April 2nd-May 6th
Hello loved ones! I hope you are all doing splendidly 🙂
It is a beautiful Sunday here in Seoul. As I write this blog, the sun is shining down on my back and the sounds of families enjoying the day surround me. Sitting here, beside the Han River, I am filled with an overwhelming sense of joy, of fulfillment, and of accomplishment. These feelings are juxtaposed with the feelings of loneliness and anxiety that had me curling into a ball yesterday and kept me in my apartment for most of the day. In preparation of writing this month’s blog, I reflected upon the past blogs I have written. I came to realize that so far I have been a little unbalanced in my descriptions of life here painting it, perhaps, as a non-stop party. This past month has been less of a party, and more of a non-stop roller coaster of emotions. The beauty of this chaos is that it has me finding me center again and returning to the intentions that brought me here. I came to Korea for all the obvious career reasons but also to do some self-discovery and to really learn how to be alone. I look back on the ups and downs of April not with regret, but with a renewed sense of purpose and appreciation of my resiliency. I hope you enjoy this more balanced look into my life here in Seoul!
A definite highlight of this past month was finally getting my bicycle! It’s an ivory and brown cruiser with a basket and I love it. This bicycle has allowed me so much freedom and thus has paid for itself tenfold already. Besides riding to and from work (cutting my weekly transit costs to zero) I have been able to enjoy exploring the Han River.
The first time cycling the Han, Sab and I made our own kimbap, packed our own snacks, bought some beers and set off. We spent the afternoon leisurely biking and taking breaks whenever we felt like it. We made it all the way to Ttuekseom Resort Station where we refuelled on beer and melon pops before returning home.
The second time was last weekend with Nicole. Again, ready with snacks and beer we set off for a few hours. We picked a nice grassy spot where we chatted and set some intentions for the month of May. My list includes: studying Hangul for 30 minutes once a week, catching up with someone I love once a week, counting to 10 when I feel stressed, meditating every night and going to my yoga studio 3 times a week.
I can say with certainty that I would be in shambles without the beautiful people I’ve made friends with here. A part of me is a little critical of my co-dependency and I wonder if I should make more of an effort to be comfortable on my own. Then I think that I have a lot of love to give, and I wouldn’t be myself if I wasn’t around people and sharing that love. Here are a few of the happy memories we made this month.
After work one Friday, we joined up to eat some BBQ in Sab and I’s neighbourhood. Then Nicole and Charlie came over to Sab’s for a HP night! We drank wine, chatted, and stuffed our faces with candy all while watching A Very Potter Musical. If you enjoy Harry Potter, the books or the movies, you will cry laughing at this play; it is so good. I cherish the thought of this night because it was so different than other nights here; not based on how much soju we could drink but about enjoying each other company in the
The start of April was cherry blossom season! Advice to anyone wanting to experience the festivals, make sure you go see them on time. It might be busy but so worth it. I have learned this the hard way as I went at the end of the season to Seokchon Lake with Sam. There was only one tree that bloomed late, and the rest had a mere shadow of their once beauty. We stilled enjoyed being a little active before work and exploring a place we’ve never been before. I always enjoy chatting with Sam as I find she balances my perspectives and often humbles me.
I was able to knock an important item off my bucket list- watching a Korean baseball game! Baseball is huge here and I got to see once of the biggest teams, the Doosan Bears, play. The ticket was only ~$10 and the seats were awesome! The way it works is that the more expensive seats put you in a cheering section where you sit with others cheering for either the home or away team. Each team has their own songs and dances with dedicated cheerleaders to keep the crowd screaming all game! The songs are rip-offs of Western songs and it was a lot of fun learning the cheers. Nicole and I also played a little drinking came of our own invention to liven things up a bit. We had a big group of about ten people and it was nice seeing some new faces and chatting with people I’ve never met. We also happened to see Andrew there with his basketball friends and enjoyed chatting with him.
A highlight of this month was the Soul of Seoul Tours Scavenger Hunt I entered with Nicole, Bethany and a new friend Kathryn. There were a total of 80 people competing in this 2 and a half hour long photo scavenger hunt around the downtown core of Seoul. As Kathryn is fluent in Korean (a requirement for the degree she is completing at Ehwa Women’s university- so cool!) we thought we might have a bit of an advantage. Despite Kathryn and I’s insistence that we were not very competitive, as soon as we got our clues we ran like the wind to the first photo site. The afternoon passed with a lot of laughter and the joy of exploring some new places. Our favourite moments were asking two foreigners to squish into a phone booth with us and taking a photo with a boy in a tae kwon doe uniform who proudly showed off his new medal and 4 gold stars. I’ve included my favourite pictures below!
Sab’s boyfriend Adam was visiting so we treated him to godbar, Itaewon, dak galbi and noraebong. I’ve already written about all of the above, so I’ve just included the pictures below. There are also some random pictures of other hangouts throughout the month.
Work this month was a huge source of stress and frustration. The fight for control of my NK Telescope class continued causing me to approach every Monday, Wednesday and Friday with anxiety and apprehension. We were also preparing for an event called Children’s Day that happened on Friday. This brought with it a lot of extra planning and preparation on top of our regular work. Many of us could be seen cutting out pictures or doing book reports while completing our weekly phone calls to our students. Children’s Day went off without a hitch and I had a lot of fun! I was stationed in the Musical Dance Off Room where I got to dance around in front of a disco ball and encourage kids to dance during the game all day. It was exhausting, but much better than teaching!
Additionally, we had 2 book checks and student comments due on top of our regular work this month. Thankfully my book checks were approved without any drama! I was the unfortunate victim of other drama however, involving dress code at work. I was singled out as wearing shorts of an inappropriate length to work last week. The rub of it all is that Sab wore shorts of the same length that week too and most of the Korean teachers wear shorts and skirts even shorter than mine on a regular basis. Although it was never blatantly said, I experienced discrimination at work based on my size and I have to admit, it didn’t feel nice. As much as I have come leaps and bounds in accepting my body, it was still hurtful to be told that I looked indecent because I have a different, albeit larger, body type that most Koreans. Again, I am so thankful to my coworkers who let me cry a bit and vent at work without thinking me silly. As much as I am going to try and let this one lie, the sight of K-teachers in their ridiculously short shorts and skirts is going to grind on me. Perhaps more drama to come next month!
My Dose of Nature!
This month I went hiking twice. Seoul has so many beautiful mountains and I want to climb all of them! Spring has really been heating up and now at the start of May, the weather feels like mid-summer in Canada. Apparently we only have a few weeks of hiking weather left before it is unbearable to be outside!
This month’s first hiking excursion of Namhansanseong with Marinne, Mario and Joy didn’t go so well. It turned out to be a miserable rainy day and quite chilly. As we marched on, we tried to keep our spirits up but the weather was too much. I started coughing and sneezing during our rainy picnic, at which time we decided to turn back. It was still an adventure and as always, a lot of fun spending time with our yoga friends.
My second hike was of Bukhansanseong with Nicole, Sam and our new friend Stephen. Now this mountain is huge and has a lot of trails so we went with one peak in mind. Of course, life had other plans for us and we ended up on a different trail leading us to a different peak. None of us really minded this “mistake” in navigation however, as this trail was less used and much more peaceful. The view from the top was nothing to laugh about either! Having made it to Wonhyobong peak in good time, we decided to keep hiking and attempt the original and more famous Baegundae peak. With about an hour still from the top, we had to call it and turn back. At this point we had been hiking for ~5hours and had run out of water and food. We enjoyed some delicious jeon (seafood and kimchi) at the base of the mountain which ended our trip perfectly. Nicole and I said goodbye to the boys on the train and headed off for some much deserved R&R at Dragon Hill jimjilbang.
Overall I have experienced a lot of joy and some pain too in my pursuit of a good and happy life in Seoul. I still have these humbling moments where I can’t believe I’m really here doing what I said I was going to do. It makes me feel like a child in the best way, looking at the world knowing that anything is possible. I hope this month has been filled with your own growth and reflection. I miss and love you all dearly!