Monday, September 30, 2013

A Korean Surprise: The Teacher's Trip

I was walking to school today when I just happened to meet up with two of the other English teachers at the cross walk before the school . As we crossed the street and walked towards school, one of the teachers asked me "You know we're going to a temple today?"

What? No. And clearly not, which in retrospect is probably why she was asking. I was wearing a maxi skirt and sandals.

Apparently exams were only going to go until 12, and after that we were going on a field trip for teachers.  SURPRISE!!!

Not that I was disappointed. I am down for sightseeing, especially since I have basically no responsibilities at school this week as the students take their exams.

Of course, initially I thought we were just going to a temple, so I didn't really think my wardrobe selection was going to be a big problem.  But around 12:30 one of my co-teachers came over and asked if I knew about the trip.  I told her I didn't know until the morning and she said "Your fashion is no good."

What I got from the following conversation was that there was going to be a lot of walking involved and my sandals were not going to be practical.

So I rushed back to my apartment to change my attire, went back to school, and got on the bus with the rest of the other teachers.

As I was sitting on the bus one of the other English teachers came on and asked if I would ride in her car with her.  She is probably one of the nicest people I've met in Korea, so of course I agreed.  She likes getting to talk to me because it's an opportunity for her to practice her english.  Many of the English teachers here have said the same thing--they want to talk to me because so much of what they do is teaching grammar and reading so they can read English and comprehend everything, but when they try to speak it's difficult for them to pull out the words they want.  Obviously I get it, and it's my job to talk to people, so I hopped in her car and we continued in her car behind the bus.

We got to our first destination where we got to see a really cool temple.  I wish I remembered the name, but as is typically the case with Korean words, I was able to repeat is a few times, and now the name is gone from my memory.  It's apparently a really old temple, and they usually only let people visit it on Buddha's birthday.  I was really amazed by the temples because the detail was absolutely breathtaking.  I really wish I would have had my nice camera with me because my pictures don't even begin to show the intricate details of the temple.  I saw tons of pictures of temples before I came to Korea, but I can honestly say they are a million times more impressive in person.

There were Buddhist monks and other people inside of the temple, so I didn't get any pictures of the inside, but it was also really amazing.  There was a huge Buddha, as well as some other statutes.

After we saw the temples, we walked up a path through the woods (which was fun because it rained this morning and I was only wearing my Tom's), until we reached a waterfall, a stone Buddha, and some stones with Korean written on them, which was apparently done by some historical figure.  The language barrier pretty much prevented me from getting a full explanation of that one.

After that, we got back to the bus, and in my case the car, and we continued on to our next destination.  This time we hiked (again, fun in my Tom's) and we got to another little waterfall, which apparently is connected to a legend of a dragon, but I don't get it (and the explanation I received didn't really make much sense).

After that the teacher I was driving with headed home because she is a vegetarian and the next stop was dinner. We went to a small place with an amazing view of the mountains and were served a selection of pork and goat meat.  I stuck to the pork.

As we were waiting for some people to finish dinner, I got a chance to talk to some of the younger English teachers.  It was actually really good because I don't get to talk to them often, and they by far have the best English of any of the teachers in the department so we could joke around and laugh a bit--something that is hard to do with the large language barrier with some of the other teachers.

We got back on the bus and we were all really tired....a group of teachers went to noraebang, but we decided to head home.

All in all, it was a totally unexpected, but interesting day.  When I woke up this morning I never would have thought that I would end up visiting temples, but Korea is keeping life interesting, and I'm appreciating that.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Random thoughts

Random thoughts/updates
--Being in a country where you don't understand the language gives you a lot of time to think.  I sit through a teacher's meeting every Monday morning, unable to understand a single thing that is being said.  I sit in the teacher's office all day and I have absolutely no idea what the other teachers are saying to each other.  I go to lunch and I haven't the slightest clue what the conversation is about.  

As a result, I get a lot of time to think. I often feel like I am in my own little bubble because I am alone with my thoughts all day.  It's strange, but  I should probably appreciate the opportunity to have so much me-time. 

--My students have been randomly drilling me on their names. I'm terrible at learning names in the first place, but it is infinitely harder when they all have the same color hair, eyes, glasses, and they all wear uniforms.  Never mind the fact that most of their names are ridiculously similar.  I really want to be able to remember them all....but damn, it's hard!

--I've really been enjoying getting to know the other teachers in Jeomchon.  I've been lucky to spend a lot of time with the other teachers over the past week, and I've had some great conversations with some people.  I'm going on a trip with a few people this weekend, and I'm really excited for that as well. It's really cool to hear about everyone's past experiences and plans for the future.  We have many different places that we're coming from and going, but our lives have intersected for this short, unique period in our lives. 

--It's just starting to feel like fall here.  It was only over the past week that it started to become cooler at night.  Until last week we still had highs in the low 80s during the day.  This week is about mid 70s, but I still haven't needed to wear my fleece when I go outside.  It's a little strange that it's basically October and still so warm.  Of course, I'm not complaining because I know winter will be long and brutal, so I'm trying to enjoy the nice weather while it lasts.

--It's really weird to think that it will still be so long until I am home. Before coming to Korea I had never lived outside of NH, never mind America, so when I think about the fact that I still have 11 months to go before I come home, it is kind of hard for me to comprehend.  

I love Korea, but of course I miss the comforts of home as well.  When I was in college, I was only 45 minutes away, so whenever I wanted to have the comfort of home I could go home for a night or two, eat some home cooked food, and take a ballet class.  But now that option isn't there, and it won't be there for a long time.  

When I look at facebook or skype with people back home, I am sad for everything that I am missing.  I'm glad that I'm here, and I wouldn't change it because I am having an amazing time, but it doesn't mean that I'm not sad about missing out on a year with my friends and family as well.

The resolution of the ATM situation

As some of you know, when I tried to use the ATM the other day I entered the wrong pin number a few times, and was consequently locked out of my account.

Naturally, I was dreading having to go to school and tell my co-teacher about what I had done.  First of all, my co-teachers have all taken a lot of time out of their busy schedules to help me with things like opening my bank account and helping me with my cell phone.  The last thing I wanted to do was be a burden....again. Especially right before mid-terms. Plus, forgetting your pin number is just plain stupid, so that's also embarrassing.  

However, I knew I was going to have to suck up the pain of admitting my stupidity because the bank is only open until 5, so I can't ever go after I get out of work.  I also can't speak Korean, so trying to communicate with a banker wouldn't work.  Also, I need to pay bills, and I need to be able to get into my account for that.  
So, I went into school totally dreading the conversation with my co-teacher, but after I told her she said she would get someone to help me.  

During one of my off periods, one of my co-teachers came up and told me she would take me to the bank.  I was relieved when I saw which co-teacher it was because it was because although she intimidated me at first, she has been the most helpful and kind to me over the past few weeks.  

We went to the bank and quickly got everything taken care of.  After we were done we still had about 20 minutes until the next class so she looked at me and said "Let's go get a coffee?"  

Of course I agreed, and we went over the the nearest coffee shop.  The crazy part is that after she took time to help me with MY stupid mistake, she WOULD NOT let me pay, regardless of how many times I insisted to treat her. 

Have I mentioned that Korean people are ridiculously kind?  

Anyway, my stupid ATM mistake actually turned out to be a great part of the day because we not only got a break from school, but we also got coffee and got to talk a little more.  

The lesson of the day: sometimes we dread things that we shouldn't. Sometimes what we think will be a bad thing turns out to be great.  

Korea is definitely not America.

This week I was teaching my students about some idioms that we use in English.  The specific lesson that I did focused on idioms that refer to colors.  As a class activity, they had to create a dialogue using an assigned place, situation, and two idioms.  Here is what I got from two of my male students:

A:  I think think we need to break up.
B: What? Why?
A: I'm gay.
B: What?  That is out of the blue.
A:  Really, I am gay. This is my new boyfriend (as he points to another student)
B:  Well now you have shown your true colors.

Many of the dialogues were hilarious, but this one easily takes the cake.  There are many things that happen in my classes in Korea that would NEVER happen in America.  For example, this dialogue happened in a class of all boys. I can't imagine any of my students back home ever volunteering to even pretend to be gay for even two seconds.  Don't get me wrong, I think being gay in America is WAY more acceptable than it is in Korea, but the dynamics between the students are different.

It's not uncommon to see members of the same sex holding hands as they walk down the street in Korea.  In fact, in Korea, this is a symbol of friendship, not one's sexual orientation, and I often see it between my students.  During class I'll often see my male students rub each other's shoulders, especially when one of their classmates has fallen asleep and they need to wake them up.  It's always interesting to see, and has made me realize that America is really a "hands-off" culture.

Korea has its own gender roles and social norms, and some align with those in the US, but some are strikingly different.  For example, when I was on my class field trip Everland a while ago, as we were standing in line, the woman in front of us took out her compact powder and started applying make-up to her boyfriend.  And while it surprised me at first, as I thought about it, I realized that many of the Korean heart throbs are not macho, tough looking guys, but they are actually feminine looking.  I've noticed that Korea seems to have the same standard of beauty for both men and women.  It's really interesting that in America women fantasize about men with muscles and ripped abs, but I haven't seen any of that marketed in Korea.

Also, on a somewhat different note, on Friday I put on a Taylor Swift song for my all-male class while they were completing an assignment. And they loved it.  And they sang along.  I couldn't help but laugh to myself as I tried to imagine what would happen if I ever put on a Taylor Swift song on for a classroom full of American boys.  HA!

Andong Maskdance Festival

This weekend I went to one of the major festivals in Korea--the Andong Maskdance Festival.  Andong is about an hour away from Jeomchon, and a city that has many cultural sites.  The Maskdance Festivals is an international festival, and attracts people from all around the world. I remembered seeing things about the Maskdance Festival when I originally found out I was placed in Gyeongbuk and started researching the area, so I was excited to get to check it out this weekend.

I went to the festival with a few other people from Jeomchon.  Once we were there, we met up with some other people and started to make our own masks.  The mask-making was pretty entertaining, as it was essentially a tent full of children...and then the table of foreigners. As we were sitting there making our masks, one man came over with his daughter because he wanted to take a picture of her with us.  I thought he was just going to put her in front of us, but he ended up sitting her right on my lap.  No complaints here...she was completely adorable.  It was a pretty great start to the day.

It's no secret that I love children. I have been babysitting since middle school, and I kept many babysitting jobs throughout college.  I even kept a few babysitting jobs when I was teaching last year because as I tell people, I need to get my nuturing out of my system.  I have no desire to have children of my own for years, but I love going to festivals and other outings around Korea because there are adorable children EVERYWHERE.  And of course, I think they are adorable because I don't have to deal with their temper-tantrums, but still, these kids are pretty stinking adorable.

We spent a while making our first masks.  Mine did not come out as well as I would have liked, but now I know, and if I am in Korea again for the festival next year, I'll definitely have a better game plan.  Regardless, it was great to get a little crafty--there just aren't enough opportunities to be crafty when you teach high school!

After we made our masks, we got some lunch and spent some time walking around the tents that had food, souvenirs, and games. The merchants were selling just about EVERYTHING from socks and pantyhose to heating pads, to mops.  You name it, they were selling it.  We also enjoyed the games that they had available.  Many of the prizes for the games were not just over-sized stuffed animals, but alcohol.  Oh, Korea, you know how to get our money. I didn't play any of the games, but one of my friends wanted a bottle of wine and tried a few times.  Of course, he didn't end up with a bottle of wine, but a back scratcher and a yo-yo. Oh well. Overall, the Omija Festival we went to last week was minuscule in comparison to the amount of things that were at this festival--we spent a considerable amount of time just looking around at everything.

We eventually stopped by a maskdance performance.  They were short little stories that were performed wearing traditional masks and clothing alongside traditional Korean drumming.  Of course, I had no idea what they were saying, but we got the general gist of the performances.  It was definitely interesting to say the least, and I'm glad we stopped for at least a little bit to see some of the performance.

Korea has developed astonishingly quickly over the past 60 years.  At one point we were walking around the festival and saw a bunch of photographs from the Korean War displayed along a walkway.  The pictures were amazing and showed not only the suffering of people during the War, but also showed a country with dirt roads and very little development.  Today, Korea has some of the most modern cities in the world and it can be easy to forget that this is a country that in fact has a very old and unique culture.  It would be very easy to live in Korea and not learn about the history or traditional culture.  However, I hope that throughout my time here I can learn more about this traditional culture, because I feel that failure to do so would prevent me from experiencing an important part of the heart of this country.

We spent the rest of the day walking around a bit more, then we stopped to make our second masks--this time they were made out of Hanji--the traditional Korean paper.  I'm glad we stopped for our second masks, because I was much happier with how my second one turned out.

One of the more entertaining parts of the day was when we encountered these little carts pulled by little robots.  The robots pull the carts around and it is just the most hysterical thing to watch.  Oh Korea, always thinking of the most clever things.

After taking our turn with the carts, we met up with some other friends and went to a different part of Andong for dinner.  One of my friends used to live in Andong, so she led us to a little hole in the wall type of place.  We were in the main market, and we had to walk through some hallways into a back room to get to our dining place.  The room was actually really cool because there was writing all over the was definitely a different feel from the other Korean restaurants I've been to.

Dinner was absolutely delicious.  We had jjimdalk, which is Andong's specialty food.  It was chicken cooked with a bunch of different vegetables and noodles in a spicy sauce.  Definitely delicious, and when I'm in Andong again I will definitely have to go back! It also doesn't hurt that dinner only cost $8.  Eating at restaurants in Korea is definitely WAY more affordable than it is in the US.

After dinner we had some time before our bus, so we did some walking around in the different stores.  We ended the night by stopping in a bakery and getting some espresso and dessert.  Definitely a perfect ending to a great day.

I had a great time at the festival, and I'm really glad I got to go.  I spent more money than I had wanted to, but it was well worth it for a day of great good, fun, and culture.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

I'm a millionaire!

In won of course, but it's still exciting to finally get paid!  And it looks like so much money on's a great feeling until you remember the conversion to US dollars...

Of course, when I went to the ATM, I entered the wrong pin number a few times, and now I am locked out. Good job, Sarah.  Definitely feeling like the stupid American tonight.

(But seriously, I have way too many numbers floating around in my brain and I opened the account a month ago in the midst of the whirlwind of moving to a new country, town, and job.  I should get more than two chances to get the right number!)

In other news, today I was talking to a group of boys in the hall before class and one of them looked at me and told me he was very "surprised" by my eyes because he had never seen someone with blue eyes before.

Moments like these are always kind of shocking to me.  In America there is so much diversity, and we (or I should say I) don't typically think anything of it. Living in this homogeneous society has made me realize how truly unique the United States is. When I was growing up, it was totally normal to have kids at school who spoke Spanish to each other.  It was totally normal to have kids in our class who celebrated different holidays. I never thought anything of the fact that kids in my classes had different eye, hair, or skin color.  It was just the way it was.

Korea is quite the different place in terms of all of these things, at least in the smaller towns.  I imagine it's different in the city where people encounter more diversity.  However, moments like these remind me that I'm not only here to teach English, but also to be a cultural ambassador to people who may not otherwise have ever met anyone from the western world.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Chuesok Part 2: Omija and Grasshoppers

I was totally exhausted when I got back from Ulsan on Friday.  I spent the rest of the night taking it easy because the next day I knew I wanted to go to the Omija festival.

Omija are fruit that are native to Mungyeong (which in case you've forgotten, is the area I live in). If you read anything about Korea, you'll quickly learn that Koreans love festivals.  When I was first researching life in Korea, I was amazed at the number of festivals that are held here throughout the year.  Every area has it's signature foods and items and to celebrate these things, they have festivals where they have tons of food, beverages, and souvenirs.

I went to the Omija festival with some of the other teachers from Jeomchon.  It was about an hour bus ride (well, it actually took us longer on the way there because we hit so much traffic) and we rode through some pretty rural areas that I had not seen yet. It was quite the contrast to the city life I saw in Ulsan.  The cities in Korea are some of the most modern in the world, but there are still many extremely rural's quite the mixture of lifestyles.

Once we got to the festival there were tons of food stands where you could buy pretty much anything.  We had just grabbed some food and omija beer when we got stopped by some people from a tv station. Obviously the group of waygookins stood out, so I guess that we were good subjects for a quick little interview.  It was pretty entertaining, but apparently this happens at pretty much every festival.  Gotta love being the foreigners!

After our tv experience, we continued on and ate and drank more.  All in all, I had a really good time at the festival and I can't wait to go to more!

When we got back to Jeomchon, some of us decided to stay out and hang out for a bit longer.  We ended up going to a place that serves grasshoppers....and we got a nice big plate of those bad boys.  I don't think eating grasshoppers is particularly common in Korea, but when I decided to come to Korea I knew I had to willing to try (just about) anything.  So, I figured this was one of those times when I had to take the opportunity to do something completely different.  I mean, when else will I ever get the chance to eat grasshoppers?

The grasshoppers were really crunchy, but didn't taste bad at all.  They were cooked in plenty of good stuff so they were really pretty tasty.  Never try, never know.

Such a kodak moment. 
After the grasshopper adventures, we stayed out for a while longer...ok, a lot longer.  We went to noraebang and on our way out the lady that was working there stopped the other girl we were with and myself to take pictures with us....seriously, being a foreigner in Korea is unlike anything else.

After noraebang we hung out for a little longer. I don't even know what time it was once I actually got to bed, but I slept until 2:30 this afternoon, so I know it was late! Yikes!

All in all, I had a great Chuseok break.  I am absolutely loving getting to see and do so many new things.  I obviously came to Korea to teach, but I also came to travel, and I'm really glad I got to see some of the country this weekend. 

Korea isn't usually at the top of most people's lists for places they'd like to go visit, but the more I see of this country, the more I am amazed by how beautiful it is.  The mountains are everywhere, and they are breathtaking.  Never mind the coast, rice fields, and temples that you see on the regular in this country that are just as amazing.  People don't tend to think of Korea as a "must-see" country, but I'm feeling incredibly blessed that I AM seeing it with my own eyes because as many pictures as I take, I can't quite capture the beauty of this country.  It's sometimes frustrating that the pictures I take can't really capture what I'm seeing...but then I remind myself that is part of WHY you travel.

I know I'm still in my honeymoon stage of living in Korea.  I have done my research into culture shock, and I know it doesn't really hit until about 3 months into your time in the country.  However, I am currently loving the honeymoon stage for all its worth.  I know it won't take long until the things I find intriguing about this culture start to annoy me.  However, for now I just want to take in the constant awe that I've been experiencing.  I know it won't last, but that's all the more reason to take it all in and enjoy it while it's here.  

Beautiful mountains...they are everywhere in Korea!

Chuseok Part 1: Ulsan

Hello again!

As many of you know, I only had to go to school on Monday and Tuesday this week.  This week was Chuseok (although I think only Thursday was the actual holiday?), which is similar to Thanksgiving in the US.  This is one of the biggest holidays in Korea, and everyone travels home to celebrate with their families.  

Tuesday I only had to teach one class in the morning because the kids had their physical tests at school (they had to do running, sit ups, etc)  So basically, this meant that I sat at my desk for the remainder of the day and attempted to focus on writing questions for the mid-term (which is really hard to do when I've really only been teaching for two weeks).  Regardless, I was really tired, and staying awake was extremely challenging.  I"m not brave enough (yet) to attempt a desk nap like I see the other teachers do, so I sat there for the remainder of the day trying to do everything in my power just to stay awake.

Around 3:00 the vice-principal came over and said something in Korean to my co-teacher, and she then told me that we could go home.  Apparently in Korea the administration can just decide to let everyone go whenever because all the kids got to leave as well.  I'm not complaining!

I rushed to the bus station because although I had been planning to take the 5:40 bus to Ulsan, there was one that was leaving at 3:45.  I had heard plenty about how crazy it is to travel over Chuseok, so I figured the sooner I could get out of here the better.  

I was a little nervous about navigating the buses because I haven't traveled on my own yet, but it didn't take long until I saw tons of my students there as well. Many of my students are from outside Jeomchon, so they had to take buses to get home to their families.  They were so adorable and made sure I got on the right bus--have I mentioned I love my students?

The bus ride to Ulsan took 3.5 hours, but I slept through most of it, so it was fine.  When I got to Ulsan I met up with one of my friends and we got some dinner and waited for everyone else. I was pretty excited to get my first burger since being in Korea, and the bar had PRETZELS, which I also have not had since I've been in Korea.  I'm a huge fan of pretzels, so I was pretty pumped to say the least.  After a while a bunch of other people from our orientation met up with us and it wasn't too long before we moved onto the next bar.  

I quickly realized how different city life is from life in Jeomchon.  First of all, there were Korean people our age everywhere, and they were extremely well-dressed (even the guys!)  I hadn't noticed that Jeomchon doesn't really have many Koreans our age until all of a sudden I was surrounded by super trendy 20 year old Koreans.  It was pretty shocking.  

Additionally, there are obviously way more foreigners in the city, and it was really weird to pass by another westerner and not know them.  I've met just about every foreigner in Jeomchon, so if I ever see a westerner here, I know who they are.  It felt really strange to walk by other English speakers and not say hello.

The city as a whole was also a lot to take in--there were bright fluorescent lights EVERYWHERE!

Also, people can smoke in bars...I never realized how accustomed I was to all the non-smoking rules in America.  Smoky bars are just really gross, and I felt like I smelled like cigarette smoke for the better part of the trip.
So many lights! 

After spending a while at a few bars, we moved on to a club.  And oh my, this was just an experience that is difficult to explain.  The music was SUPER loud.  It was completely pitch black except for a strobe light.  You really couldn't see much of anything except for bright flashes of light every few seconds.  There were Korean guys everywhere. I don't know where all the girls were, but I think I only saw a few the whole night.

Being a female foreigner in a club with a bunch of Korean guys is a recipe for an interesting experience.  Especially since their English mostly consists of only "You're beautiful" and "I love you!"

I still don't know how to accurately describe this portion of the night...I think it's just something you need to experience for yourself. If you're ever in Korea, check out a club.  It's worth it just for the experience.  

Another thing about going out in Korea....there is no last call.  In New Hampshire, the bars close at 1 AM.  I don't think we left the club here until after 3 AM.  Of course, we were hungry so we stopped at McDonalds (because where else would the group of waygooks go?)  It was actually my first time seeing a McDonalds since I've been in Korea.  We were there for quite a while, but don't think we were just those drunken Americans eating hamburgers (I mean, maybe we were a little...) but we somehow ended up having discussions about morality and religion?  Totally normal.

Anyway, by the time we got home it was at least 5 AM.  Which would have been fine, except for we had plans to go hiking the next morning.

Our alarm went off at 9:15....but we actually were feeling pretty great, so we got up and met with the others going on the hike. 

Now, this hiking adventure is a really long story in itself, so I'm going to make it its own post another time.  Let's just say Wednesday was one of THOSE days where just about everything went wrong.  We definitely had an adventure.
The Chuseok hike of 2013 will live live in infamy.  Crazy day, but at least we had some beautiful sights!

Thursday we slept in until almost 11:00...which will make sense once you hear about Wednesday.  We then headed toward the beach to meet up with some other friends.  It was an absolutely beautiful really couldn't have been more perfect.  The sky was blue, there was a breeze, and it wasn't humid.  Definitely an overall weather win.  

A few of us went for a walk around a path with some really amazing views. I of course took a million pictures, but none of them really do justice to the views.
Absolutely beautiful day.
My pictures can't do justice to the views we saw!

As it started to get dark, we headed back to the downtown area.  We grabbed some delicious BBQ dinner before we met up with a bigger group of people and headed to a bar to celebrate the birthday of one of the guys from our orientation group.  

We all hung out for a while, then briefly went to another bar that was not so hoppin' before we decided it was time for some noraebang.  I hadn't been to noraebang since orientation, so I was pretty pumped for round two.  It didn't let me down at all, and it was a great way to end the night and my time in Ulsan.

We didn't get to bed until 3 AM, and I woke up today at 7 to get ready to catch a bus to the bus station for for my 10:00 bus.  Once I got to the bus stop, I saw on the schedule that the next bus that I needed wasn't coming until after 9:00.  Since it takes at least 45 minutes to get to the bus station, I figured it was way too risky, and I grabbed a cab instead. 

So in the end I got to the bus station way earlier than I needed to, but I'd definitely rather be too early than too late.  I slept a little on the way back, but I was pretty exhausted by the time I got back.

I had a great time in Ulsan, but coming back to Jeomchon was the first time I realized that this place really is starting to feel like home.  It was nice to be back in my familiar surroundings and in my own apartment again!   

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Starting to settle in

Thursday will be the one month mark of my time in Korea.

One month?! What?!

I feel like I have been here WAY longer.  In the past month I have met SO many people from around the world, eaten new foods almost every single day, started a new job, and (started) to learn my way around a new city.

It's been a busy, exhausting month.  

As I've mentioned before, I've had to relearn even the simplest of tasks (grocery shopping, taking out the trash, etc).  However, I feel like I am finally starting to settle in.  

My apartment building!

Garden patch right across from my building.  There are tons of apartments around my area, but there are also these patches of plants scattered throughout the area--it's pretty cool!

I'm finally starting to be able to piece together Jeomchon.  Don't get me wrong, I still have a long way to go, and I can still get lost really easily....but it's starting to come together.

I've also put in some time and money to making my apartment feel more like home.  I've been to Home Plus more times than I can count to buy little things to make this apartment feel like home.  It's amazing what a few simple touches will do.
Pictures, organizers, and a yoga mat!
I bought more pillows--way more comfortable than the one flat one that was here when I arrived.  I also got the lamp from one of the other English teachers.  
Have to have pictures on top of the TV, of course!

Pictures, pictures, pictures! I am fortunate to have so many wonderful memories with wonderful people.  
Got these pillows from another one of the teachers as well.  Nothing too beautiful, but much nicer than nothing at all!

I've also started to get to know some other people in the area a little better.  There is a good group of people here, and it's been nice to get to socialize a bit.  

Absolutely delicious Korean food. YUM!

All in all, things are starting to come together.  I have lots of learning to do still, but little by little I'm learning the ropes.

In the week ahead:
-2 days of school
-Trip to Ulsan to visit some friends from orientation
-Omija festival this weekend--AKA my first (of many) Korean festivals! Yay! 

Needless to say, I'm excited to see some friends and explore life outside of Jeomchon.  It could be a while before I update again, but until then, I love you all!


Brilliant Korea: No Keys, No Problem!

At the entrance to my apartment

Keypad on my apartment door

When I was a sophomore in college, I lived in a dorm that used passcodes instead of keys for our rooms.  It was GREAT! Every other year I had key locks to my rooms, which meant that at least once during every year I locked myself out.  It always seemed to happen at the most inconvenient times--when I was in a rush to get to class, when I had plans to meet someone, or there was also that time I had just gotten out of the shower...and then realized the door was locked.  

Well, when I arrived in Korea, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the doors to our rooms during orientation also used pass codes instead of locks.  

I was even happier when I arrived at my apartment and saw that not only the entrance to the building used a code, but my apartment door also uses a code. No keys! Woohoo!  

Sure, code locks have disadvantages (in college it was terrible when a person's roommate would give their combo to someone else....), but I'm enjoying knowing that I can't lock myself out.

Yay, Korea! 

UPDATE:  I left for three days and nearly forgot my combo to my apartment..........but still not going to change my opinion of the key pads just yet.

Only in Korea: Healthy Hot Dogs

I was walking through the store today when I looked in the frozen section and saw this.

Yep, "The Healthy Hot Dog"

I mean, if it says they're healthy, it must be true, right?

I wonder which part is healthier...the processed meat or the processed breading that surrounds the processed meat?

(And I've labeled this as "Only in Korea".....but I fully realize this is essentially a corn dog, which we have plenty of in the US.  And actually the more I think about it, the more I realize I wouldn't be completely shocked if the same packing exists somewhere in the US...)

Only in Korea: Questionable Greeting Cards

One of my favorite parts of shopping in Korea is seeing the questionable English that is printed on just about everything--street signs, shirts, and as I saw today, cards.

Please take a minute to share in my entertainment (look to the bottom right of the cards!)

I have a cell phone!

It's official! I have a phone! Which means I can therefore feel like a legitimate member of society again! Yay!

By the way, this is the text message one of my co-teaches sent me after I gave her my number.  She's kind of adorable.

After doing a whole lot of waiting, I ended up with a LG Optimus.  I don't really know how or why I ended up with it....I kind of just let my co-teacher do all the talking, and this is what I got.  I pretty much assumed all smart phones are essentially the same, so I wasn't too worried about it.

Although, maybe I should have taken a bit more of an active role in the process, because although I like most things about the phone, the camera is really disappointing.  And if you know me, you know that I'm a pretty big fan of taking pictures, so I'm pretty aggravated by what I've seen from the camera so far.  Boo.

But, on a more positive note, I feel way more connected to everyone here and at home now (thank you snap chat and kakao!) Technology really is a beautiful thing.

A Korean Surprise: Impromptu Lunch?

On Thursday I finished teaching my 4th period class and headed back to the teacher's room.  I was starving because at this point it was 1:10 and I had been teaching non-stop all day, so I put my stuff down and was ready to head to the cafeteria. Just as I was about to leave, one of my co-teachers came over and said "We will go to lunch now.  You will come with me."

Ummm ok?  I could tell that this meant we were not going to the cafeteria, so I grabbed my purse and followed her to her car.

We then proceeded to drive to a restaurant not too far down the road, where we met the other English teachers from our school.

We ate a typical Korean lunch (lots of side dishes, soup, fish)...but I kept looking at my watch and thinking things along the line of "Shouldn't we be getting back to school now?"

It was 2:05 by the time we were done, and our next class starts at 2:10.  Of course, no one seemed worried about it.  We got back to school a little late, and went to teach our next class without anyone batting an eyelash.

Again, I couldn't help to think that I REALLY am in Korea now (in case the whole language thing hasn't given it away yet).  If a bunch of teachers in the US went out to lunch and were a few minutes late getting back, you would never hear the end of people complaining about those "lazy, overpaid teachers." Talk about a different perspective.

All in all, not a bad surprise.  School lunches in Korea are pretty good, but I can't complain about a random restaurant outing.  I have no idea why it happened, or if there even was a reason, but that's part of the mystique of these lovely Korean Surprises.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


I finally got my Alien Registration Card today, which means I can finally get a cell phone! Well...almost.

One of my co-teachers took me to get a phone, but apparently now we need to change something with my bank account.  UGH! So close, yet so far.

Also, tonight I bought a ticket to go to Ulsan next week.  Next week is Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving), so we have Wednesday-Sunday off from school.  I'm going to go see some friends from orientation, and I really just can't wait to see everyone and have some fun.

By the way, buying a bus ticket was quite the accomplishment...even if I had to point to a calendar to communicate.

It's the small victories that matter.

Everland/Other Updates


Yep, definitely feels like I'm teaching again.  I've said it before, but teaching really does exhaust you in a way that nothing else does.  Add in the constant confusion and lack of understanding of what is going on, and it takes the whole teaching thing to a new level.

These past few weeks have been ridiculously busy.  When I think about the fact that I haven't even been in Korea for a month yet, it totally blows my mind. I feel like I'm still living in a fog of emotions/experiences.

My first week of teaching went pretty well.  I did an introduction lesson in every class with information about where I'm from, what I like to do, and a little information about my family.  The students really enjoyed seeing photos, and I loved seeing their reactions to everything (they thought my dad was really handsome and they thought any boy in a picture with me was my boyfriend).  I also enjoyed their questions--the first question was always to ask if I had a boyfriend.  Several classes asked if I would date their teacher (my co-teacher, who was always in the room when they asked....nothing like making things awkward!)  My favorite question was probably when one girl asked how I am so slim when so many Americans are fat.  Classic.

I still need to take pictures of my school and explain how the school system works here in Korea.  It's coming, I promise.

This past weekend I had a few visitors, which was nice, even though I am a terrible tour guide at this point since I really don't know anything about this city yet!  I have some major learning to do!

Monday was our school trip to Everland.  Well, only the first graders went there--the second grade went somewhere else, and the third graders are too busy studying for their college entrance exam, so they didn't go anywhere.

I got to school around 7:30 AM, and I was glad to see that one of the other English teachers I met back at the first staff dinners would be the other teacher on my bus (and by default, responsible for spending the day with me).  She is really young and speaks English really well, so I was relieved to know that that would at least make the day easier.

We were probably only on the bus for around 30 minutes before we stopped at a rest stop.  Korean rest stops are far superior to US rest stops, by the way.  I wanted to take pictures, but I didn't know if that would make me look totally weird...I'm not quite in that comfort zone to be THAT American yet..

We all got coffee (that the school paid for), and got back on the road.  About an hour later we arrived at Everland.  Everland is an amusement park, kind of like the Disneyland of Korea.  The kids went their separate ways and we started to walk around the park. We checked out a lot of the animal related stuff--they have some really cool safari bus rides that you can do that bring you REALLY close to a lot of the animals.

After a while, we stopped by a drink stand and as I pulled out money for my drink, the other teacher told me that "No, the school will pay! Anything you's free!"  Not such a bad deal.

We spent a lot of time walking around because my other teacher friend doesn't like rides.  There were some cool roller coasters I wanted to go on, but I obviously wasn't going to go ditch her to go on them...oh well, maybe another time!

Our day was nice, but one of my favorite parts of the day was seeing the students having FUN and being kids.  There kids are ALWAYS at school.  In fact, they are still at school as I write this.  It blows my mind.  I am so glad that for at least one day, they got to enjoy themselves.

We left Everland around 4:30.  We stopped again on the way home  (apparently a 2 hour bus ride is just too long to do without stopping?), and by the time we got home I was EXHAUSTED.  Of course, when we got back I was informed that the teachers were going to a restaurant for dinner.  All I really wanted to do was go home, but it's not good to pass up those opportunities, so all headed over to a local restaurant for some food.  Finally, I was home and completely wiped. (it was probably 8:30 by that point). But I had to finish preparing a few things for my classes the next day--the last thing you want to do after a long day.

School yesterday was crazy stressful, but you can read more about that in my last post.

Today I reached a somewhat new level of school related stress.

I have always been a perfectionist--when I was a student I would stay up ridiculously late studying for tests, to the point where my parents would tell me to go to bed because sleeping was more important than school.  Of course, I always ignored them, because not doing well was just never an option in my mind.

As I have gotten older, I have relaxed in many ways, but I cannot shake my need to feel like I am being successful in what I'm doing.  It's one of the things that makes teaching very difficult for me--there are so many challenges, and it takes a long time and a lot of practice to really be a good teacher.  When I was teaching in America, I always knew there were so many things I could do better, but when I was feeling like a complete failure I had a huge support network of people who understood how I felt.

Jumping into teaching here has been really challenging, in large part because I don't really know what is expected of me or how I am supposed to teach.  Teaching English is completely different from teaching at home where I at least know what the curriculum is and the general accepted methods of teaching.

Only one of my classes here has a textbook, and it's really just a random assortment of English phrases.  There is absolutely no coherent theme within the units.  I've been getting mixed messages about how I should be teaching, and it's making it really hard for me to plan anything that I feel ok with.

After one of my lessons today, one of my co-teachers was telling me that some of the kids that are shy were getting discouraged because I didn't call on them to answer a question, and she told me I should call on the shy kids more.

Ok, I absolutely would.  Except it is only my second time seeing these kids (and I have SO MANY STUDENTS!), so I really don't know which kids are the shy students yet.  It's little things like that that can make it really frustrating for me to feel like I am being even somewhat successful.

That conversation made me feel really guilty, and the stress of school had me missing home in a big way today.  Of course, right when I was at lunch trying to keep myself together, one of the teachers asked me about how I keep in touch with my parents--not the best timing for a question like that, when I was already trying really hard not to think about home.  Let's just say I was very ready to be done with lunch today.

Anyone who has ever taught knows that it often takes a few times to get a lesson to the point where it's really any good.  I am having to try so many new things, and sometimes things aren't working.  This is a normal part of teaching, but I like I am really under the microscope, which makes me feel like if a lesson doesn't work out, I'm a bad teacher.

Please don't take this the wrong way--everyone at school is still extremely nice to me, but I can't seem to shake my inner perfectionist.

Also, don't take my rants to mean that I don't like teaching here.  I absolutely love my students.  They make my day, everyday.  And anyone who has ever taught knows that that alone is why you teach--it's the students that make it worth it.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Korean Surprise: The Lesson Demonstration

Today was a long day. A very long day.

I was already exhausted going into the day because of the all day field trip yesterday (which I really will write about soon).  Of course, Tuesdays are always crazy days for me because I teach pretty much all day and then I have a night class from 7:30-9.

So it was only made more crazy when after I finished teaching my first class of the day, my co-teacher asked me about my lesson demonstration.

My what?! (SURPRISE!!!)

She looked at me in a confused way and said "wait, you do not have your lesson prepared?"

I  told her that I did have a lesson plan for the day, but I didn't have it written up in a formal way.

The look on her face told me that was not good.

So, she called down my other co-teacher who told me that he had written up a lesson plan, but that I should just teach whatever I had prepared.  What?

 He told me that he didn't think the Principal had even seen the lesson plan, so it wouldn't matter.

Now, I'm still not exactly sure WHAT I'm supposed to be teaching in this class.  My co-teacher told me that it should be speaking related, so I had planned some speaking activities.  Of course, I've never tried any of these activities, so I had no idea how they will work,. Being observed while trying something that could potentially fail miserably was not really so thrilling to me.

I asked my co-teacher more questions as I tried to figure everything out, but he eventually told me not to worry because he doesn't think the Vice-Principal can even understand any English, and he thinks the Principal can understand very little, if any.

The whole thing was almost comical in a weird way.  My co-teacher knew this demonstration was going to happen, and he wrote up a lesson plan, knowing that it was just complete BS and that it would never be used...because his bosses can't understand it anyway.

Moments like these remind me I'm really not in America anymore.

When the time for the class came, my co-teacher told me that he had forgotten that I hadn't even met that class yet (we didn't have classes last Tuesday), so I should just forget about everything and do my introduction lesson.

So, in the end I was stressed for the larger part of the day over nothing.

Everything I've read about Korea warns you about how schedules change all the time and you have to be able to go with the flow.  I was totally prepared for schedule changes, but I was not in any way prepared for a last minute lesson demonstration.

Today really took the Korean Surprise to the next level.

Please excuse me as I try to placate my stress with ice cream (I'm really mad at myself for not having any beer in my refrigerator right now).

Monday, September 9, 2013


So tired, so busy!

To those of you who check this frequently (so pretty much my parents & Pont), sorry that I haven't had a chance to update much about school recently.  This week has been super busy.  I went on a field trip today and I promise I will update you all as soon as I have some free time.  Hopefully within the next few days.

In the meantime, here are some fun facts about Korea for you:

--Korea is roughly the size of Indiana, but has a greater population than California and Texas combined.  Also, 70% of the country is mountains.  That is some crazy population density.

--You don't flush the toilet paper in Korea.  Instead, there is a little waste basket next to the toilet that you put it in.  We didn't know this for the first few days at orientation.  Our minds were blown when we were finally told what that little bucket in our bathrooms was for.

--You don't tip at restaurants.

--Drinking in public is legal.

--It's considered rude to blow your nose in front of someone.

Much love! xoxo

Friday, September 6, 2013

The power of the boy band

Even in America, many people are familiar with the K-pop music scene.  It was actually one of the things I was really excited to experience while in Korea, and let me say, it hasn't let me down.

Now, the beauty of k-pop music is that it's basically the 90s pop scene reincarnated in Korea.  Of course, back in the day I was all about the pop music.  I was the perfect age when all of the BSB/NSync/Spice Girls mania was going on, and it was AWESOME.  So, when I learned there is a huge pop music scene in Korea, obviously I was pretty pumped about it.

Since I've been in Korea, I've been able to watch a ton of K-pop music videos via my Korean cable.  It brings me right back to my childhood--the dance moves, the music videos, the marketing, it's all the same.

So needless to say, my day was totally made when I got to witness the power of the this mania at school. While the students eat lunch, there is a huge tv that is turned on--usually to a channel that shows K-pop performers.  Today there was a boy band on one of the shows (unfortunately I don't the names of them all yet), but every time one of the guys would look at the camera the certain way or bust out a dance move, all the girls in the cafeteria went CRAZY.  They would just start screaming and laughing, and it was really just the best lunchtime entertainment I could have asked for.

It makes my heart so happy to know the wondrous allure of the boy band still lives on, even if it's on the other side of the world.

Brilliant Korea Presents: Banana Milk

As I keep this blog, I want to keep track of all of the wonderful little things about living in Korea.  They're the simple things that make me think, "Hey, why don't we have this in the US?"

This, my friends, is banana milk.

I first bad banana milk on the day I met my co-teacher.  On our ride from Gumi to Jeomchon, we stopped at a rest area and while I insisted I didn't need anything, my co-teacher wasn't going to let me get away with getting nothing. She grabbed some banana milk and a bag of Snickers for me, and we were on our way.

Now, I am not a milk lover by any means.  As in, I avoid drinking milk at any cost.  However, I love bananas, and this is delicious.

I have no idea if there is actually real milk in banana milk. I also don't know how loaded with other sorts of crap it is (one of the good/bad things about being in Korea is that I can't read the nutrition facts on labels).  However, I really don't care because banana milk is a total win.

Nice work, Korea.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

How Living Abroad Can Make You a Better Person

Today’s article is written for the Reach To Teach Teach Abroad Blog Carnival, a monthly series that focuses on providing helpful tips and advice to ESL teachers around the globe. I'll be posting a new ESL related article on my blog on the 5th of every month. Check back for more articles, and if you'd like to contribute to next month's Blog Carnival, please get in touch with me, and I'll let you know how you can start participating! 

How Living Abroad Can Make You A Better Person

Before I begin to share my thoughts on this topic, I should say that I'm only beginning my third week in Korea. I can by no means preach about the myriads of ways that living abroad has already made me a better person. However, what I can write about is how I hope it will make me a better person, and what I have noticed thus far.  

When I was trying to decide whether or not to move abroad, I had plenty of reasons not to leave my comfortable life in the US.  However, I knew one thing was for certain.  If I didn't go, I would always regret it.  

Getting on the plane to Korea was hands down the scariest thing I've ever done. Getting on a bus to move to a town that I had never even heard of, where I knew absolutely no one, was the second scariest.  

For a long time, moving abroad seemed like this insurmountable thing that would never actually happen. However, now that I am here, living this life that always seemed so far-fetched, I fully understand that life truly is what you make of it.  

We can be (and often times are) our own worst enemies.  It becomes so easy to keep ourselves from doing what it is we truly want to do because we are afraid. We let the reasons not to do something, however minor or feeble they are, run our lives.  

When you finally cast your doubts aside and take a huge leap of faith to do something that terrifies you, you become empowered.  

While coming to Korea felt like something that would never happen, now that I am here I feel like I can go anywhere or try anything.  There are very few things that scare me now.  

This is the first way that living abroad can make you a better person: it forces you to face your fears. We don't usually like to do things that scare us.  In fact, we naturally run away from things that seem out of our comfort zone.  But the truth is, facing those fears makes you realize that many of the things we are afraid of are merely figments of our imaginations.  We are sometimes afraid of challenges.  We're almost always afraid of failure.  But when you confront challenges and failures, you learn that through everything, life goes on. When you realize that, you can start to find out what you're really capable of.   

The world is a big place.  I didn't need to come to Korea to know that.  However, knowing something and experiencing something are completely different.  In my little time I've been abroad, I have begun to experience the enormity of the world.  I have experienced a culture that is very different from my own.  It doesn't matter how many books you read or documentaries you watch, experiencing something and internalizing the effects of that experience leaves a unique and indelible mark on your perception of the world that you cannot gain in any other way.  

Over the past few weeks, I have been struck by the overwhelming generosity from those I've encountered.  Complete strangers have welcomed me to their country and taken time to make sure that I am taken care of.  The world is a very big place filled with very different cultures that can fool us into thinking that we are very different from one another.  One of the definite advantages of living abroad is that you fully understand that at the center of human interactions is a generosity and compassion that surpasses any language barrier.  

This is the second main point I would emphasize about living abroad: the world is full of wonderful people.  You will never meet many of them if you don't travel. 

Finally, one of the ways that living abroad can enhance your life is by allowing you to find out who you are outside of the context of your hometown, your friends, and your family.  When you move abroad, you are stripped of many of the things that have made you you for the majority of your life.  

We've all heard the quote "Wherever you go, there you are."  I can't think of a better quote to describe the experience of living abroad.  The people, language, food, religion, music, and customs change tremendously.  You become the only constant in your own life. You are still yourself without your friends, family, and home culture.  And because of this, you look at yourself in a completely new light.  

I don't think that living abroad automatically makes you a better person.  What makes a person "better" is hard to define, and different for everyone because everyone has their own personal aspirations about the type of person they want to be. However, if you enter into the experience with an open, inquisitive mind, you will without doubt grow as a person and learn unique lessons through your experiences. 

In my eyes, becoming a "better" person is a process that never ends.  There is no end mark, but it is a continual process of becoming a more compassionate and selfless person. In order for me to better myself, I knew I needed to put myself in a completely different situation where I could live and breathe a different culture.  One where I could celebrate different holidays, eat different food, and share good and bad moments with people whom I otherwise never would have met.  

I don't know what I will be like a week, month, or year from now.  But what I do know is that I will have learned lessons that it would have been impossible to learn elsewhere and I will, without doubt, be better for that. 


Monday, September 2, 2013

The Korean Surprise

During one of our lectures at orientation, we had an amazing presenter who talked about classroom management.  She mentioned that as you teach in Korea, you will be presented with many last minute "surprises."  Sometimes this could be that a class is canceled, other times it might be that you have an extra class or have to go to a staff dinner.

This presenter said that she refers to these instances as the "Korean Surprise."  She told us that whenever these last minute surprises happen to her, she yells "SURPRISE!" in her head to add some enthusiasm and to try and make her feel better about it.

Of course, this was probably one of our favorite lines from orientation, and since that lecture we have been anticipating our own Korean Surprises.

I have to say, this was a momentous day. Today I got my first real Korean Surprises.

When I got to school this morning we had a faculty meeting.  I sat in the meeting having no idea what was being said, when my co-teacher turned to me and told me that the Vice Principal had just introduced me and that I had to get up in front of the teachers and introduce myself.

Ok, not so bad.

But after the staff meeting, I was then told that I had to go to the auditorium, where I would have to speak in front of the entire school.


So I got up on stage and said a few words.  It's only mildly awkward trying to sound gracious being put on the spot like that....

So that was Korean Surprise number 1.

Surprise number 2 came when I was teaching.  One of the classes I teach is Advanced English Conversation--this is the class I was told to teach writing in.  I have these kids for two periods in a row on Mondays, so I had prepared a writing assignment for them today so I could assess their writing abilities.

Of course, after my first class my co-teacher told me that only the first half is supposed to be writing. The second part of the class should be speaking.


I'm sure this was mostly just a miscommunication.  The language barrier makes it REALLY hard to figure out what is expected of me, so I'm sure I'm just going to have to make mistakes to figure it out.

So for lack of a better idea, I had the kids interview each other and introduce their classmates.  Such a boring lesson and not the way I would have liked to have started my time teaching them.

But that's the thing about Korean Surprises--you just never know when they're coming.

Oh, and I also found out I don't have classes tomorrow (except for my night class).  At least I had 24 hours notice on that one.

Oh Korea, definitely keeping me on my toes!

The first day of school

The first day of school always comes with a certain amount of anxiety.  There is always so much you don't know going into the first day, whether it be the ability of your students, whether or not your lessons will be successful, or how your students will react to you.

This is my third year having a "first day" as a teacher, but this one was definitely the biggest wild card.  Never having been in a Korean classroom, I really didn't know what to expect.  Of course, when your students bow to you and tell you you're beautiful, it makes it a little easier to deal with.

I will write more about the Korean school system another day, but here are some of my initial observations about school life:

-These kids are TIRED.  As soon as I walked through the halls to my class I saw classrooms full of students asleep on their desks during their 10 minute break.  These kids are at school ALL day.  They get to school in the morning and do not leave until 10 or 11 at night.  These kids are exhausted.

Today I asked the kids to answer a few questions so I could a better sense of where they're at.  The last statement I asked them to fill in was "One thing you should know about me is ________"

Almost every single student wrote something about how tired they are.

-Students seem to have good, respectful relationships with their teachers.  Obviously this is just an initial reaction, but students constantly and freely come into the teacher's office to speak with their teachers.

-My kids are really smart.  Other people have been telling me that the school I'm placed at is a really good one--and while the building itself isn't the greatest, the students really impressed me with their English abilities.

-Many students are shy, especially about speaking English.  I don't blame them either, since I am extremely self conscious about speaking Korean.

-Almost all the girls have mirrors on their desks and will check themselves out throughout class.

There are probably many more things, but I am pretty wiped.  Teaching makes you a very specific kind of tired.  It's strange, over long breaks I almost forget just how exhausting it really is.

But with that said, I'm really happy to be teaching again.

Only in Korea...

Only in Korea would this be written on the front of a Notebook.  Can't make this stuff up.

Just to clarify...

I know I've been writing a lot about how things have been challenging, but please don't take that to mean that I am unhappy.  I am really glad to be here.  Everyone I've encountered has been incredibly kind and welcoming to me.

The challenges I face are completely expected and go with the territory of moving to a new country.  I knew it would be this way--and it's part of why I wanted to move abroad.  Sometimes it's good to be taken out of your comfort zone.