Well, despite some sensationalized news coverage, everything is quite OK here – safe and sound, 30 miles away from the North Korean border. It’s been an experience to be living so close to a country famous for headlines tied to imminent nuclear fall out. The interesting part being the non-impact it has on the day-to-day lives of South Koreans. In my mind, I imagine the South Koreans have adjusted to this threat the same way Americans must have during the Cold War. Diplomatically managing the situation the best they can, being military-ready, and living life as normal as possible otherwise. What other option do they have? The power is in the choice not to live in fear.
The other day sirens went off at the U.S. military base I live next to. These were the sirens that go off when an attack is imminent. I didn’t realize at the time, but the sirens were part of a drill. I guess I bring this up because when the sirens were going off, my first thought wasn’t “OH MY GOD, IT’S OVER!”…no, my first thought was “Well, if it is over, at least I won’t have to go teach today.”
So, how’s teaching going you ask? 🙂
The kids summer break from school started the end of July, but in Korea most kids don’t really get a summer break. Summer break from school just means more time to go to Academy. So for us, the students summer break meant summer intensive classes. It is a challenge teaching a 3-hour long class to adolescents. It’s a whole other thing teaching three, 3-hour long classes, in one day. Every day hasn’t been like that, but it was enough to take its toll. For as difficult as it is for teachers, I also feel for the students. It has to be frustrating going to so much school, but then again, I don’t think they know anything different.
This has been a great opportunity for me to practice patience, test my stamina, and interact with an age group I’ve had limited experience with prior. I work with students at an age where their candidness can be sweet, or shocking. They help each other and hurt each other. Laugh and cry. Challenge themselves and cheat. Listen and defy. They are complex, mini-adults; but for the most part they are refreshing. With a light that all too often dims as the years go on.
Another perspective this opportunity has provided is a greater – MUCH greater – appreciation for teachers.
Teaching is not easy, and requires a consistent presence throughout the entire day that most other jobs do not. It is a demanding role, and one that don’t believe gets the credit it deserves. I imagine the disparity between a teacher’s work and how they are valued in society could easily be resolved should every adult have to teach an elementary or middle school class for a term. Some countries have mandatory military service after graduation; a mandatory teaching term doesn’t seem too crazy. In any event, teaching has made me think about my schooling, and I can only hope and pray I was as good of a student to my teachers as I am remembering myself to be.
…but the kicker was the beef is not cooked, just mixed with raw egg – and enjoy!
Although this last month has been busy with work, I did have the opportunity to get out and enjoy a few things. A buddy from training came up to Seoul for the weekend. One night we went to the market for dinner and ordered some Korean beef, on recommendation of the local. Sounds good right? We thought so too…but the surprise was the beef is not cooked when you eat it, just mixed with raw egg – and enjoy! All I can say is that we lived, and I definitely prefer cooked beef. In July, I also checked out Korea’s pride festival with some new and old (Peace Corps) friends, and did some palling around the city with some cool people that were traveling through. Living in the area I do is fun, because English speaking people are always traveling through,and you can make friends from all over the world. But the flip side of that is you end up saying goodbye more often than not.
Some friends that aren’t going away anytime soon are my work mates! In August, we went to Ganghwado island to check out the temple there. It is a beautiful temple with some interesting statues, located on the side of a mountain with great views to the sea. There is a true sense of peace watching a monk’s practice. They offer “Temple Stays” in Korea, where you can spend the night at a Buddhist temple and go through the meditations with the monks. I think I will be doing this with my friend Jenni when she comes to visit in October (Yay!) and will be sure to share some updates from her visit then.
Sometimes, no matter how much else there is to do and see, a homemade quesadilla with Netflix, a good book and wine is all I want.
So far living in Korea has offered me the chance to do and see things I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise. My mom teases me about my penchant for seeking all these different “experiences.” It’s a fair jest, but experiencing a lot also does something for the familiar too. It gives me a contrast to the previous places I’ve been, things I’ve done, friends I’ve made and jobs I’ve had; I end up with a deeper sense of appreciation for all of them. I value familiar things: longtime friends, favorite movies, loved books and comfort foods – something consistent wherever I am in the world. Sometimes no matter where I am at, or how much else there is to do and see, a homemade quesadilla, with Netflix, a good book and a glass of wine is all I want. That’s the beauty of life I guess. Our agency to enjoy, share and experience it how we choose. Whether it’s through experiencing the same things in a new place, or new things in the same place, happiness is just a choice away.
We all have our good days and bad, but I find the good far outweigh the bad when I give myself the agency to enjoy. So wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, I hope you can take a minute or two to sit back, be grateful for both the new and familiar in life, and find the joy in our shared experience.
Just remember…you could always be teaching! 😉
Until next time,
Peace, Love and Happiness.