Sunday, November 17, 2013

CHUSEOK: LOTTE WORLD

September was a busy month.
Chuseok which is Thanksgiving in Korea fell on this month. Attached to this holiday were 10 days off (for me... for everyone else I think it might of being 5) I decided to stay in-country this time. It was tempting to go away to a far away place near-by. The last two Chuseok holidays I've taken off to Yakushima, Japan. But this, being my last year here, I thought that perhaps sticking around might be fun.
My friend Ben didn't have anything special plan as well, so we teamed up and decided to go to Seoul. I had read somewhere that Chuseok was the best time to travel to Seoul since the majority of people drive AWAY to be with their families in the country side. It has been proven true by yours truly. It really was the best time to travel to Seoul. There were no crowded subways,streets, nor roads. It was quite nice.

Subway in Seoul during Chuseuk. 

Never had I seen an underground this empty in Seoul before.
This looks more Gwangju than Seoul.
Ben and I chose to stay at Ramada (a big splurge for me) Executive style which included free dinner and breakfast. It was so awesome! I ate until I couldn't stomach any more food.
Ben and I made a day out of it in Lotte World. I realize that as I grow older, another thing I can't stomach is roller coasters. I love them still...only that now, if I feel like throwing up each time. The best part was that even though we had to make a line for some of the rides, we usually didn't have to wait too long, if at all. We even got to go on our favorite ride twice!

Our FAVORITE ride!

Didn't have the stomach for this one.

Ben is super excited!

Korean soldiers are so cute... and so not intimidating.


My advice for those coming to Korea, or already in Korea, definitely go to Seoul during Chuseok. It is the best time to have the city mostly to yourself. Especially Lotte World or any other place that would most likely be crowded on any given weekend. It was a lot of fun.
I may of not gone anywhere exotic, but I definitely enjoyed my time off right here at 'home.'

Monday, October 21, 2013

OPERA, WEDDINGS, AND BEING SINGLE.


This weekend I went to see “La Traviata” an Italian Opera playing at the Art Center in Seoul. I went with my very cool and fun friend Samantha. We decided to make a ‘girls’ evening out of it by dressing up and looking fancy.

























The Opera was quite good; AMAZING actually. The music and voices of the singers made the hair in my arms rise at times. It was so beautiful~ the sound of the music. I miss that. I miss the arts. I miss living in an international city sometimes.



Though our plans didn’t go as smoothly as we would have liked (we were late to everything) it was still a wonderful night of running around in Seoul.  
But the reason for this entry is because there are other things that are on my mind and were spoken with Samantha on our bus ride into the city.


Last week I went to my friend Kelly’s wedding ceremony which symbolized and celebrated the love and commitment she and her husband have for each other. I was lucky to have met Kelly pre-Deuk since it provided me the chance to witness their love from the beginning. From the moment I entered the temple there was serenity. Soft music playing in the grounds plus the sunny, bright, cool autumn  day brightening the pictures painted on the temple walls created a sweet mood. I felt like the day looked… bright, airy… happy. Perfect. All these ingredients stirred something inside. Seeing Kelly being carried in while Deuk waited in their traditional regalia, it made me wish hard for the day when I too will be carried (or walked) to my awaiting love.

Marriage is indeed a celebration; a celebration of love and trust. To feel secure with another person. To start a new family which will sprout out of those ingredients. The knowledge that where there was once a one, there are now two and these two committing to take care of one another forever (for marriage is meant forever right? No one goes into it with thoughts of separation or divorce.) At the same time, when two become one flesh. These thoughts overwhelm me since I’ve been one for a very long time. But I no longer feel that being one is enough. I would like to get marry. Not because I feel lonely or alone. No. It’s because two are better than one. And because I would like my best friend by my side always. No matter where I am.

Last year I was in a relationship. The first boyfriend after so many years of being ‘single.’ He complemented me in many aspects and because of these positives; I could very easily have overlooked how incompatible we were.  Had I not discussed/asked him about his long term plans. His expectations. Future plans. We would most likely still be wasting each other's time. First, Joe doesn’t believe in God (I do) and second his view of marriage is: “People who want to be together should be together, and when they no longer want to be together, they shouldn’t.  Marriage keeps people stuck in relationships they no longer want.” He doesn’t want to be one of those people and never wants nor hopes to get marry. He ended a 5 year relationship that mattered to him; said good-bye to the woman he claimed to love because she wanted what he was incapable to give. Commitment. Hearing him tell this story made me so sad (and scared me straight). Here was a man who is a decent person in many levels, but has issues that are out of my scope and understanding. So after mulling this for some time, I decided that it would be best to walk away from the relationship.
It has been about 10 months since our break-up and in rare moments I wonder about him and his issues with marriage. I know that if my future with Joe hadn’t weighed so heavily in my mind and heart, we would most likely still be together. As long as I wasn’t making any long term demands nor have high expectations, we were cool. Our relationship would of being fine.  And so I wondered… 
I wondered not about how our relationship would of turned out, I know how it would of turned out... and it would of included a lot of disappointment, broken hearts, and regret. But I wonder how much time I would of wasted had I not asked him the difficult questions early on. 
He is in a new relationship now...  and I wonder if his new Korean girlfriend knows what I know. Has she discussed expectations and long-term plans? Has he? Are they on the same page in wanting the same thing/? Through this experience I learned how important it is to bring expectations early on a relationship. 

On our way to Seoul with Samantha, we started talking about weddings and how I had attended my friend’s traditional ceremony and how beautiful it was etc. etc. Then WE started talking about the type of weddings we wanted. Where and when and venues and colors and how big or small we thought it would be. We spoke of the qualities we wanted on our future partner. First and foremost he MUST be a Godly man, and from there our list began...

Talking about these things excited me. Going to Kelly and Deuk’s wedding had excited me. And I realized without a doubt in my mind that being single fills me with hope. I know that being single provides me with the chance to come across the man that will be willing to marry me and commit to me and love me the way I want and need. It provides me with the chance to meet the man who will compliment me spiritually. Had I chosen to ‘suck it up’ and played along with ‘whatever happens-happens’ with Joe, I know that we would never be where I want our relationship to be. I wasn't and would never be happy. I wasn't and would never feel secure in him or our relationship.

So my big realization here is and what I want to share with all my single friends out there is that this is our time to make the most of our single life! Do whatever your heart desires and enjoy it. Life can indeed be beautiful. And NEVER settle. I know I speak of weddings... but there can never be a wedding without the partner that I visualize for myself. The man I know will complete me and love me the way I should be loved. And if I never marry, then it's okay too, because I am enjoying all that is around me. I am enjoying visiting my friends in Korea. I am enjoying going to their birthdays and celebrations and farewell parties. I am enjoying going to church (sort of) most definitely enjoying my growing spiritual life... and as long as I have friends and Jesus these things will never end. I would rather enjoy the things around me than to settle for a poor relationship that may give me a wedding (or not even that) may provide companionship, but will keep me ultimately unhappy and unsatisfied. Keep me from enjoying the life that I have.

Another realization that smacked me right in the face is that I want to be home. I miss my family and my friends and I want to enjoy them too. Being around Kelly’s family and her husband’s family made me feel all warm and fuzzy. It made me want to be around all that is familiar. I am tired of being a foreigner.
I am GOING HOME! Come this new year, I will not be renewing my contract at my university and will be flying home indefinitely.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

THE KOREAN WEDDING

I FINALLY got to experience a bona fide TRADITIONAL Korean wedding! It was SO BEAUTIFUL and even though I couldn't understand a SINGLE word that came out of the man who was leading the ceremony, I felt so touched that I chocked up and tears welled up throughout.

I remembered when Kelly and Deuk started dating. I don't remember her story of how they met, but I do remember how hot they were for each other. I remembered how happy Kelly seemed. I also remembered sitting at a waffle/coffee house in downtown Daegu a few months later as she tells me that though Deuk is a great person and the best boyfriend one can ever hoped for, she had decided to go back to the United States and their romance will be no more.
A few months after Kelly had left, Deuk decides that no one can ever be like his beloved Kelly and misses her and her big blue eyes so much that with his savings buys a ticket to the United States. He romances Kelly and sweeps her off her heels for the second time that as soon as she can manage, bags a job and is back in Korea. Two years later here they are...


Kelly is being carried into the main stage. She looks GORGEOUS. 

Kelly being presented to her husband Deuk.

I didn't understand what was being said, but it made me want to cry.


The Families.


Mr. and Mrs. Hwang-O'Rourke

View of the temple where the wedding took place. Nice eh?


Traditional Korean presentation of families.

At the after party/reception with their beautiful one year old daughter, Meila.

In my opinion Kelly and Deuk have a beautiful love story. A story that transcended distance and culture. It is rare to see a Korean man with a western woman. The men have a harder time breaking the wall of culture and language due to their responsibility to their parents. It is accepted by the Korean parents that their daughter, once married, will belong to her husband's family. But the male, will belong to his parents and will take care of them at their old age.

I once asked a Korean man if he would ever think of marrying a western woman and his answer was 'no.' He said his parents would never approve. His parents would have to know her, know her parents, and if they are in another country and they speak a different language, it would be impossible for the families to unite. He also said that she would have to speak Korean, cook Korean food, communicate with his parents. And his parents would want him to stay in Korea.
Deuk forwent tradition and perhaps his parents expectations and instead went after the woman he loved regardless of tradition, language, culture, distance.
Kelly forwent the same and her country to be with Deuk.

It has been my pleasure and privilege to have been a witness to this lovely story from the beginning. I am also thankful to Kelly and Deuk for allowing me to be a part of their perfect day.
It was through them and their love story that I was able to experience a different side of Korea.
All I could think was, I wish Korea would stay more traditional. When Korea is not trying to so hard to be 'Westernized' but her traditional self, that is when she shows her most exquisite face.


Saturday, October 5, 2013

"ES TAN CORTO EL AMOR, Y ES TAN LARGO EL OLVIDO..."

Pablo Neruda
Poema XX (Puedo escribir los versos...)
   Pablo Neruda
Poem XX (Tonight I can write the saddest...)
Puedo escribir los versos más tristes esta noche.Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
Escribir, por ejemplo: -La noche esta estrellada,Write, for example, 'The night is starry
y tiritan, azules, los astros, a lo lejos-.and the stars are blue and shiver in the distance.'
El viento de la noche gira en el cielo y canta.The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.
Puedo escribir los versos más tristes esta noche.Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
Yo la quise, y a veces ella también me quiso.I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.
En las noches como ésta la tuve entre mis brazos.Through nights like this one I held her in my arms.
La besé tantas veces bajo el cielo infinito.I kissed her so many times under the endless sky.
Ella me quiso, a veces yo también la quería.She loved me, sometimes I loved her too.
Cómo no haber amado sus grandes ojos fijos.How could one not have loved her great still eyes.
Puedo escribir los versos más tristes esta noche.Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
Pensar que no la tengo. Sentir que la he perdido.To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.
Oír la noche inmensa, más inmensa sin ella.To hear the immense night, still more immense without her.
Y el verso cae al alma como al pasto el rocío.And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.
Qué importa que mi amor no pudiera guardarla.What does it matter that my love could not keep her.
La noche está estrellada y ella no está conmigo.The night is starry and she is not with me.
Eso es todo. A lo lejos alguien canta. A lo lejos.This is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance.
Mi alma no se contenta con haberla perdido.My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.
Como para acercarla mi mirada la busca.My sight tries to find her as though to bring her closer.
Mi corazón la busca, y ella no está conmigo.My heart looks for her, and she is not with me.
La misma noche que hace blanquear los mismos árboles.The same night whitening the same trees.
Nosotros, los de entonces, ya no somos los mismos.We, of that time, are no longer the same.
Ya no la quiero, es cierto, pero cuánto la quise.I no longer love her, that's certain, but how I loved her.
Mi voz buscaba el viento para tocar su oído.My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.
De otro. Será de otro. Como antes de mis besos.Another's. She will be another's. As before she was of my kisses.
Su voz, su cuerpo claro. Sus ojos infinitos.Her voice, her bright body. Her infinite eyes.
Ya no la quiero, es cierto, pero tal vez la quiero.I no longer love her, that's certain, but maybe I love her.
Es tan corto el amor, y es tan largo el olvido.Love is so short, forgetting is so long.
Porque en noches como ésta la tuve entre mis brazos,Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms,
mi alma no se contenta con haberla perdido.my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.
Aunque éste sea el último dolor que ella me causa,Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer,
y éstos sean los últimos versos que yo le escribo.and these the last verses that I write for her.

There was once a boy named Mick, whom I met in a bus terminal somewhere in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. My overnight bus arrived in the capital from Siem Reap earlier than expected (4 a.m versus 6 a.m). I couldn't find the name nor address of my hostel. So I asked the person seating in the bench across from me "May I borrow your Lonely Planet?" That question led to a 3 hour conversation, which led to a weekend in Kep, to an adventure or two in the day and night market in Phnom Penh, to 2 month skype conversations, and finally to an unforgetable month in New Zealand.
Perhaps it was the sense of an adventure; the mindset of a traveler that went like this: "I am on a trip without an itenary, without a timeline. It's just me, my backpack, and the dusty roads of South East Asia. Whatever happens, happens". When Mick asked 'Hey, maybe you should come along.' My response was 'Should I?' To what he responded 'You should.' And that was it. We took off on the 5 hour bus ride to Kep.
This was Aug. 25th 2011.

My best memories of our days in Kep was swimming  in the brown waters of the deserted Mekong river just he and I.  Conversing with him across the table as we feasted on the most delicious seafood in Cambodia sharing stories that made each other laugh. 
In Phnom Penh after having had spent a few days together and feeling comfortable with each other, we were sitting in a tuk tuk when he asked in his Swiss German/Italian accent 'have you ever kissed on a tuk tuk before?' To what I responded in complete amazement  'No! and we shouldn't. It would be so disrespecful.' He answered, by planting one right on my lips! I proceeded to take his big hat made of hay which he was using to protect agains the sun to cover our faces as I planted one on him! This was fitting, since we were driving to the airport to drop him off and when would we have the chance to lock lips again?   


Riding a tuk tuk to the night market in Phnom Penh.

On November 1st, 2011 I landed in New Zealand. 
A few hours later, I met up with Mick in a pub somewhere in Christchurch. Though he is from Switzerland, he was in NZ finishing up his thesis for his Masters in enviromental engineering. We didn't see each other everyday or as often as we would of liked. For he was busy at work completing his thesis and I HAD to see NZ... I mean it's wasn't all about him ;)
He showed me as much as he could as time allowed. My best memory in NZ with him, lie during our weekend in Lake Tekapo. We rented a car and took off to a cabin. The place was GORGEOUS! One of the most beautiful lakes I've seen and the fact that I was seeing it with someone whose company I TRULY TRULY enjoyed, was simply perfect. So many times we would look at each other in pure amazement and say "I can't believe you (or I'm) in New Zealand. From Cambodia to here. Incredible!"


Lake Tekapo, New Zealand.
  
The days and moments we shared are unforgettable to me... even up to this day. Sometimes I wonder about him... Today is one of those days. 

I haven't met or been with someone that enjoyed life and adventure as much as he did. He made everything that much brighter. He made me laugh... all the time. 

Since this is not a movie or a book but MY life, we had to say good-bye.
His time in NZ was coming to an end as was mine. Our last dinner together was one of the saddest. I can recall him saying how he didn't want that. He didn't want our last time together to be so sad. But how else can one say good-bye to one's favorite person?

If this was a movie, things would of worked out. I would of moved to Switzerland. Or he would of moved to the U.S. with no problems. But my reality is so different. How does one turn their life upside down for a person that they just met? When both are at a crossroads. (He finishing up his schooling and I deciding whether I should go back to Korea or America.) I think ending it with such fond memories was the best thing for us. I will always have my South East Asia romance. The one where nothing went wrong. The one where he never disappointed me. The one where he stays shiny and bright. The one that led me to a beautiful place like New Zealand; a country I probably would of never visited otherwise. 

UPDATE.
i did see him one last time.
he came here.
he came to Korea. 
last summer.
not for me.
but for a 3 month job at an International Expo that Korea was hosting.
i didn't know. 
i was shocked when I bumped into him.
we hadn't spoken in months. 
he was part of the Switzerland Pavilion crew. 
we looked at each other.
his last words were, "I can't. I can't talk to you. please understand." 
i walked away.
and this time I believe is forever.
i don't think i will ever see him again. 

I end with his words... "Sometimes you can't stay friends with everyone you meet. Even if you think they are great and you care for them. Circustances just won't allow that." 


  

Sunday, September 29, 2013

UPDATE: WORK

The first time I left Korea, I knew I needed a break. I needed to leave. I felt within though, that it wasn't a good-bye, but more like a 'see you later.' After traveling for 4 months in south east asia and New Zealand, I came back to Korea. How did that happen? Well, Korea made me an offer I couldn't resist...

After a month in New Zealand, I was running out of money. Reality was starting to creep in. I knew that my time of travel was coming to an end. I wasn't really interested in going anywhere but home. But where was home... Korea or the United States? Both felt so familiar and comfortable.
I decided to come back to Korea in time to work at a winter camp. Korea doesn't like to give kids too long of a break. There are winter camps and summer camps during each school vacation. A four week, 6 days a week gig paid close to $3,000.00 which I desperately needed. So I applied, interviewed, and accepted the position at a winter camp in Gyeonggi-Do. As I had been researching for these winter camps, I came across universities looking to hire English language teachers. I thought to myself, 'The only way that I will stay in Korea for another year, is if I work at a university." I also started to think that if I stayed in Korea where would I like to live? In Daegu? Busan? Seoul? I remembered that the most beautiful places I had seen in Korea had laid in Jeollanam-Do (Boseong green tea fields, Suncheon, and Jirisan National Park). So I said in one small prayer to God: "If you want me to stay in Korea, then please open the doors for a position in an university. Preferably in Jeollanam-Do. If not, then I know that I am meant to go back to the U.S". And with that I started applying to universities in Gwangju and surrounding area. I don't remember how long it took, but within weeks I had job offers from 2 different universities.
At the end I opted to accept a position at Dongshin University in Naju.





University positions are COVETED here because of the low hours of teaching required and long vacations. At Donghin on my first year I had to work 18 hours a week and 8 weeks of vacation per year (on my second term which I am currently fulfilling, my hours dropped to 12.) Other universities offer a much better package. For example an ex-boyfriend who also works at a university only teaches for 8 or 9 hours 4 days a week and receives 16 weeks of vacation. But then again he also has a Masters. (I don't.)



The only downside to this position was/is the pay. It definitely pays less than EPIK. But having had finished paying off my school loan (and only debt), I felt confident and very lucky to accept the position at Dongshin. And of course, I fell in love with the little 'village' surrounding it. But the BEST part of it all, is that I would walk less than 10 minutes from my apt. to the university. After my last job where I had to commute for one hour driving each way, this was HEAVEN. I would of accepted the job on that perk alone. My new employer threw an even better and nicer surprise: the English department doesn't work on Mondays...

So I had 3 day weekends, 18 hour work load and one month off at the end of each semester...

How does one refuse such an opportunity?

My classroom.