according to megan

Stories of my tavels, experiences, or whatever else comes my way.

The Process of Processing July 1, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — megyod @ 2:45 am
Tags: , , , , ,

I’ve been talking a lot about things that appear bizarre to me since returning to the states nearly 4 months ago. And things continue to be bizarre, but the things that are bizarre are changing. It’s not so much cultural things anymore, but personal emotions and stuff that I’m assuming are still parts of reverse culture shock (when will it end?????)

I’m finding that I am much more alert to when and how things change. I struggle to figure out what IS like before and what isn’t. For example… noticing  my family eating ice cream more often these days. And really, it’s probably just because its summer, and its hot, and ice cream is good. But I keep having to readjust my thoughts and memories, and try to remember whether or not we always ate ice cream that much before?? Like when I first got home, I remembered things, like things seemed familiar, and I was like “Oh yes, this is how it was.” But now even things as simple as changing seasons, things are done differently from spring to summer, and I’m like ‘but…that’s not how it was when I got back..?” and then I have to think of reasons why things changed…Is it just the effects of changing seasons? Or has it been different all along and I just remembered incorrectly? That is kind of an odd example, but I’m very aware of when something changes from how it was or how I remembered it. Things naturally change over time, but it leaves me confused when I try to decipher the difference between cultural changes from Korea to America, changes in how I remembered things, and naturally occurring changes.

And now I’m adding a new layer of confusion for myself by moving into a big city again. As I begin to settle into my apartment in Chicago, I’m attempting to figure out how to do things here, and how to continue processing the different kinds of changes from the previous paragraph, and adding on a whole new set of changes! I’m back in a city environment where I can walk to places, or take public transportation again, and I love it…..but even though it’s similar to the environment I lived in in Korea, its still….America. Its, at the same time, very similar, yet vastly different.

I am continually wishing I were back in Korea. Everyday, multiple times a day, I find myself wistfully thinking about Cheonan, or Seoul, or life in Asia. I find myself missing even the smallest of things. Like just seeing a certain building that I would walk past often. Or the smell and bustling atmosphere of Cheonan Station. I miss Emart, where I did most of my grocery shopping. I miss little GS25’s, 7/11’s, and CU convenience stores on every corner. I miss a bus system that I was familiar with, and more specifically, that stupid bus 12 that I had a love/hate relationship with. I miss the escalators up to the top floors of the Shinsegae department store, and seeing all the shops and colorful merchandise as we ascended. I miss the restaurants that I would see every day on my way to school and always told myself I would try one day, but never did. I miss Tom N Toms coffee shops. I miss the little backstreets behind KNU where I would go for my Korean classes twice a week. I miss…the atmospheres and experiences. I think of them now, and they are still so familiar to me, I see them as if I were there yesterday. My mind still seems to not fully comprehend that I am no longer in Korea. Which continues to confirm my thoughts that my logical brain was ready to leave and come home, but my heart very much was not. Ya know that part of “Homeward Bound 2” when Chance was sitting there, looking back at San Francisco in the distance, after his fluffy white crush, Delilah, rejected him and he resigned to heading back home with Shadow and Sassy? And as he sat there looking longingly back at San Francisco, he sang sadly to himself “I left my heart in San Francisco….”? I feel like that’s me. I know it’s probably better that I headed home, but I keep looking back at Korea, feeling like I left too soon. (…but in the end Delilah followed Chance back home, I wonder how that part of my crappy analogy will play into my life????)

I guess one way my time abroad has positively affected my return to the States, is that I have been detached from things I wouldn’t have wanted to get rid of before. Like material possessions. I came home, took one look at my old bedroom, crammed with all kinds of things that represented my life from childhood up through college, and felt overwhelmed by all the STUFF, and I had to close the door again and walk away. I lived long enough without those things, and even forgot about a lot of it, that when I came back…I didn’t care about it. I wondered why I even held onto it. Things like a program from a concert that an old college acquaintance performed in. Or a little happy meal toy that I got on a whim with friends in high school. Just….old junk that I felt no real attachment to anymore. I had new and more significant experiences, and I didn’t want the old junk anymore. So I threw it out or donated it. And it felt fantastic. I used to like having that stuff as comfort; like a nest. A place to feel safe. But when I returned home, I felt bogged down by it all. Now all of that stuff is either gone, or in the attic at home. And it’s amazing how much stuff I STILL have. I love the idea of not being bogged down by things. I’m a person who develops emotional or nostalgic connections to things, so achieving a life of few possessions would be harder said than done. But I got a taste of how liberating it is to get rid of things…and I want to do more of that. (The less things one has, the easier it is to up and travel, right??)

I do, however, still have a lot of stuff, which I realized during my move into Chicago. But I justify three big boxes of it, because that was all my baking supplies and ingredients, and I argue that those things are essential to my career (if it can be called that..)! That and my art supplies. Otherwise, all these boxes next to me are full of clothes, books, cds, and whatever other knick knacks I thought I needed to bring with me. But I wont have to deal with all that stuff until tomorrow night or Thursday, after the current occupant of my future room moves out. I am currently staying in Mallori’s room, while she is vacationing in Greece (jealous), and I will move my things to the room next door, once the currant roommate moves out (tomorrow). So for the past few days, I’ve been attempting to acquaint myself with the area, putting together some of my IKEA furniture, and applying to some more jobs (no bites yet ㅠ_ㅠ).

My roommates will be Mallori (high school/college friend) and Jesse, who is one of Mallori’s friends. Mallori is gone all week, and Jesse has had to work late every day since I arrived, so I’ve more or less been on my own figuring things out. But I think that’s good for a few reasons…one being that it’s forced me to figure things out, and not rely on someone else to show me around. Its kind of like the adventure of traveling! Being in a new city, I have to figure out how to do things; how to get around, how to act here….where to get pepper spray….o_O (but really, where would I even get pepper spray? I’ve never had to deal with that before). And thank goodness for the internet! How did people move from place to place before the internet? How did you find out where hardware stores are, or how to get around?? I guess you had to talk to people lol. My first full day here, I walked about two miles to watch a Pride parade, and thanks to google maps, I figured out where to go. Then I used the internet again to find a map of the L and rode back home. The next day I walked about a mile and back to a hardware store in search of a battery powered screwdriver (got it), and stopped at a newly opened Whole Foods on the way back. Then I walked probably another mile in the other direction, to explore the area and look for some Asian markets. I found them and I got a jar of kimchi. Hopefully Mallori and Jesse won’t mind haha! Yay for being able to walk places!! Although for farther locations, I’m going to have to learn the bus system, which is really daunting to me for some reason…There are so many buses in Chicago!!! And the L really only runs North and South in my part of the city, so if I want to go East or West (…well mostly West, since if I go much farther East, I’ll be swimming in the lake), I’ll have to take a bus. I’m hoping to avoid the bus system if possible until I have a local who can explain it to me. The internet can only help so much on this one…

All in all, I’m both nervous and excited to be making a move into a city again. I like the neighborhood, and the location isn’t terrible. I’m a little panicky though because I still don’t have a job, and so far, I haven’t heard back from many places. 😦 I JUST WANT TO WORK IN A BAKERY IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK!?!?? But as much as people like to tell me “You’ll have no problem finding a job there! They’d be crazy not to hire you!”, you can have all the skills and qualifications in the world, but if no one is looking to hire, you’re kind of out of luck. I’ll just continue researching various options…hopefully I’ll find something???

And to finish off, I want to mention a few more things that still boggle me in my process of readjusting to American life. 1. I still have no idea where to walk on the sidewalk. I still find myself weaving in and out of people, just where ever there’s room! I have to keep reminding myself that usually people stay on the the right side! And 2. I’m still amazed at how fast laundry machines are here. I got used to my little washer in Korea taking an hour and a half to do a small load. I put a load in here and it seems like I’ve barely sat down again before it’s finished! Also, DRYERS!! Beautiful dryers. Every time I remember we have a dryer, I get unnecessarily excited that I don’t have to hang all my damp clothes on a drying wrack for the next 36 hours! It’s a beautiful thing. 🙂

Ok, once again, I’ve rambled long enough. Still need to write that post about my trip to Europe! I’ll put that ramble off a little longer, yet again.

Keep adventuring everyone!

 

The struggle is real! And it continues…. April 11, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — megyod @ 9:00 pm
Tags: , , ,

It’s been about one month since I returned to America. Reverse culture shock seems to be slowly getting worse…which is a bummer, because that is the opposite of what I want! Everyday, that plane ticket back to Korea looks more and more tempting, whether it be for a visit or to move back. I missed Korea from the second our plane took off to come back to America, but I’m starting to feel more of a….void I guess? As time goes on I seem to realize more and more how much of me I left in Korea. I am constantly torn between believing coming back was the right decision, and thinking it was very wrong. In terms of jobs….I’m glad I returned. Teaching wasn’t my cup of tea, and I’m convinced it never will be. And I’ve been having SO MUCH FUN baking at home and trying out new recipes. I get so excited looking at the recipes and figuring out what I’m going to try next…the thought of working in a bakery, and especially owning one someday gives me tingles and I want to do it right now. So for that reason, I’m glad I returned to America, so I get that dream going. But for every other reason….I wish I hadn’t left. I miss just about everything there is to miss. I miss the food, the grocery stores, my little apartment…I’m finding that I don’t particularly like large living spaces. I don’t need a lot of space, and I don’t think I even want a lot of space. You could probably fit like 6 one-room apartments, like the one I had, in my house. I miss being in close proximity to everything I needed, and more importantly, my friends. I’m an introvert and I love spending time by myself, which I’m definitely getting an awful lot of here…but even for me, it’s a bit much. And I don’t realize how much I miss my Korea family until I go somewhere, or look at pictures of them or something…

I feel like this post is going to be rather sporadic, but I’m typing out my thoughts as they come into my head. It is springtime in Korea, which means the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. Yesterday was the big annual cherry blossom festival at a local high school whose grounds are rich with cherry blossom trees. At night, they have a fireworks show. It’s one of my favorite parts of the year, because its sooo beautiful. A bunch of my friends went yesterday and I saw pictures…and it nearly broke my heart into as many pieces as there were cherry blossoms. Back to the void thing and feeling like I left so much of me in Korea. My heart was nowhere near ready to leave Korea. And I feel like a sizeable piece of me is missing. I want that life back. And I go through phases  multiple times a day of “This was the right choice” and “This was a mistake.” I know I have things to look forward to, here in America, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling sad. And I don’t know at what extent to accept life here, and accept the change. And I don’t want to be that person living in the past, always wanting to talk about things that were, but I’m really having trouble letting go of it.

I’m just not entirely sure how to deal with everything…I don’t want to move back just to be back in Korea, but at the same time, the desperate side of my mind is like “Dooooo it!!!” IF I go back for an extended time, I want to have a legit reason, more than just wanting my old life back.

I’m finding that I’m missing the things that I didn’t really even like in Korea. Like things that I thought were inconvenient, or used just because I couldn’t find the American versions. Things are too familiar here. I miss the unfamiliarity, and sense of adventure that came with doing…just about anything in Korea. Even after two years there. You get used to not knowing, and kind of become accustomed to it. And returning to the place where you grew up just seems a little dull. This is something I had a feeling would happen upon my return, so I’m not surprised by it, but it still is frustrating to actually deal with.

It’s kind of weird for me, that coming back to my old culture is harder than going to a new one. I didn’t have a really hard time fitting into Korea. I adapted really easily into life there. The only times when I felt really homesick were around the holidays. Otherwise…I was generally pretty happy there from the moment I stepped off the plane at Incheon Airport. Sure there were things the frustrated me from time to time, or Korean culture irritated me, but none of that ever lasted more than a few days at a time. If I did go through culture shock in Korea, it was very mild. So it’s odd coming back to a country and culture that I know and having a tough time of it.

I don’t want this post to be entirely sad, I-miss-Korea me, so I will say that in my time being home, I’ve been putting myself through a “self-baking school”, as I’ve been calling it. Since I hope to get a job at a bakery soon, and don’t have any formal baking training, I’m trying to build up my skills as much as I can on my own by baking a variety of things through self-guided online courses. I’ve been trying 2-3 recipes a week, and have made 3 different kinds of breads, a pie, and various cakes or chocolate desserts, and it has been great fun! I’m doing these courses through America’s Test Kitchen, which explains the science behind the ingredients and preparation methods, and I feel like I’m learning a lot. Some of the recipes have been challenging, which makes it fun, and since the website walks you through each step of the recipe, I haven’t had many problems and everything has turned out pretty good so far! So that is one thing that is keeping me occupied, and I’m having a lot of fun with it. J

So yeah….finding balances is hard. There are good days and bad days. There are up and down days. Figuring out how to feel , finding the flow of life here, getting used to the atmosphere of Iowa, and find a sense of self here, while part of my self is still halfway around the world….its a debacle! It’s like…losing an arm. You can mostly get along without it, and learn to deal. But you still wish you had it back, cuz it’s weird functioning without it. And you remember what it was like when you had that other arm, and all the things you and your arm went though and accomplished. You can get a prosthetic, but it will never be the same. You’ll never be your whole self 100% again. You just have to adapt. And sometimes that’s the hardest part.

대한민국을 보고 싶어요~ ㅎㅎㅎ

 

Returning to America and All the Feelz that Come With It March 19, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — megyod @ 10:44 pm

Since I returned to America, I knew there would be lots of thoughts and feelings; happy, sad, frustrated, confused, amused, and relieved. So I decided to keep a journal to release all the feels and to help process things. I’ve only been home for less than two weeks, so reverse culture shock is still in the beginning stages I’m sure, but I decided to post a few excerpts from my journal entries. These are mostly my honest reflections of my time in Korea, thoughts of my friends there, and thoughts about coming back.

Note: We (Kati and I) left Korea for about three weeks to travel around Europe, and then went back to Korea for, what was supposed to be three days, but ended up being only two (missing flights and stuff ugh). We left our big bags with our wonderful friend Stephen while we were in Europe, and we came back to get them, and hang out with people and say our last goodbyes to Korea. Then we returned to America.

“Saying goodbye was really hard. It was really nice to go back to Korea after our few weeks in Europe. We were really ready to go back, and see our friends … It was bizarre only being back for 2 days though. Wish it would have been the full three, would have made some things a whole lot easier…but oh well. Stephen and Nick are wonderful and helped us out so much. We didn’t thank them near enough…”

“Thanks to crazy world travels and jumping across a bunch of time zones in a short amount of time, we were crashing on our flight that left Korea. The one with no return trip booked. I wanted to stay awake for the take off to like..say my last goodbyes to Korea. I don’t know if that was a good idea…I cried for like ten minutes. I finally had to just shut my mind to the thoughts of all the things and people I was leaving behind, and just go to sleep. Probably the hardest goodbye I ever had to say. Aahhh trying to not let the waterworks loose in this coffee shop as I sit here writing this!! ㅠ_ㅠ…”

“I loved Korea. I loved everything about it. I loved the culture, I didn’t mind the food, I loved that there was so much history, I loved the people, and of course I loved the pop culture…I loved the little quirks Koreans have, I love how they act cute a lot, and it’s just ingrained into them. I love that they can be so hospitable. I love that they think of each other as family. I love that they are so proud of their culture, even if it meant me being shut out sometimes…it was frustrating but I also feel like there’s something beautiful about how proud they are. I love Korea’s transportation system and how convenient it all was. I love that you could usually trust people. I love that it is a safe country; you could leave your bags sitting in a restaurant or somewhere out in the open, and they would still be there when you get back. I love that the crime rates are so low. I love that health care is fantastic.”

“I loved Korean grocery stores. It took a while to get used to but I learned to love them. I loved  having a reason to learn and use a second language. I loved the Korean language. I love how simple it is. Compared to English at least. I loved my part of Cheonan. I could walk out of my apartment building and get to anything I needed within 5-15 minutes. Grocery stores, pharmacies, shopping, food, theater, taxis, buses, post office, dentist, my school…I loved that I could walk anywhere. I loved that I could get to Seoul really easily. And I LOVED SEOUL. Seoul is probably my favorite place on earth. So much to do and see and experience. So many different communities. The subway system is flawless. And cheap. There are parks and mountains, but also bustling shopping districts, high-fashion ritzy roads, traditional Korean villages that are hundreds and hundreds of years old, and buildings and technology that are on the cutting edge. There are universities, and huge sports stadiums, huge underground malls, tiny little local coffee shops, food markets, traditional markets, kpop everywhere, delicious street food….It is HUGE but you can also find quiet little neighborhoods.”

“I didn’t love my job, but I loved my head teacher, Sue. She was one of the nicest Koreans I’ve ever met. She tried so hard to welcome me, and give me advice, and help me do well. She translated when she could, and was always asking for correct grammar or pronunciation advice. She always gave me little snacks to eat, and she’d tell me what to eat or do when I was sick or something. I also loved interacting with my students about Kpop. I don’t even care if that’s silly, it was a means of being able to connect with them and get on their level about something we had in common. It helped build relationships with a lot of my girls. I had so much fun talking with them about our favorite members, or which band was actually the best, or discussing the latest kpop gossip…That was always fun.”

“Aside from Koreans and the country itself, I loved my group of friends. It’s hard to sum up how much everyone means to me without writing an actual novel, but this is what I can fit into a few paragraphs. I’ve been friends with Kati since college, and we went to Korea together, came back together, and she is someone who shares a lot of the same thoughts and opinions on things, and we’ve been friends for so long, we just sort of know what we are thinking and have a million inside jokes, and we know how each other works. We’d often sort of just end up on our own doing our own thing, not because we didn’t want to hang out with people, but because it was just easier to hang out with someone you understand a lot better than dealing with other people who don’t understand you as well, which often meant you’d have to explain yourself a lot. Now that I look back, I’m sorry to anyone who may have wanted to get to know us better and we sort of accidentally brushed them off … There was Nick, who’s always laughing and more than happy to hang out and nearly any given time! 🙂 Also always happy to listen or have a good time. He loves being the center of attention, which is good for me, because that means I don’t have to be. Ha! Nick has also been in Korea for a good while, and is usually very willing to give you his advice on all things Korea. Nick was always hosting parties or movie marathons at his place. He’s probably the biggest Harry Potter fan I know. If you think you know a lot about Harry Potter, Nick probably knows more than you. Just being real here. 😉 There was Andrew who is suuuuper friendly, encouraging, a fellow nerd, and also is always, ALWAYS up for hang out time if anyone needs it. He’s also always prepared for, literally, any situation and always has the right tool somewhere in his backpack, haha! There were my old group of solids who came to Korea when I did; Lindsey, Emma, Ryan, Amber and Justin, all absolutely wonderful people. All warm and friendly, always smiling and hospitable. I don’t know how they’re all doing right now, but I sincerely hope they are all doing wonderfully, and I miss them all like crazy, even if I didn’t get to hang out with them that much. My old church group, who became my support system…I miss all of them too. That group contained some of the most dedicated Christians and genuine people I’ve met in a really long time, and I miss their persistence and perseverance through any and every situation. Their faith is impressive and far beyond mine. I miss them as mentors and someone to look up to. There were the Kurtz’s. Michael and Tera. Fantastic people. They’re those people that you can always count on to just be solid. In Korea, most foreigners are single and constantly changing, and rather aloof, and you can never quite tell what they’ll do, where they’ll be, if they’ll have found a new group of friends a month from now…Michael and Tera were sort of a presence that you could always count on. They tried hard to be consistent, they opened their house every Sunday morning and held a brunch for those who wanted to bring some food and join in games and fun conversations. They held little holiday parties every year. They’re “Korea veterans” so they would always have advice on where to go to get something, or how to go somewhere, etc. They were resourceful and were all about sustainability and eating healthy. They were very knowledgeable in those areas, and I would consider Tera a master chef of healthy foods. They are both just very intelligent people, very consistent, responsible and whether I realized it or not, they were something I needed throughout crazy Korean life. Ashley as well. Ashley’s been in Korea for good long while as well, and can speak Korean better than she’s willing to admit. Aside from her crazy Korean skills, and knowledge of the culture, she’s just an incredibly friendly and warm person. She also has a huge, super fluffy rabbit. J There’s Stephanie, another Korea veteran, who is a fellow Kpop fan and has an adorable laugh. There’s Rae, who loves her fluffy puppies, and J-rock, as well as some Kpop, and shared some similar values that I did. We also shared Korean class, where her Korean was always one step above mine, and it kept me on my toes. Speaking of Korean class, our teacher Jeongyun. If Sue wasn’t the friendliest Korean I had contact with, Jeongyun was. She we SO encouraging in class, and she would always, always be willing to help us out in any way she could. Aside from being a fantastic Korean language teacher, she taught me a lot about Korean culture. And she was great to learn it from, because she had the ability to explain why things were the way they were, in English. There’s Kathy, ethnically Korean, culturally American, and a wonderful source for seeing Korea through the eyes of a Korean, but also an American. She could always give good insight into situations in Korea that I couldn’t always understand. She’s also just super funny and fun to hang out with, and showed us lots of fun things in Seoul that I would never have experienced, had I not known her. Kathy was also one of the most legit sources of Kpop news and info, since she 1. Can speak and understand Korean, 2. Knew people in the industry and loved discussing Kpop gossip haha!! And of course, Stephen. One of my besties. If anyone meshed with me and Kati’s little duo, Stephen does! Stephen showed up in Korea a year after me, but it wasn’t until about the last half of the year that he, Kati and I started hanging out a lot. Stephen’s a wonderfully friendly person, who loves nature, rock climbing, photography, coffee, Italy and is an incredibly talented film maker. He’s also got an amazing eye for design, although he’ll never admit it! As I sort of mentioned earlier, Kati and I may have accidentally sort of shut people out of our little duo because we knew each other so well. Had we not done this, we probably could have been good friends with Stephen a lot sooner, but alas. Stephen is an extrovert, which means he loves hanging out! Haha. So thanks to his persistence for hang out times, we realized that the three of us meshed surprisingly well. Kati and I are both older than Stephen, so we started calling him our “magnae” (meaning “youngest member”, even though he really is only like two months younger than me haha), and we took on the rolls of his “noonas” (“noona” means older sister in Korean) whether he liked it or not, and had fun reminding him that he’s the youngest and that he needs to respect his noonas. LOL. Aside from giving him a hard time about being the youngest, the three of us got along really well, and we realized that we all sort of have similar values, and many things in common. We went on lots of adventures, and hung out a lot, and of course this all happened soon before Kati and I were to leave Korea. 😡 It was bad enough being separated from our third part for the three weeks we were in Europe, but now it super sucks, because all three of us are far away from each other. We hung out a lot before Kati and I left, and now its like….best friend withdraw!!!! AAaaahhhhh!! STEPHEN AND KATI I MISS YOU GUYS *SOBS*

Others to mention: Trevan, Adam, Garrett, Zack and Tiffany, Megan J, Donghyuk…. All of them were helpful, and friends in one way or another. All good sources for advice, or a friendly face if you ever needed one.

It’s hard to leave your best friends, and whole community behind. These are the people that I spent the past two years with. They have been my family in Korea, and my support group. The familiar faces you need after a hard day, and the people you see on holidays. We all lived in the same city, and we all more or less knew each other’s stories. We all dealt with the same issues as a foreigner in Korea, and we could all give each other advice. I know I have a community back home, but they only know the person I was two years ago, and I only know the community as it was two years ago. I’m going to have to readjust to this community again, and become friends again with those who were my friends two years ago. I’m scared to deal with the changes that have occurred, and I’m afraid that I’ll want to hold on to life in Korea too much to let myself integrate back in. I’ll need to be careful to not let myself assume that no one understands and convince myself that I was better off in Korea.

Please be patient with me, home community. I have lots of emotions to sort through, and things to let go of, and there will probably be some bitterness and stubbornness along the way.”

“It was hard to make lots of Korean friends, because many Koreans say they want to be friends with foreigners, but a vast majority of the time, they just want to be friends so they can improve their English. And if anyone does want to be friends, there’s still the language barrier. It’s a lot harder to make real friends with native Koreans than I thought it would be. I’m not an outgoing person as it is, and I love avoiding problems or difficult situations, and my Korean is rather basic. All those things in combination mean that I wasn’t able to make many good Korean friends unless they already spoke decent English, and hung out with us foreigners a lot…”

“I’m sure people will ask “So why did you leave then? If you loved it so much, why did you come back?” I keep asking myself this, and I have to keep reminding myself of the answer. I did not enjoy teaching. Not enough to keep doing it for another year. Or even another 6 months. I kept finding myself counting down til the end of the day when I could go home, or looking forward to weekends when there were two whole days that I didn’t have to go to work. It gets tiring after a while, having only a handful of co-workers you can actually talk to, and even fewer who actually try to talk to you. I know this goes both ways, I could have put in effort to talk to them too, but like them being scared to use their English, I was scared to use my Korean. And this resulted in never getting to really know anyone at my school other than my head teacher. I also don’t like being in front of people. It took me the better part of my first year to become decently comfortable in front of a class of 36 middle school kids. I also extremely disliked lesson planning. Did. Not. Like it. And I even had to do far less of it than most of my friends, I still dreaded lesson planning days. There were just far more negatives than positives for me, and as much as I loved Korea, I couldn’t keep doing a job I really didn’t like. If I could have found a job I liked in Korea, OH MAN I would probably be there until further notice. But alas…it is hard to find a non-teaching job in Korea as a foreigner, unless you’re super skilled in a specific area, or really pretty and/or blonde and can be a model or in commercials or music videos or something. My other option would be going to school. Preferably to study Korean. I would also LOVE to do that, and improve my Korean a lot more. I still fantasize about that. So why don’t I do that then?? Well since I have discovered my actual dream career, I want to start pursuing that. I’m determined to keep studying Korean here, because I worked too long and hard and paid too much for classes to just give up everything I learned up to this point!!”

“Sometimes I feel silly or maybe a little dumb for not knowing quite how to do things in America anymore. Like this is my home country, why can’t I remember how to do these seemingly simple things?? Like when to stand in a line, how to pay for certain things, how to approach a certain situation, if it’s okay to not quite follow the rules or when you have to follow the rules, how to interact with strangers…ther are a lot of cultural norms I’m not quite clear on anymore, and I keep feeling like I should be constantly apologizing, and I’m living in mild fear that people are secretly like “What is wrong with that person, why is she being weird?” But I have decided that I have no reason to be sorry. I will not feel stupid in my own country. I will not be apologetic for not knowing things anymore, because I’m not doing things wrong on purpose, I’m not being awkward on purpose, I’m not being clueless on purpose. I’ve spent so long learning a different culture’s social norms that I forgot a lot of my own. I wanted to fit in to that culture, because that WAS my home for a while. And I’m not going to apologize for that. It took time to adjust to that culture, and it will take time to readjust to this one…”

“I assume that reverse culture shock works similarly to culture shock of moving to a new country. It probably comes in stages. I don’t really know what to expect, but only being home for less than two weeks, there are already days where I feel motivated to do ALL THE THINGS and accomplish stuff with my in-between time, and there are days when I get hit with a wave of I-miss-Korea and all I wanna do is go back. I’m trying to find a balance of how much I should let myself mope about Korea and how much I should move on. My heart doesn’t want to move on, not in the slightest, but my brain knows I can’t just wallow in my sad I-miss-Korea feelings. It was hard choice to make…Deciding whether or not to leave Korea. Some days I’m glad about my decision, other days I regret it…”

“I don’t know how long I’ll be at home before I find a job or move out again, but I have some goals in this transition period… things I want to accomplish, or practice. Sometimes I feel optimistic, like ‘Yeah! I can be an adult and do things!’ I’m going to try ride on those feelings and hope I actually can accomplish things!”

That’s all I got for now…maybe I’ll post more as time goes on! ^^

 

America is Weird: Part 2

Filed under: Uncategorized — megyod @ 8:38 pm
Tags: , ,

So I’ve been in America for a grand total of 10 full days now, and things continue to appear odd to me. So this is a continuation of the previous post about things I find odd.

  1. You can flush toilet paper! Also, toilet paper is generally guaranteed to be in the bathroom stalls! To avoid clogging Korea’s cramped plumbing system, you are often supposed to throw your used toilet paper in the waste basket beside the toilet. It does take a bit to get used to. Also, it is good practice to carry a package of tissues with you wherever you go, in case the bathroom doesn’t have toilet paper in the stalls. Believe it or not, that is not an uncommon occurrence.
  2. There is FAR LESS couple culture here! Being in a couple is only a trend in like…middle school. Otherwise, couples are far less cutesy, they don’t wear matching clothes all the time, there are not holidays EVERY MONTH for couples. If anyone asks whether or not I’m in a relationship here, the general reaction to finding out I’m single at 26 is something far more accepting than the usual Korean answer of “Why???” Ugh. [insert Miss A song “I don’t need a man, I don’t need a man!”]
  3. (1 b.) Elaborating on the first thing in the first list, I can speak English and people understand me!! The other day in Chicago, I was going to take the “L” and meet Mallori at work for lunch, but I had to buy a CTA pass card first. My debit card wasn’t working to pay for the pass card, so I tried to get cash out to pay with cash instead. I then found out that that machine can’t give change back if you pay more than the exact amount, so I stepped back from the machines to let others go, and figure out how I was going to get a pass card. A CTA employee approached me and asked if everything was ok. I told him my problem, and he helped figure it out, (he pretty much gave me a free one-way ride on the train ha!) and in my head I was unreasonably surprised that I was able to convey my problem in English and he understood perfectly (duh) and it was sorted out in a flash! I was like…that’s it?? That was too easy! Lol….its amazing how surprising the most basic things are here…
  4. I don’t trust strangers in America as much as I did in Korea. I’m not entirely sure why, but my own theories include that because Korean people often try not to mingle with foreigners if they can help it (cuz we’re scary lol), you just get left alone, and I got used to expecting people to leave me alone and not try talk to me or interact with me in any way. OR just the fact that South Korea is straight up just a much safer place than America, and really the only people who will give you trouble are drunk people, or other foreigners. Guns are only legally held by the police or other law enforcement personnel, and crime rates are low. I don’t remember a time in Korea where I felt in danger from those around me. A as a culture, Koreans hate conflict, and will avoid it if possible, so the less stranger interaction the better! Haha. And maybe that’s why I could walk into a café or restaurant or something, set down my things, and walk up to the counter to order, or go to the bathroom and still have all my things there when I return.
  5. I’ve been spoiled by Seoul’s subway system. It’s so great. All 19 subway lines seem intimidating, but its surprisingly easy, considering the size of the city and how many people live there. If you think your city’s train/subway/metro system can rival that of Seoul’s, in terms of convenience, accessibility, and reliability, including a killer app to help navigate it, let me know and I’ll come to your city and see for myself. I’ve been to a handful of cities in and out of America who have a subway/metro/public train system, and Seoul still reigns supreme in that regard. All other train systems are mediocre to me lol
  6. I’ve found that I often times feel like a foreigner in my own country, and it seems like somehow, people can sense that I generally have less idea how to correctly act in various situations here. THEY KNOW I TELL YOU! THEY KNOWWWW.
  7. Flo the Progressive car insurance girl. LOL. Totally forgot about her existence. I was one of those who did like Flo. From what I remember, Flo was like Vegemite, you either love it or hate it. Haha!
  8. A style that I like to call “Bro fashion.” Ya know, the style that most high school-mid twenty something guys wear. Old jeans, tennis shoes, a plain t-shirt and/or sports hoodie. Maybe a baseball hat. Rips, holes or stains are not out of the question. Sometimes jeans are replaced with sweatpants. Like…guys, I understand your desire for comfort, but can we just like…dress it up a LITTLE more?? It doesn’t look good. #unpopularopinion
  9. Pick-up trucks. Don’t really see those in Korea.
  10. 약국 (Yakguk) or Pharmacies are much more prevalent in Korea. They are everywhere, and they are great. You can get many more things over-the-counter than you can in America. If you’re feeling sick, you can go to the pharmacy, tell them what’s wrong, and they’ll give you some medicine for it. If it doesn’t help, then you can go to the doctor! Also, because of Korea’s killer health care, it’s cheap too!
  11. Real church services. This one might not really belong on this list, because I don’t find a church service odd, it’s just something I haven’t been to in a while! I went a few times in Korea, but it probably hasn’t been since the endish of my first year there. I joined a little “house church” with a group of friends, and it was really wonderful, so I was part of that for about a year, I think. But upon arriving in America, and visiting Mallori’s church in Chicago, I realized I haven’t been in that setting in a very long time. With a bunch of people, a praise band, a pastor who gives a sermon, communion, offering, etc. I’ll attend my home church this weekend, and Lord knows I could use a good hymn sing!!!
  12. Huge cars and trucks. LIKE HUGE ONES. Just…WHY?? WHO NEEDS A VEHICLE THAT SIZE UNLESS YOUR OCCUPATION REQUIRES IT??? You’re happy spending outrageous amounts of money on gas?? But seriously, why are unnecessarily big vehicles a thing? Intimidation?? To show off?? I just….*America whyyyy*
  13. Kids don’t wear uniforms to school. I guess that’s generally only middle school and high school in Korea, but since I taught in a middle school, I got used to seeing kids always wearing a uniform to school. They didn’t like them. Haha.
 

America is Weird. March 12, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — megyod @ 9:29 pm

Hellooooooooo readers!!! Good golly it’s been a long time!!!!! I am sincerely sorry at my horrid lack of updating in the past like…6 months…(oops) There was so much I meant to write about, and so much I still mean to write about, but we’ll see if that actually happens! Hopefully I can pull myself together and write about my last few months in Korea, and my trip around Switzerland, Germany and Italy!!! (Long story short: IT WAS AMAZING). I also have another entry partially written up just sort of reflecting on Korea and those I left behind, and I probably will post that in some form soon.

But now I am back in America, as of Monday the 9th, and am bumming it my friend Mallori’s place in Chicago for a few days while I catch up on jet lag and attempt to process everything that comes with moving back to your home country after two years, including reverse culture shock! Yipee!!! …………….

So anyway, I decided that, since I’ve grown accustomed to Korean culture and have l long since forgotten many American cultural norms, I would start keeping a list of all the things I found odd in America, from the moment I stepped into an American airport. So as of being in America for only about three days, this is my first list of 18 things that I had forgotten about or find odd after not being here for a long period of time:

1. Everyone speaks English! This isn’t “odd” per say, because this IS America, it’s just bizarre to be in a place where everyone understands me and I understand them! Everyone having a conversation as I pass them on the street, I hear what they say. People sitting at the tables next to me at a restaurant or coffee shop, I hear what they’re saying. It’s not eaves dropping, its just the fact that I got so used to hearing Korean everywhere and not immediately understanding things, that whenever I heard English, I would turn around like “Whose speaking English?? Where is that coming from??” So even though everyone around me speaks English, I pick it up. Everywhere. Because my ears are used to only hearing things I don’t understand.

2. “Classy” American fashions. Ooooh yes. How could I forget. Sweatpants and flip flops and an ill-fitting tank top. Or anything that fits into the “People of Wal Mart” website. This one, I’m not used to, because I’m used to Korean fashion. Korea, where you have to look cute or professional 100% of the time, otherwise your sloppy and lazy. Make-up always. Clean-cut, put together, hair styled. Image is sooo important in Korea, thus everyone puts much more effort into their appearance, every time they walk out the door. There is little variation from person to person in terms of style, so being in a country where everyone has their own personal style is a bit surprising. In Korea, you want to LOOK like you’re important, and name brands are a requirement. People spend hundreds of dollars on name brand coats for their kids. Or name brand, department store work clothing. I once told my head teacher that I used to love shopping at thrift stores in America (something not too common in Korea) and she gave this reaction that lead me to believe thrift stores are not a place people regularly go to, and they seem kind of stingy. I’m not sure she’d ever been to a thrift store in her whole life. O_o

3. Tough airport security. I’ve traveled to Japan, China, Germany, Switzerland and Italy during my time in Korea, and America was the only place that required me to take off my shoes (with the exception of London, but I was wearing boots. They were not requiring everyone to take off shoes.) No where else did I have to take off my belt. Heck, in China I forgot to take my liquids out of my carry-on and no one batted an eye. Also, American security guards seem as though they hate everyone and everything, and you don’t want to even crack a joke because they’ll think you’re not taking this seriously. London was the only place that rivaled America in terms of tough security (where they ran my carry-ons multiple times because apparently lots of spare change is a bad thing???) but even there, the security guards were at least friendly!

4. Public drinking fountains are a thing!! I had forgotten. I don’t remember the last time I’ve seen a drinking fountain outside of school grounds in Korea.

5. People use their hands to express themselves when talking. Koreans don’t do that. They sit still when they talk. Using too many hand gestures comes off as too casual and maybe disrespectful in certain situations. People stay reserved and collected when talking in Korea, hand gestures are not really used. I never stopped using them really, but I got used to not seeing it often.

6. People make eye contact on the streets. You pass someone on the street, and if you don’t smile, you at least make eye contact. Strangers don’t acknowledge strangers in Korea. People keep to themselves and don’t pay attention to others.

7. To kind of continue with the last one, people are aware of their surroundings here!! I’m not sure why, but Koreans generally have a terrible sense of who and what is around them. I know of Koreans who have even admitted this. People will not look before walking out in the side walk, so getting cut off is not uncommon. People walk while texting or on their phones, and not pay attention to where they’re going, and if you don’t move to go around them, they’ll walk right into you. People will step in front of you, or a group of friends will block a whole sidewalk and not realize people want to get around them. I never got used to that, but when I went to Europe and America, people would move over on a sidewalk, or look to make sure they don’t cut someone off, and I was like “Omg I haven’t nearly run into anyone once!!”

8. And to continue on again with the previous one, America has a designated side of the sidewalk to walk on!! And everyone knows it! You walk on the right side! Korea has no side. You just go where ever there is space. If that means zig zagging around people from one side of the sidewalk to the other, so be it. I’ve heard theories as to why this is. Apparently Korea used to have a designated side, but when Japan occupied Korea, they changed it, but once Korea gained independence again, they never really changed it back, and now you just walk where there’s room.

9. There are American flags everywhere. Korea is a proud country, but not to the extent America is. Korea is proud of their culture and their people, but they don’t really fly flags a lot. Or at least the Korean flag is not stamped on everything, like it is in America. I’ve actually heard this from Europeans too; they are amused at how much America likes to show off it’s flag. Everywhere.

10. FRESH PRODUCE IS SO CHEAP!!!!

11. THERE ARE ENTIRE AISLES OF ICE CREAM!!! WITH LIKE 500 FLAVOR OPTIONS!!! Korea generally has 1-3 freezers of ice cream. And they’re flavors like green tea, or strawberry swirl, or something with nuts in it. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen straight vanilla or chocolate or neapolitan ice cream in Korea. Also, there are VERY FEW independently owned ice cream places in Korea. If you want ice cream you go to Baskin Robins. If you’re lucky, Coldstone. If you’re really lucky, a Coldstone that will actually mix flavors in front of you. And if you’re blessed, you’ll know of a tiny local ice cream shop tucked into a little ally way. If you live in a big city.

12. There is soooooo much pop here. Pop, soda, cola, coke….whatever you want to call it. There’s a lot of it.

13. There’s so much space in America! Just in general. There’s only like one business per building! There are buildings in Korea that have 6-7 stories, with anywhere from 1-3 business on each floor. Maybe more. And that’s just in my relatively small city. Also, there’s room for people to have their own houses! I showed some students a picture of my family’s house in Iowa, and they all thought I was super rich because not only did we have our own house, but we also had a huge yard. Only the richest of rich people in Korea have that, and maybe not even that! Many celebrities just have an entire floor of a reaaallly nice condo or something. Very, very few people actually have their own yard, unless they live out in the countryside.

14. Americans are loud. It’s true. I heard that stereotype in America and was like “Naahh we’re not that loud are we??” Yes. We are. Just in general. We’re not the only loud culture, but we are loud. We talk loudly without realizing it. Even out on the street, when Kati and I have been having a conversation, I’ll think we’re talking quietly (by American standards) but we’ll get looks from Koreans like “Why are you talking so loudly?” And when I got back to America, just like walking through the airport, I noticed people talk loudly.

15. Tipping….I forgot that was a thing we have to do here….:(

16. There are trash cans!! Easily accessible ones!! All over!!! Korea has very few public trash cans. So if you get take-out or street food, you better be prepared to carry the trash around for half an hour until you can find a trash can. Or set it on a pile of accumulating trash being made somewhere. I don’t know why exactly Korea took away the vast majority of public trash cans, but I heard one that they thought it would decrease the amount of trash if they just took away the trash cans (LOL, no.) (that just means people find other methods of getting rid of their trash, a.k.a littering), and another one that restaurants or businesses were not using the correct trash bags or something, and just dumping their trash into the public trashcans (or something to that extent), so they took them all away to force companies to use the correct trash bags. Fun fact: there are color coded trash bags in Korea, and it’s very important that you put your trash in the correct bag. Colors depend on the city you’re in, but in my city, yellow bags were for general waste, pink bags were for food waste. I also saw blue bags, but I think those were reserved for large businesses or maybe for paper waste??

17. People say “Bless you” when you sneeze. Haha. If you sneeze in Korea, you get nothing. You more or less just act like it never happened.

18. America is very casual. Just in general. You can talk to anyone, regardless of age or status. You can sit casually around people you don’t know well, or just met. You can smile at people. You can take off layers of clothing to cool off in front of strangers. You can strike up conversations with the person next to you on the bus. People don’t really do those things in Korea. Korean culture is very formal. You can only be relaxed around those very close to you. Strangers don’t talk to each other unless they have to. You can’t really be close friends with anyone who isn’t your age. People don’t strip layers of clothing in front of those who you’re not close with (I only just learned that one recently.) I feel like in general, American’s don’t like trouble, so there are lots of “Oh no no, it’s ok, don’t worry about it!” “No worries” “Oh, no problem!” People smile a lot here, like when you meet new people, everyone tries to be friendly, and find things in common and strike up conversations. Maybe throw in some jokes to lighten the mood a bit. When you meet new people in Korea, you bow to them, and maybe shake hands, and hope you have a mutual friend who can find conversation topics for you. And you use the polite level of speech, and only when you become close friends, can you use the informal level of speech, if you both agree that that is okay. If you use in informal speech with someone older than you, they may get offended or feel disrespected. And I think even compared to some European countries, America could be considered casual. I’ve heard from some Europeans that they think Americans are so “chill.” We like to keep thinks light and not serious, so we’re always making jokes, laughing a lot and trying to have a good time.

 

Why The Thought of Going Home After 2 Years is Anything But Comforting October 28, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — megyod @ 3:52 pm

My time in Korea will be drawing to an end in a few months time (it was really hard to type that). My contract as an English teacher in Cheonan, South Korea will end at the end of January. I have decided to not extend for another year or even six months, even though I LOVE life in Korea, because I simply do not have the passion or drive required to be a teacher. My passion lies in other areas, and simply put, I would feel like I would be cheating myself if I continue to teach for another year, simply as an excuse to stay in Korea. I DO want to stay in Korea…like, really badly, but if I stay, I need to find something else to do. Something else that I actually enjoy. Thus, I am not renewing my contract, and instead I am going back to America, at least for a while, until I can figure out the next step…which will hopefully involve more world adventures, if not coming back to Korea. But having lived in a culture vastly different from America for two years, I have grown very accustomed to it, and it has become my home. This is the first place I’ve settled into as an independent adult, and I think that has made me very attached to Korea. This is what I am familiar with now. I have spent the last two years immersing myself in Korean culture; eating the food, learning the language, picking up little quirks and antics Koreans do, changing my views on things, adopting some bits of Korean culture, and overwriting bits of the American culture I grew up with. I have become “Koreanized” to an extent. Someone once said that we expats who lived in a foreign culture for a long time will never quite fit in anywhere again. We won’t fit in 100% to our home countries, because we have been cultured by…different cultures. And we won’t ever fit into the cultures we adopted, since we are not natives. Because of this, the thought of going back to America, going back “home”, is…actually quite intimidating. I’m going back to a place that should be familiar to me, but it is not going to be as familiar as I remember it. Let me go into this in a little more detail. I’ve put together a list of a few reasons why I’m actually rather nervous to be heading to my American home in a few months.

1. I’m afraid to go back to America because I don’t know how to function in the culture anymore. I’ve been koreanized, my methods of thought have changed, my views of things and life have changed…I wont know how to integrate myself and my new me back into this culture I’m supposed to be familiar with. Of course I’ve gone through culture-shock before, when I went to Northern Ireland for a semester, and when I came to Korea, but that was adapting to a new way of life. This will be reverse-culture shock. Maybe it will be easier than I’m expecting it to be, but in order to adapt to my life in Korea, I sort of had to forget everything I knew about how to act in society, and learn from the ground up. Re-learn what’s acceptable to do in public and what’s not. Re-learn what I can say to people, and how I can talk to people without offending them. Re-learn proper etiquette in the work place, or at a dinner table. Re-learn how to greet someone, or say goodbye. I don’t even remember the things I found odd about Korea when I first came here. I’ve gotten so used to them, I’m positive I will go back to America and wonder why people don’t bow to each other when you first meet someone, or greet an elder. I’m going to be shocked at how nicely people drive. I’ll wonder how you are supposed to get a waiter’s attention if there’s not call button on the table, and you can’t shout across the restaurant at them. Then I’ll be amused that they show up to your table every 2 minutes to check on everything. I’m going to find AMERICAN culture to be the weird one.

2. I’m afraid to go back to America because everyone and everything has more or less stayed the same, while I feel like I have vastly changed. All you people back home in America have more or less continued with your lives and jobs right? People have continued raising families, or going to school. I don’t mean for this to come across as that being boring, because it’s not!! It’s life! It’s just, your life has been very different than mine. I’m afraid people won’t know how to relate to me anymore, nor will I fully know how to relate to them. But even if the people I left in America have actually changed, a lot of the scenery probably has not changed much. The cheese factory is still sitting on Hwy 1. Yotty’s Ice Cream shop is still in downtown Kalona. Amish buggies still slow down cars on the roads. There are still rolling hills, covered in corn and bean fields as far as the eye can see. My room will be just as I left it 2 years ago. It’s going to be this really weird combo of feeling like everything has changed, but at the same time, nothing has changed at all, as if I never even left.

3. I’m afraid of going back to America because I’m afraid I wont get adventures anymore. Now, I know this one is kind of silly, because I realize that adventures are to be had anywhere you are. But I need to keep reminding myself of that. I’ve spent the past two years having all kinds of adventures. Heck, nearly everyday has been an adventure! Even though I’ve been in Korea for so long, there’s still a bit of an unknown feeling every time I walk outside. There are still experiences that leave me wondering “Why did that just happen?” It’s and adventure every time I leave Cheonan. I’m used to adventures into the unknown, and I’ve actually grown rather accustomed to it! If I go back to the place I grew up, and know like the back of my hand, it will be much harder to get that sense of adventure again…

4. I’m afraid of going back home because…I feel like there really isn’t much for me there, job wise..or really life wise! What am I supposed to do there?!? I’ll admit, I haven’t done a whole lot of research for opportunities in my home area yet, but I think, really, I’m just scarred of getting stuck back in that rut I was in before I left for Korea. If I’m being honest, I want to go home to see people again, and catch up with friends and family, maybe eat my favorite American foods…then take off again. I want to go home for the people, and that’s about it.

5. I’m afraid of going back to America because there will be much less incentive to keep learning the Korean. I love this culture and I really want to keep learning the language. Not to mention, it’s been an ambition of mine to become proficient in a second language. I’m afraid that if I go home, I won’t have reason to keep learning it. It’s going to take MUCH more effort to keep learning Korean, especially if I don’t have natives around to learn from, nor an environment that requires me to use my acquired language skills. Basically, I’m worried that all the effort I’ve put into learning the language, all the money I’ve spent on lessons, will not have a point anymore, as soon as I go back to America…

6. I’m afraid to go back because…there’s just so much more to worry about at home! I will admit, I’ve grown accustomed to a pretty chill life here. If I need to go anywhere, hop on public transportation. There is no public transportation where I’m from. This means I’ll have to buy gas again. And pay for car insurance. I’ll have to drive a few miles to get to the nearest convenience store, as opposed to taking the elevator downstairs. I’ll have to drive anywhere, as opposed to walking!! I can’t just go down a few floors to see my friends. Again…more driving!! Also, health care. Luckily I haven’t had the need for the fantastic health care we get working in Korea, but it’s nice to know I can go to the doctor and not have to worry about how much it will cost. Another thing…I’ll have to pay for living expenses. Paying rent and utilities, and any other bills that comes with living. This is why I’ve been able to pay off nearly half of my college loans since being in Korea, because I can afford to pay them off comfortably! My paycheck isn’t fantastic in Korea, but not having to pay for housing, or insurances, means I could do a lot more with the amount of money I do get. Basically….I’ll have to deal with actual adult things AND I DON’T WANT TO!!

7. Lastly…I’m afraid to go back to America, because…I’m afraid people won’t care. I don’t want to give the impression that I think myself to be awesome, simply because I spent two years living in an exotic place, that’s not what I want to convey at all. But when you spend lots of time in another culture, all you want to do when you get home is talk about it. To everyone. This was your life for a long period of time, of course you’ll want to talk about it!! I’ve already experienced this once to an extent, after coming back from Northern Ireland. People DO  want to hear about it, but they want the Sparknotes version. I remember in our “debriefing” before leaving N. Ireland, they told us that we should have a few summaries of our experience prepared to tell people. A 30 second summary, a two-minute summary, and for those really interested, a 5 minute summary. Otherwise, don’t expect to be talking in depth about your life in the past (2 years, for me) unless they invite you over or go out to coffee or something. But…how the heck do you combine 2 WHOLE ADVENTURE-PACKED YEARS of your life into 30 seconds?? Heck, even 5 minutes??? I couldn’t even do it in an hour! You can’t help but be bummed out when you give someone a short synopsis of your life and they go “oh that’s cool. Sounded like you had a good time,” and then they move on in the conversation. I mean…yeah I did have a good time BUT THERE’S SO MUCH MORE TO IT THAN THAT!!! I loved when anyone asked me about my time in Ireland, because I was like “Yes! I get to talk about it!” But then they’d start off with “What did you like the most about it?” or “What was the best thing you did there?” or “What was the hardest part about living there?” ….are you serious? I appreciate your interest, but please don’t ask those questions!! There were a million things I liked, there were a million amazing things I got to do, there were a million things that frustrated me. How can you choose your favorite paragraph in the entire Harry Potter series?? How can you choose the best song lyric from all the music your favorite artist ever wrote? How do you solve a problem like Maria, for heaven’s sake!?!?
I’m sure people will care, and I realize that my life isn’t going to be super exciting to everyone, and most people have their own lives to worry about, rather than sit there and listen to me ramble on about a culture they know nothing about, nor probably have much interest in, for hours. I just remember it was a bummer when I came back from an awesome time in N. Ireland, and people were satisfied with only a 30 second-2 minute synopsis, when an could easily have talked their ear off for 3 hours straight. And that was only 3 1/2 months. This will have been years. This kind of goes with the previous point that “everyone/everything has stayed the same at home.” I’ll be dealing with huge life changes, while everyone is just continuing on with their own…I imagine it will sort of be like trying to merge onto a busy interstate after having not operated a car in a really long time. O_o

There are a few more things I’d add to this list, but I’m not exactly sure how to put them into words, so I’ll stop here. I still have about 3 months left in Korea, and I will hopefully be taking a trip to Europe with Kati before heading back to America in February, so…maybe some of the anxiety will wear off by then??? Maybe?? We’ll see.

I will probably be doing a lot more reflecting as the end of January approaches…maybe I’ll make a list of the various ways I’ve changed during my time in Korea. That could be interesting…:)

Aaahhhhh I still need to update on events from this fall SORRY GUYS, I’VE BEEN MEANING TO AAHHH!!!

 

There and back again: China edition!! October 7, 2014

WOW it has been a long time since my last post!!! Good golly!! Lots to update on, but we’ll start with a monster post about my vacation to China….back in August. Gosh I’m so bad at this blogging thing…

ALRIGHT!! CHINA TRIP!!! Gather round everyone, its story time!!
So back in August, after we finished our schools’ English camps, Kati and I packed up, and headed to China for about 13 days! And….what an experience it was! It was an enjoyable, crazy, interesting and stress-filled trip! So, lets just recount the trip, shall we!? After a few weeks of stress prior to our trip, getting lodging and visas all lined up (and cutting it really close, time wise!) we set off for Beijing. We arrived in Beijing in the early afternoon, and took a deep breath before venturing out of the airport. I was rather terrified of China, simply because I knew like 3 words in Chinese (Hello, thank you, and I love you), and I don’t have the slightest clue how to read Chinese! So we headed to the taxi stand at the airport, being rather nervous that we would get scammed (we did), since we’d been warned about sketchy taxi drivers, but we got to our AirBnB host’s place after a little confusion and over-paying the taxi driver. 😡 Our host lived in a suburb of Beijing, that was relatively close to the airport, but about an hour out of the “downtown” area, by subway. Our host Blaire, spoke English very well, and was extremely helpful, and helped us figure out the subway, and gave us advice on how to shop, or where to shop, and how not to get scammed in market places etc. So we just chilled at her place the first evening and visited a convenience store to test out some Chinese snacks!
2014-08-02 19.20.44
The next day, we went into the downtown area, and visited the outside of the Forbidden City. You had to pay to go in, and we’d heard that it’s not actually that exciting, so we just sort of stood outside, and took a few pictures, haha!

4  6a

We then pushed through about 394,027 groups of tourists, and decided to find a place to eat, because it was around lunch time, and it was SUPER HOT and humid, and we did not want to be outside anymore. So we walked a bit, found a little restaurant, got a plate of noodles to share, which seemed a lot more expensive than we expected, and we realized something rather horrid. We didn’t bring enough money with us. Before we left, we asked friends who had lived in/been to China, how much things will cost, so we could figure out how much money to take with us. People were like “Oh yeah, things are really cheap! You can get a meal for like three dollars!” Well…even though they said dollars, we often use “dollars” interchangeably with whatever the native currency is. Like sometimes instead of saying “korean won” we’ll say “dollars” instead, simply because it makes more sense in our head. Well…we sort of assumed (maybe stupidly) that people were meaning three Chinese dollars per meal. They weren’t. They literally were giving us American currency prices, instead of Chinese currency prices. We did not realize this. A meal that was around $5 USD, was more like 25-30 RNB.
(Some Chinese money)
3
So basically, we did not bring near as much money as we should have. Soooo, we sat in this little restaurant, trying to figure out what to do. We calculated how much we could spend per day to last the whole trip, and it was going to require us to live rather sparingly, not doing much shopping/souvenir hunting, and reserving our money mostly for food/transportation/entrance tickets to things, if we could afford it. Not how we would have liked to spend a vacation! So we headed out, walked a little bit more, trying to not worry too much, and made it like 5 minutes before deciding it was too hot again, and walked into a tourist information center (that was air-conditioned). There we ended up scheduling a tour to the Great Wall, and getting an English map of the city, and deciding to give ourselves a little more wiggle room by deciding to use my American debit card and get some more cash out near the end of our trip. When we went to Japan, we were able to wander mostly on our own. We liked the idea of staying away from tours, which only show you the touristy things, and do our own exploring, and actually see the country. But after only half a day in Beijing, we realized it was beyond our desires to try navigate ourselves to the Great Wall alone, and thus, booked a day-trip tour. But we’ll get to that. After the tourist information center, we walked a bit, down to a well-known shopping district known as Wangfujing, where we mostly just window shopped, and walked into stores simply because they had air conditioning!
A few pics of Wangfujing, a snake charm I bought (Which I later lost), and a Chinese Subway. For kicks!
7a 8 9 10

Unfortunately, we didn’t stay in Wangfujing super long, because Kati started feeling sick, probably from a combination of the heat, humidity, air pollution, new food, and stress of money issues, and we headed back home early so she could rest. The next day, (she felt much better) we decided to try find the Summer Palace. We were told that it is beautiful, and would be a great place to go have a picnic. We thought that sounded like a great idea, so we started the long trek across Beijing to see the Summer Palace. By the time we got there—it was raining. We came out of the subway station and couldn’t quite figure out where to go… so we wandered a little bit in a few different directions, and decided to follow some other touristy looking people, who turned out to not be tourists. Ha! We got ourselves a little lost in the backstreets of Beijing, but after back tracking a little bit, we eventually found our way back the main road. By this point we were wet (despite the ponchos we bought), and irritated at everything. We asked a girl on the street, hoping she knew English. Luckily she did, and pointed us in the right direction. We finally made it to the entrance, but couldn’t figure out where to buy tickets…and we wandered around some more, getting even more irritated. “Go to the Summer Palace,” they said. ‘It will be fun,” they said!!! Raaagghh. FINALLY, we just decided to go in one gate, which took ended up taking us to the correct place, and we bought the cheapest ticket and went in, amongst the other crowds of tourists. We got stopped a few times by other Chinese tourists, and were asked for a picture. Probably because a lot of the tourists were families from the country side, and had never seen a foreigner before. We got stopped probably 5 times at the Summer Palace alone, and I also noticed a guy trying to discretely take a picture of us, haha! It had stopped raining while we were there, so we ditched our ponchos, and walked round the grounds. Despite our trouble finding it, I do recommend going there, should you ever go to Beijing. It was really beautiful, and I wish we had about 3 more hours to explore and walk around the huge lake behind the palace.
Here are some pictures of the palace:
12a12d 12c  12f 13 14 14b 15 15c 15c1 15d 15j 15l 15p
We spend maybe two hours there, and then started to get hungry, so we left to go find a certain restaurant my cousin had told us about. Long story short, we had vague information as to the whereabouts of this place, and we got lost, gave up on our hunt, and begrudgingly went to a KFC, before going home after a rather frustrating day! Bluh. The last full day in Beijing, was our Great Wall tour. We got up early, made our way to the meeting spot where the tour bus was theoretically supposed to pick us up, and waited. It neared the time when they were supposed to pick us up…didn’t see a bus. We had already put a down payment on the tour when we made our reservation, and we were praying that we didn’t get scammed, when a chipper sort of man walked up to us, asked if we were the two Americans that were taking the tour, we said yes after confirming our names, and he said to follow him. So we did, and he led us around the corner and down to a bus/van thing sitting by the road near an overpass. Haha Kati and I were looking at each other like …what martial arts do you know? You know self defense right?… He opened the van door and we saw an older American couple, and another younger couple who turned out to be Italian, already in the van. Turns out it was a completely legit tour, just…rather low key haha. The tour included the Ming Tombs, a Jade museum, the Great Wall and a tea shop. So we took off towards the tombs first, and our chipper tour guide began explaining things, in a very thick accent. If I hadn’t lived in Asia for a year and a half already, and wasn’t accustomed to understanding accented English, I feel like there’s no way I would have been able to understand him! But anyway, he was a very enthusiastic fellow. We arrived at the Ming Tombs, looked around a bit, and learned that the Chinese used to bury their deceased nobility similarly to how the Egyptians did, but rather than all their belongings buried with them inside a pyramid, it was more of a palace-like tomb. Pretty interesting….And here’s a few pictures at the Ming tombs that do not give you a good idea of the tombs at all…
16a 16b
We then went to a the jade museum, where we saw some jade carvings that we didn’t know were remotely possible to carve out of jade, and looked around the show room at all the super expensive, yet beautiful jade carvings, and headed on our way again. We stopped for lunch at a very touristy Chinese restaurant. Here, Kati and I realized how we have changed living in an Asian country for so long. Our tour guide ordered for us, and we were brought a variety of Chinese dishes, most of which Kati and I dug into right away, whereas the other two couples were unsure of it all. They asked for an English menu so they could identify all the foods, and took a few minutes poking at each dish before they tried it. Hahaha! I have long forgotten my foreigner curiosity when it comes to food. Unless I have never seen the substance before, I will usually be pretty content with trying most things. Thank you Korea for making me an adventurous food eater.
18
After we had stuffed ourselves, we headed up the mountain to the cable car. We went to the section of the Great Wall called Mutianyu. I’m just going to say right now—if you ever go to the Great Wall, GO TO MUTIANYU!!!!! It is far less crowded than Badaling, which is probably the most famous part, but it is packed with people. Also, you get to take a cable car (more like a ski lift) up to the wall, and if you’re not boring, there’s a slide you can take back down. Yes, a slide. You get your own little sled sort of thing, and you can control the speed of it, and you just…ride down the slide and it is AWESOME!!! I would probably go back just so I could ride the slide again, ha!! You can watch a video of the slide >>here<< So we looked around on the Great Wall for a few hours, boggled at its glory, and took a gazillion pictures. Here are some of them!!
19 23 23b 24 25 26b 26c 26f 26g
Then we headed to the slide to return to the bottom of the mountain….or I guess the bottom of that mountain peak? Anyway, we went back down to the base, where the parking lots/ticket boxes/restaurants were, met up with the rest of our tour group, and headed to our last destination, which was Dr. Tea. Dr Tea is a place the specializes in Chinese teas, and you can go there and taste different teas, and they’ll tell you about them all, and why they are good for you, etc. It was pretty fun, and the teas were all really great, but a little expensive. And since we were on a tight budget, we did not buy any tea. Instead we each just bought a pretty little tea cup. I would recommend going to Dr. Tea just for the experience of tasting properly brewed tea and learning about the healing/health qualities of different kinds of tea, but— don’t buy any of it. I learned after we returned from China, that the teas they sell are kind of a scam I guess. They are super overpriced, and are not as fresh or high quality as they say they are. They stuff they let you taste is the good quality stuff, but the stuff you buy apparently isn’t. So…go try the teas, then go somewhere else to buy them. Haha! After Dr. Tea, the tour bus dropped us all back off where they picked us up, and we head back to our host’s place to start packing up again. That evening, Blaire made some Chinese food for her, her husband, and her sister (all of which lived in the apartment), and they had extra, and they let us join them for dinner. 🙂 Turns out Blaire’s husband also spoke English pretty well, and we chatted with the two of them over homemade dinner.

The next day we left Beijing, but not until the evening, so we fit one more stop in our Beijing trip. We had been told of this 798 Art District, which was supposedly really cool. Blaire’s husband knew where it was, and accompanied us most of the way there, since it was on his way to work. After a short time of wandering, we found it. It was indeed pretty awesome! It was a few blocks filled with galleries, little craft stores, studios and restaurants. There was graffiti on the street walls, sculptures everywhere, and a bunch of whimsical little touches. Kati and I felt right at home! 🙂 We found a map of the area in one of the little shops, and discovered that there was at one point a sort of “gallery hop” or “art walk” thing in the area, and there was a small book you could take around to all the places and get a stamp to show you’ve been there. Kati decided to get one, and that became our guide for the area, and we walked around, seeing how many stamps we could get. After an hour or two of exploring the awesome area, and buying a few little trinkets, we stopped at an American style burger place for lunch before heading back for the last time before our departure. Blaire helped us catch a (reliable) taxi to the airport, and we set off for Zhangjiajie!

Zhangjiajie (pronounced kind of like Jang-jee-uh-jee-eh) was probably the most challenging part of the entire trip! It was definitely an experience! It didn’t start off super smoothly either! The flight to Zhangjiajie was probably the scariest flight I’ve ever been on. It was dark out, there were thunderstorms around us, we could see lightening flashing out the windows, and it didn’t help that there was some sort of scary movie playing on the TV screens in the plane!!! We were seriously like making our peace with the world and hoping our families all knew we loved them! I had to take deep breaths multiple times throughout the flight! We were probably the last flight into this [TINY] airport, around 10 pm. Zhangjiajie is very much a country town. We wanted to go there because of the “floating mountains” that were near by, but we didn’t realize how tricky it would be. Since we got in so late, there were no buses that could take us into the city, so we had to rely on taxis. And of course…late at night, all the scamming taxis were out. They were all refusing to use the meter, and were trying to charge us like three times as much as it should have cost. We also didn’t have working phones, so our only hope was to show the taxi driver our host’s number, and have them call her and negotiate for us, if the agreed to. Basically, it took us probably 45 minutes to find a reliable taxi, and after a lot of stress, we made it into town, met our host, and settled into their lovely little place. They had an 11 year old daughter, who allowed us to take over her room for the duration of our trip, and they also had an adorable little toy poodle, named Coffee, who was made of nothing but energy. The wife, Eileen, had been and English teacher, and spoke good English, her husband and daughter didn’t speak much at all, but were very helpful nonetheless! Eileen wrote down a bunch of Chinese phrases for us to show people if we needed help, and she gave us a phone to use to call her if needed at any point in time, since she had to work during the day. The first day, we slept in, and explored the surrounding area a bit. We were going to try go up a mountain right by the city, but it was rainy and foggy, and wouldn’t have been worth it, so we just bought the tickets (with vast amounts of help from Eileen’s husband, and Eileen on the phone), and explored Zhangjiajie a bit. That evening, Eileen took us to the supermarket, where we bought food to take to the mountain the next day, so we wouldn’t have to buy the overpriced tourist food.
A few pics of Zhangjiajie from our first adventure around the area:
37 2014-08-07 16.49.4737a
So the next morning, we walked to the cable car entrance, which was a few minutes walk from the house. There, we waited in line for about an hour and a half, to get on the cable car! The cable car ride was maybe 10 minutes long, and took us up into clouds! That day was also rather cloudy/foggy, so…we really couldn’t see the nice views that were supposed to be awesome. 😦 So that was a bummer. But we hiked around the mountain anyway, and found a really cool temple at the top, and walked along a fault line in the earth o_o.
The mountain was called Tianmen Mountain. Here’s some shots of that day:

The red ribbons had prayers or wishes written on them. We each bought one and wrote some messages and tied them somewhere on the mountain too. ^^
Despite being able to see any views really, the mountain itself was pretty cool. After a couple hours of hiking, we decided to start heading back down to the cable car, but tried to take a different trail there…it only sort of worked, and we sort of halfway got lost in the mountain, until we found our way back to the first trail we had taken, and decided to just take that back. We got in the cable car with a group of 4 or 5 other tourists, who we discovered to be Korean! One of the men saw a Kpop pin on my bag that had Korean written on it, and he asked me about it. We talked with them a bit, in Korean, and it was great!!! It was like a little taste of home! Well…not really home, but home enough!! Halfway down the cable car, there was another stop to go see some other part of the mountain, which we didn’t want to see, but they made us get off the cable car anyway. We thought maybe they just made everyone get off and take an alternate way down? So we got off, and saw everyone getting in line for a bus. We tried to ask if it goes down, and they said no, but the other Korean tourists told us to get on anyway, so in a moment of confusion we just got on the bus, which started driving back up the mountain. Kati and I were sitting there laughing just out of tiredness and the hilarity of what was happening. We just came down the mountain, why are we going back up!!!?! *cries* The bus took us to another popular sight-seeing point, which was this big hole right through the mountain. There’s this big staircase that leads up to it, and it’s supposed to be an awesome view, but it was so foggy, you couldn’t see a thing, so we got off the bus, and got right back in the line to get back on! So we went back down to the cable car…and waited in line. Again. For another hour! While in line, we saw some people who stayed on the cable car and didn’t get off at this halfway mark. We could have done that!?!! Then why did they make us get off and add another 2 hours to our trip!?!?! Bah!!! Whatever. We were tired and hungry and irritated, so once we rode the cable car back down, we went home, ate some dinner, and chilled with our host family for the evening. We discovered that in China, they looooove TV shows that involve children. Like talent sort of shows, like “America’s Got Talent” or “The X Factor”, but Chinese versions, and for kids under like 16 years old. Child stars run rampant in China! Ha! Apparently the most popular boy band in China right now has three members, all of which are no older than 14 years old. But people love them!!They’re called the TFBoys, and their biggest fan base was not teenage girls, but middle aged women! Apparently one of the reasons they were loved so much is because I guess the boys are the ideal image of good Chinese kids. They were apparently top in their classes in school, they’re talented, famous and successful… the ideal child every mother wants. And a lot of the younger crowd (but older than the boys) also like them because they’re cute, and they’re seen as younger siblings that everyone wants to care for. We were sort of mind-blown as to how young these boys are and that they are so very famous already! O_O
Anyway…The next day, we went to go see the Floating Mountains. If you’ve ever seen the movie “Avatar” with the big blue alien creatures, the “Hallelujah Mountains” in that movie were based off of the Floating Mountains in Zhangjiajie. These mountains are like tall cylindrical rock formations, that, when the clouds are right, sort of look like they are floating. Cool right?? This is what they’re supposed to look like:

or like this on a clearer day:

Well we were determined to try see these mysterious mountains, so we got on a bus, (and were only about 75% sure it was the correct bus, we had to ask an innocent bystander for help identifying the bus we were supposed to take) and rode it for maybe 45 minutes-1 hour, and got off. It turned out to be the correct bus. We took a short taxi ride to the base of the mountain, where we bought cable car tickets, and hopped on a free bus that took us to the cable car. At this point, we weren’t too hopeful…it was foggy and cloudy. Yet again. But, we were already there, so we kept on going. We waited in line for this cable car for at least an hour again.
They happily let you know that this is where part of Avatar was taken from ^^

We were the only foreigners in sight, which drew lots of attention from some of the natives surrounding us. We could tell they were talking about us, a couple times someone said something, and people would laugh. We were getting irritated that these people were talking about us when we clearly didn’t understand what they were talking about. One man who seemed to be enjoying the situation spoke to us in Chinese at one point. Out of irritation, I just said “English!!” And his posse sort of laughed at him then. They then started attempting to talk to us in broken English. Turns out they were actually pretty friendly, but just didn’t know much English. There was a middle school aged girl next to us, who had been studying English a decent amount and she sort of translated for us and the surrounding people as much as she could. Of course, they all wanted pictures with us, since we were rare foreigners. By the time we got to the cable car, the young girl who was translating seemed to want to stay with us, so she stayed back and let her family go first, so she could get in the same car we were in! This was another 10 minute-ish cable car ride, hiiigh in the mountains. We still couldn’t very far, but the car took us right past some of these tall rock formations, and it was pretty cool to see them appearing out of the mist right next to us!

We got to the top, and wandered around some little touristy village places where you can get pictures taken with the mountains in the background, or buy little Chinese trinkets. We shopped around a little bit, and a young woman who could speak English, came to us and made sure we knew we could bargain, so we wouldn’t get ripped off. I got a necklace for half the original price, and Kati bought a hand carved hair comb for 1/3 of the original price! Ha! Neither of us are familiar with bargaining for things, and our methods of bargaining basically consisted of the merchant telling us a price, and then us walking away slowly saying its too expensive, then the merchant yelling for us to come back, telling us a discounted price. Haha! I think the proper way to do it is like..actually bargaining back and forth, but…hey whatever works, right?!?!
Eileen had told us a good way to go once on the mountain, but we didn’t have a map of the mountain trails. We figured (wrongly) that maybe the trails would all eventually lead to the same place, cuz, ya know, it’s a mountain out in the middle of nowhere right? Wrong. We stupidly decided to take a trail off to the side of the main one, for whatever reason, just to see if it happened to be nicer or something. It wasn’t. We started going down a bunch of stairs, thinking they would go back up again or at least flatten out or something. They didn’t. Stairs, stairs and more stiars, going down down doowwwnnnn. There were a few signs along the way showing us our location, but they were all in Chinese, and we couldn’t figure out what they meant. So we kept going down, thinking “SURELY we won’t be going down the whole time right!?!? These have to flatten out at some point!? What kind of trail is this?!” We stopped after maybe an hour at a little area that seemed to be a resting point, and we snacked a bit and gave our knees a rest. We met the same girl who told us to bargain, at this resting area. We talked to her a little more, and she informed us that we were about 3/4 of the way down the mountain. After just being happy we were almost through with these forsaken stairs, we went on our way again, and after maybe 20 more minutes, we made it to the bottom!!! There were some food stands, and artists selling little hand-made things, and a cage of a few monkeys! I got a sweet corn-flavored ice cream bar (it wasn’t good), and we went over to see the monkeys. There were about 5 of them in this metal/cement cage, with no plants or trees in it…just a few bars and cement blocks. It was actually rather sad, and the poor monkeys looked rather depressed too…it didn’t help that people in China and Korea seem to not know zoo etiquette. Like, you know if you go to the zoo, you’re not supposed to try feed the animals, no sticking your hands or fingers in the cages, don’t provoke the animals…Well people were doing all those things. Especially kids. People would throw left over food into the cage. Kids were screaming at the monkeys to try get a reaction. Kids were also sticking their hands in the cage (and their parents were letting them!!) and one of the monkeys actually tried to bite the kid’s hand, and they jumped back all surprised. What did you expect?!?! Ugh. We didn’t stay long, we were getting too sad and irritated at people. So we went to try find our way out of the mountains, and couldn’t figure it out (surprise, surprise!!). Luckily, we ran into our friend yet again, who figured out that we have to take this little rail train out to the parking lot where the free busses we. So she helped us get tickets for this little train, and we got on, and after a 15 minute, very slow ride through the mountains, we got off at the parking lot, where we would have jumped up and down, had our legs allowed us. So basically, we took the cable car up the mountain, and then walked down. For about 2 1/2-3 hours. Stairs. We were rather disappointed that we didn’t see a lot of what we could have, had we been smart and taken the main path, and also bummed that it was cloudy and we couldn’t see anything anyway, but we were tired and just ready to head home! So we did just that. I’m not sure how we figured out how to get back exactly, with little to no English anywhere, but we did, thank the Lord!
Some pictures of our disappointing Floating Mountains visit…
“Oh yeah, look at this awesome view!!”

That evening, Eileen asked if there were any foods we wanted to try while in China. We had heard about “hot pot” and wanted to try it, so Eileen and her husband actually drove us to a hot pot restaurant in town, helped us order, then waited outside for us until we were finished eating!! They were so nice. The hot pot (soup with a variety of vegetables and meat in it) was DELICIOUS. Korea has their own version of it, but its not as good in my opinion. I want to try find a Chinese place that has hot pot cuz oh my goodness, soo good!! Here’s a picture of the hot pot broth before we put the meat and veggies in…I forgot to take any pictures of the finished product, probably since we were too busy consuming it…

Anyway, we spend the rest of the evening packing up our things, and getting ready to head to our last destination..the one we were looking forward to the most!!! Qingdao!!!
We got up early in the morning, since our flight left soon after 6 a.m. Eileen got us a cab to the airport. There were only two counters open, I think ours was the only flight going out at that point in time haha. There were only 6 boarding gates in the whole place, and ours was the only occupied one. Security consisted of putting your bags through the detector, then walking through one, shoes and all; I even forgot to take out my bag of liquids, and they didn’t even check it. Haha. So we got on the little plane, and flew 30 minutes to Changsha, where we had a stop-over, and then got back on the plane for 2 more hours to Qingdao! Changsha is the hometown of one of my favorite members of EXO, so I took a picture of a picture of him in the Changsha airport 😀 dont mind me, i’m a dork

We were looking forward to Qingdao (like Cheeng-dow, like “ow!!”) the most, because it is a coast-city, and we didn’t have many solid plans for our time there. We were hoping to just sort of relax and go to the beach and go shopping and spend the last few days of vacation as an actual vacation, rather than an adventure through wild mountains, like the last place! Ha! (Don’t get me wrong, I like adventures, but after a lot of stressful experiences, we were ready to just chill!) We arrived at the airport, I got out some more money for both of us to use for the next few days, and once we connected to the Wi-Fi, we found out that our next host had not arrived at the airport yet, so we sat down at a KFC, and waited. I expected to be picked up by the woman who seemed to run the AirBnB page for the guest house we were staying at, but instead we were picked up by two college-aged girls and an older man. The man we discovered was the co-owner of the guest house, referred to as “Uncle”, but he spoke very little English, so he brought these two girls along, who could speak English a bit better. We originally thought that these girls worked at the guesthouse, but we later found out they were actually just guests who agreed to come pick us up!! Haha!!! I’m really glad they came though! They became our friends/tour guides for most of our time in Qingdao. They went by Olivia and Lucy, and they took us all over the place. We expected to go straight to the guest house from the airport, but instead they took us on a little drive through Qingdao, and then to the bay to look around a bit, and also to get some food. THEN we went to the guesthouse. Here are a few pics of our first impressions of Qingdao-

Our room was lovely and spacious, and right down the hall from Olivia and Lucy’s room. 🙂 We rested for an hour or two, then the four of us took a taxi to the beach! We had a lovely time building sand castles, and writing messages in the sand, and just chatting with Olivia and Lucy and learning about them….There were sooooo many people on the beach!!
Olivia and Lucy writing messages in the sand..

After we’d had enough of the beach, Olivia called back to the guesthouse, and a young fellow who was the son or nephew or something of the owners came and picked us up and took us back home. The owner woman (who we called Aunt) was a lovely lady who didn’t speak English, but was very hospitable, and wanted to cook homemade Chinese food for us all the time, so she made us dinner. It was….a lot of sea food, which I don’t like that much, but it was still pretty good! I just appreciated that she was so willing to cook entire meals for us! Multiple times! After we were full of lovely food, Olivia, Lucy and “big brother” (the young guy who picked us up from the beach) went out to norebang! Or whatever they call it in China. I had lyrics to a Chinese song on my phone, written in pinyin (romanized Chinese), so I sang that song, reading the lyrics off my phone instead of off the screen haha. It was a good time, but I got tired real fast! After a good amount of time singing all kinds of stuff, we headed back home and crashed. Good first day in Qingdao!!
Streets of Qingdao at night…

The next day, Olivia and Lucy were going to meet up with some friends who lived in Qingdao and go to a beer festival on the beach. I don’t like beer, but the rest of the crew did, and we had no other plans, so heck! We decided to tag along. But we arrived at the festival, walked around a bit and realized that it was going to be rather lame, so we all went into town, did a bit of shopping, and then headed to lunch. We originally thought we were going to Olivia’s friend’s house for lunch, but somewhere along the line, plans changed and we ended up at this fancy restaurant, where we each got our own little hot pot dish. It was a glorious meal, and gloriously expensive, but the friends of Olivia and Lucy paid for the whole meal!!! They said we were guests to their country so they wanted to treat us. We didn’t realize how expensive the meal was until later that evening, after we had said goodbye them. These guys were college students, and they paid for a fancy meal for six people, and didn’t even flinch about it. QINGDAO PEOPLE ARE SO NICE!!!!
Lunch with Oliva, Lucy, and their two friends:

After lunch, we said goodbye to the wonderful gentlemen who bought our lunch, and us four girls went shopping around a bit more before heading back home to rest a bit. That evening, Uncle drove the four of us to a sort of boardwalk place by the ocean, where we meandered a while, enjoying the night air and chatting, then he dropped us off at an outdoor Chinese barbecue place for dinner, and Olivia and Lucy showed us a nice time there too. 🙂 We went shopping a bit more after dinner, then headed home, since Olivia and Lucy were leaving the next day and had to pack up their things.
Kati and Lucy at the board walk place…

Qingdao at night:

The next morning, we sadly said goodbye to Olivia and Lucy, and they went on their way. This was our last day in Qingdao and we only had one mission. There was a certain beach we wanted to find, cuz we’d seen pictures of it and it looked nice, so with the help of Uncle, we found the beach, hung out for a bit, but not super long, since it took so long to find it haha! (There’s only about 30,924,832 beaches in Qingdao.) We grew accustomed to communication problems in China, and we encountered another one yet again that day. Ha. We thought that we were going to go home after the beach, but Uncle kept taking us to a bunch of random other places along the coast, like nice look-out points with views of the city and stuff, which was all nice and all but…not what we wanted to do! We had a bit of trouble communicating that we just wanted to go home!! We actually just wanted time to go shopping again before we left the next day, but by the time we ended up getting home, we were tired and ended up just chilling for a while before deciding to go try find dinner somewhere. We didn’t really want to try figure out a Chinese place by ourselves, and wanted something familiar, (we were more than ready to go back to Korea, as much as we loved Qingdao…). So we managed to ask Aunt if there was a pizza hut around, and she ended up accompanying us there! I thought we were going to have to try find it ourselves (again…wasn’t in the mood), but Aunt is lovely and took us there, just to be nice. 🙂 We spent the meal going through our little Chinese-English dictionary, and she taught us how to properly pronounce some of the phrases (yes, the last day of vacation), and it was a good time with her.
Adventures from that day:


We went back to the guest house after dinner, packed up our things, and prepared for our vacation to end the next day!
The next morning, after breakfast made by Aunt, she took us to a hotel where there was a bus that was supposed to go to the airport that we were going to catch. We left with plenty of time, and thought it would be a smooth transition, and we’d make it back to Korea and it would all be grand. HAHAHA!!!. Of course it wouldn’t be that easy, right?!? This is China! This is a vacation! You can’t get out that easily!! Ha! Ok so….We got to the hotel, the bus was there, there were empty seats but….we couldn’t buy tickets. I don’t know why, and I don’t think Aunt knew why either. There was a small crowd of other people also wanting tickets, who also did not get them, and there was a lot of arguing and whatnot in Chinese. Kati and I stood there like “….I have no idea what you all are saying, but can we get this figured out so we can catch our flight please??…” At this point, all we wanted in life was to be back in Korea!!! I still don’t know how it happened, but we ended up in the car with Aunt and Uncle and some other random dude, and they drove us to the airport. We got there, checked in, we had enough time, it was all going to be good…Then we couldn’t find the correct security check point. There was a checkpoint for domestic flights, so we were like, Ok that’s not it. We found another security check that wasn’t really labeled, so we got in that line, waited for 15-20 minutes, only to be told that this also was not the correct line for us. NOW I started to panic a bit. Time was getting short, and we had still not found the correct security checkpoint for international flights! We tried asking for help, but the lady just like gestured over the way we came and said something about the check in counters. We were already checked in, and we told her that, but she just looked like she wanted to get rid of us and again said “check in counters.” We were like What the crap!?! So we walked over there and looked around for any clues (this airport was really poorly marked, I might add), I walked to the check in desk to ask them, and Kati found another person to ask, and discovered that the international security check was off to the side behind a little wall of sorts. So we went through the first little check point, went to customs, where we had to fill out a little customs form, and go through security again. By this point, the boarding time had started about ten minutes ago and no one was left at our gate, so we just ran straight there and got on the plane, and sat down in bad moods due to all the confusion, and lack of time to stock up on Chinese snacks and make use of our Chinese money before we left BUT WHATEVER!! We landed in Korea, and nearly jumped up and down at the fact that we could use our phones again, as well as Facebook, Youtube and Google, all of which are banned in China. Let me tell you, I had never been happier to be in Korea! I could understand people again! I knew this culture! I knew the language (more or less)! I could communicate! I could use my bank card again! Everything was a million times easier to do in Korea, and I was so happy to hear Korean being spoken everywhere!!! It was wonderful. 🙂 I love Korea.
For a while after we got back, if I would hear Chinese being spoken anywhere, I was like “No stop! I don’t want to hear it!!” Haha. So basically…China was a good experience, but it was really stressful! If I ever go back, I want to go back to Qingdao. If I go anywhere else, I will not go unless I have a tour guide or someone who can navigate for me! When we went to Japan, we were able to navigate around on our own fairly easily, and it was a lot of fun, and an enjoyable adventure. But I don’t know what it was about China that made it SO much harder to travel as foreigners. It was hard! Thus I would be willing to go back to China on a tour or something, but not on my own, no way!

So there you have it. We went there, had many adventures, and came back again. There and back again, China edition. Didn’t see any real dragons though…