Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday is Fun Day in Anyang.

I know that I am getting settled in because everything that seemed larger and more overwhelming than comprehendible no longer intimidates me. Neighborhoods that, at first, seemed impossible to navigate feel much smaller and clearly organized. I now know where everything is located at the local store, I can find the two nearby subway stations, and I finally understand my buildings garbage and recycling. It’s so funny how impossible it is to imagine the way in which things will fall into place until they just do. And sometimes it still takes time to realize that those things have fallen into place. As things fall in to place, all I need to do is maintain a healthy balance of ownership and flexibility in all series of events.

Me, Jake, Shannon, and Jeff: goodbyes as the subway. 
Shannon and Jeff paid a visit to Anyang this weekend, which partially cured my minor homesickness starting to brew. We had a lot of fun celebrating Jake’s Birthday, but, of course, it felt too short. One day they will return and before that, I will visit them in Daegu.

Tomorrow, I leave my settling world in Anyang and travel to the city of Anseong for GEPIK orientation. It seems weird for me to have orientation after having already started teaching and having a week of holiday, but I am also excited to head out on my own. I cannot express how amazing it is to have a best friend nearby, but I think it will also be wonderful to take in the country and its people solo for a bit few days. Jakes orientation won't be until the second half of the week because he teaches high school.

At orientation, I also hope to meet new people. I have been meeting some around Anyang when going out, but I’m finding it difficult to establish sincere relationships with those that I meet. It isn’t just here that I have struggled with this, but now is the time that I must test my ability to overcome this weakness, open up and ready myself for close friendships. Obviously not all relationships will progress into close friendships, but there can certainly be no self sabotaging...

And today I will share a few photos from my Sunday, a day that the people of Anyang were out to play.

Anyang Central Park
Street closed down and the mini-cars roam
Cotton Candy Man
Up to the street market

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Sunny Day in Anyang

And the Birds Came Out to Play
Just when I thought the sun was gone for good, the thunder, lightening, rain and clouds gave way to a beautiful sunny day. Holiday break is quickly dwindling and so Jake and I decided to trek the Anyang-Seoul trail. We didn't figure we would make it all the way to Seoul (it's about 30 miles), but set out anyway. After enjoying the trail for about two hours, we passed by a man that encouraged us to travel off the trail and visit an art show. We looked for the show, but couldn't find it. Instead, we started seeing signs for Anyang Art Park, a popular park housing tons of beautiful artistic structures. We ate and walked to the park, which was very much worth the detour.

I really love this city because all you need to do is be willing to get out and explore and you are destined to find something exciting and more than likely, totally unexpected. The Anyang-Seoul trail is amazing. This is where all of the bikers and joggers are. I cannot wait to get my first pay check and also find a used bike shop. I will be joining them very soon.

White Heron Along the Trail
Hopping along Han River Stream Stones
Kids feed fish like they are ducks.
We pointed to two items (in Korean) on the menu and
this is what we got. Good technique.
Around the Art Park 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


So lost in Anyang
Today I was lost and by lost, I mean I had absolutely no idea where on earth I was or how to get home. I was on one of my walking tours and after seeing about 7 of Anyang's wonderful parks, I realized that I had no idea where I was. Luckily, this only lasted for about 20 minutes until I spotted a 711 (yes, they are everywhere here). This was not just any 711, but the one next to a foreigner bar called "The Dugout" that I visited a few days back. At the 711, I bought some ice cream and ate it while I recharged my cellphone (you do that at mini-marts here). 

Afterward, I was starving and so I met Jake in Pyeonchong for some food. Usually when we decide to go out to eat, we choose any random restaurant out of the hundreds. Some have menus with photographs or English pronunciations and others do not. This one did not and so, I brought out my Korean/English dictionary and looked up the word "recommend." I then proceeded to point at the menu and then point to "recommend" in Korean. They cooked us up a dish of octopus, beef and vegetables. I wish I knew the name because it was delicious and I'd like to order it again. 

Recommended Meal

Dinner was excellent, but once full, all I could think about was cleaning my bathroom, the last un-cleaned room of my apartment. I'm not necessarily the neatest person, but dirt or dust just gross me out. I cannot bear to think about someone else’s skin particles setting in my living space, so naturally, I am out to clean every inch of my hair and dust ridden apartment. I find myself at the top of the mirror in my bathroom and BAM, there they are- NEEDLES. Are they medical needles? Or are they heroin/other hard drug needles? I do not know, but they appear to be in a hidden location and this freaked me out. SICK! I quickly disposed of them, but am pretty sure they will re-appear in my nightmares...

Tomorrow, I'm following a hiking trail to Seoul. I do not know how far I will travel, but it shall be quite interesting. Then, THEN, Shannon and Jeff are visiting on Friday and Saturday :)

And here, for you, some eye candy:

Art and Parks in Anyang
Fluttering High
Treats Everywhere=Koreas #1 Draw
Ready for my own. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I've never actually been frightened by thunder or lightening, but that changed today. Loudest and longest storm I have ever experienced occurred in Anyang today.

Today's Dinner- Beef Jeongol

Window open and rain pouring + Josh Ritter playing + rice wine + unpacking, cleaning and making home cozy = an amazing evening. A few things are missing, but this is near close to perfection.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Ranaa, you're bootiful!

Beomgye Neighborhood
I feel like the luckiest person alive to be granted an experience such as this. Sure, there are moments of frustration, especially when communication boundaries prevent myself and others from expressing ourselves, but more often I find myself taking in the deepest of breathes, trying to inhale every ounce of each new encounter.

I taught for a total of four days last week during which my co-teachers, vice principal, principal, and students welcomed me with open arms. Many staff at my school do not speak English, but are certain to show their gratitude by other means (food, body language, etc.). My students are hilarious and swarm me each time I walk the halls. They all pronounce my name "Ranaa" and call me "bootiful." I say: "You are beautiful" and we high five, hold hands, bow, smile, or do any combination of the greetings. I think a lot of people in Western cultures might have an image of students in South Korea as being serious, quiet and subdued when at school (I thought this prior to my arrival). True, they are serious about learning, but the way they run through the halls in mobs, shout out answers, and constantly chat in and outside of class is hardly quiet nor subdued. This is my kind of school environment. Students can learn socially and have fun while learning. It is so much more meaningful than the experience in the many silent classrooms in the states.

This week, I have the entire week off of school, as Koreans are celebrating Chuseok Holiday, which is similar to Thanksgiving. During this time, Koreans celebrate with family, so many are leaving the town of Anyang and it is looking a bit barer than usual. My co-teacher invited me the coastal city of Yosu to celebrate with her family, but I had to decline. I have not yet unpacked nor have I made my apartment "home" and this week will give me the time I need to do this. And although I can finally explore the city without getting lost, there are also so many things around here that I want to see and do. First on my list is to find a bathing house and sauna!
Traditional Sam Gye Tang (Ginseng Chicken Soup)
with the co-teacher.  

My friend Jake (who is also teaching in Anyang) and I have been exploring quite a bit and I have also been spending some time with my co-teacher, who took me to Seoul on the subway to get my alien registration card (necessary before I can get a bank account, my own internet, etc.). Some of my favorite times, though, are when I head out on my own and just walk and walk until I cannot walk anymore. I found out that my Native Korean friend that provided me with an internet password works at the coffee shop below my building. Yesterday, when I was waiting out front to meet my co-teacher for our Seoul trip, he ran into me outside of the coffee shop. He was on his way to my apartment to bring me the coffee I have been ordering lately and some Songpyeog. Very sweet.

As for all the other Korean food that I have been eating, I love it all! I have yet to eat a dish I do not like. In fact, the only food that I have not liked since my arrival was the "American" pizza side dishes my principal ordered for lunch last week.

Today, my home becomes home!  And I will upload a video of my apartment afterward :)

Anyang Underpass
At Roller Rink
Outside Happidus Bar

P.S. I do miss good Portland beer and strong Portland coffee. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Anyang Visuals

My walk to school is quite enjoyable.

At school, one of my activities was for the students to create self-portraits, half their face being realistic and the other half being made up of things that represent themselves. It's an activity that I learned from one of my most inspirational teachers in my Masters program. The kids ate it up and after having to pick the first students at random in each class, almost everyone wanted to share (even my INSANE 5th graders).

Beomgye Neighborhood after school with my co-teacher and the foreign language teacher  previous to me.  We are going to meet the 4th grade team for a Vietnamese dinner. This place has SO MUCH flavor!

The previous foreign teacher and myself next to one of Anyang's million fountains. 

My co-teacher and a 4th grade homeroom teacher at dinner. What I have learned and love is that Korean meals are extremely communal meaning everyone shares everything. There is no worrying about double dipping, no eying another's   plate with envy, or no being confused about what to order (in my case) because everyone shares! It is fun :)

Lastly, my co-teacher, the previous foreign language teacher, and two 4th grade team teachers headed to Anyang Central Park to watch the colorful fountains. I don't have pictures of my apartment yet because I have no gotten unpacked and my place is a mess, but my building is one of the those extremely tall ones in the background. 

Ah, video, coming soon...can't get it to upload.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Is this real?

Korean Meal in Air
I've made it to South Korea! Here I am at 8:15 (PM) Korean time (4:13AM), sipping on some soju and orange juice and eating kimchi in my nicely air conditioned officetel. Since my last post, I have safely made it to Korea and taught 1 day of English classes. The flight was as amazing as a 13-hour flight can get. TVs at each seat, non-stop service from the beautiful Korean flight attendants, and my English speaking Korean seat neighbor were absolutely wonderful, but still, it was 13 hours. The best, thought, was the seat neighbor, Jeong-Min. I asked her: "If there is just one piece of advice you could give to a foreigner living in Korea, what would it be?" She explained that Koreans are often more physical, assertive, and touchy when showing you that they care and to just be open and accepting to that. Note taken, and very much observed. 

Once off the flight, Jeong-Min noticed that my carry on was quite heavy (my bad for not getting one with wheels) and assisted me in carrying it. With one hand from each of us on the handle, it was bearable. She also helped me in navigating the airport, which was not too confusing. We exchanged contact info and she went to meet her sister to head home and surprise her parents (she is studying in the U.S.). Unfortunately, my scheduled van driver was not there right away and for an instant, I panicked. It is a very scary feeling being alone in a new country, not having a clue  to the where abouts of a method out of the airport, and even with transportation, not a clue where to go. 

Van Ride Prior to Apartment Arrival
My fears were smashed after I did a money exchange and headed back to the gates. A man stood waiting for me with a sign that said, "Welcome to Korea Lana." WHEW! When we met, I foolishly tried speaking English to him, but he did not understand me. That means that during the entire van ride, which lasted about an hour, we were unable to communicate and so, I had absolutely no idea where we were going. Would he take me to my apartment? My school? A temporary motel? I kept trying to guess based on the turns we were taking and the few street signs that I could read, but I had no idea until we arrived at my building. Well actually, I still could not tell if it was my apartment or a motel from outside...Only until I walked in the apartment door were my questions finally answered. 

At my apartment (or officetel), I met my co-teacher. She is absolutely amazing in so many ways. Her and I have a lot in common, which is refreshing in a country that so far feels hard to made connections. I won't go too into detail about how wonderful she is because she deserves an entire post (coming soon). I will simply say that she has made settling in as easy as it gets. After getting the basics out of the way at my apartment, she and I walked to the school so that I would be ready for the walk the next day. By this time it was about 3:30am US time, so I was pooped. The 10-minute walk felt like 100 minutes. When I got back I had to make a trip to the E-Mart (giant store with anything you could possibly dream of). I mainly just wanted toilet paper, but bought paper towels on accident. Oh well!

Do Not Press
Excited to use my recently purchased paper towels and break my Korean toilet in, I went pee when I got back from the store. Afterward, I could not figure out how to flush as there are many buttons on the toilet, all labeled in Korean. Hmm... The first two were definitely not the flush and water began shooting in the air all the way into my kitchen. In aw, I just sort of stared for a minute. Finally, I pressed the buttons again and the waterfall stopped. I found the flush button, which actually looks like an American toilet-flushing tool, but I had totally missed it. 

The first day of school was 100% awkward, but the good sort of awkward. Afraid of getting lost, I left about 30 minutes too early. Once I entered the building, I had no idea where to go. Roaming the halls, I received many English "hellos" and bows from friendly students. They were obviously very curious and eager to meet me. Finally, I found my main co-teacher and was shown to my office space, which is equipped with my own computer. Score! After many introductions, I realized I had not taken off my shoes nor did I have indoor shoes to wear. One of the teachers told me it was OK and to just wear what I had on. Strike for Lana. This prompted my second E-Mart trip this evening. I taught 5 classes, all with co-teachers and students ranging from grades 3-6. In one class my teacher and I taught the word "fart" during a lesson on comparatives, smelly/smellier being the comparative. I said it, drew it, and explained the meaning without breaking a laugh. After my students started laughing, though, I let it out! During a staring contest, one girl was absolutely amazed that I had green eyes and it totally threw me off. When I am here in this country, most of the time I feel extremely different, but this is not the case when I am in the act of teaching. During this time I feel strangely similar, even though I am often unable to understand my students and vise versa. I think it has something to do with us sharing a common goal of just trying to understand- them the language and me how to teach the language. Anyway, I guess her pointing out the difference took me back to that feeling of not fitting in that I felt at the air port, at school when not teaching and briefly around Anyang. Luckily, this only lasted minutes and soon I was back to teaching. 

After school, it was off to get my health check with my co-teacher. The hospital is also within 10 minutes walking distance, by the way. It wasn't fun and cost me 85,000 won, which was pretty much the lowest of my experiences thus far. Afterward my co-teacher and I went to a little coffee shop attached to my officetel building. My co-teacher taught me some Korean character basics and I am going to make sure to make flashcards and study. It is going to be absolutely pertinent that I learn Korean if I want to live comfortably in Anyang. I have seen only 2 other foreigners and talked to just a few people that can speak fluent English. 

After coffee, we parted and I re-visited E-mart. I really needed a shopping cart this time, but had trouble with them the night before because they are locked. So, I asked an employee for directions in unlocking the carts. He kindly unlocked it for me, but on my way out, I realized you are to pay and there is an inconspicuous coin slot. I felt lame. 

I bought a lot of cleaning supplies because my officetel is very much in need of a heavy cleaning. The previous teacher just moved out 2 days ago and as far as I have heard, it is generallythe duty of the new resident to clean. Anyway, the cleaning supplies were heavy, but a very friendly Korean man at the bottom of the elevator insisted he take them up for me. I allowed him too and rewarded him with a strawberry milk from my fridge. We chatted about being language friends, him teaching me Korean and me teaching him English. My Korean is awful, as was his English, so we had difficulties communicating. I tried asking where I could find free wifi, as I was told I needed to sign up for internet/TV once I receive my alien registration card. Health check>results (Monday)>alien registration card (two weeks)>too long without Internet. After he found out I had a laptop, he thought I was crazy for asking about a wifi location outside of my apartment. I logged onto my computer and he typed in the passcode for one of the secured wireless networks. He said it belongs to the officetel building. At this point, I don't know if I'm stealing it or rightfully using it. Regardless, I neeeed it, so thank you Mr. Gu whose name I heard as Mr. Coo and so, whose nickname I made Mr. Cool...he still thought it was funny. 

This is quite certainly the longest post I will ever make, promise. On a last not, things seem too good to be true. I keep asking myself, "Is this real?"

P.S. Photos and video coming soon. 

Miss you, mom!

Last Day before S. Korea

Sunday, September 12, 2010

San Fran. Pit Stop

Woke up from my half conscious sleep at 3:30am this morning, finished packing, and headed for the airport. Saying goodbye to my cats, dog and family made my departure seem all the much realer. Still, though, I didn't realize I would be gone for an entire year until I said bye to my mom at the gates at PDX. Almost cried, but luckily her smiling face kept my cool.

My flight from PDX to SFO was almost unbearable. Slightly hung over from the night before and sitting next a guy that was melting into my area made 1.5 hours feel like 15. Every time I leaned back in my chair, our arms would touch and personally, I feel extremely uncomfortable touching strangers.

Now I'm sitting in the SFO airport, all checked in, but with 3 hours until my final 13 hour flight departs. Thank you SFO for the complimentary 50 minutes of free Internet. Also thank you to the family changing their babies poopy diaper in the middle of the food court...just what my still nauseous stomach wanted to see. Wish I had time to walk to the Golden Gate Bridge or do something.

Since I'm  pretty close to the Korean Air check-in, the majority of those around me are Korean, but every time I see somebody that is not, I wonder if they too are on a journey to teach English in S. Korea.

Hope my flight passes quickly, hope I have someone waiting at the airport for me, and most importantly, I hope that I have an apartment waiting for me. All I can do is think short term and that is short term for today.

Off to find food! Maybe I'll practice my chopsticks skills so to not look too ridiculous once in S. Korea.

Ready or not, here I come! Who knew this many emotions could fit into one single body?