adventure

Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure # 32: Summer English Camp and the Last Days of Teaching

Last week I taught the last classes I will ever teach in Korea. (Though I suppose no one really knows the future, so maybe they won’t be the last!)

While the regular school semester ended on July 24th, one of the weird quirks of the contract for native English teachers is that we are still required to go to work from 8:30 to 4:30 every day over summer vacation, even though school is not in session. Every school is different in terms of what they expect their native teachers to be doing during this time. Some schools will ask the teacher to teach some low-level classes to a small group of students who are behind, some will ask teachers to practice English with the students by calling them all at their homes, and almost all schools will require their native teacher to run an English camp that can last for anywhere between 2 days and 2 weeks.

Even with English camps and other classes, most teachers will end up with a lot of time doing what we call deskwarming. Sitting at our desks streaming TV shows and reading books because there is no real work to do, but we are still required to be physically present. Some days when I am desk warming I don’t see another living soul all day. (The regular teachers get vacation like the students do, so they might pop in and out occasionally to take care of something, but for the most part they are gone). Some teachers find this maddening. I don’t mind it so much since I feel like I’m basically getting paid to come sit at my desk and work on my own writing projects.

This summer is admittedly a little different because there’s so much packing and cleaning and sorting that needs to happen, so sitting at my desk for 8 hours really does feel like it’s wasting valuable time, but we are managing to squeeze everything in in the after-work hours and I think we’re going to make it. Wednesday is our last day of work. We’ll move out of our apartment Thursday morning and head to Seoul, then we’ll spend the night near the airport before flying to America on Friday. In the midst of all the busyness, I don’t know quite how to process all that it means to be leaving Korea permanently and to be returning back to a home that’s not quite our home.

This summer Jonathan and I each had a 3-day camp and we were able to help out at each others’ schools. His school is a bit bigger than mine and had about 4x the number of students attending, so it was significantly more stressful. My camp ended up only having 14 students total so it was very relaxed.

For camp we prepared themed lessons with special games and craft activities we wouldn’t normally have time or freedom to do within the normal curriculum. In the past I’ve done a Winter Olympics camp and a Harry Potter camp. This year we just did a bunch of random topics like music, sports, movies, dinosaurs, space, under the sea, pirates, and superheroes. As always, they liked some of the themes and activities more than others, but overall it seemed to go OK.

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My Co-teacher added all the cutesy stickers and fonts to the pictures. 🙂

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This is the big rock outside of my school. It says "Daegu Ehyun Elementary School" in case you were wondering.

This is the big rock outside of my school. It says “Daegu Ehyun Elementary School” in case you were wondering.

How cute is my CoT? This is NOT the infamous CoT, by the way. This is my other adorable, sweet and very helpful CoT, May.

How cute is my CoT? This is NOT the infamous CoT, by the way. This is my other adorable, sweet and very helpful CoT, May.

And so ends my two years of teaching in a Korean elementary school. While I’m ready for a break from teaching, I know I’ll miss these sweet little faces. I’ve learned so many things about teaching, about the world, about myself, about Jonathan, and about God during these years and although sometimes they have been very hard, they have been richly rewarding and fulfilling. Besides our decision to get married, both Jonathan and I consider Korea the best decision we ever made, even when we’ve hated it. This experience has shaped us profoundly and I believe it will continue to do so even as we move on to a new adventure.

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can also click this button to read other bloggers’ adventures. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few. If you missed last week’s adventure about my trip up Daegu Tower and out to a Korean village, you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure #31: Daegu Tower and the Korean Countryside

This past week has been jam-packed with activities. Not only have we been busy packing, selling furniture, running summer camps, and making arrangements for our move, we’ve also been doing our best to have lots of Korean adventures. Our friends Josh and Laura have a friend of theirs visiting from the US which has given us extra opportunities to do more touristy things, like finally going to the top of the Daegu Tower.

Most of the bigger cities in Korea have a tower with an observatory at the top for seeing the city. Seoul has Namsan Tower and Busan has Busan Tower, etc.. Daegu Tower (technically I think it’s name is the Woobang Tower or 83 Tower) is supposedly the tallest one in Korea structure-wise, but since the one in Seoul is on top of a mountain, it’s much higher elevation-wise. Daegu Tower is located in/behind an amusement park called Eworld. It’s one of the places we’ve always said we should go sometimes and have just never gotten around to, so we were excited to check it off our list.

Picture comparing the size of different towers.  I don't think these are to scale...

Picture comparing the size of different towers. I don’t think these are to scale…

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It looks so different from above!

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One of our Korean friends who we used to see regularly at our house church recently moved out of Daegu and into a smaller rural town. She invited us to visit her there and we wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to see her one last time and also to enjoy the Korean countryside which is quite beautiful. The drive 1 1/2 hour drive to her town was so beautiful and peaceful –  a completely different side of Korea from the one we experience in every day life.
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As part of our visit, she took us to a national park in which is home to a famous temple. While it’s been unmercifully hot and humid here, we did most of our walking around in the late afternoon and early evening which made the heat a little more bearable and made for some spectacular lighting.

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This particular temple (Haeinsa Temple) is important because it houses many of the original Korean printing blocks that were made over a thousand years ago. Korea was the first country to use printing presses, hundreds of years before Gutenberg came along. The printing blocks are stored in buildings that use ancient technologies for keeping them dry and protecting from heat and cold.

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Although the traffic jam on the way home made our return bus ride a lot longer than our trip there, it was completely worth it to get to spend some time in the country, to see one last temple, and to say goodbye to our friend.

We are 10 days from our return to America and I don’t think my heart could be any more full of longing – longing for home and at the same time longing for all of this to never end.

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few – no pressure. If you missed last week’s adventure about checking out the Daegu Chicken and Beer Festival you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

Fifty-two Weeks of Adventure #30: Daegu Chicken and Beer Festival

This past week was the second annual Chimac festival in Daegu. Chimac is a made-up word jamming together “Chicken” and “Mekju” which is the Korean word for beer. This festival is a marriage of two of Korea’s favorite things, fried chicken and cheap beer.

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The festival was held in Duryu Park, a large park just one subway stop from our place. I went to the festival with some girl friends on Friday night and scoped out the situation. Then Jonathan and I returned on Saturday afternoon and hung out for a few hours. Is there anything more fun than summer festivals? It doesn’t even matter what they’re for, I just enjoy sitting outside, listening to music, and enjoying the festival foods.

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Potato spiral proved a but tricky to eat without impaling the roof of my mouth.

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As you can see, there were tents for food and drinks EVERYWHERE so there was no shortage of options. We had fried chicken and kebab and a potato spiral. There were also several tents with craft beers from small local breweries. As popular as beer is in Korea (Korea has a VERY strong drinking culture), they primarily drink one of two beers, Cass or Hite, both of which are sort of the equivalent of Bud light or Miller. Very light and very mellow. We tried a Heffeweisen from one of the craft brew tents that wasn’t bad. It reminded me of our life in Raleigh, which feels like a thousand years ago, because  North Carolina is just bursting with little independent breweries.

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Jonathan was getting artsy.

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We watched a couple of performances as it started to get dark, including these girls who were pretty bad at dancing and later a band comprised of what looked like 6th grade girls plus one boy who was the drummer. I was much more impressed by them.

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How cute are they?

Being at the festival made us very nostalgic about our time in Korea and a little sad about leaving. In particular I think we will miss living in a big city and having unique cultural experiences at our fingertips. We spent a while dreaming about the places we might go in the future. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from our whole Korea adventure it’s that you really never know where your life might end up if you stay open to possibilities.

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Of course, no festival is complete without the dancing light-up beer bottle!

View of Daegu Tower at night. Which we are hoping to go up to the top of in the next week!

View of Daegu Tower at night. Which we are hoping to go up to the top of in the next week!

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few – no pressure. If you missed last week’s adventure about our final trip to Seoul you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure #28: Hiking Palgongsan, Featuring Lawrence the Slug

One thing we love about Korea is the mountains. I grew up in Louisiana which is so flat, part of it is actually below sea level, and hubby grew up in Indiana, which is possible even flatter. When we lived in North Carolina we loved that the land had a roll to it with lots of small hills and there were real mountains within an hour’s drive or so. Here in Daegu, we live in a geographic bowl surrounded on all sides by mountains. You can see them any direction you look and you can hike most of them. When we move back to the US we’ll be in South Carolina which might have a few hills, but doesn’t have mountains, and I know we will really miss seeing them every day.

On Saturday we went hiking at Palgongsan which is the tallest mountain in the Daegu area. We’ve only hiked to the summit once since it takes a solid 4 hours to do, but thankfully there are lots of smaller ridges and peaks you can hike to more easily and still get a nice view.

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The view from the highest place we climbed to.

We decided to go on Saturday because it had rained during the week and was supposed to rain again on Sunday so we wanted to take advantage of our window of opportunity. What we didn’t realize was that all of that rain made it unbearably humid and sweat was dripping from our fingers and elbows and noses within minutes.

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Apart from the heat and humidity, the hike we did wasn’t too strenuous and there were some temples and shrines along the way that we could stop at.

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We took my parents to this temple when they visited last year and at the time it was decorated with lanterns for Buddha’s birthday.

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The ubiquitous rock pile.

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A jillion tiny Buddhas! Dreams do come true!

We originally intended to continue on across a ridge to get to another peak, but as we headed that direction it started to thunder. Thunderstorms are extremely unusual here (at least down in the city) so we figured we should probably get off the mountain before it hit.

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We did get to see this amazing slug that was half the size of my hand. I shall call him Lawrence.

Since we only have four weekends left in Korea, this was probably our last time hiking at Palgongsan. Like everything these days, this was bittersweet. While I’ve moved many times in the past few years, this is the first time I’ll be moving away truly not knowing if I will ever come back to these places again. So while part of me is counting down the days, another part of me doesn’t quite know how to say goodbye. I am so thankful for the adventures we’ve had here, even as I look forward to the adventures to come.

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few – no pressure. If you missed last week’s adventure about our visit to the cat cafe, you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure # 27: Cat Cafe

Before we moved to Korea I remember reading blog posts about how popular pet cafes are here. Pet cafes, like the name implies, are coffee shops where you can enjoy a beverage while being surrounded by puppies and kitties. What could be better than sipping espresso while petting a fluffy kitty of twelve? Since arriving in Korea we’ve visited a few pet cafes and while it isn’t something most people would do every weekend, it is a unique and fun experience. We decided to go to one of our local cat cafes this weekend to get our cat fix and to experience something we won’t be able to do soon one more time.

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When you go into the cat cafe you take off your shoes and go through the gate. You wash your hands and pay the admission fee (8,000 won or about $8 USD) which includes a drink you select from the menu. Then you are free to roam around or settle wherever you’d like. There are special cat treats you can purchase if you want, but you don’t have to.

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The cats are very mellow and wander around as cats do, climbing on the tables and sprawling lazily on top of people’s bags at will. The whole thing is probably pretty unsanitary, but also fun.

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The ones that look really grumpy are kind of my favorites.

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I don’t think its angry, that’s just how its face looks.

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This little girl had treats.

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I want a fat orange cat so bad. I think we need another ginger in our family.

Personally, I prefer the cafes that only have cats. I’ve only been to one that had dogs (the cats and dogs were on separate floors) and I didn’t feel good about the dogs being in that environment. While they were undoubtedly well-fed and received more attention than some dogs, there were simply too many of them in too small of a space and I felt like they needed to be free to run around and to have an owner that cared for them and bonded with them. In contrast, I feel like the cats in the cat cafe are better off than a lot of cats in Korea. Cats aren’t nearly as popular of pets in Korea as dogs are and there are street cats EVERYWHERE so the cats in the cafe actually have a really great life compared to most cats in Korea. I actually saw a dead kitten in the road on my way to school last week which made me so sad. I feel that the cats in the cafes are well fed and they have all the fancy cat trees and cubbies and equipment they could want, so they can decide when they want to interact and can easily get away when they need alone time. They all seem to get along with one another really well and get lots of attention and they are all very gentle.

Pet Cafes aren’t exclusive to Korea (in fact, when we were in Japan there was a bunny cafe, but we didn’t go to it), but Korea is the first place that we ever encountered them and so we will always associate them with Korea. We may not be able to go to a cat cafe in America, but we’ll have something much better – we’ll be reunited with our own fur babies, Bart and Ruthie, who have been staying with friends for the past two years. We miss their little personalities and presence in our home and they are just one of the many, many things we are looking forward to about being back in America.

Can you believe that we’re more than halfway through the 52 Weeks of Adventure?! Be sure to check out my most faithful co-adventurers, Pradnya and Jenn who have both come so far on this journey and shared so many beautiful adventures.

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few – no pressure. If you missed last week’s adventure about our photo shoot with Laura you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

Fifty-two Weeks of Adventure # 26: Working That Camera

One of the best decision we made before coming to Korea was the decision to invest in a decent camera. We purchased a Canon Rebel T3i two years ago and it’s been such a great camera for amateurs wanting some higher quality pictures without the desire, time, or money to buy and learn to use professional grade equipment. One thing that’s been true about having our big camera is that while we get to take lots of great pictures of places we go or even of each other, we rarely get a chance to take good pictures together. For one thing, it isn’t easy to get good selfies with a big heavy camera. And it’s a bit harder to ask a random stranger to take a picture for you when in a foreign country, especially since a lot of people get intimidated by big cameras.

When we were back in the US we were so fortunate to have some good friends who are photographers. In fact, two of my roommates from college are now professional wedding and lifestyle photographers, so we had really talented friends who were able to take our engagement photos, wedding photos, and even an anniversary photo session for our second anniversary. (Check them out here and here!) Jonathan and I really wanted to take some updated photos together for our 5th anniversary and also to have some good photos together in Korea that weren’t just snapshots in front of tourist attractions. Luckily for us, one of our best friends here in Korea is (wait for it…) a photographer!

Our awesome friend Laura agreed to do some couples photos for us this weekend so that we could have some updated family photos that were also of us in Korea which will always be a big part of our lives and our story. We headed over to Laura’s side of Daegu for these pictures (about 50 minutes from us by bus) which we took on the campus of Kyungpook National University. Laura’s husband, Josh, agreed to stay home with their (almost) 11-month-old Genevieve so we could catch the late afternoon light.I’m so excited to share the photos with you, but for now, here are just a few teasers.

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Sidenote: Isn’t it totally unfair the way guys always look exactly the same no matter what? Like if they are a handsome guy, (like my hubby ;)), they are just handsome all the time. There’s no special preparation necessary, no deliberation over outfits, no fussing over their hair. Whereas I spent a long time picking a dress and fixing my hair and wearing special makeup, hubby got dressed and shaved his neck. His entire regimen took about 10 minutes. Sigh.

Laura also did a few headshots for me which was so great because the two I tend to use are 4-6 years old and, let’s face it, I really don’t look like I’m 21 anymore. 🙂 I’ll be switching out my bio picture on this site soon!

I’m so thankful to have these photos and to capture these memories of this time in our lives. I’ll share more of the photos once Laura’s finished with them.

If you’re interested in checking out some of Laura’s other work, be sure to visit her website. Josh, Laura, and Gen will be moving back to Kansas in August!

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few – no pressure. If you missed last week’s adventure about the hilarious Konglish writing we find everywhere you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

Fifty-two Weeks of Adventure #25: Adventures in Konglish

When we first arrived in Korea two years ago we were surprised to discover that there is English everywhere here. We were equally surprised to discover that the vast majority of it is grammatically incorrect, misspelled, or complete nonsense. The majority of store names, advertisements, and words on clothing are all written in English, though it’s clear that no one who actually speaks English was involved in their design or manufacture. To give you an analogy for what this is like, imagine if you went to the US (or England or another English-speaking country) and found that all of their stores had Chinese names and the people mostly wore clothes with Chinese characters on them, even though very few people spoke Chinese.

In our first few months we were constantly amused by this and tried to take pictures of especially funny examples when we found them, but if you live with anything for long enough it will start to seem normal. After a while we got used to all of the strange and bad English surrounding us and stopped noticing it as much.

On Sunday we met our friends downtown for lunch and decided to make a point to try to notice the ridiculous English we passed just on our way to the restaurant. Unfortunately some of the best examples are on people’s clothing and that’s much harder to get pictures of without being really rude, but we still found some gems without going out of our way.

Clothing store with this inspirational quote on it.

Clothing store with this inspirational quote on it.

Cafe Lucid

Contact Lens store

Contact Lens store

On the wall in one of our favorite restaurants.

On the wall in one of our favorite restaurants.

In addition to these signs we spotted on the go, I went back through my phone pictures and pulled out some favorites we have collected along the way.

Student's English notebook.

Student’s English notebook.

On the wall in the  English Village Learning Center

On the wall in the English Village Learning Center

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Best Coffee Cup of Life

Best Coffee Cup of Life

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Shirt I almost bought for my friend but resisted.

Shirt I almost bought for my friend but resisted.

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On a plastic surgery office. I’m hoping those “breasts” are the befores and not the afters….

This is on the wall in my English classroom.

This is on the wall in my English classroom.

And my all-time favorite – this tissue box found by a fellow native English teacher.

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I hope you enjoyed this week’s Adventures in Konglish. We are trying to remember to take more pictures of these things now that our time here is coming to an end. I know the photos will bring back memories and make us laugh for years to come.

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few – no pressure. If you missed last week’s adventure about our 5th anniversary trip to Busan you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure # 24: Anniversaries and Love Motels

On Saturday my husband and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary. I’ve been waiting for years to feel like a grown up. I kept thinking I would feel like one when I moved away from home, when I graduated from college, when I got married, when I got my first “real” job, when I moved across the world. But I have to confess that I’m often amazed that other people seem to think of me as an adult. Cause I just don’t see it most of the time. 🙂 I thought that perhaps a five-year wedding anniversary would be the kind of milestone that made me feel grown up. And I admit that this made me feel a little old. But then I ate nachos for dinner. So not really all that grown up.

Speaking of not grown up...these guys were just chilling on their stilts.

Speaking of not grown up…these guys were just chilling on their stilts.

For our anniversary, we spent the night in Busan, our favorite city in Korea. We stayed in a love motel near Haeundae Beach, one of Busan’s most popular areas. “Love motels” are a very common form of accommodation in Korea. As the name suggests, they are motels specifically marketed as places for couples to tryst. In Korea, most people marry in their late twenties to early thirties and people live with their parents until they get married, which means there aren’t a lot of options for couples to spend time together. Additionally, Korean families often sleep together in the same room, so even a married couple with a few young children might utilize a love motel for some alone time. Actually I’ve heard that a few years ago, there was some sort of law that required businesses to close mid-afternoon one day per week so that people would be encouraged to make more babies. There is something of a population crisis in Korea where the average family has only have one child, two maximum, which means they aren’t replacing themselves and the population is in decline. So the government invented a way to encouraged people to spend more “quality time” with their spouses. As far as I know, this is no longer in effect.

Some motels are themed and have interesting decor and others are essentially just like small mid-range hotels that happen to provide you with condoms. It may sound sketchy, but the love motels are often cleaner and nicer than hostels and are much more affordable than fancy hotels. The one we stayed at this time wasn’t themed, but it did have mirrors all over the place, including the ceiling. It also had a lovely bathtub which was easily my favorite part of the room since we don’t have a tub or even a proper shower in our apartment. (Like many Korean apartments, we simply have a “wet room” where our shower head is attached to the sink and you just stand in the middle of the bathroom to shower with no curtains or anything).

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It was pretty overcast the entire time we were in Busan, so while we spent a bit of time walking along the beach, the views weren’t the best we’ve seen. We did have a nice dinner in a restaurant near the beach that’s known for it’s Western menu where we had BBQ chicken sliders and a giant plate of nachos. Nothing gourmet, but certainly some comfort food.

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We tried so hard to selfie, but we weren't very good at it...

We tried so hard to selfie, but we weren’t very good at it…

This guy right here = most wonderful man in the world.

This guy right here = most wonderful man in the world. Also, so handsome!

It’s hard to believe we’ve been married for five years, but when we reflect on all that we’ve done and seen and the ways that we’ve changed and grown we have been amazed. I am beyond blessed to be married to such a kind, patient man who makes me laugh every day. We are as crazy about each other as we were when we were 19 and I never want to take that for granted. I’ve written a bit about my thoughts on marriage and why I think ours works so beautifully well, but I am still overwhelmed by the gift that it is and I’m pretty much fine with owning the fact that I have the most wonderful husband in the world. I am so humbled that he chose me and that he chooses me still, every single day.

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If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few – no pressure. If you missed last week’s adventure about the MERS scare in Korea you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

When Waiting Feels Like Free-Falling or How Trust is my Nemesis

I loathe dislike waiting with a fiery passion.

I know, I know. Does anyone really like waiting? But I REALLLLLLY don’t like it.

I’ve been living in a state of constant frustration lately. As we prepare for our international move, I am beyond ready to have things settled. I want to have a job set up and waiting for me when I arrive. I want to find an apartment or rental house for us to live in. I want to get rid of as much uncertainty as possible. Yet every time I try to take a step forward, people tell me I can’t. That I have to wait. I’ve applied for dozens of jobs and received the response, “Why don’t you get in touch with us once you’ve arrived.” Hubby and I have spent hours looking for a place to live only to be told, “It’s really too early for you to be looking at rentals.”

I can barely keep myself from shouting, “But we are leaving in 65 days! It does not feel too early! I need to know NOW!” 

This whole situation has brought out an embarrassingly juvenile side of myself.  I feel angry all the time. A few days ago I burnt dinner. Before my husband could even say anything, I glared at him and said, “If you want a new one you have to make it yourself. I’m not making another one.” And he did. (That guy is a saint, I tell you).

It’s like I’ve taken all of my frustrations about the things I can’t do and tried to balance them out by making certain that I let everyone know what I will and will not do in any situation where I have the choice.

See, I like to pretend that I’m an adventurous person. And from the outside, I can see how I might look like one. After all, I live in a foreign country, I love to travel and to try new things, I’m preparing for my fourth move in five years – and three of those moves have been to places I’d never been before. Oh, and let’s not forget my illegal tattoo!

It’s easy to look like a laid-back, carefree adventurer in pictures. Don’t be fooled. It’s an illusion. I am all about the adventure, but it’s highly controlled adventure. I love being spontaneous, but it’s planned spontaneity. (Yes, there is such a thing).

I am that rare personality that combines constant yearning for adventure and excitement with an equally strong sense of responsibility. Add in an unhealthy dose of chronic anxiety, and you’ll see why I live in a state of constant inner-conflict. Basically, I’m a rebel trapped in a good girl’s body. Or maybe it’s the other way around…

Usually the way that I balance these parts of my personality is by planning as much as possible and preparing for all contingencies. (“Always be prepared!” as my Eagle Scout father instilled in me). I try to think things all the way through and prepare myself for the worst possible scenario. Once I feel prepared for whatever I might encounter, I can take the plunge and do something crazy because I know there’s a safety net in place. I know what I’ll do if things don’t go as planned.

We moved to Korea having never set foot in Asia. But we did a TON of research first. We secured jobs through the government so that we were sure there would be accountability for things like getting paid the proper amount on time. We chose to go through a program that would provide an orientation rather than one that left us to our own devices. And we talked to lots of people who had worked in Korea before. We arrived with an entire suitcase full of things we’d been told were difficult to find (deodorant, taco mix, and tampons) and we had decided from the very beginning to play things by ear. We signed a year-long contract that we would try hard to fulfill, but we’d told ourselves that if it was absolutely horrible, we could decide to go home. Safety net!

I’ve shared that I’ve been struggling with anxiety at a new level over the past few months as I’ve been faced with all the unknowns of our future, so I’ve tried to deal with this anxiety the best way I know how – by being responsible and making myself feel as secure and on top of things as I can. So it’s been not only frustrating, but frightening for me to be told over and over again that there’s nothing more I can do. That I just have to wait.

I am realizing that this is a big fat TRUST issue. (Ah, Trust, my nemesis. We meet again!) I am unable to accept that things might still be OK even if I can’t check all the things off of my list in the time frame that I want to. I am unable to rest in the knowledge that I’ve done everything I can do. I am unable to accept the logic that things will work out the way they are meant to work out, regardless of how much I worry about them now. I am unable to accept that when God leads us somewhere, he doesn’t leave us to figure everything out by ourselves.

I have a big fat trust issue and I’m being forced to trust anyway. It’s like God has taken away the lifelines of planning and responsibility and asked me to believe the safety net is there, even though I didn’t install it myself. It would be funny if it wasn’t so horrible.

Right now I feel like I’m in a slow-motion free fall. And I have two options – I can fall kicking and screaming and lashing out at everyone around me for all the things I can’t change, or I can relax and enjoy the view while it lasts.

HEADER IMAGE CREDIT: JUN GIL PARK ON FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS

Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure # 21: Temples and Robots in Tokyo

Usually, Korean holidays don’t coincide with American ones, but this past weekend (Memorial Day in the US) happened to be the holiday celebrating Buddha’s Birthday in Asia. Buddha’s birthday is celebrated according to the Lunar Calendar which means it’s on a different day each year, so it really was a happy coincidence that it fell on a Monday, creating a long weekend for us government employees.

This is our final holiday/day off before the end of our contract in August and was therefore our last opportunity to travel, so even though it was only a few days, we headed to Tokyo to take advantage of them. We’ve been to Osaka and Kyoto in the past, but we’d never been further than the airport in Tokyo. It seemed a shame to live so nearby (less than a 2-hr flight) for two years and never make it to the biggest city in the world.

We arrived in the city around noon on Saturday and immediately set out to see the Sensoji Temple which was within walking distance of our hostel.

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The temple area was packed with people, many lighting incense sticks or tossing coins into a big trough in front of the Buddha statue. Outside of the temple there were long streets of stalls selling all kinds of souvenirs. We wandered around for a while an eventually stopped at a little ramen shop for lunch.

The ramen shop was a super narrow hole-in-the-wall with just one long counter where you sit and eat what these guys cook up for you.

The ramen shop was a super narrow hole-in-the-wall with just one long counter where you sit and eat what these guys cook up for you.

So much deliciousness.

So much deliciousness.

After lunch we had to go back to our hostel to check into our room and put our bags away. From there we took a long subway ride to the Shinjuku district looking for the famed Robot Restaurant. We’d heard about this place from friends who went in the past and we were intrigued. Restaurant is a bit of a misnomer since food isn’t central to the experience. In fact, we didn’t eat anything while we were there. It’s more of a show at which you can have food and drinks if you want. We weren’t exactly sure where it was, so we wandered around for a while before we found it, but the area was interesting so we didn’t mind the stroll. We were intending to buy tickets and come back later that evening for the show, but when we arrived around 3:45 the evening shows were sold out, but there was a show starting in 15 minutes, so we just went for it.

Area near the Robot Restaurant complete with Godzilla head attached to one of the buildings.

Area near the Robot Restaurant complete with Godzilla head attached to one of the buildings.

The tickets were pricey, but this was one of the weirdest and most unique experiences of my life. It was everything you imagine when you hear stories about how strange Japanese culture is. There were robots and dancing girls in weird and revealing costumes and huge radio-controlled animals and lots of drums. It was like a super geeky 13-year-old boy had been given unlimited resources to create the world of his dreams.

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The show itself was incredibly corny. The best (and by best I mean most ridiculous) part was a story where there was a peaceful planet that gets invaded by robots and the forest and sea creatures must band together to fight the robots. The robots literally came out and said things like, “This planet is so peaceful. Let’s trash it!”

The part where Kung Fu Panda came out on a cow to save the forest from the robots.

The part where Kung Fu Panda came out on a cow to save the forest from the robots.

After the show we decided to look for Yoyogi Park which has a shrine in it. Unfortunately, we had some trouble finding the entrance, and as we wandered around looking for a way in, I started to get very tired and very hungry and very cranky. Eventually we abandoned our plan and resolved to come back the next day. Instead we found a tasty dinner of donkatsu and Japanese curry.

Fortified with dinner we went down to Shibuya Station, famous for being the busiest intersection in the world. We walked back and forth across the intersection a few times taking pictures of the crowds and then went up to the second floor of the department store to look out the windows. This was a great place for people-watching.

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By the time we’d finished with all of that it was after 10 pm and we’d been going non-stop since 5:30 that morning. We headed back to our hostel to shower and sleep, but not before picking up a few local snacks to try. One of our favorite things when traveling is to try out all the special varietals of regular snack foods. Japan is especially famous for their green tea (matcha) flavored treats. I happen to like green tea, so I enjoyed a lot of these.

Green tea mini oreo. Loved these.

Green tea mini oreo. Loved these.

Raspberry Kit Kats. These have such a strong fake raspberry flavor and it is so artificial tasting that we weren't big fans.

Raspberry Kit Kats. These have such a strong fake raspberry flavor and it is so artificial tasting that we weren’t big fans.

Green Tea Kit Kat bites stuffed with red bean paste. I really like the regular green tea kit kats, but I'm not that into the red bean paste.

Green Tea Kit Kat bites stuffed with red bean paste. I really like the regular green tea Kit Kats, but I’m not that into the red bean paste.

Check back next week for more Tokyo adventures! If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few – no pressure. If you missed last week’s adventure you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.