Friday, February 26, 2010

How Do You Say Goodbye?

I had to re-write the opening sentence like 10 times now. How am I supposed to write my opening for saying Goodbye? I have been considering this blog for quite some time now. This will be my very last one. There are so many words that I want to use to truly describe my experiences here in South Korea.

So here I go. One year ago I came to this country not knowing what to expect. The only thing I knew was that I was going to teach or try to teach English to people. There was no Honeymoon period for me. Korea started off very rocky. I had experienced things that I would not wish upon any new-comers here. I lied too and swindled into my position. I was caught in a catch 22 of life. I could not do anything about it. I had to make the difficult decision of staying in a bad situation. My feelings of course was to run home with my tail between my legs but with encouragement from my family I stayed.

You should know my story by now. I will tell you what I have learned on this journey.

Personal growth is something that I did not expect to happen. I also didn't expect to learn so much about myself. I found a long lost passion of mine and now I really want to nurture it. I found that people truly enjoy being around me. I found that I enjoy time to myself and with good friends. There were many times here in Gyeokpo that I went for a walk and really dove into my mind. I started to really meditate on me and my life. Though this place was lonely, I was able to use that to gain access to myself. People tell me that they admire me for staying in Gyeokpo for so long. They say that they would not be able to do what I do. I respond to them that they would be surprised at themselves. I believe that anyone has the same capacity to do what I did. They just have to have the same type of mindset or the will to stay. This place is hard to live in, especially alone, but one learns how to cope. This place had its ups and downs, but truly I will miss it. I had an opportunity to experience Korea in a different way. Most guest english teachers experience Korea with a hint of Western culture. I was able to experience Korea before all of that. Truly I think that was more valuable than anything else.

The culture itself is an oxymoron. I don't want to speak out of term nor talk down to another culture, but this is how I feel. This is a rich culture. They pride themselves on it, which is a good thing. This pride sometimes turns into arrogance. Some to many of the people seem to be shortsighted. Much of the fashion and thinking is in some type of box or cookie cutter. The good thing is that there is a small constituent that is trying to assert their independence. I have often compared their culture in terms of time. As of right now I believe they are going through the 1950 generation to the 1960s generation. The old guard is trying to maintain control and tradition while the youth is trying to break that mold. As far as being a foreigner goes, its a little bit of a up hill battle. Their people are still not used to seeing different faces. I was blessed with being able to blend into the society so that no one really bothered me too much. My friends on the other hand were treated as if they were Rock stars. That is a great feeling I would assume, but it would be quite frustrating after a while. Sometimes you just want to be left alone. There is also this underlying feeling of racism here in South Korea. There is a point in ones life where you know when you are being stared at for the wrong reasons. There also has been times where it was more obvious than that. I do understand where it comes from though. There are foreigners that give the good ones a bad name. So its no ones fault. All in all they are normal people.

To sum all of this up. My experience here wasn't great nor was it horrible. This adventure was like a normal year for me, just in a different country. I guess in the end all I can really say is thank you. Thank you to all the great people that I have met and befriended. Thanks to all the children that made teaching a pleasure. Thanks to all the Koreans that made this place feel comfortable. Thanks to my family that supported me with their words and love from home. Last but not least Thank you Gyeokpo for showing me that there is more to me than meets the eye.


The End

All roads must come to an end.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Same Same

Out of my 5 friends 2 had to leave earlier. Once they left our presence we decided to move onto Kyoto. I would have to say that Kyoto and Tokyo are by far different as night and day. There was more of a cultural aspect to Kyoto. Kyoto also felt like a small town in comparison to Tokyo. I really enjoyed that fact. My friend and I decided to take a bike ride through most of the town. We biked from 11am to about 5pm, and yet we didn't see all of it. I felt like I could really just get lost on the side streets and be okay with it. It was much quieter and the people didn't seem to be in such in a hurry. Its funny to say this but it was a small town with big life.

I would be able to see so many temples in such a small amount of time. Temples, shrines and places of worship were literally in spitting distance from each other. I had such a hectic schedule in Tokyo that on the way to Kyoto I joked about seeing 5 temples in one day. Funny enough I was able to do so just by walking down a street.

I had more of a familiar and simple feeling with that town. Most everyone rode a bike or walked to their destination. The town was much more English friendly. I really enjoyed gearing down and truly enjoying what the town had to offer. The best note was that everything was cheaper (relatively).

I highly recommend going to Japan. It had been on my to do list for a very long time and it did not disappoint at all. There were very few low moments. I enjoyed the environment and the people. Culturally amazing. They seemed to try to keep in their own culture while embracing the Western Culture. I have been in Korea for almost a year now and the difference is drastic at best. The Japanese make an effort to assert their Independence from each other. I was easily impressed by the way that they dressed and carried themselves. I was quickly reminded of New York or any major Metropolitan Town in America. The best part for me was that there was no shortage of Anime, Manga, video games, or technology anywhere. I was also pretty thankful that Godzilla stayed on Monster Island. I didn't want to have to fight him, but I was fully prepared to do so.

In Short, Japan = AMAZING


Happy Birthday Mom. There are so many words I want to say, but I find it hard to express them. When it all comes down to it, Mom. I love you. I don't think I can say more than that. Thanks for everything.


The End

Domo Arigato Mr.Roboto.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tokyo Knights

We left our adventuring filipino friend at the airport.

The flight was nothing spectacular, it was a normal trip from A to B. My excitement built up from the moment of take off. I landed at Narita airport and I was super excited. To my surprise, the airplane did not land into the terminal itself. I had to take a bus into the terminal. I was laughing to myself the whole way there. I was the first one out of the bus and into the terminal. I walked through a gauntlet of escalators and walkways before I saw the sign that simply said "Welcome to Japan".

It was this simple sign that really kicked off my adventure into Japan. I then ran through the gauntlet that is known as immigration. I finally get into the welcoming area and make my way to where I needed to go. I hop into a train heading into the town that I was staying at with my friends.

Two of my friends had arrived about 2 hours earlier than me. So I quickly checked into the hotel that we were all staying at. They had gone ahead into town. Tokyo is a big town, so I didn't expect to see them at all. I decided to walk around town alone. I wanted to take in the situation and moment of where I was. I had a long trip and what not. I was still feeling a little sick from the days before, but I was hungry. I wanted to eat and the first thing that hit my nose was the haunting aroma of falafels. I ordered and ate the food. As I made quick work of the food I made conversation with one of the workers finding out about the area. He informed me about the areas and what not.

I left him with many thanks. As I walked around town, I saw out of the corner of my eye that my friends were eating in a restaurant. So I surprised them with a my presence. We sat and enjoyed some sake and beers. We walked around for some time waiting for our other friends to arrive. They had taken a flight a couple hours after us. They didn't arrive until around 11pm.

I would love to bore you more with the gory details. There was so much to say and tell about Japan. I could sit here for days and write about the big and small details of my adventure there.

To sum it all up. The first couple days I was running around. Literally running around. The four days I spent in Japan felt like ten days. We spent so much time just going to different towns and areas. We saw all the touristy stuff and some not. We found some amazing food, especially ramen. I tasted the amazing creations that Japan made of ramen. It was so great that Japan has officially ruined me for any type of ramen ever. I saw some amazing sights. I met some amazing people. Tokyo was just great.

To be continued in Kyoto...


The End



Monday, February 22, 2010

Sea Sick

It seems to me that every time that I go anywhere for a long time I get sick before hand. About 2 weeks ago I started preparations for my departure of South Korea. My contract is ending at the end of the month; so I decided to go to Japan. Japan had been on my top to go places in my life for a very long time. So my friends and I buy tickets to go. I was super excited for it. I am a big fan of almost anything Japanese.

A couple days before I left for Japan I had started going out with my co-workers. I wanted to treat them to dinner and what not, it was great. We sat and ate a meal and drank some beers. Then they in turn decided to take me out 2 days in a row for food. They fed me raw fish. I was not surprised at the food. I had been eating it for quite some time now, and I actually enjoyed it. I had no suspicion or fear of the food whatsoever. I was wrong. Two days before my flight it all caught up to me. I spent at least 24 hours near my bathroom. It had been the worst feeling ever.

I did not want to miss my opportunity to go to Japan. So I proceeded with my plan. The day before my flight I went to Jeonju. I had to run a whole list of errands. I kept on doing what I needed to do with my sickness. I powered through the day til about mid afternoon. Once I got to my friends place, I needed to sleep. So I did, I slept until I had to leave for the airport. I just wished that my sickness would go away by that time.

5:00am rolls around. My bus was supposed to leave at 5:30 am; so I woke up and found myself in a better mood. I had gotten over my sickness. So I hopped out of bed and made my way to the bus terminal. I figured that because of the weather and of the holiday that there would be traffic going to the airport. My flight wouldn't leave until 2:30pm. The bus usually takes about 3 or so hours to get there. With my luck, there was no traffic at all. I got there super fast. I ended up getting to the airport 4 hours before my flight.

So I sat in the airport waiting for my counter to open up. I wanted to eat, but I was still a bit sick. So I could only do fluids. I sat and waited until my counter opened. Luckily I ran into my friends. They were leaving on an earlier flight then I was. I had a quick conversation with them and what not. my counter opened up not too long after that. I breeze through security and everything. I sat there just waiting for my flight to take off.

I will continue the story of Japan soon.


The End

You are what you eat


Friday, February 5, 2010


The past three weeks I have had a semi vacation. The schools in which I work at told me that I did not have to come into work. This was an awesome idea. I would be able to have all the free time in the world to work on my projects and prepare for my home coming.

I wish that were the case. The past three weeks have been nothing but boring. I really wanted the time off so that I would be able to do things. Ironically because I wasn't working; my mind shut off and I was not as productive. The whole of my days had me laying in bed waiting for certain markers. I would wake up cook and eat breakfast then wait for lunch then wait for dinner. This was what I have been doing for the past three weeks.

I had to struggle everyday just to find motivation to go and do small projects. Small projects such as food shopping and daily exercise. The temptation to stay in bed all day was too strong.

Even though it is my dream to one day be able to do that everyday; I regret ever doing it. The stagnant lifestyle made my mind dull. I found myself too lazy to do even the simplest of tasks.

Today I had to come into work. Even though I do not like it here at work. The job keeps my mind active. It's fun how things like this work out. You try to fight most of your life not to work. Then you find out that work actually keeps you thriving. I had to teach only 1 class today and already I feel my energy levels higher then usual.

So my children gather around. The lesson of today is to keep your mind and body active. Living a stagnant life will not lead to a good life. You must find something to motivate and drive you to your goals. Wishing upon a star isn't enough kiddies. You have to go out there and get it yourself.


The End

If there isn't an opportunity, make one.


Monday, February 1, 2010

The Final Countdown

Wow. That all I can really say. A year has past and gone in a blink of an eye. I still remember this time last year I was trying to get all of my paperwork ready for my new adventure. It's funny how when you are nearing the end of a journey you remember all the small details.

It seems like I am talking more about my time here as it closes to an end. Last year I was talking about the excitement of the prospect of coming here. There are so many aspects to the experience that I cannot really explain.

Throughout the whole year I have been telling you tales of my big adventures. I think it was the small ones that really made my stay more memorable. The small moments that really made me appreciate everything.

Recently I was at a bar with my friends. There was a stranger at the bar that none of us knew. Most of the foreigners know each other; so when there is a new guy we welcome them into the group. He and I spoke for several minutes about my experiences here in Korea. At one point he told me that I showed a good amount of determination because of my situation. He actually shook my hand and bought me a beer. Moments like that really made me appreciate my experiences here in Korea.

Don't worry. This isn't my goodbye blog. I have plenty of more days left. I have more adventures to embark upon. I will start working on my goodbye blog separately.
Until then it's officially 27 days until I come home.


The End

Life is a series of moments, choose yours.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Slippery When Wet

This past weekend was interesting. A group of my friends decided to go to a mountain for some fun in the snow. They wanted to go skiing. I really only went skiing once in my life, so the opportunity to go excited me. I was also excited to go skiing in South Korea; an opportunity that many people do not have the chance of taking. The trip was to take place on Saturday around 7am. The night before we all were guessing on how far away the resort was, best guess was an hour and thirty minutes. So we board the bus around 6:45 am along with several other people from Iksan. The bus was full of people and seating was very slim. We all eventually find seats.

It was 7am and I was very much fatigued. I wanted to sleep but sleeping on a bus for me is nearly impossible especially when I am uncomfortable. So I had no choice but to stay awake and make conversation with people that I didn't know too well. I had a couple of interesting and funny conversations with people that kept me entertained for a while. The temperature outside was very cold so the bus driver decided to increase the temperature in the bus. This was a nice relief for me, for the first half hour. The bus driver put it on max heat. There were issues with that.

First the traffic was so horrible that it turned a one and a half hour trip into a 3 hour trip.

Second, it was so hot in the bus that at one point everyone started to take off all their layers to keep cool. We all had to suffer the temperature in the bus until about 10 am.

The bus eventually arrives at Muju resort. We were all excited. We were finally here to ski and we can get out of the hot bus and into the cold weather. Once I stepped out of the bus I was relieved. Then shortly after, like 1 minute, I wanted to retreat back into the bus because of the cold weather.

Prior to leaving the bus we were all asked what we wanted to do. I assumed that there will only be skiing at the resort, but they also offered snowboarding. They offered snowboarding only at a slightly higher price then skiing. I was amazed and excited. I have never snowboarded in my life and doing it in Korea really sounded like a good idea.

So I get off the bus after the 3 hour bus ride. I have my ticket in hand. The group was lead into the resort where we can pick up our stuff. We all fall in a huge line. Apparently everyone in South Korea decided to come that day to go snowboarding or skiing. So we all get in line. Eventually we get in front and are able to get the equipment.

After we got our equipment and accessories, we hunted for lockers. That took about another half hour to find an empty locker. So we didn't really get to go into the snow until about 11:45ish.

All the experienced people decided to go ahead. I lost track of the whole group all together. So I walked to the bunny hill and decided to teach myself. So there I was snowboard on hand and no clue on how to use it.

It took me 10 min to figure out how the straps worked. Then it took me about 3 hours to figure out how to stand up. After that turning and stopping was simple. Even though I figured out how to do all that stuff my confidence was not high enough to tackle the mountains. So I stuck around the bunny hills and the smaller hills to practice not falling on my face and what not. So I ended up spending all the day on my face or the other end.

It was a fun day but I ended up breaking my sunglasses that I had in my pocket. No fun.

So we return our equipment. We were waiting for some other people to come meet us. We were supposed to get to the bus around 4:20 and it was supposed to leave at 4:30. The majority of the people made it to the bus. We tried to stall the bus as much as possible, but we voted to leave. The people that were missing ended up at the top of the mountain still skiing. So we wished them luck and the bus went on it's way.

The bus trip was relatively short in comparison to going to the place. We got back before I knew it. My friends and I decided to rest for an hour then go out. We get some food and then go out. We made jokes about the people we left behind. Eventually they meet up with us. We gathered to hear their story on how they got back.


The End

If at first you don't succeed, try and try again.