12:03 AM Jmo 0 Comments

Still busy. Still neglecting this. Which is a shame! because honestly, everyday brings something new and interesting to talk about. I don't want my bad memory to lose the beautiful details, but it's bound to happen unfortunately.

Anyhoo. Here we are.

As I mentioned before, I've been assigned an after-school class. It came as a surprise and like most things here, extremely last minute. Within 5 minutes of hearing that I was to make a class, I needed to declare the subject of said class and also the types of activities we were going to do. The first thing off the top of my head was culture and travel. So, for the past few weeks every Monday and Wednesday at 2pm has been Culture & Travel with Teacher Jessica! It's been stressful, fulfilling, empowering, and solidifying all at the same time. I say solidifying because for the longest time I was torn between staying or going and whether or not the teaching profession was right for me. My little group on Wednesday makes me feel like I've made the right choice. They're great. They make me feel like a real part of their lives and educational growth -a feeling which is pretty rare in the current situation I'm in. They even want to stay late to study and talk to me. So, as a reward I threw them a little pop and candy party. I passed out their chocolates and pineapple pop and tossed some Mr. Bean on the TV. I was hovering by my desk, acting like a teacher, and they actually called me over to sit down, have snacks, and join them at their desks. Amazing little dudes. They are incredibly smart, a delightful group of personalities, and I'm so happy that I will get to see them grow and succeed another year. Teacher Jessica for the win! (My Monday class is a different story. But we won't talk too much about them. Let's just say I have a Red Card/Yellow Card system just like a soccer game. haha)

Saturday the 15th Kate and I left for Seoul to join a group of friends for a causal little party know as Ultra Electronic Music Festival, or UMF. Just us and 100,000 of our closest friends. We caught a KTX train, had a pit stop in Hongdae for the oasis known as Taco Bell and headed off to the festival held in Seoul's Olympic Stadium. The lineup included DJ greats like Carl Cox, Fedde Le Grand, Cassette, and Avicii. It felt amazing to be a part of this cross-continent, cross-cultural event. It also felt good to dance. And dance we did. I was covered in a sweat cocktail; compiled of mine and about 250 other's sweat. We danced the entire concert, Carl Cox after-party, and then out in Hongdae. Kate and I are... troopers, if I do say so myself. We didn't book a place to stay in Seoul so that means we partied all night until the first train back to Daejeon at 6:15 in the morning. We burned so many calories that even though I ate Dunkin' Donuts, ice cream, pizza, and Taco Bell...twice, I still lost weight. Ridiculous. My new diet plan: Party more.

Now that I've officially resigned, my relationship with my coteachers has become more cozy and personal. I think it's safe to say that we are ultimately friends as well as coworkers. They have become more concerned with my personal relationships and genuinely have me on their mind. They want the best for me. All of them. Last Monday they all wanted to take me out to dinner and a cafe after work. Why? At first I wasn't sure. But as we talked at the cafe, it came out: It was because I recently broke up. They felt "sorry to me" and wanted to cheer me up. How sweet are they? After dinner we sat over two helpings of 빙수 (bingsu -Korean shaved ice dessert) for hours talking about everything from Korean history to our favorite horror movies. I didn't get home til 9:30 at night. It was a lovely night. I felt no "us" and "them" stigma. We were just girls talking about relationships, our aspirations, and ...our favorite scary movies of course.
The other day I even showed them my tattoos! The subject came up because one of them said they liked tattoos then of course they asked me if I had any. I wasn't going to lie. As I showed them they hovered around exclaiming "ooOoh!". They were very open and accepting to them and actually...like them. :)

It's hard to lose weight with a constant flow of bingsu floating your way. But a girl can try! And try I must. I'm still playing badminton with a few teachers after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I even played after-after-school with a group at my friends high school. His teachers...are..GOOD. Wow. I felt like I should of payed to watch some of them play. Impressive stuff. But, aside from badminton, I'm back to taking dance classes! Thank goodness! I've missed doing Zumba something awful, so it's been lovely getting back in front of a mirror (attempting) to shake my groove thang. Kate and I go together almost every Monday and Thursday. So far we've tried Salsa, Meringue, Machata, Samba, Reggatone, and Hip Hop. Our instructor is a Russian expat named Sasha and she knows her stuff. I look forward to class every week and it's safe to say I'm a complete addict. I'm sure the patrons of the 10:20 subway appreciate my sweaty dedication. haha "Can't sit heere!"
I'm also trying to put as much time as possible into the gym as well. I usually break on Sundays but dance, badminton, and time at the gym make for a pretty packed schedule. Thursday is my power day where I do all three. Though I'm nowhere near where I was when I first came here, I feel 10,000 times better already. It's simple. My body loves exercise and a vegetarian lifestyle. So far, I've managed to turn around half of that equation.
Keeping up with an active lifestyle, this past Saturday some friends and I took advantage of the free kayaking at Expo Park. At first we all piled into one big inflatable raft and had at it. We we're in rough shape there for a while but eventually we all struck a rythmn once we started singing 90's songs like Wallflower and one hit wonders Casey and Jo-Jo. I love these people. haha After we docked the raft, my friend Kim and I hopped into a tandem kayak and paddled as fast as we could to Expo Bridge. It felt SO GOOD to be back in the water. I love kayaking. Once I have a place of my own back in The States that is the first treat I will buy myself. It's a must. Who needs a car when I have this perfectly good kayak?!

 This past Monday I was treated to another unexpected after work outing. Hana asked me halfway through the day if I was busy. I had dance on my mind but said no because I could tell by the look on her face that Puppy on the other end of the line wasn't going to take "No" for an answer. And I'm so glad I didn't. Puppy picked us up in her car after work with Hana's sister in tow. I'm not sure if I mentioned this before but Hana's sister is super cool. She is a French/Italian chef in Seoul, has lived in both America and Australia, and...is my age. Her English is really good and we get along really well. Her favorite band is even Muse! Niceuhh. We tooled around town in Puppy's car for a bit, with Puppy reaching into the back seat every once in a while to grab my hand and tell me she loves me. We eventually picked up Hana's father from work (another surprise!). This was my first time meeting Hana's father. He had very kind face and was mild mannered just like Hana. We drove all the way across Daejeon to go to a duck restaurant in the countryside. The Bak's know that I'm trying to convert back to a vegetarian lifestyle here (we've talked about it over dinner many-a-time) but! they insisted that I needed to eat duck when the weather is humid for my health. I also think they wanted to treat me to a rather grand meal. My Mom sent a package full of gifts for Hana and Puppy the week previous and this was their way to repay. The bill was left next to me at the dinner table (I'm assuming they thought I wouldn't be able to read it...but I could.) and it wasn't cheap. At all. It was quite the spread though. We had two ducks stuffed with purple rice, nuts, and fruit, sides, soup, a sweet wasabi salad, and 맥주 (beer!). It was a lovely meal and I really did feel like part of the family. Mr. Bak made 5 or 6 Cheers' and poured my drink each time. It was cute watching Puppy tend to her husband. She kept his shot glass full of soju and his plate clear of duck bones. The fun never stops on Puppy's watch..so afterwards we took a little walk to a small school house in the countryside and talked about baseball and even more food. That must've sparked an idea because the next thing I knew we were back in the car on our way to get squid. I was stuffed. Stuffed just like the duck. But, you can't turn down Puppy. She is too cute. Thankfully for my waistline the squid-store was closed and Puppy was sweet enough to drive me all the way back home. During the car ride back home Hana's sister told me that her Dad liked me because I "acted Korean". He was impressed by my attention to Korean manners (bowing, using two hands when pouring a drink, ect.) and felt comfortable around me. He also said I wasn't "loud" like most Americans. I was thankful for this, but in a way it kinda made me sad. I believe in being yourself as well as being respectful of another's customs. I think most of us need to find that happy medium. Don't compromise yourself but still be attentive to others norms. Know when to stand your ground and, more importantly, know when to be flexible. It's difficult but it will make things easier and in the long run will give you a stronger, quicker, and more comfortable bond with another culture. Just remember, not only are you representing yourself and your family, you are also representing your country. (Especially to someone who may have never met an American before.) First impressions mean everything here.
Wednesday was another example of why I love Korea. My Principal organized an afternoon hiking trip for all the teachers at our school. After-work hiking. Who does that?! We left school around 2pm. and made our way by Mrs. Bek's car to a mountain face just outside of Panam. I walked alongside the new teacher at our school for most of the way. His name is 재혁 (Jae Hyuk) and he is my age. He's a pretty sweet and timid guy and was nice to talk to. He said him and his friends "play" in Dunsan (where I live) so maybe I'll see him around sometime. haha
It was a decent hike and my work clothes weren't helping. I prepared hiking shoes but all of my athletic stuff would show my elephant, soooo I was forced to hike up a humid mountain clad in a button up shirt -which proceeded to change from light blue to dark blue over the course of the hike. If ya know what I mean...
Halfway up the hike got a little more intense and we lost half of the teacher group. A lone 10 of us made it to the top. The view was beautiful and it was amazing to think that we hiked that high in that short of time. It took us about three hours to reach the top. Going down took about an hour and a half. The half hour was added on because we went out of our way a wee bit to check out a little temple nestled in the rock face. This was definitely the highlight of the hike. It was the smallest temple I've seen here yet and it was fairly modern. But it felt very secluded and desolate. The only ones home were a few kittens cuddling in a pile on the steps, and a couple Jindo guard dogs.
Remember when I mentioned finding a cultural happy medium? Well, respect goes both ways. As I was taking photos of the temple I overheard a few teachers talking and one of them said "waygook saram" (the foreigner person) mid sentence. I heard this, and without thinking I whipped around with a raised eyebrow and repeated "waygook saram??". The looks on their faces was priceless. I'm one to avoid confrontation at all costs. But it was obvious that they were talking about me right in front of my face. It was even more obvious that it was something bad once the gym teacher who said it started saying "Sorry! Sorry! Sorry!" over and over. I think he assumed I understood more than "waygook". I did not. But, actions speak louder than Korean words. My principal knew what was going on and came by to say something. I'm not sure what he said but his voice was stern and I heard my name. The other teachers nodded in unison and said 내 (yes). Not sure if I was the one in trouble or they were. I'm assuming it blew over fairly quickly because a few moments later my principal picked a few berries off of a tree for me to eat. Turns out this tree is the species of tree in which Buddha sat under while reaching Enlightenment. This will be symbolic and memorable for more than one reason.
The hike down I chatted it up with Hana and another new teacher 유송 Yu Song. She is my age as well and her English is fabulous. If I could speak another language as well as her...I would be one happy camper. We plan on going out soon together and even cheersed to the month of July during dinner because that's when we plan to hang out.
Dinner! Dinner was super fun. I sat by Yu Song, Chani, and Hana and once again, my professional relationships are definitely shifting into more of the realm of friends. Mr. Jeong came by (I can never get through a teacher's dinner without him coming by to hassle me in some way... All in good fun of course.) and poured me some mackoli. Some time went by and then the Principal yelled down the tabel for me to come drink some more. I knelt beside him and he poured mackoli into my bowl (a sign of respect). He smiled and told me to put some Cider (Korean pop -kinda like Sprite) in it to make it taste better. I've now been converted to MakSa. Thank you for wisdom Principal. My Korean cocktail list is growing. Wednesday was a good day. :)

**If some things in this post come across as blunt, dull, or lacking in enthusiasm I guarantee you that I'm not being sarcastic in how great these experiences have been for me. It's just that along with all the lovely things I've encountered this week, I've had my fair share of stress, setbacks, and cultural tiffs. More on that later. It's all good! Just going through a little rough patch. Bear with me.

But! Moving on! Tonight I'm celebrating a friends birthday at a baseball game and tomorrow I'm taking a trip up North with a group to go... white water rafting!!! I love weekend trips. I'll report back later!
Teacher Jessica, over and out.


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