Thursday, December 29, 2011

Taking a deep breath...

I've now been in Korea for almost a year and in not too many hours we'll be counting down to 2012 - amazing! After the school semester finished, I felt pretty frazzled and ready to collapse and take a looong rest. Now I'm getting excited for the new year. Moving to a different country, starting a new job, looking after children, and throwing my old routine out the window has been tremendously liberating, fun, and adventurous. It was quite a shake up and now I am ready to settle down a bit more and get centered again. This seems like a good time to reflect on the past year and figure out what I want to fit into the new one.

1. Meditating
I used to think meditation was some exotic, unapproachable, mysterious activity that appeared humorous and soundly unnecessary. Then I tried it and felt incredibly good. Taking a few minutes in the morning to clear my head, consciously relax, and slow down my overly busy and cluttered thoughts is one of the healthiest and most energizing things that I can do. If I feel grumpy, stressed, overwhelmed, etc. I know this is what helps me most, but during most of this year I've neglected to take that time. The last few days I've gotten back into it and I feel sooo much better. It's like taking a luxurious bath for my mind haha...ahem, moving on now.

2. Cooking
Before I left Canada, I got pretty comfortable in the kitchen and really enjoyed cooking soups, stews, stir-fries, and dabbling in baking. The last few months have featured very little cooking by me. I have a cute, brand new kitchen and though it is small, there's no reason for it to go unused. It's time for me reclaim the lead role in the kitchen and let the rice cooker step down to an assisting position. I had lots of excuses not to cook much - lack of energy after work, unfamiliarity with the ingredients here, living in an apartment surrounded by lovely and cheap restaurants - but the truth is I love cooking and I miss it a lot. It gives me energy, grounds me, and makes me feel nourished and healthy. It's also just fun!

3. Studying Korean
This is something I must do. I'm no longer a beginner but I'm far from being at a conversational level and I really really want to understand what people are saying all around me. I want to communicate and feel at ease and be more independent. So, my goal is to study every day, even if it's only for a few minutes. One day, I want to have an actual conversation with my boyfriend's parents.

4. Spending time in nature
Living in a big city here is very different from living by the ocean, surrounded by trees and natural beauty. I realize now that I took nature for granted. I could just step outside and breathe fresh air and feel inspired by beautiful ocean views. Parks and gardens and hiking trails were everywhere, so easily accessible. There is plenty of natural beauty in Korea and hiking in the mountains here can be breathtaking. However, it takes more effort to get to the mountains or the countryside. I haven't made enough of an effort this past year and I'm craving nature badly. I live quite close to some beautiful mountains so I will try to actually pay them a visit at least once a month.

5. Exercising
So this is a boring one, but I do feel a lot better when I exercise regularly. During vacation it's not a problem, but it's hard to get motivated after a tiring day at work. So, even if I just hula hoop for ten minutes, do some jumping jacks, or pretend to execute some ballet moves, I will try to fit more conscious movement into each day.

The new year is just around the corner, and I feel excited, energized, and ready to celebrate! Hooray! :-)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Have a holly jolly cozy Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone!

In my corner of the world, Christmas was a little strange this year. I kept looking forward to it, yearning and dreaming of magic, perfection, shiny trees, roaring fireplaces, snowflakes, warm hugs, and freshly baked cookies. Then I realized that I was in a different country that doesn't really celebrate Christmas and that my family was on the other side of the world. Then I eventually figured out that half of that sentence mattered but that the first half did not.

Being here has made me think about what Christmas means to me, why I always make it out to be the most important, eagerly anticipated, obsessed over day of the year. A month ago I started looking out for Christmas trees, dreaming of cups of hot chocolate, straining my ears trying to hear Christmas carols everywhere I went. I pointed out decorations whenever I saw them and examined festive looking food at the supermarket. I dreamt of enjoying the perfect, romantic Christmas with my boyfriend. Somehow, none of this felt good or happy or joyful or merry or fun.

So what makes Christmas Christmas? It seems obvious to point out that it's not about the presents, fancy decorations, or department store Santas. It's not the turkey or the mistletoe either, although I do heartily enjoy those things when they are available. It also seems obvious to point out that Christmas is all about being with the people we love - appreciating them, laughing together, eating together, and feeling grateful to have such love and togetherness during the darkest, coldest part of the year.

I couldn't be with my family this year and this made Christmas less Christmas-y. Thank goodness for Skype.

My boyfriend and I are now on vacation and we spent Christmas together, eating donuts and pizza, watching movies, staying warm and cozy, and feeling grateful to have found each other. We didn't have a super exciting, colourful, extraordinary celebration...but I finally realized (and I feel ashamed that this is something I had to realize in the first place) that being able to spend a quiet evening together with the person I love is a gift, and it is all that I want.

Why wait for something extraordinarily perfect to happen when it's already hitting me on the head in this very moment? Why yearn for magic when simply holding someone's hand feels like the loveliest thing in the world? I hope I never take the people I love for granted. I want to appreciate them and enjoy our lives together without ever forgetting how precious and important that is.

Cue hugging time!

Cue the music - All I Want for Christmas is Youuuuuuuu!

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Very Warm November

So this clearly isn't a November photo - rather it's a blurry little shot of a gorgeous view found on beautiful Jeju Island. I've been neglecting my autumnal photo taking duties which is not so smart because the autumn season here is incredibly lovely - the leaves change colour and the soft rolling mountains become blanketed with bright orange, yellow, and red leaves. When the sun lights everything up it looks like paradise. But now it's mid November so the leaves are drying up and falling down. I'm afraid I've missed my chance!

I've been spending more time indoors lately, feeling cozy and watching movies while the days get darker and darker. Last night I watched Rise of Planet of the Apes and found it to be surprisingly moving and powerful. It's pretty amazing when a big blockbuster movie that features expensive, flashy special effects can also tell a good story and sometimes even deliver a thought-provoking message. I thought the same thing about Avatar actually and was disappointed that so many critics said great things about the movie's stunning special effects while dismissing the story as derivative and nothing special. Just because we've heard something before, doesn't mean it's no longer a valuable, meaningful message. Sometimes we become so hardened and cynical, we can't even be touched by the simplest, most deeply human emotions and instincts. I think this kind of numbness to life is really terrifying and hope that we can regain some of our innocence and earnestness.

Anywho, as usual I'm going off on tangents. It's time for me to head out and meet some co-teachers for a delicious lunch at a salad bar buffet, yum!! I will continue my ramblings soon :-)


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Reading, eating, writing...

Another weekend is here (and it feels very fleeting as usual!) and I am cozy inside, drinking tea and trying to refrain from eating chocolate. Yesterday was a very rainy day and today is just as gloomy and cloudy but without the rain. It's nice for staying indoors.

Yesterday's downtown adventures (of course I ventured outside despite the weather!) included eating delicious chocolate cake at a lovely cake shop downtown. It was my first visit there and it took ten minutes just to choose what kind of cake we wanted - there were so many tempting options! We ate the cake at a cafe above the shop and chatted the time away. Today's photo is obviously not of chocolate cake but cream pasta from dinner out a few weeks ago. Oh well, it still looks interesting haha.

I also bought two new books as I'm almost through The Woman in White. Wilkie Collins' mysteries are so atmospheric and intriguing...I get completely wrapped up in them and cannot stop turning the pages...and reading just a little bit more...and more :-) Anywho, the two new books I bought are Howards End, which I've been meaning to read for ages, and also The Night Circus. I wasn't planning on buying anything contemporary but this sounds like such an imaginative, magical, theatrical book that I couldn't resist. I'm hoping it will transport me to an exciting new world and stir my fancy :-) The cover is pretty at least ;-)

Well, time to pull my eyes away from the computer and point them at a book instead.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Sniff's cold season!

After avoiding and fighting off the ailment seemingly every other teacher at school had fallen prey too, I too have finally surrendered. I have a cold. Which means staying indoors, drinking copious amounts of tea, reading, and watching The Great British Bake Off. Things could be worse I guess ;-)

This past week I've been quite busy, rarely spending time at home and having lots of adventures outside while the weather is still good. I had lots of fun, but sadly I neglected to get enough quiet, recharging time and now I'm paying for it.

Whenever I get sick I think it's a good reminder to get more rest, eat and drink a little more carefully, and take some time out for myself. Some people can be super busy all day long, sleep for just a few hours, and be able to repeat the cycle again and again. I think they also get energy from the people around them. I can only do this for a very very short time. Even though I am still young, I need my eight hours of sleep, some peaceful time alone, and healthy food and drinks. It is easy to feel when I am a little off balance, but sometimes it's hard to find that balance again when life tempts us with adventure, sunshine, and chocolate brownies ;-)

Today I will delve more deeply into The Woman in White (which has flourished into a page turner just a few pages in). Thank goodness for books - even when we can't explore the real world outside, we can always transport ourselves to a different place just by picking up a book :-D

Friday, October 14, 2011

Cozy Day Ramblings

Yesterday I started watching the Great British Bake Off. The weather had suddenly changed so it was surprisingly cold and rainy compared to the summer-like weather we've been enjoying here for so long. I curled up in my blanket with a hot cup of tea and some roasted almonds and enjoyed a fun hour of entertaining Britishness. I can't wait to go back to England (for a visit) - the accent, architecture, people, history, tradition, culture, arts, literature, humour, style....I feel very attached to it all :-)

Anywho, watching a British program about baking is the epitome of coziness in autumn, ahhh. So lovely!

I also started reading The Woman in White at long last. It's my first Victorian novel in many months which seems utterly crazy. I don't know how I survived for so long without reading one. The unique language, style, and tone of Victorian novels soothes and inspires me. I love language in all its dimensions and nothing peaks my interest and passion as much as Victorian novels. Each sentence is a lovely, thought out gem. Each page sparkles with colour and wit. There is never a plain or bland sentence.

And now, getting back to everyday life - Korea still feels like a wonderful place to live and I continue to enjoy it here. I keep discovering new places and trying new things but the best part is definitely the people I have met here. The friends I've made are incredibly kind, warm, funny, kindred spirits and I feel grateful to have them in my life. Yay! It's a very sparkly life indeed :-)

And now it's time for tea!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Happy October!

Autumn here is so incredibly beautiful - I cannot get used to it! In Vancouver, Fall means big fat rainclouds and weeks of ongoing darkness and dampness. Here, Fall is a celebration of changing colours, crisp air, and gorgeous sunshine. Yesterday I even ate ice cream after a day of walking around downtown :-) And I also bought two pairs of flat shoes for the new season. There are lots of  stores downtown that only sell flat shoes and nothing else. Prices are very reasonable, so far I've been pleased with the quality, and the stores themselves are cute and cozy. The shoes are so pretty and unique :-)

I think I haven't really mentioned the street food here before. There are lots of delicious things you can easily buy on the street but my favourites by far are Fall/Winter treats such as roasted chestnuts, 붕어빵 and 국화빵 - the last two are little bread things with a red bean filling. They are so warm and soft and just perfect on a crisp day.

Lastly, these photos are from my trip to Jeju Island. Sometimes people call it the Korean Hawaii and it used to be Korea's #1 honeymoon destination. The island is stunningly beautiful. It really feels like you're getting away from normal, everyday city life when you go there. The natural beauty of the island, the colour of the water, the waterfalls and's all breathtaking! I could easily have stayed there for a longer time but even four days was rejuvenating and delightful :-)

Ah, and on a rather different note, I've been racking my brain trying to think of which university to go to for my Masters degree and I recently discovered that many universities in England offer a TESOL Masters program (this kind of program is not common in Canada). So - maybe I can combine two dreams and go to England for postgraduate school! I've been looking at the University of Bath...could it really happen? I really really hope so! So I should stop buying shoes and save money for life and education in England :-)


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Autumn Leaves

Oh dear, it's autumn already! Oops! I had a long summer vacation full of sunshine, patbingsu (shaved ice with ice cream, red beans, and fruit), cute cafes, lazy days, exciting days, and carefree fun :-D

I feel very settled now and everything seems to be going smoothly, although my Korean skills are still very basic and not as good as I would like. I'm afraid I haven't been a very diligent student!

I actually miss writing a lot. In university I was forced to do it regularly. Even though writing essays was challenging and hard work, it still provided a great creative outlet and I felt so good whenever I finished an essay, printed it out, and held the warm paper in my hands - hot off the presses! It's great to make something seemingly out of air - especially when you're dealing with words rather than something more tangible. Spinning words and carefully placing them together is like magic in a way. I miss making that magic happen :-) Blogs are so great at providing people with a splendid creative outlet - even if they are not professional writers or publishing geniuses. Everyone has a voice and it's lovely to get a little glimpse of other people's worlds through their writing.

Anywho, enough babbling! Today I'd like to mention three things: my trip to Seoul for Chuseok weekend, a gayageum performance that I attended recently, and returning back to school (work). Wow, that's a lot!

Chuseok is similar to Thanksgiving. Families get together, perform special ceremonies to honour their ancestors, and cook and eat lots of delicious food. One of these foods is songpyeon - rice cakes with various fillings like sesame seeds and honey. This year I got the chance to go to Seoul for Chuseok weekend - my very first visit there! It's a big city with lots to see and do. We didn't have a lot of time, so we saw some of the major sights like the biggest palace, Han River, some famous statues and a museum, city hall, the 63 building (with a great view from the top), and a traditional folk village. It's impossible to convey the beauty and uniqueness of these places using words alone - they're meant to be seen and experienced. That whole weekend I felt very excited and energized. It was so fun to explore a new place and do everything spontaneously rather than following the same everyday routine. Traveling makes it possible to really live in the moment. Eating lots of delicious food is great too!

Next up, one Friday evening after work I got the chance to see a gayageum ensemble. A gayageum is a traditional Korean instrument with a very unique sound that I love. At this performance, three young ladies played the gayageum and they were sometimes accompanied by other instruments such as the drums, bass guitar, and jazz piano for a kind of fusion-y modern, really fantabulous sound! I enjoyed it from start to finish and would love to see something like this again!

Lastly, I've been back at work for over a month now and once again the semester is flying by! Recently the kids took part in an English contest and memorized and recited stories or poems, or performed a play depending on their grade. It was so much fun to watch them! I feel incredibly lucky to have the chance to teach such sweet, lovely, cheerful students :-D

My goals now are to keep improving as a teacher, to explore more of Korea, to study Korean and become a more diligent student!!!, and to keep living in the moment and enjoying each day! Living here still feels like a dream! Woohoo!


Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Well, what can I say? I'm here! I arrived in Korea on February 17th and it is now June - wow. Time has flown by and to be honest it's almost scary how quickly the months are passing by. But the important thing is - I'm really here! And still pinching myself haha...especially during the first month everything just felt like a dream and I couldn't believe I was really living here.

So far, my experiences have been super positive, fun, warm, and occasionally breathtaking. Some things, like the garbage system and my sometimes noisy neighbour, can be frustrating, but overall I feel incredibly lucky, thankful, and happy :-)

I live in a lively area right by a university, so there are lots of cute restaurants, coffee shops, and entertainment places just a few steps outside the door. I love going to 노래방 - a singing (karaoke) room, the arcade, eating ice cream (Baskin Robbins is very popular and common here), chatting in coffee shops, and eating delicious food in my neighbourhood.

I don't even know where to start since I've been absent from my poor dusty blog for such a long time - my elementary school...adventures in the mountains...everyday life in Korea...festivals....there's too much, agh! So I guess I'll just start at the point where I am now.

Ah, but now it's time for some precious sleep :-) Actually, I have a cold now and I lost my voice after teaching all day while fighting previously mentioned cold...I'm hoping a good eight hours of wonderful rest will help to transform my croaking into something resembling the English language.

Starting with the next post, I will actually try to express something about life in Korea :-) Yay!

Cheerio with a cherry on top! :-)

PS. The photo is from a flower festival I went to a few weeks ago. I never saw so many lovely little flowers in one place before :-)