Add. Stir. Enjoy. Repeat. Enjoy.: The Cultural Blender.

12:16 AM Jessica Montgomery 0 Comments

I quote Rocky Horror Picture Show...

"...Time is fleeting. Madness, takes its toll."
Seven words to encompass how I've been feeling this past month; and my current mindset with only 2 months to go in Korea. Where has the time gone!? What happened to June?  There is still so much to do! Dates, times, it's hard to keep it all straight...
One thing is certain: Being an expat is never boring. And if you claim to be bored, you aren't out there living.
A few weekends back I took part in a cross-cultural weekend unlike any I've had yet in Korea. I went along with a group to Jirisan National Park for a braai camp. What's a braai you ask? A braai is the South African version of a barbecue: food, drinking, music, enjoying life. All good things. What made this "barbecue" unlike any I'd been to before was A) The incredible setting, and B) The great mix of people to compliment it.
The entire group that settled up for the braai, my group and I included, stayed in an adorable pension-cabin compound nestled in the mountains of Jirisan. The air and views were incredible.
My group and I made new friends almost instantaneously. Really lovely people! We even met a Welsh couple who use their theatre talents to teach English (Let the jealousy ensue. haha). Fast-friends we became and Friday night went down in infamy. Saturday was spent laying out, baking our bodies on boulders along the banks of a river close by. We only rolled off our rocks to either test our strength with a dip in the freezing river or to send a scout out for more beer and South African cider. It was quite the life.
It was yet another moment (So many peppered throughout these past two years..) that made me sit back and really think about where I was, what led me here, how little I know, and how small the world really is. I was sitting on a boulder, overlooking an incredible batch of scenery, with a group of friends, old and new, from all over the world, in the middle of the Korean wilderness. It's moments like theses where it seems that everything, all the bits of chaos and uncertainty, have fallen into place to produce a perfect moment.


Saying "Yes!", and "Sure!", and "Why not?!" has led me to some pretty interesting places. And when Hana asked if I wanted to go with her and Puppy to Puppy's best friend's melon farm out in the country side of Daejeon, I'm sure the second exclamation jumped out of me. So, one afternoon a couple weeks ago, I headed out on a bus with Puppy and Hana. We got off the bus on the corner of No Clue and Broken-Down-Gas-Station and began to walk. We walked along the side of a busy road for about a mile or two at a steady pace; Puppy leading the way with her sun umbrella.
We walked until we came across her friend's melon stand on the corner of two dusty roads. Like many fruit stands you might see along the road here in Korea or elsewhere, it was cute and honest. Produce out from to sell, with a little raised platform behind to sit and wait for customers in the back. Complete with radio, blankets, and a stash of ramen noodles. Hana and I walked around the grounds of the farm as Puppy and her friend caught up. (They're been friends for 40 years! So great!) Three greenhouses: All the same yellow melon. I asked Hana if the farming family was sick of eating it. Hana assumed so.
Puppy's friend was a little shy at first, but she kept cutting up melon after melon for me to eat and laughed as I gorged myself. Can't help but bond over food and humor. It wasn't long until we were taking photos together.
Her husband stopped by a little later and was quite smitten with me. He told me that I should work the melon stand on the weekends because "my beauty would attract customers". Ha! He was adorable and wanted to take a photo with me. He said that he would show the photo to all of his friends, as I am his new "foreigner friend". I went home with a bag full of yellow melon and a heart full of love.
 
 
An incredible thing happened to me yesterday... You may remember a few posts back where I talked about the troubles of dealing with disabilities in the Korean classroom. Well, I'm overwhelmed and proud to say that it seems like some of my attention has payed off. I was walking into school yesterday morning when I heard a soft coo of "Excuse me?" come from behind me. I turned around to see a small woman, with her elbows in tight, clasping her hands to her chest. She asked if I was English teacher Jessica and then told me that she was the mother of the 6th grade boy I have with severe autism. (He was standing on the steps behind her a few feet back.) She wanted to apologize for any bad behavior or difficulty I encounter when teaching him. I couldn't believe it. Of course I said, no no no and truthfully I find him to be very sweet. I told her that I understood his condition and that not to worry. He is adorable and I love teaching him. Her eyes filled up and she started smiling. "Thank you! Thank you! Will you be here next semester?" Unfortunately, I had to say no. But, I told her not to worry about her son because he is quiet and sweet and any other teacher would love to have him in class. She thanked me again and said that she was thankful for me trying to care for and teach him. Afterwards she gave me a deep bow (A sign of high respect in Korean culture.). I was floored. I turned around, grabbed my chest, gasped, and darted into my office where I sat down at my desk and cried. Truly my greatest teacher moment. I often feel that my work here is trivial....it's nice to know that I do in fact make a difference at times. Incredible moment. I'll never forget it.
 
 
 
 
I've counted and reality is sinking in. I only have 22 days left of teaching! My desk has been a swirl of numbers and dates lately as I try to plan my way through the next few weekends, camps, and ultimately, my departure and backpacking adventure I affectionately call: Post-Korea.

Here's my final schedule: (If you happen to be bumming around South East Asia during any of these dates, feel free to meet up!)

Sept. 22nd: Depart Korea for Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Sept. 26th-October 6th: Siem Reap/Sihanoukville
October 7th: Depart for Hanoi, Vietnam
October 13th-21st: Hoi An/Ho Chi Minh City
October 22nd: Depart for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
October 25th: Depart for the island of Borneo
November 1st: Depart for USA


Ohh, and then...surprise! I'll be heading to South Africa December 8th. :D

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