Category: Uncategorized


Being Home

Being home has been awesome and challenging.

I finally got to meet my niece! I got to love on her, and give her a bath, and feed her.

My mom has spent the last year telling me how awesome she is of a little person.  She is everything my mom told me and then some.  She is so happy, so smart, and soooo well behaved.  She has this look that makes you feel like her soul is 100 years old.  She looooves music and starts bobbing around which I know means she is singing in her head.  I only got to spend a couple of days with her because my sister was in the middle of moving to Arizona when I arrived back in the States.

I am going to be spending the next couple of weeks traveling to see family and catching up with everyone.  I am also in the process of applying for jobs and trying to find something.  I am currently becoming aware of what it was everyone was really saying about the economy and I am feeling it.  I have put out almost 30 applications and currently am getting back ‘no’ replies everyday, and that’s fine.  I will find the right thing when it comes along. I am not too worried yet, but I am starting to feel the pressure.

I am finally over the jet lag and back on my awesome night owl schedule that I love so much.  I also have eaten all the good foods that I looked so forward to.  They were just as awesome as I expected. I also put on like 10 pounds so I am going back to working out and staying healthy.

I also found lots of little Korean markets where I can find all the supplies I need to make all the delicious recipes I learned in Korea.  I am so excited to be able to share the cuisine with my family and friends.

One day at a time is all you can do with adjusting back into your own culture.  I still try and use Korean greetings sometimes, and speak in weird broken English sometimes, but it will go away, at least until my next adventure to wherever that might be.

Thanks so much for following me on this journey through Korea and I hope that when I have more adventures you’ll come along for that too! Until then, 감사합니다!

The trip home from Korea to North Carolina is a really long flight.

The night before I left was really nice.  I went to dinner after work with Joanne, Eileen, and the new girl replacing me, Kate.  We went to eat galbi which is so Korean that it makes for a perfect last meal.  We had some food, drinks, and good conversation.

The morning that I left was really hectic.  My boss wasn’t able to release my severance to me until the night before I left Korea.  That meant that I couldn’t close down my account there until the morning that I left.  I had a midday flight, but because of Hans I had to leave an hour earlier.  Unfortunately, because of the bank’s schedule that wasn’t going to be an option.  I was kind of panicked, but I had Eileen to help me and stuff. She also helped get me to the bus stop so I could catch the bus to the airport.

The people at the airport were really unhappy with my timing, but there was nothing I could do.  I finally got Hans all taken care, spent my ridiculous time going through security and finally made it on the plane.

My first flight wasn’t so bad, but once I arrived for my layover in Tokyo, I had to go through security again.  It made no sense to me because I never left the terminal I was in. I never went anywhere to get anything, and all in all I went through security 5 times. 5 times! absurd.

after hours and hours and hour…like 18 hours I finally arrived in DC. I checked on Hans and made it through immigration and such.  I was so looking forward to my last leg, which was only an hour long flight home.  I was looking forward to Mexican food and a Pumpkin Spice Latte.  Then in DC there was bad weather. like delayed my flight for 4 hours.  Sat on the plane and waited as the engines started and stopped 3 times before we could finally leave.  It was so frustrating to know my parents were waiting, and not to mention I was just exhausted. I mean exhausted.

On the long flight I took a sleeping pill because I really just can’t sleep on planes.  I got comfortable and waited for it to kick in…it didn’t…so I took another one…still no luck so I was up for more than a day by the time I got home.

It was awesome to hug my mom and get my cat and just go home.

of course my mom cried and held on for a really long hug.

I had some awesome food waiting on me and was amazed just how much my spice level has grown in the last year.  The spiciest salsa barely even registered on my taste buds. I also got Hans everything he would need in terms of food, litter box, and toys.

As tired as I was I still had trouble sleeping that first night  and adjusting to being back.

 

 

 

I have been home now for a couple of weeks and it has been a weird, yet nice time.  I definitely got behind on finishing wrapping up this blog and my year working in South Korea.

So I got together with some friends on my last weekend in Korea for drinks and darts and just spending some quality time together for the last time.  It was a really fun night and I really do miss the people already. Of course we were at Metropolis, which became my MacLaren’s if you watch How I Met Your Mother. I love every person that works there. They treated us so well and became great friends of mine.  They always bought dinner or made sure we made it home safely.  Saying goodbye to them wasn’t easy, but we had a few laughs that definitely made it more bearable.

3 pf my favorite, favorite Koreans.  I loved working with Eileen and Joanne. They are funny, kind, and just really awesome people.  It was fun overcoming barriers of language and culture and I am grateful that with all of the things I dealt with throughout the year at work that having co-workers wasn’t one of them.  Then Jun Soo was always super helpful and willing to do pretty much anything we asked of him.  He made sure we made it home and helped me get awesomely cheap contacts. yay!

It was Jun Soo’s idea to tear up the napkins to make them look like tears because it totally resembles what it looks like when someone is crying in a particular Korean kid’s cartoon.  It was really funny to take these pictures while everyone was watching us.

These people plus the missing Jun-Soo and the already returned Rachel and Sara made up the core of my friendships and system during my time in Korea.

and then finally one of me and Andy.  I am so glad that Andy had this place that we could go to that was a really constant mix of Koreans and foreigners and then made it so awesome that we went back time after time.

The next set of goodbyes were so hard for me to make.  It is not uncommon for foreign teachers to pick up private students they teach on the side for extra money.  Technically most of the time it can be used for termination of your contract, but everyone does it.  So I hopped on this train and taught a couple myself.  I first began teaching these two little 5 year old girls.  They were great. I played with them and we sang songs and read books, and I just really enjoyed their eagerness to learn.  One of the girls had an older cousin that I also began to teach.  Her English was really good and she loves learning.  She is an overall great student, but even more so at English.  Her name is Grace.  I loved spending time with Grace’s family.  They always treated me so well and constantly went above and beyond what they paid me every week.  When I was sunburned her mom cut up her aloe plant and made me lay for hours covered in aloe.  She constantly would take flowers from her own vase and send them home with me.   They took me to lunch many times.  I also spent a day just playing in the park with Grace and her little cousin Min Seo.  It was really appreciated and I loved the relationship I built with their family.  I let Eileen take over the lessons and I am glad that Grace will be taken care of.  During my last lesson we had lunch and chatted for awhile.  It was just really nice to feel like I had moments where I got to be this almost natural part of someone’s family even though I clearly wasn’t.

This was our last meeting together.  We went to my favorite Chinese place and I had this delicious spicy seafood soup called jjambbong.  Min Seo the smaller girl really was my favorite person.  She is so funny and smart and just a really well behaved child.  I told her parents that any time they wanted to send her to America I would be more than glad to take her.  She was so cute and loving.  and then of course the same with Grace.  She was such a good student and so easy to chat with and I always looked forward to our lessons.

I really like this picture of Grace and I.

Leaving Korea was easy in some ways because I was ready, but there were definitely things that kind of hit me at the last minute and caused me to just feel this deep sadness about returning home.

I am grateful for the people that I was able to meet and make connections with during my year there.  I am even more grateful for the technology that allows me to keep in contact and to keep building relationships with people like Eileen that I hold so dear.

 

Last weekend I went with some co-workers to a Korean baseball game.  It was a total experience.  If you are in Korea, like baseball, and it’s in season I think it’s a total must.

Basically tickets are less than 10usd for the general admin seats.  We sat right outfield front/bottom row like right on the field.  We bought tickets the day of the game and settled in to watch the LG Twins play against the Doosan Bears.  Both teams are Seoul based teams so there were a good amount of fans that came out to support.  Neither team made it to the play-offs so there weren’t as many people as usual.

Korea baseball games are fun for 2 main reasons. First, everything about them is cheap.  We bought beer for cheap, unlike the ridiculously over priced stuff at games in the States.  Then, in Korea there aren’t hotdogs at a baseball game, there is fried chicken.  No one walks around selling during the game, but all of the vendors are set up just outside, so its way less annoying.  Second, they are fun because of the fans.  People love baseball here.  Love it.  Korea also loves entertainment.  This is evident in every facet of their lives.  Therefore, at baseball games there are these cheer dancers that come out for each team when they are up to bat.  Each team has a theme song, and even some individual players.  They all  have these huge clapping sticks and the fans have all kinds of cheers memorized.  There are even cheer wars.  I’m not talking like a small section starting something, I mean the whole freaking stadium.  It was a total experience for sure.

We got there about an hour before the game started.

So my friend/co-worker Joanne played photographer and didn’t realize how light weird my camera can be if you don’t know when/how to change the settings and stuff.  I should have checked it first.  Point is the pictures are reaaaallly bright and stuff so this is the best I could do with them.

LG fans.  You can see the dancers/singer guy on the blue platform thing in the center.

This kid was sooo cute.  He was chanting all the cheers and clapping his sticks for LG hardcore.

Me and Joanne after the game was over. I have no clue how she wasn’t freezing.  It was sooo cold outside.

It was lots of fun, most assuredly.  I wish I had gone to more while I was here.  So it goes.

The Faucet Affair

I have created a faucet lapping monster.

Hans has always been weird about the bathroom.  He will sit outside the door while I shower and talk to me.  He will come in the bathroom and try and drink shower water off the floor but I don’t let him since its a shower floor which is gross.  And he is terribly afraid of a flushing toilet.

Well, lately his relationship with the bathroom has changed ever so slightly.  He has decided that he is giving up the gross life of post shower water for a cleaner more luxurious lifestyle of straight from the tap water.  I know many cats love this little source of hydration, but Hans had never showed interest before last week while I was getting ready for bed doing the nightly routine of teeth brushing and face washing.  Now he is like this addicted monster.  Any time I go into the bathroom he dashes in and jumps up to the sink and starts lapping at the faucet waiting for me to turn on the water.  He’s so silly.

Also, side note:  in order to get Hans in the smoothest way possible he needs to be wearing a collar and tags and such.  Well, he has never had to wear a collar before as far as I know.  So I got him one about a week ago to help him get used to the idea.  So far he just sits trying to chew it off.  It’s not too tight or anything he just really hates it.  He looks ridiculous trying to tear at it, but I am more afraid hes going to hurt himself.  Oh well, only 2 more weeks until we are home sweet home Stateside.

Last week in science class with my GS students we didn’t have an assigned project.  Usually we do these silly little prepackaged projects from these books.  Some of them are fun and some of them are just ridiculously pointless. Anyway, last week I suppose they didn’t come in on time because we were told it would be a “review week”.  These aren’t really things you can review because these poor kids don’t even get half the things you say to them most days.

So I decided to do something fun and make a project to keep them busy and to let them have fun.  I finally settled on the idea of making ice cream in baggies.  The kids had a great time.  It was a little more messy than I would have hoped, and I probably should have had them work in teams instead of individually, but hey I know better for next time I suppose.

I looked up a basic how-to guide on-line just to get some accurate measurements and tested it at home the night before just to make sure it would work. It was really easy and I used chocolate milk just to skip a lot of extra steps.

Meet GS4A. From the left row front to back and the right row back to front  Sally, Daniel, Christal, Julia, Tom, Steve, and James.  They are a handful.  The boys in this class are hardcore.  They talk 100 miles and hour and they love to destroy…everything.

Daniel is a weird child.  I teach his sister Bella, too and  I would love to meet their parents.  They are very strange kids.  Definitely marching to a way off beat drum.  Daniel kept wanting to lick the salt.  It was gross and unsanitary and I just couldn’t reason with him.  I am sure his sodium levels were spiked for days.

James and Julia shaking away.  The bags got really cold, of course, so I had brought some hand towels to class for them to use when they needed them.

Stillll Shaking!

Poor Sally, she is one of my favorites. She was so excited about her awesome looking ice cream, but some how some of the salt got mixed in with her milk, and she had some terrible tasting ice cream.  I did give her a new chocolate milk to make up for it though.  Other than her mishap and a few not quite frozen situations everyone’s turned out great.

맛있는!  (delicious!)

It’s a little blurry because Daniel wouldn’t hold the cup still, but yay! icecream!

And it was during their last class of the day, so I sugared them up and then put them on the bus home.  ^_^

Chuseok

One of the biggest holidays in Korea is Chuseok.  Everyone has days off to celebrate together.  Essentially it translates to Korean Thanksgiving and celebrates the Korean autumn harvest.  Everyone travels to see family and spends time eating with them.

There is a special type of dduk, a rice cake called songpyeon, that they during this time as well.  My kids were writing about it in their journals for weeks leading up to the holiday.  They all were excited about the special dduk.  I had some and it was quite good.  They do put it in bags with pine needles which was a bit strange, but definitely tasty. The link to Wikipedia tells you all the deliciousness inside.

I had the honor of being invited to spend the day at Eileen’s grandmother’s house with her family.  I have spent time with them before if you remember at her grandmother’s 90th birthday party.  Her family has been really kind to me this year, and I am really thankful for them letting me be a part of their celebrations.

So I woke up early and met Eileen and her mom for our journey down to Suwon.  We took the subway for over and hour and then a bus for about 40 minutes.  Finally we arrived.  There was so much food.  Kimchi, of course, jeons of all kinds, egg battered veggies, sides galore, and this delicious soup yukgaejang,  which I call six things soup because its name sounds similar to the number six.  Eileen laughs every time, but it totally makes sense to me.  Her grandmother made it with chicken and it was so tasty.  We ate and ate and I was so full, but then her grandmother kept bringing out fruit and snacks and she kept personally handing me things being the good Korean hostess, but I was so full.  It is rude to not accept things offered to you in Korea so I just kept eating until I finally just said I’m sorry but I am just too full. Saying I’m full is one of the things I learned early on in my year here.  Haha you hear people saying it all the time. Sadly, I didn’t take any pictures of the food because there weren’t many people there and I kind of wanted to just enjoy being there and not being the weird foreigner with a camera, so sorry about that, my words will just have to be enough.

Side note: The word for stomach in Korean is bai.  This word is also the word for sheep and pear.  So sometimes I just sit and giggle at all the ways you could get all three of these words mixed up in a sentence taken out of context in translation.

Anyway, so after so much eating, which was totally ok because it’s a holiday and those never count, plus the food was amazing, we were asked to go help pick some veggies.  Eileen’s grandma has small portions of these community gardens near her house.  It’s really interesting because these plots are on the sides of these hills almost up into the trees.  To get to one of them you have to climb up these makeshift dangerous rock stairs.  It was fine though I suppose because if her 90 year old grandma can climb them like a champ then we figured we should too.  Though I am still not sure how grandma did it, to be honest.

I did take pictures of this 🙂

Eileen borrowed some clothes from her grandma so that she wouldn’t mess up the nice clothes she was wearing.  Of course you can’t work in a garden without a hat, so we borrowed those too.

She totally looked like an ajumma, it was hilarious.

I was in charge of picking peppers in the first garden we went to.

Eileen and her grandma.

Then we went to the second garden, and there were so many mosquitoes it was crazy.  I think I ended up with 15 bites by the next morning.

Also, in the middle of the second garden there was this make shift sitting area.  I am pretty sure its where old men go to drink soju while they garden haha.

Again, we couldn’t stay long because of the mosquitoes. We did get some good veggies though.

After we were finished and had helped clean up her grandma start packing food bags for all of us. She even sent some left overs for me.  They were so delicious and I was surprised she even sent some for me.

Overall, it was a good day and I am really glad I got to experience my last holiday here properly.

countdown

I am in the final stretch of my time here.  At this point I only have around 35 days left.  I feel like I have done a lot here and done some self growing, but that’s for a later post. For now I just kind of want to give a general update about where I am at as this last month kind of begins.

At this point my relationship with Korea is in a very love-kind of dislike place.  I still love so much about this place.  The weather is finally perfect again and the sun is shining.  The food is still as good as ever.  And surprisingly things are going pretty smoothly at work.

However, my close friends, with the exception of Eileen, are all gone from Korea.  I was the last to come and I am now the last to leave.  This doesn’t mean I don’t have friends, they just aren’t as close to me as some of the others were.  Therefore, I am feeling a little more than ready to go back home to my friends and family that I have missed while I have been here.  Plus all of my friends from here live pretty close together at home and I get to see them pretty early into my return home.

I have already mailed home three 25lbs boxes full of clothes and things that have become important to me during my stay here. I am trying to have as little to pack so that I don’t have to worry about crazy luggage and Hans.

Speaking of Hans, I took him to get his shots and things for traveling last week and he was a total trooper during out vet visit.  I am excited that it is working out I get to bring him home.  As crazy as he can be I have grown super attached to him, and so has Andy.  I think he would miss him too if I didn’t bring him home.  Hans hasn’t been the best since he left.  He isn’t the best with change, then again what cat is?

I have been job hunting and it is tiring.  Really tiring. and I know things aren’t looking the best economy wise and I know even though I have a pretty cool resume that I am still young and technically inexperienced, but I really just want to find something sooner rather than later.

I am already trying to figure out how the best way to get some of my staples home with me, and at home once I settle back in there.  I am going to miss so much food here, as much as I am looking forward to eating some really good mexican food as soon as I get off the plane.

So all of that being said, I am definitely on the wind down and trying to prepare myself for the whole dose of reality I will be getting in about a month. I am going to try and keep enjoying things here and try and do as much of the things on my Korean To-Do list as I can.

Cheusok is coming up, which is Korean Thanksgiving, and I am going to be going with Eileen to her grandmother’s house.  I am super excited and looking forward to it for sure.  Hopefully I will have lots to post about it. ^_^

Seoul Forest

Eek I thought I had this post queued up to post, but apparently I messed that up somehow. oops.

During the last few days Andy was here the weather was beautiful.  On the Sunday before he left we decided to go to Seoul Forest.  Andy had been there on his own one day while I was at work, and he really liked it there.  I was excited to check it out.

We wore our couple shirts out and got a few looks and comments which I thought was super funny.  I got them kind of as pretty much a joke.  Koreans looooove their same-same and I just don’t get it, but these shirts were cute sooo we wore them out for a day in the park.

Seoul Forest is huge. Seriously so much green!

There is also a deer park, butterfly and insect houses, and tons of other things to do.  So we made the most of it, I think. First, we walked around for a while. Then we had been talking about getting a tandem bicycle so we went to the bike rental area and picked one up.  It was a rocky ride at first until we got smart and decided to adjust the seats.  much easier once that happened.

We rode over to the deer park and used the handy-dandy machine to get some food to feed them.

then ta-da deer feeding:

Normally, I am not a fan of caging animals in the middle of a huge city like this, but these guys really had a lot of nice forest land to roam around in.

Then we just rode around for a little half an hour looking at all the different parts of the park. After our bike ride we kept walking and headed to the butterfly house.  There were beautiful butterflies and squishy little caterpillars everywhere.

Sadly, the insect part was closing for the day when we tried to go in.

This place had a water treatment facilitation and eco forests as well.  It is huge. There were play grounds and sculptures.   It was so nice to see so much green.  There were so many people out enjoying the day. Families were camped out for the day playing games and having family time together.  I will say that Sunday is most assuredly still valued as a family day for Koreans and it is usually the day they spend fostering their relationships.

This was one of the huge sculptures and kids could climb inside and hang out.

Andy took me over to a bridge area that he had seen before.  It was really awesome.  It was nice to have the tables turned and have him showing me around.

Lots of pond area.

Also, there was that ever looming juxtaposition of the fact that this park is smack dab in the middle of this humungous city.

Then we headed to the small set of gardens we had seen that were set down at the this slope situation.  The flowers were beautiful and I really liked it…

but then I started noticing them.

looming

and it was not cool.

their spindly legs and huge creepiness. I really hate spiders. fact. and these were really big creepy things. I just imagined they were fast crazy guys and I just was itchy all over.  I made it through though.

ugh.

After this it was dinner time, but we weren’t ready to leave so we went to see if the guy who was selling pizzas he was making on the back of a truck was still there. Alas he totally was.  So we got a pizza for like 6 bucks and went back to the park to eat it while the sun was setting an end on the day.  We watched all the kids playing in the fountain and it was really nice.

 

DMZ

 

Sorry about the length between posts.  I didn’t want to spend hours of my last days with Andy blogging, and then I just spent a few days being really lazy.  No worries though there will be a couple posts showing up over this next week.

Andy and I took a trip to the DMZ.  Unfortunately, we didn’t take the trip with the USO.  We had a good experience but if I have time to go again I will definitely go with them. On this trip it was ridiculously hazy out.  We took the bus with our group.  When we arrived at the barricades we handed over our IDs and were registered.  Then a soldier got on the bus just to match IDs and people to make sure everyone had been cleared.

There were lots

It was a really hazy day.  This was taken at our first stop, Imjingak.  It was built to be a place where civilians that had lost their homes in the North could go and console their sorrows.  It is the farthest point people can go without permission.  It was the first stop that was full of good and somber parts as well as touristy ridiculousness, like the amusement park.

This is the Korean memorial for the United States.  Sadly, we didn’t have time to see it any closer.

This is an alter that is used by the displaced, especially during Lunar New Year and Chuesok, Korean Thanksgiving.

Ribbons hang all over the fencing of the bridge that was built to have an exchange of POWs.  They are messages to family members that were separated into the North.

One of the trains that was abandoned on the tracks when they were destroyed and split up during the war.

There are so many systems in place for security, and of course the most popular being barbed wire EVERYWHERE! Seriously, you couldn’t look in any direction without seeing this somewhere in your line of sight.

This is the Peace Bell that was installed in 2000 to hope for a United Korea during the new millenium.

of course there were these little photo points set up throughout everything.  They really wanted to make this into a place that should be enjoyed and almost celebrated instead of seeing it at a border that kept families apart and was created because a nation was being divided. A border that is still heavily guarded and at all times comes with some level of danger.

But back to the happy go lucky ventures of the day.  After this stop we went to this really good place for lunch.  Had some beanpaste soup and tofu something or another.  It was here that Andy and I tried some North Korean beer, and photographed our reactions.  It wasn’t terrible after the first initial sips, but definitely not something I expect to see on the shelves at a grocery store in NC anytime soon.

awesome sculpture near the third tunnel.  It is supposed to show the divide being bridged by the people and stuff, obviously, of course.

A map of the DMZ.  There is actually a village of people that live within its boundaries.  They farm and go to school and everything.  They have a curfew, and can’t roam freely because of undetonated mines.  I wouldn’t say it is my ideal life, but it’s what they have chosen to do.

and back to the cheesy touristy things like taking pictures with these little guys.

Apparently Andy decided to find himself a new girlfriend, but she was already taken.

These little statues were outside of the Third Tunnel. We weren’t allowed to take any pictures in the area.  It was really hard to navigate this tunnel because it seriously looks like it was built for children.  I hit my head numerous times and was glad for my helmet.  we walked bent over in half most of the time.

This is one of the lookout posts over into North Korea.  It was so hazy and the ‘photo zone’ was so far away that I didn’t really get any pictures…well I got some buuut I took them in a place Iwasn’t supposed to so they deleted them…oops. We also didn’t get to go into the information center because some US high ranking official was there.  I am not sure who, but it was a bummer that we couldn’t see everything, especially since it was hazy. The guards were nice though and answered a bunch of questions some others had.

Last we went to Dorasan Train Station. It is the last train stop in the northern parts of South Korea.  There is a train that runs south from this station every 2 hours through the middle of the day, I think.  There are tracks on both sides but only the one side is ever used.  All around the station is this almost movie set looking set-up.  There are cargo holds and immigration buildings and things that would be necessary during an opening of borders and a slow process reunification time.  It was just so strange to see everything there and waiting but never being used. The tracks were destroyed during the war and the picture above is a wall with names on it of people that donated in the project to rebuild the lines.

This is the front of the station.  It is way nice and clean and modern looking.  It is stationed with guards but they were kind of goofing around and answering questions, and of course posing for pictures.

There was a map showing how the Trans Siberian rail road would look and how if the North were open to the trains that it would take something like 15 days to take a train from Seoul to London.  Personally I would absolutely love to take a trip like that and see the landscapes of Russia.  Maybe one day.

Apparently George Bush did something with the tracks.

We had to pay like $.50 to go out onto the platform.  When we got there there was a train waiting to take people South.

This is the Korean’s main phrase used to describe this station.

Of course since there were no more trains for at least two hours and absolutely none on the other side we got to go down and hang out on the tracks.

and the way to North Korea is blocked and filled with red lights and stop signs.

Overall it was a very interesting experience and I learned a lot, but I also felt like I was in this kind of fun touristy learning spot and not in this kind of scary border that stretched 2km on each side of the border in countries that are still technically at war.  It was informational but hard to take it all as serious as I think we both would have liked to. So it goes. And there you have it, the DMZ trip with Adventure Korea.