anticipating.

Ever since living in Korea, I have become extremely lax about my faith, more specifically, about going to church. It’s incredibly difficult finding English masses, and those that do exist take place at inconvenient times. There is a Catholic Church only a few subway stops from here, but their mass starts at 2pm on Sunday afternoon; negatory. Myeongdong’s Cathedral offers a mass for foreigners at 9 am Sunday mornings; seeing as my travel time (one-way) is about 1 hour and 15 minutes, including the walk from the subway station to the cathedral, this is not an option, either. There is no way that I am getting out of bed at 6:30 am on a weekend.

So, I found myself not going to church on what is supposed to be the most important day of the year for Catholics: Easter. Whoops. I alleviated my guilt by indulging in a delicious brunch at Suji’s in Itaewon, and G and I explored Samcheongdong gil afterwards. Samcheongdong gil was described as a beautiful walking street; it did not let us down. Despite how often G and I are in Insadong, we somehow never crossed the street and stumbled onto the Samcheongdong gil. The tree-lined street’s charm (a plethora of coffee shops, trendy boutiques, and restaurants) was overwhelming; I can’t wait to return. Easter concluded with homemade pizza and egg dying, thanks to a timely care package from my amazing family back home. I hadn’t even noticed that Lucky Mart only carries brown chicken eggs until I began searching for white, dye-able eggs. My search turned up these results: 6-packs of brown eggs, 10-packs of brown eggs, value sized packages of brown eggs, organic brown eggs, and quail eggs. As a result, my Easter eggs are significantly browner in hue than they would be back home. I experimented with one, submerging it in the yellow, pink, blue, and green dye; big surprise, it ended up brown. Almost the exact shade it started out as.

This week has been incredibly stressful; we are playing “hospital” this Friday, so I have been a drill sergeant these past few days, forcing a nurse/patient/doctor dialogue down my Pooh Bears’ throats. On top of it all, we are super behind in Rainbow Bridge (the curriculum we use) thanks to a birthday party, morning assemblies, and a field trip, so I’ve been scrambling to complete my pages. My plan for tomorrow (Thursday): administer and grade the Pooh’s and Polar’s session test (which means one-on-one speaking tests for me), put name stickers and homework checklists on about 100 books, write 25 preschool report cards, handwrite 50 Children’s Day cards (Children’s Day is May 5th, and we have to send home personalized greeting cards), and fill out my elementary school score sheets. Oh, and clean my desk, which has turned into a toxic waste dump. Thursday is my easy day. Luckily we have a break coming up next week; we get May 5th and 6th off, so G and I get a 4-day weekend! So far, we are planning on exploring the east coast of Korea: Sokcho and Seuraksan National Park. I’m looking forward to being able to breathe.

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eastering.

So i have been moaning and complaining about not being able to run for, well, I don’t even know how long, now. Wednesday afternoon, my boss was kind enough to take me to find a new neurologist, since my “physical therapy” treatments were obviously doing NOTHING for me. The neurologist we were hoping to visit turned out to be a plastic surgeon, so, spur of the moment, I decided to man up and see an acupuncturist. Despite being a believer in holistic medicine, acupuncture has left me skeptical since my previous (and only) encounter with it (surprise needles sticking out of my face that did not alleviate the symptoms of my sinus infection, as promised). A lot of Korean was spoken and gestures were made with the outcome that I would undergo treatment for one hour. I resigned my self to the fate of having lost one precious hour of my evening.

scarier-looking than it is.

Now, I am no expert on acupuncture, but I will attempt to describe how I was treated. Small glasses were placed on the affected area and pressurized for about 10 minutes, and afterwards, needles were stuck into my leg for 15 minutes. Next, I underwent much more intense physical therapy with an electroshock machine (same as at the previous neurologist), and finally, I had needles put into my OTHER knee area, in order to “balance” me out. As I walked out of the office, I was told “If you feel any pain, come again tomorrow.” WAIT ONE SECOND, this one session was supposed to have cured me of feeling any pain at all???!! I was in disbelief…….. until I woke up the next morning, feeling considerably better. I wouldn’t say I am completely pain free, and I did go back the next day for one more session, but at least I can now run across the street to make a green light without feeling like someone is stabbing me in the calf. Progress, right?

In other news, we celebrated Easter at SLP yesterday by decorating Easter baskets and baskets, having an egg hunt, and “cooking”. Cooking is in quotations here because the only person in the Pooh Bear classroom who ever does any cooking is me; the kids just attempt to cut up the ingredients. It’s really fun for the teacher, running from kid to kid to collect their cut up bananas as soon as they shout “I AM FINISHED, TEACHER!!!”. Anyway, yesterdays creation was an “Easter salad”, again in quotations due to how strange this concoction was. It included bananas, strawberries, cherry tomatoes, lettuce, EGGS, and this creamy sweet dressing. I even double-checked to make sure that, yes, the eggs are supposed to go INTO the salad. Surprise: the kids loved it, ate the entire thing, and wanted more. Then one peed her pants.

yum, yum. don't you want some?

But I still love them.

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cherry blossoming.

I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect spring weekend. Both Saturday and Sunday dawned fresh, sunny, warm, and all-around gorgeous. We decided to take advantage of our good luck and attended the Yeouido Cherry Blossom Festival in Seoul. Yeouido Park is located right on the Han River, so it is a great place to rent bikes, take a walk, or just relax on a bench (assuming you can find a free one, of course). We didn’t realize that all of Seoul would have the same idea as we did (shame on us, we should know better after being here for so long), which made for quite the exciting subway ride. I will let you judge for yourself as to whether or not the hassle was worth it.

Sunday began with an invigorating hike near G’s apartment, which he passed off to me as an easy 30-minute walk. I realized this was not to be as soon as I noticed hardcore ajoshis and ajummas accompanying us on the way to the trail’s start, fully decked out in hiking gear. My suspicions were confirmed when I spied endless columns of steps, essentially ascending the entire mountain straight up. We were rewarded by a panorama of Anyang, in all its glory.

the view from G's window, thanks to the considerate people who chain their bikes and motorcycles to his window grate.

i love this building, with all its modern, sleek lines.


nature is rehabilitating this sign.


the contrast is beautiful.

it's pretty embarrassing to have 80-year-old men lap you on the stairs of death.

view 1 of anyang


view 2 of anyang.

on the walk back to G's, after our invigorating / exhausting hike.

the photographer himself. one day, i will steal his camera while he's sleeping.

The remainder of Sunday was spent visiting a new (previously unexplored) area of Seoul, Ewha Women’s University. As soon as I stepped out of the subway station, I was struck by the hip, college-town vibes I was getting. It is strange how similar the auras of both the Ewha and Hongik University areas are to college towns back home. Whereas walking around Hongdae feels like being in a Korean Berkeley, Ewha felt like a Midwest or East coast college town. This was probably aided by Ewha University’s buildings, which are designed in the Gothic style so favored by Notre Dame and the Ivy Leagues. It was bizarre being in the middle of a massive city (population: 10 million), with a grassy, college campus unfolding in front of my eyes. The Ewha area is surrounded by independent, creatively-themed coffee shops, small boutiques (no, they don’t sell jeans that both fit me and come down past my ankles), and street food. This heady combination offered the ideal way to while away our Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately, by this point, my camera had died, thanks to my overexcitement at the cherry blossoms. Oops.

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wednesdaying.

Some weekends leave me feeling more exhausted than when I started. Fortunately, I actually do feel rested up and ready for the upcoming Monday through Friday haul (which, considering I haven’t felt up to writing an update until today, is already halfway over).

A leisurely Saturday was spent making a Homeplus run for Denmark Yogurt, chocolate, and granola (my diet staples) and shopping in Myeongdong. Garret and I went with the intention of finding some jeans for me to wear, seeing as my amazing washing machine has contributed to the death of 3 out of 7 pairs of the pants I brought with me. My machine is a monster: it eats everything (socks, bras, pants, you name it, I’ve lost it), which is problematic, seeing as there are only 2 stores in Korea that carry pants that fit me and are within my budget. My only options include Forever 21 (I still hate the place, which makes the fact that I have to shop there even more painful) and H&M. Ironically, I walked into Myeongdong with the intention of buying jeans, and walked out the proud owner of three pairs of shorts. Despite my lack of success, retail therapy continues to be consistently therapeutic, both at home and overseas.

I allowed myself to catch up on valuable sleep Sunday morning, rounding out the day with a long bike ride, nap, and breakfast-for-dinner. G and I decided to rent bikes (Alton is currently in a state of semi-brokenness, and I haven’t had a chance to get him fixed yet) and follow the bike path along the river to Seoul. We ended up biking all the way to Seokgye station, which is a 20-minute subway ride from Uijeongbu! We picked up some kimbab along the way and had a picnic on the riverbank before turning around and heading back. Neither of us felt really tired, despite the fact that we had been biking for about two hours… until we walked into my apartment, collapsed on the bed, and passed out for a few hours.

this bike path extends all the way to seoul.

This week has been fairly exhausting, and I am counting down the days until May when we will (supposedly) be joined by another foreign teacher. My schedule is incredibly heavy on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. I have calculated the amount of time I spend sitting; over an 8.5 hour period, my grand total comes to 60 minutes, max. It is really no wonder that I have to spend several additional hours in physical therapy every week. I cannot wait to be able to run again.

And yet: the temperature is warming up, I wake up every morning at 615 to the sun streaming in my window, and I get off of work with an hour and a half of sunshine to spare. Wednesday is over, leaving me only two more days until another glorious weekend, and I have a four-day weekend coming up in May. My bathroom is spotless (this only happens once every two months, gross, I know), I have a fruit harvest amassed in my apartment, and Pay Day is Friday. I am blessed.

this is the most vibrant red truck I have ever seen. it makes me smile every time i see it.

the view from my window every morning at 615. i love how quiet and fresh the world is at this time.

spring is finally asserting itself over tight-fisted winter.


perfection.

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raining.

So I really should have posted this yesterday, but I somehow managed to forget my camera under my desk at SLP. Whoops.

I was thoroughly unexcited when I wake up Thursday morning to rain coming down. Rather than being one of those people who revels in listening to the sound of falling rain, when the sun goes away, no matter the reason, I automatically revert to a bad mood. Regardless, I dragged myself out of bed and headed off to school, expecting to have a terrible day, seeing as I was already grumpy (and it was only 9 am). Despite the fact that my kids were AWESOME, I knew I needed some kind of motivation to get me through my teaching schedule. I promised myself that I would get a Yogerpresso frozen yogurt smoothie during my break as my afternoon snack. Now, I LOVE Yogerpresso smoothies, so this was truly going to be the crowning moment of my day… until I was informed that the rain was radioactive (thank you, Japan), and I should avoid going outside. Imagine my distress… until my boss walked in the door with Yogerpresso frozen yogurt smoothies for everyone! AND she had picked them up in her car, so they weren’t even radiating ☺. It really is amazing what a simple act of kindness (and a Yogerpresso smoothie) can do for one’s morale.

I was too excited to take a picture before partially-inhaling it. also, welcome to my messy desk.

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enjoying.

good morning, uijeongbu.

my view this morning, and every morning, during my bike ride to and from the gym.

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battle scarring.

OK, so I’m trying something new, and WARNING: this may be a complete flop. I may thoroughly regret this in mere days, therefore, I reserve the right to take back everything this blog entails.

It is sometimes difficult for me to pick out the little things that give me joy in my day, like the birds I hear singing on my bike ride back from the gym every morning, the smiles on my kids’ faces when they walk in my classroom door every morning, the smell of my candle burning. So, I am going try to open a window into the everydays that, in culmination, compose my life in Korea.

Today’s slice of my life:

my gorgeous leg after physical therapy.

I’ve been suffering from leg problems since the cold set in in; first my left lower leg began hurting, to the point that I could barely walk. Once it finally healed, I only had a week of respite; afterwards, my right knee suddenly got strangely tight, followed by severe pain in my right calf. Essentially, I have been unable to run properly for the past 4 months, which saddens me (SURPRISE, right?) since I have begun to truly enjoy running (yes, really).

Fast forward to today: I finally decided to visit my helpful neurologist (who blamed all my previous problems on stress, ha, like that’s going to change anytime soon) for a diagnosis. I walked out after an extremely uncomfortable physical therapy session (a first for me) with these battle scars. The session started out great, as I got tricked into getting comfortable and letting my guard down, with a nice hot pack, progressing to an ultrasound. The shocker (literally) was the electrotherapy, which was administered through four circular sucker-like things that shocked my muscles regularly while I hung out under a UV-light. Three hours later, I am starting to develop circular bruises, and I am under orders to return for another session tomorrow night. I hope I still have a functioning calf muscle when all is said and done… but at least medical procedures here are dirt-cheap. After a 45-minute session, my bill came to $3. Love Korea.

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