Chronicle of Mountain and Sea

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A couple weeks ago I went to Busan for the first time, and just as I expected, it was the coolest city ever. I’m pretty sure other people know the feeling, but sometimes you just get a good vibe from a place, and you know that you’re going to love it there. You just know. You’ve never been there, but you feel like the second you get there you won’t want to leave. You can easily picture yourself just relocating and staying there permanantly. I’ve had that feeling with only a couple other cities in the world: Seville and Edinburgh.

I get really excited about going to a big city for the first time. Some of you that have travelled with me before might know this already. I’m so interested in the atmosphere, the setup, the people on the street, the geography, the architecture, the art, the public transportation and the overall vibe. Busan really interested me because it felt surprisingly like Athens, where I grew up. What could Athens and Busan POSSIBLY have in common you may ask? They are both large cities sandwiched between the sea and the mountains. They both have vibrant appreciation for street art and color, and even their subways are the same. They must have been made at the same time or by the same people because the stations, layout, and signage are all the same as in Athens. I felt like I already knew my way around.

Speaking of subways, I actually ran for my life in Busan, and I never run. I ran like zombies were chasing me, to get on the last train towards our airbnb. By the time we had all miraculously made it on, all the Koreans on the train cheered for us. I thought I was going to collapse. That was the shortened version of the story, there was more drama, betrayal, rain, and running up escalators involved.

Besides that, I like that Busan was more laid back than Seoul is. Seoul is really incredible but Busan has a chill quality that Seoul lacks. Maybe its because Seoul is the capital, it feels more businessy than Busan. But honestly I think its just the beach. The presence of the beach, the salty air and all the fish markets puts everyone at ease. It puts me at ease at least. People walking around with sand on their feet because they walked on the beach after work. Thats my kind of life.

Other than that, life here is pretty chill. Yeongwol is getting hot now. I notice that it rains in the early afternoon and then at night it clears right up and you wish you could stay out for hours. I wonder what its going to be like in July. I’ve felt a change recently, I’m finally feeling like a permanant resident in my town, as opposed to a tourist. It will be 3 months since I left the USA this weekend, and I’m just realizing that I’m a local now. I’m a part of my town, and I’m talking to my neighbors. I’m not constantly aware of my actions in case I offend someone. When you’re a guest in a country you feel like you need to be extra careful with everything you do so you dont give the wrong impression. I’m more relaxed now. My students and I have become good friends. I’ve rearranged the furniture in my apartment to a more Feng Shui set up. (Special shoutout to Irina my non-irritating friend for her interior design skills) I also have started a major drawing project that involves all the wall space in my kitchen/living room. I work on it a little bit at a time after school. Its called the The Chronicles of Mountain and Sea, after an ancient Chinese Geography/Mythology book.

I’m going to end this post with a story from class the other day. I was teaching 6th grade and we were learning the phrase “Dont Worry” and discussing things that make us worried. The students talked about the usual things: math tests, video games, Tae Kwon Do tournaments etc. Then this one kid (his English name is Chris) starts talking in Korean and says a bunch of things really fast. My Co-teacher bursts out laughing and translates for me.

” He says he gets worried when he watches Korean news and politics”

I told this kid Chris I feel the same way when I read about American politics. At that point the whole class went OOOOOOHHHHH TRUMP!!! I nodded my head and made an unpleasant face. We understood eachothers pain.

In case anyone back home has any doubts, the whole world is watching as our government and reputation falls apart. Including 11 year olds in rural South Korea.

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HBD BUDDHA

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So many funny and interesting things have occurred in the last month. It’s finally spring, and today is actually quite hot. By no means am I complaining about it, its awesome. Since my last post I’ve done a lot more exploring around Gangwon (the northern region of Korea) and gotten acquainted with my own town a lot more. I made a trip to the beach, and seeing the ocean rekindled my spirits greatly. School has been the usual roller coaster of great days where you feel like a combination of Teacher of the Year and B-list celebrity due to your foreign appearance, as well as the  days where things don’t go as planned, and you wonder why anyone would want to learn English in the first place. I’m learning to find a balance throughout the days of the week, the different teachers and students I work with, and the three schools I teach at. With all that commotion during the week I’m surprised I have energy at all to go traipsing up and down the country, looking for tombs, tea fields, and Buddhas but that’s why I’m here, so obviously it has to be done.

I’m posting some photos of interesting things I’ve seen or funny things that have happened since my last entry. That plate of chicken feet was truly unpleasant. The texture threw me way off and I just don’t get why you would want sweet and sour chicken feet when you can have sweet and sour chicken. WHY???

Also, one day, I go back to my desk after teaching a class and in my back pack (which I had left open) someone had placed a dried squid in a bag with my name written on it. It was really weird/thoughtful/ hilarious. The 2nd grade teacher had gone to a seaside fishing village over the weekend and brought each teacher a squid as a gift. How sweet. Its still in my freezer, I don’t really know what to do with it so if anyone has any ideas let me know. All I’ve done is draw it so far. Koreans really love giving gifts and they also love snacks, so people give you food all the time. Even strangers. That’s one of my favorite things about Korean people actually, because I too love snacks and communal snacking. Imagine every person you encounter at work/on the street/in the park is an old Greek grandmother who thinks you need something to eat or a piece of candy. It’s really nice. It makes you want to give away snacks too.

This past weekend was particularly busy because it was the Yeongwol Festival, commemorating King Danjong’s Legacy and paying respects to his tomb (which is down the street from my apartment) He was exiled to this region for reasons that I can’t remember, and then his uncle decided he needed to be murdered so he could have the throne for himself. He was found dead in the woods by some deer nearby. ANYWAYYYY the festival was really fun, it was much like an American County Fair I guess, but with K-pop concerts, THE BEST FIREWORKS I EVER SAW, better food, and cool traditional costumes. Also no farm animals. So in fact it was much better haha.

We also started having movie nights at Ngozi’s house. We have a long list of films that all need to be watched this year. So far we have crossed out The Fifth Element, Mean Girls, and Stepbrothers. I believe Rush Hour 1-3 is next. I obviously made sure Matilda was put on the list.

Stay tuned for next weeks post, I will have returned from Busan and the Tea fields, with all the latest from the south. This week is Buddha’s birthday (May 3rd) and we all have the week off. So party hard for Buddha everyone 🙂