Saturday, August 31, 2013

There are other foreigners here!

Last night I came home from school, still without a phone and internet.  Now, what do you do when you have no phone, no internet, and no friends?

I decided to put on pajamas and watch some episodes of Friends, of course.

So there I was. 8:00 on Friday night and I was pretty much ready to fall asleep, when I heard what I thought was my doorbell.

Who could it be?  I thought it had to be my co-teacher stopping by for something.

But when I opened the door it wasn't my was two American guys.

Hooray! The other expats found me! They introduced themselves and invited me to come out with them.

Of course I joined them and ended up meeting a lot of the other expats in the area.  There's not a HUGE group, but enough people that it made me feel like I'm not completely alone in this town.

Yay for not being totally isolated! I can't wait to get to know everyone better.

Finally Friday

I was sitting at my desk today when one of my co-teachers told me to go to the cafeteria.  Apparently from 11:30 on teachers are supposed to go get lunch whenever they have time.  Yesterday I went at the same time as some other teachers, but today I was on my own.

I got to the cafeteria and there were only two other teachers sitting at the table. I grabbed a tray and saw that there were bowls of noodles, so I took a bowl and moved down the line.  There were large bowls of what appeared to be a questionable looking brown sauce as well as something that was circular shaped and looked like it was some sort of breaded meat.  I skipped the sauce because it looked odd and I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I started to grab for the food that was next to it.  As I grabbed it, out of nowhere one of the cafeteria workers ran over and started yelling something at me, grabbed my bowl and put the sauce on my noodles. 

Silly American.  I don’t even know how to get my food from the cafeteria. 

But really, I don’t know how to do much of anything in Korea.  In short, even the simplest daily activities have become a guessing game.  It’s like suddenly being a child again, dependent on others for even the simplest tasks. I have to guess when buying food at the corner store because I don’t know what it says on the label.  I have to guess what exactly I’m eating at lunch.  I constantly have to guess when using my computer at school because all the programs are in Korean (I've used power point and Microsoft word millions of times, but when it’s in Korean, it makes it a HUGE guessing game….my computer at school is super slow, and I’m guessing it’s because the other teachers before me and I have probably inadvertently clicked on and installed so many random things over the years).  I have to guess what the stores I walk by sell.  I have to guess about what kind of food is served at a restaurant.  I have to guess what people are talking about when I walk by. The list goes on and on. 

You never can fully understand how influential and powerful literacy and language comprehension are until you are in a place where you understand nothing.  Over the past few days, I’ve become hypersensitive to how much I really DON’T understand. 

All the more reason I need to start studying my Korean. Of course, that would require internet, which I still don’t have.   

My small victory of the day was figuring how to turn on my hot water.  After three days of cold showers, I brought the subject up with my co-teacher again, at which point she drew me a picture of where the control is in my room.  Of course, it was easy enough to explain, and I’m not sure why it took so long to get that information?  But after playing around will a combination of buttons, I finally have hot water.  That warm shower will be glorious tomorrow morning.

I also got to meet a few more students today.  After school I went upstairs to see one of my co-teachers and passed by many students on the way who were so eager to talk to me.  As I sat in my co-teacher’s office, there were TONS of girls peeking through the door.  It really is so funny , and I can’t wait to meet them all next week. 

Of course, I am still lost about what exactly I should be teaching next week for this writing class.  I came up with some questions for the kids to answer, but I have no idea if they will be too hard or too easy, or really what the heck is expected of me.  Am I supposed to have some conversation in there?  Is the class really just writing?  How long do they write for?  I guess I will wing it and see how it goes and go from there.

I also found out today (surprise!) that I will be teaching a class at night.  It’s typical for EPIK teachers to teach an after school class, but I was hoping that since I have such a heavy class load I wouldn't have to.  Of course, today I was filled in that I will be teaching Tuesday nights.  I can basically teach whatever I want, which is cool, but also quite a bit of freedom.  The good thing about this is that I will get paid overtime, amounting to an extra 60,000 won (a little less than $60) a week, three weeks a month.  Not bad extra cash.  

Day 3

Originally written Thursday, August 29

Today was less eventful than the past two days, but I am still exhausted nonetheless.  On my way to school around 8:15 this morning I ran into another EPIKer from my class.  I had no idea he was in this town as well, but I’m pretty sure I’ve never been so excited to see another American.  I got to school and at 9:00 I met with two of the other English teachers that I will be working with.  I have 4 co-teachers in total, but I think three different preps. 

At EPIK orientation, we were told that we would only be teaching speaking and listening and that our job was to get students to speak.  But SURPRISE! I’m teaching writing.  From what I can tell the other two classes I teach will be more cultural classes (or as the teachers told me that’s the “fun” class that needs to engage the kids).  Apparently the writing class (which is called Advanced English Conversation….but I don’t think really had anything to do with conversation?), is the “very important” class. 

I have no idea how to teach a writing class (I mean, I taught writing plenty in social studies classes), but I have no idea what level these students are at.  The teachers said they should be able to write sentences, but I really have no idea what to expect in terms of their writing ability. 

So, I’m trying to make a writing prompt for Monday with really no idea what is expected of me or what the students can do.  For the other classes on Monday, I don’t even know what the classes are supposed to be about, or who I am teaching those classes with. 

It wouldn’t be such a big deal, but I don’t want the other teachers to think that I am unprepared or a bad teacher.  I have to say, I’m slightly envious of the people who got elementary school and get to spend their days singing songs. 

Of course, I will love high school once I have a better idea of what I’m doing, but I teach 21 classes a week.  That’s a lot! They told us at orientation that we shouldn't take any work home with us, but I’m pretty sure that I am going to be the one that ends up grading their writing?  Which will potentially be a lot? 

On a lighter note, I have never felt like such a celebrity in my life.  There have been many students that have come in to the teacher’s office to catch a glimpse of me.  It’s pretty amusing because they usually come with another friend and usually are giggling as they look at me.  Sometimes they will tell me I’m pretty or say hello.  As I was leaving school today, there were many kids outside and almost all of them said hello to me.  Some also already know my name, which they are always proud to tell me. 

It’s quite the experience to be so noticeable all of a sudden.  You really don’t realize how diverse America is (even NH!) until you are thrown into such a homogeneous society.  If it weren't for the English teachers here, many of these students would probably live a considerable amount of their lives without encountering a westerner. 

On a totally different note, today after school I took a little walk to see what is around me.  What did I discover? 

There is pretty much nothing around me.

 But I did find a little corner store right near my apartment.  I finally bought some laundry detergent (totally guessed on what kind to buy because I couldn't read any of the containers) and right now I have my very first load of laundry in the washer.  Which, by the way, is also an accomplishment because I can’t read any of the buttons on the washer.  But hey, if my clothes are clean, mission accomplished!

Once I get more settled down I will have much shorter posts, and be able to post more about random aspects of life of Korea.  But for now I’m somewhat long winded because I have a feeling that a year from now, these days are going to be the ones that are most comical to look back on. 

Love you all! 

Day 2

Originally written Wednesday, 8/28

Day 2 is down…talk about exhausting! I got picked up at 9:00 this morning by my co-teacher.  After we got on the road she told me that she was bringing me to get my picture taken.  I totally forgot that I would need a picture for my ARC (I actually brought a bunch of passport pictures with me, but I didn’t think to bring them, and I didn’t want to ask her to turn around to go pick them up, so I just went with it). In the US when you need a passport picture you just go to a CVS or Wal-Mart, but we went to a legit photo studio.  The woman who was taking my picture insisted on pushing all my bangs completely aside, buttoning my black cardigan up to the highest button, and not allowing me to smile.  Just use your imagination to picture how wonderful these photos look.  Oh well.

After that we went to school because we had to wait until 11:00 to pick up the pictures.  I got a tour of the school (which is so small!) and got a glimpse of some of the students I will be teaching.  It was really entertaining to see the way that the students would stare at me when they saw me walking through the halls.  There is definitely no blending in here.
At 11:00 we went to pick up my pictures then headed to Gumi to apply for my Alien Registration Card.  Gumi is where I got picked up by my co-teacher yesterday (about an hour and twenty minute drive), so I’m definitely getting lots of quality time with my co-teacher.  We stopped for lunch along the way and she of course directed me towards the “western food”. This “western food” was pork with a brown sauce on it, but of course it was served with rice, kimchi, and Korean soup.  I actually think the most western thing about it was that we used a fork and knife, but regardless, the food was good, and for probably the first meal since I’ve been here, I didn’t have to guess what is was that I was eating. 

Registering for my ARC was actually very quick, and we were on our way in no time.  On our way back, we stopped to open my bank account.  I didn’t think this was possible until I had my ARC, but my co-teacher did the talking and they let me open an account anyway.  Next we stopped at a cell phone store.  I was also sure that I wouldn’t be able to get a phone until I had my ARC, but since my co-teacher was able to get me a bank account, I figured I’d let her try this too.  Unfortunately, they said that I would have to wait, so I am still phoneless.  C’est la vie. 

After running all of those errands we went back to school because my co-teacher had to teach a class.  I really wanted to use the internet to check my e-mail and facebook, but there were other teachers trying to get a messenger program to run on my computer the whole time.  At 6:00 we went to a restaurant downtown for dinner with all the teachers from the school.  The food at dinner was SO GOOD.  We had Korean barbeque, which I was very happy about because I had heard such amazing things about it—it definitely lived up to the hype.  Yay Korea!

I have to say, Koreans know how to do it right.  The beer and soju were flowing, and everyone was having a good time.  Of course, there were plenty of awkward moments as I struggled to use my chopsticks in front of everyone….it’s a skill I definitely need to work on.  There were many times when I would try to pick up something and then drop it.  Oops. 

At the beginning of dinner I was sitting with my co-teacher and another young male English teacher, and about halfway through my co-teacher got up and sat somewhere else, only to bring back another young female English teacher.  Then, my co-teacher said something to the other teachers, picked up her things, and said “Bye, see you tomorrow!”

Ummmmm….ok?  Of course, I figured that this meant that I she thought I would be more comfortable with the other English teachers, which was nice (although not necessary because she really is the sweetest lady!) I talked to the other teachers for a while…they are GREAT.  Both of them are in their first year of teaching, so they are around my age and speak really good English.  It turns out one of the other teachers lives right in the same area as me.  Yay!

As expected, these past few days have been really awkward.  I’ve been doing a lot of smiling when I don’t really know what’s going on.  There are a lot of times when I know that the other teachers are having a conversation about me, but I have no idea what they’re saying.  It’s really kind of an odd feeling. 

There have been so many impressions to make over these past few days, and it really is exhausting.  I just hope that I am doing enough right to make good impressions.  The principal kept looking over and smiling during dinner, so I’m guessing that’s good?  Also, he said he was impressed that I was trying all the different Korean food.  So I guess that counts for something. 

Other random points of interest:

-Apparently the last English teacher here married a Korean man while she was here.  Almost every teacher so far has pointed this out (big shoes to fill?!)  Of course, it’s almost funny because before I left many of my friends and family predicted that this is what I was going to do.  But there have been a lot of awkward comments about this kind of stuff…when I was sitting with the other English teachers tonight the principal looked over and said “and you’re all single!”  I don’t really know what to say to that. 

-Along the same lines, during my car ride with my co-teacher today, she was asking what American men are like and what men and women look for in each other when they want to get married.  It was a hard question for me to answer, but when I asked her about it in Korea, she told me that the most important thing men look for is how attractive a woman is.  She then told me that the most important thing for women is how much money a man makes.  She told me about how common plastic surgery is among women now.  In order to get married to a wealthy man, they think that they have to be more beautiful, and therefore get surgery to do so.  Of course, this is a broad statement, and I’m sure many people don’t look for those things in others, but it must be true enough that she would come right out and tell me.

I knew that Korea is a very image conscious country, and I knew about the plastic surgery craze that is going on, but it was still surprising to hear her talk so openly and matter-of-factly about it. 

The idea of beauty in this country does, and probably will continue to fascinate me.  Almost all the teachers have told me things along the lines of “ohh, the boys here will love you!”  Today when I was in the office a group of boy students walked in, asked my name, and then shouted “you are so beautiful!”, giggled, and then ran away.

Now, compliments are nice and all, but it really is fascinating to me because I would consider pretty much all of these Korean women to be much more beautiful than I am, but many feel they are inadequate and feel the need to go to great extents to change their appearances.  I’m sure I've only experienced the tip of the iceberg on this issue, but it is nonetheless really fascinating (and sad) to see.

-I have a wireless router in my apartment, but I don’t know the password to get on.  I asked my co-teacher, but I think she forgot.

-I only have cold water in my apartment.  I also asked my co-teacher about that, but I think it was also forgotten.  So for at least another day, I will take a cold shower in the morning. 

- I tried squid today.  And I liked it.  

The End of Orientation and the Beginning of Jeomchon

Originally written Tuesday, 8/27

I’m pretty sure this past week has been the longest of my life.  A little over a week ago, I left behind a perfectly good life to move to the other side of the world.  I got a plane not even knowing where I would be living or what I would be teaching.  This whole experience has been an extreme rollercoaster of emotions.  I have been more nervous than I EVER have been in my life (the uncertainty in this whole process really tests your faith), but I also have seen completely new things, had crazy fun with a group of people from around the world,  and learned A LOT about culture, history, teaching, learning, and language. 

On our last day of EPIK orientation, we had to present our lessons to our classes.  Everyone was pretty stressed out about presenting their lessons, despite the fact that the lessons are done solely for the purpose of getting feedback—therefore, you can do terribly and it really doesn't change anything. 

My nerves that day weren't just because of our lesson (which went fine, by the way), but also because in the afternoon we finally found out where we would be placed.  The majority of people at orientation were heading to the larger cities such as Deagu, Busan, Ulsan, or Daejeon.  These people already knew WHERE they were going, but were just waiting to find out which grade they would be teaching. 

However, for all of us in Gyeongbuk, we had no idea where we were going.  Gyeongbuk is the largest province in Korea, and you can really end up anywhere—right outside of a big city like Daegu, in a medium sized city like Pohang or Andong, or in a super small rural town.  You really just don’t know what you’re going to get.

When we finally went to our rooms with our POE, there were lists with our names, the town we would be teaching in, and the name of the school we’d be teaching at.  The only problem?  It was all written in Korean.  So of course everyone was congregating around the few kids who are good enough at reading Korean to figure out where we’re going.  I finally got someone to tell me I was going to a place called Mungyeong.  It meant absolutely nothing me, so I pretty much assumed it was in the middle of nowhere.

As we went into the room with the rest of people in our Province, there were a ton of people in Pohang or other larger areas.  Although I went into this experience telling myself that I was going to be ok with anything, I was a little jealous when a lot of people were heading to the same place.  Going to a new place with people from orientation would have been really comforting, but no one even knew where the heck my place was located. 

In our meeting with out POE supervisors, we had to sign our contracts and they went over a few instructions for the next day.  Of course, I sat through the entire meeting wanting nothing more than to google my town.  I HAVE NEVER BEEN SO DESPERATE FOR INTERNET.  Iphone, I miss you. When I turned in my contract, one of the POE supervisors told me that my placement was a small city, near the north of province. 

As soon as we got out of the meeting I rushed back to my room and googled Mungyeong.   There wasn't too much information about the area, but it appears to be a cultural destination. 

I am a big proponent of the “you’ll end up where you’re supposed to be” belief, but I have to admit, I wasn’t exactly thrilled to find out my placement.  Our orientation class was comprised of probably about 2/3 people heading to Ulsan and 1/3 of people going to Gyeongbuk.  We had a theory that we might be heading to an area around Ulsan since we were in a class with them.  Of course, that theory was completely wrong because many of us all ended up in the northern part of Gyeongbuk.  We obviously shouldn’t have been trying to find logic in this crazy process. 

Mungyeong isn’t particularly far from anything, but it isn’t really close to anything either, so my emotions are still pretty mixed (but also probably really affected by the fact that I am upset about the fact that I just spent a week making friends with people in Ulsan and now I’m going to be really far away from them).

But regardless, I know that this could be a huge blessing in disguise, and only time will tell why I was placed here.

EPIK orientation ended with a pretty sweet closing ceremony in which we were provided with a TON of food.  Afterwards, we ran back to bring our luggage back to the lobby, and then we went out to noraebang.  Noraebang (literally meaning song room) is probably my favorite part of Korea thus far.  You basically get a private karaoke room for you and your friends.  Inside the room, there is a huge projector for the lyrics, disco-type lights, and a personal bathroom.  You basically spend the night singing, dancing, and drinking, and I really think it’s just the greatest invention ever.  Our night ended successfully as we ended it by meeting one of our class’s teachers outside of 7/11.  Mission accomplished.

The next morning, we left Jeonju around 9 AM.  We stopped for one snack break, and then we had a longer lunch break, which was almost painfully long because right after that we were meeting up with our co-teachers.  We were all really nervous because we've basically been told all week that your co-teacher basically makes or breaks your experience in Korea….but no pressure.  The entire week of orientation builds anticipation, nerves, and excitement about meeting your co-teacher.  When the time finally comes, you really just want to get it over with. 
Beautiful view at one of our rest stops

After we got to our meeting location, we had to gather all of our luggage and wait for our co-teacher to find us.  So much nervousness.  I saw a woman holding a sign with my name on it, so I went over and introduced myself.  We loaded my stuff into her car, and then had an hour and a half car ride to our town.  I mean, it’s not like there’s nothing awkward about an hour and a half car ride with a person you just met…when there’s a language barrier.

But really, it was a little awkward, but my co-teacher is incredibly nice.  During the car ride, she told me that she was worried about me during my first night by myself and she was worried I would be homesick.  She said anytime I am homesick I can come stay at her house.  She also told me she would teach me how to cook Korean food (Nate will be happy to hear this!)

Once we got to our town, we went to the school, where I met the Principal and Assistant Principal.  It was kind of awkward because we went into a room with them and they gave me some tea, but then they mostly just talked to my co-teacher in Korean, and I had basically no idea what anyone was saying the entire time.  I guess I should get used to that!

After we left the school we went to my apartment.  My apartment is on the 3rd floor, but what we consider the first floor in America is the ground floor in Korea.  So by American terms, my apartment is on the 4th floor.  Now, this building doesn’t have an elevator, so I had to carry both of my 50 +lb bags up four flights of stairs.  So that was fun.  As my co-teacher said “we need man”

My apartment is pretty nice, and actually nicer than I was expecting.  I have a living room (with a huge tv!), bedroom, and bathroom all—all of which are in pretty good condition. 

After we put my stuff down, my co-teacher brought me to Home Plus, which is basically like an “everything in one” store.  On one floor there are home goods, on another floor there are clothes, and on another floor there is a grocery store.  I bought a few groceries, and then we came back to my apartment. 

So far, I have a very good impression of my co-teacher.  She seems genuinely concerned about my well-being, and I am thankful for that.  I am hoping that I am making an ok impression as well.  It’s weird, they bombard you with so many things about etiquette during orientation, but as soon as I got nervous I think I forgot just about everything.  It’s going to take a lot of practice and conscious effort to remember to do certain things such as using two hands when giving/receiving something from someone else, shaking hands, etc.   Hopefully I haven’t been to inadvertently rude yet.  

And now, I am very ready for bed.  Goodnight!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Orientation, Part 2.

Tomorrow is the last day of orientation.  In the morning/afternoon we will present our lessons to our classes and advisers.  Then, later in the afternoon/evening we have a meeting with our POEs in which we will FINALLY find out where we are placed.

I feel prepared to end up anywhere, but at this point I'm just extremely curious to know where I'll be spending the next year of my life (and to find out which grade level I'll be teaching!)  The mixture of nervousness about my lesson demonstration (which is totally stupid because it doesn't count for anything, and you know, I've been observed a million times over the past few years....) and the nervousness about finding out my placement and leaving this little bubble we've been is sitting pretty uncomfortably with me tonight.

This week has been long, hot, and exhausting, but also extremely informative and fun.  I've met a lot of really cool people from all over the world and learned a ton of about language acquisition and teaching.  

All week we've been given a ton of information about what it is going to be like once we move to our schools, and it's really been building the anticipation for the whole process.  I'm going to miss our EPIK bubble, but it's time to start living our own adventures.  

And for your enjoyment, I'll end this post with a picture of one of my favorite discoveries in Korea thus far.  I mean, you just would never find a toilet like this in America.

Friday, August 23, 2013


Apparently I've almost been in Korea for a week?


It's all been a blur so far, and despite the fact that I'm in another country, it doesn't really feel THAT different yet.

But let's start from the beginning.

I left from Boston on the morning of the 18th.  Talk about an absolute insane mix of emotions.  As I sat in the Boston airport feeling completely sick to my stomach and trying my absolute hardest not to cry, I was seriously questioning my sanity.  Did I REALLY think it would be a good idea to go to Korea? What had overcome me in the past few months?!  Why did I think this was a good idea?!

Nonetheless, I got on the plane.  I actually slept for my entire flight from Boston to Chicago--I guess the 3 hours of sleep I got the night before weren't quite enough.  Once I got to Chicago I felt a whole lot better--we had a ton of EPIKers on our flight, so I was surrounded by people in the same position that I was in.  We were all nervous, we had all just said goodbye to our families, and we all had no idea what was ahead. There was some sort of comfort in our collective uncertainty.

The 14 hour flight from Chicago to Korea wasn't nearly as bad as I was expecting.  There were plenty of movies to watch, and after days of stressing out about moving, it was kind of nice to sit back and just watch some movies and sleep.

Once we got to Korea, I gathered my things and met up with my recruiter.  From there we got on a bus with other EPIKers and began another 4 hour bus ride to our orientation site at Jeonju University.  We made a quick stop to get some food.  And what did I buy?

Pringles and Vitamin Water.

Nice work, Sarah.  Really starting life in Korea by taking in that culture!

Once we got to the University, we were all hot, tired, and had way too much luggage to haul around.  Luckily, check-in was easy enough (although they did check our temperature as part of the check-in process...random?)  and before not too long, we were finally in our rooms and ready for bed.

The next day started out pretty easyily.  We had a pretty awesome taekwondo performance at out Opening Ceremony...seriously these people were AMAZING! I really wish that I had recorded it because there's just no way I'll ever really be able to convey the awesome-ness that it really was.  You'll just have to believe me on this one.

Wednesday morning started with our medical check-up.  I knew about this check-up beforehand, but that didn't make it any less awkward.  This is a full on medical checkup--they do simple things from taking your height and weight, but they also do more intense things like take your blood and urine AND do an x-ray of your chest.  FUN!

Besides that, our days have consisted of classes until 8:30 night.  Classes range from everything from taekwondo (pretty fun!) to the more traditional stuff like lesson planning, classroom management, cooperative learning, and basically mini refresher classes on stuff I've already spent a lot of time learning about in college. It has been pretty exhausting to say the least, but after a year of being the teacher, it's interesting to be in the student's position again.

Today we went on a field trip around Jeonju's cultural sites.  It was really cool, but it was POURING pretty much all day (which is funny  because every other day it's just been INSANELY hot and humid).  We started the day by making a craft with traditional Korean paper (hanji).  Then, we headed to drumming class, where we all got to use traditional Korean drums --it was fun! Then we had a traditional lunch--bibimbap with a bunch of different side dishes.

After lunch, we headed to Hanok Village--this was a super cool area with some really traditional Korean architecture, but also plenty of modern shops.  It was a really cool area, and I definitely want to go back at some point when I have more time (and when it's not raining!)

Tonight we had the night off, which has been great because there really hasn't been any time to just chill since we've been here.  I've been meeting tons of people from all over the place, which is awesome, but also really draining.  I'm definitely the type of person that needs some alone time to recharge, so days that are so jam- packed with people 24/7 are super draining for me (don't get me wrong, going out after class has been fun!  But everything in moderation....)

Tomorrow and Sunday we have classes 9-8:30.  Monday we have our lesson demonstrations and meetings with our POE supervisors (and finally find out where we're going to be!), and Tuesday we head out to our new homes.

Although I've been in Korea for almost a week, it doesn't really feel like I'm in a different country because I am still surrounded by other westerners.  As much as I'm sure I'm going to miss orientation once it's done, right now I'm anxious to get settled into my new life and really start experiencing Korea.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Packing, leaving, and more goodbyes.

I'm not sure what time I woke up this morning, but I know it was early.  And I know that the instant I opened my eyes I was struck with some pretty intense anxiety.

It was my last day in the US.

With all the distraction of the show, I honestly hadn't let myself really pay much attention to the countdown of the time I had left at home.  The show took most of the day Friday, and then I went out with friends at night.  Then, just like that, it was Saturday. My last day.

I spent most of the day feeling like I either needed to vomit or cry. There was no puke (thankfully), but there were plenty of tears.

I was doing ok all day while packing and such, until I met up with Jess, Nate, Lisa, and Elizabeth at my church's festival. Being at my church, surrounded by my family, friends, and other people I have known my whole life was not the best location for me considering my already pretty fragile state.  I kept randomly starting to cry, which was obviously really awkward. Nothing some sunglasses can't fix.  I mean, what's wrong with wearing sunglasses at night?

After some hard goodbyes, I went home to continue packing.  Jess came over a little later to help me with the nearly impossible task.

Let me just say, packing for an entire year is HARD.  I used space bags and all, but I still ended up with two suitcases, a carry on bag, and a backpack.  And that's only after leaving behind a bunch of clothes that I really wanted to take with me.  I honestly don't know how people move abroad with only one suitcase.  I'll definitely be holding my breath when they weigh my luggage tomorrow.

As I was packing, my brother, sister in law, and nieces arrived.  I'm glad I got to see them, if only for a few minutes.  And of course, I got to hear those wonderful words of wisdom from my niece once again:

"Remember, teach them to say butt and fart.  And make sure they practice the 'R' in fart."

I don't really know what I'm so worried about--I think she has it all figured out.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Saying Goodbye

As evidenced by all of these lovely pictures, this has been quite the summer. After such an exhausting year of teaching, it's been nice to have a break and to finally be able to catch up with some of the friends I neglected during the year.  In short, I've been starting my summer mornings with yoga, and finishing my nights with my friends.  It really has been pretty great.

At the beginning of summer, it always seems like it will never end--August always feels so far away. When vacation started, I had this mental bucket list of things I wanted to do before I left for Korea.  I wanted to spend way more time at the beach, hiking, and taking other random day trips, but it is somehow already my last week in NH.  I am grateful that I did get to take some fun trips, but summer is never quite long enough to accomplish everything. 

I've also had to come to the realization that there are a lot of people I won't be able to see before I leave. In fact, I really only saw a small handful of the lovely people I wanted to spend time with before I left. I think I wanted a "perfect ending" to my time in NH, but I 'm realizing this week is going to be more stressful than anything else (and to be fair, that is my fault for over-committing myself).

Saying goodbye is exhausting.  I think I've been pretty good at avoiding goodbyes thus far, but there have been a few occasions where it's really hit me. Let me just say it's really awkward to randomly start crying out of nowhere in the middle of the bar on a Friday night. I'm not looking forward to having more of those awkward type of moments over this next week. Thank God for the internet/Skype, because I think it would be way harder to leave if it weren't for the technology we have readily available.

I am beyond thankful for my friends and family.  I know that some people move abroad when they are discontent with their lives--when they just want a fresh start from whatever they've been dealing with.  However, over the past year I was more content with my life than I ever was in college, and it makes me sad to leave that behind-- especially since I have no idea whether or not I will actually be happy with my life in Korea.  It really is the ultimate gamble.

But as I get older, I'm realizing (and becoming more comfortable with) the idea that life is always changing--even from day to day, we are not the same people--our friends, families, experiences, and opportunities continually change. I have no idea what my friends and family will be like in a year from now, but I know they will be different.  But so will I.  And I'm ok with that.  

Saturday, August 10, 2013

T-minus 9 days

I am moving to Korea in a little over a week.  I haven't started to pack, and I still have plenty of errands to run.

Despite the fact that I know I'm leaving for the year, I don't think I can quite fathom the enormity of the changes I'm about to face.  Knowing something is completely different from feeling it, and I can't quite feel the weight of this decision yet.  Maybe it's just the fact that I've never lived outside of the country before, but I don't think I will feel like I'm really leaving America until I arrive in Korea.

In the meantime, I've been spending many of my final days in rehearsals at my dance studio for the show I'll be performing in next week....I'm not sure agreeing to be in a performance right before I leave the country for a year was the best decision...but what's done is done.  To make things more complicated, my church is also putting on its huge annual festival next about a whirlwind end to my time in the US.

In between the craziness of rehearsing and helping at the studio, I've been spending as much time as possible with my friends.  Although I don't know how it will feel to be away from them for the year, I know it's probably going to be harder than I can imagine.

It's strange, the application process for EPIK is long.  Like, really long.  Like 5-6 months long.  But you don't really have your place secured until July, and then BAM! The final countdown is on so quickly.

Despite the fact that I've pretty much known that I would be leaving for about 6 months, I feel like I don't have enough time to do everything I want before I leave.