I’m sorry, what??
I have always celebrated New Year’s Eve with the count down and party food in America but coming to Korea I’ve learned that they place much more emphasis on the Lunar New Year.
I’m a huge fan of holidays (any excuse to celebrate) and New Year’s is no exception. But I love more than just the last night~early morning parties; I enjoy curling up with my planner and journal and a cup of tea and thinking about the highlights of the year before. I am grateful for the beautiful moments and think about how to learn from the bad moments and always right a wonderful bucket list of goals that I hope will bring me that much closer to my dreams. And quite often, they do.
But I have been thinking about this Lunar New Years and love that I get a second New Years Day! Another new beginning. A definitive point where I can stand and decide what promises to make to myself and where I want to take my life from here. This new year I have made some pretty concrete goal oriented resolutions. They are do-able, measureable, specific… you know, all the things that goals should be. But I am going to take the Lunar New Years as a chance to make a different kind of resolutions for this year in Korea. A bit more dreamy resolutions which are every bit as important as the more clearly outlined practical ones.
Resolution One: Photography
I always thought you needed an expensive camera to be legit. I also don’t know a thing about editing or composition. I could not be farther from those people who are always taking gorgeous crystal clear slowmotion drone shots that I drool over. But I recently got a new phone (iphone 7 plus) and the camera is actually pretty nice. There is enough storage on my phone to take videos. This is a whole new world for me and I’ve decided I don’t have to be a professional. What I am is a storyteller and this year I want to learn how to tell better stories through visual art. I want to capture emotion in the pictures and show people a piece of my heart the through the lense of my camera. 2018 shall be the year of photography for me as a hoby, no pressure, just art in my own little way.
Resolution Two: Sunrises
I want to catch more sunrises this year. In Korea instead of the traditional count down (or along with it) people like to catch the sunrise. There was something really powerful about watching the world light up. Something incredibly hopeful and inspiring and it’s a tradition I continued even when coming back home to America for the holidays. It was much colder than it was in Korea and trying to combine a midnight count down with an early morning can result in little to no sleep but it is completely worth it. And this year in Korea I want to catch as many sunrises as I can. I want to find good spots to watch them. I have always loved sunsets and always will but there is something extra empowering about sunrises that I think fits this year. There is something disciplined about getting up in time and it feels more personal and special because of it.
Resolution Three: Ocean
I have always wanted to live near the ocean and I now live in it on my little island. This year I want to swim and splash in the ocean as often as I possibly can. I want to take more pictures and videos of the waves and the light playing on the water. I want to make sure that I enjoy every ocean view I’m blessed with. It’s the little things, like the resolution I made my first month here in Korea: I decided that bus time was not time for texting or messaging anyone. It was time to watch the coast line sparkle by and appreciate island life. I don’t always do this perfectly but I do try.
Resolution Four: Food
Food isn’t just food. Eating my creamy blue berry oats this morning, I decided there was something a bit trascendent about food. Perhaps it was my still sleepy brain deciding overnight oats are magically delicious but food plays such an important role in cultures, religions, and relationships. I think sometimes we take for granted just how important it is. I want to try to eat better food and I’m not just talking about getting in leafy greens, I’m talking about being intentional with what I eat. I want to eat foods that I absolutely love and that make me feel fantastastic. I want to spend the time to make things that taste delicious and spend time making the plate look nice. I am not big into cooking but this year I want to put in the effort to make the meals in my life beautiful as well as healthy and tasty. I want to put in a little extra effort in finding restaurants which are unique and memorable. In otherwords, 2018 will be me leveling up my food adventures.
Resolution Five: Books
I already made a clearly measurable and do-able goal of completing 18 books during 2018 but that’s not what this resolutions is all about. I want to read books that challenge me more. Maybe it’s time for more Cormac McCarthy and historical research. And I want to fill my life with more books for fun. I have always wanted to read comic books and manga but have been both overwhelmed by the number (how does one even begin??!) and the price but this year I am going to splurge every so often and get those colorful action packed books as a treat and hopefully it will help spark my creativity. There will be no wasting time on anything boring or uninspiring. I want to intentionally fill my life with rich adventure and challenges to make me grow.
Hopefully this year I can continue to expand on these resolutions on my blog and other platforms. It’s all about making life that much more intentional and beautiful.
What does my day look like?
I was always really curious before I came to Korea what my day would look like. Of course, everyone has really different lifestyles but here is one EPIK teacher’s typical day:
7am: When I am supposed to get up but usually I sleep in and then make a mad rush for the door and barely catch the bus. It works and I still have then next 20 minutes-30 minutes to fully wake up before I get to school and start teaching. Many people walk to school which sounds nice to me (public transportation used to really scare/overwhelm me), but I have to catch a bus since all of my schools (I teach at three) are pretty far away. Living on island though definitely has its perks—the ride is absolutely gorgeous and has become something I really look forward to.
8am: I usually get to school around this time and wish all my co-workers a good morning, collect my materials for the day, drink tea, and check emails. My schedules are different at each school so class start time is different each day. I teach Elementary level and absolutely love all my adorable students.
12pm: Around this time I get to stop teaching and eat lunch which is always incredible. The schools provide large healthy meals which is another one of my favorite parts of the day. Lunch is a time to connect with the students or other teachers, practice Korean, try new foods, and learn what they are all called.
1:30: After break it’s back to teaching. I usually only have one afternoon class and many of the teachers I have spoken to don’t have any so after lunch it is just time to lesson plan. I peruse Waygook.com and the rest of the interwebs for game ideas and type up my schedule for the next day and usually try to get ahead or the next week as well to keep it less stressful for myself.
3pm: At this point I usually am done with lesson planning and start blogging or check emails or study Korean or talk with my co-teachers which is a nice relaxing way to end the afternoon.
4pm: I leave different schools at different times but around 4 is when it’s time to start packing up. Time to trek to the bus stop… which is always lovely! I still have not gotten over how beautiful Korea is. Somedays I go with my co-teacher to play a game of volley ball or go out to dinner which is always a great way to mix up the daily routine and get to know my fellow teacher better.
5pm: After school it’s time for Korean class, coffee with one of my Korean friends while we practice each other’s language, volley ball club, a work out at the gym by my house, an adventurous dinner with another expat teacher, a movie night, or a mini hike before the sun goes down. There is never a dull moment! The city I live in is pretty small compared to a lot of places my friends ended up at so there isn’t as much to do really (no big official language exchanges or events) but I still feel like I have an overwhelming amount of options and try to do just enjoy every moment. I’m always trying new foods and really trying to learn the language.
??Pm: I get back home and pack my bags for the next day (which helps me when I make the mad dash the door the next morning. If I don’t pack the night before I will probably forget something). Due to the time difference my friends at home are usually just getting up at this point so sometimes I end up skyping them till late hours of the night. Then it’s time for a quick shower and bed to rest up for the next busy day.
So there you have it: a day in the life of an EPIK Teacher. I am so grateful for where I ended up at. It’s the perfect blend of city and natural beauty but, then again, much of Korea is like that. I am so grateful for all the new experiences I get on a daily basis. It really is incredible!
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 🙂
If you don’t know me I’m obsessed with languages and I would really like to learn a bunch fluently in the near future. I am definitely not the only one with this dream and or the only one struggling to make it happen. If you are at interested in languages in any way, shape, or form, I have found something you need to see:
But why should you listen to me? There are hundreds of guaranteed, well-tested language programs and they all tell you that they are miraculously easy and make you completely fluent. Believe me, I know because I’ve tried a crap ton of them and done research on substantially more. I have done hours of research and would like to share with you why I think that this site is amazing!
1. Free! There are so many sources out there that you don’t have to pay for, I am personally very against language sites that make you pay. It’s hard to believe its free but I’ve been using it for a couple months now and I haven’t paid a penny for my advances in Italian, Spanish, and German! Ok, and even if you have already found a program that you pay for and that works perfectly for you, this is perfect free review so you should still check duolingo out:)
2. Time Efficient. I work all hours of the day, and you probably do to. Even if you don’t, it’s nice to have a program that maximizes your precious time. The lessons are generally 20 questions long and you can set how many how many lessons you want to aim for in a day. They are condensed enough so that you can actually learn something in that fragment of time so you don’t need to spend hours studying. Even if you have hours to study (don’t laugh, some people do during vacation), I would use duolingo as part of your curriculum because it is good practice:)
3. You Can Hear the Language. It’s one thing to be able to read the language; learning to associate the quickly spoken sounds with the words we’ve learned on the page can be tricky. Duolingo really helps this process. Make sure you have headphones or speakers so that you can hear the language being spoken at the same time. They also have a microphone option so that you can practice speaking it. I practice it whenever I am using my phone but don’t on my laptop. Which brings me to my next point…
4. It’s Portable! You can get the app on your phone so you can practice it wherever you go! Talk about time efficient. I used to do mine on my lunch break or when I have a couple extra minutes in the car. It’s super convenient.
5. Makes Grammar Bearable. This is a personal plus. I love to speak languages with friends or listen to the way they sound but the technical grammatical side of languages is my bane. This program seamlessly ties in grammar with the rest of the lesson so it’s not painful at all. I would recommend adding some additional studying in this area because it might help to actual see grammar rules and such, but it is really helpful in solidifying your skills in this area.
So lets review, you will learn grammar painlessly and be able to understand the language when your hear it spoken through this portable free program that makes the best use of your time. I’m pretty excited about this! I hope it helps you to! 🙂
So I was running on a treadmill, in a rather ill-lit basement, squeezing something of a work out in between exhausting lesson planning. I was worn out in every sense of the word and stuck in headphones–the soundtracks on my playlist are the only thing that keeps my legs going. Buried in work, new confusing situations, growing up financially, and all kinds of relationship changes, I’ve had a lot to process and running always helps clear things up. Even if you aren’t fresh out of college you can probably relate to facing chaos or transition in life.
I was listening to the Big Hero Six soundtrack and it was one of those triumphant songs… I hope you are listening to it right now to get the full affect. I tried to understand what it made me feel. “I feel brave” is not really strong enough to capture the feeling. “I want to be a better person” isn’t really specific enough. “I want to climb a mountain” is probably closer… but not quite right. “I want to win” is almost right. “I can win… I am winning.”
It’s the feeling that drives Olympic runners break new world records, it’s the feeling that brings people to the tops of mountain few have reached before, and it’s the feeling brings people to finally ask the one they love out to dinner. And it’s beautiful.
Out of all the chaos in the day and all the confusion…running on a rickety treadmill late at night listening to the Big Hero Six I found a lot peace and remembered a part of myself a person should never forget–the feeling of wanting to win and knowing that you can. It’s powerful.
Why winning is so important? This probably sounds like a stupid question to some people but for me its an honest inquiry and often times very specific. Why do I want certain things? Are the dreams I want to win valid? Are they truly important? I think about the languages I want to learn, the places I want to see, the person I want to be. I have had some pretty amazing experiences, and I want to have them again but I want to know my own motives. Everyone is going to find different motives for their dreams, many people are going to find a variety of reasons for wanting to win. For me there are two reasons that I could think of right away.
The first reason I want to win is quite briefly beauty. I want to gain things, experiences, or skills which I feel brings me closer to beauty.
The second reason is a little more complex and much deeper. When I think about the amazing sense of victory that comes with keeping my eye on the prize and winning it; when I think about the amazing sense of peace that comes with living the dreams of my heart won by hours of heart work and incredible blessings, it is not just satisfying or enjoyable. Suddenly standing on that mountain, my own personal mountain, I feel very close to God. I think, it is when we remember that we are meant for more, that we are meant for greatness and can achieve it, we remember who we really are.
So now that I have made some pretty big long term goals, it’s important that I start with smaller goals. It’s the beginning of a new month, it is the perfect time to start. Ordinarily when I think about November, I think no more lovely fall colors, frigid cold without the sparkle of snow, and gray days. I’ve decided to rethink this November. This November is a time for new beginnings. For starting to achieve all those big goals I have set before me.
So this November I am going to Write a Book. Nanowrimo is an amazing community for writers who want to complete a novel, meet other writers, and get amazing rewards for all their hard work. I did it last year and it was completely awesome. I am pretty exited to start it again this year! So breaking it down day by day: I will type roughly 1,700 words a day.
This month I am going to get a Whole Lot Stronger. This website has some incredible challenges for every level. I have picked out the core challenge and the burpee challenge. One top of these challenges I am planning on boxing when I have a little extra time and learning some new dance moves. However, day to day my goal will be: complete one day of both of the challenges.
This month I am also going to Pray More. My Catholic faith is incredibly important to me and I want to make sure that I am taking time no matter how busy my schedule gets to really think about the things that really matter to me. So every day I play on praying for 1/2 hour as well as either going to mass or praying a rosary every day.
This month I am going to reach a Conversational Level of Spanish. I plan on going through books that I have, memorizing verbs and grammar rules, hanging up vocab signs and phrases in my bathroom, and reading through some spanish books and practicing with my brother. Breaking it down day by day: I will be practicing spanish for an hour a day but on top of that I will be practicing it whenever I go into the bathroom.
Let November begin! 🙂
So Steve over at Nerdfitness.com has been a huge source of information, inspiration, and amusement for me for over the last couple of years. In one of his latest posts he talked about how he made his life a video game. Instead of looking at a screen and living vicariously through the characters he sees he wanted to live vicariously through himself. He talked about how he hopes others will also do what he did and so that is what I have decided to do. I’m not as big of a gamer as he his but this is a way for me to clearly lay my dreams before my eyes and have something to shoot for. I’m pretty excited and am grateful as always for Nerdfitness.com and how it is helping me level up my life.
My Own Epic Quest of Awesomeness is all about living an adventurous, colorful life that reflects all that I love and believe in. Each Level is 50 points each. I’ll keep adding goals as my bucket expands and blog about the amazing things I’m able to cross off. So check it out–my game of life🙂
What would your game of life look like?