Monday, September 29, 2008

Once a Year

Tomorrow is my birthday.

There I went and said it. I don't like to shove this in peoples faces. I realized long ago that once your an adult and you don't live at home, celebrating your birthday is really a private thing. That to make others go out of their way is impolite.

But that doesn't mean the event should just slip on by.

For the next 4 years my birthday will continue to land on a weekday, so in my opinion the celebrating will be calm. BK is going to stop on by after I get off work to eat dinner with me.

All in all it is giving me a feeling of amazement.

When one's birthday comes along I think it is important to self-reflect on the moment and think what you were doing on your last birthday.

Last year I didn't really have a spectacular birthday. It kind of passed by with the sunset. Speaking of which here is a picture of me from my birthday in 2006, before I became reallly ill:
I tried to find a picture of me from last year around this time but didn't succeed.

I can't blame the world around me for a lousy birthday. If I want to make it a huge splash I should throw the stone first.

Anyways, I should think of a proper birthday wish ;)

All in all though I am really grateful to be in a foreign country living out my days amongst another world!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Schlep Vote

Florida Jewish Grannies and Grandpa's need voting motivation:


The Great Schlep from The Great Schlep on Vimeo.

(From my Mom)

Postponed

The meeting with my supervisors was postponed.

As soon as I noticed my head supervisor running around the office like a crazed chicken, I knew it may have meant our meeting wasn't going to happen.

So I went up to my head supervisor and asked her if we were going to meet. She said ...no. It turned out she was very busy with paperwork and calling people at the head office that she didn't have time for me. That we would have to speak next week.

Now, you could imagine my feeling. I hadn't slept well last night because I was so darn anxious for our meeting today. Also next week (on Tuesday) is my birthday and I wanted to have this shit cleared up before then so to feel a sense of relief.

But as we pass through life not all that passes by us is sweet and generous.

Because I didn't want to wait till next week, I got a few words in anyways:

ME: "I wanted to let you know that I don't want to wait till the end of Jan. or Feb., that I would rather leave sooner than later. Say end of Oct or Nov."

Head Supervisor: "Oh, really?"

ME: "Yes. Since you want me to go sooner I agree with you and don't mind going at the end of Oct. or Nov."

HS: "Ahh, okay...I will tell our hiring manager then that is what you want."

ME: "Yes, please. And I am really stressed out because I don't know my exact end date right now."

HS: "When we find the new person we are able to let you know. Until we find new teacher we don't know."

ME: "Okay. I would still like to meet with you about this issue, can we meet next week?"

HS: "Why?"

ME: "Because, there are still some things about this process I need to talk about."

HS: "Oh, really? Like what?"

ME: "I thought you wanted me sign some kind of agreement?"

HS: "Ah yes, well we need to wait till we have a new teacher."

ME: "I see, I understand, you want to make sure you have someone to replace me before I sign anything?"

HS: "Yes. So on Monday I will talk to the hiring manager, but I have to go to a meeting Monday so we can't meet. We could meet on your birthday after you are done or on Wednesday."

ME: "Okay, I will let you know Monday what works best."



Ah conversations with the boss, a favorite past time (sarcasm).

Anyways, why the heck she didn't get her butt into gear and contact the hiring manager this week, is unknown. Maybe she was too darn busy. Or perhaps she thought I would stick it out longer.

It is no easy task knowing I have to wait longer till I am sitting in a room again with her and talking more about the details.

I really want to secure with her that I will receive a letter of release. But she said last week she can give this to me.

All that I can conclude right now is that she knows I don't want to stay there very long. That I am willing to work with her on this and be patient. And that we will meet next week.

All in all, they said they would give me 30 days and October is approaching fast. So either they give me the 30 days at the start of the Oct. session or I am thinking if not they would have more into November. AH HELL!!! So ambiguous. I think it will become my duty to inquire more often with these people for sanity sake.

But for serenity sake:

I still have a roof over my head (that is free) and at least one more paycheck. And ramyeon in my belly~

Scary Milk

If you don't know already China has a big issue on its hands with many of its milk products being tainted.

Since South Korea is China's neighbor it is no wonder that South Koreans are taking precautions against Chinese milk products. I personally haven't seen products disappearing from shelves. But when I do go to the store I think I will check the labeling to see if it is a milky product from China.

Anyways here is a video to spike your interest:

Thursday, September 25, 2008

At first I was afraid...

Let it roll for a little bit...and then the song picks up~



Oh yea! I will survive!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Warning to future Expats

This is my response to Amanda's reply to my previous posts. She reiterated her own experience here of how she was screwed over twice by hogwans and the agony of it all.

I want to make the point that although I tend to sugar coat this experience, it doesn't mean I have been sitting around not stressed out or angry by this.

Let me tell you that when you are made to feel powerless it is an awful experience.

Yes I am angry. Yes I don't really understand what is happening. Yes I feel victimized. Yes I feel like a scapegoat. And yes I feel cheated.

*Let me edit this post and add some additional ranting*
I am not a strong person and it has been shown throughout my own personal history that crumble easily in the face of conflict.

I am sensitive. I can be made to cry easily.

I also don't take criticism well.

Had I known that these weaknesses would make this job challenging, perhaps I would have avoided it.

But there is something I want to make clear:

An observation......how I see it:
The hogwan system (private school teaching) is a business here in Korea. It gets their money from satisfied children and their mothers.

The people in charge of these businesses operate from a business perspective. It is their duty to make sure the business is kept up and running.

For some Hogwan owners keeping the business running might mean this:
  • If you perceive one of your teachers to be like a weed at your school (making parents complain) you should weed them out.
  • If you simply don't like one of your teachers based on reasons such as personality or attitude....then get rid of them.
Let me just get to the point:

WARNING TO ANY FUTURE HOGWAN TEACHER:

You are stepping into a school that is run like a business. The management most likely will not care about how you feel.

The management will not consider that you were poorly trained and that is why you are making mistakes over and over again.

The management doesn't give a rats ass about your opinion when you do screw up.

They want you to be their puppet, to do everything perfectly the first time and each time again.

Some will pretend to be your friends but in the end tell you things like "I am depressed and dissapointed with you."

So please if you are chosing to work here in Korea, especially at a hogwan take a close look at these weaknesess of the management. Once screwed by these people there is nothing you can do but get the hell out of the contract.

Understand that although this is how my hogwan operates the other 3 Foreign teachers have survived. So it must be that my supervisors like them and / or they haven't caused so much drama.

KNOW what you are walking into. KNOW the risks.

***END RANT >>>

And so after feeling angry, I come to the conclustion that my only answer to all this is to get away from this hogwan and these people.

I don't fear being sent home to live with Mommy, I fear being sent home and never being allowed to see BK again.

So yes I am angry, I have been after I worked 3 weeks at the place. It has been a battle ever since and still is!

But maybe I am delusional but this doesn't make me want to say Korea sucks. I look at the individuals responsible for these actions (my supervisors) and blame them. I feel it would be futile to try and enlighten them on their ways.

I just want to be kicked out, given my 3o days and receive my release letter so I can get on with my life.

We Will See

The next time I will speak with my supervisors is this Friday. So now I am getting myself all mentally prepared to face what may come.

One thing is that I don't mind being fired off at the end of October. In my opinion the sooner the better because I am really starting to become bitter with my supervisors. Also I just want to be done with this and start the next process of finding new employment.

So far for whenever I am released I am starting to find sticking it out here in Seoul more of an option. For one I could use my American credit to take a trip to Japan for the tourist visa and also for other emergency needs, like housing.

But I really can't finalize any of my decisions until my bosses give me the official 30 days. I kind of worry that on Friday they will be vague about it. So I am going to really push for clarity. Also will need to make sure we all understand the financial part of my departing.

In the meantime I am searching for what kind of place to live in and formulizing a budget for my visa-run..etc. Also I have been in touch with recruiters and they are waiting to hear from me until I have an exact start date.

That's the news! haha

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Understanding of what is Happening

Well my throat is feeling somewhat better but still have that hazy headache thing. Ah well I took some pills I got from the last time I visited a Doc here when I felt this way.

So I decided to do a little checking of the facts on what and why I am in the predicament I am in. Also I realize that one of the next challenges is going to be my final paycheck and what is deducted. So I am going to have to bring up the financial side of things to my supervisor the next time we talk.

First I have figured out why they are giving me the boot. The complaints:

*This post has been edited so to insure I do not get in trouble with slandor.
Basically the policies are that if you get enough complaints they can recommend your dismissal.

Now, this does not come as surprise because I recall being told this in the second meeting we had last month. Which is that they told me if they were to speak to me again about complaints then they would have no choice but to consider my dismissal.

And when they told me this, I told them that I found it inevitable that I would end up with complaints, considering that it is dependent on the children and their parents, which I have no control over.

Well that's in the past now and here we are looking at dismissal.


Am I being fired or am I quitting?
This is an important consideration right now because it makes a difference in the financial part of my leave.
So it comes to that if I give a letter or resignation I believe I can be eligible to have what I owe them be prorated. If I am not allowed to resign it will then be that they are dismissing me and what I owe them will be up to them to agree upon an amount.

I hope that doesn't make your head spin. Unfortunately, what I feel is going to happen is I will be told that I am being dismissed and that I will be barred from resigning.

Also if were to work up through to the end of November that would make it to the 6 month mark.

Either way I know I am screwed and that my last paycheck will be chopped up to bits and the remains will be slim.

What to do:
My plan of action is to talk to them about this professionally. They requested that I think about this weekend and that we talk about it again next week, and sign an agreement. Now that I have done my thinking I know what priorities I want on that written agreement:
  • Guarantee of a Letter of Release
  • Allowed to work till the end of November (6 month mark)
  • The rate that will be taken from my final paycheck to cover reimbursement.
I think that does it.

Sigh... despite all the aspects of this occurrence dealing with the legal jargon and maintenance is the one that I find the most uncomfortable.

Either way I still have to go in tomorrow and work. Hmm, I actually though don't feel so stressed about being there and wondering if the kids are going to complain, now that I know it doesn't matter.

All right~ time to rest.

Now what?

Ah thought I send a little update your way.

Yesterday I had a good time with the KIAF. Today, however, I have woken up to a swollen throat. So now I am contemplating whether I will get better or if I should go to the emergency room. That is because the only open doctor office on a Sunday is at the emergency room. I looked at my throat and there aren't any white spots but it sure as hell feels like fire back there.

This doesn't make for a clear head to figure out what I am going to do now that I have the boot.

In addition BK's family is hesitant I stay at their home during my transition...so now I must find another way to live.

Anyone got a spare room?? I will pay ya a little sum!

So it is either find a realllly cheap place to live or just trek it back to America and come back in January when I have selected a GEPIK job.

If I can get a suitable job through EPIK, SMOE...etc before I am booted than of course going back home won't be an option. But still need all my documents.

That is what is on my plate today. My company doesn't allow you to take your sick days unless you are dieing in a hospital somewhere, so I am going to lay low today and try to recover.

All right, thank you for everyone's support, and hope your lives are all ticking along smoothly.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

KIAF (the re-awakening)

And so as my job took a nose dive the clouds grew gray over Seoul and the rain came down. But instead of staying inside and anxiously asking myself what was next... I made sure I went out.
The last time I was in Insadong I grabbed this Art guide book and it highlighted the Korean International Art Fair which was coming up.

And so I went and it was like a dream come true. Most if not all of the modern artists from China, Japan and Korea were thrown together in this maze of galleries.

So here for you in Roboseyo music style is the artwork I saw at the show:
**Hit play and scroll through the artwork**
*Some artists names are mentioned, but not all.

Like a kid in a candy stored I couldn't take it all in. But feel somewhat refreshed and rejuvenated now that I have seen in person artwork that was made by the people of this country and region during the past 10 years.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Just Remember

A humorous viewpoint on my situation:

Been Given the Boot

I have to say I honestly didn't expect that it would have come to this.

In essence I have been fired.

Here is what happened:
I was brought in again to talk with my supervisors. The main discussion was my request to terminate early from the job at the end of January. Their issue was that they could not find a good teacher for the company at that time, due to many reasons...such as no teacher wants to work in their location..etc. They said that for them it gives the school a really bad situation at that time.

So they are going to start looking for a new teacher starting next month.

Also came upon this were that I received yet again more parent complaints. These complaints are: I did not make copies of the pages for students who did not have the book and things like that.

Supervisor: "I am disappointed and depressed."

Instead of having a fit and crying this time, I went about this conversation sanely. I kept my head up and tried to listen to their side. While at the same time I resigned within myself and realized that things are just not working, no matter what I try.

This is because I did try to improve myself, my attitude and my work habits. But I made (in my opinion) tiny mistakes, that however have a big affect on the school due to the nature of the business. During our discussion I did tell them that I have seen my own achievements at the school, however they moved past it and pointed out all the wrong.

In conclusion:
Your little foreigner here may become repatriated back in America. I am not saying I am giving up and going back to the states. I have a passion here, one to be with BK and two ...to find my purpose here. And of course to do a job well done.

I have come to the understanding that me and this school do not mix. I am really hurt that although I feel I work hard I am criticized for so many things.

I am sorry for all of those out there that are eager to come here and rely on the stories of us expat bloggers. I don't mean to paint an ugly picture of the people or the jobs here. This is my experience and could be similar to many others out here. I made the choice to work at this private school. Now I must face my next choices.

What could be next?
There are of course many options now. But realize my conditions... I will be given 30 day notice when they find someone. That means I could be on the street (I would stay at BK's) in Nov, Dec or Jan. So that leaves me with less time now to find a proper job. Either way here is the outlook:
  • Move to another Hagwon... can choose specific area of Seoul due to that there are a plethora of them. (negative = another hagwon)
  • Find a public school that is hiring...preferably in Seoul
  • Figure out how and get a visa extension that would last till Feb ... so to have more time and get what I wanted in the first place: public school job near BK...or just nice place.
  • Last resort: buy a plane ticket home. I would in the meantime reapply for a public school job and fly back in January...start in February.
Although all of them present themselves as viable possibilities, they all mean change and uncertainty.

Except for the last one... it isn't hard to go home and find a job from there, get the paperwork, and get flown out.

Of course I don't know exactly what I will do. All of the choices are dependent on getting my documents in order, which takes some time.

I know though that I feel this is now what I have to do, that I will face the possibility of anything.

My only hope is that BK and I don't lose each other in this mess. He is busy with applying for jobs which requires his full attention. I don't blame him for having to be distracted with his own future plans. I will find a way to survive and I know he is there for me in certain ways.

I must keep positive.

I must see this an opportunity for the better.

I hope I haven't failed any of you~

~I think I need to sleep.

Trek So Far

Made this slide show of my journey so far, enjoy.

In Between

Sometimes I find myself feeling like I am in the middle between my home country and my new home here in Seoul.

This happens to me most when I am dreaming. Because there are occurrences where I see myself back in America with family or friends doing something but I am so conscious of where I am that I think to myself (in the dream) "Why am I not in Korea?" "When will I be going back there?"

Maybe this is what it is like subconsciously for those living abroad, that somehow we feel disconnected between both our homes.

Anyways maybe my feet will land someday.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Chuseok Adventure

Two years ago I became very ill, my symptoms were those like the stomach flu but were everyday. By Thanksgiving I was stuck in bed with both those symptoms and a terrible flu. By the middle of January I was bed ridden in pain and didn't know what was wrong with me.
So if you asked me, at that time, that in two years I would be in Korea looking out over a small farm in the mountains and celebrating their Thanksgiving day (Chuseok) I would have said that you are out of your mind.

But indeed I did recover from that episode, graduated from college, worked for some time and then packed everything up and headed out to Korea. So you see if you are an expat and you came here whether on a whim or by carefully planning it, I think you should see it as some kind of fortune in your life.

Living in Korea I am reminded of these accomplishments in my life, because I can easily think to myself how astonishing it is that I am here.

Moreover, because I have BK as my boyfriend I am able to feel more at home in this foreign land and also feel like I am an insider into the culture's everyday life and customs.

Although I am sure many foreigners get to experience Korea in many insider ways, I feel that without BK I would probably not have been able to have the unique experience I had during Korea's Chuseok holiday.

And so let me begin telling the tale of my Chuseok adventure into culture and into the mountainous countryside.

Staying a night at BK's house:
BK's house is one floor that has several bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom and living room (of course). We arrived at his house around 7pm after spending some time out on the town. His parents and brother weren't home yet so we just lounged around. I became tired and asked about where I was going to sleep and the fact that I didn't have any pajamas with me. BK gave me some of his clothing to wear for bed, here for you is what I looked like:
But just when we were having a moment about how silly I looked his Mom came home. As I shyly walked out his room to greet her, as soon as she saw me she broke into a roaring laughter, and so did I. BK told her about my situation and so she immediately went to her room in search of pajama clothing she could lend me. She gave me some pants and a pink top, so no picture was taken of this.

So the rest of the family came home at this point and everyone got ready for bed, due to the fact that we were going to get up early to drive out to the mountain.

The question came up as to where I was going to sleep, seeing how they didn't have a guest bedroom. In the end I slept in BK's brother's room, which wasn't bad and very comfortable.
I mostly relished the fact that I was sleeping in a house with a Korean family. For several reasons, mostly being that living in an officetell that sits inside a building that doesn't like an apartment complex or house, you tend to feel somewhat strange. So the experience of sleeping in a house where a family has made a comfortable home, felt like I was feeling at ease in Korea. Plus the room was darker due to no neon lights beaming from outside and also there was the soft sound of crickets chirping away in the distance.

Drive to the Mountain:
The next morning I woke up after a strange dream and wondered what time it was. I listened to see if anyone was awake and heard a few noises about the house. I got up and sneaked into BK's room where I woke him up. From there we all got ready for the day.

Because I can not speak Korean and only know the very basics, communication between BK's father and mother kind of happens in spouts of smiles, nods and gestures. BK and his brother know English so they help me out when possible. But for the most part I just smile and try to comprehend what is going on around me, so not to be confused.

Anyways, we ate some cut up apples and other fruits and then we were off to the car.

BK has been practicing driving and so he was given the keys to the car. His father sat up front to help guide him along the way. In the backseat I sat on the left seat, his mother in the middle and his brother on the right. It was a tight fit, considering his brother is really tall.

I didn't know where I was going, but knew it was going to be at a mountain. So I spent a lot of the time staring out the window and taking in the scenery.

The others in the car talked and joked around, now and then his Mother would ask me questions. After some translation we would end up having a conversation...but a few times some things got lost in translation.
The scenery was quite beautiful and I could tell that when you get out of Seoul or any of the major parts of Korea the rest of the country is this very mountainous terrain with trees and low lying farm lands. Actually I kind of felt like I was driving through the sparse areas of Northern California, where you see mountains in the distance and vast fields of crops in the foreground.

One added part of the scenery were the barrier walls of Korean Army bases. In some places you could see the tops of the towers on the base and see the soldiers inside standing at attention. When we passed by the army bases and I pointed them out BK's brother said "Very, very bad place."

We came to a part where we stopped and BK's father took over the driving. This was because were heading into the mountain and the road was narrow, steep and not paved.

I really enjoyed this part of the drive because I got to see the geology and ecology around the mountains. Also there were points where you could look out onto the valleys and see the fields and houses.

But then our ride came to a stop and we came to our destination. A little house on a hillside in the mountain, where there were some small fields. It was breathtaking!


Memorial Service Preparations:
We arrived there at bright eyed early 8:00 am. Already there were his father's side of the family relatives; Aunts, Uncles, nieces and nephews. When we arrived everyone greeted each other. They greeted me too and I think most of them knew about me, but this was their first time meeting me. I was greeted warmly by everyone with either a hug or a handshake. Indeed I was very surprised to be greeted by a hug because I thought hugging was sort of taboo here, but I guess that thought was shattered.

The property of this place was very beautiful, as you saw in the pictures. We had come here because this property was home to BK's father's parent's graves. It is on this holiday that the family comes to honor their deceased family members through ceremony. I also think it was a time to catch up on family gossip and eat.
The house on the property was humble with what seemed like just two large rooms, one which had a kitchen area, bed and TV. This was the space where the indoor ceremony took place and where we ate.

As you can see a lot of the exterior of the house looks like it was put together with raw materials. I found the site of this structure warming and charming, because it looked somewhat traditional but more so functional.

Inside the house the women were busy getting the food ready for presentation. This kind of separation of the sexes was a constant theme throughout the celebration. Where for example, the men mostly did the bowing and giving of reception to the deceased. While the woman stood in the back observing and doing the preparations and clean up. I think it would have been typical of me (as a westerner) to conclude that the women are put in a minor role here. But that is not the attitude or stance I took. Instead I tried my best to observe the festivities but with neutrality to my own culture.

For one thing consider that it was the Male's side of the family they were honoring here, not BK's mother. I asked him about this and he said that it is tradition for the father's side of the family to be honored on this day.

So with that said I can tell you that I didn't really take a role in the honoring parts of the celebrations, more so kind of took a back seat and did my observations.

Inside the house while the women finished up the food preparations the men were busy setting up a table where ceremonial foods were placed on platters in front of tablets for the dead. To better understand this I pulled a quote from a tourist website:
Charye (ancestor memorial services)
On Chuseok morning, family members gather at their homes to hold memorial services in the honor of their ancestors called Charye. Formal Charye services are held twice a year during Seollal (New Year’s Day) and Chuseok. The difference between the two services is that during Seollal the major representative food is white, a rice cake soup, while during Chuseok the major representative food is freshly harvested rice. After the service, the family members sit down together at the table to enjoy some delicious food to symbolize their blessings.
It was amusing to watch as the men arranged the table, because it seemed like they weren't entirely sure where most of the dishes went. But here for you is a picture I sneaked in of the table:

I have to say that I didn't know what came next or the procedure of anything while I was there. BK didn't really tell me what was going to happen, but I took upon myself to look around and take a guess on what was going to go down. I had watched a few Korean dramas that featured traditional life, so I had an image in my head of what the ceremony would be like.
Yet, seeing the festivities occur in real life was like watching a documentary on the National Geographic Channel. I have to say I was overwhelmed with the feeling of intrigue and awe.

Indoor memorial service and feast:
After everything was ready it was time for the honoring to begin. All the women were made to go outside, while the men did their series of bowing to towards the table and the deceased. After a first few series of bowing, the women were allowed back inside to sit or stand in the back and observe the rest of the honoring.

The procedure went like this:
  • The men were lined up according to their family relation to the deceased.
  • The oldest of the group would help with the pouring of ceremonial wine. While the other men would come up one by one, pour the wine into a little cup, hold it over the smoke of incense and then set it on the table in front of each tablet.
  • Next they all got into a circle in front of the table, clasped their hands and did their bowing, about three times.
  • This repeated itself for each individual of the circle.
I really enjoyed seeing BK take his part in the ceremony. I could tell that he had an important roll because he is his father's first born son. In fact throughout the whole day there it seemed BK had a serious and contemplative look on his face. When asked what was going on his mind, the response was not all that revealing.

After the men had finished their bowing it was the woman's turn, but I believe because I am just the girlfriend I was left out of the bowing.

Then everyone left the house and mingled outside, while they let the spirits of the deceased feast on the food and wine on the table inside.

Once enough time passed we were brought inside to have a feast ourselves. Although I don't know what each food is called I will try to describe to you the foods.
  • Fish
  • Kimchi soup
  • Pickled plants
  • Juicy and delicious steak
  • Tofu soup
  • Egg pancakes
  • Fried Tofu
  • Other assorted pickled items
My favorite was the Steak and a few of the pickled things. Yet I wasn't too hungry seeing how it was only 10am.

When given the little wine cup I hesitated at first, because due to the pills I take I am not suppose to drink wine or alcohol. But it was just a tiny cup full and so I took a sip. But you aren't suppose to sip wine, rather drink it all in one swallow. Which I did, after being chuckled at for taking just a sip.

Past times:
On American holidays when families gather we usually pull out board games, movies or a football to toss around. So I was curious to see what sort of past times Koreans do during their holiday gatherings. It turns out it mostly includes just sitting or standing around and having long chats.

Yet, I believe every family probably has their own sort of activities they do based upon their surroundings and the nature of their family.

So here are a few of the activities that I saw go on at the Jung family farm.

Farming for sweet potatoes (yams):
Before I knew it I was being yanked out onto the farm to do some yam pulling. Although I mostly observed this go on.

Then later on BK, his brother and their niece went out onto the farm to pull for some more yams. It was really cute watching these city boys digging in the soil and trying to pull out the stubborn yams.

Heading out to the field:



It turned out the harvesting of the yams was done for the purpose of roasting them, sort of like a midday snack. The roasted yams tasted warm and delicious and also somewhat special considering they just came fresh out of the ground.

Woodcutting:
Since the yams needed to be roasted there needed to be a fire, and so BK and his Uncle set about chopping wood. But it more so seemed like a male show off thing where they tried to show us their skills at chopping wood. Let me just say that BK wasn't so bad, better than his brother, but still needs some practice.

It was amusing nonetheless.

Jindo dogs:
Another past time, it seemed, at the Jung farm was observing and playing with the Jindo dogs on the farm.
...originated on Jindo Island in Korea. Although relatively unknown outside Korea, it is celebrated in its native land for its fierce loyalty and brave nature.

There were a whole pack of these dogs, most of them still puppies. Amongst this group of dogs were some other kind of breed. I didn't play with them much for fear of fleas.

That concludes the in between activities that took place. Next it was time to visit the ancestral graves.

Honoring the Graves:
Korean grave sites, like the one I saw at the Jung farm, were not flat pieces of grassy land with a large headstone on it, instead they featured a grassy mound.

Here the boys climb up to the grave sites (BK in the lead, brother following behind):
The procedure for the outdoor memorial was similar to the indoor, the men gathered around the graves and did their series of bowing.

Again platters of food and wine were offered to the grave sites and also cigarettes were lit and placed on the mounds. I did not take any pictures of the mounds out of respect.

After the bowing procedure came the part where both women and men cleaned the mounds by pulling out the weeds.
Beolcho (removing weeds around the grave) and Seongmyo (visiting ancestral graves)
On Chuseok, they go to their ancestors' graves and cut the weeds on them grown during summer, which is so called Beolcho. In the past, they used distant spots for their ancestors' graves because they wanted them to be in ideal places by the theory of configuration of the ground, or the graves were far from where they lived since some of them moved to somewhere else after determining spots for the graves. However, even in these situations, they went to mow the weeds on the graves on Chuseok and thought it was the sign and expression of filial piety.
**UPDATE**
Bo Kwan tells me:
Beolcho-we already did..remember last sunday? I went to mountain. I did Beolcho, we only did Seongmyo hehe. We usually do Beolcho before Chusuk because Chusuk is only for celebrating.. we do Beolcho due to chu-suk,it`s kind of preparation.
*I am sure someday I will get all this ritual lingo down* ;)

Anyways,...
I was told to take part in this and tried my best to pull out what looked like weeds. After all this we went back down to the little house and sat around outside, everyone had some coffee and we chatted a bit. I was asked a few things in Korean and English and so people got to know me little by little.

Then it was time to go home. I could tell BK was tired from all the bowing and eating so I think he needed to get some rest.

I too was somewhat tired, but also was starting to feel like the communication barriers were wearing on me. I wanted to tell them how much I appreciated being a part of their family and the ceremony but all I could muster out was a bow and a thank you in Korean. Hopefully they could see that I appreciated their hospitality.

Here for you are the rest of the pictures I took whilst on the Jung farm:
Walking back to the car:
And so ends another adventure here in Korea. It gives me great pleasure to have witnessed this event, although probably mundane and normal for BK. I still have today and tomorrow off from work. Till next time...
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