Saturday, June 30, 2012

Sloshball in the Park

Last weekend we went to Seoul to hang out with some cool people and play sloshball in the park to celebrate Spencer and Allie's birthdays. 

If you don't know, sloshball is just like regular baseball, or in our case kickball, but you drink beer the whole time. To be able to pass second base, you have to down a beer first. Some people play that you have to drink a beer before you bat, too. People on defense have to have a beer in their hand and yeah, it's hard to play with a beer but it's super fun!

second base and Kyle kicking in the background

We had a great time entertaining the Korean families enjoying the park with us. One group of old guys even clapped whenever someone made a particularly good catch. We played for about 4 hours and never kept score. It was a great way to spend the afternoon and celebrate the births of some great people.

I was too intent on playing and didn't even take my camera out but Katie took a bunch of pics so all these are hers. Thanks Katie!!

Katie, in all her glory

Thursday, June 28, 2012

One Year in Korea

I'm not going to lie, this year has been a bit crazy. Living in another country creates all kinds of exciting adventures and frustrating differences. My best friend told me before I left that Korea is like a roller coaster--there are great highs and low, lowly lows. She was so right. There were times when I loved it and times when I wanted to just get on a plane and go anywhere but here.

Even through all that, I'm so happy we came to Korea. Not only are we able to work at a steady job with a good income but we are able to live in a foreign country while doing it. Since we both love to travel, this kind of lifestyle is exactly what we want. We want to make exploring and travel the biggest part of our lives.

Granted, working for a hagwon in Korea we don't get much vacation time, but we are able to learn what it's like to be an expat. I'm sure this won't be the last country we live in as expats. In fact, we're already planning to do a work/holiday visa in Australia. :) My adventurous spirit can't sit still for too long!

When I start to get antsy and ready to move on to the next adventure, I try and remember to relax and enjoy every moment because I'm living my dream life.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Living in the Moment

Some of the happiest people I know are those who focus on the present. They seem to always think the future can wait and the past is where it belongs, in the past.

I've been trying to implement this mindset into my life but it's more challenging than you think. I've realized that I'm constantly thinking about the future. I'm a planner, and I'm always thinking of places to go or different life paths to take, which isn't a horrible trait to have...but I think if you live in the present you can change your life. 

By being mindful of the present, you can make the most of your time. If you experience every moment, it will feel like you are really living instead of just going through the motions. I've found that I notice more things around me, I'm more engaged with my students, and I'm more grateful for the good things in my life.

To get  myself in the present, I'll literally tell myself things like, "I'm riding my bike. I feel strong. The breeze is so refreshing." I just tell myself what I'm doing and then I try and think of adjectives to describe it. It's so simple but has been effective in getting my mind out of the negative aspects of life in Korea and focused on all the great things we have here. There is joy in every day and I'm trying to notice it and be grateful for it.

I have to work at it everyday, but it's worth it. Instead of feeling sullen and unhappy in our last five months, I hope I'll be able to enjoy life. I'm trying to change my mindset and make myself a more happy person.

After all, that's what it's all about: being happy.  

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Green Tea Fields of Boseong

Almost a year into our stay here and we still have a handful of things left to do on our Korean bucket list. Last weekend we decided to knock one out by taking a trip out to a little town nestled in the mountains called Boseong.

Boseong is home to the largest and most popular green tea farms in all of Korea. There are lots of different farms in the Boseong area but the most famous and tourist friendly one is called Daehan Dawon. Daehan Dawon was established in 1957 and has about 5.8 million tea plants.

It's definitely a place to escape the big city and enjoy the sights and smells of nature. It had rained the day before our trip and smell of the wet soil and clean air was so refreshing. There are great, big trees everywhere that were planted back in the late fifties to make a "shelterbelt" for the tea plants and it was so nice to meander through the trees around the fields. With the number and variety of trees, it's going to be absolutely stunning in the fall.

At first, we went the wrong way. Up this path:

We walked a little while, found some wild strawberries, and then realized we were probably going the wrong way when we didn't see the iconic rows of tea plants and went down. The silliest part was, we learned to read Korean and some of the few words we know in Korean are the words for green tea. I'm just so used to never understanding signs here that we didn't even bother to stop and read the path markers! Oh, well. The accidental path was actually really gorgeous and we found the strawberries so that was cool. Getting lost is usually quite fun, really!

After that, we read some signs and found the tea pretty quickly. Man, was it a sight to see!

We visited early in the morning to beat the June heat and the crowds. I'm so glad I forced myself to get up early on a Saturday. Not only was the weather perfect but we got to get some great photos without people photo bombing us. By noon, the place was pretty crowded and we started to make our way home. 

Of course, we had to stop by the shop before we left and they had a bunch of souvenirs for sale (a lot of it made in Thailand or China). We bought a big bag of whole tea leaves from the farm itself for 5,000 won (about $5) and a couple green tea milk shakes for the walk back through the trees to the road.  

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Field Trip: Traditional Korean Dyeing

We took three buses filled with 4-6 year old Korean kids to the mountainous countryside on the outskirts of Gwangyang for a field trip. At first, it sounds a bit crazy but in reality, it was one of the most chill field trips we've been on since the kids were actually doing something and not just running around like maniacs.

First we all sat and listened to a woman explain (in Korean) what sorts of natural materials they use to make different colors. She would get out a length of cloth and then ask the students to guess what was used to make it. Well, at least that's what I think was happening.

Then they handed out white handkerchiefs for us all to dye. We wrapped rubber bands around them in different patterns just like tie dyeing.

After we tied rubber bands around them, we headed outside to some plastic tubs filled with different color dyes. There was yellow, red, purple, and green. My group squatted around a tub filled with dye and told to wait. Then the kids got bored and started throwing grass in it and I told them to stop and be patient. Obviously, this is hard for a five year old because when I looked away, one of the kids spit his gum in it!

Finally we were given the go ahead to dye. The kids were a little apprehensive at first but I just shoved mine in and they soon followed suit. We had to let it soak so we got to play in the colored water for a while. I was strict about splashing since it would obviously stain clothing. I saw some other kids later with big colored splashes on their clothes. I'm sure their parents weren't happy about that!

After we soaked them in the dye, we dipped them in some clear liquid. Then we wrung them out and hung them up to dry while we went to eat lunch under some of the most grand, beautiful trees I've seen in Korea.

After lunch, we collected our dyed and dried handkerchiefs and bused back to Wonderland. Easy, peasy! :)

Sometimes, I think the key to being a good kindergarten teacher in Korea, is making a total fool of yourself. The above picture is just a tiny snippet into the crazy things I do to make the kids laugh! :)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The McDonald's Voyage

We've made a rule. If we want McDonald's, we have to walk there and it's really far away. Like, 2.2 miles one way according to Google maps. It usually takes us over three hours to walk, eat, and walk back.

We don't go very often but when we do, we get to see all kinds of new things in Suncheon. McDonald's is in the "old downtown" and we live and mostly stay in the "new downtown". There are some great things on the other side of town and we often get lost trying to find our way, which is good for making new discoveries.

We always try to remember which way to go for the next time we decide to urban hike at night to eat fast food but it never works. It's simultaneously exhausting and exhilarating because it feels like we are truly exploring--one of the greatest pleasures in life.

On our latest McDonald's trek we took some pictures to document the experience. I don't have a lot of experience with night photography (none, really!) but I think a few of them turned out pretty good. I hope you enjoy!

lanterns up to celebrate Buddha's birthday
a thumbs up statue! just what every city needs
small temple
look at that teeny fire hydrant!
play ground called "sik-holz" ....looks like some foreigners might have written that
some people were setting up for a little festival along the river and we walked through this marvel
the roses are exploding everywhere right now
an empty lot FULL of red poppies, it was so beautiful
lights off the Suncheon river
a bad ass motorcycle and a timid little kitty sticker
happy truck is happy