Archive for the 'social life' Category

Another one bites the dust…

So, it has now been a week since Lisa, one of the other foreigners on the island, left.  Other than Erin, who vaguely doesn’t count as she is married to a Korean and will be living here for a few years to come, at least, Lisa was the person who had been here the longest (well, of those still here), and so it was weird to see her leave.  She was sort of my mentor for my first month or so here, and she helped me through some pretty tough and/or aggravating situations, and I really owe a lot to her.  Without her advice, I probably would have left back in June or July, and then I would have been up shit creek without a paddle.

In my final week of college, people had already started packing up and going home.  When the first person on my hall (we were all friends, and had chosen to live together) came by my door to say she was leaving (though returning the next year, as she was a 2nd year), I had a weird moment in which I realized that in all likelihood, I would never see that person again, along with many people on the campus who I knew and considered at least acquaintances, if not friends.  It was very surreal, and when she said “Have a good summer!” I awkwardly replied with “Have a nice….life?”, because really, I felt that was the most appropriate answer.  Over the next year, I did go back to campus several times, as I spent the year wandering around the east coast, staying on friends’ couches and in my car, but I only saw a small selection of people.  Truly, in waving goodbye to those people as they moved out of their dorm rooms, I was waving goodbye to someone I wouldn’t ever see again, and even though I have moved around quite a bit in my life (I currently stand at 17 times in 7 years), that felt pretty weird.

So, when I waved goodbye to Lisa as I watched her be driven off to the bus station, I had that same feeling.  She mentioned that she may come back to Korea, but it wouldn’t be for probably a year, and definitely not until I will already be back in the states.  In theory, I could see her again if I were to go to Nova Scotia again, as I think she and her boyfriend will be living in Halifax, but it’s probably unlikely, especially given gas prices.  In fact, in all likelihood, I will never see *any* of the people I meet here again, once I leave, and that’s very weird to think about.  Sarah, one of the other Jindo foreigners, astutely said the other day that when you’re an expat, you get very used to saying goodbye to people, and that really couldn’t be more true.

So, here’s some photos from her going-away party (she’s the one in red).  Enjoy.

Lisa, if you’re reading this, we miss you!

Update

Things have finally settled into a rut here, I think.  Not a bad rut, just sort of a pattern.  Two new teachers arrived a couple weeks ago, and between them they took over 4 of the schools I was previously working at (two schools I disliked, and two schools I liked, so it balanced out).  So, I’m now working at only 3 schools, which makes things far more enjoyable.  I am finally able to do lesson plans that can have multiple parts, something that was impossible when I was only seeing each class once every 2 weeks.  Now I visit two of my schools twice a week, and one of them once a week.  One of the schools lets me out after lunch, as I have no afternoon classes, and so that makes a huge difference in how I feel.  One of the things I tend to detest is being made to do useless things, and one of my schools makes me sit at my desk until exactly 5 no matter what, even if all the other teachers have gone home.  It frustrates me to no end, though I know that they are fully in their rights to do it, as per my contract.  In general though, things have greatly improved.  For awhile there, I was seriously considering bailing, but due to these recent changes and the plummeting of the US economy, I will be sticking around.

I am also now back in my old apartment building in a vastly improved apartment, now that it has been renovated.  I wish they had replaced the kitchen, and the heater doesn’t seem as good at heating my water as at the old place, but I am not about to complain.  I visit the dog I have “adopted” a few days a week, and it really does wonders for my mood.  I’ve started taking her for walks in the surrounding countryside, which she absolutely loves.  She spends her life on a 6 or 7 foot chain, and so being able to run around (her “leash” is about a 25 foot rope I bought) is clearly the highlight of her week.

In the last two or three weeks, the foreigner population of Jindo has risen from 5 to 9, an incredibly high number for somewhere this rural.  Sadly, one of them has her last day this Friday, and she was the main social organizer, so it will be interesting to see what happens with that.

I have withdrawn a bit recently, as well.  Now that I actually enjoy being in my apartment, I have been spending significantly more time here.  I used to go out with folks not only to socialize, but because I couldn’t stand being in my smelly, moldy apartment.  Now that it is actually pleasant to be here, I have been sticking around here far more, except to go for my walks and countryside drives.  I’m not lonely or anything, I just tend to sometimes go through phases where I don’t really enjoy the company of others, and I think this is just one of them.

I’m a bit sick.  Okay, a little more than a bit, but still well enough to work.  I could use one of my 6 remaining sick days on Monday, but unless I feel worse, I don’t think I will.  I figure that if I go into work when I’m at less than 100%, next time I take a sick day, they might take me a little more seriously.  Then again, maybe not.

So, anyway.  There will probably be more positive posts around here than there previously have been.  I think I have passed the “I hate Korea” stage and entered the “Meh.  It’s funny.” stage.

Birthday!

Sorry I have not updated in…forever.  I have sort of gotten myself into a rut (a good rut, but a rut nonetheless), and I often forget to post.

I had my birthday last Monday, the 29th.  I’m 25 now.  It’s pretty weird, having your birthday in a foreign country, but it was also kind of interesting, as well.  I haven’t had any sort of birthday “celebration” in at least 2, probably more like 3 or 4 years, and somehow, being around friends I know less well made it more comfortable for me to do so.  Among my friends back in the states, we all know each other so well that nobody ever really does much for birthdays – we just get together, hang out, eat, etc.  Not all that much different from any other gathering, really.  Here though, since we’re all drawn together from completely random backgrounds, it’s easier to have more of a traditional “party”, for some reason.

Update

The rumor was true.  My Supervisor from Hell™ is indeed being transferred to Naju, and so I am getting a new one on Monday.  I’ve already met the guy, and he’s awesome.  His English isn’t great, but it’s better than SfH’s, and he’s very friendly, has been to the states, and loves both Boston and the Sox.  So, this bodes well.  Maybe my luck is changing, eh?

First week of the new semester went well.  Korean kids spend much of their vacations in various other forms of school, so there isn’t as much of a post-summer rowdiness issue as I have experienced in teaching in the US.  But, there’s still some, so I took this week relatively easy for them.  Next week though, it’s back into the abyss.

I’m really, really enjoying my new scooter.  Makes getting around the island quite easy and pleasant.  It also makes it easier for me to get around to take photos like these:

Field of Sunflowers

Field of Sunflowers

and

Dolduksan

Dolduksan

I can theoretically drive it all the way to Mokpo, but I’m not quite that brave yet.  Maybe after another week or two, once I’m more comfortable with the highways.

Apparently, come October, I may be essentially the only foreigner on the island. They can’t find replacements.  The irritating Torontonian (or whatever they call themselves) left in August, and he taught at the high school. Lisa, who teaches at the “English Town”, leaves to go home to Nova Scotia in October.  There’s a guy who works at the local hagwon, and while I see him more these days, it’s still not really regular. That leaves me, that guy, and E. However, E is married to a Korean, and we (the other foreigners) don’t see her that often, and we’ll see even less of her when her baby is born in September.

According to the recruiter that works to find jobs for this area, nobody wants to work in rural areas, and they’re having a really difficult time finding anyone to come work here. Hopefully they’ll find someone soon, or I’ll have to recruit someone myself!

Stuff.

Spent last night and most of today in Wando with some other foreigners who live there.  I’m now back in Gwangju so I can do some food shopping and see a movie or two, and on Monday, I’ll be back in Damyang.  So whirlwind, my life these days.

I’m actually looking forward to the start of the school year, interestingly enough.  My life has been so unstable since early July, and I just want to go back to having a standard space to return to at the end of a standard day.  Unfortunately, said standard space will change again in a month or two after I move in, but…there’s not much I can do, so I just have to roll with it.

Wando was pretty, and is bigger than I expected, and their beach is nicer than Jindo’s.  There are 4 Canadians and one really irritating American.  I’d like to go back sometime, but it’s an irritating part of the province to get to.

I’m contemplating heading out to the expat bar nearby, but I’m not sure I want to go.  Frankly, as a single woman, sitting at a bar here in Korea will just equate to me endlessly fending off and disappointing hopeful and horny expats, and that’s not my idea of a fun evening.

*sigh*

Stuff

1. I had dinner yesterday with the two expats I get along with most here (A Nova Scotian and a North Dakotan – seen above with her dog) and a Korean co-worker, and they are all really glad that I stood up to my supervisor. They say that I have really done a service for whoever works after me, because everyone before me let the supervisor push me around, and now she knows that she can’t always do that to foreigners. So, maybe she will be less likely to push so much in the future.

One thing that I didn’t talk about here was that when I went in to talk to the supervisor about the housing/etc situation in regards to me quitting, I went in with the phone number of the labor office and an English-speaking employment lawyer (they’re cheap here and often work for ESL teachers who are getting jerked around) on an index card, which I had labled in both Korean and English. When she started to make a fuss, saying that she felt her “alterations” to my contract were within reason, I pointed at the card. She quieted down and grumbled. Then after I said “If you do not follow my contract, I will quit, like I said I would.”. She fussed again, and said that if I quit, she would not write me a letter of release (which they are required to do if I leave after more than a month of employment), and so I pointed to the index card again, and said “If you don’t, I will call.”. She fussed some more in Korean, and I picked up the phone and started to look at the card, and she freaked out and told me to hang up, and then her English mysteriously improved (we had been speaking through a coworker who knew a little more English than usual) and she said she would see what she could do, which is how I got to where I am now. 

That’s definitely the Adams genetics coming through there. I don’t take no for an answer, and I *will* take things to a higher level if I have to (I really was going to call the labor board), and I will not sit down until we have come to some sort of agreement. I am not someone you really want to try to fool, when doing so may piss me off. I generally see right through that sort of thing, and I will have none of it, and if you *really* piss me off, I’ll probably try to take you with me. And apparently, if I were to leave this job, I’d be taking the supervisor with me, especially if I involve the labor board. The Korean at dinner confirmed this.

I swear, I’m not really an automatically contrary person, I just always seem to be underneath someone who thinks they can push me around by lying to me. I get more naturally contrary every time this happens though, and it has happened a lot in my life, so by this point, I have how to deal with these people down *pat*.

Shiro and Erin

2. It looks like Marc will be coming in on the 11th! That’s like, 16 days from now! Today at work I will be writing up a letter confirming the dates they have listed as my vacation, which I am going to make them sign. Basically it will say “Kelsey Freeman’s personal vacation days (days on which she may leave the country) are from July 17th until July 27th.” but in much fancier, more official language. Once they sign that, if they fuss about it, “the index card” will come out of hiding again. I don’t want to use the “I’ll quit!” threat if I don’t have to, but unfortunately it seems to be the only thing they listen to. Hopefully things will quiet down again soonish. Not counting today, I only have 14 teaching days left before my vacation, then I have my vacation, then a camp, then a 2 week workshop, then I start the new semester, and hopefully that after the craziness of all that, things will fall into place a bit more. Well, at least until winter vacation comes around and I get to go through this whole rigamarole again.  

3. Now that I’m almost positive I’m staying here in Jindo (well, somewhere on the island, at least), I’ve started to get a couple more things to make my apartment nicer. I got a second rug, since the first one has been relegated to in front of the sink, and so this one now sits next to my bed. I want to get two to three more, depending on what the new house is like. I want one for my feet to rest on when I’m sitting at my table/desk, and I want one for right outside the bathroom, because I often have to get out of the shower mid-way and turn the water heater back on (it sometimes turns off at random), and the linoleum takes forever to evaporate the water, so sometimes it’s still there when I get back from work! I also need a fan, unless the rumor that the house in Gunnae has AC is true.

4. Koreans are really into acupuncture. The other day, I said my throat was bothering me, and one of them took out this little pen with a tip similar to the metal tip on a high-quality mechanical pencil but with no lead or anything, and then started poking at and pressing on various points on my middle finger with it. It was a very strange sensation. Not sure it did anything, but who knows. My throat *was* better the next day, for what it’s worth.

5. Lisa showed me a restaurant one block from my apartment that serves pizza. It’s pretty good, but they stuff the crust edge with sweet potatoes instead of cheese. It’s weird, but surprisingly good. I actually eat the crust here, instead of putting it aside.

6. It hasn’t rained in a few days, but it hasn’t been sunny either. The clouds are extremely low, covering the tops of the mountains that cover the island, which are generally only about 1000-1500 feet at best. It’s very pretty, and reminiscent of cloudy days in Lauterbrunnen in Switzerland, but it means it’s very damp too.

7. Here in Korea, you are considered to be one year old when you’re born, and you also gain a year at New Years in February, I’m 24 by western standards, but I’m already 25 here, in September after my birthday I will be 26, and in February I will be 27. It’s weird, and I always have to remember to subtract a year or two from someone’s stated age. Until I started stating my “Korean age”, people kept saying “You’re so young!”, and now I know why – they were thinking I was 22 years old! Oops.

8. As much as I rag on the Koreans, most of them are incredibly nice people. The other day, I taught my co-teacher here at Jindo the Americanism “favouritest”, and I used the example “some of my favouritest foods are fried chicken and watermelon” (hellooooo southern upbringing…), and just now they brought me a whole tray of fried chicken and watermelon. This is literally one of the sweetest things anyone has ever done for me, right up there with when Peter broke into my room while I was gone to Boston during Valentines Day to work on my Div III (he was an intern, with access to keys, though entering a student’s room is a huge no-no) and left me a cute handmade valentine on my desk, back when we were dating.


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