Saturday, January 24, 2009

Preparation in the Coming Weeks

As the days are starting to count down to my eventual departure, I am relieved at how much my work is nearly complete after 2 months of recruiters, job offers, and a never-ending amount of paperwork, not to mention my rigorous TEFL certification course I took the month before.

On the day of inauguration, my brother Tony called to inform me that my contract and my documents had arrived from Korea. Beaming with joy, I took the documents over to the Korean Consulate in downtown Chicago at the NBC Tower building to get my visa finalized on Thursday. I'll be picking up my visa either on Monday or Tuesday.

Speaking of inauguration, I was doing my volunteer work at the McCormick Freedom Museum (check out that day, and spent the morning watching the inauguration parade & speech in the theater. Next to the Tribune building, there was a large gathering outside in the plaza. I must admit watching the speech did give me the goosebumps, however, as hopeful and excited as I am about the new direction, I am deeply concerned about our government's role in attempting to rescue our nation from the financial hell that has continued to plague us. Like most Americans, I still carry greater doubt about whether our US government is capable of providing relief from the credit market, and bring back the jobs that have been lost. However, I hope that those who showed their enthusiasm during the election and inauguration will keep a closer eye on the Obama administration as well as Congress to keep track of their progress, and have an input in their decision-making.

Rewinding back to my last subject:

My family's reaction to my decision to live in Korea was met with encouragement and support. I couldn't be any more grateful for it, as this will make the next few weeks of preparation be a little less stress-inducing. I have two farewell parties coming up, one this upcoming Friday, and the other on the following weekend. Both of which, I am definitely excited about. However, the last several days, I have finally started to realize the magnitude of my teaching decision. I realized that I'll be leaving behind the great city of Chicago, and even Westmont, but more importantly, my good friends and family. I'll miss my familiar surroundings, the food, Chicago baseball, the upcoming concerts and shows, not to mention Lollapalooza, and a plethora of other activities that I can only enjoy in the US.

However, I kindly remind myself daily of what the last few months were like trying to find a job, and not having any kind of reassurance of what tomorrow would bring. That usually does the trick ;). All I have left is purchasing my one-way ticket, picking up my visa, and getting the necessary items with me during my stay.

As far as location is concerned, I'll presumably be in the Busan area as I'm under the EPIK's Busan Metropolitan Board. Busan is in the Southeast coast of Korea, and many others have compared it to San Francisco, in terms of climate and it's thriving tourism industry and business growth. Busan (pronounced Pusan) is the second largest city in Korea, next to Seoul. It's a city that holds at least 3 million people, but many more in its province. Companies like Hyundai, Daewoo, Samsung are well represented in the city. It also has an American military base there, so the likelihood of having access to English-speaking Koreans and Westerners are favorable compared to other regions besides Seoul. Hopefully after my contract is done, I might be looking into the schools in the Chungnam Province as they are paid well there, and they have built a solid reputation in taking care of its English teachers, as well as their government's role in making Chungnam as a possible future capital of South Korea.

Right now, my concerns are having everything ready before I depart, but more importantly, being prepared to teach and motivate students to learn the English language. I am going to start look into different lesson plans, and other activities that will not only help students, but lessen the migraines of having to teach the irregular verbs, or explaining the use of idioms to students.

Signing off,

P.S. Is it just me, or is my governor Rod Blagojevich becoming more delusional? After getting caught on tape urging the firing of the Tribune's Editorial Board, the gov'nor is actually begging the board to help aid him in his fight against the corruption charges he is facing. Plus, he is scheduled to be on Good Morning America and The View to continue his fruitless fight against his impeachment. This man seems to know no boundaries, and is clearly beyond impaired to run my homestate. Sadly, I wished Illinois had already knew that about Blago years ago.

Monday, January 19, 2009

White Sox signing Colon

After shedding several lbs during the holiday off-season which included dumping Joe Crede, Nick Swisher, Orlando Cabrera, Juan Uribe, Javy Vazquez, and Ken Griffey Jr, the Sox gained a few more back by signing the oft-injured, portulant right-hander Bartolo Colon to a one-year, $1 million dollar deal with incentives to be their fourth or fifth starter behind a rotation which includes Mark Buehrle, John Danks, Gavin Floyd.

Colon, who played for the Sox in 2003, was among one of MLB's finest. He flashed sheer brilliance during his time with the Indians, Expos, and the Angels. He had an explosive fastball and was a dominant workhorse, working 200+ innings during the majority of his career. However, Colon has struggled to stay healthy since winning the Cy Young in 2005, and has lost some velocity on his 97-99 mph fastball.

Colon, as many Sox fans should remember, turned down a three-year, $30 million dollar contract with the White Sox to sign with the Angels. Owner Jerry Reinsdorf has made it no secret over the years of his disdain for offering pitchers long-term contracts. While that philosophy may have dampened hopes of them ever landing a prized ace in the free-agent market, it has saved the Sox from potentially tying themselves up on risky, and expensive contracts.

Classic examples of unsuccessful pitchers with long-term contracts which include Pedro Martinez, Darren Dreifort, Chan Ho Park, and Mike Hampton have continued to give credibility to Reinsdorf's philosophy. While many Chicago sports fans have made it a hobby to second-guess the chairman's decision making, the man is right on the mark. Colon's career after the Sox has proven just that.

Colon's departure eventually led to the trade for Freddy Garcia. As Colon made his early impact with the Angels, he was unable to pitch in the ALCS series against “you know who” in 2005. Since then, his career has failed to resemble his 2005 Cy Young season, and contributed to the Angels' unsuccessful run at capturing their second World Series during his tenure.

Now that Colon has signed with the Sox, I wonder if he is even capable of producing 25-30 starts, and if he can successfully alter his delivery to make up for the partial loss of his arm velocity. However, the investment in Colon is far less risky, and will produce greater competition among other candidates like Clayton Richard, Jeff Marquez, Lance Broadway, and Aaron Poreida.

GM Kenny Williams, as many Sox fans know, has a knack for re-signing his former players again and again (i.e. Carl Everett, the Alomar brothers, Esteban Loaiza, Gio Gonzalez to name a few). Despite the signing of Colon, Williams is sure to hear the second-guessing from fans who were clamoring for former Sox Jon Garland and Freddy Garcia, as well as Ben Sheets, or Randy Wolf, all of whom have seen their value drop enormously due to the current economic climate.

I am excited to see the potential of a career rebirth for the big guy. We have seen Williams greatly maximize his investments in the past on guys like Carlos Quentin, Alexei Ramirez, AJ Pierzynski, Jermaine Dye, Gavin Floyd, and John Danks. Let's hope that Colon will literally and figuratively fit into Kenny's shop for the '09 season.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Welcome Everyone!

After months of procrastinating, I am finally relieved, yet excited to launch the debut of my new blog titled "Randall and Kimball." After leaving the Oasis concert at AllState Arena on a cold, bruising, and unforgiving December night, I took the #81 bus to the Lawrence Red Line stop to sleep overnight at my friend's place in Uptown/Andersonville. It was during that long bus ride from Jefferson Park to Lawrence that I happen to notice the Kimball Brown Line station. When I was taking my TEFL certification class, I would take the brown line up to Montrose; Kimball is the last stop on that line. After boring myself of listening to the audible CTA voice that would say "Next stop at ________ and Lawrence," I figured it would be slightly amusing to have a bus stop named "Randall and Kimball." The name is a satirical take on my birth name, and also pays homage to my favorite CTA line.

After graduating from UIC in May 2007, I soon discovered how much different my expectations would be. I was coming off a successful internship at Comcast SportsNet Chicago, and had ended my last semester at UIC on a very positive note. I soon began to acquire new connections, and started networking throughout the Chicagoland area in hopes of landing a job in media. During that summer, I kept striking out, and worked at a job I wasn't particularly thrilled at. This past summer, I was laid off and went on a full-blown job search that yielded very little returns. It was during that summer that I decided to look into the possibility of teaching overseas.

As the economy sank further and further into the abyss, I realized how much more lucrative the idea of teaching overseas would be. There was nothing for me lose at this point. So, I went ahead and took classes for my TEFL certification in the Fall, and applied for jobs in South Korea. Soon afterwards, I accepted an English-teaching position in Korea through the EPIK (English Program in Korea) Korean Ministry of Education program. Once I receive my work visa, I should be ready to leave towards the end of February, and be placed near the Busan metropolitan area (Southeast Korea) teaching middle to high school students.

I am eagerly excited about the opportunity to live overseas for the first time ever. Granted, it is nerve-wracking; however, I am up for the new, everyday challenges that should soon await me. After spending the last year and a half with so much uncertainty and restlessness, I am anxious to start 2009 in a proactive approach.

With this blog, I greatly look forward to sharing many of my intimate stories throughout my journey with all of you. I am also aiming to use this blog as a resource for those who are interested in teaching and living abroad, and as an outlet to discuss events and issues that impact our society today. Thank you and I look forward to having you as my readers :-)

Randy Kim