Friday, 11 May 2012

Both of Us

A song by B.O.B f.t Taylor Swift.

There are days where I find myself wandering to a coffee shop because I feel a little confused and lost. We all get this way. I always think I've got everything figured out and for the most part, I do. But there are those days where something just totally throws off your energy and your way with the world that you fall off balance and have to take some time to gather yourself. When you're in another country, it can get quite overwhelming. Maybe more so than it normally would.

As usual, I'm not quite sure where I left off in my blog post. I normally don't take the time to read what I last wrote, because I normally just meander my way through the Internet until I feel like it's time to make another post. I just get little twitches in my nerves urging me to give an update even if it has nothing to do with teaching abroad.

Last week, I gave my 8 weeks notice to my boss and my flight is officially booked for June 23-- the day after my birthday. Crazy to think that my last day will be my birthday. It's also crazy to think that my brother will be here in about two weeks and my parents soon to follow after, as well. These weeks go by so quickly. The days go by slow on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday but the mini short days in between give me a real breather. I think it helps somewhat to make the week go by faster. The leaving date is creeping up so quickly and I am not ready to leave. I feel like there is so much left to do and see. And I'm losing weight so slowly no matter my efforts with dieting and working out constantly. It gets to be discouraging that I'm not seeing the results quicker after a month, now. I hate having to resist buying things I want --especially food-- when I only have (now) 6 weeks left to indulge. I also hate that my flight back home costs half a month's worth of hard work in salary--ugh.

Well, as the days come closer, I don't feel myself getting any more attached than I did in the first couple of weeks here. I have to be honest. I think it's because I really don't feel my voice being heard at the hagwon, I don't feel any support from my co-teachers or any slight want of a rapport. The way the children are "nurtured" here is completely ridiculous. If I may be so blunt, they say they care about the business and the kids. "First and foremost, the kids." I beg to differ. I can understand that one of the co-teachers at least, really enjoys kids. (Not so much the co-teachers I work with, though). However, I think truly caring about a kid is not just taking care of them, but rather building their character as well. Nurturing their personalities at a young age is the most important time to shape their mindset. Personally, that's just what I think. Maybe I'm biased from the way I was raised. Of course, there are things I will change when I raise my kid(s), but I know there is a baseline standard of how to discipline a child when things are just plain wrong, black and white wrong. These children are coddled and smothered so much I feel like I'm the one gagging and suffocating at how disgusting it is.

Then there's this looming upcoming depressing date where Ryan has to leave for law school. He's been feeling like he's in a bit of a rut-- a lifeless routine doing the same old stuff with me. I get it I guess. It can be boring... but even being understanding doesn't mean it won't hurt a little. I guess the experience of being a foreigner in an Asian country is different for him. Well, obviously it is. He's caucasian. Why wouldn't it be different? I guess he has this thing where he wants to explore places by himself because people will approach him more than when I am not with him. Again, it kind of hurts, but I try to be understanding. I guess I'd want to, too if I lived in some country where Asians were a rare sight. But unfortunately, Europe's got plenty of Asians to go around-- enough that they're not like a full moon once a month or something. Anyway, that's one thing looming over my head. It's such a tiny bothersome thing but it just keeps nagging at the back of my head. It's hurtful, I'm trying to be understanding, and I wish there was a way I could experience what he's experiencing. But I've got to take all this in for what it is I supposed. I'm 23, I'm still growing. Right?

There are tons of other things weighing down on me, but I don't feel like this is a place to address any of those things. Otherwise, someone might psychoanalyze my brain or something. I can't wait to be done with this job. If it was my old hagwon, I can't say I would be having this same feeling. I actually liked my co-teachers and absolutely fell in love with all the kids. Yes, even the hardest and craziest troublemakers. Albeit the boss.... well, let's just acknowledge that will be a tangent that cannot be addressed here.

Anyway, I don't know what to do to shake this feeling of abysmal depression. I've been trying to hold the both of us up with all the oncoming stress, but I can't do it anymore. Working out isn't helping even with the up of endorphins. Alone time kind of helps, but even that has its limits. Not sure what it is. But I'm planning to sleep it off even though I've got a gut feeling it's not going away. Lots of feelings. Too many feelings that I can't even discuss. Aye me.


Sunday, 8 April 2012


Or in English, "Long time no see."

I'm disappointed I haven't been to tutoring for Korean in a month, now. But this job is draining if you couldn't tell from my last post. I come home and feel like I have to dread going to work the next day. I don't even feel like I enjoy my dinner, book, shower, or anything for the next 4-5 hours. I could compare it to my old job and say how I never felt this way or as drained, but what good what it do? I'm still learning to be a mature person and break my old habits of thinking like a 15 year old. One never stops growing, and I happen to be a little slower at these things. :P

Anyhow, work has gotten a smidgen better. It has since become bearable since I pulled my boss aside to let her know how uncomfortable I was with my co-workers. I felt like they were gossiping about me, didn't even give me a chance upon arriving. I mean, literally on the first day, I said, "Hi! Nice to meet---" before one of my coworkers half looked at me and scurried off like she was busy. Good first impression. As for the other one, she didn't even smile or shake my hand. I was truly shocked by this. It was the art teacher that made an effort to talk to me at lunch and get to know me. Even to this day, she still makes conversation with me when my mind is blank and I try to search for something in my exhausted brain to think of something. Anyway, I suppose she brought my feelings to their attention and it was like they instantly did a 180 turn in attitude. It was a little unnerving and disturbing, but hey, I'll take that any day. I think now, they are starting to somewhat warm up to me and actually give me a chance.

There are times where I find I am really bothered by their hypocritical actions. I let the kids out 2 minutes early or 1 minute late and they pull me aside to remind me, "Please let them out on time." Boy, okay. I get the picture. I'll let them out at :00 on the dot! I'm not even allowed to let them pack until probably 30 seconds before and I have to cross my fingers that they can be focused enough to pack in 30 seconds and not be late or I get my head served on a platter. It's funny, though. Every day for the last 2.5 weeks, I have let them out right on the dot and every other day, when parents are present, they let the kids out an entire 5 minutes early! And those same parents complain that I let them out too early with 2 minutes to go? Holy shemoly... talk about weird standards? The thing that also annoyed me was that I was told my voice was too quiet, which I know is not true. I had just lost my voice and was still recovering it from yelling constantly. Those kids, bottom line, don't pay attention to a non-Korean speaking teacher. That's that. Luckily for me, I think my co-teachers are realizing this and my frustration and are finally laying down the law with the kids.

What other things do I find rather odd? Well, this isn't new. It happened at our old school, too... kids that don't belong in a certain class because they know absolutely no English! Zip! Yet they are placed in a class filled with children than understand 90% of what I'm saying. This is done to satisfy the parents... but the parents don't know that what they want is not helping their children! And I find it funny that the reason children are kept in these classes is for the sake of age-group and ultimately, the running of a business! That exact point made me lose a lot of respect for this person. I thought, goodness... I thought there was a lot of integrity in this certain hagwon, but when that came out of my boss's mouth, I saw that this wasn't about the children. My heart dropped. I'm not even a real teacher, and I have these kids' interests at heart more than any of these co-teachers or the boss. It really made me fire up, but if I'm too keep my job, I have to temper myself out... realize some hagwons just run this way. I absolutely consider that this is partly due to culture if not most of it, but I find it hard to be okay with this any way. I thought from the way this woman spoke, she would understand how things should be run. Especially with having children of her own! A job is a job... and while I believe in standing up for what I believe in, I have to consider my circumstances and my environment. The rational thing to do is that the benefits and situation (culture) I'm in begets my decision to stay quiet and accept the way of things here.

On a happier note, there are things I am still enjoying here! Not all things are bad as I make them seem. I am lucky to be working with my best friend and to be living in a country that I love regardless of the school system as that's just a teensy part of this experience. I admit, I lose track of that site with my head buried in work. I love that the food is delicious and cheap, I love that the clothes are cheap and so trendy and once I go back to the US, it's bye-bye. :( The weather today is absolutely perfect and it makes my heart so happy! It's sunny and warm! There's a wind, but it's not the crisp and bitter kind. It's more of a strong spring breeze as it should be! It's officially spring isn't it? I love that when I get off work, it's still bright outside now. I can't wait for the summer days in Korea. While I won't be here much for that again... I look forward to it. It's my favorite time of the year in Korea... it's absolutely beautiful and I love being outside!

Outside of work, I've made a long and hard decision to forego going to the law schools I've been accepted to. Even with the tiny scholarships. Once I saw that some Tier 2 schools were considering me (and still are), I felt I shot too low. I'm just scared that I won't be able to score higher on my LSATs or God forbid that I score lower than I did this time. But I'm mustering up the courage to believe in myself and think it's possible to get into schools like Pepperdine, USD, etc... other great Tier 2 schools that are in the top 50-80. I admit that since I naturally have an insanely low amount of self-confidence, I have to fight myself every day to make myself believe I can do it. It helps that Ryan always encourages me and reminds me even though I'm sure it would tire the normal person out to do it every day. For that, I'm very lucky I have someone like him. :) So that's that. When I leave Korea, I will be taking another year off to retake the LSATs. And that's all for now, folks!

Hopefully soon, I will have pictures to update you all with!

Sunday, 18 March 2012

BREAK 주세요 !

Or, in English, BREAK please!

Yes, ladies and gentlemen. I am back in the working spotlight. It feels like more than weeks ago that I got settled into my new place, but it's really only been a total of two weeks now. Moving in was more complicated than it needed to be. We were told the wrong room number and waited for a couple of hours trying to get into a room that didn't belong to us... only to find out that our room was on a different floor and room number.

Our new apartment is smaller as it's made for one person to live in. It's not some derelict building. All in all, it is still quite nice. I like the bathroom more than the old apartment. To be honest, I had reservations about where we live now just because I absolutely loved where we lived. It wasn't the center of Seoul or anything, but we were close enough, our apartment complex was so well-known and convenient, and the nightlife was wonderful. Coming here, it seemed a little less populated even though it is only 3 stops away on the subway line. There's not much of a night life and that's one of the things that bums me out a bit. I've gotten over it for the most part, but every time I go back to where we used to live in Seohyeon, I'm reminded of all the times I came back late at night thinking, "Ah, we're finally home, and it feels so good!" The atmosphere there was wonderful. Our Korean tutoring was right there, too. Coming off work, grabbing something quick to eat and heading there took very little time.

Coming to Gumi-dong (or Ori), I still think "Finally, I'm home." But it's nothing of refreshing air and I get very little peace of mind for some reason. Perhaps because the job has been less forgiving. I teach two 5 year olds that speak no English and act like they are afraid of me. They hide behind book shelves and act like I've beaten them when all I coo at them is "Come and sit down, please?" Not that they understand. It puts me in a very awkward position that makes it appear as if I have no control over children. Then I have six 6 year olds that hardly speak any English-- a drastic difference from the six year olds I used to teach at the previous school. There's a lot of complaining I could do about the kids I teach now all the way up to elementary school, but they're not really the ones I have problems with. It's the adults. The adults tore me down mentally by the end of the first week and into the second week. They were the most immature women I've ever worked with for people almost twice my age. It amazes me-- the culture with women teachers. Amazing. Moving forward, I just have to realize that the mature thing to do is deal with what I have no. There is no sense in living in the past and I have to find solutions to dealing with my new job. Hopefully, it turns around.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012


I was a little girl alone in my little world who dreamed of a little home for me.
I played pretend between the trees, and fed my houseguests bark and leaves, and laughed in my pretty bed of green.

I had a dream
That I could fly from the highest swing.
I had a dream.

Long walks in the dark through woods grown behind the park, I asked God who I'm supposed to be.
The stars smiled down on me, God answered in silent reverie. I said a prayer and fell asleep.

I had a dream
That I could fly from the highest tree.
I had a dream.

Now I'm old and feeling grey. I don't know what's left to say about this life I'm willing to leave.
I lived it full and I lived it well, there's many tales I've lived to tell. I'm ready now, I'm ready now, I'm ready now to fly from the highest wing.

I had a dream

Well, I am now no longer near Seoul, but in Gimcheon. It is the halfway point from Seoul to Busan and a 3 hour bus ride up to or down to those cities. It's hard to document everything that happens at work, but to clarify what I probably didn't do so clearly, Ryan and I are no longer employed. Long story short, the place we worked for could no longer stay in business. We found out 1.5 weeks before the school was closing, so we were frantically searching for another job. We were also searching for a place to live as well, but with all our constant emails and phone calls from recruiters, we found a place of employment much to our delight. The director is so sweet and accommodating. We get higher pay and we still get to live in an officetel, although not as nice as the one we used to live in previously. We're not around amazing nightlife like our other place, but we're not here for much longer. We're still near Seoul, anyway. (About 16 minutes outside of Gangnam.) The only downside is that we do not start until March because that's when the new academic semester starts.

This new director is so sweet that she took us back to the subway station after our interview, bought us tea and coffee the next day as we traded and signed contracts, and then picked us up from the subway station, bought us warmed and canned coffee, drove us to the immigration office 20 minutes away, and gave us 120 KRW to spend on food, movies, etc. for our month of unemployment. I'm now convinced that nice hagwon directors exist. This is the complete 180 turn, opposite end of the spectrum we lived on for the last 5 months. It's almost hard to comprehend and break my mind out of the mindset that this is possible.

Our good friend, Mark, came up from Gimcheon to help us move, and for that I feel so grateful to him for not only that but taking us in for a month! A very gracious person to take us in, and not many people would do that without hesitating. Since being here, I've had all the time in the world, to read my historical English fiction, listen to music, blog, read articles, go to coffee shops to relax and study, etc. The things college students want to do-- take time off to travel and just do whatever they feel like doing.

I wasn't able to finish my blog so here I am finishing it up! February 24, 2012. We've been to Busan and Jeju for Valentine's Day and Ryan's birthday. We came back after 3 nights to come back to Gimcheon for our 5 year anniversary. :) It was nice to be back in Jeju. The weather faired much better this time around albeit 10 times colder! Thank goodness there was less wind. In Busan, we went to the famous fish market and Chinatown. By chance, we happened upon a restaurant in which a famous movie was filmed there so that was pretty neat.

We have one more week left until we move back to Seoul and start work! I can't even imagine what it is to be working again. Our hours will be easier, though. Tuesdays and Thursdays are over by 4:30, I believe. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays all go until 6:30 as usual. Our pay is higher, and it makes me glad that I finished that online TEFL course. I was never a fan of online classes--especially their "benefits." I never thought highly of them unless they got me something like extra easy credits or higher pay. I'm not sure that it makes me more qualified, but hey, I won't argue. Honestly, though, I can't imagine being on a long and tiring schedule. Kids can be angels (key words: can be) but even then, teaching is a long process that makes you completely exhausted. The rewards, although not immediately felt or seen, are received at the end when you least expect it in the present. I know this time around, working with this hagwon will be a much better experience. (We've encountered some really crazy things in the last 2 months, which are better left unsaid unless you ask me). So I'm kind of excited for some fresh air and new experiences. I still miss the kids I had to teach (some of them, anyway) but I know that these new kids I meet will be amazing and, I'm sure, just as smart.

I'll have to make the most of my time here in Gimcheon. I've learned a little more Korean and finished 2 books in a week. I'm just now starting my third, which I should be done with in another day or two.

Planning for my future outside of Korea stresses me often, but I think I have decided to take another year off to study for the LSATs again and get into some really amazing law schools now that I know my true potential and the heads I've turned this time around with my scores. If I just work harder and keep it up, I know I'll make my dreams come true, just like this one. And who knows? Once I knock becoming a lawyer out of the park, I'll pursue being a doctor, too. You've only got one life right? I'm tired of having regrets with dance, so it's up to me to make these other dreams true.

Saturday, 28 January 2012


Here I am sitting, yet again, in a coffee shop as I write my blog. It's been somewhat of a roller coaster at the school I've been teaching at, but the kids were totally worth it. I'm going to be honest and say I didn't love all of the kids there. But being here has taught me a lot of things, and my first perceptions of some kids totally turned around.

Starting at this school, we had 4 kindergarteners whom we spend four hours of our day with. Now, we have 3 and these 3 kids, I love with all my heart. Good days and bad days-- I love them through and through. One boy who isn't in the group picture attended the hagwon when we first came here at the end of August. My first impression of him was that he was a smart and handsome little boy. He was great until I realized he was a complete braggart with way too much ego for his age. It became apparent he actually wasn't as naturally smart as we thought he was. In fact, he would try and just tag along for the ride on the girl's brain. He would try desperately to keep up with her, cheat off her paper, or just work fast without trying to use his own brain because he wanted to be better than another kid. He complained more and more as we got to know him and it was evident he was very spoiled. The boy in the middle was not at the hagwon when we started, but he is incredibly smart, and I don't mean smart as in he just knows facts. He can work hard, figure things out and is incredibly motivated to get the solutions himself with math, English, or any critical thinking task. While he was a bit annoying to me with his super upbeat demeanor, I have come to love this quirky personality of his. You won't find many kids like him, and I mean this with the least amount of cliche possible.

Then there's this sweet little girl. I am so attached to this girl. Since day one, she has been the most courteous tomboy princess out there. Princess in the sense that she was polite, clever, forgiving, and more rare than a blue moon was she ever a diva. She is in every way the smartest girl I've come to know. She is only aged 5 and knows the most crazy things-- science-wise, world matters, famous people, math, English, history... you name it. She knows fractions, simple division, and can almost multiply. We talked about crabs getting new shells and she said, "I think it's because they grow and are too big?" Ryan and I looked at each other and just about fell over on each other. Day before yesterday, Ryan asked her, "Do you know what mummies are?" Of course she knew. But the winning response instead of a yes was "Tutankhamen." Who is this kid and where did she come from? There are way more instances of these things, but that could take up five pages of this blog if I told you all of them.

She is my little mini-me. I say this because we love the same animals, we both love being boyish, we still love cute things, we have "오빠", and we apparently make the same noises. Ryan came in one time and said, "She makes the same noises as you!" And, with half surprised and half expected feelings, I proudly say, "I've never made those noises in front of her. Yet." ;) She is the better "me" in that she is going to go far in life-- she is going to do too many amazing things and not just in one field. Ryan absolutely adores her, too. We've both wanted to hug her so many times and just steal her for ourselves.

Then there's this little boy. He is the one Ryan and I struggled with the most at first. He was the most difficult kindergartener that didn't want to do anything, that worked the slowest, and would not pay attention. We had so many times we've given tough love-- taking away points, scolding, lecturing-- but it made him all for the better. We finally realized that one kid kept talking down on him for working slowly, not being able to understand, make grammatically correct sentences, or even pronouncing some things correctly. (Yes, that same kid that thought he was all that and a bag of chips.) This child has come such a long way. He has a family that doesn't pay attention to him, and I think this boy understands more than his parents think. I can tell if people are deep down emotional and deep thinkers like me. This boy can understand things more than other kids around him. So while his parents and grandparents do not discipline him/let him play games or whine about simple responsibilities, he is adjusting to our "tough love you can't get out of this at school" mentality. He knows when he is bad even he chooses to be bad. But on his good days, he works incredibly hard and I hope this boy knows he can be great at any subject. It broke my heart when he asked me what "stupid" meant. I told him it was a very bad word and not a nice word, to which he said, "Yes. My father said 'You are stupid." It really ruined his mentality on a lot of things the next two weeks. It broke my heart. But on the last day, he was the strongest little gentleman. His friend got mad at him but he stayed calm and said, "I'm sorry. I didn't know your birthday party was today." And to me, he said, "Yes, today will be a happy day. Not sad. It's okay." If you knew how gentlemanly this little boy is for his age, you would be in disbelief. He's the kind that pulls out chair for the girl, gives other kids pencils, compliments them on their work (the other kids do, too), and encourages them even if they are having a difficult time with something. I can still hear him saying, "It's okay."

He has come such a long way. On the last day at the end of class, he ate the lollipop I bought him and out of nowhere, walked up to Ryan hugging him quietly. He didn't even look up. He just stared out across the room hugging Ryan's leg with a very solemn face. (I told you this kid is deep and understands things.) He understood that we would never see him again. I caught a picture of him hugging Ryan. And then he walked up to me and by this time was almost in tears. Just silently hugging me. And tightly. My heart sank and Ryan and I wanted to cry-- we had tears in our eyes, but we had to try so hard to fight back the tears. "Why is there sand in this building? It's not clean!" Haha

After he hugged me, I scooped the little boy's face in my hands as he hugged me sadly and said, "Promise me. Promise me you will be good and work hard. Be good. Promise me." He looked up at me and gave me the most sincere nod with tears in his eyes. How did I tell a little boy to do these things when I myself am just like this boy? I love playing, I love drawing, I love being lazy sometimes, I make mistakes any other kid would make. It is the weirdest feeling to have to make myself be the grown up in a situation I wanted to crumble in. It felt so hypocritical. A kid telling another kid, "Be good."


The kids after kindergarten were difficult, but they definitely made this an experience to remember. Bossy kids, disrespectful kids, distracted kids, and kids with great hearts even if they were a tad annoying. One kid I got to know this past month (because his classmates were on winter vacation until the end of this month), didn't know Wednesday was his last day seeing me. I didn't know either; he was supposed to come back on Friday. But he was incredibly sick and when his mother told him the school was closing and he couldn't make the last day, he cried so hard saying he had to come to school to say goodbye. I will admit it broke my heart.

This kid got no attention and was not even placed in the correct class. Previous teachers and supervisors didn't seem to care because he didn't belong in that English class! He didn't understand anything-- even basic words one would need to answer questions or have an idea of how to answer them. Since it was just him and not 5 other kids, I was able to focus intensely on his English. I was even learning Korean myself, so I tried to incorporate it into his learning so he could understand. He made groundbreaking progress. He can now form complete sentences and actually understand what is being asked of him when I say simple things like, "Why is he happy? How do they go home? Where is the nest? What is a chrysalis?" I even practiced basic English conversation. Everything I did was done with intricate details to help him understand worksheets, readings, and so on. So I have come to really enjoy this kid, and I was so sad to hear he cried because he wanted to say goodbye to me.

This has been an amazing experience, and I won't let adult things at this school ruin the feelings I take away from teaching here. I can proudly say I gave 200% of myself for every child-- even if I didn't like them. I would do it all over again if I had to. But looking forward, hopefully my new school will be more stable, and I hope I can learn to accept more new kids into my heart and make it melt just like these kids. It will be hard to learn these kids, accept them, and let them completely into my heart- I'm still a kid myself. I'm skeptical like any other kid would be. But being in Korea forces me to be the grownup I never thought I could be. It's great and it's terrible-- but however I feel in the future or even now, it is an experience in itself.

I'm just glad I'm going through this with someone I love so we can share difficult and amazing times together.

Monday, 23 January 2012


"I'm bulletproof, nothing to lose
Fire away, fire away
Ricochet, you take your aim
Fire away, fire away
You shoot me down but I won't fall
I am titanium"

Happy Chinese/Lunar New Year!

Hope everyone has been well since the new year. It is officially the Year of the Dragon, and I have been waiting for this for a long time! This Chinese New Year makes me think a lot about my grandpa and grandma (from Hawai'i). My grandpa would always send lay-see (red envelopes filled with money) and shirts with the year of whatever animal it was. Not that my grandpa or grandma favored any animal or year over any other one. I just knew I was very special to my grandparents. Since it is my year, my thoughts are drawn to my grandparents for some reason. I'm feeling very nostalgic about their cooking, our outtings, sitting on my grandpa's lap to make wonton, and many other things. All of them are very sweet-- I don't recall any bad memories at all. Among these memories, I remember most the last summer I saw my grandpa. My grandma was very sick with pancreatic cancer and my grandpa was trying to be sweet and comforting while we all took turns taking care of my grandmother. He brought home so many sweet cakes one time for me and my brother. We wouldn't be able to finish it, and my father lightly reprimanded him in Chinese, "You shouldn't have gotten them this! They will never be able to finish this!" to which my grandfather basically said, "Gavin and Margaret love these. It's okay. If they can't finish it, it's okay." My father and grandpa would have a little argument over it, but I would look at my grandpa with so much love. My heart could never give him enough gratitude or love he deserved.

There were so many things I didn't know about him, and I wish I could have asked him. (Same with my grandmother). Many things I learned rom my aunt and uncle in fact. I was told that my grandparents were nominated as grandparents of the year in Oahu or Honolulu in that last summer I spent with them. Something of that sort. I find that it's a great honor but my grandpa, a most humble man much like my father, declined to take the award. The article wanted to mention their accomplishments: moving to the US from China with hardly any money, holding a shop open to support 4 children, getting them all through college, having 6 grandchildren all of whom were in college and some of whom were going into grad school even. It is hard getting through this post without crying at times because the amount of love and respect I have for these two people cannot be expressed. When I have hard times, I always come back to thinking about how they never complained and got through times harder than I have ever been in.

This Chinese New Year is wonderful and hard at the same time. I keep thinking about the time I stepped foot outside of their lovely little home and took as many "last looks" at them as I could because I wasn't sure when I would next see them. I actually never expected to never see my grandfather again, but I was somewhat prepared with my grandmother. So when both of them passed within a few months of each other, my heart broke. My brother told me how lonely my grandfather was calling him at college, and I feel so guilty for never calling. I was so busy worrying about finals that no one told me how my grandfather was. It was the same with my grandma. I never found out about her cancer until after my finals which was 4 months after they found out. It hurt when I found out no one told me, and I still feel the hurt because had I known, I would have called them even more. But I can't really be upset-- I should have just called more.

Anyway, this long winded tangent of a post is to say how grateful I am for everything in spite of my recent problems at work and stress with law school decisions. I know that whatever I do, my grandparents would be proud of me and that I should never give up because they never did. If they ever felt weak, they sure were great at hiding it, because I always saw them as the strongest human beings alive. I tend to be a very optimistic person but in recent years, I have become very pessimistic. So, this year has been a reminder. I don't know why this year of all years, but it was much needed. I hope this year gives you hope, strength, and a reminder that we have little problems compared to other people in the world. (Yes, as cliched as that sounds).

Now, moving on:

I would not be accurately representing my life as a foreign teacher if I didn't discuss what is currently going on with my hagwon right now. We were told this past week that our school would be closing at the end of this month. That leaves us 1.5 weeks to look for another job. That is the main issue going on with me as of yet. There are many details that are pretty important and could go onto this blog, however, I know that it is not in my best interest to discuss them here. It's unfortunate, but that's how public forums work on the Internet. Am I stressed? Yes. Have we been looking for new jobs and getting contacted? Yes. It's just a matter of which one do we want to take, getting more contacts about jobs we haven't heard from yet, and considering working hours/pay. What else am I stressed about? Deciding whether I should go to the law schools I got into/am waitlisted for. My thinking: I should maybe retake the LSAT/LSAT courses to get my scores even higher because part of me thinks it is definitely possible. I just have to not psyche myself out and maybe more work on recognizing solutions on the LSAT could get me into a school I am worthy of. That means: do I go back to the US for retaking the course? Or do I stay here, work more and make more money and take an online class instead? Or maybe they have an in-person class here? These are things I need to look into more seriously. Working more looks great because everything is so cheap, and I want to earn as much money as I can so I can have/take care of my own puppy when I get back to the US/pay for some law school things on my own. Decisions, decisions.

As far as recent excursions, Ryan and I recently went to Insadong again to try out a tea shop. The above picture is of the tea shop, and I loved the atmosphere and tea. I think I would go back there again just to relax or study more Korean. We also recently visited Sinchon to meet up with Ryan's friends from Yonsei. We played at a multi-bong and then went to Hongdae for some drinks/dinner and pool.

This weekend, we are just relaxing at home and feeling the bitter winter cold in Korea. Even the heater isn't helping our freezing feet. Wearing warm socks and thermals only helps to a certain degree. Brr! I am doing my best to relax and prepare myself for experiencing real-life work situations. Getting laid off because of a closing business. Preparing myself for never seeing kids that I have come to absolutely love and adore. (The kindergarten kids). I can't imagine not teaching this kids at all, anymore. Somehow, I will cope with it but it is definitely going to be heart-breaking.

On that note, everything is up in the air. Let's make the future ours with our own hands and work with the cards we are dealt with in life. There is a way to make everything the way we want in life eventually if we are willing to work hard for it.

Make every day a special memory even with the hard times. Life wouldn't be wonderful if it weren't bittersweet sometimes.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

How Do You Bring in the New Year

... when you're in another country? Celebrate with friends from back in the USA, of course!
Unfortunately, for most of our winter break, Ryan was incredibly sick. It was only just yesterday that we took him to a clinic and found out he had bronchitis. On our first day of break, our friends flew in from Shanghai and we met them around the Hong-Ik University subway station in Hongdae if I remember correctly. We just had BBQ and some soju for the first night and then went home. The next day, we took them to MyeongDong and Dongdaemun for shopping since that's what they wanted to do. That same day, we saw Nanta, which is a very well-known cooking show with music incorporated amidst the slicing and dicing of real organic food. It was my second time seeing it albeit a different theatre. It was still very funny, and I'm glad Ryan and I thought of it to entertain our guests. (I feel weird saying guests since we're not exactly host material if you catch my drift.)

Anyway, on their third day here, we took a 3 hour bus ride to Mokpo, which is south of Seoul. From there, we took a 20 minute bus ride to the International Ferry Terminal to catch our ferry to Jeju. That took another 3 hours, but since Ryan and I took some herbal medicine along with motion sickness pills it was easy for us to get through it all. That night, we ended up eating some classic Korean fried chicken (minus the beer it usually goes with). Ryan retired at our hostel for the night since he was really sick even with all the pills he was popping, and I stayed up with our friends having a good fun conversation late into the night. The next morning, we took a 50 minute bus ride to the Jeju Tourist Complex where we went to the Teddy Bear Museum (again, my second time), Chocolate Land, and a famous waterfall that I'd seen with my parents. This time around, however, I was prepared; I wore a recently purchased teddy bear sweater from Dongdaemun for ~$10 and my bear paw mittens. We didn't go to the third waterfall as our time was getting cut short, but it would have been great to see it since it was my favorite when I was there 2 years ago. Before heading back to our hostel, we went to a tiny store off the side of street selling things Jeju is best known for: chocolate, honey, tea, and oranges. The only thing they were missing? Ice cream. I bought around $35 worth of stuff for my family back at home. I wish I had gotten some of it for myself, but maybe I'll be back in Jeju to get it. So off we went back to our hostel and to the airport. I made it a must that Ryan and my friends try the Jeju ice cream so I got one for my friends to share and one for myself. Although there were 3 flavours--chocolate, citrus, and cactus-- I had them all try cactus since I remember that one being my favourite.

That reminds me, earlier that day, we all wanted to get green tea ice cream near the museums. Well, Ryan (usually being the unlucky one) got in line, got his green tea ice cream and the rest of us were told, "No more." It was hilarious because we all immediately turned our heads in the same direction and glared furiously at Ryan, haha. It was so disappointing that it was funny and even the cashier was laughing. [**Also, side note: most of the pictures that I post here will be of Jeju. The ladder picture required lots of patience on my end to catch this amazing shot. Although my camera is no Nikon or Canon, I have this ability to wait for a great shot and that picture of the rocks was the product. Ryan and I love that photo.]

I digress :P Ryan and I ended up getting back into our city at around 11 and we slept like babies. Our friends decided to do some shopping the next day so Ryan got lots of sleep while I relaxed watching TV shows on my laptop. Relaxing was needed since it was New Year's Eve and we were all meeting up at Seoul City Hall later that night for the countdown. We met up with our friends and also an old roommate, had dinner, did out-door ice skating, went to the countdown, went to Hongdae for some drinks, met some funny drunk people and left with some new experiences/memories I will never forget. I seemed to be the most sober, so I'll get to laugh with myself about that night.

All in all, it was a wonderful winter break. Too short but definitely well spent in good company.