Saturday, September 10, 2011

Adventurous? Not really.

Well, folks, I'm home. I've been home for about a little over a week now. Some days it seems like I was gone forever and other days I feel like I was hardly gone at all. Thinking back on my big Korean adventure, it's hard to believe that I actually did it.

If you look at it objectively, I really didn't do anything that big. I only did what thousands of other people have done before me and will continue to do now that I've left. Yes, it is a big deal to live so far away from family, but, really, it's not all that different from college in that I was on my own and taking care of my own stuff.

Other than that, I didn't really done anything too huge. I visited temples, palaces, shopping areas, and a few other interesting things. But, again, nothing so big that someone would look at it and be amazed by any particular thing that I did in Korea.

But for me, this year was a huge step for me in becoming a more confident person. I am not, by ANY stretch of the imagination, what you would call an adventurous person. I don't hike off into the mountains to brave the wilds of nature. I don't talk to random strangers in the hopes of making a new friend. Roller coasters make me sick, fast cars set my teeth on edge. Heck, I don't even like to drive on the freeway.

Yet I went and lived in a foreign country for a year. A place where I couldn't even speak the basics of the language besides "Hello." and numbers for money. My year in Korea helped me grow in a direction that, overall, I am really liking. I am more confident about my abilities, my self-image, my testimony of the Gospel. Although I'm still not certain about how the rest of my life is going to go, I do know one thing: this was right. It was a hard year and I'm happy to be home, but going to Korea was the right thing to do. I proved to myself that I could do it and I got a lot out of it. I made some wonderful friends and some lasting memories.

When I first got to Korea, I made a list of things that I wanted to accomplish. I wanted to review how I did on that list.

1. Go to a jimjilbang (public bath house)

Unfortunately, I did NOT accomplish this goal. I flip flopped too much and put it off too long until, finally, I just ended up not going. If I am ever in Korea again, I want to go to one. Overcome stage fright and enjoy the freedoms of public nudity!

2. Take a picture in a hanbok (traditional Korean dress)

Check. At the Korean Folk Village on Dad's first visit to Korea.

3. Go to a noraebang (karaoke room)

I only got to go twice, but those two times were AWESOME. I wish I could have gone more.

4. Taste everything on the table at least once (this rule is exempt in the case of suckers, raw meat, and intestines)

I tried, I really did. I ate a lot of things I didn't like and a lot of things I loved (seafood pancakes, anyone?).

5. Get a "Korean style" haircut

Happy 24th birthday to me! I got a Korean style haircut. :)

6. Go to as many work and church activities as I can

I ended up working on Saturdays so I missed many of the activities, but I did get to go to some of the "break the fast" dinners with the singles from church. :)

7. Take at least one big bite of kimchi anytime it is offered. Hopefully learn to love it.

Yes to the first part. But, no. I still dislike kimchi. Eew.

8. Learn Korean

I got better but it gets frustrating when people can't understand me even when I do try to speak some of the Korean I did learn. Haha!

9. Decide on a career (Teaching? Counselor? Politics? Designer?)

YES! Right now the plan is to become a school counselor.

10. Decide on a graduate program/school

I am applying to the school counselor program at Portland State for Fall of 2012. :)

11. Take pictures, pictures, pictures!!

Considering how many photos are taking up space on my laptop, I'd say I accomplished this goal.

12. Find an awesome counterfeit purse

Dad and I found a lovely "Louis Vuitton" purse for Mom on his second visit to Korea.

13. Purchase frivolously awesome adorable crap for me and everyone else

Most of my luggage home was frivolously awesome adorable crap! :D

14. Take a trip to another foreign country that I’ve never been to

Vietnam with my Dad and baby sister. Yes. We accomplished this goal.

This is the end of my Seoulful year. After a year of adventures and trials, it's finally come to an end. I will miss Korea and, maybe someday, I'll go back. Who knows. But, for now, this is goodbye. I hope you enjoyed reading about my time in Korea. I know I loved blogging about it.

The next few years will have their own adventures, though I daresay they will be as exciting as this last year.

Getting home

My last day in Korea was pretty lazy. That being said, it did kind of start off with a bang.

I got up and then helped Jin move my queen size mattress p to her apartment. I lived on the fourth floor and she lives on the seventh. Unfortunately for us, the mattress did not fit on the elevator so we had to haul it up the stairs. Woo! It was hot work! We got it to her place and realized we'd need one more person to actually get it into her loft. We woke up one of the other teachers in our building and got her to help us heft it up.

After that, it was just wait until 1pm to get out of there. My luggage was all packed and triple weighed. to make sure I hadn't gone over any of the weight limits. The poor dears. They are totally shot. I will probably need to get new luggage sometime. The plastic lining is pretty much gone now. They've had a good run. Rest in peace, pink luggage.

Getting through the airport was pretty breezy. There was a moment at immigration where I was concerned I had not properly extended my alien registration card (which I had done online) because he asked if I had the confirmation papers (of which there were none). However, after I answered his next question about when I would return with, "I won't be returning," it was okay. Phew! Crisis averted!

I had three hours in the airport and so I made my leisurely way through the airport. Along the way I spotted a free cultural event.

Heck yes! I got to sit down and paint a tile to hang up. It was a lot of fun to sit there and try to paint it pretty. My poor tile ended up really ugly and it will probably head to the garbage if it hasn't already. But it took up half an hour of time I would otherwise have spent sitting around the gate being bored.

The airplane ride was really great. It took a little over 10 hours to get from Seoul to San Francisco. I sat next to a very interesting girl who was on her way to start school in Boston. She had spent most of her teenage years living as an expat in China with her family. It was fun to talk with her. The movies were good, my book was great, and I ended up surprising myself with my high scores on the practice CBEST I took in preparation for my grad school entrance exam. Cool. The ten hours went by fairly quickly.

Jesi met me at the airport and we took the light rail back home. It was great to get home and only a little strange. The biggest change has been having TV again. And the grocery store. I love our grocery stores around here. They are awesome. :)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Coming Home!

Well, guys, this is it! I'll be leaving for the airport in about an hour. Yay! See you soon! :D

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The final Hweshik

On my last Thursday in Korea, my school had a final hweshik (employee party) together. It was a blast. Lots of food, friends, and, yes, beer and soju.

This noodle dish was CRAZY SPICY. Noodles and seafood in a red sauce of spicy death. I had the "no spicy" version and it was hot to me. Whoo!

Here Rachel is dishing up the fishcake soup. It was pretty good. I didn't care for the actual fishcakes, but I did like the noodles and fish broth.

THIS was my favorite: seafood and green onion pancake. YUM. I would not normally think I'd like this, but it is probably one of my favorite Korean things.

This is Jin and I. Jin was just starting at CDI when I was leaving. She moved into my building and bought a bunch of my furniture off of me. It was a great arrangement.

And that was the hweshik. Lots of fun. I was the only person there who doesn't drink, but no one got crazy drunk (because it was a school night) so it didn't get awkward. It's boring being with drunk people when you aren't drunk. Just saying.

Last week of teaching

As of Saturday, I am officially unemployed. Wow. Crazy! Can you believe it's been a year? I know I can't.

I am done touring (sad, I know) and I am spending my last few days getting everything packed up, thrown away, given away, etc. It's a fun process. I'll be hauling my matress up to one of the new teachers on Tuesday morning before I leave for the airport.

My last "touristy" thing I did was a TRUE final visit to Namdaemun and Myung Dong to get the very last bit of souvenirs. My luggage is AT THE LIMIT now!

I was out all day on Tuesday shopping and I got a little hungry so I decided to grab a bit to eat.

I passed on the pigs feet. They look... I don't know. Just, not an adventure I want.

Instead, I finally waited in line at this bun place that always looks super popular. It was totally good. I had a bun stuffed with cooked cabbage, carrots, and other veggies mixed with pork. Um, it was uber tasty. It was so tasty that I forgot to take a picture for you (sorry) so here is a picture of the fresh grapefruit-ade I got at Dunkin Donuts. I like the little cup holder. :)

Like I said, I'm now unemployed. This was my last week of teaching at CDI. Sad day. Wednesday was my last day with my lower level elementary kids. They are such a crazy bunch... they drive me nuts! I love them dearly, but I am happy to pass them on to another teacher.

Take for example, dear little Ricky.

Ricky is such a sweet heart. He is nice to other students, a smart kid, and an all around nice kid. HOWEVER! This guy CANNOT SIT DOWN! AH! He is up and down, all over the place and talking, talking, talking. I can't fault him for that, though. He's just hyper. I mean, wouldn't you be hyper after a full day of school and then three more hours at a hagwon? And when he talks it's always in English so I don't get too mad. I just joke with him and tell him to sit down. Turns out he appreciates my patience because he gave me flowers on my last day of class!

The wrapper says, "Ricky Thank you Olson teacher."

Aawww... how CUTE!!

But, really, Ricky, you gotta go work with your group now and stop bugging Erica.

I had a competition between my two lower level classes and the winners would get a snack party during break with treats provided by me. Well, my elementary kids lost (sorry, guys) so they decided to make their OWN snack party. All on their own. One kid brought four boxes of little strawberry snack things to share.

Another bought a liter of cider to share. They were going to use the little envelopes from the water cooler, but I told them to hold on a minute and I went and got us some teacher cups (dixi cups). It was pretty snazzy.

After our little snack party, they worked on their final projects to present to the class. Here's little Eric and his partner in crime Erica.

An example of a pencil case. Every student has a pencil case. Most have super cute designs. I personally am in love with Erica's new Cookie Monster case.

Peter has really gotten ten times better this term. At the beginning of the term he was a total punk: making fun of other students, not doing his work, refusing to speak any English during class. It was a struggle. Suddenly, in the last 5 weeks he decided it was cool to be an awesome student. He's still a little pill, but no more so than any other 5th grade boy.

Jennifer and Olivia are hard at work making a super fancy poster for their presentation. Want a good way to keep elementary kids entertained? Get them glue, construction paper, and silk flowers. Seriously. These kids went to town on their posters.

It's hard to read but it days "hit the chicken." It's become kind of a classroom joke because in Korean 닥쳐 (dahk chyu) means "shut up" as well as "hit the chicken." Why? I don't know. So when they would get really chatty while I'm trying to start class I would make a joke about frying chicken or killing a chicken and they would laugh and get focused again. They thought it was hilarious so who was I to roll my eyes?

Friday was probably my saddest day because they were seriously my favorite group of students. Honestly, I have never had a better class. They were low level middle school which is normally a really tough crowd, but they were just amazing. I hope they stay that way. :)

From left to right Tony, Taehyun, and Clara.

Left to right Jimin and Julia.

On Saturday I met up with my friend Katelyn for a last lunch date. She took me to a freaking AMAZING restaurant called Mad for Garlic. And they weren't kidding when they say mad for garlic. The place is decked out with garlic cloves and every dish uses copious amounts of garlic.

We started out with cheese fondue. Yes, that is two whole bulbs of roasted garlic you see in a tiny dish of melted cheese. It was SO GOOD. I cannot get over how delicious this place was.

The lovely Katelyn enjoying her fondue.

After my final day of teaching (yay!), I met up with her again for noraebang!! I have only gone the one time because I didn't want to ruin my voice for school. I was super sad that I hadn't been able to go as much as I wanted so we went. AND IT WAS AWESOME! We need noraebangs in the States. Why? Because it's so much fun to sing until you can't anymore in your own private room with a big screen tv and tambourines! Why do we not have these in the States!?

Also, my throat hurts today. IT WAS WORTH IT!! And I want to go again before I leave but I don't know if I'll be able to sing anymore! XD

Tomorrow is my last full day in the country (crazy!) and I'll be doing chores like take care of last minute bills with Mr. Han (who doesn't speak English... it will be fun!) and transferring money home. Then it's homeward bound, folks!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Things I WON'T miss...

As the day to leave gets closer and closer, my feelings about leaving Korea are very bittersweet. It's like graduation day all over again. You look around at all the people you've interacted with everyday and realize, "I will probably never see any of these people ever again..." and you get a little misty eyed whereas the day before you had been throwing your homework in the air screaming "FREEDOM!!!"

There are lots of things I will miss about Korea. However, there are also many things that I definitely WILL NOT miss.

My apartment

No dryer, tiny, kneeling to put away all my clothes, tiny, no oven, TINY... I'll be pretty happy to have space to store things again.

My bathroom

Even more than the apartment itself, I will NOT miss my bathroom! I am very ready for a toilet area that is separate from my shower, thank you very much! In fact, when I'm feeling really homesick and ready to leave, I start counting how many showers until I go home (2 more showers!!!).

Air drying clothes

Scratchy towels, cardboard jeans, little lint balls on all my nice shirts... I miss the fluffing effects of a dryer.

Pushy sales people

While I LOVE the shopping here in Korea, I will NOT miss the pushy sales people! In some places, they will follow you around the ENTIRE FREAKING STORE and comment on every little thing your eye falls on, and even things you couldn't care less about.

No online banking!

I am currently having banking problems. I went to the bank this week with a Korean friend to help me transfer most of my money from my current bank to my American account. Well, apparently because I am a white foreigner (as opposed to a Korean American, who would not have this problem, apparently) I have to get a document to prove that the money I've been paid has actually come from Chungdahm. The document got to us TODAY so I can't send any of my money to my American bank until MONDAY. MONDAY!!! Cutting it a little close, aren't we? And before you say anything about how I should have done this a long time ago, yeah, yeah yeah. I KNOW. It just never happened, okay?

So, it might just be my current predicament, but I am really not liking the lack of online banking here. Grrr...

Squat toilets

Never used them. Never will. That's not an adventure I really want to have. Sorry.

Random nasty sewer smells on the street

The sewer lines are very close to the surface of the street here so you sometimes get a nice whiff of, well, POOP.


Though it is rather freeing to get to say pretty much whatever you want in public and know that people will only understand maybe half on what you are saying (at most), it can get rather frustrating. Especially when it comes to things like TALKING TO YOUR DOCTOR. The language barrier does get a bit annoying... and I really only have myself to blame for that since my Korean is, um, abysmal. As in, non existent.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Things I will miss...

The countdown to when I go home is officially in the single digits (for a more accurate number, visit the countdown to when my plane leaves Korea ). I'm a little sad, a little crazy thinking about all the things I need to do this week, but mostly excited to be back home and getting ready for all the trips and grad school planned for the next year.

This countdown to when I leave Korea has left me thinking about all the things I will miss when I leave Korea. So here's a nice list of some of the things I will miss.

Heated floors in the winter

I. LOVE. My heated floor! It feels so nice to lay on the hot floor and take a nap when it's chilly outside. Not that cold weather is currently a problem right now. You know, what with it being SUMMER and all.

Amazing Subway System

While driving is a convenience I do miss, having such an amazing public transportation system that can take me pretty much within walking distance of anywhere I want to go is pretty freaking awesome.

My own apartment

I'll be living with my parents for a while when I get home (they've offered to let me live with them rent free while I do grad school at PSU *fingers crossed* and I'm cheap soo...). Much as I love my parents, I will miss the little freedoms that come with living on my own.

Fast, cheap, internet!

Shopping, shopping, SHOPPING!!

Quite possibly one of the things I will miss the most about Korea (aside from some of the awesome people I have met here) will be Myung Dong, Namdaemun, Insadong, and all the cheap little jewelry, cosmetic, and random assorted crap stores behind. I have a feeling my wallet will thank me, though, especially with grad school coming up.

SOME of my students

There are just days I absolutely love them! So, so much!

Random people trying to speak English with me

Seriously. On the street, subway, shops, random people will strike up a conversation to test their English skills. Sometimes it's annoying (for example, old man on the subway trying to ask me out... awkward), but mostly it's really fun.

Seeing other foreigners

You see a person who is obviously not from around here and you share a kind of moment. A nod, smile, a quick recognition of, "Hey. You're not from around here either? Cool."

Getting to walk to work

While sometimes it is annoying if it is really hot or really cold, I do enjoy my little ten minute walk to work.

My singing washing machine

I mean, come on: IT SINGS TO ME.