Thursday, June 27, 2013

What's belongs to you is your's and what belongs to me is mine

Working in a high school dorm as the dorm parent has it's ups and downs.  For me i've begun to learn how many cultural difference there really are between Korean and America.  Not just the surface ones that i've known about since moving here 2 1/2 years ago but the less common ones that I just simply don't understand.  
About a month ago I came across my first strange cultural difference.  It was while my co-worker and I were discussing how many times a week the bathroom should be cleaned.  What a crazy thing to have to discuss.  But that's not where the cultural difference comes in.  And that's a story for another time.  While we were in this discussion my co-worker notices that I have a pair of shoes on my bedroom floor.  I thought she was going to die as she freaked out because I had shoes on my bedroom floor.  The woman doesn't think the bathroom needs to be cleaned but having a pair of shoes on the bedroom floor is a BIG NO NO.  I understand where she is coming from as in Asia you are supposed to take your shoes off at the door and put on slippers to walk around the house.  But that's nothing new to me.  At my house in America we also take our shoes off at the door.  I also understand that we live in a big city where God only knows what is on the sidewalk and what gets stuck to our shoes.  So I understand that having a pair of shoes that you just walked around in on your bedroom floor my be gross.  However, this was when I first moved in and I had not unpacked my stuff yet.  So those shoes...they were clean.
Yesterday, I came across another cultural difference.  This time I was furious.  Every night I either take my students phones from them or I take the chip inside their phone so that they are not up all night talking and texting their friends.  As I've told them a million times, sleep is important for brain function.  Yesterday I accidentally left one of the girl's chip on my table instead of taking it to school.  Since they can't have their phones during school hours I told her I would go home during lunch and get her chip so that she has it for after school.  As it turns out I forgot to give her the chip.  I went to Bible study that night and when I got back to the dorm I went to get her chip to give it to her and it was gone.  I freaked out thinking OMG I lost her chip.  I felt so bad.  Fastforward to the next day at school.  I thought it rather odd that she wasn't asking for her chip back so I asked her where her chip was and she told me, "I have, I get from your purse yesterday"  And right there, I lost it.  The girl went into my room, into my purse, into my glasses case to get her chip.  Now yes, it is my fault that I did not give her the chip the day before, but where I come from you DO NOT go into some else's room into their thing especially their purse.  I so MAD.  As i'm explaining this to her, how she is not allowed to go into other people's things I am getting a weird look from all the Korean teachers and my friend Mo (who is Brazilian).  They simply don't see the problem with going into other's things to get something that belongs to them.  And I get if something belongs to you, you want it right.  But you still have to have respect for other's things.  The right thing to do is to ask that person if you can go get you thing.  You don't just simply go get it without permission.  For me that shows a lack of respect for that person.
I still have a lot to learn, but I refuse to back down on the issue of privacy of one's personal belongings.  

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Bear with me!

Somewhere up near Seoul there is a place called Bear Tree Park.  In this park you will find the native
Moon Bears.  These bears are supposed to be only found in Korea.  Actually, they are only found in this park.  Rumor has it that a long time ago, you know back when tigers lived in Korea, there use to be an over population of these bears.  Rumor has it no one knows how they became almost extinct.  So this man built this park specially for these bears.  So I guess in a way he single handedly save the population of these moon Bears.  What an accomplishment!  One day you will be asked what you did with your life.  What will your answer be?  I hope that some day I accomplish something as amazing as saving a species of bear.  
I'm not much of an animal lover but they are super cute.  They have patch of white fur on their chest that looks like a half moon.  GET IT.  That's how they got their name.
Actually it would be something else in Korean.  Anyways.  I walked around this park, which was a nice break from the city life. It was near the end of  fall time, my favorite time of the year!  The leaves were all red, yellow, and orange!  It was beautiful! If I could live anywhere in the world I would live where it was fall time all the time! I got to see many normal animals to me.  Peacocks, rabbits, dogs, cats, sheep, baby bears, brown bears, and the famous Moon Bear!  Because it was close to winter time when I went to the park so part of me was for sure that the bears would be hibernating, but no.  According to one of the workers if you feed a bear regularly they don't go into hibernation.  I wonder if that healthy for the bear?
We got to feed the bears walnut bread!  They love walnut bread!  They do this thing when they want you to throw them some bread.  They stand up on their legs and clap
their paws together.  Almost like a little kid who just did something they think is amazing!  It was super cute!  I wonder how long it took them to learn that trick?  I wonder who taught it to them?  I wonder how much bread they consume in a day?
In part of the park there were bear statues!  Bears getting married, bears playing jump rope, bears that look like they are going to attack you, and bears getting arrested?  It was the perfect opportunity to take funny pictures!  This park is amazing!  I would recommend it to any one!  Although I would say to go when it's a bit warmer outside!!
It was a good day!  I got to spend the day with my friend Reba!  I hadn't seen her since she moved from Busan to Seoul!  So all in all it was a good adventure!

Anyone have marshmallows?

 In Korea every year they have a big bon-fire on the beach.  I've heard about it in the past but never had the time to make it to see if it was really worth all the talk.  This year I actually circled the date on my calendar to make sure I made it!  I also sent out an invite to all my friends to see who would be interested in joining me.  I mean come out...a big bon-fire, on the beach, what could be better than that?
Sadly, the day of the bon-fire I had to work.  Grrr...Korean academy life.  But, I got off at 3:00 and the fire didn't start until 6:00.  Why they decided 6:00 I don't know as it's still daylight out at 6:00.  But I assumed that a big fire would be awesome in the daylight or night!  So after getting off work I met with my friends and we headed to the beach to see this big fire.  Honestly I didn't think it would be that great.  We got to the beach a little early but I was hungry so we decided that there was time to grab something to eat!  As we were walking down the beach we saw the trees they were going to light.  I say trees because that's what they were, trees.  Big trees.  Not bushes or logs...but real trees with roots attached.  As the massive tree mound came into view I realized that this might actually be something really amazing!  Then I saw all the people.  It must be a really big event because there were so many people there.  Actually I was a little worried about the people in front.  Fire is hot...and when it's a big tree filled mound they are lighting I bet it would be pretty toasty in the front row.  And true to Korean fashion, I don't think they thought of that.  People were standing pretty close to it.
I started to get worried because naturally I wanted to see the fire up close.  But with all the people on the beach we were located across the road from the beach.  It worried me because I thought, "what if I don't get to see it?"  Silly me!  Who wouldn't see it?  The tree mound was massive.  So we decided to not stop for food because it was almost 6:00 and we had awful standing positions.  When they lit the fire it was like how I would imagine a forest fire spreads during a drought.  It was pretty fast and wickedly awesome to watch.  Another thing Korea didn't think of was the smoke.  Naturally dead dry trees with the leaves still on them are going to cause much smoke.  I actually felt bad for the people on the beach.  Not only was it unsafe because of the massive flames of fire but all that smoke.  And when the wind would change you know smoke changes directions.  It was pretty epic from where I was standing though!
As people left because the main show was over, my friends and I slowly made our way down to the beach to get a realistic picture of how big the fire really was.  When we got down there all I could do was think, "man it's too bad no one brought marshmallows"  what a waste of a perfectly good fire.  No marshmallows.  A big fire, lots of people, but no marshmallows.  Who does that?
We also discovered that they did have a small area that no one was allowed to enter.  I assume for safety reasons but I can't imagine it did much good.  That fire would have been super hot.  And true to Korean style, no one was concerned that you weren't supposed to enter.  As they entered any ways and went right up to the fire.  OH KOREA!!
This just makes me want to go camping!

Monday, June 17, 2013

I spy...Geoje!

My friends and I decided we needed a mini one day vacation!  We decided we would head to Geoje Island!  The trip there began at 8:00am and the bus driver shhhhhed us a few times on the 2 hour ride there.  There are many historical things to see in Geoje, but we didn't do any of them.  Actually I was a little sad we didn't go see the POW camp.  We stopped by for a little while but in the end no one really wanted to pay to go see it.  I love history so naturally I was a little upset that no one

else thought it would be a good experience to go see the camp that held the North Korean POW's.  How could you not be interested in that?  Any ways we spent much time on the bus or walking to find a bus stop.  Above you will see the picture of us taking over the back of the bus.  Oh, there are no seat left?  No problem, we'll just sit on the step.  Now if you know anything about Korea, you will know that sitting on the floor is like the biggest of all NO's, DON'T DO IT!  I'm sure that the Korean's all thought we were crazy.
The day was great though.  We made it to the beach which didn't have sand but rocks instead.  What does one do when you see a bunch of flat rocks that are oh so good for skipping.  You begin the search for the perfect rocks to skip across the ocean.  To your left you will see two beautiful women, E and L, looking for rocks.  E wants to skip them, L wants to keep them??  Ok L!! The great thing about a beach full of rocks is that you will find many interesting colors and shapes.   The only one I remember is the heart shaped one that took me about 10 minutes to find even though my friends were all telling me where to look.  I would say I need glasses...but I already have glasses.  Maybe a new prescription?
When you get tired of looking for fun shaped rocks or rocks good for skipping, then what? What do you do?
That's easy.  You play a game.  What game you ask?  Simple you throw rocks at a target and see who can hit that target first.  Easy enough right.  WRONG!  Rocks tend to bounce off of each other.  When they bounce...they tend to bounce really far.  In fact I think we scared the Korean mom that was there with her children.  I'm pretty sure that if we would have continued to play she would have gone all Korean Ahjama (Korean older grandmother) on us.  Ahjama's are scary people.  They just don't have a care in the world.  Of course no trip to the beach is complete without Makgoli (Korean rice wine?)  Actually I don't really like Makgoli unless it's flavored but I smiled and drank it anyways!
At the end of the day, we stopped at the inlet and watched the boats.  It was a beautiful site, as you can see from the picture below!  Our long 2 hour bus ride back to Busan began at 9...I think.  Actually I don't remember what time we left.  But when we got back on the bus to go home the bus driver was the same one
that was driving the bus that morning and yes he did remember us!  He asked us to not be loud on the ride home like we were on the ride there.  I thought it was funny that of all the foreigners he must see everyday, he remember us because we were a little too loud.
In all the day was great.  It was sunny! I enjoy the sun!  Even though I wore sunscreen, I still got sunburnt!  It's been 2 and a half years since i've been sunburnt.  Actually it's been 2 and a half years since i've seen any color on my skin.  It was a welcomed change!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Mighty Deoks

The Mighty that is not a misspelling.

My first two and a half years in Korea were spent living and working in a distant region of Busan called Deokcheon-dong.  If I were to compare it to something I would compare it to living in district 12 of the hunger games.  No one really wanted to travel out that far to visit, so I was always the one to have to travel great distances to see my friends.  It's one of the poor neighborhoods in Korea.  Usually when I would tell a Korean where I lived they would look at my as if to say, "oh gosh i'm sorry you got stuck there"
In Deokcheon, the people there are the best!  We have a relationship unlike any other place in Busan.  We all hung out together, drank together, partied together, laughed together, and became a family.  This you might feel is a lie, but trust me, if you didn't live in Deokcheon, you missed out on an amazing experience while living in Korea.
In the two and a half years I lived in Deokcheon, I saw people come and people go.  I saw life long friendship in the making.  I saw people who under normal circumstances would never have become friends form solid friendship!  I saw that people from all walks of life can put aside their differences, in religion and politics, and learn to have a conversation that doesn't require that there is a winner or loser in the end.   I saw God work in ways that are unexplainable.  But, I also saw pain, hardship, tears, miscommunication, love that didn't last, and people fall from the grace of God.
The Mighty Deoks are forever in my heart as one of the best things that ever happened to me in my life.  We all met on Wednesday nights at Tom's bar!  It's kind of our home away from home.  On any night you could go to Tom's bar and find one if not several Mighty Deoks there having a good time!  It was always a sad event when a fellow Deok decided that his/her time in Korea was over and they decided to go home.  Many tears were shed at nore-bangs (karaoke) on the night before someone would leave.

Deokcheon wasn't only about the foreigners that all got placed there for their English teaching job.  But, it's about the everyday people of Deokcheon.  The people you meet at the places you go on a daily basis!  I have been blessed to get to know some pretty awesome people during my time in Deokcheon!
First, there is Hae-Uk, my all time favorite coffee shop owner.  I met him two months after I moved to Korea.  I wanted to become his friend because he was and still is the only Korean I know who has an afro!  His coffee shop has seen every side of me.  Sometimes I go in and i'm really happy, sometimes i'm sad, and sometimes i'm tired.  But every time I go I'm greeted with a big smile and friendly conversation!  Every time I leave I get big hugs from every worker at his coffee shop.  It's one of my favorite places to visit because I feel that everyone there really loves me!!  Through Hae-Uk I have met many wonderful people who have taken the time to get to know me!  I have formed many great relationship because of Hae-Uk coffee shop.  His coffee shop is special to me because Hae-Uk happen to also be a Christian and I know that with out fail I can go to his coffee shop and he will be playing Christian artists!  I'm glad that I got a chance to know Hae-Uk.
Second, there is all the wonderful people I have met at the muay thai gym.  Although none of them speak very good English, they all try so hard to include me.  I've gone to nore bangs and on rafting trips with them. I've gone to muay thai fights to cheer some of them on!  I've gotten to know more about the
Korean culture than I would have known because my muay thai master does not hesitate to tell me when i'm breaking some cultural rule :)  Everyone there know that when I come in I want hugs.  It took some time in the beginning but now when I walk in everyone greets me with a hug!  Korean's don't usually hug each other.  So I like to feel that I brought some love to the place!
Last, there is Tom's bar.  The epic Tom's bar.  Where all the English Teachers meet on Wednesday nights to have a drink and complain about our jobs.  The bar staff know us all by name.  They know what you like to drink and what your favorite snacks are!
They don't get angry when you are being a complete idiot.  I have witness them kick people out of the bar.  Imagine a skinny korean woman telling a big foreigner that he has to leave the bar.  I don't have much experience but I think that in america the big guy would look at the twig woman and laugh.  But not here.  With respect, they leave.  I've never seen any of the staff have to use force to make someone leave.

Friday, June 7, 2013

A spoonful of sugar

I live in South Korea.  I have lived here for two and a half years.  Although life has been grand there are so many moments when I have to stop and really think about why I came in the first place.  When you live in a different country for too long, you begin to find thing you just absolutely HATE about the place.  In my sociology classes we learned about the honeymoon period.  That period of time when something is new and you just LOVE everything about it.  That feeling can last for a long or short period of time.  As I talk with my friends I have made here in South Korea I have come to realize that for the most part everyone LOVES the first 3 months here in South Korea.  After that the cultural differences begin to annoy you.  Then you realize how much South Korea annoys you.  So how did I survive after the three months.  Simple, a spoonful of sugar.  Do you remember Mary Poppins?  I use to love that song.  Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.  South Korea is much like medicine, but when you find the right people and places to hang out, it's like getting your spoonful of sugar everyday.
I started this blog a long time ago because I wanted to share my experience with other people.  Life sometimes gets in the way of you sharing your happiness.  I was so busy thinking of my plans that I just didn't want to take the time to share all my happy and not so happy memories anymore.  This choice I regret.  I wish I would have done more sharing.  
As I think about the future and all I want to do in the future I wish I had more people to share my hopes and dreams with!  
So now is my chance.  My chance to share a hope and a dream with the world.  I hope and pray that God will send people my way so that they can be a part of what could be the best decision I have ever made!