Category: Sydney Street Cafe


Saturday, October 31:   My friend Jarrod comes to visit, searching for a change of scenery, a new place to explore.  Though he’s been to Daegu probably too many times to count, he says he’s never been to my part of town near Keimyung University.  He’s a 32-year-old Australian I met at the EPIK orientation, a very laid back and cool drummer who has found his groove in Korea.  I liked him from the first moment I chatted with him at breakfast at Jeonju University on the cold & dark February when we arrived.  He comes to my Daegu neighborhood solely as a friend, which I need sorely in Korea.  I have no thoughts of anything romantic with him because of our huge age difference.  But, I’m very happy he is taking time out of his busy schedule to come and visit me.

angels on the campus of keimyung university where we walk

angels on the campus of keimyung university where we walk

He arrives around noon on Halloween.  I have been searching frantically in the dark recesses of my brain for something interesting to show him in west Daegu.  I have only come up with a few lame options.  The first is a walk around Keimyung University.  The leaves are colored like pomegranates and summer squash and the air feels like a sliver carved from a pumpkin, cool and sharp.  We walk around the university, up and down hills, panting a little at the effort.  He tells me how he was seeing a girl named Virginia, how they went to Japan and it was difficult because one of them couldn’t access money so they stayed together a too much; Virginia said things were starting to feel too “couple-y” and then said she needed a break from him.  He is a little sad about it, maybe even more than a little.  He felt comfortable with her and truly enjoyed her company.

After our walk we eat lunch at Vince Burger, which has the best chili-cheese fries ever!  We drink several 1,000 won beers… How can we resist at such a price?  Jarrod talks about how he hangs out with the EPIK teachers but he feels he doesn’t really relate to them as most are in their 20s.  I tell him my difficulties with being older than other teachers, how I don’t relate to them, and they seem to form their own little cliques and I’m on the outside.  This really seems to be the story of my life.  I’m always doing things in my life at the wrong times: having babies in my late 20s and late 30s, getting my Master’s degree much too late in life for it to benefit me in the job market, teaching English with a bunch of 20-somethings in Korea, interning at the State Department and MSI, when most people my age are in mid-level or senior positions in their jobs.  This is my life, and this is what I’ve made of it.  I don’t know how my time sequence has unfolded in such a confusing manner.

Jarrod and I talk and talk. He likes Korea and is working to save up for an extensive, maybe year-long, trip around Europe.  He’s saved $10,000 already.  I say I’m traveling as much as I can now; I never know how my health will hold up and it’s already late in life for me.  So, instead of saving, I spend now, immediate gratification through travel.

He has been studying Korean, something I’ve never made any effort at since I’ve been here.  He has a number of close Korean friends.  He thinks Korean girls are too whiny and prissy, little princesses, and says he can’t see realistically having one as a girlfriend.  He lives in a small Korean town and he actually likes it.  He plans to re-sign here for another year.

After lingering over lunch and our beers, we play billiards at a billiard bang; I tell him I’m terrible and that truth plays out.  The only time I win is when he accidentally hits in the eight ball too early.  We drink beer the whole time; I feel like we are a spectacle in the midst of these young Koreans, the young hearty bearded Australian and the white-haired woman almost old enough to be his mother.

We go back to my apartment and we show each other YouTube videos; I introduce him to Turkish bands I like and he shows me the kind of music he likes, none of which I now remember.  I show him the “I’m on a Boat” rap song, “Jizz in my Pants,” and the “What is Love?” video done by the Oakton Otters swim team coaches, just so he can see the neighborhood where I live.

We eat dinner at a Chinese restaurant near my apartment, very mediocre.  We have been drinking beer all day and I’m really tired; I could use a nap.  Jarrod talks about his parents, who are divorced, and the difficult relationships he has with his family.  His father asked him once if he is gay, because he doesn’t seem to have many girlfriends, and he told his father, What if I am gay?  What difference would it make?  He wishes his parents would just accept him as he is.  We talk a lot about dysfunctionalities in families.  Later we go to Sydney Street Cafe.  I think he might like it because the owner, Mark, is Australian.  When we go we happen to meet one of Mark’s friends, also Australian, who is just visiting Korea.   Jarrod and I talk to them, and to each other.  At one point, I ask Jarrod if he needs or wants to get going as he had signed up online to attend a Halloween party in Daegu and I figure he will want to get going to that.  He said he really doesn’t care about going.  Later he tells me that if he were in Australia, he would probably never talk to those two guys.  The one was too much into “footie” and Mark hails from an area that doesn’t really mix with Melbournites.

heart-shaped leaves at Daegu Confucian Academny

heart-shaped leaves at Daegu Confucian Academny

Ben and Lilly come in to Sydney Street all decked out in skimpy Halloween costumes; Lilly is a bikini-bottom clad Superwoman.  Ben is the Owen Wilson Hansel character from Zoolander.  I’ve never seen Zoolander before, so when Jarrod wants to leave Sydney Street, we decide to watch a movie at a DVD bang.  We happen to find Zoolander, which we watch but I don’t particularly like.

After the movie, we go back to my apartment where I invite Jarrod to sleep on my mat on the floor of my apartment.  I have to put on my pajamas because I cannot sleep in my clothes.  Jarrod has on layers and layers of clothes and says he will sleep in them.  He lies on the floor and me in my bed and we talk & talk until an ungodly hour, chattering away like two girls at a slumber party.

Never has Jarrod shown any attraction for me.  I feel like he’s a good friend, easy and fun to hang out with.  In the morning I offer to make him some scrambled eggs; he turns me down so I make some for myself and he drinks coffee and we chat at my small kitchen table.  He lingers quite a while, until about 12:30, at which time he says he should go.  As we stand to say goodbye, he looks me directly in the eyes and then we hug each other.  I wonder if it’s a sympathy hug.  Maybe he feels sorry for me that I’m here in Korea at such a late stage in my life, friendless and utterly alone.  He leaves and I know in my heart he will not be hanging out with me again.  I think it is awkward for him, hanging out with someone so much older.  If I were a man, it wouldn’t be a problem, I’m sure, because we have such a nice rapport.  But since I’m a woman, it must be uncomfortable.

love the clouds

love the clouds

After he leaves, I go alone to Kyobo Books in downtown Daegu.  This bookstore has a small English selection, but I decide the prices are just too high.  I then visit Daegu Hyanggyo, or Daegu Confucian Academy.  This was established as a local educational institution for Confucian scholars in the 7th year (1398) of King Taejo of the Joseon Dynasty. I take some pictures and then head home on metro.  I go that evening to Bible study at Anna and Seth’s, where we also play a fun game of Bullshit!  and eat pizza.

Daegu Confucian Academy

Daegu Confucian Academy

I feel particularly sad tonight because I truly enjoyed Jarrod’s company, but seriously doubt we will ever hang out together again.  Sad. 😦

possibly the founder of the Confucian Academy??

possibly the founder of the Confucian Academy??

another building in the Confucian Academy

another building in the Confucian Academy

Confucian scholarship

Confucian scholarship

Wednesday, July 21: Today I leave for Turkey.  It will be a long trip.  Mr. O told me yesterday afternoon that the principal at Byeokjin said I could take the day off today!! Then the guy from customs called from Incheon and told me I could pick up my package at the airport today for a steep customs duty of 72,000 won!!  Since I have the day off, I’ll take a bus to Incheon at 1:00, get there at 5:20, pick up the box, then wait around at the airport till my flight leaves at 11:55 pm!  Last night, Kathy was so sweet and picked up my bus ticket for me at Dongdaegu… I would have had to do that myself if she hadn’t done this.  I owe her so much for this favor, which took a big burden off of me!  Anyway, today it no longer feels like things are conspiring against me in my trip. 🙂

Tuesday, July 20: Why is it that when you’re getting ready to travel it seems everything is conspiring against you?  It’s just like the process of buying a house; people who have gone through purchasing a home say they feel like they will never go to closing.  Today, I was expecting a package from home which contained a debit card to replace mine that has expired.  The box also had some things I really needed for vacation that I wasn’t able to find here in Korea.  The package didn’t come because they held it up in customs in the Incheon Airport in Seoul.  I have had three other packages from home (none of which was urgent) and they have never held one up before!  I will be in Seoul at Incheon tomorrow, but the place is not right at the airport and I will be pressed for time.  So the package and I will pass each other going in opposite directions tomorrow!   In addition, I worked hard to prepare for all my summer camps so I would be ready upon my return home to dive right in; suddenly today one of my co-teachers told me one of the lesson plans (which I was told had to be a 40-minute plan) should be 3 hours long!!  So now, when I return, I will be stressed right away trying to complete two more lesson plans.  Then my friend Jayne writes me from England to tell me that Turkish airplane companies are going bankrupt and stranded Brits are having to pay double to get out.  Why, why, why?  Ok, this is where I need to learn to BREATHE ^o^……

We went to Sydney to celebrate Ben’s birthday tonight, but I left early because I ate too much cake and felt incredibly fat!!

Lillian & Ben at Ben's birthday celebration at Sydney St.

Lillian & Ben at Ben’s birthday celebration at Sydney St.

Xee, me, Seth & Anna at Ben's b-day

Xee, me, Seth & Anna at Ben’s b-day

Seth & Anna at Ben's birthday party

Seth & Anna at Ben’s birthday party

Monday, July 19: Winding down the first semester at school.  Today was my last official day of classes.  I played Jeopardy and Hangman with the kids:-)

Sunday, July 18: For the first time since I’ve been in Korea, I was able to talk by Skype to my friend Ed from the State Department back home.   He’s a foreign service officer and is applying now for his next post abroad.  We share a love of foreign lands, and a common experience at the State Department ~ I was in charge of the UN delegation to the 2007 Middle East Peace Conference in Annapolis (& he was in charge of the Africa delegation) …. We so wanted to share a bottle of wine, but as it was midday for me, I couldn’t imbibe…  I had to pack for my trip:-)

Saturday, July 17: I went with Kathy to Sugar Joe’s, a laid-back bar near Kyungbook University’s North Gate, where we chatted and  listed to live music by Akooztik Coxwell.  I’m so happy to have found this place, recommended by Kate, an English teacher at the university, who I met while having my hair straightened at Frigo.

Friday, July 16: Chojeon Elementary students went on a field trip to SpaValley, a huge theme spa with a water park, bade pool, hot spring, & steam room.  The place was inundated with screaming and squealing kids.  The teachers were relegated to the cafeteria, but I basked for an hour in the hot tub and sauna.  Later we went to the Daegu National Museum, where the kids did all kinds of hands-on activities.  Meanwhile, since I had no duties, I finished my excellent book, The Piano Teacher, and dreamed of Hong Kong!

on the bus to SpaValley ~ the Chojeon 4th graders

on the bus to SpaValley ~ the Chojeon 4th graders

this little girl brought a whole suitcase of snacks

this little girl brought a whole suitcase of snacks

My 4th grade students

My 4th grade students

the back-of-the-bus gang

the back-of-the-bus gang

Heading into the Daegu National Museum with one of my co-teachers

Heading into the Daegu National Museum with one of my co-teachers

me in the entrance to the Daegu National Museum

me in the entrance to the Daegu National Museum

Thursday, July 15: ~~This afternoon was one of my loveliest here in Korea.  My friend Julie, who is my Korean English co-teacher at both of my schools, took me to her hometown of Wegwan for samgye tang, a ginseng chicken soup: a game hen-size chicken, stuffed with jujube (Asian date) garlic, persimmon, and glutinous rice.  Julie says it’s an “oriental medicine soup” and is often eaten in summer to lessen the effects of the heat.  Before dinner, she insisted on stopping at her local hospital so I could get physical therapy on my knee (since I hurt it recently at yoga!!).  We waited about 10 minutes, I paid about $3.50, and then had an hour of various heat treatments, suction cups, and exercise, which, miraculously made my knee feel a lot better. 🙂  Most amazing was how I felt the whole time with Julie.  She is so easy-going and so sweet.  She made me feel pampered, peaceful and thankful.  I so cherish her friendship and kindness!

Julie Moon and her son at dinner

Julie Moon and her son at dinner

samgye tang ~ yummy:-)

samgye tang ~ yummy:-)

~~Mr. O and I no longer speak to each other during our 45 minute commute.  I guess this silent treatment came about after I cut him off the 3rd time he tried to tell me how the men eat very spicy dog meat in summer for “stamina.”  Possibly it was after I cut him off when he tried for the 2nd time to have another excrutiatingly painful conversation about Lehman Brothers.  Anyway, it’s funny b/c I wished that he would just stop speaking.  Now he has, but it’s not an amiable silence.  This morning, he started a little passive-aggressive behavior, putting on a very loud English language cassette tape that might help him improve his English.  I suppose he was hoping conversations with me might help him.  Listening to this English tape, I now know where he got the expression he uses constantly with me: “Have you got it?”

Wednesday, July 14: I take my shower in the dreaded Korean style sink-shower: a portable shower head over the sink.  The water drains partially into the sink and the overflow into a hole in the floor.  Oh how I miss my baths!!

the Korean style sink-shower in my bathroom

the Korean style sink-shower in my bathroom

Tuesday, July 13: In U.S. schools, teachers are never to touch students.  Here, that rule is a little murky…  In fact, the children seem to have no concept of personal space.  Today, in the 10 minute break between classes, about 9-10 3rd graders crowded around my desk, telling me their Korean names and asking me to repeat them, & teaching me Korean words for classroom objects.  They cheered and clapped whenever I got it right. I can’t believe they were trying to teach me their names, which I still don’t know after nearly 5 months!!  Why can’t they just use ONE name?? Even in the U.S., I would never remember someone’s 1st, middle and last name!! ~ Meanwhile some of the 10 were playing with my hair, rubbing my arms, and touching my clothes.  I’m always taken aback by this…I feel like I should push them away and say Don’t touch!  As a Westerner, to me it’s very strange.  But is it to them?  It seems like a natural part of their culture.  I kind of wish we weren’t so uptight about this kind of thing in the U.S.  All over Korea, you see on the streets girls holding hands, boys holding hands.  Hmmm… don’t know quite what to make of this….

Monday, July 12: A night at Sydney St. Pub to celebrate Kathy D’s mother’s birthday.  Her mom bought a bunch of visors to take back home to her friends.  Reminds me of the countless “ajuma parmas” (old ladies with dyed-black hair and permanents) I see on the streets ~ they wear these atrocious visors, as do the middle-aged women.  Yikes!  It’s scary 🙂

Kathy, Seth, Patrick, me, and the birthday girl, Kathy's mom at Sydney St.

Kathy, Seth, Patrick, me, and the birthday girl, Kathy’s mom at Sydney St.

Anna and me

Anna and me

Kathy's mother and Kathy

Kathy’s mother and Kathy

Sunday, July 11: At Agape Church, where I have become a regular, my friend Maurice, a Kenyan theological student, encouraged me to fill out a membership card.  I did.  Little did I know I would have to stand and be introduced later in the service.  The choir sang a welcome song to me, hands outstretched & palms open.  Wow!!  In the sermon, the preacher encouraged us to have a “heart of evangelism;”  for an example of how lost souls need the gospel in their lives, he told the story of a person who cut her tongue with scissors.  Very upsetting…. According to an Economist article dated July 8, 2010: “The never-ending push for achievement [in Korea], however, also has a dark side: depression is a serious problem, and the recorded suicide rate—around 22 per 100,000 people—is the highest in the OECD.”  I see this push for achievement evident in the schools, where students spend countless hours in study….sadly kids can’t be kids in Korea. 😦

Saturday, July 10: A fruitless day of shopping in Daegu.  I am continually amazed at the ugliest array of clothing on the planet.  The salespeople stay on you like flies on fruitcake.  They have no concept of “I’m just looking!”

Friday, July 9: Coffee J told me about Jesa, a type of family reunion in honor of dead ancestors.  The entire family meets once a year in memory of the death of a grandparent.  This celebration can apply to as many as 5 generations ~ that’s a lot of family reunions (!!);  it’s an assured way for the family to keep in close contact. I like this – something like the Day of the Dead in Mexico.  We need something like this in the US!

Thursday, July 8: While walking to Sydney St. for a couple of beers, I was almost run over by a guy on a motorcycle driving on the sidewalk, as they always do.  He had a stack of business cards in one hand and was flicking them onto the pavement as he careened along.  Everyday, the shopkeepers must come out and sweep up all the business cards that have been strewn on the street by countless motorcycle-riding advertisers.  I wonder if anyone ever goes along the street and thinks: Wow! I must pick up one of these business cards so I can do business at this place!!

Wednesday, July 7: At the street crossing, I am yelled at by one of the ajumas who stands there every morning with a flag, giving pedestrians the okay to cross the street (…as if the walk signal isn’t enough!)  These ajumas wear yellow sashes, huge ugly visors or hats, masks, long sleeves, and gloves even in the heat of summer.  She yelled at me in Korean because at the Keimyung Gate I never wait for the walk signal and just cross.  There’s NEVER any traffic at that hour going into the university!!  I just ignored her.

A self-appointed police "ajuma parma" at the Keimyung University East Gate

A self-appointed police “ajuma parma” at the Keimyung University East Gate

Tuesday, July 6: My Korean English co-teacher, Julie, and I split up the third grade class we have on Tuesdays because there are 29 of them and they are a bunch of hooligans!!  However, we found that when the teacher split the class in two, she happened to put all the rowdiest kids in one group and the best-behaved kids in the other.  We have now dubbed the two groups: “OH MY GOD!” and “OH MY GOOD!”

Monday, July 5: At yoga tonight, the instructor has us doing an extensive array of kneeling exercises.  I can feel my knee crack, but do I heed the sound? No…. and now I think I may have set myself back by months on the healing of my knee!  And this right before my vacation to Turkey…..

Sunday, July 4: Ben makes tacos and Seth, Anna, Xee, and I go to Duryu Park for a 4th of July picnic.  Then we go to Camp Walker in Daegu to watch some pretty pathetic fireworks.  Anna and I both comment that there are some rough-looking dudes on the army base and Seth says it’s the first time in Korea he’s felt like someone might pick a fight with him.  ~ Earlier in the day, I went to the hospital to visit Kathy and had to make my way through throngs of hospital-gown-clad patients walking aboEditut outdoors dragging along their urine and IV bags; some were smoking!  I felt like I was in the midst of a bunch of hospital escapees…. 🙂

Xee, Seth, Ben and me at Duryu Park, 4th of July

Xee, Seth, Ben and me at Duryu Park, 4th of July

Coronas on 4th of July

Coronas on 4th of July

Xee, me and Anna at Duryu Park

Xee, me and Anna at Duryu Park

Duryu Park

Duryu Park

Ben and Anna

Ben and Anna

Xee at Camp Walker

Xee at Camp Walker

Fireworks at Camp Walker

Fireworks at Camp Walker

The fireworks at Camp Walker, an army base in Daegu

The fireworks at Camp Walker, an army base in Daegu

Saturday, July 3: My first haircut in Korea.  It took me about 2 hours to find a hair stylist who was recommended to me.  When I found him, he told me I could come back at 3:30 (it was 1:00).  I found another place I heard did hair-straightening, Frigo, so I figured I could get my hair straightened and then go back to the 1st guy for the haircut.  I spent the next 4 hours having my hair straightened, then I went ahead and had them cut it (since I missed the first appointment).  The whole process cost me 65,000 Won, or about $58!

Friday, July 2: At Chojeon Elementary, there is only one throne-type toilet, and it happens to be in the men’s bathroom.  I use it unabashedly.  When Coffee J first asked me why I used the men’s room, I said because women are built to sit.  Men stand; this toilet should be in the women’s room!!  Now, none of the adults say anything, but when the kids see me go in there, they love to pound on the door and run away; sometimes they turn the light off from outside, leaving me in the dark!  I don’t care… I steadfastly continue to do what I must do:-)  I will only use the ubiquitous squat toilets when there is no other choice and I am absolutely desperate!!

This evening we meet at Seth and Anna’s house for dinner and a Bible study.

Anna, Seth, Maurice, me and ??

Anna, Seth, Maurice, me and ??

me, Anna and ??

me, Anna and ??

Thursday, July 1: Kim, the Korean 1st grade teacher at Byeokjin, today tells me that she wants to take me to her favorite hair stylist to have my hair cut.  This hairstylist will apparently recommend the best cut for my hair and face. Then she mentions she notices that I never wear makeup.  (I do!) This is so typical for Koreans to comment about your appearance, even if it’s derogatory.

Wednesday, June 30: Filling the time:  Here in Korea, I’ve developed an unhealthy fixation on my calendar.  This strange calendar fascination comes because I’m acutely aware of time.  I’m always trying to place my whereabouts on this time continuum that is my one year in Korea.  As of today, I only have 8 more months remaining (alternatively, O my god, I have 8 more freakin’ months??) to make the most of my time here.  So, I’m always searching for ways to fill my calendar pages with stuff that interests me…. stuff I can only do in Korea and even more routine stuff.

My addiction....

My addiction….

The calendar is a rather bulky brown Office Planner, nothing fancy, but it gives me lots of jotting space.  While I sit in the back seat of my carpool every morning, I study it and think of how to optimize time.  I jot down ideas of things to do, my big dreams, my experiences, my vague ideas and notions.  I write down my blog ideas, my expenses and budget, my travel plans to visit other countries as well as the provinces and towns in Korea. July: Gyeongsangnam-Do and Turkey; August: Jeollanam-Do;  September: Chungcheongnam-Do and China; October: Jeollabuk-Do; January: Vietnam/Cambodia; March: India.  I look through other EPIK teachers’ Facebook pages and when I see pictures they post that look cool,  I make notes in my margins!  I juggle the options and try to determine how I can possibly see all the places I want to see in this part of the world in the time I am here, especially considering that time and resources are in short supply.  Sadly, I have to show up at school 5 days a week, which really cramps my style 😦

Calendar with tickets from "cultural assets"

Calendar with tickets from “cultural assets”

I also keep track of the friends I hang out with, where we went, what we did.  In the calendar, I staple entrance tickets to the “cultural assets” I’ve explored.  I write paydays, birthdays, holidays.  And I cross through each day with a thick pink highlighter to show myself that I have survived another day here.  Of course the empty pages in the future months beckon me to fill them with fun activities and accomplishments, travels to foreign cultures.

I also write down the few Korean phrases that I learn in school from other teachers.  I note the classes I need to plan each week and Korean Won exchange rates.  I write my goals to finish my TEFL course, study Arabic, work on my novel, and update my teaching certificate in Virginia.

I’m slowly making a life here.  It’s tough, because my heart is still pulled irrevocably to the Middle East, and I admit I’ve been resisting Korea.  But in my 8 remaining months, I’m aiming to carve out a life I can enjoy.  I’m finding my groove… trying hard to both enjoy and evolve.  Not very exciting stuff, but stuff that’s important to me just the same.

Sydney Street English Pub:

I’m not much of a party person these days, but I love to have a drink in a bar and chat with friends.  One of my saving graces was finding a pub a couple of blocks from my house.  It’s the Sydney Street Bar, run by Australian Mark and his Korean wife Tina.  They’re easy-going, friendly and welcoming, and I now feel I can drop by there anytime, even alone, drink a beer, and chat with the regular crowd… mostly English professors from Keimyung University.

me with Korean friend at Sydney Street Pub

me with Korean friend at Sydney Street Pub

There’s American Shannon, the most regular of the regulars, and Washingtonian Peter, an ex-professor who now is starting his own business after 16 years teaching in Korea.  There’s Dawn, Peter’s girlfriend from Australia.

nights at Sydney Street Pub

nights at Sydney Street Pub

Shannon

Shannon

Koreans at Sydney Street watching Korea vs. Argentina in the World Cup

Koreans at Sydney Street watching Korea vs. Argentina in the World Cup

Shannon, Myrna, ?? and me at Sydney Street Pub

Shannon, Myrna, ?? and me at Sydney Street Pub

Myrna at Sydney Street

Myrna at Sydney Street

Shannon and Becky

Shannon and Becky

drum playing expat

drum playing expat

There’s Seokjin, a Korean businessman who imports who-knows-what and works hard but parties hard too.  Nick is British but claims Korea as his home after 6 years here.  And there is Becky, a Korean girl who one night was weeping inconsolably because her parents are pressuring her to get married and settle down but her heart tells her to become a flight attendant and travel the world.  I’ve spent time here with my friend Kathy, with my Korean friend Kim, with other Korean friends, alone, with Anna, Seth, Myrna, Ben and Maurice and with crowds of strangers watching two World Cup games.  It’s becoming my home away from home.

Me & Maurice at Sydney St. to watch Korea vs. Uruguay

Me & Maurice at Sydney St. to watch Korea vs. Uruguay

Career/Study Goals:

I’ve spent a lot of time working on my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course. Although I’m not even certain at this point that I will want to teach again, I’m preparing myself in case I do.  I still hold out hopes of putting my Master’s degree to good use… That would mean a job in economic development or trade.  But as I want to live abroad, teaching offers me the best possibility of doing that.  I’m torn….

Kimchi Girl vows to study Korean

Kimchi Girl vows to study Korean

For awhile I was religiously studying Arabic using the Rosetta Stone.  But, as is my usual style, my self-discipline has slacked off.  I keep feeling that it’s a shame not to learn Korean while I’m here, but with my limited time, I’m torn.  I know once I leave here, I won’t really have reason to use it again.  Since I must allocate my limited time, I have chosen to study Arabic which I  really hope to use when I leave here.  I am starting to break down though… I think I will start to study some Korean in earnest upon my return from Turkey in August.  Maybe I will even study Turkish – in hopes of going to Turkey one day to teach:-)

Entertainment:

I’ve always loved to watch movies but it’s hard to get good ones here in Korea.  I’ve started renting movies online and then I had my family ship me some of my favorites from home: Pride and Prejudice, Bread and Tulips, Sliding Doors.   I’ve been to the Lotte Cinema to see a couple of movies as well: a notable (and bizarre!) one was Shutter Island.  I’ve also visited the DVD bang to watch Vicki Christina Barcelona and others.  Since I hate watching movies on my computer, I don’t really watch as many movies at home as I did in the States.  I miss that:-(

Exercise:

In June, I finally found a gym and signed up for a yoga class.  Myrna and I go 3x a week and though we don’t understand the Korean instructor, we can watch her and keep up generally.  Sometimes it’s a little difficult to contort our bodies from the various poses to see what she’s doing, but we’ve managed to get by.  I realize I am hopelessly inflexible!!  Will it get better with time and practice… and patience??

Books & maps give shape to my life:

Three Junes planted the idea in my mind to go to Greece.  The Time Traveler’s Wife gave me ideas about the structure of stories.  On Love, by my favorite essayist Alain de Botton, gave me food for thought on a subject that I ponder incessantly.  These are just 3 books that have kept me company during some very lonely times here in Korea, and for them I am grateful.  🙂

Books: Dream material

Books: Dream material

Books have always given shape to my life by providing dream material.  Ever since I was a girl, I’ve been an avid reader, and many of the dreams I hold most sacred come from these magical bound pages.  I love fiction more than anything else.  However, English books, like movies, are hard to come by in Korea, though Kyobo Books offers a small English section and Buy the Book sells a few used books at quite high prices.

Map of Busan

Map of Busan

Anna and Seth brought a small collection in their suitcases (for which they paid dearly) and Mike also shipped me some books from home.  This is what sustains me when I want to escape.

The other book that keeps me company here in Korea is my Moon Guidebook of South Korea.   The cover is curled and warped from so much use.  I generally adore travel guidebooks and maps – they mold my deepest dreams.  I spend hours studying them and plotting out travels, calculating distances, envisioning nomadic adventures.

I belong to several travel websites: Couchsurfing.org; VirtualTourist.com, using the name of Passionate Nomad.  I stole the name from a book about Freya Stark, a British travel writer who lived from 1893 to 1993.   She was famous for her travels, writing and cartography in the Middle East, especially during the two World Wars.  She was fluent in Persian and Arabic and traveled, often alone, into the Arabian deserts, Valleys of the Assassins, and other places where few others dared to venture.  Ah, if only I could be as brave as Freya!!  She is the inspiration for the life I hope to lead…. (Wikipedia: Freya Stark)

Mike, surprisingly ever so kind to me, just shipped me a new box which arrived at Chojeon today.  I’m so excited to take it home and open it.  Inside will be: Rick Steves’ Istanbul; Lonely Planet Turkey; The Surrendered by Chang-Rae Lee about the Korean war; a novel of Mike’s choosing by Turkish author Orhan Pamuk; and Lonely Planet China.  Oh boy, can’t wait to explore this box!

Nurturing my spirit:

Anna and Seth invited me to come along to their Korean Presbyterian church called Agape.  I have resisted going to church for a long time because I have a lot of doubts about organized religion in general.  I’m a fallen-away Catholic, by gosh!   However, after several episodes of depression while here, I knew I needed some spiritual work.  The saving grace is Maurice from Kenya, a theological student who speaks fluent Korean and English.  Maurice translates for our small group of English speakers.  The preacher is also quite good… as translated by Maurice!!  The choir brings tears to my eyes, the true sign of a good church choir.  Going to church has given me a little community of prayerful and loving people who have held me up when my heart has been down. 😦

We also get together once every week or every other week for Bible study, which I like very much.  Maurice, Seth, and Anna are such thoughtful fountains of insight – they are truly blessing my life here.

Me, Anna and Minhee at Anna & Seth's for Bible study

Me, Anna and Minhee at Anna & Seth’s for Bible study

Yet.  I continue to be fascinated with Buddhism and I want to do a temple stay while I’m here in Korea. I am magnetically drawn to the Buddhist temples… I can’t resist visiting all the ones in my path.  I love their cool wood floors, their peaceful smiling Buddhas, their chants and gongs.  Their promise of peace, serenity….

Buddha at the Bulguksa Temple

Buddha at the Bulguksa Temple

I read an inspirational book before I left home.  Quite popular now, and for good reason, it’s called Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert: Elizabeth Gilbert.  This book has inspired me to seek a more spiritual side in my travels.  I am trying to be open to whatever the universe throws my way in my nomadic adventure.

I always wanted to be a writer…..

I always regret that I haven’t kept a journal about  my travels or other wild & crazy experiences.  I had the most interesting time of my life in Cairo in July 2007, yet this memory is fast fading because I didn’t keep a journal.  So, my goal while here is to keep this journal, modernly known as a blog.  I never think of myself as an interesting writer, so I’m often hesitant to write period, much less to share with others the utter boring nonsense I write.  However, I like to read over stuff later that I wrote, so I am doing this mainly for myself.  Also, some of my friends ask me what is happening here in Korea, and this is easier than sending tens of emails!!  So, here it is.  People can either read it or not; it’s totally up to them.  So far, I’m proud of myself that I’ve actually had the discipline to do such a thing.

My other goal while here is to revise my 480-page novel-in-waiting.  I need to cut it by about 130 pages.  So, I’m thinking I may start doing that in another blog form (I need to research this!!), with a link from my blog to my novel.  I’d like to post a chapter at a time (there are 50 of these suckers!!) as I revise it.  Maybe this will give me the incentive to actually do it instead of just thinking about it.  Maybe I will even post some of my short stories.  Who knows!!??  Grandiose dreams from a big dreamer!!  Keep posted to see chapter 1 of what is tentatively titled: In the Blink of Black Holes.  Stay tuned.

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