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South Korea, 2008-2009

a travel blog by Rachel in Korea!

Welcome to my life in South Korea! I'll be here for a year, so hopefully by the end the blog will be as full and rich as the country that it is written about. Wish me luck in my adventures...
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What Might it be Like?

Seoul, South Korea

Saturday night was spent in the area next to Hongdae University in the western portion of Seoul. Known especially for its intense nightlife, the area is a magnet for young people seeking to escape from the stresses of daily life. The streets are replete with partygoers wandering from one bar to the next, filling the time in between by drinking soju from the bottle and searching for someone to share the night with. Unfortunately, with the excitement of the night, they oftentimes don't make time to dispense of their trash properly, and instead find it most convenient to simply discard their unwanted bottles and cans along the roads and alleyways. Obviously trash does not clean up itself, so the city has hired workers whose job it is to clean up after those whose messy habits created the need for the job in the first place.

While sitting on the side of the street, sipping on a bottle of soju ourselves, I watched a scene unfold that I most likely never forget. The events themselves were so simple, yet the ideas and questions behind what transpired seem more complex than I am able to unravel. A lady, whose appearance of age had been marred by the effects of no doubt a difficult life, was carrying out her job as the worker responsible for picking up the trash of others. While bending over to retrieve an empty bottle, a group of drunk men ran into her, pushing both her and her cart full of bottles over. The evidence of her hard work scattered across the street, and without even a backward glance, the group of men continued on their way, unabashed, unaware, and inconsiderate of the damage they had caused. Fellow observers along the street hastened to help her collect all of the waste, but many abandoned their effort as they realized the time requirement necessary to finish the job. Once it had all been collected, the woman continued down the predetermined path before her, down the road of continuity of a monotomous and unfulfilling post.

Sympathy is a word that I have come to rarely use, as oftentimes I become so wrapped up in the events of my own life that I am too busy to remain aware of the lack of equality around me. Yet, seeing this woman, I was moved to an extreme that I have not experienced in awhile. I was overcome with questions about her life circumstances, and even more so, desirous of an option that would have allowed me to help. Simultaneously, I was struck aware of the powerlessness that we as humans must face as we search for some manner in which we can evoke change in the world. This woman, whom I highly doubt has chosen her present job as the ideal of which she dreamed about as a little girl, has obviously gone into battle with life and lost. There might have been those along the way that have offered their hands to help but perhaps stopped short of what was needed. I myself was rooted to the side of the road with shame, unable to help her for fear of giving myself away. To her I was just another soju bottle, another number on the street that blended together with the rest of the party crowd. How could I have made her understand that I felt her pain more accutely than she could know? The realization of my inability to communicate with her how I felt left me stripped of my pride and painfully pensive.

She will never know the impact that she had on my night and the days to follow, but perhaps by giving her credit for a lesson learned, the unrewarding job that she must call her own can in fact be full of merit.

permalink written by  Rachel in Korea! on August 31, 2008 from Seoul, South Korea
from the travel blog: South Korea, 2008-2009
tagged Seoul, Hongdae and Thoughts

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First Email Home

Seoul, South Korea

The weekend ended up holding innumerable adventures. After the internet cafe on Saturday, Adam and I walked through one portion of the downtown of Yangju to get back to the Lotte Mart from the night before. After taking inventory of my apartment, I realized that I had forgotten some of the essentials, the first being a towel! As much fun as air drying is in the summer heat, my guess is that my feelings will change come the Korean winter. The downtown of Yangju (which actually means 'Western liquor' in Korean) is luckily enough right up the hill from our building. Oh, the location of the building is in a really interesting part of town. While the majority of Koreans in any sort of urban area live in high rise apartment complexes, we live in a little village within a big city. There is only one tall building, and the rest don't exceed five stories. Some buildings are apartment structures, some are really old, small, one-story houses. My aparment is in one of the newer buildings, on the second floor. And luckily enough, my view is of the windowless side wall of the tall one. I really don't mind, because I still get a lot of light and the windows in the hallway have an amazing view of the neighborhood, but it's still funny! Oh, and throughout all of the buildings are little shops with apartments upstairs. They're all little cafes and markets. But when I say cafe, don't think of a Panera, but instead of a little room with a couple of tables and one person doing the cooking and serving, usually (from what I can tell) to their family members and close friends.

Back to the trek to Lotte Mart. There is a marshy, stream-like river that runs through the city, cutting off what seems to be the older half from the newer. After walking through the older downtown, we crossed the river and managed to get to the store. I bet it was at least a half hour walk. On the way we kept seeing spiders the size of silver dollars (NO exageration) dangling from the telephone wires, and I was so so scared that one was going to fall on my shoulder. Silly perhaps, but I have never in my life seen spiders so big, and was beyond freaked out. We spent a couple of hours at the store, getting necessities like plastic silverware (which we later saw said meant for outside dessert parties) and the like. I wanted to buy shampoo, but was once again accosted by a saleslady who tried to sell me literally FIVE tubs of Pantene Pro-V. She wouldn't let me take anything else, and I couldn't tell her I would never use that much even over a year, so in the end I accepted her generous sales offer (she even shoved a kitchen sponge in the tape as an added bonus!) only to drop the shampoo in the wine section of the grocery store. Oh, and the funniest part is we had to walk past her again to get to the registers, and she looked in the cart, didn't see the Pantene, and scowled as we walked by. I guess not all Koreans will be my friends.

Yesterday we took the train into downtown Seoul for the day. Imagine two Americans trying to figure out the subway system without even a map to guide them! Luckily, we got smart and paged up "map" in Adam's dictionary and managed to the the map that had 'FOREIGNER' stamped in big letters on practically every side. It was only about a fourty minute train ride to the center (or what we thought was) of Seoul, which really wasn't that bad. We quickly saw the Korean culture at work, as the train was practically an example of musical chairs. Anytime a person got on that was older than someone sitting down, the younger person would stand up, the older would sit down, and so the cycle would repeat. So if a still older person got on at the next, the only kind of old person would get up and give up their seat. Hilarious to watch, but a great reminder of the different culture we are in. As a side note, we've been getting a lot of looks for being Westerners. None of them have been in a bad way, but more of like a curiousity.

Once in Seoul, we walked through a random plant market that went on for blocks and blocks before turning to attempt to get downtown. This attempt became an all-day ordeal, as all of the roads kept winding up, down, and around mountains within the city and we had no exact directions on where to go. We ended up climbing a mountain that had the National Assembly of Music or something of the sort on top, along with a HUGE building the specialized in weddings! It even had a photo booth where newly married couples could wait in line to get their pictures taken. Very different from home. Once we got on the other side, after about an hour, we hit an area called Itewon, or something similar, which is where many American military and their families go for a taste of home. Imagine the weirdest place in an American downtown you've been, and multiply it by, a lot. Some of the stores were in English on the main street, still with the winding alleys off of each side, yet there were American restaurant chains at the center. Stuff like Papa Johns, Quiznos, Outback Steakhouse, Coldstone, the list could keep going. Yet the majority of the people were still Korean who apparently come to the area to sightsee. In their own city. There were also a lot of French bistro-themed restaurants, surprisingly enough. We strolled down a street lined with tiny antique shops (Mom, you would have freaked) to get down to the really windy old section of the city. I was so amazed by how tiny many of the streets were, with shops and signs lining alleys that had clothes hanging from one to the other. SO cool! I know that Seoul advertises itself as a modern and advanced city, which is true, but there iss still a large physical history. We never made it to the modern downtown, but I had more fun meandering through the web of the past than I think I could have had in the concrete grid. We ended up getting to the river and strolling in a park that was created directly underneath the highway, but right on the water. I've never seen such a better use of space, but I guess in a city that has no choice to build out but only up, it made perfect sense. The end of the day was spent in search of the coveted metro station that would get us home, which ended up being in no joke, the biggest mall I've ever seen in my life. So big that they had an outdoor concert area on the top. HUGE!

I'm currently at my new school. The one English teacher at the middle school that I will be working with is gone for the day, so I've had a lot of fun learning new Korean words and practicing my international hand sign language all day. I really don't have anything to do, they told me to sit at my desk and amuse myself, and just gave me my official work laptop a little bit ago. So naturally, I'm emailing you guys. They encouraged me to do so. But so weird, get this, instead of each teacher having their individual classroom, all the students have their assigned rooms, and the teachers move around to whichever class they have to teach. So, each teacher has one assigned subject, and they all share a big room with the vice principle for desk space. And I have my very own desk. Oh yeah! Not only a bigger apartment but a personal desk. Obviously moving up in the world! :) They've all tried to be accommodating to someone who can't speak their language. I think I've received five soft drinks from the desks of different teachers, pineapple cookies, a thing of highlighters, and a notebook from different people. Even though I'm learning new words faster than I can remember them, the language thing is a barrier, but one that has only added extra spark to the day. Oh, and the old art teacher showed me all of his drawings! And when I say all, I mean all five full portfolios! The school is in the countryside, about a twenty minute drive from my apartment. It's so beautiful! There are rice paddies in the fields that run up to the sides of the mountains. Really, even though this is the area in which people live, and not meant to be left natural, the combination of the high mountains surrounding every valley is absolutely breathtaking. The drive over was kind of early (8), and everything was still covered in mist. There were Korean graves interspersed in the hills and along the road with memorial temples dedicated to the wealthy. Everything here is already surpassing any expectations I previously had. And instead of a playground or area in between the middle and highschool, it's a garden. With fountains and well-kept bushes and flowers. Last thing, they have the students to the janitorial work! Bathrooms (that's an entire email in and of itself) to gardens, it's all done by students. I'll never undervalue a janitor ever again.

permalink written by  Rachel in Korea! on September 1, 2008 from Seoul, South Korea
from the travel blog: South Korea, 2008-2009
tagged First, Seoul and NamMun

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Life continued...

Seoul, South Korea

This weekend was interesting. I ended up going into Seoul both nights to see friends, which was a lot of fun! Friday night we met up with friends from Madison that all moved over here. The three of them live south of Seoul, so we figured we'd meet up downtown. They chose an area called Insadong, which is known for its traditional windy streets filled with more upscale antique and souvenir shops.
We ended up at a really neat restaurant in a side alley that was traditionally decorated with light wood everywhere, paper walls, and a garden in the middle. Mmm, and then they ordered us the most yummy food! It's something called a peojong, which is like a pancake but better. I tried making one the night before out of a mix, but the directions were all in Korea, and somewhere along the line I messed up and it didn't turn out quite like I would've liked. Anyways, the one at the restaurant came out in a big griddle, about an inch thick, and full of shrimp, squid, peppers, and green onions. Sounds weird, but it is sooo tasty! To go with it they ordered traditional Korean rice wine, which is unlike anything I've ever tasted. It's kind of milky in appearance, and slightly carbonated, perhaps from the yeast? I'm not sure. I guess foreigners either love it or hate it, and so far I'm falling under the 'love' category. The best part is it's really cheap, which will be nice next to all of the expensive drinks in Seoul. The one bad thing about the night was that we had to leave pretty early, at like 10:30, because the last train to Yangju every night is at 10:45, even though almost all of the other metro lines are open until one. Poh. However, apparently there are places in Seoul caled Gingabangs, which are like hostels but nicer and extremely popular with Korean people that live outside of downtown. for roughly seven dollars, you pay to get a clean pair of pajamas and sleep on the heated floor, in traditional Korean style. I've yet to try one, but the Americans who have been here for awhile and Koreans alike swear by them as clean and safe, so I'm sure at some point in the year I will give them a try.

Saturday was equally as interesting. The highlight of the night was the kareoke hotel. Yep. I'm not sure how much you have to pay (I haven't had to worry about paying much yet), but for a certain amount, you can rent out a room that comes with a big flat screen TV, huge overstuffed comfy couches, and thousands of songs to sing to. I guess it's really really popular here to sing, all the time. So, keeping in Korean style, I sang "Sweet Caroline" and "American Pie" while eating the free ice cream that comes with the room.
Soo cool! This was also at like, 5 in the morning though so I was a bit tired to appreciate all of the different things. Either way, I know it's something that I'll want to do again at some point. We also visited a few different restaurant/bars. I don't know which to call them because even though you order some sort of alcoholic beverage to share, there is always food that comes along with the drinks. Obviously some of it has to be ordered, but apparently it's relatively unheard of to go to an establishment and drink anything alcoholic without also ordering large amounts of food to eat.

permalink written by  Rachel in Korea! on September 1, 2008 from Seoul, South Korea
from the travel blog: South Korea, 2008-2009
tagged Food, Seoul and Nightlife

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Seoul, South Korea

All of the teachers have been so helpful as I become acclamated to life in a South Korean middle school. They were even nice enough to allow me to take a picture of the teacher's lounge, so that you might have a better idea where exactly I work.

permalink written by  Rachel in Korea! on September 1, 2008 from Seoul, South Korea
from the travel blog: South Korea, 2008-2009
tagged NamMun

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Photo Shoot

Seoul, South Korea

I was a model today. Sort of.

I figured today would be normal. Korean class, Korean teachers, Korean dinner, Korean soju...but Korean photo shoot? My co-teacher asked me if I'd be willing to help over at the high school right next door. Of course, happy to help and eager to make a good impression and perhaps make a crack in the relatively closed off Korean society, I said of course! Then, leading me up the stairs of the high school and into the teacher's lounge, I realized something else might be coming. A man with an overly large camera for mere amusement was standing there with a guilty, goofy grin on his face that gave my new assignment away. I was told that Adam and myself were going to be the subjects of the photo shoot upstairs, to be used in their school publication and brochure to lure in new students. I could just see it, a wickedly up-close picture of the two of us with a headline that read, "Look! We have Americans too!" Whatever the case, I smiled inside and thought to myself, "Bring it".

We were led upstairs to their private school bar. Oh yes, the school has a bar. Not only do they have a bar, but they have stocked it with real bottles of Western liquor with which selected students practice their pouring skills. Seating us at a table out of the way of the scene before us, Adam and I were able to sit back and watch the madness unfold. Four students had dressed themselves up in their official bartender uniforms, and were primping themselves in the bedroom in the corner. One teacher kept running back and forth between the corner kitchen and the bar counter, shouting what we could only assume were orders back and forth between the students, the onlooking teachers, and the photographer. A checkered tablecloth had been set for two, complete with enough silverware to last me a week, and an ashtray, "to make us feel truly comfortable," according to one of the teachers.

Adam and I were eventually motioned to sit at the bar, on plastic barstools that looked like an awkward '60's mod-style comeback gone wrong. Choosing a liquor, the bartender poured Adam a healthy amount of Bacardi 151 with two ice cubes to boot.

My own glass was poured over the course of the next ten minutes, drop by drop, as the photographer tried to get us from every angle and face expression possible. I think he managed to pull it off! One at a time, Adam and I myself were placed with the student bartenders and ordered to converse with them. They didn't speak English and we sure can't form a Korean sentence yet, so we decided to sing to them.

(Even better, not only can the schools advertise that they have real Americans that speak English, but they can SING too! Heck, we might as well start our own one-man-show and REALLY show them all of our skills... "Ahem. Please gape at my overly large American feet. Stand next to me and see if you come up to my hip. Marvel at me eating a cheeseburger..." The Koreans make me realize how talented I really am!)

Anyways, after the bar scene we were shuffled to the checkerboard tablecloth, where more photographing ensued. The photographer, vice principal, and some random man off the street communicated to us in gestures: *Pick up the glass!* *No, not that one, the other glass!* *Now sniff it!* *Why are you sniffing your glass, drink it you fools!* *Obviously there's nothing in there, you American brutes!* *Just pretend!* *What's so funny?!* *Do I hear humming?!* *Oh forget it, just smile and say, I mean sing, "kimchi"!*

And that was my one, and probably only, Korean modeling experience.

permalink written by  Rachel in Korea! on September 3, 2008 from Seoul, South Korea
from the travel blog: South Korea, 2008-2009
tagged NamMun

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One More Time, Baby!

Seoul, South Korea

Last night was a special night. A very special night.

Earlier in the week I was invited to a welcome dinner for the new foreign language teachers. I was told that the principle was so impressed with our first impression that she wanted to host an official dinner to welcome us to Korea. So, in true Korean fashion, an upscale sushi restaurant was chosen.

What an event! The dinner began at 5:30 and didn't finish until after 9. Even before the any of the food was brought to the table, soju bottles appeared and the principle along with the two vice principles of the schools offered up welcoming speeches and toasts. Unfortunately they were all in Korean but I guessed they were directed at us due to the continuous stares in our direction, and the mumbling of our names in the speeches. Either way, I was extremely impressed with the formalities exhibited by all of the teachers and administrators, who, while solemn in the dictates of tradition, were cheerful to the occasion and made us feel openly welcome to their group.

Then the food began...octopus, pocheon (a spicy Korean flat bread with vegetables), snails, cabbage salad, fried sweet potatoes, paper-thin slices of shrimp on rice balls, raw skate drowned in sweet pepper relish, a whole cooked fish we all picked off of with our chopsticks, and rice soup. The sushi was next, with heaps of raw fish, more than I could even count. Asking what much of it was, the Koreans were unable to translate most of the pieces, but were able to tell me: live sea worm, live earshell, salmon, innumerable types of whitefish, and a plate of oddballs, none of which I could identify but all of which I sampled. Then came the seaweed cones, which were leaves of seaweed stuffed with rice, cucumber, caviar, and hot pepper. These were followed by a version of seafood kimchi soup served over rice. The meal finished with a cold tea with hints of cinnamon and parsimmon.

Throughout the meal, shots of soju were taken. This tradition was somewhat confusing for me. On one hand, I wanted to be polite

and thus didn't want to refuse their offers, but by the end I could feel the effects, and, as a woman, realized it's extremely inappropriate for women to show signs of drunkenness in public. While the men kept drinking, I began to politely refuse all of the offers to pour me more. This became a pefect position from which to observe the effects of soju on Korean men. As the meal kept progressing, they began slapping each other and singing American song lyrics as a form of entertainment. Imagine a straight-edge English teacher popping to his feet to serenade us with Britney Spears, "One More Time, Baby!" All of the lyrics were wrong, but in the end it was even funnier to hear American pop lyrics butchered mercilessly in Korean accents.

Overall, the meal was an absolute blast and circus all rolled into one. Despite the language barrier encountered with a few of the administrators, many laughs and smiles were shared. I'm beginning to understand the meaning behind the statement that offering a smile is speaking in the universal language that all people can understand. Evidence and examples of the traditions of Korea were numerous, and although I didn't understand all of them, went along with as much as I could, hoping that soon I will understand. But really, when surrounded by welcoming smiles, how can one possibly feel anything but content?

permalink written by  Rachel in Korea! on September 4, 2008 from Seoul, South Korea
from the travel blog: South Korea, 2008-2009
tagged Food and NamMun

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Your Favorite Food is Meat?!

Seoul, South Korea

I am now an official English teacher! That's right my friends, as of yesterday I have successfully comandeered my very own class of students, complete with a classroom with a chalkboard to boot. No matter that I had to bribe the students with chocolate in order for them to agree to let me take a picture of them, or that they repeated everything I said in English back to me in Korean. No, none of that matters, because I'm an official teacher of English to speakers of another language. Nothing can stand in my way on my path to my English-teaching destiny. Nothing.

In order to be able to keep all of the screaming students straight, I sat them down and had them answer seven questions:
1. What is your name?
2. What is your favorite color?
3. What is your favorite food?
4. What is your favorite place?
5. What is your favorite kind of music?
6. What is your favorite subject in school?
7. What is your favorite activity to do after school?

Armed and ready, I fired the questions at the students, providing them with paper and pens to respond. Circling, answering the different questions, I ran into a variety of hiccups that made me fall in love with my students. One girl, who will remained unnamed for the sake of her privacy and dignity, answered me in private that her favorite food was meat. So I asked, "Pork? Shrimp? Beef? Chicken?". Oh no, no limiting for her, she replied with a big swoop of her arms, hugging the make-believe chunk of steak that had been floating in her daydreams, "I love it all!" Adorable girl, but I decided not to bother informing her about her future sky-high cholesterol levels. Maybe I'll make that a trivia word in the future...hmm...

The students asked for example of favorite music in order to be inspired, so I listed a few on the board. I noticed the blank expressions of the majority, and realized, in order to truly win them over to my side, there was only one option in front of me: acting. It's true. In front of twenty little middle schoolers, I made my stage debut, singing and dancing to my own versions of classical, jazz, pop, dance, pop, country, and last but not least, polka. This was thrown in as an encore performance.

By the end of my hour with the students, we had learned each other's names and how to successfully do the macarena. Who knows what will happen next?

permalink written by  Rachel in Korea! on September 8, 2008 from Seoul, South Korea
from the travel blog: South Korea, 2008-2009
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The Simplicity of Gratitude

Seoul, South Korea

Inch by inch (or should I say centimeter by centimeter?), I am slowly being introduced to all of the various aspects and customs of Korean daily life.

Last night Adam and I had the pleasure of being invited over to the high school gym teacher's home for dinner with his family. Wanting to bring something as a gesture to say thanks, we asked both of our co-teachers what the proper gift is. And get this: whenever Koreans go over to each other's homes for dinner, the traditional thing to bring is boxes and boxes of tissues. The teacher that we went with brought SIX boxes. (As a sidenote, whenever anyone has a housewarming party, typically about 90% of the guests bring the lucky family laundry detergent. Where do they put it all?!)

We didn't exactly feel like adding to what I can only assume is an overstuffed closet bursting with tissue boxes, so we decided to play up the foreigner card and bring a cake. Yet what was supposed to be a fallback on our blissful vision of normalcy became instead a clash of cultures. When we went to the bakery to pick out our offering of gratitude, the lady behind the counter kept asking how old our baby was turning! After unsuccessfully insisting that the cake was not going to be for the birthday of our nonexistent child, I finally caved in and accepted the pushy woman's offering of a candle for the fateful moment of presentation. But, with a twinkle in her eye, she outfitted our cake with FIVE candles and TWO noisemakers. Not to mention the decoration of two hearts stuck in the middle of the cake with "Sweet Love" splashed between the two. If I had been able to stop laughing, I might have noticed how nice of a presentation it would have been for the make-believe baby.

The dinner itself was delicious. Mrs. Chae, the wife of the gym teacher, made a dish called bulgogi, which is apparently quite the hit with foreigners. As much as I hate falling into stereotypes, I fell into this one as if it were meant to be. The dish consists of thin strips of beef simmered with onions, carrots, and innumerable spices, served with bean rice. Mmmmm. The food continued to be served and the conversation was lively. It grew more and more boisterous as the alcohol continued to be served. Mr. Chae was very proud of his collection, boasting that he had over 30 different types of liquor. A strong Catholic, he perceived much of his controlled drinking as a way to stay healthy. I quickly understood why... The traditional soju was served, but other, more interesting drinks followed. First there was the fruit drink, which tasted like an extremely strong, aged port. To him, he claimed, since he couldn't taste the alcohol, it wasn't alcoholic. Huh, who knew? Next came the most popular liquor of Taiwan, which he picked up during his travels. At 58%, it burned the entire way down, but I somehow managed a smile amidst the choking. Last was the most interesting. Most likely something that I will never, ever, even if I wanted to, forget. It came from a 3-liter case in the back corner of the cabinet, reserved for special occasions and, as he was proud to share, aged for three years. It was some sort of homemade concoction that had now-colorless white carrots fermenting at the bottom. It tasted like a mixture of sweet potatoes and seafood all at the same time, and I was secretly pleaing that there were no shrimp sharing the same fate as the carrots. Whew! I managed to get it down! That moment I felt almost as proud as when I managed to swallow boiled tofu in front of the teachers, with only minor gagging.

Thoughts of the carrot conconction from hell were quickly erased once the dinner had finished and the five year old twins were allowed to play. While eating the cake that we had brought (which tasted like marshmallows), the twins decided to make Adam and myself their personal playtime assistants. Sooo much fun! While the adults were glued to the TV to learn about the latest developments in North Korea, we chose to remain somewhat oblivious to the troubles of the world and instead remember what it was like to be amused by the some of the purest pleasures life has to offer.

Don't you wish life could always be so simple?

permalink written by  Rachel in Korea! on September 10, 2008 from Seoul, South Korea
from the travel blog: South Korea, 2008-2009
tagged NamMun

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Blogitty Blipitty Blop

Seoul, South Korea

Life in South Korea is streamlining ahead, despite the embarassing lack of new entries written in the past few weeks. For that, I apologize, and sincerely hope that each of your lives has been riveting enough to get by without my feeble attempts to blog about that which seems almost impossible to put into words.

I continue to adjust to my new life over here, and am constantly reminded of the very different culture in which I have been submerged. There are moments in which I feel as though I have become accustomed to various aspects of my new life, only to be somewhat unexpectedly reminded that it is a danger to become too comfortable in a situation that refuses to allow the process to be an easy one.

School remains a priority for me, which will hopefully be a pattern I can continue to maintain. After-school classes have been going well, with the students seeming extremely willing to learn and engage with the material I provide. Whether or not the rest of the school's students are willing to learn is another story, but I'm determined to push them to discover their potential. One struggle for me is realizing how much the teachers oftentimes aren't willing to put for the energy to care enough about the personal tribulations and triumphs of each of the students, instead only looking at how the performance of the students is reflected on the school's reputation. I'm slowly learning when to push for change and when to accept things the way that they are presented to me. It's not easy, as I'd much rather be allowed to customize the circumstances into what I think would be ideal, but I've realized that while my opinion matters as that of a foreigner, it is seen more as an interesting spectacle rather than something to seriously consider.

The see-sawing scenario at school has led me to pursue interests outside with much more ardor than I might have been willing to exert had circumstances been different. Friendships have been initiated, which are constantly leading me into directions that I would not have expected myself to have taken based solely on my own accord. Growing in directions that I did not even know existed has already provided me with new adventures, both externally and within. Who knows what will happen in a year's time?

Continue to check back for future updates. While time spent exploring life here is precious, equally important is maintaining the ties with life back home. As adventurous as I'd like to consider myself to be, I'm not quite sure if I can tackle this game we label life on my own.

Good things. :)

permalink written by  Rachel in Korea! on September 30, 2008 from Seoul, South Korea
from the travel blog: South Korea, 2008-2009
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Seoul, South Korea

It's official! I now have a mailing address!!

Fiction: I actually don't have a mailing address to call my own. BUT,
Fact: I'm mooching off of the oh-so-generous Koreans at my school and using theirs instead. Take THAT, Korea!

How do I know this is right? Because the parents were the first brave souls to attempt what seemed to be the impossible: sending precious gifts of English books over the Pacific. And, I found out exactly one hour ago on the minute, it actually worked. Even though the address is in the Latin script. Ohh, how I love the globalization of the English language! Not only has it given me a job in a foreign country where I have no clue the exact reason why I'm here, but it also allows me and everyone back home the privilege of not even having to attempt writing in Korean. Go us.

Technically there is still the address of my apartment, but I have a feeling that one is not to be trusted. Why, you might ask? Refer to the points listed below:
1. The Entrance to the mailbox is a slit less than one centimeter wide.
2. The slit is proven pointless when one realizes that all one has to do is open the mailbox. It opens for everyone.
3. The box itself is rather small. Maybe big enough for a Chipotle burrito with chicken, guacamole, corn salsa, cheese, and sour cream, but that's it. Not as though that's a hint. :)
4. Packages do not seem to be allowed in the building. There is nowhere for them to be put, shoved, or otherwise dealt with.

Regardless, the one at the school seems to work fine. I will continue to bribe the administration to give me packages in exchange for homebaked cookies. These function as their weight in gold over here! Ohhh, Korea.

permalink written by  Rachel in Korea! on October 9, 2008 from Seoul, South Korea
from the travel blog: South Korea, 2008-2009
tagged NamMun

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