Saturday, June 27, 2009

Re-signing (Resigning?)

Friday afternoon, there was a meeting for Daegu's EPIK teachers who planned to renew for 2009-2010 to review the terms of our new contracts and allow us to sign for next year. They called it the "Resigning Meeting." A wonder no one caught the irony.

I actually really like the new contract--it's well-designed. The government has decided to replace airfare (and airfare reimbursement) with a set amount of money (1,300,000 won for a one-way and 2,000,000 for a round trip). Also, you don't have to use it for airfare, you can use it for whatever you want. This is wonderful for people like me who don't mind shopping around a little for a good airfare bargain. Heck if this contract had been my current contract my ticket AND most of Min Gi's for the trip to America (less than four weeks away!!!!) would be paid for. As it stands, I'll get reimbursed for my ticket--still not a terrible deal.

We're also getting more vacation days (10 in winter and 8 in summer), which is super, a raise of 100,000 won/month (not nearly enough to take the edge off the flailing won value, but still nice), and they're changing the end date of the contract to August 25 (which is great for me 'cause next year I'll be looking for U.S. jobs and will have to leave as early in August as I can).

Although I ran into a few lovely people who also work in the Daegu Public Schools as native speaker English teachers who I rarely see, but enjoy talking with, there were enough loud, rude, obnoxious, and thick people to make me cringe, thinking, And this is what some Koreans think Americans (Canadians, Australians, Kiwis, South Africans, Brits, Irish) are like?

I've said before that since Korea is so homogeneous, I often feel like a defacto ambassador for all of western culture. I'm often the only or one of a few foreigners my friends, acquaintances, and random strangers on the street have regular, personal interactions with. Not that it's right, but I do feel like the impression I leave might be how that person judges all Americans, white people, westerners, or western women. It can be a lot of pressure.

Apparently some of my "colleagues" (oh lord do I cringe calling some of those people that--I'm a professional educator and very few other foreign teachers in Korea, even good teachers, are that, though some do BECOME it while they are here) do not feel such self-imposed responsibility.

So I'll be here for one more year. And I feel a little strange. I know for a fact that were it not for Min Gi and our plans to get married in January (January 9, everybody, this is your official "save the date"), I would be elsewhere at the end of this contract.

You see, I love Korea. Even without my relationship, I would probably consider coming back here again. The lifestyle of an expat is quite comfortable and fun. However, I want to try some other countries before I settle down anywhere for a long time. I've gotten bit with the expat living bug, but I think I'd enjoy expat life in many different places. With my credentials and experience, I could easily hop on the international school circuit and spend the rest of my professional life country hopping every 2-3 years. I'd be thrilled with this.

However, there are two obstacles to this plan now. One: Min Gi and I would like to have children together one day. That means it would be in their best interest to stay in one country for long periods of time. However, he has agreed (and is excited about) living with me in at least one more country before we settle down anywhere. This makes him AWESOME. So in the short term, this actually is no obstacle at all.

Two: With Dad's health issues, I want to spend some time with my family while we're still all relatively healthy. I don't really have a desire to live in the U.S. again long term (I think it would be boring and I'd feel like I was stagnating, though there are DEFINITELY some things I miss). Missing family and friends is the hardest thing about living abroad, and right now, with what's going on back home, I think it's very important that I make this a priority for at least a year. The bonus to this is that I've learned so much about Korea while living here, that it helps me understand and appreciate Min Gi more (especially in the ways he's managed to overcome his cultural limitations--impressive in a person who has not traveled much). I'm hoping that spending a year or two in America does the same for him.

This will be my last year in Korea for at least another 3 or 4--wow. It'll be much harder to write about this at this time next year when I'm really leaving.

For now, I'm excited about hopping on the plane July 25 for three and half weeks of American fun! Now, if I could just find someone who would watch my cats for me during that time...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

That's Very Hot!

Um... I have no words. This, my friends, is Choco Boy (초코보이):

This must be shared. Leah introduced me to it. If you can believe, the "Hot hot hot hot" song has made its way into mainstream Korean TV commercials.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Forever Love

Time to share the secret with those of you who don't know yet:

11:30 a.m. We have cleaned the house, walked around the neighborhood to check out housing for next year, and eaten breakfast at the kimbap shop.

Min Gi is lying on the floor while I hang up the load of laundry. "Do you want to go anywhere special today?"

"Um... we didn't really have any plans, but here," I hand him the South Korea Moon Handbook. "Open it up to any page and let's go there."

"East Gyeongju," he reads. "Hey, we could go visit Ha Young [our friend who moved to Gyeongju about three months ago] in Gyeongju."

"That sounds fun."

A couple hours later at the Folk Art Village, we are looking for presents for my parents when Min Gi notices the amethyst jewelry.

"Wow. These are so beautiful." He looks at me in a strange, sappy way. "What do you like?"

I look at a few rings and pick out two (one I like the style a little more set in silver, the other set in white gold) and explain the differences and the advantages/disadvantages of the bands. Then he kicks me out of the store.

Back in the car, he seems to have something in his mouth when he hands me a small jewelry box. I open it up (anticipation building, of course), and it's empty!

"I need some energy from your sweet kiss." Ok, he definitely has something in his mouth.

I kiss him. He tries to put a ring in my mouth.

I'm laughing at this point because, as sweet as he is, it's kind of gross. He chose the ring in the style I liked better. I make him wash it off before he puts it on my finger.

"Did you know amethyst means 'forever love'?" I shake my head. "Well, I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I love you. Will you marry me?"

"Of course!" (We've been planning the wedding for about a month, guys... I didn't tell you 'cause he wanted to do a romantic proposal).

"Is that yes?"

"Yes, it's yes, you silly man!"

His reaction to my answer.

"Hold your ring up for the camera, honey!"

For those of you who care about this kind of thing: Amethyst (with two flanking amethyst chips) set in silver.

Later, we met up with Ha Young at a large park near his new house. We had a great dinner and then watched some local kids play in a fountain. It was really fun. Min Gi also got Ha Young to agree to announce our wedding (we're not exactly having an officiant).

Me and my Korean brother, being goofy.

Small children, easily entertained and very entertaining.

Driving home, relaxed and happy. "I don't like how I proposed. I want to try again."

"I thought you were very sweet, honey."

"I was thinking about proposing at Boryeong [we're going there in a couple weeks for the mud festival]. Or I could do other things. One time for proposing is not enough."

"Well, if you really want to, you can propose again."

"Give me back the ring!"

"No! We're engaged, now. But you can propose again if you want."

"Ok. Wait for part two."

"I will."

So I guess this story is to be continued... ? I have no idea.

Check out the rest of the album and enjoy your day. I know I did!


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Good News, Sand Art, Laos

Well, I have good news: Dad is now cancer-free. Hopefully he will remain that way for some time through healthier living and sheer stubborn will. Yay Dad! So even as I've gotten some crap health news, not all is bad in the world of E-family health.

I have other good news, but I won't share it with you all yet. I'm a tease. You'll know soon enough, lovely blog people. I suspect sometime in July.


Two weeks ago, Min Gi and I went to the Sand Art Festival in Busan at Haeundae beach. I went last year, too, but I think the art this year was more interesting and politically-themed. Last year it was mostly about how much they hate American beef. This year featured a tribute to former president and recently deceased Roh Moo-hyun, an anti-nuclear war protest, and this interesting anti-whaling design:

Look at the little whaling boat. And the red and white dye used on the sand.

We also discovered that sailing could be a recreational activity in Korea, although still nowhere near as popular as in the U.S.

Since it was still May two weeks ago, technically it was not "beach season" in Korea, and so even with the festival and perfect beach weather, Haeundae was not nearly as crowded as it is in July or August. We set up the green tent, purchased from Sarah before she went down under, and I hogged the corner of shade it cast so my pasty white skin wouldn't end up bright red. I was, unfortunately, feeling sicky, so I didn't go in the water...

But Min Gi got to practice for his new gig as a beer model (haha!)

In Korea, you can order delivery anywhere, even on the beach!

The day was lovely. We took the slow train directly from Haeundae home. It takes a lot longer than the KTX, but the seats are comfortable and the views are beautiful--all along the south and east coast then through the gorgeous Gyeongsang Province country scenery. If you have a little extra time in your trip between Daegu and Busan, I highly recommend taking the longer train!

In the meantime, check out the album:

Busan Sand Art Festival


Work has been really stressful and busy lately. From the gifted classes, to being so ill a week ago I had to take two days off, to organizing two major projects/presentations with my 360 students, it's been a lot. I will post about the drama festival William and I have been working on soon, as it's been really interesting and challenging to organize.

However, Friday afternoon we had a little break from the usual routine for a special visit from the Lao Ambassador to Korea for a Global Meeting. In the hot auditorium, it went on for about 30 minutes too long (the whole thing was 2 hours), but it was a great opportunity to learn a little more about the only landlocked Southeast Asian country.

Here the smiling ambassador removes his jacket in the middle of his speech, laughing about how the climate reminds him of home.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

I hate myself

Today I felt worse than I have in a long time. I spent the first four hours of it in and out of the bathroom. After the first hour and crying a lot I called into work sick and then called my parents. I've been running a low-grade temp all day. I was so exhausted that this afternoon when I went out to get water at the store, I nearly passed out from the effort of it.

I definitely didn't eat well. It's hard to eat well when you feel so bloated and just want to sleep but can't 'cause you have to keep going to the bathroom. I need to stay hydrated and keep my nutrition consistent.

And it's worse the emotional drain of being sick--of feeling helpless and useless. Like I'm letting down my students and co-workers and friends.

I should have known this was coming on with the fatigue plus insomnia last night, but still, I keep waking up in the morning thinking I'll be ok like I was before. And I keep being surprised when I get tired after three dances at swing or just walking to TKD so I don't go to the practice. I didn't even go swimming when my boyfriend and I went to the beach on Sunday. And I'm ALWAYS the crazy one swimming. I LOVE the water.

It's just gross.

Monday, June 1, 2009

I want to post...

...but every time I start to write, I end up telling not-so-amusing stories about the side effects of my lovely new meds that are making my life rather unpleasant at the moment.

So until that feeling passes, blogging will be limited and infrequent. Appreciate the fact that I'm keeping my feelings about it all to myself.


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