Thursday, April 28, 2011

Yeppers, it's true. Back in the homeland.

I'm currently sitting on the couch of a dear friend, watching the sunlight stream through windows and grey clouds float across the sky. I'm in Seattle. The Northwest. This city has never been considered a home, but it's sure close enough to several homes of my past.

Reverse culture shock? I'm not even sure what to call it. I feel strange in this world, but not so much that I notice big differences. Hard to explain. The cashiers speak to me (in English!), I can read menus, I'm using American money, and I haven't heard anyone use Hangul. That would be a sound for sore ears, as it's hard to drown out conversations that are in your home language. I've always liked that about Korea--it is easy to just put the conversations in a "music" mode, easy to be background noise.

I'm quite thankful to my gracious (newlywed-ish) hosts, who have opened their home to a weary traveler and have made delightful dinners and listen to incessant comparisons of my two most recent home countries. They must be exhausted.

Oh, and I've caught myself doing a little bow when saying thank you. In English. That must be an interesting sight. At least I haven't pulled a 'kahm-sahm-ni-da."

So, that's it. Recouping today from a long day of shopping yesterday--oh, and flying 10 hours the day before--has made me feel, at first, quite lazy. I recently decided, however, that I can embrace this quiet in my head and body. I've got a couple of months to be active here in the U.S. Don't want to do it all in the first week! ;)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Heading Home

This.is.it. I'm at the airport, remembering a little over a year ago when I was writing about my trepidation about coming to Korea, convincing myself that everything would be a-okay. What a journey it has been.



Saying goodbye to coworkers and students proved more difficult than I had imagined. I noticed that I tend to get (overly?) attached to people and places, whether I mean to or not. Must be something about being human. It sure makes wanderlust a bit of an obstacle, but I suppose one must look these attachments merely as enrichment of the soul. I am thankful for everyone I have met here in Korea and for all of the places I've left my heart.

I'm heading home in a few hours (got to the airport a bit early, just to be sure). But, where is home? As I've said before, I struggle with this theory of "home." Isn't the place I rest my head, on that particular night, my home? Wasn't my tent my home for the week in Jeju? It feels liberating to have a wide view of home. It makes missing the places that came before a little less powerful of a feeling.

So, I go back to my land of birth. (That's a better word assignment.) I'm anticipating a bit of reverse culture shock and am crossing my fingers for little-to-no jet lag. I will stop first in Seattle, to see Ash and John James. From there, I'll venture to Juneau for a month. Then, back to the heartland, Kansas, to visit the Heinz contingent. All the while, I'll be searching for a new job to bring me back to Korea in a few short months. I'm not done with this place, not yet.

Thank you, Korea. I know I've said it a lot, but you've given me the strength to grow into my skin, to appreciate that the conventional life is not meant for everyone (myself included), and you've taught me to be at home where I sleep, wherever that may be.


Click HERE for pictures of my last days teaching and my last night out with the coworkers.

Jeju!

I have to say, our trip to Jeju was pretty stinkin fun. I got to camp 4/6 nights, learned to ride a scooter, saw lots of greenery and water, enjoyed peace and quiet, and fell asleep to waves crashing on the beach.

We took a lot of pictures, and, as I'm at the airport, it is taking forever to upload any of them...so just click HERE to see the FUN that we had!

A quick rundown of our itinerary:

Day 1: Left Saturday on a quick 50 minute flight from Gimpo Airport to Jeju. To our surprise, we were seated in FIRST CLASS! The seat laid back into a bed! (Obviously, a great start to vacation). When we arrived in Jeju, we grabbed a map from the tourist info center and hopped on a bus down to Jungmun Resort, which is at the southern edge of the island, kind of close to Seogwipo. We thought we might be able to camp there, but couldn't really find anything, so ended up staying at a cute minbak for the evening.

Day 2: Grabbed a bus towards Seogwipo and then up to Donneko Campground, near the base of Mt. Hallasan. Great spot, and free! There wasn't anyone around and we could walk over to a little waterfall area across the street. The only downside of the area was it's about a 40 minute bus ride to civilization, and we hadn't really prepped food.

Day 3: Hallasan Hike Day! It's easy to get to the trail head from Donneko campground, but a bit of a walk. The hike itself was quite lovely---almost no one else on the trail, lots of trees, and warm weather. HOWEVER...it had rained the night before and snowed on the mountain, so as we got higher, we got chillier. The pictures from the top of the trail (not the top of the mountain) are funny, as we just wanted to get them over with. I think we must have hiked at least 10 miles that day when you take into account the walk to the trailhead.

Day 4: Took down camp and headed to.........UDO ISLAND........my most favorite part of the entire trip.  On the bus to the ferry terminal, we met an old man from the island who could not speak English at all, but helped us get on the boat and gave us his phone number in case anyone gave us trouble. Cute cute. After the 15 minute ride, we hopped off the boat and walked across the island to the northeast side. There, I asked a police officer if it was okay to camp on the beach. He responded with, "okay, maybe." We camped anyways. Two more officers stopped by and all said it was okay. Our site was pretty perfect. Free, right above the beach, with a great view. (CHECK OUT THE PICTURES) The rest of the day was spent setting up camp and exploring our area.

Day 5: FUN day. It was a bit chillier this day (more wind), but we set out walking the eastern side of the island back down to the ferry terminal. On our way, we walked up to a lighthouse and took some great panoramic shots of the island. Then..........we rented SCOOTERS! It was my first time on a scooter, and I think I'm in love. They are so easy to ride and very fun. It only cost about $30 for two scooters/two hours. Sweet. Riding around the island was a lot of fun, and we got to see a lot more than had we been on foot. The best part was seeing the women divers that the area is famous for. Old women diving for seaweed and other sea life is a pretty amazing sight.

Later that day, one of our favorite officers from the day before stopped by and invited us to the police station. Of course we said yes! Pretty fun.

Day 6: I woke up around 1am to the sound of wind and rain, and our tent proceeded to get battered for the next 9 hours until we mustered up the courage to pack up and head out. A tent pole broke at some point in the morning, so I made the executive decision to scrap the $15 kid's tent. Justin agrees that I made the right choice. Ha. Then, we hoofed it 2/3rds of the way back to the ferry. The guy we rented scooters from the day before drove by and picked us up for the last 1/3rd. Awesome! After the ferry ride back to Jeju, we grabbed a 40 minute, $10 taxi ride to Jeju City, where we had to leave the next morning. A tourist info woman told us a motel where "a lot of foreigners stay," so we headed there. Pretttttty seedy, and I think we got bedbug bites, but we got great showers (the first of the week!) and snuggled down while the rain fell outside.

No first class on the way home, but we did get the exit row. Overall, an amazing vacation with no mishaps, lots of fun, and almost perfect weather.

Seriously, click here to look at the pictures.




Saturday, April 16, 2011

faithful followers

Hello!

It's done! I fulfilled my one year contract on Friday.

A mixture of feelings now....but am happy to know that I will return to this country in a couple of months. Everyone keep your fingers crossed that I find a good job!

Today, I'm heading to Jeju for a week of camping, hiking, and relaxing. I'll return Saturday and will post pictures of my last few days and my (hopefully) amazing trip!

Here's to sticking things out, to appreciating small things, and learning to love where you are in your life.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

we're getting to the end here

Lovely. Happy Song.





Last weekend....
Went to dinner with the coworkers. Lovely
Hung out with a piece of the Berlin Wall in Seoul

Enjoyed drip coffee at a new breakfast place in Yeongtong

Celebrated 1 year in Korea with a rousing game of Scrabble!
 

3 Days........

Feeling a bit overwhelmed with packing, saying my goodbyes, and getting ready for a trip to Jeju.

Though, I'm excited to camp around Jeju next week with Justin. We're hoping to hit up a few major places, hike Hallasan, and just relax near the water. Hopefully, a little peace and quiet.

I just need to get through the next 3 days at work, complete the packing adventure, and breathe. Always breathe.

Monday, April 4, 2011

ramblings

I walk to work every day and I'm usually thinking about the day that lies ahead, or what I've forgotten to bring with me (food), or last minute things to add to the to-do list.

Every once in awhile, I stop those ramblings and think about my life thus far. Yes, all 26 years.

My brain has the tendency to tell me that I'm not in the right place in my life, that I'm not settled down, I don't have a "steady" job in the states, that I'm far away from my loved ones........SO many reasons to feel down.

It's been a long time coming, with a lot of self-talk and training my heart to meet my brain, but I think I've finally reached the point where I feel....satisfied. Not just satisfied, mind you, but pretty happy with the life I have carved for myself. I know I'm not living the "American Dream," but I'm living a life that makes sense to me. I love where I'm at and the adventures I am having. I am thankful for the journey that has brought me here. I'm even thankful for disliking Korea for several months. That sense of dislike actually brought me to where I am now--in love with this country and its people.

I walk to work with a sense of peace. 

So, here's to the next few weeks. I'll put forth a joyful attitude. I'll treasure the time I have left. I'll leave knowing I will return to, what is now, my home.

Photo Adventure!

This post will be mostly photos.

Finished work Friday night. Ran up to Seoul. Met Justine, Chelsea, Spenser, other Justin, Matt, Dani, and Amarisse. Caught the bus at 11:30pm in Seoul. Didn't sleep more than an hour on the way down. Up at 5:30. Out of the bus at 6:30 to view the sunrise. Back on the bus. Off again to take a ferry 40 minutes to the island. Commenced hiking. Up and down, up and down over the ridge. Jagged Ridge (aptly named). More like rock climbing in parts. Finished around 3:30 (after many lazy breaks, some makgeolli sipping, and scenery gazing). Bus to pension. Showers. Dinner at 7:30 (tofu bbq for the veggies). Passed out to Die Hard 3 at 10. Up at 8. Breakfast. Quick stroll in the misting rain. Hopped on the bus. Tong Young Harbor to see the infamous Turtle Ship. Bus. Jinhae, finally. Posed with some cherry blossoms. Snapped some pictures. Back on the bus at 4:00. Long drive back--2 movies (saw the new Star Trek for the first time). Dropped off in Suwon. Home by 9:30.

I love my life.

 SATURDAY

 Still Sleepy...heading up to see the sunrise

Gorgeous. So happy to be near water.

 There she is. Life force.

 The destination. Jagged Ridge. We hiked most of it.

Lord of the Rings style.
  
Just checking out the next step.

Ropes were helpful.

 Makgeolli Break.

Pure Joy.























The Ladies.
 

Dinner.

SUNDAY
I love boats.

Harbor boats.

Largest Turtle Ship replica in Korea.

Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival....still coming out.

 Very fun people! 
Mmmmm. Lots of jiggae.

Happy Girl!



All in all, an absolutely wonderful weekend. Great people. Amazing scenery. Laughter. What more could a gal ask for?!?!

For more pictures, click HERE.

I'm counting down the days, and while I'm very excited to be finished with my current job, the beginnings of nostalgia are setting in. I'm really going to miss Korea while I'm back in the states...and can't wait to get back here to have more adventures. My oh MY how times have changed! :)