Monday, November 29, 2010

Transfer Money Abroad from a Nong Hyup Korean Bank Account

A lot of foreigners are concerned about transferring money from their Korean bank accounts to their accounts back in their home country. There are also a lot of rumors about certain banks being unable to transfer money, etc.
Upon arriving in-country, the EPIK orientation program opened accounts with Nong Hyup (logo above) for us with our passport numbers instead of our alien registration card (ARC) numbers as they had not yet been issued at orientation. Nong Hyup is not the best bank in the country, per se, as there are other banks with better English websites and cheaper transfer rates, but it is the most ubiquitous bank in South Korea.
To address two rumors:

  • Contrary to what the folks working at the Nong Hyup branch in Yecheon told me, there is an English website
  • Contrary to what most of the folks in the EPIK program would have you believe, including the people who work for EPIK, it is  possible to transfer money to a bank in one's home country from a Nong Hyop account.
I was very enthusiastic to find that not only was it possible, but it also only cost $30 to transfer online, as opposed to the $60 I paid in fees to both Nong Hyup and Wells Fargo when transferring in-person.
Assuming you already have access to Nong Hyup online to check your balance (you must visit a bank branch in order to obtain this access), here is a set of instructions on navigating the process. Big thanks to Jacky for helping through this process myself.
  1. Go to in Internet Explorer 6 or 7 on a Windows machine.
  2. Click on "Global banking" at the top right of the page, click English
    • If you have checked your balance before, you should have already installed any necessary security software
  3. Click "Log-in" at the upper left hand of the page. Find your digital certificate and enter in your password as if you were checking your balance.
  4. Click the "NH Bank" logo at the very top left of the page. You will remain logged in.
  5. Again, click "Global banking" and select English.
  6. Locate the box towards the bottom labeled "Foreign Exchange"and click the link "Information of Overseas Remittance"
  7. On the left hand side, in the navigation menu, select "Overseas Remittance Request"
  8. Remittance Type: 1: Small Remittance
    • Small remittance is anything less than $1,000. Anything transfer over $1,000 is reported to the U.S. government. To diminished snags and hassles, I recommend keeping transfers under $1,000 and doing multiple transfers over time.
  9. Maintenance Branch
    • Here, click "Search" next to the field. A new window will pop up. Enter in the town of your closest NH branch in Hangul. If you don't have a Hangul keyboard, use this. For example, I enter in "예천".
  10. Foreign Currency: select USD
  11. Amount: enter in 999.99 (or whatever amount you wish to transfer)
  12. Account Pin: NH Pin
  13. Foreign Currency Account Number : Leave the drop down and Amount field blank
  14. Beneficiary Name: Your Name
  15. Bene Account: American Account Number
  16. Bene Address: the billing address registered at your bank in the States
  17. Bene Phone: leave blank
  18. Bene Email: optional
  19. Option: Make sure the "Bank information direct input" radio button is selected
  20. Bene Country: Select USA from the drop down
  21. Bank Name and Branch: Enter in the bank name and local branch nearest your billing address
    • example:
      • Wells Fargo
      • 2200 W DIVISION ST.
      • SAINT CLOUD, MN 56301
  22. Bank Code or other info: Enter in your American bank's routing number.
  23. Under the Customer Information area, enter in your contact information while in Korea.
  24. Leave the "Additional Information" field blank.
  25. At the bottom, click confirm
You will be asked to enter in numbers corresponding to the card you received when signing up for online banking that has a bunch of random numbers on it. If you are alerted that you have not selected an NACF option, select the "gift card" radio button. I have no idea what this does but it worked for me.
I have done two transfers and both have shown up in my American account within 24 hours of processing the transfer online.

*Please note all denominations are in USD and regard transferring to an American bank account.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving Weekend

Thanksgiving this year has been illuminating and fulfilling. Aside from the real point of Thanksgiving, which I'll address in time, the holiday provided opportunity to spend some quality time with some of my dearest friends here whom I rarely get to see. But first I need to retie my shoe laces as they are tight and uncomfortableish.
Ahhhh, much better.
American Thanksgiving is obviously not a holiday here in South Korea and I had to be at school from 8:30 to 4:30 as usual. After school I was able to meet up with Christine and Dave for a celebratory dinner on the day of. Christine and Dave are two among the twelve (or so?) foreign teachers that inhabit humble Yecheon. Ask anyone in Yecheon to name all of the foreigners in town and I guarantee they will be hard pressed to do so. Anywho, Christine is from Texas and Dave from Durban, South Africa. The three of us would have loved to dig into some turkey, mashed potatoes, chicken fried steak (Colin and Dad), corn and pumpkin pie (which I will get to later) but Yecheon's bounty does not include such a marvelous bird and starches. Instead, we went to one of our local favorites, Tang Tang, for some fried chicken and beer. A bird is a bird is a bird when you're living at the mercy of being abroad. It could have been worse, it could have been fish and kimbap, or Korean style maki.
Friday night, moments after school let out (or maybe even moments before that though I'd never admit to it), I took a bus to Daegu wherein I met up with Jacky (whom my readers have met before), Tarrick and Ashley. Tarrick and Ashley were members of me and Jack's orientation group. Daegu was less a celebration of Thanksgiving (though Tarrick and Ashley are both from the States) as much as a layover to head to Hadong early Saturday morning. But all the same, we met up for some drinks at WaBar, a foreign style bar which carries San Miguel, that delectable Filipino pilsen of which I have created and most likely destroyed many memories, happy and sad. After WaBar, we relocated to Organ, a really cool bar in downtown Daegu, but not without a quick pitstop at the greatest invention since the hotdog: pizza in a cup. Bask in its near perfection and be hypnotized by its radiance of melted cheese, peperoni, olives, bell peppers , tomato sauce on a toasted bread thinger in a dixie cup. Never mind the fact that I have 60 Mbps internet, have never lost a bar of reception on my phone, even in the subway, have combo microwaves/convection ovens or can pay for bus and taxi fares by waving my wallet at them. There is no clearer indication of development...neigh enlightenment, than that of a miniaturized pizza in a dixie cup after a couple beers with friends.
And now I'm done gushing. So Tarrick suggested we head to Organ Bar.
"Do they have a decent beer selection?"I ask.
"Yeah, it's ok. They have Asahi," replied Tarrick.
"Well, I did say decent, but never mind that. What do they offer?" I asked.
"They have a great playlist," he said, and began walking with purpose toward the bar, dixie cup of pizza goodness in-hand.
At first glance around the basement-bar, the playlist would be good. Posters of Lou Reed and Pink Floyd (pictured), Sonic Youth, Nick Drake and numerous other icons of music history. Alright, so the company was good, how about the music itself? After sitting down with the gang, we enjoyed listening to the Pixies, Radiohead, Sonic Youth, and many more. They mostly played those oldies but goodies I haven't heard since sitting in the hallways of my high school, plugged into a Sony Walkman. The bar's atmosphere was awesome and the beer selection wasn't half-bad either. They offered Heineken (which I would leave rather than take), Beck's, Beck's Dark (which I took rather than left), San Miguel, Tiger and some others from Germany and Belgium. How I would have loved to do a "world tour" but at about $6.50 a bottle, it would have been a little pricey. After much merry-making, we retreated to the 24-hour McDonalds nearby before calling it a night (I have always known McDonald's as my own personal "M"bassy no matter where I travel).
The next morning, I met back up with Jacky and she and I headed to Hadong to have a traditional American dinner with a dear friend of mine from orientation. I suppose I haven;t mentioned Melinda yet on my blog, but she is one of my closest friends in this turkey-forsaken country.
The funny part about our meeting was that we knew of each other far before we actually met. During orientation, a return Peace Corps volunteer (RPCV) from Albania who is now teaching in Korea did a presentation on adjusting to our new culture (almost play by play out of the PST handbook) and, at her mention of being an RPCV, my hoot was met with another somewhere in the crowd of 500 or so people from seven different countries. After wondering who that other person was, I serendipitously ran into while enduring small talk with her outside a convenience store.
"So YOU'RE the other one!"
Melinda served in Mongolia with her now boy friend Jason. They both now live in Hadong. That was some sloppy exposition, but thanks for baring with me.
So Jacky and I went to Hadong (a total of five and one half hours from my site) to see Melinda and Jason. They had somehow procured a turkey breast, Jimmy Dean sausage for stuffing and pumpkin pie fixings and graciously (though foolishly) invited my hungry self to celebrate Thanksgiving with them.
It was awesome meeting Jason for the first time and catching up with Melinda, whom I have seen only once since orientation. After some time passed, we were accompanied by some of the other foreigners in Hadong. We had a bit of a U.N. style gathering with  someone from Canada, from Ireland, from England, Thailand and those of us representing the United States. Good for Jason and Melinda as they remain pursuant of Peace Corps's second goal, "Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served."

The U.N. over for Thanksgiving
After more merry-making, the bird finally made its glorious debut and time, for jut a moment, stood still.
Yes, it is bacon generously draped over that most glorious of breasts (you know what I mean)
I must say, upon the carving of the bird, I was moved. That smell is sacred. The knife making it's way through the crispy skin was a cattle call and we all lined up for some Thanksgiving goodness.
Fill 'er up!
Pinch Me
We patiently stood in line for the goods Melinda and Jason lugged back to Hadong from Seoul including corn, fresh mashed potatoes, bread rolls, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie (which Melinda fashioned  by hand, including grinding cloves by mortar and pestle).

After all the food porn and documentation of my trip to Hadong, I actually wanted to pause for a moment and share what I am thankful for, other than the food and opportunity to be living in Korea. In light of the current border tension between South Korea and North Korea, I am forever grateful that I come from a country that

  1. Has known peace within its borders for far longer than most places
  2. Is powerful enough to aid South Korea both monetarily and with 30,000+ American service men and women stationed in this country
  3. And finally, has the wherewithal and benevolence to guarantee me and my friends a safe and expedient evacuation if necessity dictates such an action necessary.

Beyond the intangible, I am thankful to have befriended people here in South Korea who make me feel like a part of something bigger than myself. They are my family and I care for them as deeply. I am surrounded by people who care about me, are my friends and are my family when we're all missing home a little.
This Thanksgiving was more than the bird and offered much-needed reflection and warranted much gratitude.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Anniversary of my COS, Philippines

I was talking to a close friend of mine online with whom I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines. It dawned on me mid conversation that it was one year ago today that I signed my close of service (COS) papers. This year has been full of surprises and, because I couldn't say it better myself, "what a long, strange trip it's been."
After I signed my COS papers in Manila, I stayed in the Philippines an extra two months to finish up some of the projects I was working on and manage some proper good byes with the friends and family of mine there.

In-N-Out with Chad
After the two months, I landed in the US and moved in with my aunt, uncle, cousin and dad in Phoenix amidst the economic crises. I picked up a night shift job at Barnes and Noble at Happy Valley and spent my time there working the cafe, book floor, playing Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 with my cousin and/or lighting the midnight oils. Unfortunately, things didn't work out and we lost the house to foreclosure. While my cousin left for greener pastures in San Diego and my aunt and uncle moved to beautiful Prescott, dad and I squatted in the house for an additional two months or so. During this phase, I had begun my application to head to South Korea as well as to Israel for birthright.
My worldly Posessions
Astoundingly, I was accepted into the birthright program and managed to get two weeks off work to head to the Holy Land. The remarkable thing about this maneuver is that my flight left 24 hours before the program in South Korea began interviewing. After a few emails, I finagled an interview for the English Program in Korea (EPIK) program six hours before my plane left for Tel Aviv.
Israel was fun and I made some great friends on that trip.
A few weeks after I came home, I was inundated with EPIK paperwork and getting my things together to move to Minnesota. In June, I moved in with my moms, into the room I had when I was in high school. I finally found a job working at a gas station, slinging pizzas for hungry travelers. The first month or so was great, hanging out with my brother, whom I had not seen since I left for the Peace Corps. He and I have changed so much and it was a pleasure discovering those differences. He and I are still best friends. One of the unfortunate things about my new job was that I worked night shift and never got to see my mom who started work early in the morning.
My Job in St. Joe, MN
After wrestling with the Korean embassy in Chicago, I finally got my papers in order to fly to Korea and begin work as an English teacher in August. So here I am. It's been a weird year, in retrospect and it has been the people who have occupied my time that has made it a blast.
Me and Colin having a "moment"

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Some Exotic Foods I Have Ingested Whilst In South Korea

Stuffing my face as usual

As many of you know by now, I never shy away from eating the rare or exotic, especially when if it involves the flesh and organs of sentient beings. While I had ample opportunity to eat every conceivable part of a pig, among other animals, while in the Philippines with the Peace Corps, a whole new smorgasbord of gastronomic adventures has awaited my ingestion here in South Korea.
While the level of exoticism here in Korea cannot match the grotesqueness of balut (Filipino style hard boiled duck fetus) and the like, I have faced formidable foods here all the same. Unfortunately I do not have pictures of every exotic dish I have devoured. Below are some pictures and otherwise written accounts of those foods that would typically make the Westerner's stomach churn.
As a disclaimer, I am obliged to say that Korean food, by and large, is very sophisticated and flavorful and often times does not include what Westerners would consider exotic. Also, keep in mind that Koreans have been perfecting their craft in the kitchen for thousands of years and have their traditional dishes down to a science. In fact, as Korea develops economically, so has the Korean palet for the inclusion of Western flavors and ingredients. Knowing me as well as most of you do, I have sought out these delicacies and as I have learned, they taste better with chop sticks.

First on the list is eel. During the Yecheon county festival, my coteacher took me out for grilled eel. While this may not seem that exotic, the food presented was slippery, spicy, chewy tubes of what would essentially be sea snakes. It was delicious, but the texture was a little difficult to get over at first. Funny how these things become easier to eat as the quantity of beer with which you ingest them increases.

There have also been some old standbys that I have not eaten since living int he Philippines (like aunt Jan and Uncle Russ would keep anything like this in their house!) such as BBQ'd pig intestines and chicken gizzards. Pig intestines can taste horrific if not cleaned properly, as one can imagine, but the expertise of one local restauranteur has proved to me that clean swine guts can taste marvelous over an open flame. Chicken gizzards are also great anju, or beer food, as it is served salty and provides a very satisfying crunch.

Speaking of crunch, I was privy to a deep fried grasshopper, courtesy of a friend who brought this to me from her village's grasshopper festival. It was crunchy with no innards (not necessarily a bad thing) and a little spicy. This would be great theatre food. Nothing like sitting down to a good movie with a big bowl of buttered, fried grasshoppers between you and a date!

Crawling along, and staying in the realm of the insects, I was able to sample bundaegi, or sauteed silk worm in a spicy broth. These definitely had innards, almost creamy in nature, and not necessarily my cup of tea.

One of the most exotic things I have ever tried anywhere was live squid. Basically, they take a live squid, cut off the tentacles and serve it in front of you on a plate. The tentacles weren't slithering on the plate as they are want to do, but the suction with which they grappled onto my cheeks and tongue was almost painful since I hadn't chewed fast enough. I didn't know they were "live" and found out the hard way. What a surprise!

Next, I suppose, is sundae, or pig intestines stuffed with rice noodles and cooked in pig's blood (for color). Here my friend Dan and I eat the the sundae, accompanied by slices of pig's tongue to round off the exotic factor. I was assured by Dan, who said he ate the stuff as a child, that it was good. I put my full trust in him and wound up enjoying the meal very much.

And finally, for the cous de gras, whale. I tried whale. I know this could potentially upset some people, but the whale was already dead, cut up and on display. I don't condone fishing for whales but I do condone eating foods that people from different cultures have been eating for thousands of years. I had no part in the whale's death. So now that my hands are clean (so to speak), I shall continue the saga. So Mr. Do and I were at the Yecheon festival (mentioned above) and they had whale on display. It is eaten cold and dipped in a seasoned soy sauce. Honest to God, it tasted like gelatinous Hawaiian punch. I think that's enough said.

And, inevitably, one of my favorite songs growing up. Sing along if you know the words:
Great big globs of greasy, grimy gopher guts
Hairy little piggies feat, mutilated monkey meat
And all to top it off with marmaladed vulture vomit

A Very Korean Birthday

Please visit my Picasa page for all the pictures that accompany this post.
I'm sitting here, listening to Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run," wondering if I might be too old to identify with the desperation and, well, piss and vinegar that I found so appealing about the album as a whole throughout the last few years. But no, I'm still feeling it, rocking out at my desk in the teachers' room at school.
I am 25 years old, a quarter century and I honestly didn't ever picture myself making it this far. I guess it didn't occur to me. Whatever the feelings may be at present, I am glad I am kicking and living in Korea.
I imagined my birthday here to be a low key event with little fanfare. I am lucky to have the quality friends here that I do, both in my town and throughout Korea but celebrating on a Sunday night isn't necessarily convenient. It didn't really occur to me that this mentality left my birthday completely off the radar of my coteacher, Mr. Do. He was surprised to find out last four days before my birthday and as soon as he found out, I could see the cogs turning in his head.
Sunday, about noon, Mr. Do and I, accompanied by one of my best friends in-country, Jacky, went to Mungkyeong Sayjay, about 40 minutes from my hometown. Sayjay is one of my favorite places in Korea, a wonderful place to hike. It is the ancient road connecting my province to Seoul millions of years ago. Anyway, everything in Korea seems that old. The road snakes up a wooded mountain and is marked with three defensive gates (sayjay means three gates). Autumn is my favorite season and I loved walking among the colors of the mountainside. To the top and back is about 2.5 miles. The following are some pics from the glorious autumn walk.

The first gate and the start of our walk

Loves me some changing leaves

This is where buddha reached enlightenment. Just kidding.

Me, Jacky and Mr. Do at the third gate, top of the mountain

Me being super contemplative. Guess I needed one of those "I look wiser because I travel" shots. Pretense is my forte.

I had this picture taken because it represents exactly the kinds of autumn days my mom and I love to share

So that was our walk. At the top of the mountain, we partook in san che jan, which is like a friend pancake type thing made with mountain vegetables. Instead of flour, they used oak powder. One of the peculiar things about this jan specifically is that none of the ingredients came from a garden. All of the ingredients were procured from the forrest. We washed down the jan with herbal makuli, a kind of rice wine derived from sticky rice, ginseng and other herbs.
After our adventure up and down Mungkyeong Sayjay, we went back to the outskirts Yecheon (my hometown) for some bulgogi and a sauna. Bulgogi is almost exclusively for special occasions and Mr. Do treated me and Jaclyna to its wonders, of which I have never indulged before. Bulgogi is thin slices of beef, BBQ'd at the table, with many delicious side dishes. At the same venu, after the meal, we dawned what looked like prison uniforms and crawled into a sauna. But that doesn't even begin to describe the significance of the sauna at all!
The main business of the establishment is actually making charcoal out of oak trees. The owners have built large soil "caverns"in which they char the oak. After the oak is charred and the room has cooled enough, the employees throw rugs into the cavern and people are welcomed to sit in the cavern and sweat. It was awesome on so many levels, but one significant level is that the cavern smelled like Bull's Eye BBQ sauce. The sauna was like nothing I have ever experienced as it was a dry sauna. It felt like Phoenix, riding around in the P.O.S. Ford my dad bought that didn't have any airconditioning in June. However, I must add that this was a pleasant experience, especially the aroma!
Soil Caverns