Wherever you go, there you are*

*The title of this post is meant to reference the works of the Buddha and not a 1980’s movie.

I couldn’t tell you the exact point in my life when I decided I wanted to come to Korea. There was no single moment where I said “Yes! This is where my life is headed.” It was certainly on my radar for a number of years before I took the dive and flew over, but there was never one of those “ah-ha!” moments for me. I don’t think I’m alone in this feeling, especially amongst my fellow expats. Korea seems to be full of people who are searching for something. We come here with the intent of escaping any of a multitude of sins back home:debt, ex-loves, responsibility, etc.

I don’t know if I knew I was running when I left. Maybe I thought I was simply leaving something behind, but, then again, maybe we spend most of our lives running: sometimes away from one thing, sometimes towards another. I want to think that, after years of running away, I’m finally running towards something. There is not, as of yet, a way to tell what I’m running towards, but I feel a definite shift in how I see the world these days.

A lotus blossom handed to me by a monk on my way in

A paper lotus blossom handed to me by a monk.

One of the most noticeable changes is that I am learning, slowly, to be happy with myself. Most days, I am content to keep my own company. While there are the bouts of homesickness, loneliness, and those hollow, empty days that are (inevitably) part of life (and the experience here), I don’t spend time dwelling on those feelings as much as I did my first few weeks (months) here. At 27, it feels like I am finally learning to be happy with me (my hope is that this growth will continue, and in 10 years I’ll look back on what I wrote here and go “WHAT WAS I EVEN THINKING?!”).

I don’t know if there is a point to the above rambling, except as a way to say that a few weeks ago, after having every weekend scheduled to the brim with events (all good! But still busy), I needed some down time. I intentionally planned to spend some quality time with myself and had nothing on tap except maybe heading to a park to partake in the Buddha’s Birthday celebrations. I spent a better part of the day just wandering around in Duryu park.

Around 5 p.m, I headed to the outdoor amphitheatre to take part in a floating-lantern ceremony for Buddha’s birthday. The event was combined with a memorial for the victims of the Sewol ferry-boat disaster, and it made for a very moving and beautiful evening.

Lanterns and candles to celebrate Buddha's birthday and commemorate the victims of the Sewol ferry disaster

Lanterns and candles to celebrate Buddha’s birthday and commemorate the victims of the Sewol ferry disaster

Lanterns lined the park and there were various choirs performing on the large stage up front. As people filtered in, they handed out rice balls (a sign of generosity and peace) for people to snack on, and each person was given a lantern and candle.

This girl and her mom were so sweet together

This girl and her mom were so sweet together.

As the sun started setting, a performance group took the stage and brought offerings to the idol on stage. There was more singing and chanting, some speeches (to acknowledge the deceased, I think), and then they dimmed the lights for the lantern send-off.

Another little girl who kept waving at me and singing with her friends.

Another little girl who kept waving at me and singing with her friends.

Group after group of people around me started to send of their lanterns; each inscribed with a message of peace or love. It was quite a sight to see 5,000+ lanterns heading off into the night sky.

Lantern send-off.

Lantern send-off.

A lantern floating off into the night.

A lantern floating off into the night.

Lanterns rising past Woobang Tower

Lanterns rising past Woobang Tower

Korea is never what I expect, but (slowly, slowly) I’m finding my way. Thanks for sharing this journey with me 🙂

Seoul recap and hello home

Well, as I promised it was a quiet week on the blog front. I was super busy with training week and hardly had a chance to do anything besides eat (mostly convenience store food and gimbap), train, and practice teaching. Even though training was only 3 hours a day, the homework and practice took up a lot of time before and after “class,” and jet lag was a noticeable thing. I’m still feeling it a bit, but I think it’s starting to go away. I did catch a bit of a cold (I hope it’s a cold, WebMD tells me it might be strep or whooping cough) and that’s keeping me from really enjoying Daegu as much as I’d like right now. Also, teaching while sick is the least fun thing ever, even in a fake class.

The last week did sort of fly by for me. I had some incidents on the Seoul metro (almost lost my shoe to the huge gap between the platform and train, got my skirt caught in an escalator, and the many many many times that old ladies scolded me for one thing or another), but honestly there wasn’t too much to note. I only have a few pictures and they’re mostly of food. If you follow me on Instagram you’ve already seen them, so I won’t repost right now.

After I passed training on Friday, they shipped us off to Daegu (there are 3 of us new teachers) and put us on the KTX first class. I swear it did not feel like we were going 220 mph for most of that trip. It went by so quickly! I did take some notes from the ride…

-there is ondol (floor heating)
-free water! We get bottles of it out of a fancy little machine.
-my seat is HUGE. There could easily be another in front of me with leg room for both
-they washed our windows, inside and out, before we left. Fancy fancy.
-they just announced we were 3 minutes behind schedule and apologized for it (I think someone was slow to get on in Daejon). The guy behind me is visibly agitated by this info.
-a monk just got on in Gimcheon!
-no one has even checked to see if I have a ticket yet.
-every time an employee comes in or goes out the door, they give the whole car a little bow.

Again, nothing too exciting. Sorry for living such a boring life here in Korea!

I’m moved in and just about unpacked. My goal is to be all done putting clothes away tomorrow and then do a little video tour. I got the kitchen set up first (big surprise, right?) and I’m slowly moving from area to area cleaning VERY thoroughly. The place was pretty gross (and COLD) when I first got here. I was a little sad, but at least I have a one bedroom and not just a studio.

On a more personal note, I’ve been feeling a wee bit homesick recently. I don’t really have any friends here and it’s hard to get out and meet people when I have such a disgusting cough. I’m also still really tired in the evenings, so I don’t want to go out too late or do anything too wild. Even back in the States, I wasn’t a huge go out and party sort of person, so getting into it around here is really tough. I really like my quiet nights in…I know things will get better once I meet some of my coworkers (I actually went to a BBQ at a bar tonight; it was pretty fun, but I didn’t know anyone there! I’m not so good at just jumping into a new conversation), but I’m just really not feeling it right now.

Ok, that’s all until next time! I’m going to try and do this at least weekly to recap what’s been going on. And next time I promise there will be pictures! Is there anything in particular you’d like to see? My neighborhood? The trash (why??)? Something else? Let me know in the comments and I’ll try and get it up here.

Recently…

The thing that I often forget about blogging is that what I post doesn’t need to be from that day. It seems like I don’t have enough going on in my day-to-day life to warrant a post, but I can easily accumulate content in the span of a week.

I’m going to try to be better about posting, especially since it seems like I will have a good deal of free time coming up. My job is ending 2 weeks earlier than expected, so I’m currently scrambling to find something to hold me over until I leave for Korea. My departure date got pushed later (again) not because of the government shutdown (as I originally thought) but because someone didn’t forward a piece of mail correctly. HOPEFULLY, I will leave in January or so, but more than likely I will be leaving in March. That’s much longer than I originally anticipated, so I’m looking for work (again).

Anyway, here are some photos of my life recently. I think a monthly photo recap might be a “thing” I do from now on. So, here we go…

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I love the fall colors! Also, this is what happens when I use a real camera…

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But really…campus is so pretty this time of year (even in the rain)!

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Adam and I went to visit his family in Kentucky. We checked out the Falls of the Ohio (where Lewis and Clark started their journey). The fossil beds are a bit surreal, especially as the sun is going down.

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Another campus shot. I love the colors and textures in this one…and the light that only a late fall afternoon can bring (also, again with the real camera).

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This is before it was below freezing in the mornings; dew! on a spider web!

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My evenings recently have included a glass of wine, knitting, and Lost (WE’RE ALMOST DONE!).

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I made us dinosaur costumes for Halloween; clearly we are some ferocious dinos!

 This post brought to you by: the server down-time at work! I can’t work, but I can post!

Summer review, pt. 2 (and my next big move)

This was the decidedly LESS exciting part of my summer. Once I got back from Europe, I was on a bit of a travel high. I tend to have a bit (lot) of wanderlust. Add to that being under-employed and feeling a lot of pressure to find a “real” job and you’ve got one super anxious Rachel. I spent a lot of time freaking out about jobs and my general life-direction. What if the job I picked/got didn’t set me up to get better jobs in the future? What if no one hired me (this was less realistic, but still a fear)? What if what I did was just flat-out wrong for me?

(This is an aside, but WordPress is telling me that I misspelled “wrong,” and I got a really bad case of semantic satiation. I had to look up how to spell wrong and then be sure it was the word I was really thinking of. COME ON, COFFEE, DO YOUR JOB ALREADY!)

It all ended up (mostly) OK; I got a temporary job archiving photos (setting up a system, importing, editing, and creating metadata filters) and, starting in November, I will be teaching English in South Korea! YAY! I just finished sending in all my visa paperwork and am waiting on a location assignment. I’m pretty excited; I’ve always wanted to travel to Korea and now seems like the perfect time.

The real “end” to my summer was a lovely trip up north with my family. We went to Lake Ann, MI (I know, not the “real” up north) and spent some time in Leland, Empire, and Traverse City. That part of the state is pretty much my favorite place anywhere in the world. I think northern Michigan is so beautiful and I always feel so relaxed when I’m there.

Anywho, here are (some of) the pictures from that trip; it was  a hoot (as my dad would say). Why? Well, what could be wrong when you make freshly caught lake trout over an open fire?Trout cooking

 

Or when you get to spend time on the beach looking cool?

Esch Road Beach

Or see super cutesy/old-school signs for fish?Fish

 

Or, and this is probably one of my favorites, get to drift down the Little Platte River into Lake Michigan?

 

Platte RiverI mean, this place is just beautiful:

Glen Arbor

 

Ok, that’s for the photo-dump posts, I swear. Also, I’m going to try to start taking more real camera photos, and not the iPhone ones I’ve been doing. I think it’ll be good for me as a photographer and improve things on this here blog of mine 🙂

 

Reboot, again

It seems like I currently have a bunch of free time on my hands (honestly, mostly at work, since all I do is sit behind a desk), so I figure I’ll give this another shot (again). Since that last post on December 4, a ton has happened. I got into a car crash that morning (ahh! SLOW DOWN if you’re driving in the rain, k?), turned 26 (!), got divorced, gained 10 lbs, graduated with my MSW, and moved apartments (clearly the least exciting thing on this list, oh well). 

One of my post-graduation goals is to write more. I remember after undergrad I felt like it was such a joy to not have to write anything, but then I started to miss it. I figure if I schedule time in for writing/blogging, I will be better about actually doing it (and feel better about myself).

(I love parentheticals)

So, here I am. 26, working as a photographer/AV assistant/front-desk-sitter-extraordinaire, looking for a “real” job. I have no idea what I want to do with myself. No direction. I know I want to travel, and that’s it. Otherwise, I’m open. Ready to go where the wind takes me, but terrified of all options. What if I pick the wrong thing? What if, in picking anything, I’m closing myself off from something else (better)? What if I never know what it is I want to do, and I’m stuck doing some menial task day in and day out for the rest of my life? 

I wish I had had this panic/crisis BEFORE graduate school. Now I just feel like I have a degree and WTF do I do with it? And my life?

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I just like this photo, there is no symbolism or anything.