Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Toast and Tangerines

I've been back for about 6 or 7 weeks now and so far it's been great! I work in a privately owned school through E. Bo. Young Talking Club. My owner is fantastic. She is a very kind and fair woman and she has really created a good atmosphere in the office. I have my own classroom this year which is pretty amazing. I actually feel a bit like a teacher now ha ha. I am teaching 2nd grade to middle school and, generally speaking, my kids are fantastic! In previous schools, I've definitely had classes I dreaded, typically the moody, pre-teen kids, but here I haven't had any of that. I actually find my middle school kids to be a lot of fun and they have senses of humor that make me crack up every day. On an average day, I teach 6 classes. I  have to be to work at 1:30 and start teaching at 3. I get a 45 min dinner break in the middle, am finished teaching by 8:15 and am contracted till 9, although this varies. At times, I get in workaholic mode and stay way later, whereas other days, I leave a bit earlier.

The only downside to my current situation is my location. I am the ONLY foreigner in my area which can be a bit a weekday slump situation. I actually saw a foreigner run past me while I was walking to work one day, and a small part of me was tempted to run after him and scream "who are you? Where do you come from? Give me social life, please!" but after some deep, momentary consideration in my head I opted against this decision. I fear it would have created a psycho girl first impression. However, there is a positive side to this location; I am generally in a good location to get to the 2 main locations for foreigners. The main hangouts are called Hongdae and Itaewon. Itaewon has the joys of several western grocery stores, which I have yet to peruse, as well as a large number of foreign friendly food and hangouts. The downfall to this location is it has a bit more of a seedy feeling. I haven't quite pegged why this may be, possibly the larger numbers of American army men or maybe it's just what people say. While here, I have noticed that it seems to be that you are generally a Hongdae person or an Itaewon person, kinda like the "are you N*SYNC or Backstreet boys" phenomena back in the day. I can hands down say kids that I, Anna W, am a Hongdae girl through and through. In my own personal opinion, if Itaewon was the seedy and a bit slimier locations, Hongdae is the more artsy and free-spirited location. There is actually a park there that 100% sold me on moving to Seoul and not Busan. Last year, my friend and I were visiting Hongdae and we were walking through this park on a rainy day to meet back up with our friends. As we passed, we came across something that was a very important moment for me....there, we both curled under the umbrella with the hundred other people doing the same and listened to a local group singing Adele outside. This blew me away. I learned that this was a normal thing here, to have random live music in the park. And so it was, that I knew I had to be here. On top of the chill, outdoor hangout at the park, there is also a lot of artwork on buildings. It's amazing and I will definitely get pictures once it's not so cold out. As it were, oddly, I have recently become friends with the owner of the park. Do not even begin to ask me how someone owns a park and how that works, because I have no clue. One day I will ask him and let you know. I have really enjoyed my experiences in Hongdae and I can only begin to imagine how much I will love it in the warmer months.

As anyone can imagine, building a solid social life can take a bit of time. I have my wonderful friends from my old cities, and I have definitely had some good times with them since I've been back, but that doesn't really fill the weekly void of socialization. I have recently been hanging out with an awesome group of guys and am starting to feel like one of the group finally. They are a group that can seriously make me laugh and they are all very laid back and just want to love life. I promoted a midweek hangout event this last weekend and it seems as though it may work out quite well. This week, we are all getting together for Dak-Galbi (a Korean dish, I broke ((another)) camera and have yet to take many pics here but I will be sure to do a food blog at some point) and we are debating having a book club integrated in as well. In addition to this group of guys, I also have been developing some friendships with a wonderful group of girls. I met Maeve via Joanne last year and she has 2 new coworkers that seem to be a lot of fun. Due to some weather issues, I haven't seen them much lately, but I think we will definitely have some good laughs in our futures.

Currently I am also pet sitting for a friend from Daegu. I have a small farm going on here: 4 rats, 2 hamsters and a hedgehog. It's definitely a time consumer and a wonderful distraction for me, but I must say I am very glad it is only for 4-6 weeks. It's a lot of work to make sure everyone gets their lovin! And as sweet as her rats are, they are definitely no where near where my girls were. They aren't too big on being held, but I'm working on that.

And I suppose I should explain the title: Toast and Tangerines. My goal for the year is find the joys in the simple things. Last year I cooked some amazing food and did some really cool things, but this year I'm really wanting to find the joys in the simple things. My slogan is toast and tangerines because it occurred to me once day how much I loved that for a meal and yet how simple it was to make. ((I even have the slogan hanging on my door so I see it when I leave)). I've been reading a lot more and, in general, I'm hoping to take some steps back and appreciate the little things and the simple things. Currently, I am in search of a cozy coffee shop to regular myself at to get some reading and blogging done.

I suppose that's about all I have for now. Like I said, I'm hoping to be more active on this blog this year and I will hopefully get the camera situation sorted (or get the Big Boy camera out more) and do some blogs on food, sites, stores, etc here in Korea. It's a beautiful life here and I know it's too difficult for people to come visit the experience, but I will try and share it via modern technology.

Till next time : ) Much love!!!

"A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than
a life spent doing nothing."
-George Bernard Shaw

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Looking back on a year

So one year under the belt. I guess a documented self reflection would be wise...

I think it's common knowledge that we all do an extreme amount of growing when life gives us a challenge. Tragically, these challenges are usually in the form of heartache, loss or a road block while going down our idealistic path. I am fortunate enough to be blessed with the fact that I was able to complete a year of extreme growth via a year of self-reliance (though help from my mom on the home front of course), joy and rewarding challenges. I have learned how big the world can be, how much there is to do and how many amazing people there are to meet along the way. Yet, even with all this complexity, we are still able to find the people we are meant to meet. We learn and we grow through the people we embrace in our lives, and sometimes even through the one's that we cut out of our lives. I've learned that miles cannot destroy the value of love and friendship. I've learned that we cannot keep everyone happy and if you cannot make yourself happy, then it doesn't matter either way. I've learned that we are as beautiful as we allow ourselves to be and those that cannot love us as we are have no place whispering in our ear. I've learned that living in a "what if" world can be a very bleak existence. It can cause some pain along the way and some fallen tears when a "what if" comes true, but if we rule our lives by it, then we are not really living. I've learned to live with less material needs and that the real food for the soul is nourished by the smiles, laughs and moments that we have along the way. 

Some of the best memories of my year include: Exploring ocean coast temples. Hiking mountains. Bonding friendships at the GS (general store). Dancing the night away with dear friends. The love-hate relationship with mcd's. Cliff diving, snorkeling, feeding monkeys, going to 'The Beach' and a beautiful day on a sailboat in Ko Phi Phi, Thailand. Of course, the daily joys of my kids. Being covered in mud at Mudfest. Swimming in the ocean for the first time. And those are just to name a few. Every week holds a new joy and I sadly have been very poor at documenting them. In addition to the memories of a year in Korea, I have the wonderful memories of visiting home. When we live our daily lives in a routine, I think we forget to appreciate the things we have in it's full grace. Walking onto American soil was an incredibly strange experience. I never felt such conflict of what "normal" was until I was in an English speaking country again. It was exciting, scary, anxiety ridden, and full of joy all at the same time. Yet getting home and seeing my family and friends can be no greater joy after a year away. Meeting my parents at the airport, having my nephew screech in joy to see me or the dog running around in pure elation is something I never would have experienced had I not been away. I treasure the memories of the cabin, faux-Christmas, seeing friends, or even just walking in the backyard far more now than I ever could I before.

This last year was truly one of the greatest experiences I ever could have asked for. I know that there are many people that want me to come home and settle down. Find a niche where my roots are. I hate that I hurt those people and cause them sadness, but I have also learned that the greatest love in the world knows no end and is able to be happy for another, even in it's own darkness. I have had moments in my life that were very dark. Like many people, I've had my difficulties and couldn't even begin to imagine doing the things I've done. I now know that all that time was meant for me, to show me the contrast of a life well lived. I'm living in a sunlight now that has so much beauty I am perhaps a little shocked and dazed. I don't know where my life is leading me. I'm now realizing how many forks are in this road, but I know it will bring me where I'm suppose to be. So for all that miss me, wish I'd settle down, I'm sorry I am not filling that niche yet. Just know that I am living in a sunshine that is filling me with true joy, strength and fulfillment. There is a great price to pay to be away, but it is also something I know I cannot fight. I must fallow wherever this is going and have faith in my footsteps. 

So yes. Another year for this girl. I have an amazing feeling about this year and I really think that it will be another great year for learning and growth. I look forward to seeing what this year holds and I will hopefully be much better at this blogging situation. Perhaps being the only foreigner in my area will afford my the time and focus to such.

~What we have once enjoyed we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us. ~
-Helen Keller

Thursday, April 26, 2012

When "Teacher" becomes your name....

While in Korea teaching, I've had the unique experience to have taught older kids, public schools and kindergarten all on one contract. I first began my teaching adventure with mainly kids that were 7-12 years old (western age). For my first 6.5 months, I generally had the same classes. I was able to bond with these students and observe the unique personalities that were forming.

But stop. Let me rewind and start at the very beginning. When we arrived here, it was such an intimidating situation. To be observing in a class and be sitting there thinking, "I'm no teacher. What do I know? These kids will never listen to me. What if they don't listen to me? What will I do?" Five million different things can roam through your mind and the first day of teaching can be filled with such anxiety. I remember telling my mom that I wish I could just flash forward a bit because I knew I would be totally fine after a month. I was wrong...in a good way. After a couple days of teaching, one can easily see that the students are quick to love and easy to forgive your shortcomings. I will keep this part short since I think I've addressed this aspect before.

In contrast to this hogwan position, my school also contracted myself and one other teacher to public schools. This was a very different experience. In a hogwan, I had my class and my students. In the public schools, I was lucky to know one students name. It was a combined difficulty of having 20-30 students in a class, only having each class once a week and also the fact that they used Korean names. I also was not the one running the classroom and had rotated through 4 different co-teachers in my 2 different schools. This was definitely a challenging aspect of my job. The students had very low English skills and there was no ability to communicate with them without the help of my co-teacher. Also, as I assume you can imagine, it's not so easy to teach a class where you can only call on people or reprimand them by pointing and saying "hey, you! no, the one behind you. Red jacket. uh, yeah that one". Not my fave thing ever. FYI: this is a picture of the class playing "Heads up, Thumbs up". It has absolutely nothing to do with English, but they loved it and my co-teacher insisted they play it. Eventually, the public school contracts were up and I came very close to being placed in an adult school twice a week. With a strange turn of events, I transferred schools and am now a kindergarten teacher.

Ahhh the kindies....so great and so frustrating all at once!
I began with 8 students in my class and I currently have 11. Needless to say, that's a lot to keep track of, but thankfully I have wonderful kids that are fairly good about listening to me.It's amazing to see such personalities forming, untainted by the fears one acquires as they group older. I would love to be able to see these beautiful children in 20 years to see how accurate I am with my predictions. I feel as though one can pick out the troublemakers, the kind and motherly girl, the girl with the biggest heart, the girl with the snotty attitude, the proper boy next door and all the other personalities one can imagine. When they make you want to scream at them and pull you hair out, they turn around and do something that is so ridiculously adorable you can't help but love them.
We've been on several field trips in my 2 months here. We've had birthday parties at an indoor play land, planted flowers for Arbor Day, made clay pots and most recently (and bazaarly) went to a potato field. I think the potato field may be the most random and hilarious thing ever. We hiked the kids to a dirt patch in a field and the Korean teachers said "we're going to let them play here". As in some strange horror movie, the 2 other teachers, the kids and myself looked over at the dirt patch only to see an insane amount of spiders and other various creepy crawlies scurry away. The children were less than enthused about this I think. We marched onward with the kids all huddled together in the middle. Eventually, after all the insects had scurried away, the kids started playing a bit with some shovels. Another enjoyable and funny moment on this trip was when the kids found a worm. Anyone that knew me as a kid new I had no problems digging a hole in search of worms to keep as my temporary pets. So I picked up this earthworm and the kids and even a couple teachers started screaming. After some time, the kids started lurking closer and closer to get a look. The brave ones pet the worm and others just watched the event. This was an experience I thoroughly enjoyed since my whole goal is to work with people and animals. I told the kids we had to release the worm back in the dirt, away from the kids so it wouldn't get hurt. Shortly thereafter, my friend, Matt, comes roaming over (unaware of these previous events) talking about how his kids were over yonder finding worms so they could kill them....I was less than enthused by this, but what was done was done.

Anyways, a bit of a list of some I will and I will nots......
I WILL miss
      -"I love you Anna Teacher"
      -the biggest and happiest smiles ever!
      -watching them learn new words and use them (properly...sometimes)
      -visits from my little ones in my office
      -class sing-a-longs
       -a million and one questions like "Teacher, name what?" (referring to whatever they were pointing at)
       -laughing at the 5 year olds (3 in western age) as they find Ben's glue stick and begin gluing the floor behind his back, mysteriously getting toothpaste in their hair, running into the girls bathrooms (the boys) and turning into a limp noodle when you pull them out only to immediately run back in. All those funny 3 year old stories :)
        -holding the kids hands while we walk

     - "_______, take your pencil out of your nose"
     - "________, take your hands out of your pants"
     -"_________, don't put that in your mouth"
     -"not off the floor..ick!"
     -children sticking their fingers in my lunch, their dirty spoons on my rice, or generally making my food undesirable.
     -poop on the floor or pants down on the way out of the bathroom
     -Jamie, no. David, no. Louis, no. Jamie! Jamie! Louis! DAVID! grrrrrr 
      -Dong chim (trying to stick their fingers in your nether regions)
      -Snot on me, the pencils, the papers, the desk, their hands, my shirt, the chair, my food......

So to sum all this up, I have now evolved into the point where my name is no longer just Anna. When "teacher" is said, it no longer means a position I have taken but rather part of my current identity. I guess a year ago if someone said "teacher", I would say "what do they teach?" but now it's "teacher"...."what do you need?" It's a strange and beautiful phenomenon and you would think that with 15 teachers roaming around in one area this could be confusing, but somehow it's not. We know our kids, we learn what teacher they are referring to and, by the tone of voice, how important it is. It's a beautiful thing to experience and I'm glad it's one that I can say I have. I hope this gives you a little insight into my teaching bubble. It's like having 11 of my own little ones.....only I can return them at the end of the day. HA! 

                                 *****Don't chase happiness, create it******

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Everything about nothing

I think it's safe to say I am completely failing on this blog thing. In some way, I think it's due to falling behind on what I've seen and the things I've done and never really catching up. I think, also, that it is in part to the fact that when life is happening with such great events, the mind can become overwhelmed, exhausted and to write it down seems like a daunting task when your other option is to rest and recuperate from all the adventures. So I guess this is a blog about nothing specifically that I've done. No pictures needed. Just my take on my 8 months on the other side of the world.

I think I can say with great confidence and with no surprise that I am not the same person I left as. I've learned so much about people, the world and mostly myself. There is no one great change that I could tell you. It's all the small accumulation of things, as is most of life. A house isn't a home. There is no certain number of people required to make it a home. No one specific piece of furniture, painting or particular color of paint will make a home. When you add these things together, you create something bigger. I guess the good ol' scientific saying of "the sum is larger than its parts" would greatly apply here. It's not that I walk differently or talk differently (though I have been picking up some Irish and English slang here and there), but rather I've just evolved into the next version of myself. To be here, with no friends or family from home to know you and your behaviors, really makes you rely on yourself and discover what you're made of. I've come across a new strength that cannot be shown, proven or words spoken to express any of it. I can just feel it. I feel as though the person I was has become more set in stone. So, I guess it could be said that I haven't changed in so many ways, but rather that I have solidified my being. I speak up and speak out with a determination I lacked before. I have more ambition, yet am ironically more confused about life than I ever have before. To meet so many people that have come from so many different walks of life can really open a persons eyes. To see that so many different roads can lead to one location is a fascinating thing. Though, as quickly as you can think it is so interesting that we all ended up in the same spot, you just as quickly realize that it's not a spot you were all heading to but rather a crossroads where you stopped to have a drink and meet some nice people at the corner pub. I've met people whose life ambitions are to be a lawyer all the way to those that are determined to never have more responsibility than choosing which country to visit next. Yet we all find solitude together in this place. A common ground in this road stop of life. We can laugh at the clothing we don't understand or the food that drives us nuts together. We struggle with our language barrier and then together realize that hand gestures work far better than any attempt at Korean ever will (since any accent with Korean language makes it so they will NEVER understand you). We meet. We bond. We say goodbye and shed a short tear.

As such, during my time here, I've discovered how much the people in your life can make such a difference. My first city was great. I met some wonderful people and I hope that some of those friendships can remain through time. Though even with these friendships, I felt very detached and separate from my surroundings. I made the presumption that this was because it was Korea; an ever changing group that never had any real attachments formed. Then, I moved to my second city. A smaller city with fewer stores and activities...yet I've never done so much in my life. I've met people that I feel at ease with and I feel like I belong. I don't have to call to ask if I can come with on their outings because I'm already presumed to be in the activities. There is no judgments passed and a freedom to be yourself. We've bowled, batted, danced, hiked, gone to festivals, and more. This diversity in my experience here has given me such an in-your-face evidence of what the people in your life can do for you. I wasn't unhappy before by any means, but I definitely did not enjoy my experience nearly as much as I do here. It was a random turn of events and a split second decision as to how I moved schools and I've found that some of my greatest decisions have been made two very important things....1)an emptiness of mind. I say this because to sit and think to long on pros and cons can create a decision in itself. One could worry themselves out of a situation and remain in their circle of comfort. We need to not worry of what we will miss but rather empty our minds and embrace all the possibilities of what we could gain. and 2) a leap of faith. Just do it. Believe that everything happens for a reason and this was what I'm meant to do. I used to be obsessed with planning and I would worry so much about everything that could happen that I would miss so much of my life. Yes, somethings need to be thought about and planned, but somethings you can just know in your gut are right for you. A friend once told me he would have moments in life, essentially a deja-vu moment, and he said he knew right then and there that he was exactly where he was suppose to be. He believed that those moments were the glimpses when the life you're living intersected with where you should be, and as they overlapped, you had a deja-vu feeling. If this is true, I had one of those moments today. So perhaps I'm exactly where I'm meant to be at this moment. It's difficult to be away from loved ones. It's hard to exist in a culture different from our own. I don't know where life will bring me, who I'll love, when I'll have a home, what job I'll take, I just know that I'm exactly where I should be and I'm becoming the person I always wanted to be. I'm doing my best to gather as much life experience as I can and to learn as much about myself and the world as I can. I want to be able to enrich others lives with what I know someday, and to do so, I needed to do something outrageous and unique. I dream about stepping off that plane in 4 months and seeing parents (preferably with Chipotle and a Diet Dew in hand, maybe even a beef n cheddar to boot :P ), but I'm also trying not to live too much in the past or future. I'm trying to enjoy and embrace every bit of this as a I can, as this is a rare and unlikely experience that most people will never have. Thus completes my blog about nothing and everything. Perhaps it's boring, perhaps it's insightful, but it what I had to say at the moment. To write about events and things that happened months back is just difficult to do and I know I would procrastinate because of this. Hope all is well in the world of whomever is reading this. If you're friends or family, I'll be seeing you soon. If you are a random blog reader, I hope you're enjoying your life to the fullest (that goes for my friends and family as well, of course).

                                           ******Dare to be amazed******

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Yeon Cheon Herb Festival trip

I guess a good place to visit next would be a weekend trip Claire and I went on. There are a ton of websites and groups set up for expats (aka foreigners) and there are commonly weekend trips available to go on. So far I've only been on one since its been winter and the weekend ski trips are a bit out of my budget. Back in October, Clarie and I elected to join a group that had a variety of activities to do for only $50. Of course, the night before we left, we went out for one of our co-workers going away party. Needless to say, we were a bit tired the next morning since we had to be at the bus downtown at 8 or 9 in the morning. Anyone that knows me will realize that in general this would sadly be a struggle for my night owl tendencies. Plus, keep in mind that we also had a bit of a journey time just to get to downtown. In classic fail style, I had set my alarm for PM rather than AM almost causing us to be late! with a little bit of panic and rushing, we made it to the bus on time.
Choe Mu-Seon Science Museum
 Our first stop along the way was the Choe Mu-Seon Science Museum. I must admit to have disappointment in the stop. There was very little to see for science exhibits and what there was to see had little interactive learning, thus leaving us to stare blankly at the Korean characters near some sort of picture or display. We were only given a 1/2 hour to wander around there, which I think everyone found to be more than enough.

The next stop on our journey was yet again a little disappointing....the Yeong Cheon Wine School. Basically we walked in and looked at some bottles of wine in a wine cellar. We were starting to get a little worried at this point, but still had hope that the trip would take a turn for a better. We were pretty sure that at this point they had jut chosen some free locations to bring us so they could beef up their list of things people do on the trip. I suppose at this point I will also add in that at every location we seemed to have a paparazzi fallowing of cameras. It was slightly humorous and slightly annoying. We had to hold up a banner and smile for pictures at every location. If the location was boring they would actually say to us "try and look like you're having fun!".

After the wine school things started to look a little up. Our next stop was to a vineyard where we got to walk through the rows of plants and clip our own grapes. Later in the day, we stopped at another science museum and they had an outdoor area set up for us so we could crush our grapes and begin the process of making our own wine. I will fully admit that my wine adventure was not a full success. I clipped, I squished, I mixed....theeeen a whole lotta nothing. This is quite a lengthy process people and not one that I particularly fallowed the directions on. There were proper times to remove the lid, put it back on, stir it, strain it, bottle it....yeah, it just wasn't gunna happen. Basically I created a nice home for some fruit flies for a bit and then tossed said bucket out with the trash. Ya win some, ya loose some. Besides, I'm not a fan of red wine anyways so in all reality I just woulda used it to torture my friends with some terrible homemade wine and, trust me, no one would have appreciated that! :P

Also at an art museum, we stopped for a meal chopped full of authentic Korean cuisine....did I fail to mention that it was all Korean food?! well, it was, so there were many of us that were eating rather light for a couple days. If ya don't like spice, well, there's no good or funny saying I can think of, so just generally, if you don't like spice you won't have a lot to eat here. That's pretty much all there is to it!

So let's recap so far: Science museum, wine school, museum, and here we are at science museum number 2 I guess. This was rather fun. We got to use giant telescopes to look at the sun! Wait, I'm not suppose to stare at the sun you say?! Pish posh! we did! Well, sorta. We all walked into a room and the roof retracted revealing the scenery pictured at the left. This science museum also housed one of the largest telescopes in...the world? korea?...I can't remember, but it was big. Minor fail----we were there in the day so we couldn't really see a lot. Oh well. We also went into a room which had a crazy screen that is round (sooorta like the IMAX) and the chairs are mechanical and move into a flat position. In classic Polish style, I had been sitting with my legs UP when the chairs moved and therefore got stuck in a rather awkward position....but that's just kinda how I roll :P The chairs also move as the video does so in one of the shows we really felt like we were on a roller coaster in outer space!

Next was a lovely hike! ==================>
There's not a whole lot to tell about here. Se came, we saw, we concurred! It was a beautiful hike with beautiful scenery...and we saw a Korean cow! :D

After the hike, it was off for some more Korean food for dinner and then "bed". For the people that refuse to eat Korean food (I'm not one of them), we stopped at a store....that place was cleaned out of  Pringles faster than you could blink! At our cabins, we also slept Korean style. What does this mean you may ask?! No beds! That's right folks. We were rockin the floor as the Korean folks do. Not my best night sleeping ever, but as my mom would say, I'm young, I can handle it. We also hung out with some people we'd met on the trip. It was once girl's birthday, hence the cake.

The next day was the real action day!! The one I'd been waiting for and the whole reason I wanted to go on the trip! ATV's, kayaking and horseback riding!!!

The ATV's were fun but a little bit limiting from what I would have liked. There was a guide showing us where to go, which was fine, but we were kind of operating on the idea of you are only as fast as your weakest link, so we had to do a lot of waiting for the girl that was in front of Claire in the line. As I had previously mentioned, there was a lot of paparazzi feel to this trip as well. At one point, I rode my ATV around a corner and there was a guy with a camera in the bushes waiting for an action shot. Rather funny actually!
The Kayaking was fun, though we got a little wet and it was a little chilly, but hey, I'm a Minnesotan girl, I can handle it :) The horseback riding was also a little disappointing. We had been told we would be able to free ride the horses but we were actually stuck walking in circles with them. Either way, I was elated to be around the horses, even if it was a pitiful ride and only being able to see them in their stalls.

As our journey was winding down to an end, we went to the Yeon Cheon Herb Festival. They wanted 20 of us to go on stage to participate in and herb wrapping competition. It was kind of a publicity stunt type deal, but I went along with it and went up on stage. It was rather intense...NOT! we had so many minutes to wrap ginseng into bundles and the person that was the closest to 300 grams won. Before we started the competition, they interviewed some of us. It was HILARIOUS! The camera guy was completely in one guys face (pictured below). So what did the winner of this competition win you may ask?!....a GIANT box of ginseng! woooooooo. ha ha For participating I got to keep my bundle of herbs, which I ended up giving some to Meghann and some to Tony. It was a fun experience though.
All in all, this trip had its lame parts to it, but overall I was pretty happy with the experience. I got to meet some fun people on the trip, had some great laughs, and see some new parts of Korea. There's lots of groups that plan trips like these all the time, so I'll definitely be doing some more along the way. So I'm caught up to October, almost. Couple more trips and some school day photos. I suppose I'm lucky that not a lot happened during the colder months or I'd be WAY behind on my blogs. :D Hope you all enjoyed some pictures and some stories. More to come!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

But I digress...

I title this blog in the name of irony for this blog has no real topic to digress from. I suppose in some manner it is a compilation of digressions that could occur had I chosen a topic. So here we go on a random journey of stories and pictures….
Actually, first I think I must rewind to the beginning of things and start with a quote. I’ll explain…. If you’ve known me for some time, then you know I’ve changed a lot in the last few years. I dare say in my younger years I was a shy and timid person. The unknown was far to stressful, to the point that I cried at my going away party when I moved a mere 2 hours away for college. Overtime and with experience, my strength has grown exponentially. When the time came put on my cap and gown and pass the threshold to the next chapter of my life, I went forth with a quote in  mind…
“What you’ve done becomes the judge of what you’re going to do – especially in other people’s minds. When you’re traveling, you are what you are right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.” – William Least Heat Moon
With this idea in mind that I was no longer had to the person I had once been, I set forth on this adventure with the goals of meeting many amazing people and seeing amazing things. I guess to fallow the idea of digression, I’ll also throw in a piece I wrote when I was still at home….
August 2, 2011: I searched for quite some time tonight to find a quote that best represents my upcoming endeavors [[here I must add that it is way too clear that I like quotes ha ha]], but all that could properly seem to fit is a song that has kept me in high spirits for the last 3 years. The song is by The Daylights called “Little Girl”===>”Don’t back down little girl, cause you’re gunna be alright. Step on out, it’s a wide wide world, and you’re gunna be alright. You’re a star, you’ll do fine, and you’re gunna be alright”
Once upon a time I was scare to leave home and this song helped me realize how small I was living. An attempt to leave the only town I’d ever known seemed beyond my abilities. Of course, if someone would have told me 10 years ago that I would even pass high school I’d say they were lying. If 5 years ago, someone would have told me I would have gone to Australia for a summer, I’d say they needed a brain check. So I suppose they fact that I’m leaving the country shouldn’t surprise me in this ever evolving life.
I find that no matter how much we want to plan our lives, it proves to be impossible. The unexpected will always happen. We will plan, try, fail, and pick ourselves up on a new path. We will meet people that will inspire us. We will always encounter a challenge that will change our reality as we knew it. So the best thing I’ve come to learn is to expect the unexpected. So forward I go into something so unknown and so unexpected of what I had planned for my life. I guess I’ve found myself on some sort of proverbial quest to discover everything I can about myself and the world.
We must always remember where we sprouted from….the family that taught you the basics of life and began the seed of what we are to become. The friends that laughed with us, cried with us, and joined us in the crazy situations of youth. We must always remember where home is and appreciate the safety of it, as well as the fact that they all love you enough to smile as they watch you go.
I’m not sure what lies ahead of me….great memories, hard times, love, adventure….I can’t tell you exactly what I shall do, but I can tell you that I want to do everything that I never thought I could. I want to push myself as hard as I can since I firmly believe that the best way to become the strongest person we can be is to be knocked down, challenged, and then pick ourselves up and rebuild with stronger material.
So 3 weeks and 8 hours from now the journey begins. At the heart I’m a writer, a passion that I have slowly forgotten I loved, so my goal is to write for my whole excursion. Maybe I’ll write once a day, and maybe I’ll sometimes forget for a couple weeks, I just don’t ever want to forget where I began in this, what I did during, and proudly (hopefully) seeing the person I have grown into at the end.
====>I added this in partially because it’s nice to remember where I started 6 months ago and partially to somehow express my intentions when coming into this. I wish there was a way to display the changes I’ve implemented since I’ve been here, but I can’t. Perhaps my word is enough, perhaps the pictures I’m going to post in this will show it, or perhaps it just can’t be grasped by anyone but myself. I apologize for the longevity of this blog since it has yet to have anything to do with Korea so far, but here I will begin the tales…..
Susong-gu Lake
So my journey to be outgoing was truly tested for the first time on a Friday night. My fellow newbie co-workers and I were suppose to go visit my friend, Tim, who is from the other school. At the last minute, all three of the people going with me backed out of the night. I would likely say my old self would have claimed defeat and ventured home for a quiet night, but my new ambition drove me forward. So I got on the subway, found a bus I’d never been on and walked down streets I’ve never seen before and found my way to the roof top gathering. Not 20 minutes after I arrived, the neighbor was upset with us being on the roof….right, seems to be about my luck ha ha but it turned out to be a great thing. We hiked ourselves, our blankets and our munchies to the lake down the street. I also forgot to add that in this group of about 25 people, I knew only 1. This was also part of my adventure….and what a great adventure it was! I met some wonderful friends that night, both foreign and Korean.
The lovely Sienna, June and myself
The most memorable and the one I see the most is the lovely Sienna. Such a kind heart! I also met some more colorful characters, such as Bok…”my name is Bok! B as in boy, A as in apple, K as in KOREA!” Everyone was so friendly and so fun. This was true proof that my new take on life was going to be a lucrative one.
So there we sat by the lake. I think my favorite part of the evening was our semi-cheesy yet wonderful sing-a-long. Both Tim and Holly are wonderful guitar players and as they strummed the guitars we all sang with. Perhaps not perfectly, perhaps we sounded foolish at times and forgot the words, but no one seemed to mind. I think it came across as clumsy perfection in a way. We had a crowd of Koreans standing around us listening for the longest time.
In addition to the music festivities, Tim also busted out his long board for some evening fun. This night had produced some great memories and definitely was far more fun than I had anticipated. And so began my ever changing group of friends….
Another frequent past time of my friends an I is a place called Sugar Joe’s.  A few months back, Tim and Holly had attended open mic night at Sugar Joe’s and they had asked Tim to do semi-regular gigs there. Its a rather chill place. Couches, darts, a stage….it has a rather hippie-esk feel to it. The owners are a wonderful couple that both speak excellent English since the husband is a foreigner (the wife being Korean). Tim’s song selection is a highly amusing array that includes songs such as “Horse with no Name”, Adele , “Wonderwall” , and “I want it that way” by the Backstreet boys. The owner sometimes joins him on stage at the end and they have a free style session which is always wonderful.
Lately the activities have been a little mellow. Several people have left and new teachers have come in. I’m sad to say my fellow nouribang (karoke) enthusiasts are gone :( and I find myself home a bit more on the weekends…rather this is a bit more by choice so I can save some money. The friend I’ve been hanging out with the most lately has been Kat. She is from the UK and is an in your face type personality. I’ve had some of my most hysterical moments with that lady! We’ve been going to a free Taekwondo class twice a week, though that has been put on hold due to an increased schedule for January. She also has recently moved….all the horror stories that my mom and I were concerned about when I came here, well my poor friend Kat unfortunately had to endure every one of those bad experiences. Last week, she went into work and her co-teacher told her the school was closing that week! Very long story short, her boss had given her poor accomidations, treated her poorly and now was messing with her contract to try and get money to transfer her to another school. I am very happy to say she is settled into her new apartment and is in a school she seems very hopeful about!
Well this is getting long and my random stories are fading from mind as I get more and more sleepy. So I shale give a few more pictures then say goodnight….
Kat and me
Brad, Hyuna and Kaitlin (Brad is being weird as usual)
"The Tim" in Korean for his show

An attempt at not failing to keep a blog in Korea!

Yep. Truth be told, I’m sucking it up at keeping a blog going. I’m here, working on my 4th month mile marker and I haven’t written since my first month. FAIL to me! So forgive me as I try and backtrack my memory a few months and catch up. Hopefully I can retain the highlighted memories and experiences….even more hopeful is the idea that I will keep up with it from this point forward!
So where to start, where to start?! I’ll focus on the order of my pictures.. so lets begin the walk through memory lane by introducing my favorite place to eat…Handsome Fish! Like all amazing things in life (e.g. sunset, perfect moments, the beauty of a fresh snowfall) a picture just can’t do the meal justice! We usually get some beef tips which is served with an unlimited supply of an eggs and chives mixture cooked on one side and melted mozzarella on the other. To top it off, you get a bowl of sweet onions which is located in a lovely mild brothy mixture to dip everything in. A.M.A.Z.I.N.G! Yeah, I may hype it up a bit much, but anyone I’ve brought there has left agreeing with me that it’s great. Also, please keep in mind, that this is all cooked at your table, which is always a unique experience (at least for back home). Claire, Jeremy, Rebecca and I have made semi-annual trips here.
   In addition to my meal time adventures, there’s another thing that has grown a prominent role in my groups activities….video games. It all began one fateful day when a random couple of foreigners I’d met once or twice decided to invite me along for a wii-bang adventure. Perhaps they thought it’d be nice. Maybe they though it’d be fun to mess with the new girl and see if she could handle their odd sarcasm which was spiked with their sometimes slightly evil sense of humor (love you guys!). Either way, the root of where it all began seems irrelevant if you can enjoy the fruits of what has grown from it. ((cheesy metaphor eh? ha ha)). So Wii-bang and Xbox adventures is next on the list I suppose….
Brad at the Wii-bang
Xbox night at my place
Xbox at Nick's
I’d dare to say these three pictures a a good representation of a lot of evenings. My place has been known to house a fair number of hangouts, though the television quality is sorely lacking! However, Nick has a lovely large screen and multiple couches, so we have been known to cram ourselves together at his place as well. I’ve had some amazing laughs with these people!!! Street Fighter, Mortal Combat, FIFA, Streets of Rage….not what I thought I’d move half way around the world to do, but hey, it’s cheap, its fun, and (at the moment) it’s a bit chilly, so I have no complaints here :)
Let’s drop the next journey into the world of randomness. More specifically, lets focus on all the moments you thought you were going to get one thing, but received the (frequently unwanted) surprise of something else. This doesn’t happen SO much these days. I’ve kind of developed a routine of sorts where I know what I like and don’t like, but there are always those occasions when you develop a brain fart and end up with, well, exhibit A: The Mystery Egg! ======>  Young, unsuspecting woman enters convenience store looking for eggs. More specifically, eggs she could hard boil for dinner. Woman buys eggs from said convenience store. Boils eggs. Prepares dinner. Little does she know a “special” egg has made its way into her life. Brown. Rubbery. Solid like. Though the brave soul has been attempting to expand her taste buds, this is one egg experience that could just not be concurred. ***For those suspicious of the fact that it had already been hard-boiled when purchased, I assure you, it is not the case. It has been confirmed that this was indeed a “special” egg by a Korean!
~~As well in this confusing story, how can this adventurer eat chicken feet yet not a brown egg?! the world may never know~~
To add to the unknown, we will apply exhibit B to the situation: Chocolatey goodness crispy treat that looks like the possible evidence of a bowel movement==========> That’s right people, this is not a picture of me with poop on my leg, this is an honest to God snack. Needless to say, having never seen this snack before, I became a smidge frightened when someone handed me one! I also assure you that it is quite tasty and delicious!
I think the final mini-adventure I will leave this blog with is the trip to the market. Claire and I set out for a Sunday romp to explore one of the many markets in Korea. We expected a lot of what we saw, though to actually see some of these things in real life is shocking. I look forward to exploring larger markets as well. Traditional Korean items are available and when we had gone to this market, my wallet had been quite dry since this was the week before we got our first paycheck!

This set of pictures includes the notorious chicken feet, Claire in one of the mainly streets of the market, and finally Octopus….a little different from when I had to dissect in bio class!
 Here we have the gormet silk bugs. I have yet to try one of these little morsels, though Claire and several other people have graced me with the knowledge that they aren’t very good. Shocking, I know. Someday though, who knows. Then there is the ever prominent dried fish…all shapes and sizes! On the bottom we have the two that I voted most disturbing…as for the pig head, it took me quite some time to truly convince myself that this was a REAL pig head. They look so plastic and so happy! There are a ton of these on the “pork street”. Finally, the all to well known dog meat. Yep, gross I know. I have mixed feelings on this…at one point I had made it a goal to try dog meat. Why deny a cultural experience simply because my own deems it wrong. Sorry to all of you that think I am so wrong an such a bad person, but please realize this is not your dog fluffy, buddy, or whatever other dog styled name it has…I agree it is sad, but on the same hand, I think cows and pigs are super cute as well. If I think about that aspect I find it difficult to eat meat. I’m sure my mom can verify this fact for you….I have a hard time eating meat! So again, I’m trying to experience a culture, even if it is trying something once and having a hard time with my own ethnocentric tendencies. Though to top off this internal debate, I recently heard that they strangle and beat the dog as they kill it…something about how the meat tastes. This is something I will need to research. I will not eat something that was so inhumanely killed…believe me, I could turn this into some animal rights argument that I have with myself so frequently, but that is not the point to this. So I’m going to stop at that bit of debate.
ANYWAYS….I hope this blog sums up a lot of aspects of the things I’ve experienced thus far. There is still lots to come, and I hope I keep chugging away to get it caught up and continued. Off the top of my head, I also have to write one about the visit to Suseong lake, Busan/water temple weekend, as well as my general experiences at work. So much to write about!
~~Don’t pursue happiness, create it!~~