Summer, Summer, Summertime

7:59 PM Jessica Montgomery 0 Comments

As of yesterday, I've been living in South Korea for an entire year. Doesn't seem possible. But! Before I go on reflecting on this past year, I need to recap the last couple weeks and the craziness the ensued (Summer vacation).

After a couple days off and a long weekend, it was back to work in the dense humidity of the Korean summer. I know, that sounds like I was working in the fields picking cabbage for kimchi. Can't really compare hard labor to my job. Ever. But walking to and from my new school (for the week) for the government run initiative known as Hermes camp, provided enough sweat on my back to suggest that I was in fact working the fields. I thoroughly enjoyed Hermes Camp though! Hermes Camp, for those that are unfamiliar, is a week long English camp provided to students with lower incomes who could not otherwise afford such a camp or hagwon (after school academy). We were told, because of this requirement, that the student's English levels would be very low. But to my surprise, most of them were at par with if not better than most of my students!
I liked working Hermes because it gave me the freedom to do whatever I wanted. You design the subject matter, lesson plan, activities, etc. You can even request a stock pile of materials for the camp to purchase. And by stock pile, I mean don't-hold-back-mouth-watering-teacher-supplies-stockpile-biznass. Naturally, I fell back on what I loved: Animals and Art; with a wee bit of theatre tossed in there. I can't stray too far away! haha I did a lesson similar to an activity I did while I taught a summer camp in Rochester, MI at Paint Creek Center for the Arts. We made animal masks. Yep. I taught my class 6 times, in 6 different classrooms, with 6 different coteachers. I was quite proud of my lesson. Everything went pretty smooth, the kids had fun, and I think all the coteachers were comfortable working with me. Walking the halls after a day of teaching, some students (who I just met that week) would pop out of their classrooms, yell "Jessica Teacher!" and give me a hug. Some of my fellow native teachers were surprised by this and ended up calling me "The Celebrity". I'll take it! :)

Coming out of past weekend lows (personal reasons), I was looking quite forward to the post-Hermes weekend high of my friend's birthday. Here in Korea, the expat community is so small that it's hard to think of a weekend without a birthday beer in order. But this one was different because it was my best friend here. We were doing it up big and celebrating all weekend. Daejeon and Seoul were both going to be aware of this girl turning one year older. And dare say we did not disappoint. On Friday we went out in Timeworld and caused a ruckus as per usual. Saturday the entire Daejeon troop made our way to Seoul in separate groups and separate hostels. One thing that I will never forget and never throw away from expat life is the effort to rally together to have fun as one. So we met up in Hongdae on a friends rooftop. Yes, rooftop. And had a rooftop party well into the night. But hey, we were in Hongdae. So after a while it was time to people watch in Hongdae Park and dance til we had blisters (which I did) at Bar Zen. Our groups dispersed after a while and I chose to take a little walk by myself through the streets of Seoul. It was a refreshing come-down from the club atmospheres and a much needed head-clearer. If you've ever walked around Hongdae, I'm sure you're wondering how it could be any sort of "head-clearer" with all the stimuli (advertisements, lights, music, fashion, drunk people). But it was. The night had cooled and it was nice to make my own way back to the hostel.
Sunday turned into all sorts of "Funday". I don't think I've had that much fun at breakfast in my life. Most of our group that stayed at our hostel left early in the morning back home for Daejeon. But some of us, who didn't have to work Monday morning, took our time and cruised out way past check-out time. One of my friends, still a little tipsy from the night before, ended up relaxing in a kiddie pool outside of our hostel and struck up a sitcom worthy relationship with our hostel's cleaning lady. The title of the sitcom: Still Drunk British Guy. I think it'll air weekdays on Fox because of the low brow humor. Set to premier Fall, 2013.

So! Onward to breakfast! My bestie and the Still-Drunk-British-Guy walked the streets of Seoul in search of a Western Breakfast. We used our "muscle memory" (inside joke, sorry) and found a place called "American Breakfast" or something strangee like that. Like I said previous, I have't laughed that much at breakfast in a looooong time. Or any time that I can really remember. haha We had a great time and let the syrup fly! We were joined soon after by my beautiful South African friend and soon our table was full with more jokes, puns, and cultural jabs. After breakfast, Kate and I, since we had nowhere to go and a couple days off til Australia, went back to our friends roof for a little Sunday-Funday. The rooftop bbq was on and I must say that this day turned out to be my favorite of the weekend. I met so many lovely and interesting people on that rooftop. Usually if you're introduced to a native English speaker here in Korea it's safe to assume that they are an English teacher. But I had the pleasure of meeting others who were in the film business and print business, among other things. It was great. Conversations were new and it felt good to connect with new people over old things. Seoul's got soul, that is certain. I'm going back this weekend for a final farewell to some of my friends and it will be great to reconnect with those I met last time.
Sunday went on into the night and after all the Monday-morning-working-lonely hearts headed home (or to a floor to temporarily call home 'til their early morning train ride) Kate and I headed out to find our place to crash. We were walking and walking and ended up in a hotel district just outside of the main Hongdae drag. We came across what seemed to be a hotel well out of our price range but decided, ya know what, our vacation starts now. Might as well pop in and check the price for one night. To our surprise it was well within our means so we decided to treat ourselves and put ourselves up in a fabulous air conditioned room, with fluffy beds, and a bathtub. Being spontaneous is fabulous. It was exactly what I needed: Meaningful conversation well into the night, free coffee, and a bathtub waiting for me soak away all worries.

Monday in Seoul was confusing. I've never been there on a weekday so my internal clock was all sorts of confused. That combined with the fact that I'd yet to realize I was leaving for Australia on Wednesday, you could of told me that next week was Christmas and I might've believed you. After breakfast and a wee bit of shopping, Kate left to meet a friend and I was back to wandering the streets of Seoul alone. I was always confused at the thought of travelling somewhere by myself. Many of my friends have taken vacations to other countries by themselves and I never really saw the appeal. I always thought that half of the fun of travelling was pointing out something and saying "Hey! Isn't that cool?" to someone else. But, the more that I lone-wolf it, the more I see the draw. -Long story short: I'm considering going to Japan on my own for the upcoming Chuseok holiday. I don't know yet. Could be good for me. We'll see!

Tuesday we officially went out to dinner for Kate's birthday with a small, close group... Wait, let's back track and talk about how weird my Tuesday was. After Hermes I went for a bike ride to de-stress. I should've known better. I ended up being hit by a car as I was crossing the street. At a crosswalk mind you. It wasn't bad. I saw it coming actually and managed to stick my foot out and kick the car to avoid any real damage to me or my bike. I just kinda toppled over. It was bound to happen sooner or later. Driving here is...interesting. There is really no "right of way". It's more like Go! and if you make it, you get a gold star! So that was frustrating. After my wee fender bender with a Kia, I stopped by my local 7-11 for some much needed water. That's when things got even weirder. I walk in and the attendant, who is maybe 16 years old, is slumped over in a chair. At first I think nothing of it because it's fairly common for people to sleep in public here. But then I go to pay and she's not waking up. And say "Hello" and "Excuse me." in Korean over and over and still nothing. I became worried and go in a little closer to see if she's alright. She wakes up with a dazed look on her face and attempts to stand up. She makes it about half way and falls into me. I caught her by the shoulders and continue to ask if she's ok. She finally comes to and says that she's fine. I felt strange, overwhelmed, and pretty helpless considering that even if she could tell me what was wrong I wouldn't be able to understand her. I asked again if she was ok and she seemed to snap out of it more and more. I assume, based on her age and the fact that drug abuse is not a problem here (There are no drugs!), she must of studied herself to exhaustion. I'm not trying to be smart. I honestly think that's what the problem was. As I turned to leave she sat back down. After meeting with friends for the birthday dinner, the grande finale of crazy occurred on my walk home. I'd rather not talk about in on here. But if you're interested, and know me personally, I'll tell you some other time... So yeah, Tuesday. Woof.

Then Wednesday I left my apartment for the airport. What?? What a whirlwind.

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