Saturday, February 23, 2013

Goodbye Korea! Thank you

I'm into my final hours here in Korea and yes I'm excited to go and also sad at the same time. It's been a wonderful ride and I am grateful for it all.

I think I have said everything I could about this transition and finally just want to say thank you to my readers and supporters. I know for sure my time in Korea would have been harder if I didn't have this blog and community.

For all future updates on my life and adventures head over to the American-Joy blog. :)

My way of saying goodbye with the Girl Scouts singing "Taps":

See you on the other side!

Task Rabbit to the rescue!

Getting to Incheon airport is going to be easy cause my friend (and his car) are taking me there. But since I don't know anyone in Seattle, taking care of that end is going to be a challenge. Until I read about Taskrabbit in the New Yorker.

It's the new startup where there are "rabbits" and people who ask for things to get done. The "rabbits" are background checked people who sign up to take on tasks other people request. For example some tasks range from needing help assembling Ikea furniture to doing one's budget.

I figured why not use this service and so signed up a few weeks ago and posted my "airport pickup" task. The way it works is that you either have rabbits bid (goes to the lowest bidder) or you can pick the rabbit. I chose to pick the rabbit and went with the first person to respond, also their price was reasonable ($31). From there you communicate via email with your rabbit to make the final arrangements. After the task is completed the website will draw money from your bank and give it to your rabbit, plus any expenses that were incurred (tolls, parking fees) and then a percentage goes to the website. 

I could use a taxi or van service when I get to Seattle, but because I have so much luggage and Tom I wanted help from someone who can be there at the baggage claim. Plus this whole set up sounds like a lot of fun.

Now of course I haven't completed the task yet so we will see if it actually works. However if it does I hope to use Taskrabbit in the future as it is a great idea. It's available in most large U.S. cities, so take a look if you think it could work for you. :)

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Last Night in Korea

Today I went to my school to pay my housing bills and as I waited for my supervisor in the office the Vice President started to talk to me. No worries, she is a sweet older woman who has complimented me in the past. She wanted to know when I was leaving, and when I told her, "tomorrow" she was astonished. She even asked if that was next week's tomorrow. She knew I had been in Korea five years and asked me if I had a boyfriend or was married. All questions that receive a "no" answer. But I reassured her I was fine and was heading back home to be a student to learn more about teaching.

We did hug goodbye.

I'm sitting here with three bags packed to the brim and can't believe it's my last night in Korea. Five years ago I came here with wide eyes and an open heart. I experienced so much, went through so many tribulations and made amazing memories. Now it's ending minute by minute and the hardest part is knowing I will be far away from it all.

I bought a mini pack of tissues today because I have a feeling once I settle in on the plane and wait for tack off, the tears might start streaming. Even though I am going through all this alone I know I'm strong enough to get to the other side. And I'm not entirely alone with family and friends supporting me. I also have Tom!

I really can't say much more. Everything I experienced here from start to finish has impacted me so deeply. So I'm going to leave you with this video I made before I left for Korea. You can see all the innocence, naivety and bravery in myself. It's kind of the same how I feel now facing a new life in America.

Thank you.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Last Week: Day 2

It's all pretty much ready folks. I've made a pile of things next to my suitcase that I hope to stuff inside it. I've gone through the kitchen and cleared out stuff and put some things into a box.

By this time tomorrow it will be less than 30 hours in Korea, and then it's bye bye. I think I have said all there is to say about how I feel. I'm just kind of ready now to hop on the plane, get Tom through to the other side and start things. I was happy to see Tom lick his water bottle feeder that is attached to his carrier. This gave me hope that he will hydrate himself during the flight, but then got me a little concerned he may need the bathroom. Ah well!

I also successfully registered for my first two classes as a graduate student! This gave me a lot of excitement for what's to come. They are, "Linguistics for Language Teachers I" and "Adult Learners". Two classes that I think will be a good start, and they meet on Tues and Weds. Student life, here I come!

Tonight I'm meeting a friend for dinner and that will be a nice last thing to do.

It's quiet in here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Day 3 : The Last Week

Maybe I will miss the warm sun rising over my little home here in Korea. It's warmth carrying it's way into my shoebox and warming things up from a cold night. You can watch the sun go past the sky by seeing the sun-rays go from one end of the wall to the other. It's funny because Tom has a little pattern he follows. Around noon he comes out of the covers, where he was slumbering, and heads to the sunshine. I've also noticed around 2:30 he likes a spot on top of my suitcases that sit in the balcony.

Sorry, Tom but our routines are going to be smattered to pieces as we head to America. I hope you can find sunshine in our new place, despite that it rains a lot in Seattle. But I think the amount of stairs and that there is a little porch outside will make up for it. I'm going to have to get some kind of bowl for him to cozy up in, as I'm not taking his plastic one.

Day three was less vigorous than yesterday. It was also one of final conundrums. Instead of using a friend to help get my box to the post office, I figured I could use a taxi. I told the taxi, "Nowon Post Office, please?" But in Korean. To my dismay he took me to a further away post office then the one nearer to my house. I guess I didn't know the one I had been going to was called something else, so he took me to THE Nowon Post Office. No matter, I just hopped on a bus to get me back to my neighborhood.

I then went to the bank and loaded up on some USD! It's cheaper to get cash then to exchange, so I figured take advantage of that. However, I will still end up transferring after my school gives me all what is due.

Time to head back to America and stimulate their economy and contribute taxes. Is there a tax break for taking care of a sweet and lovable cat!? On my way home from the bank I stopped in the local stationary store. I really need to avoid these before I leave, as I now have yet another notebook. But I wanted to get a nice little card holder for Seattle. I plan to use their bus card (like T-Money) to get around and thought a sleek pouch would be a good idea. Well two hours later, I got it! haha.

I looked around on Google Maps today to figure out how to get to all the places I need to visit when I get back. I hope to get to the DMV to get a shiny new WA State driver's license, then head to the Sprint store for a new phone. Ah the wonder's of technology...who needs a paper map anymore?

Once I'm feeling a bit less jet lagged I hope to start making my day trips around the town getting what I need out of the way before the next Quarter starts. Oh yea, I'm going to be a student! I'm starting to get a little nervous because it's been six years since I was in school and don't know if I can remember how to do it. But I know I was doing well at the Seoul KOTESOL workshops, taking notes and contributing, that it should be fine. I'm actually looking forward to doing research, taking notes and compiling it all together.

Well, I guess three more sunrises for me and Tom here in Korea.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Last Week: Day 4

Today was all about work, work, work. I got up and immediately went ahead with cleaning behind all the furniture. I found a lot of dust and cat hair all mangled together. Things in here sure do look a lot cleaner now. After I whisked through the living space I tackled the kitchen. Everything needed a good scrubbing including the refrigerator.

When I moved in to this place (two years ago) it wasn't as clean as I'm making it now. But I know who is going to move in and I don't really want to leave someone with a dirty place. It sucks to move in somewhere and then have to clean it to make it comfortable. I suppose I am putting money into my good karma bank!

While I was cleaning I started to think that it would be a good idea to reduce the weight more on my suitcases, so I ended up going to the post office for one more box. But that's it! Everything is pretty much empty in my place now. What I need to get by on for the next few days is out, so it really feels like I'm moving now.

I met another friend for dinner and had a lovely last time. I can't believe tomorrow is going to be "day 3" and then I'm almost out of here. Time flys, it really does!

Last night I felt a twinge of sadness that I'm leaving behind a lot of memories here. I'm hoping the withdrawal I feel from leaving Korea is something I can get through. But I'm up to the task and making new memories back in America! :)

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Last Week: Day 5

I've come to the conclusion that I'm not traveling back to America, but moving. If I were traveling there then I wouldn't need to send off six boxes and try to squeeze what is left into two suitcases. But because I am moving, I am sending everything I own to a faraway location.

Today I cleared out my living space and put it all into my suitcases. Turns out I'm going to need that third one. In the end things are starting to look more and more empty in my little apartment here. Someone came by and took the last bookshelf away. Also with all the boxes gone space is opening up.

I thought I would get to dusting behind furniture and cleaning out areas today but I think my motivation will come tomorrow. I'm meeting up with a friend for dinner as a one last goodbye.

As I was walking home from Lotte Mart today (had to pick up more vacuum seal bags), a family was passing me by. One of the younger kids in the group said, "Oh Waygookin!" I closed my eyes but then put on a smile and gave a friendly wave at everyone. While I was walking away I couldn't help but think that could be the last time I have that experience. Which is both good and bad. I'm not really going to miss being singled out based upon my nationality. But at the same time it was a quark of Korea that you couldn't get pass.

Also I confirmed today that Korean Air allows pets under the plane no matter what the season. A few people on this pet Facebook group kept saying it might be a problem, but I knew it was okay. Just four more days, Tom! Are you ready?!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Last Week: Day 6

Even though I don't have to wake up early anymore to head into work, Tom still wakes me up. He does it gently by first meowing in my face and then laying his paw on my chin. Then he slowly drags his paw away so that his claws catch my skin and wake me up enough. It's okay to get up early and feed him cause I can sleep in for the next two hours. Or when he wakes me up again for his treats. Who needs an alarm clock, when you have a cat?

I prepared my last box for shipping, which contains some blankets I want to take with me. I don't know what it is, but Korean blankets are really warm and I thought why not hold on to them for more years? I also moved a bookshelf closer to the door that somebody is going to come by and pick up. This revealed a lot of dust and cat hair, so cleaned that up. Then I headed out to the local Vet to pick up Tom's flying papers, which I am going to need to make copies of before I go. Afterwards headed to the small grocery store to pick up some items I need for the rest of the week.

When I got back home I did a little more cleaning but felt really tired from yesterday. So today was mostly spent resting and contemplating everything ahead. I got a lot of cuddle time in with Tom, though.

It definitely feels like spring is heading it's way to Korea. The days are getting a little bit longer and the temperatures are heading out of the 20's (Fahrenheit). I know I am going to miss seeing the blooms here but it's time to move on. :)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Last Week: Day 7

It's starting to hit me that I have just about a week left in Korea. All the memories and people I have met are going to be in a far away place when I go back home. When I ride the subway I can't help but think that this would be my last time on the bustling train. As I walk past the usual shops in my neighborhood and hear the fruit stand lady shout, "Oranges, 3,000 won!" (In Korean) I know that I won't hear that again.

I am not scared to be saying good bye to all this but I now really I understand it's something I'm going to have to do. Korea has been my home for the past five years and I made it so. I adjusted to all the differences and nuances. I can read Korean fluently and work my way around a crowded busy street like slick butter. It's time to wrap all this up and put in my memories.

Yet I am looking forward to being far from here and having the time to mentally hash all this out and go through what was precious about living in Korea. For a while I was telling myself all the reasons it will be good to go home, and how Korea has it's flaws. But today I realized that there is nothing wrong with Korea. It is what it is, and will tick and sputter along as it always does. With that said, I also feel there is nothing wrong with America, and not one is truly better than the other. They both have their way of living and I am choosing to live back in America.

I am calling this Day 7 because I will countdown to the last day when I leave. I hope to put up a post for everyday on my reflections and updates on what is going on.

Today I was going to putter around the house doing some chores and cleaning before heading out to the Seoul KOTESOL workshop. Instead I picked up my tote bag and headed to Gangnam. There I went to the Kyobo bookstore, because at the bottom level is their stationary store. I still felt compelled to get more little sketchbooks and journals. Let's just say I hope I can fit it all in my suitcase.

The Seoul KOTESOL workshop was really well done this time. Stafford presented us with the topic of "Error Correction" and I have to say I should really have done more to correct my students English. It opened up my eyes to the breadth of this profession and got me excited for my coursework ahead.

Time is ticking...

Thursday, February 14, 2013

If these shoes could talk...

Those are a pair of shoes that I have worn every since I came to Korea. They have been my work shoes, because you change your shoes when you go to work here. I always said to myself I would get a different pair but I never bothered. They have seen me through 1 hagwon, 2 public schools and this last one. These shoes have taken me through a lot of drama and hard times, but also through fun experiences as well. I'm not going to take them back with me, so I suppose they can live here in Korea.

I just finished my last classes and I feel good. I thought maybe I would feel really sad, but I'm all together okay. (I'm thinking it will all hit me when I strap in for my plane ride). The students seem surprised and pleased with the gift card and nice candy I gave them. They really enjoyed the video and were amazed I made it. I left them the title of the video so they can search for it, and also gave out my email.

I know I will miss these students. The hardest thing is not going to be here to see them grow up, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

The following are pictures of student homework. For their last assignment I had them write a sentence about their favorite subject they learned in Math, then draw a picture of their favorite experience. Some of the results were really amusing and I liked the fact that they were varied. It showed I gave them a range of experiences. It was also fun to see their hand drawn renditions of take a look!

I'll start with ones that are renditions of myself. Sorry for the cropping on this one but I'm in the bottom left. I've got those wild eyed teacher eyes.

Here I am depicted in threes for some reason. For the most part I'm distinguishable because of my curly hair, which was rendered with quite a lot of curliness. As for what the kid is depicting it was a weighing demonstration I did with them. I had a spring scale where you attach something to the hook at the bottom and it pulls down to show how many grams, many of them got a kick out of this.

I like the nose I was given in this one:

 A lot of them liked the "potion" activity which was done last week. It was an activity I devised for measuring using milliliters. However, I couldn't find a water dropper for the life of me in my area and so just poured tiny amounts. I relabeled colorful sports drink bottles as, "Fire potion", "Electric potion" and so on. They first filled out a worksheet then came up to me to get their "potion."

Here a student enjoyed the "animal cubes" project we did earlier in the semester:

Another one for the weight unit, here I had students construct a "gallon man" craft, which a lot of them liked.

Another one that enjoyed the measuring unit. She is depicting a scenario that actually happened. I made a large inch ruler by laminating an example. Then I walked around and measured the student's heads as they guessed the size. Yep, that was a big hit too!

I'm quite impressed with this kids memory of sorting black and white baduk beads to represent area. Something learned back in the Spring semester. It's also a really accurate rendition of the activity.

This last one hear I like because it's basically a drawing of this kids desk when they are in my class. Open book, eraser, pencil and pencil case all shown in good detail.

When I looked through this homework assignment I was filled with a sense of accomplishment. I couldn't help but think that I did get through to these kids and left them with happy memories.

I did receive a present from one of the homeroom teachers that she gave to me privately. I could really tell she acknowledged the hard work I put in and was sad to see me go. I reassured her I enjoyed teaching at the school and will miss it very much.

So this was my last day of work here in Korea. Just about a week left and I'll be off on my new adventure. Thank you kids!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Packing Logistics

I've been spending the past 24 hours figuring out how to get all my stuff to Seattle without paying more than I should. I might have too much stuff to begin with, but I've been here for five years. I have summer and winter clothes to take with me, along with my art stuff. It piles up!

I did a "mock packing" yesterday to see if I could fit all my clothes in two suitcases and not be overweight. Turns out things were too close to the edge. The maximum weight is 23 KG and after I would add all my knick knacks and stuff it would have gone over. So I took out my summer clothes and put those in box, since it should still be mildly cold in Seattle when I get there. Thankfully I have a military friend who is kind enough to ship these boxes out to America. I believe this will be cheaper and faster than using the Korean postal service.

However, I already sent three boxes to my family's house back home. Two of which already arrived. It doesn't really cost too much to ship out from the Korean post office, but just makes me a bit nervous when it goes by ship.

So now I've got it down to that one suitcase is empty and the other half full. My winter clothes are still hanging up in my closet but should fit nicely now without a problem. This extra leg room will be helpful for whatever packing surprises might come.

I also needed to ship my carryon luggage (a rolling backpack type thing) because I'm going to need my hands free at the airport. So I went out and bought a laptop backpack that wasn't too expensive. Something to just get me through this transition.

Tom certainly did not enjoy the frenzy of packing I was in lately. Because I am using vacuum seal bags to get all my clothes in a box, he hid from the noise. Sorry, Tom!

Well two more days of work time is flying!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Proud of My Work

Before I ever left for Korea I was working at an Insurance Company in San Francisco. My boss was this kooky old Japanese man who lived by a lot of morals and codes. Have you ever watched Mad Men? The office was kind of like that, and even had old type writers.

While he was training me to be an Insurance Agent he would now and then pass on knowledge. This one time he told me that when you do a job you should do it right. You should do such hard work that when it comes time for you to leave (for whatever reason) the company should be sorry to see you go. At that time I was fresh out of college and with a small work history behind me. I tried my best at that job, but know I could have left it better.

His wise words have carried with me in Korea. As you know I struggled at the first few jobs I had here, then I started to get momentum and understood what hard work means. It doesn't just mean showing up on time, doing paperwork and being there. It means going beyond the call of duty and probably working more than you should.

At the job I'm leaving now I know I am leaving behind hard work. My colleagues and supervisors might not be exactly telling me, "We wish you could stay" but I know I've left my mark. Although the Vice Principal did say she was sad to see me go.

However, I'm proud of my work at this job because of what I experienced today. I was organizing my desk and getting things ready for the new teacher. Throughout the year I kept binders of my work so to keep a record and just in case things came to this. I looked through my two full binders of "worksheets" and realized what great work it was. I made 90% of the worksheets by scratch. The binder of "lesson plans" weren't just short pages with an outline of what to do, but detailed and lengthy. In the storage spaces along the walls were spread out five large plastic bins full of materials, I also made from scratch. In addition, I bought blocks, cards and other hands-on stuff for the students. I'm leaving this all behind for the new teacher, and hope they use it.

When I walked into this school to teach 1st Grade math I was left with scant supplies and lesson plans. I started from scratch and built up a curriculum that I think is effective. However, I know that there is room for tweaking, but that's for the new teacher to deal with.

Leaving a job feeling satisfied and proud is a really good feeling. In the end, I don't really need a supervisor to tell me "good job" because I saw the results in my students and work. If you are an English teacher here in Korea I would encourage you to put in more than you have been. You might think it's not worth it because of the salary and quality of your institution, but it will develop yourself so much.

Anyway, that's my thoughts on this last Monday at work! (Official last day is next Monday is a holiday).

Goodbye desk~

Goodbye chalkboard ~

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Snow is back in town...

Just thought I would do a little update for no real reason. It's snowing here in Seoul and I guess that means it's still winter. We had a few warm days this past week and it reminded me of what spring is like in Korea. I hope spring in Seattle is just as lovely.

I had a fun kick of the stomach flu last week that had me home from work one day. Teaching the next day wasn't so fun, especially when your Korean counterparts don't bother to ask, "Are you feeling better?" Ah well...

This weekend I was busy doing some scrubbing around the place for the new person. It's amazing how much soot can gather on the veranda here. This person has been in contact with me, which has been really great. I'm able to sell off some furniture to her and know what to leave behind. But most of my stuff has been spoken for and will be purchased and picked up closer to my move date.

I also ordered a bunch of Ikea furniture and things to be delivered to my new place in Seattle. When you're moving across the world it's hard to take things like blankets, pillows and towels with you. After I land in Seattle I just want to get Tom settled in then hit the sack. I've always found sleeping after traveling long distance to be quite thrilling. Usually I wake up in the middle of it and ask myself, "Where am I?" or "What time is it?" I'm still a little nervous for Tom flying but doing what I can to abate that.

It was Groundhog's day yesterday and an early spring was predicted! Even if that doesn't come true it's a nice positive charm to spin on life.

Next week we will be giving out our Level Tests to the students for when they go up to the third grade. It's a nice break from things. Otherwise the last thing I'm teaching these kids is about measuring liquids and weight. Their minds are so off track and not focused it's been a little tough. But their just kids and it's the end of all things for me in Korea, so whatever! I hope to report back later on how giving them their presents and showing the video goes.

You know life is moving so fast and I'm so focused on my new life in Seattle that I forget to realize  Valentine's day is coming along with Korea's New Year (Seollal). Even though I'm single this V-day...I'm doing okay. I'm allright with it and have hope that in the future I'll have a sweetheart in my life. For now, I've got Tom!
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