Monday, October 29, 2012

Dilemmas and Delights

This week went by so quickly and the weekend was even quicker! It's great that time is seeming to speed up, because I can NOT wait to get my feet on some Filipino sand. :)

  • I'm getting sick. The weather is getting cooler and it seems like sickness is just popping up everywhere. I've been trying to combat it by just taking it easy and using the neti pot and I hope I can get rid of it soon!
  • There are two classes that I just can not seem to enjoy no matter how I try. They are lower level and so it takes a bit more work to communicate with them. I'm just not as gung-ho as I once was, I guess. 
  • We went to Busan and were expecting to see a massive fireworks show but there was torrential rain, thunder, and lightening and the show got a time when we couldn't see it because we had to leave. Wah, wah. 
  • It's the end of the month which means, report cards. Blah. 

  • We got a package from my mom and we got tons of goodies! :) She is seriously the best at sending packages, always tucking little surprises in every nook and cranny. Thank you Mom!! We love you! 
  • We saw our wedding video, finally!! We've been married for a while now but for multiple reasons beyond our control, we hadn't been able to the video until now. It's beautiful and amazing and I"m SO glad we have it. It takes me right back! Thanks for making it for us Mike! 
  • We bought a little fall plant from Home Plus and it makes me happy to see the pretty blooms when I get home every day. 
  • I read the first two books in the trilogy called Matched by Ally Condie last week. I would've read the third one, too but it doesn't come out until November 13th. If you liked Hunger Games or 1984, you'll like this series! 
  • My eyes are feeling great and I can see so well! LASIK is well worth it. 
  • Last but certainly not least, we had a great time in Busan (even with the rain) visiting friends and dancing the night away in Halloween costumes. Thank you Courtney, Amanda, and Pete for being great hosts!! We had SO MUCH fun! 
  I love that Gangnam Style pose, Holly! :)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Praise and Gratitude From Your Boss

How many times has your boss told you "thank you"? How many times have they said, "good job" or "good work" or "you're doing well"?

If you work at a hagwon in Korea, that number is probably numbingly low.

Praise and gratitude are two things that are definitely missing from the how-to-be-a-good-manager textbook in Korea. I've heard from lots of fellow teachers and live it every day myself: "thank you" is not common.

At first, I didn't notice it so much. I guess I didn't think about it because I was on such a high of being in a new country and trying to learn how to wrangle kids into learning English. It was only after almost a year that I realized I was feeling some resentment towards management. It's easy to feel overwhelmed and under-appreciated, (even if you really are appreciated!) because of communication issues.

I want to be clear here, the management at our hagwon are nice and from what I've heard from other teachers, pretty great compared to what they sometimes have to deal with. However, I only have had one or two times where they've told me "good job" and "thank you" is a rarity.

I like to think of it as a cultural thing or language barrier but it's something you should know if you're planning on working in Korea because it can be disheartening.

I'm very curious to know, if you're an English teacher in Korea, does your boss ever say "good job" or "thank you"??

EDIT: Tonight, the very night of when this post went live, we had a free BBQ outside in the garden after work. Just wanted to let you all know. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Dilemmas and Delights

This is my third post in the Dilemmas and Delights series and the more I write them, the more I realize that my problems are manageable and aren't that bad. I find myself writing more things I like than I don't like in my journal every day and I'm glad for it. Still, I stand firm on the fact that we need the bad to realize the good. Life is all about balancing the two. 

Even though life was hard for me a few weeks ago, now I'm fine. I'm happy and contented with where I am in life and where I'm going. I really think that living and surviving life's hard times makes you more prepared to battle more hard times in the future. And there will always be hard times. Always. It's how we manage ourselves during difficult days and weeks that matters. We're allowed a day of sulking in bed as long as the next day we get up, get dressed, and find something to lift our spirits. Balance.


"I think this is so true. We must be busy enough to not be bored but with enough free time to feel free and unrestricted. Life is all about balance. We have to balance everything. Finding the right balance is a constant struggle but that's life. We need the bad to know when it's good, as most of us know. I think we must always strive to be the best versions of ourselves and not lose sight of our dreams and what is in front of us in every moment." -from my journal after seeing the above picture

  • My eyes get tired easily and I have to take breaks from the computer or reading to just sit with them closed. This was especially difficult on Wednesday afternoon when they were really tired and I still had to teach for hours. They are getting stronger though.
  • Showering is difficult when you can't get your face wet. 
  • The tape given to us to secure the plastic eye covers we had to sleep with was awful and made my skin feel bad.
  • So many eye drops! They leave a nasty taste in the back of my throat sometimes that makes me hack.
  • The copier was broken one afternoon when I waited last minute to copy a worksheet for a class I was about to teach. Good thing on the fly teaching is a piece of cake for me now! 
  • Spencer got poked in the eye by a kid on Friday which, needless to say, hurt him a lot! Poor guy.

  • Even through all the inconveniences from LASIK listed above, it is SO worth it! It's amazing being able to see without glasses or contacts. Amazing!
  • Good TV - There is so much good TV on these days! I'm especially enjoying Homeland, Walking Dead, and Modern Family.
  • Ate the best burger I've had in Korea. It had pineapple and BBQ sauce on it and my mouth is watering just thinking about it right now. 
  • Creative writing was something that I really enjoyed as a kid. I went to this creative writing class at the university closest to my house for three or four summers in a row called the Great Valley Writing Project. I loved it so much. I always felt so special there, like I really belonged. I wanted to be a zillion things when I was a kid but the thing I wanted to be for the longest time was a writer. This week, I just started some creative free writing. I was at a coffee shop on a long afternoon break from work and I just wrote about the first things that came to my head. It was exciting! It was the beginnings of a story...of characters and a world where anything was possible. I can't stop thinking about it. 
  • Fall color is beautiful in Korea. It makes me happy every day. No joke. I'm also enjoying cardigans, scarves, and boots again. We don't have our new camera yet to take pictures of the beautiful changing leaves, but you can check out Katie's pictures of Seoul here.
  • FIVE more weeks of teaching left! There are various countdowns happening in my life, including a multi-color paper chain in my classroom. Oh yeah, I still make countdown paper chains!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Dilemmas and Delights

With the change of seasons, I'm really missing all the fun festivities from home: visits to the pumpkin patch, corn mazes, Halloween parties, pumpkin pies, and fake spider's webs decorating every store. Still, this week has been great in retrospect. Sure, I had my lows but it wasn't so bad. In fact, the end turned out absolutely wonderful because we got LASIK eye surgery yesterday!

Ready to get lasers shot in our eyes!
  • It's getting cold earlier this year. Since I don't like the cold, I'm so happy to be leaving it soon and know I won't be suffering through another long, Korean winter.
  • Jealousy of people who are traveling. I know this is silly since I myself am not even in my home country, but I want to be adventuring too! 
  • "Parents' viewing" is an open class where parents come to see their kindy children at Wonderland. We have to plan and practice this day for weeks. The preparation has just begun and is already infuriating. I don't even want to explain why this sucks so badly because it's Sunday and want to get on enjoying my time away from this.
  • Due to LASIK, I have to be super careful with my eyes to let them heal properly and not get an infection. That means I can't let water even run over my closed eyes for a week, I can't wear mascara for three weeks, and I have to wear protective plastic eye guards while I sleep so I don't rub my eyes in my sleep for a week. There are some other rules, but these are the toughest for me!

  • I found the most charming little cafe to spend a long afternoon break from work. It has a tiny little outside seating area with lots of greenery and some flowers. It really feels like I am a world away from work and is so relaxing. 
  • Night time walks after work are so refreshing. This week we walked around a couple places we don't usually explore and that made for a couple of fun evenings.
  • Payday! Yay!
  • Sending presents to my friends in the States. Snail mail is such fun and I love being able to send people treats! It makes me feel good to spread the love.
  • I got LASIK!! Even after the dilemmas mentioned above, LASIK is so worth it. It's the very next day and I can see perfectly without glasses. I'll have some minor inconveniences for a few weeks, sure, but afterwards I'll have perfect vision. The results will effect my life in a positive way for years to come. The Korean LASIK experience was fast, easy, and affordable. We walked in without an appointment, got test, and got the procedure done all in one day!  
  • After LASIK, your eyes sting for about 4-5 hours and the best thing to do is just to lay with your eyes closed or sleep. So, we downloaded some podcasts and audiobooks to listen to. I've really been enjoying The Hobbit read by Rob Inglis. He's a wonderful reader with great voices for all the characters.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Dilemmas and Delights

You may have noticed from my lack of blogging and negative tweets that I've been feeling a bit low as of late. I'm ready to leave Korea and start traveling but we've made a commitment to stay in Korea for most of November and we have to stick to it. Being the spoiled spontaneous, adventurous person I am, it's been difficult for me not to just pack up and leave. When I know I can change something to make me happy, I usually just do it. Since this time I can't, I've kinda been throwing a fit about it.

After a few weeks of sadness and anger, I decided I needed to stop. Not only that, I really wanted to be happy but I just wasn't letting myself. I thought and thought about why I was feeling so down and why I wasn't letting myself be happy. I started journaling in a little notebook with a happy, little blue bird on it and it really helped me to work out why I was so angry. It also gave me a great place to vent and just get it out which made me feel so much better.

from Unraveled Design

Another thing I've been journaling about is gratitude. Recognizing all the good things around me has really helped to lift my spirits. I write happy things down in my little notebook, read them aloud and then I smile. Sometimes I have to force that smile but it's coming easier every day.

I think a lot of people think living abroad is like a constant vacation but in reality, it's hard. There is still work every day, office politics, errands to run, housekeeping to do, etc.

Plus, something that would be simple at home, can be a huge undertaking due to language barriers and cultural differences. I love living abroad and I love the challenges but after a while, I just need a break. This is the longest (by far) that I've been away from home and it's difficult. I'll be heading home in April and I know I can make it until then to eat a decent taco with my family, but I'm not going to lie and say it's easy. It's hard being away from home for this long.

On this blog, I promised to be honest, and I want to share the highs and lows of being an expat, traveling, going home, and leaving again. So I've decided to start this little series called "Dilemmas and Delights". The bad stuff is first so we can always end in a happy place and remember all those trials and difficulties are worth it in the end. My plan is to post every Sunday my ups and downs from the previous week.

I'm really excited about this series for two reasons. One, it will make me continue this practice of being grateful for what I have. I'll have a specified time each week to sit and reflect. I'm working on staying in the present and knowing I have a designated time to sit and think about what's past and what's to come will keep me on track without throwing those worries into my every day life. Two, it will show people who read my blog (all five of you! ;) more of what it's really like to live and work abroad, plan for a long trip, backpack for 4.5 months, go home, and then be an expat again. 

So, enough jibber-jabber! Here are my current dilemmas and delights:

  • I'm sick. Winter is right around the corner and last winter I had a cold for like three straight months. No joke. So this time around, I'm being serious about sickness. I'm using the neti pot every day, eating healthy, drinking ginger tea with a splash of apple cider vinegar for my sore throat, and absolutely not giving in to the temptation of the four bottles of wine currently in the kitchen.
  • I thought we would be able to leave Korea in six weeks, but it turns out we have seven weeks left. Boo hiss.
  • Our camera is broken. :( We've ordered a replacement but this in between time seems much more photogenic to me than when our camera was working. I'm sure it's because it's Fall and Fall is the best season in Korea.
  • The days are getting shorter and that means that my commute home from work is in the dark every day. Not cool.
  • The weather has been absolutely amazing!! I love Fall in Korea. All the trees are changing into bright colors and the days are sunny, warm, and just perfection. Having so much bad weather, really makes you appreciate the good days.
  • Due to public holidays, we only worked three days last week I wish every week was like that! :)
  • I made a flower crown last weekend when we had a little picnic by the river and it's been continually making be happy all week. I'm dreaming of making more and thinking of flowers and greenery that would be good to use. There are cosmos blooming everywhere right now and I think those would make a great crown. I need to find a big patch of them and get to work this week.
  • I got to make party hats with my kindergarten class and they were soo cute all wearing them! I love when I get to do fun stuff with them and so I'm really glad I now have them for arts and crafts class.
  • We went to Gwangju (a larger city nearby) and found an Indian food restaurant! It's such a treat to eat any food that's not Korean or something we make at home. Indian food is one of my favorites and I was so happy to eat some delicious curry, basmati rice, and garlic naan. Yum!