Tuesday, February 9, 2010

the ROK

Here is a video I made to summarize my year in the Republic of Korea.
I like to think of it as a present to all my firends who made this year what is was and I really like making these videos!!

This is the END

Thought I take a moment to reflect on my time and thoughts about Korea, which can be best expressed in list format

Things I am going to miss

-Men wearing heeled shoes and man purses, with tighter jeans and better haircuts then me, who aren't even gay!
-The subway! Not once this whole year have I ever wished I had a car, remind me why California hasn't caught on to this idea?
-Cheap taxis, not tipping and no taxes
-No crime. I can leave my purse in any bar and be confident no one will take it. I can lose my phone and assume I will get in back in a few days.
-Not paying rent and having a salary
-The best TOFU in the world
-Bars never closing and the fact that is completely acceptable to pass out anywhere (for examples please refer here www.blackoutkorea.blogspot.com )
-My students and Lacy <3

Things I won’t miss

-The smell of kimchi and soju on the subway
-Being forced to eat Korean lunch at school everyday
-Getting pushed by everyone all the time
-Not being able to read anything or understand any thing in Korean
-Any food that contains rice or black bean that is trying to be passed off as a sweet, candy or dessert.
-Living in a concrete jungle

Reasons I know I have been in Asia a little too long

-I have mad chopstick skills
-When I run into someone the thought of saying excuse me doesn't even cross my mind
-I have forgot what tipping is
-When I see a white person I find myself staring at them and thinking they are weird and wondering what they are doing here
-I bow to everyone in every situation has become an uncontrollable reflex
-It is a compulsion to put up a peace sign in every picture

Greatest moments this year (stole this idea from Brittany)

-My first trip to Thailand, where I meet my Brummie mates and my counter parts Brittany and Lacy. Thailand changed my life redefining my views on gender roles and sexuality and showing me the simpler side of life.

-Becoming an Elementary school teacher. I found a career I could really be happy doing for a long time. A job that I strive to do better at everyday, that is truly fulfilling and makes me proud to say what I do.

-Going to Beijing with my mom. Not only was standing in Tienanmen square or on the Great Wall the coolest things I have ever done but I got to go to Olympic Swim cube, awesome!

-Discovering my happy place. Sitting in a hammock on my bungalow porch in Ko Phangan overlooking two beaches discussing the meaning of life with two people who make me a better person, Andrew and Brittany.

-Taking my 3rd students swimming and getting totally destroyed in almost every race.

-Going bungee jumping. Taking that step off the edge was single scariest action I have ever taken and screamed the whole way down but I did it!

-Overall, being fortunate enough to have the means and opportunity to travel. I honestly believe you can’t really understand who you are or where you come from until you experience someone else’s way of life. Traveling gives you the freedom to be your true self. The continuous experience of meeting new people from all over the world is a consent reminder to yourself of who you are. I more content and confident then I have ever been in my life. I feel empowered and capable of things I never imagined. I no longer am concerned with keeping to some fictional life track defined by my age. My goals are more focused on the present, being true to myself and being happy.

Friday, February 5, 2010

January and beyond

January was pretty uneventful. I had English Winter camp everyday, but only from 2 to 4. The rest of the time I stayed hoarded in my apartment scheming up plans for the future. After about 100 different ideas, a few calls arranging and cancelling plane tickets, some budgeting and long conversations with Brittany and Lacy I think I have finally settled on a tentative plan for the next 6 months of my life. Here it is goes…

First finish up my contract in Korea. February 11 will be my last day of work after that Lacy and I are headed to Thailand. Yeah I know my third trip this year, but I really freaking love this place. We are going down to the southern islands and kicking on the beach for two weeks.
Then around March 1st Brittany and my friend Willie are meeting me in Bangkok. From there we are going river tubing in Laos then making our way to the famous Ankor Wat temple in Cambodia. Hopefully there will be enough time for a stop off to our favorite island in Thailand, Ko Chang before we fly back to Korea on March 9th.
I am going to use my free flight from Seoul (included in my teaching contract) to fly to Sydney, Australia. I came up with this last minute tip to OZ after Brittany’s and mine original plan to explore Vietnam crumbled. So , now I going to spend about 18 days down under visiting my friend Eunyoung. I am super excited to go to Australia, it has always been on the top of my list of places to visit. I hope I don’t waste all my money there before I came back to the states. It's a little bit more pricey there then Southeast Asia and I going to have to remember to tip.
Speaking of being back in America, exciting news: Brittany has decided to move with me to San Diego. We are going to find jobs as nannies and swim coaches for the summer until we come up with the plan for our next adventure. We are so sad that our other third Lacy won’t be with us, she will be staying a little longer in Korea and hopefully joining us at the end of the summer. Wherever in the world that may be:)
So I’ve got 7 more weeks before I touch down in California. I am slightly nervous, I will have spent 14 months in the East and I am expecting some intense culture shock. I am glad Brittany will be there to share my pain and I am sure spending time babysitting my nieces will make the transition that much easier.
Well I think I did a good job updating. I don’t think I did so well on the short part.

Boracay Baby

On Christmas day the ladies and I packed up our bags and headed to the Philippines for a two week holiday! We caught a late night flight into Manila airport, we had a 6 hour layover (which turned into 12 hours because the closed the airport we were suppose to fly into) before we caught our domestic flight into Kalibo. Once we reached Kalibo we had to take an hour ride in a overcrowded van to the port, then a short ferry ride to the small island of Boracay,(aka Paradise). Why do the most beautiful beaches always take the longest to get to?
Out of all the tropical beaches I have been to this year, I think Boracay might rank first. The white sand and clear waters went on for as far as you could see. We spent most of our days lounging on the beach, sailing around the island, meeting the locals, drinking fresh mango shakes and watching the sunset. And when the sun went down we were up to our usual nightlife antics, especially with the local San Miguel beers costing about a dollar each.I know, I know, hard life for a paid vacation.

Before we knew it, it was News Year Eve and the island was in the midst of high tourist season. We rang in the New Year at a “white party” on the beach with some crazy Aussies and fun Swedish boys. I couldn't’t imagine a better place to start 2010, a beautiful beach with my two besties. I think this year is gonna be a good one!
Our original plan was to leave Boracay after we had fully recovered from our New Years hangovers and check out some of the other island in the Philippines but it’s just so hard to get on that ferry. We ended up making good friends with the managers of our hotel and some of the local bars and we were having so much fun we couldn’t imagine leaving. So our 7 days stay turned into 12 days, we didn’t get a chance to see any of the other island but I think we made the most of our trip. Sure we could have traveled more but aren't the relationships you make more important then the sights you see? My trip can best be summed up in this video I made. I know it's long but there are some great landscape shots and I promise I wasn't drinking as much as it appears.

One of the best days on the island was when our friend Sadrock took us sailing to his home on the mainland. He brought us to a friends house where they were celebrating some Saints day (the Philippines is overwhelming Catholic), they gave us lunch and invited us to their BBQ. It was rare opportunity to be welcomed into the village’s celebration and share some beers with the locals.

But by far my favorite memory from the trip was scuba diving. We had a few hours training before we were dropped in the middle of the ocean for a 40 minute dive. In the beginning it was a little scary and totally unnatural to be breathing underwater but after you get over the mental block it’s amazing! We were swimming through spectacular coral reefs filled with exotic neon fish. I seriously felt like I was swimming in the movie Finding Nemo and all the characters were there. I didn’t even know colors that bright existed in nature. The Philippine's crystal clear water and thriving ecosystem makes it home to some of the best dive sites in the world. I can’t wait to get certified and dive again.

Our last night in Boracay, Brittany and I had serious ambitions for getting permanent jobs on the island. I was in training as a DJ and Brittany had her first shift behind the bar. We plan on brushing up on our skills and applying for jobs on our next visit.

I really feel in love with Boracay. Not only was it a beautiful place but the people are what made our trip. The Filipino people have to be some of the kindest and most hospitable people, not to mention there English is practically fluent. It was so refreshing to be in such a friendly and open culture, which made coming back to Korea that much more difficult.
When the day finally came to broad the ferry to the mainland and endure the flight the Manila, we were all but happy. We spent a night in Manila trying to readjust back to the city life but nothing can quite prepare for the shock of reality.
I was still in my shorts and sandals when we landed in Seoul, where temperatures were below freezing and a couple feet of snow had piled up on the ground. Coming back to Korea was more then depressing then I feared. Getting cut in front of, elbowed and knocked out the way, all before I made my way back to my apartment really made starting count the days till the end.

Way back in December

I am going to try to sum up the last 2.5 months as quickly and accurately as possible, in parts or more. It might be hard to capture all the moments but better now then never at all. I realize this blog will someday act as fairly accurate account of my year abroad and since I don’t keep a dairy this will be the next best thing.So let’s begin in December.

First it got cold, then it got colder, then it got freezing, then is snowed and snowed some more. When the novelty of my first winter worn off, I finally realized what my New England friend, Brittany was warning me about. Not wanting to ever leave the house, sleeping all day, craving the warm food and the biggest shock to me was how much of a homebody I became. I actually found myself staying home on weekend nights, shocking!

School broke for vacation on the 22nd but before I was free, I had to go on a 2 day teachers retreat. I was not looking forward to 48 awkward hours with my 70 Korean coworkers not speaking to me, eating Korean food for 6 meals straight and me not understanding anything that was going on. For the most part my all fears came true and then some. I spent 12 hours riding on bus with a hacking cough on the verge of a breakdown. Not the ideal situation right before Chirstmas to be overloaded with Korean culture when you are missing the holidays at home with your family and friends. On the plus side I did win some money from the Principal for my awesome dance and noreabong (karaoke) skills at our teachers talent show. Althought, I credit my looming vacation in paradise to my survial of this trip.