It’s my halfway-iversary! We arrived early October and I expect to be moving on and shipping out by the end of November, which makes this about the halfway mark. I thought the occasion deserved a marker of some sort. (I am excluding Jon from the half-iversary because of the good chance he will leave before me. But don’t worry, he’s still here 🙂 ). So, what’s been happening around here? Weeelll, since you ask, I am happy to report that things are mostly really good. We are largely used to the things that bother us and we have found lots of things to enjoy and there are
lots of times we even feel kinda connected to this place.
To wit: I am becoming part of the neighbourhood(s). People recognize me. I know, I know, I’m a giant waygook and it would be hard to miss me in the sea of Koreans. BUT some of these people say hello with a big, friendly smile now. And at the bibimbap restaurant all of the staff know my order without asking. And the fruit sellers by our apartment search out their best strawberries for me. And the smoothie ladies smile at me when I walk past and know my order if I stop in. And the donut lady smiles and says “nice to meet you” every time she sees me, even if I am not buying a donut. For the record, “nice to meet you” means “nice to see you” in Korlish. She IS remembering it’s me, it’s just that something gets lost in translation with that phrase – it’s a common mistake. You might be surprised to know just how much this stuff can cheer a person. Then again, maybe you wouldn’t. It’s kinda cross-cultural, ya? We all want to feel acknowledged and recognized (deep man, deep).
Equally important (in my mind) is the fact that I can now walk past the cocoon soup without gagging. I still don’t like the smell – because that would be IMPOSSIBLE – but I don’t get vomituous anymore. Not even when I’m hungover! How’s that for adapting like a champ!?
Also, I made a new friend that I met through my volunteering gig. She’s great and she’s giving me Korean lessons once a week! Plus, I started Korean classes once a week as well, so it’s finally starting to come together and I’m getting better and better at understanding the gist of what the kids are saying to me. Which I think is actually helping with how much they respect me. It’s a bit of a struggle to get respect from the kids for the Native teachers when it’s clear to everyone that we are always out of the loop. Throwing the odd Korean word out at them – even if it IS just the names of some fruit! – is really making a difference. They probably just feel more understood. And maybe, as is my fondest hope, they think I understand more than I do and feel they can get away with less. Maybe!?
Last weekend we went to our first Korean baseball game and my first professional baseball game, ever. General seating only costs 7,500 won (about $7.50 CDN) and, as you can see, there’s ample seating. Also extremely impressive: you can bring your own food and drinks! The only limitation is that you can’t bring glass. THAT’S IT. And the food and drinks available there are not even marked up! No $9 beers here, folks. Just your good ol’ $2 Hite. Aaahhhhh, that’s what I like about Korea right there. I happily brought a six pack of light beer, a liter of orange fanta, and a bottle to mix, and enjoyed Fanshops (shout out to Chile!) alllll daaaayyy. Additional highlights of the day included drinking outside in the sunshine, getting to know new friends, making handmade pom poms out of old newspaper (a skill that I am positive will come in handy many times over the years), and how to turn a small plastic bag into a stylish fashion accessory. Times were had, you guys, and my tan was started in earnest – an excellent bonus to an already great day. Goooooooo Lotte!!
The next day we nursed mild hangovers at the beach (the one with the whale, if you recall that from a previous post) while Daisy chatted with the locals and attacked a teeny little white dog and then got berated in English by a local (she had it coming, so I didn’t stick up for her).
I gotta say, Harding might have been on to something by getting that bike. It IS fun to pack up the pug and hop on now that the weather is nice. Zooming along on a bike with the wind in your hair is a far cry better than an overly cramped and crowded bus, I must say. We also stopped and had a little picnic at the United Nations Memorial Park – a rather touching little place here in Korea-land. A bunch of different nations sent over sculptures to be represented and Canada’s is…well, it’s here for you to see. I mean, I get it – land of ice and all that – but couldn’t we have done a little better??
The park was nice, though it was sandwiched in kind of a strange area near a busy street so it wasn’t suuuuper relaxing. Still, we only stumbled upon it by accident and I’m glad we did. It’s nice to see Korea commemmorating/acknowledging anything not Korean. That’s not meant to sound bitter – really! It IS nice.
The job hunt is on for our next location, but there isn’t a ton of stuff showing up for Jon in Africa. We are broadening our search and keeping our fingers crossed. In the meantime I have revamped my resume and hooked up another volunteer opportunity with an organization that works primarily in Kenya doing micro-finance. I have really been wanting to learn more about micro-finance AND it’s my first opportunity actually doing something tangible that’s Africa focused. I am STOKED. I want to get started with them and learn more about them before I wax poetic about the org, so stay tuned and I’ll share more when I know more.
In the meantime, we are really enjoying spring in this beautiful place. We could not have asked for a more gorgeous spot to live for the year. This little island is quiet and rustic and beautiful (you’ve seen the photos!) and that’s worth an awful lot. We are meeting some really great people, having some interesting experiences, trying weird and sometimes delicious food, and really can’t complain about the price of booze 😉 The stuff that tends to be an exercise in patience is just part of the process and, though we are honestly looking forward to the next location, we are going to enjoy the rest of our time here. If I’m being really honest, I kinda just miss the noise, laughter, and music more prominent in other cultures and can’t wait to experience that again. I’m in a really happy, positive place in my life and I want to be in an environment that jumps and dances and sings and laughs with abandon. Asking too much?? Why, that’s so unlike me.. 😉
Next weekend is a long weekend (it’s Buddha’s birthday), and I have come to long for them in the way that only someone who actually gets weekends off could do. Long weekends are pure heaven. And an excuse for another adventure. Not sure where we’ll go yet, but you know there will be a post about it after the fact. ‘Till then!