Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Things I'll Miss About Korea

Things have been a bit hectic lately. We packed up all our stuff, trained our replacements at Wonderland, said goodbye to all our friends and students, and packed our backpacks for the next 4.5 months. It's been intense, exciting, and sad.

Now, we are staying in Seoul with a week with my husband's sister, Katie. It's been so nice to just relax before our big trip. We can enjoy all the great parts about Korea while never having to wake up early or say, "Where's your homework??"

On Saturday night, we'll head to the airport for our early flight the next day and I can already imagine how hard it will be to say goodbye to Korea. Over the past year and a half I have loved and hated the differences and difficulties of living here, but now, looking back, it's been wonderful. I know I will miss this beautiful place filled with kind and honest people. I hope one day we'll come back.

Until then, here are the things I'll be missing:
  • Our friends, of course number one
  • Cheap, convenient heath care - I'm having some stomach pains and I went to the doctor and pharmacy this afternoon. I was in and out of both places within 20 minutes for under $9. Also, both the doctor and the pharmacist could speak English. That is amazing.  
  • Call buttons on tables at restaurants - These are genius. Need the waiter? Just push the button and they come right away! I love it. 
  • Cute stuff is everywhere and using it doesn't make you feel stupid and childish. It makes you happy. Well, it makes me happy, anyway. :) 
  • Cheap taxis, 'nough said. 
  • Working with kids has been so great and rewarding. At times, it can be super difficult but with time, it gets better and easier. I've really enjoyed teaching and I'm so grateful for the patience I've gained since working at Wonderland. I'm better for it. 
  • Being a mini-celebrity - Almost everyone who lives in Korea is Korean, so the few of us who aren't Korean really stand out! Little kids stare at us and we smile back and say hello. People learning English want to practice with us and my students loved playing with my "yellow hair". 
  • Tax included in the price shown - This might not be a big deal to you in your country but in the US, there is the price they show you and then there's the price you actually pay at the register. Tax is only included at the register. It does seem kind of sneaky now that I've experienced what it could be like to not have to always add in a little bit for tax when looking at things to buy in a store. 
  • Great public transportation is so convenient and helpful for everyone. I love that we never had to have a car in Korea. We could get anywhere via train, bus, taxi, or bike. I love not having a car and worrying about upkeep, parking, car insurance, and all that. 
  • Lightening fast internet is soooo cool and I will miss it immensely.  
last night in Suncheon

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Dilemmas and Delights

It's our last week as teachers and our last week in Suncheon. This Saturday we are going to Seoul to stay with Spencer's sister Katie for a week before leaving for the Philippines on the first couple days of December. For all the chaos of packing and saying goodbye, I feel relatively calm. This is exactly where I'm supposed to be and I feel good.

  • Our passports are still out of our hands and with the Indian embassy but I'm not so worried. I'm sure they'll come
  • Flying with liquids - I've been packing my backpack which I'll be using as a carry on and I'm really angry at the terrorists who made it so damn difficult to fly with liquids. We had to cut things and then cut some more and then I finally got everything crammed into two quart sized bags only to realize I forgot two more essential things. UGH! Back to the chopping block. 
  • I don't like goodbyes and I'm not looking forward to them all at the end of this week. :(    
  • Missing Thanksgiving - Once again, we're missing the holiday season at home with our families. This is the hardest time of the year to be an expat. 


  • We spent our last Saturday afternoon in Suncheon getting me a haircut and lounging at a great coffee shop near our apartment. The coffee shop had this very cool wooden chess set and we had a good game. Spencer won, but I like to think that I challenged his skills. 
  • Downton Abbey - I've become obsessed with this show and have almost watched all three seasons already! It's fabulous
  • Researching destinations - I've been researching places to go and things to do in SE Asia and it's so exciting! There are so many cool things to do and see. Now just to find the right balance between fun and budget while on the road. 
  • One week of teaching left!   

Monday, November 12, 2012

Dilemmas and Delights

I'm starting to get really sentimental about leaving Korea. We've had such a good life here and made some great friends. Our job wasn't bad and I've taught some of the same kids since I started over a year ago. I'll miss some of them and some of them I will leave with joy, but all of them have helped me learn and grow as a teacher and as a person. Korea is a great place to live and I can see ourselves possibly coming back one day. I already know I'll miss it. This is going to be a very bittersweet goodbye.

  • Packing is a task! We have so much stuff to organize and decide what to send home, get rid of, or leave for our replacements. It's crazy to think how little things I own but still, I feel like the luckiest girl in the world. 
  • Indian visa - I've been working on getting our visas for India and I screwed up, twice. First of all, I sent all our documents in but forgot to send our passports. I felt so dumb when I realized that....and then, I didn't transfer them enough money so I had to go back to the bank. Ugh, I hate the bank here. Anyway, it should all be fine now and be processing. I can't wait to get our passports back in our hands!
  • My mom had surgery a few days ago and we're hoping she's doing well and sending good healthy vibes her way. It's hard not to be home in times like these. I love you, Mom! 
  • My birthday! My birthday was on the 12th and we celebrated all weekend long. We went out to dinner and bowling on Saturday and then we went out for dinner and cake again on Monday. Spencer got me a super fun birthday present, an instant camera! I love it so much and am having so much fun taking photos with it. The pictures seem so special since there is just one. 
  • The trees are beautiful and I love them. I appreciate them every day. On Sunday, we went for a walk to take some pictures of them and go our for coffee. It was the perfect picture taking weather and I think they turned out well. 
  • Making travel plans - We've been researching and planning our upcoming trip for a long time but recently, we've been booking a few places to stay during busy times (Christmas/New Years). It's so exciting to know that we are so close to departing for this trip! I feel like I've been waiting for it for so long! EEEEeeeee!! :)
  • Two weeks left in Suncheon and one lazy week in Seoul before we leave for our first stop, the Philippines!!!! :)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

It's Fall in Korea

I have to post some more fall pictures because it is just too beautiful outside right now not to share! It was cloudy out today and I knew that would be perfect for capturing the bright leaves of the season. So we ate breakfast and went for a walk. Everything was so lovely, even the little rain couldn't spoil it.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Haedong Yong Gung Temple

We went to Busan last weekend and on Saturday is POURED all day long. There was a huge thunder and lightening storm passing through and we spent most of the day sheltered in a restaurant or drinking wine in an apartment. It was cool to see the lightening and listen to the pounding rain, but we were very grateful when the skies were clear and the sun was shining the following day.

We went to Haedong Yong Gung Temple, which is very picturesquely perched on the rocks by the sea. It was super crowded that day but we still had a great time.  

Haedong Yong Gung Temple
  You walk down a narrow stone path of steps with stone lanterns and bamboo lining the path. If there weren't forty thousand other people with me, it would've felt like I'd stepped back in time. It was charming in a spiritual way and everything seemed very old. Don't forget to rub the Buddha's belly to ensure you have a boy one day.

walking on the path, our first glimpse of the ocean and temple
rub for boy babies!
The steps take you down and across a small stone bridge, where you can stop and toss coins into the fountains below for luck. Extra points if you make it into one the bowls!

throw a coin and make a wish
As with any Korean temple, it was painted beautifully. I love the attention to detail and variety of colors. It's stunning! Also very cool was that bright gold, fat and happy Buddha. Isn't he jolly??!

love those hanging lanterns
We took more stone steps up and saw a brilliantly white statue of the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy. She was beautiful and her view of the sea was equally so.

Buddhist Goddess of Mercy
On the way out we all took pictures with our zodiac birth year animal statues. I'm the year of the tiger and Spencer is the year of the ox.

Spencer and Maggie High at Haedong Yong Gung Temple
To get to Haedong Yong Gung Temple, take bus number 181 and head east from outside the Haeundae subway stop.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Dilemmas and Delights

The weather is now officially cold. It's no longer cool; it's cold. I was hoping that things would stay warmer this year until we left on December 2nd, but that was more like wishful thinking. Deep down, I knew we would have to face some cold weather since Korea seems to have six months of winter and six months of all the other seasons. Oh well, at least we don't have to stay the whole winter!

Here's what's been going on lately in Maggie-ville:

  • Indian visa paperwork. We're applying for our Indian visas now and as with obtaining any visa, there always seems to be confusion and chaos. We now have everything together and plan on having a courier pick it up on Monday morning. Here's to hoping it gets back soon. I always stress when I send my passport away. 
  • Every month we write "report cards" for all our students. Recently, they changed the format we use. We used to use one report card for six months, where the kids would take them home, show their parents, and bring them back. Now we just give them the report card and they take it home. We have to fill out a new one every month for each student. Two months into this new method, we run out of report cards because they didn't re-order them. Now most of the report cards won't be done in time. It's comical because this is sooo typical hagwon behavior. 
  • We've begun sorting, throwing stuff out, and packing up boxes. With only three weeks left, it's time to start thinking about what we really want to keep and what we can leave behind. I thought we would have so much stuff to send home but really, we don't have much. I keep cutting more and more clothes out of my wardrobe. When I did this before we came to Korea, I thought, "How will I ever live with so few clothes??!" Now I'm like, "Don't need this. Don't wear this." Toss, give away, give away. It's no problem!!! And is actually refreshing. Now, everything in my closet is something I love and will wear. 
  • Parents' Viewing. Ugh, the dreaded time when my kindergarten students' mommies come in to watch me teach. It's terrible. My director gets all crazy and stressed and makes me all crazy and stressed. Everything gets changed a zillion times, all last minute. I'll be SO GLAD when it's over on Thursday.

  • Fall is beautiful in Korea and I just LOVE seeing the trees change color. It's one of the greatest simple pleasures and makes me happy every day
  • Skyping with my parents. I got to talk to my mom and dad this morning and I love seeing their faces and getting news from home. They are both amazing and beautiful people and I can't wait to hug them tightly when we make it back to California in the spring. 
  • Mini-trip of a lifetime. I was searching flights back to the states and noticed that pretty much every one of them had a layover and some of them were crazy long, like 23 hours. Then I thought, "How much can you do in a city in 23 hours??" The wheels started turning as I furiously searched more and more, from different airports, into different airports, different days, different airlines. It was (and still is!) so exciting!! We could be coming from our SE Asia trip and stop for 23 hours in Cairo, Istanbul, Munich, or Kuwait. The most exciting for me is Cairo. I searched some more and found out that we could easily go see the pyramids in that time. THE PYRAMIDS!!! I am a little worried about traveling there now and will have to do more research before booking the flight, but just realizing this opportunity has been awesome. I'm stoked! 
  • Halloween at Wonderland was really fun. We had parties all day! Easiest work day, ever! :) 
  • Audiobooks are my new favorite thing. I love listening to them before I go to sleep. It's so relaxing and I love being able to picture everything in my head as it's told to me. I've started listing to the Harry Potter series, read by Jim Dale, who is just amazing. I love hearing the different voices and accents of the characters. Since I've read the Harry Potter books tons of times (especially the first three), it's super cool to hear them this way. It's like a whole new experience.
  • THREE WEEKS LEFT! (of work) :) 

Loving Fall

Fall is the best time to visit Korea, without a doubt. The weather is perfect, the trees are beautiful, and the summer rains have finally stopped pouring. Every day, on the way to work I look at all the trees and note their colors. It's such a simple pleasure to see them change and watch nature at work. It's so beautiful!

loving the leaves
on the way to work
pretty gingko tree
this street is juuust starting to change

The only bad thing about fall is this:
smelly gingko fruit! yuck!

Korean Halloween at Wonderland

Halloween at Wonderland was wonderful! We had parties all day. We played games, learned about the origins of Halloween, colored pictures, and did Halloween themed word searches. It was bliss from a teacher's standpoint.

A lot of the kindergarten kids dressed up and they were so excited and cute!

Jayden, Caden, Owen, and Andrew
A monster and four princesses: Lindsey, Stella, Clara, Stephanie, and Renee
Madison and Jason Teacher
game time!
some of my Smurfs
Smurf class
Caden dressed up as....I don't know
Melanie and William
Little witch Lindsey all tuckered out!
Halloween moon...spooky and orange!