Moving to a completely new country that I had never been to came with lots of unknown variables and inevitably some fears. Here were my 5 biggest fears before coming to Korea:
- The cold. Everyone goes on and on about how frigidly cold Korea can get in the winter which scared me because I don’t do well with cold. At this point people usually stop me and point out that I am from Minnesota so I should be used to the cold. But I’m not… and I was still nervous about coming. So, how cold does it get here? It does get pretty cold (depending on where you are), however, there are lots of ways to get around this. The Korean’s undol heating system, their constant use of hot packs, heat tech gear and obsessive hot tea drinking all help a soul brave the winter.
- General safety concerns as a girl. I was going to the other side of the world by myself I wanted to know whether Korea was a good place to embark on solo adventures. It doesn’t take much research to realize that Korea is probably one of the safest places that you can go as a solo traveler. The crime rate is low and the people respectful. I am, however, living by the shipbuilding docks and there are all kinds of characters there (Korean and foreigner) and my Korean friends have reminded me multiple times to just stay alert, especially when it’s dark out. Staying alert, avoiding areas you know aren’t as nice (or don’t know as well), and being careful about where you go after dark is just good common sense no matter how safe the general country is.
- Natural disasters. Earthquakes and typhoons are completely new things to me. The first time I felt an earthquake here I was really confused… I thought a big bus was driving by but then it just kept going. Same with a typhoon. I remember walking to school in the rain soaked because my umbrella had snapped in the wind only to realize that we were in the middle of a typhoon. My co-teachers were shocked I had still come to school. Thankfully, neither the typhoons nor the earthquakes were dangerous where I was and I don’t think Korean natural disasters are any worse than they are in other places.
- The bugs. I’m just keeping it real here. You can ask any of my friends. When they asked me what I was most afraid of before coming to Korea, I would respond the insect life. What kind of insects does Korea have? Will I be able to cope? The bugs are bigger than the ones I am used to but there is nothing any more bizarre then what I have seen back home. (spider picture) I have not seen anything which gave me nightmares yet.
- This is not something that scared me but something that scared a lot of people I talked to: North Korea. Actually whenever I would tell anyone I was going to Korea the first or second question they would ask was North or South? And then they would talk about the fact that the Koreas are still technically at war. Which they are but they’ve been at this cease fire for a while and are ready for anything else.
So there you have it: Korea is incredibly safe and I’m glad I came. The general concerns are nothing to stress over and certainly nothing to keep anyone from coming.
Ok, for those seven days I’m counting the days I have lived on Geoje Island. I was staying in Busan for about a week before that but a week ago today I moved in and really made Korea my home.
- I’ve learned just how beautiful Korea can be. Of course, a girl can dream of being a mermaid and living next to the sea but how often is it real life? How often to you lesson plan in your office with the wind rolling off the ocean and through your windows? How often do you eat lunch break looking at the glitter of the sea? How often do you get to ride the bus through sleepy towns half buried in the deep green of the mountains? Every day, is the answer. Every day when you live in Geoje.
- On a totally different note, I learned that I like squatter toilets as much as I thought I would which is not very much at all. I was told that they would be here but I was hoping I would be able to avoid them somehow. No such luck.
- I learned it’s ok not to use chopsticks sometimes. I’ve used chopsticks in America due to a partly Asian background, but I still was a little worried coming here and trying to eat with people who have used chopsticks daily their whole lives. My co-workers kindly put my worries by constantly being surprised at how I am “able to eat well” and “use chopsticks like a Korean.” Yay, I can eat food here!!! But watching everyone around me… I think I over compensate sometime and use chopsticks for things that don’t have to be. Next week, I will be that much better at really eating like a Korean.
- While we are on the topic of food, I have learned that Korean food is every bit as delicious as I hoped it would be. School lunches are like going out to eat every day. I think I’ve been very spoiled with my schools because the food is always delicious. I was a little sad that I didn’t take a picture of today’s meal which was Octopus-Tofu soup, Bibimbop (which is a massive pile of veggies, meat, and rice), kimchi, a kiwi, and caramelized-honey-drizzled sweet potatoes with walnuts. It was ridiculously delicious and I was stuffed afterwards. Should have taken a picture but when you’re starving and they give you a meal like that? It’s just time to dive right in.
- I’ve learned that Koreans actually do have amazing skin and hair. Seriously, you know how in movies even the random people walking down the street look great and it’s kind of hilarious because it’s not realistic? Korea is that type of hilarious. I love it!
- I learned that Koreans are very eco-friendly and it’s been a hard lesson. The first couple of days, I couldn’t figure out how to turn on the hot water or the stove because they like to use as little energy as possible and you have to turn those things on just before you are about to use them. I thought my apartment was broken but it took too much emotional energy to ask my co-workers about it when there so many other things that I didn’t understand and had to ask them about. But then some of my fellow teacher friends began venting about the struggle to figure it out and I began to wonder if I tried hard enough, if I could get it to work. Google to the rescue! And some Korean friends from my HelloTalk app. (A super handy app where you can talk with people from all over the world to practice languages! I’ve found a lot of Koreans in Geoje who want to practice English and have kindly helped me practice Korean!) They talked me through Korean ways which was super helpful! Koreans don’t just leave stuff like that on, the way we do in America. There are buttons to press and levers to turn so that you can shut it off afterwards and conserve energy.
- And, finally, I’ve learned a lesson that I think is learned whenever you travel, especially alone. You learn the goodness of mankind. I know that there are terrible people in the world but I feel that, judging from the stories that I’ve heard and the stories I’ve experienced, travel also shows us the kindness humanity still has around us. The kind ladies at the bus stop that point the direction to go. The amazing welcoming spirit of all my co-workers who know I can’t understand their language but still will reach out to include me. Sometimes the struggle and the hard moments are what it takes to find those good people and remember the kindness of strangers.
There you have it, seven of the things I’ve learned living here on the island. Can you believe that ten days ago, I had no idea that Geoje even existed? How does a place go from non-existent to deep-in-your-heart in the span of seven days? And its only been seven days, what adventures lie ahead?
Ok, and if you want to read more about Geoje Island, here is another blog post (with pictures!) which talked beautifully about it and gave me lots of great ideas of future things to see!
Welcome to the Secret life of Jang-mi 🙂 Jang-mi means “Rose” in Korean and since my middle name is Rose my co-teacher thought it would be a pretty name for me. I 100% agree 🙂 And I love it when Koreans call me Jang-mi^_^ its just so pretty!!
Anyways, this country is still pretty new to me but I just wanted to talk about my life here to give all my friends and family a glimpse into what my life is like now.
Returning to toddlerhood… I have always had what you could call a childlike spirit but here I am truly beginning to feel like a child again. Those toddlers you roll your eyes at because they can’t eat right. That is me with the food here. First of all, while I may have mastered the square wooden chopsticks back home, the silver flat chopsticks here sometimes get me. Noodles and fruit especially love to slip around and often end up on my lap. Also, what do you eat with what? Unlike America which has forks, knives, and spoons galore, Korea only has chopsticks and spoons. Simple right? But what do you eat with what? Will I look like a petulant foreigner eating rice with my spoon? What about if it is so covered in sauce that it is no longer sticking together nicely for my chopsticks? Today I was eating one of the meat jelly things in the school lunch with chopsticks and really struggling so I just gave up for a couple minutes. A large eyed little girl shyly picked up my spoon and put it on my plate. Oh, spoon. Yeah, I know how to use one of those. I was dying inside from laughter.
Another food difficulty: I wasn’t sure if there was a specific time I was supposed to come eat lunch and leave. I finished my food and spooned all the uneaten items into my soup bowl. This is what Koreans do so that they can easily put all the food waste in one place. I learned this during orientation last week. This week and I’m a lot better with eating with flat metal chopsticks and eating food correctly but you can bet I’m still watching everyone around me like a hawk. That’s how she eats the pork? That’s how I’m doing it next time. You can mix those two foods? Wow, so that how it’s supposed to taste. So, anyways, I’m sitting there in the cafeteria with the food piled into my soup bowl and thinking through all the intricacies of Korean cuisine when a student notices my empty plate and rushes off. I don’t think about it much till my co-teacher rushes over and offers to help me take my plate. I felt a little guilty; I wasn’t waiting on her to serve me but I do appreciate her tutorial about where to put all the dishes. Korea is really particular about cleaning up after themselves and I love it. It’s just a little confusing at first. Anyways, I survived one meal, guys. I’m sure there will be more to come.
So the food situation here makes me feel young and ignorant but then there’s the whole conversation comprehension thing. They speak slowly and simply to me because I can’t understand if they don’t. Do your remember the brain exhaustion after your worst language class? That has now become my state of life. Do all the Koreans around me get annoyed with me because of this? Nope. Every time I say a word successfully they gasp and smile encouragingly, sometimes I even get applause. Which stuns me. I know less Korean than my 3rd graders know English. I want to be participating in the conversations my co-workers are having in 3 months. Is that realistic for me with three different schools to lesson plan for? I have no idea but its very isolating not knowing the language so I’m going to try. Plus, I love Korean. I don’t want to take a year to learn it and then leave as soon as I have can hold a conversation.
Meeting the Principal. I can’t really say this makes me feel like a toddler but it does feel like having a job interview with a three year old mind limitation which can be a bit stressful. Korea is super big on hierarchy and the Gyojangseongsengnim (Principal) is at the top of the food chain. All the Principals I have met so far are very gracious but I still need to be always thinking hard so as not to be rude. Arms folded? Means disapproval so I need to make sure that I don’t do that. Legs crossed? Shows you’re superior so I sit with my ankles together. Even the little noises we make can be taken differently. The Uh Huh noise I make to show I’m paying attention can actually be rude so I try to remember to just nod and smile. Shaking hands? You better be using both. So far, I think my teachers have been surprised that I am polite to them but if someone came to America to teach with me I would really appreciate any gesture they made to be polite to me. Since I couldn’t understand the flurry of Korean that inevitably came after my introductions I don’t know what they were saying about me but I could hear my name on repeat. Hopefully good things. Either way, they have been very kind and I hope I continue to do the right thing in the future.
So there you have it: I have become a child. Again. This learning to eat and talk is good for the soul. A nice dose of humiliation but also hilarity to keep me level 🙂
So, on this blog I talk a lot about the importance of dreaming and having ambitions, and I have let you in on some of my own personal goals and dreams, hoping that you can relate, be inspired by, or sympathize with me.
A lot of people make goals or resolutions. A lot of people fail too. If I was reading my story, I would be wondering if I make it. Oh, wait, I am reading my story, or at least watching it unfold just like you are. and I am wondering how I will make it. (By the way, you are watching your own story as well (and are probably the main character of it often times to) and you shouldn’t let yourself down as the reader or the character.)
So here is the update on how my New Years Resolutions are going and how my epic quest is going.
New Years Goals
1. Languages are on both the epic quest list and were my New Years Resolutions and thanks to Duolingo my fluency in Spanish, Italian, and German is growing closer each day. Do you have a language goal? Check duolingo out or even better, tell me what you do to reach your goals.
2. Lose 15 lbs. Already lost 5 of them. Check out http://www.dietbetter.com/ if you want to see what worked for me this January. I am looking at doing Farrell’s Extreme Bodyshaping for my next project not because I am particularly extreme but because I like boxing and they do that for cardio 🙂 Why am I doing programs like dietbet and Farrell’s? I like to have short term goals not just vaguely say “weight loss” because I don’t really care about the weight so much as the feeling I get when I’m strong and energetic and lean! 🙂 Everyone likes being healthy, what do you do to get healthier?
3. Do a handstand was my third resolution. That was not the focus as much last month but it will be this upcoming month or two 🙂 (If you can already do a handstand I’m jealous and if you can’t you should put it on your resolutions list because why not?)
4. Pray a 1/2 hour a day. I have actually been doing an hour. I really need the silence in my crazy life and its been amazing!! 🙂
5. Article published yet? Nope. Just stewing over ideas still.
So over all, not terrible. The year is just starting and I’ve already begun making progress. The trick is not to quit now that quitter’s month has begun (Poor February, the month of quitters and of a holiday which nobody but me seems to like (aka Valentine’s Day).) It’s actually a time to start a new project and keep working towards your goals.
And as a sort of P.S….
How is my epic quest going?
I have gained 4 points so far (+2 for losing 5lbs and +2 for completing a small personal work out challenge). 50 points completes a level so I’ve got a long ways to go (and miles to go before I sleep… and miles to go before I sleep…).
I don’t have much time today, aside from work and such to write but I wanted to make a brief comment on the weather.
What’s this? An Eeyore post?
I’m not trying to be gloomy, I just wanted to point out that some days can be described no other way than gray; I like to think of clouds as pearly white but sometimes they are not. And sometimes the world is not even adventurously stormy, it is just very mono-colored and a little more chilly than we would like.
That being said, there is something really wonderful about days like this in January. I have hours of work ahead of me and most of my friends do as well. If there was even a drop of sunshine out, I would be yearning for the beautiful outdoors and to bask in the warmth with all my friends. I know I like to talk a lot about how great the in-between-really-awesome-moments, but seriously, these moments are so under-appreciated!
So here’s to a day that is beautiful because of the way we grow, the way we persevere, and the way we work to make ourselves better and our dreams come true.
I’ve realized that during college it is easy to grab a group of friends and head out to do something good–carpool to a nursing home and sing Christmas carols. Sometimes you even get pressured into donating to a good cause or running for life which is great.
Then college ends and the career (or at least struggles to figure out and find a career) begins. Loans need to be paid off and you are suddenly slapped in the face with a plethora of responsibilities that are much more real than ever before. Growing up is great but it can also carry with it the danger to focus on the responsibilities you automatically have and forget all the extra good things that are important to continue building who you are.
When I work so many hours a week I realize that, this semester at least, I have no way to schedule a regular volunteer position but there are a lot of little things I can do to remind myself that there are a lot of people out there who’s day I can brighten. There are ways to reach out and not let myself get caught in my own busy little world.
1. Take the time to pick up after others at the house. Whether you live with your family or some roommates or even at your job, it can be annoying if everything is messy. Picking up after people makes their day easier, makes the place cleaner for everyone and can show that you will go out of your way to help others.
2. Take the time to take family or friends out. For me, taking my little siblings out is a really important thing that I have to remember to do. Taking the time to have good conversations is important and not a chore but something that can sometimes get a little lost in the throes of duty that assail life.
3. Write a letter. I don’t know about you but getting a little letter can totally make my day. I have pen pals all over the world and, honestly, I am not the best at always getting back to them. But even if you don’t have any official pen pals, sending a note to a grandma or parent can really brighten their day. It only takes a little time but a lot of thought and shows lots of love:)
These all literally can take a couple minutes and I am sure there are a hundred other options but I just wanted to get it out there-we need to keep thinking about those around us, no matter how busy we get. I need to keep thinking of those around me no matter how swamped I am. Any other ideas for a broke, time swamped college student? Or for anyone in general? How can we make the world just a little bit better of a place? 🙂
Some people laugh at them as pre-failed attempts: New Year’s Resolutions. I personally like them. I think that having a goal for a year often does help me and probably helps others (even if it is for a sadly short period of time). So let’s talk about how to make a real resolution: one that really matters and one that you are actually going to do.
First, I always like to start by looking back. Before we leave the old year completely, lets think about what mattered this year. What memories stick out the most in your head? What things really impacted you as beautiful or meaningful moments in your life?
Here are my top five memories from 2014:
1. Last New Years Eve/Day….that’s not cheating right? It was under the Eiffel Tower with little fireworks exploding around me and my friends while we drank champagne and shouted Bonne Année (Happy New Year) at the swarms of happy (and often drunk) people passing by. It was an amazing book end for an amazing year.
2. My Last night in Rome, my last moment’s looks at St. Peter’s Basilica to be exact. A place so crazy, famous, and beautiful had been home for me since the first moment I saw it. Yes, it was painful to leave but it was because I loved where I was so much. Whenever I am horribly romesick I can’t help but also be incredibly grateful as well-the entire four months there was magic and made me who I am. Its cheesy and 100% true.
3. Singing at a park at midnight with some amazing friends. It was 11:30pm on muggy summer night when the stars were shining that me and some of my friends decided to go to the park. It’s against social norms to go there at age 22 unless you take a small child as an excuse but if you go when no one else is awake no one cares. We climbed things, we ran around, and we sang whatever songs came to our heads (from Phantom of the Opera to Frozen). In other words, we were little kids again and it was awesome.
4. Reading An Ideal Husband at the Wilde Roast. Oscar Wilde did not fail to amuse me and reading the play aloud with the best cast of friends was perfect. And once the restaurant closed (notice that it was Oscar Wilde themed? it was just too perfect!) we went outside into the cool summer night and sat perched high up on a stone ledge sandwiched between a gothic style church and a glittering city skyscraper reading quality literature and laughing at the jokes made by a great author. It was fantastic!
5. Making gingerbread with my family. This one is really quite simple but really important. It happened just a little bit ago. Fresh baked gingerbread + homemade caramels + family + laughter till you’re sore from it. . And that is pretty much all you need to make something really really beautiful.
Some things I learned from it all is that starlight makes things magical, beauty can give you strength, and dreams can be fulfilled – you just have to work your heart out to give your heart what you want.
And with that in mind, here are my five resolutions:
1. Learn three languages. Perhaps not fluently but substantially would be nice. I already know a decent amount of German, Spanish, and Italian so really this is just a resolution to keep studying them and trying to be a little more serious about it so that the next time I travel I will be a little more proficient.
2. Lose 15 lbs of college weight. I’m pretty happy where I am but this one is a classic so why not add it to the list of resolutions?
3. Do a handstand. I love to hip hop dance and I can’t do a handstand which is a bit of a travesty. So I am going to fix that. I have already started working towards this and its tough but I’m pretty confident it will happen before the end of the year.
4. Pray 1/2 hour a day. I want to better every part of me–mind, body, and soul.
5. Get an article published. I have been really working on editing and writing more articles. It’s a lot of work and reading through articles for hours has made me realize that if I want to get published I have to step up my game. So that is what I am going to do.
So those are my resolutions. What are yours? Look at last year to see what you would want to do better, or what you couldn’t imagine missing from your life.
My year has been a combination of 65 hours+ work weeks that pushed me to my limit and a plethora of childhood/big dreams becoming a realities that are now treasured memories. 2015…. bring it on! 🙂
So me and my brother frequently run around, him jumping off of things and me coming up with crazy schemes and following around with a camera. It’s been one of our favorite summer past times. So finally, I have a trailer completed for the movie we would like to make at some time in our lives.
Without Further Ado… THE FINAL FALL
I get lost. Frequently. Not on purpose. But those little escapades sure give me ideas for stories:) And even when they don’t, I can at least laugh at myself.
I am coming from a long day at school to go to volunteer at a theater. Perfect energetic way to end my day, right? I’m all dressed up and feeling pretty sophisticated. Fast fact about me: dressing up raises my energy levels and makes me feel so darn girly! *little girly squeal* And sure I normally get lost but I had a GPS that talked to me on my phone.
That friendly GPS lady, where would I be without her?….literally…
Keep straight for 1.7 miles.
Oh my gosh I love down-towns!!! Soaring towers try to touch the sky and are patterned with light. People of every color and dress are walking the streets and you can feel the energy of the city even at night.
I can see the glowing dome of a church that’s all lit up that’s so eerie it gives me shivers but so beautiful that I make a note to myself to put that on my list of things to visit some day when I’m on break. Its awesome! Wait??? Turn left?
I managed to get my GPS confused and my destination wasn’t even that far away. I’ll just keep going straight for now. At a stop light and I tried to take a quick picture but I could capture the glittering majesty of it of all the man made beauty around me. Plus my windshield was dirty:P
Which left?! I’m at a six way stop. Have you ever been to one of those intersections in the cities? They just leave me so confused!
Guess it wasn’t that left…hehe.
To any concerned-I did make it to the destination without being too late. But the moral of the story is that enjoying life and dealing with the little wrinkles in your plans can end up being kinda fun.
Was there any time that you got lost and it inspired a story?