking Dead or Breaking Bad. I don’t want to reveal too much for fear of my words damaging the impact this well written piece of literature contains. I am a procrastinator in every sense of the word. I have several books “In the process of” on my hard drive. (Incomplete stories about Russian mobsters, drug-dealing boxers and a long one I lovingly call “The Black Harry Potter” tentatively. Two years tentative by the way.) I’m that guy who will skip days on P90x. (Today is a cardio day by the way.) I still haven’t leveled my perks forging daggers in Skyrim to allow me to create Dragon scale armor. I’m fighting the urge to create another character that will probably attain the same level and lack Dragon scale armor like his brethren. While I jest about my video game procrastinations, I just wanted to show that I’m a habitual procrastinator. Video games are clearly an escape from actual work and I found ways to procrastinate doing the fictional work in a video game. This book showed me my deep flaws and explained the importance of overcoming the massive ogre of “Resistance” that consumes my life. Pressfield, in expansive plain-talk, identifies procrastination in its many forms and rallies the reader to battle. My writing this review after completing his book, is my own form of “Resistance”, actually. I can identify this with better clarity because of this book. Pressfield suggests a creative person to almost separate himself into two distinct entities. The creative employee and the Self/Me Corporation. Creativity comes from an emotional place, but the business of being creative has to be “professionally done”. Pressfield identifies the differences of approach for professionals and amateurs and what creative types need to do to get to work. If this book doesn’t make you look at work differently, you’re probably worse off than I am.

Here it from the man himself:

Alright, I’m back to it.

The procrastination has ended and I’m blogging again. Here’s the latest update in my journey to become an ESL teacher. I’m still at home. I’m still in the States having dreams of getting on a flight to Asia. I’m still a few steps away and the frustration is beginning to set in. I submitted fingerprints for an FBI background investigation several months ago. About two weeks ago, I contacted my local FBI field office to inquire about my case and was given a number to a CJIS customer service hub. A representative told me that my fingerprints were rejected because they were not readable. She told me to resubmit another set of fingerprints and that I wouldn’t have to pay a fee for resubmittal. She also told me a rejection letter would be sent in the next two weeks. Well, two weeks later, I didn’t receive a letter. I called today and was told I could resubmit if I included a letter stating my original case number and it would be processed. So I waited two weeks for a letter that never came and am just now finding out I could have resubmitted fingerprints two weeks ago. Great. So now I start the process again. Glad I called. Lesson learned. I’m going to stay on top of this thing better next time. While that part of the process slowed and stymied, other pieces of the puzzle have been successful. The splash of good news is that I received my TESOL certification in the mail on Saturday. I highly recommend International TESOL and TEFL Corporation (ITT) 100 hour online certification course. It was very thorough and I feel I know a lot more as far as what’s required of me as an ESL professional. I also had two copies of my bachelor’s degree notarized and submitted to the State Department for apostille last week. Hopefully, these documents will come back fairly quickly. My goal is to never become stagnant in this process. I want documents coming in while documents are going out. Keeping to this line of thinking, I contacted a source from my education reporting days to write a letter of recommendation. He came through with several signed copies of a letter I prefabricated for his signature. So now I have four quality letters of recommendation from education professionals  to add to the arsenal. My source is a former superintendent and current school board president of the county. Just to keep tally, my status in this journey stands at 1) completion of 100 hour TESOL certification course 2) four letters of recommendation 3) and a renewed passport. So, I’ve made some progress. I’ve been calling around to find a way to avoid using a fingerprinting agency to get prints. It is proving to be an expense I want to avoid. Twenty to thirty bucks per page is not breaking the bank, but free is always better. I talked to a  local sheriff’s department and the campus police at the University of Alabama who said they wouldn’t charge a dime if I brought my own print sheets. Excellent and will do. So that’s my goal for the week. Get prints, submit prints and wait for the State Department and FBI to process my documents. AND get updates every week during the process this time. I’m going to make it to Korea, China, Thailand or some parts in between before the end of the year. God willing.

How can a multiplatinum world renowned lyrical Hip Hop genius fly under the radar?

I laugh whenever youngsters tell me that Waka Flocka is a ‘good rapper’. I try to closet my bitterness about the state of Hip Hop, but it seeps out whenever I discuss today’s artists. I know I’m not young and I’m not supposed to relate to the music of seventeen year old rappers. I like some of Waka’s music. I like Meek Mill and that MMG movement, especially right now. Young Money has a few megabytes reserved in my iPod. But let’s be honest, Nas is an icon. If there was a monument erected on the side of a mountain depicting relevent New York rappers, it would have Jay-Z, Biggie, 50 and Nas. Surprisingly, the 40 year old MC turned businessman, is still relevent in the culture today. 50 Cent recently released a classic DJ Drama hosted mixtape called the Lost Tapes. Jay-Z teamed up with Kanye West for Watch The Throne to worlwide sales and acclaim as well. Until his latest release Life Is Good, Nas featured on a few tracks here and there, but not enough to gain new fans or get any major attention. TMZ and all the New York gossip mongers focused on his recent divorce from wife Kelis and published reports of how much he paid in alimony and child support. I’m going to talk about the music. Life Is Good is all about the breakup. Life Is Good is about living the single life, models, actresses, trips to Europe, exotic islands, Brazillian dimes, alcohol and plenty of blunts to take the edge off that LIFE. With Nas, the lyricism is always there. The albums he put out to poor sales was only because of his choice of production. This album is a perfect match of beats from some of the best (Large Professor, Swizz Beats, NO I.D., J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, Salaam Remi and even the late Heavy D). Nas reminds us why he got to where he got and how to do it. Again.

REVIEW

1. No Introduction: Starts off with piano keys and an orchestral feel. Nas describing growing up in the projects of Queensbridge and “Brazillian bitches on zanies.” I was beginning to regret the download after hearing the first track, but I was wrong. So wrong.

2. Loco-Motive(feat. Large Professor): has a New York State of Mind feel to it. Sinister keys and a thumping baseline highlight the track. But Nas paints word pictures and even dedicates it to “his trapped in the 90s niggas”.

3. A Queens Story: Classic tale of the neighborhood. “Dope sold in laundromats.” Nas celebrating getting out of the hood. Memorable, but not too memorable.

4. Accident Murderers (feat. Rick Ross): Classic. This is for the new generation and it delivers. Organs, church ladies singing and Rozay’s hurry-up Tupac flow with plenty of grunting makes it all work. Just gangster music. Or Maybach Music, if you under 30 years old.

5. Daughters: Nas with a little upliftment for his seeds. These tracks are kinda formulaic for him now. It’s slow and deliberate. If you are a fan, you know it’s similar to “I Can”. Inspirational and honest account of being a father and having a daughter coming of age. Funny placement for a track like this. Fucking A&R’s trying some iTunes math here.

6. Reach Out (feat. Mary J. Blige): This one is for the ladies. Plenty of Mary doing it big on the vocals and Nas cutting the track with serious lyricism. I can see ass in short skirts with long legs and cosmopolitans spilling when this come on in the club.

7. World’s An Addiction (feat. Anthony Hamilton): Another track with an R&B star filling space between Nas cutting the track with serious lyricism. Hamilton is a good crooner, so it’s bearable.

8. Summer On Smash (feat. Miguel, Swizz Beats): Swizz can do no wrong nowadays. “Bad Bitches, Champagne Wishes… Cirroc on Splash” It’s a club hit. Nas with some designer label, model smashing and Yacht talk. All while Miguel is singing “Life Is Good”.

9. You Wouldn’t Understand (feat. Victoria Monet): Another mellow track. A radio track. I can ride to this one. Nas sticks to the formula of appealing to the ladies first and the rest will follow.

10. Back When: A reflection of life in Queensbridge. Nas depicting life as a fan of Hip Hop. A little jab at today’s rappers “realness.”

11. The Don: This is the one. The track given by Heavy D and mixed by Salaam Remi. Just real hip hop spitting. I put this one on repeat. You are not a Nas fan if you don’t like this one. “Army jacket swag, Army jacket green and black…”

12. Stay (feat. Large Professor): another throwback to the 90s. The sample is ill. Nice sax, smooth vocals and Nas spitting that real Hip Hop picture painting everday life story shit. Reminds me of my best old lady. That love hate feel to it. Unexplainable, but dope.

13. Cherry Wine (feat. Amy Winehouse): RIP Amy Winehouse. She was talented and this track did her justice. Nas and Amy just doing what they do. This will be a hit when they release it. Amy fans will laud it as a hit and maybe this album will get the justice it deserves from the critics.

14. Bye Baby: One of my favorite tracks. Nas detailing the breakup with wifey. The Guy sample is dope. This is real. Classic material.

15. Nasty: This single circulated on the Internets for several months before this release, so no surprise it would be included. Still a dope track. Nas came with it in that 90s flow.

16. Trust: Slow introspective tale of backstabbing snakes and trifling bitches. The track whistles and the hook is long, but simple “I want a bitch I can trust. Some niggas I can trust. Accountants looking over my figures I can trust…” Knowledge track for the streets.

17. The Black Bond: This one has a Black James Bond feel to it. Travel brochure, wine, jet-setting, dinner with water and tea glasses and lipsticked European designer dresses, model smashing track.

18. Roses: Alternative track with a sad bitch singing about roses and thorns. Nas just talking smashing the latest one and the money. Relationships and what that means to independent women.

19. Where’s The Love (feat. Cocaine 80s): Should have left this one on the cutting room floor. Not even worth a B-side. I know I’m showing my age. Google B-side.