A Spring Morning Walk in Korea

Korean empty market

I ran this morning and caught a beautiful sunrise on an empty market street. Few people are awake this early. Usually it’s the older people – some choosing to get up to exercise along with me. Others wake up to begin their workday – picking up garbage, preparing their market stall, etc. It’s in these moments, where there is calm and nothing else is in focus, where I feel so foreign and outside of myself. I have those moments where I think, “Oh man, I am in Korea!”. It still is a shock, two and a half years later. Because nothing can really prepare you for the first country you live abroad in.

After getting ready, I start walking to school. It’s a speed walk really, because of course I wait to the last-minute to leave. Abruptly, I am stopped at the corner by this guy yelling something happily at me and thrusting a warm cup into my hands. I automatically grab it and thank him with the usual sweet “Kamsahamnida!” I’ve grown accustomed to saying. On this chilly spring morning where I didn’t have breakfast, I am thankful for this random Korea moment.

Cereal drink - Korea

A Korean Hot Cereal Drink

This morning I also passed by the old man who stands outside an elementary school on my way to work, volunteering his time by directing traffic. He grins at me and with a boisterous voice, greets me with a sincere, “Good morning!” This old man and I cross path almost every morning, on days I decide to not be lazy and splurge on a bus ride. This morning for some reason, his morning greeting just made me smile from cheek to cheek. He reminded me of people back home. He reminded me of those immigrants who are so thankful they have come to the land of the free that they are overflowing with joy. He reminds me of my parents. And my neighbors, and your friends mom who couldn’t speak a lick of English but would bring extra snacks on school trips so her son could share with others.

I say this because next year, he tells me, he will be joining his daughter in America. He is so excited and I tell him he will fit right in. A smile goes a long way after all. A smile has gotten me through two and a half years, you would be surprised at the interactions I’ve had just by simply being in the moment and reacting to someone. A smile, eye contact. Whatever it is, another human being and I share a moment, making our way through language barriers and learning to communicate in other ways. It is easy being the foreigner, the strange one, and it’s as easy as being invisible in the background  surrounded by people who you cannot fully communicate with. But when you take that chance, you meet the sweetest people – the lady selling you cookies, the traffic volunteer guiding your students, the woman selling you tea. These moments change you for the better somehow.

Today is just one of those mornings where you feel light, and ready for a day that can bring any possibility. It’s what every day should feel like, where things align perfectly. The flowers are blooming and of course, we do what we must to motivate ourselves and take it as a metaphor for our own lives. A mental spring cleaning, a start to a new lifestyle , or just a moment to spiritually breathe and gather your thoughts on things too big to mull over when winter was nipping at your behind and all you cared about was warming your fingers and toes. We are waking up, with the morning sun and the flowers pushing to burst into color. This is spring. This is a new moment in my year. I lean in and embrace it tenderly.

 

 
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A Week in Photos #3

My bus ride was made so much better when I spotted this little boy “helping” take weight off her hands. He is so adorable! 

I got a nice surprise in the package my mom was sending me. As I opened it I thought, “What the…????” and had to laugh. My poor mother knew I had been so sick and decided to send me some tea. How that went through customs with no inspection is beyond me hahaha. 
 For three days I interviewed my freaked out students for a summer program where they have a change to be volunteer translators. They were so cute!

Had some of the best Thai so far in Korea. Drool … they make an excellent non-alcoholic mojito. Funny thing is, they double checked that we understood it had no alcohol. “Yes, I am aware most foreigners like to drink a lot. But yes, I will still enjoy this mocktail.” 

Matt always meets interesting people. This time it was a random grandmother sitting next to him who proceeded to tutor him on our train to Seoul once she saw him take out his Korean Language books. See what happens when a foreigner looks like they really want to immerse themselves in a culture? People reach out and connections are made. 

We went to Nami Island, near Seoul. A magical island.. promoted as a fairy tale of a place. ^_^

Play practice was extra awesome this week because I got to meet Koda. Rach and Simon adopted him the day prior. He is so freaken cute!
 See?

A Week in Photos #2

The week started off with a beautiful powerful storm Monday morning, and it wasn’t so bad because it was like a summer storm. It was awesome seeing the dark clouds move over the mountains and bring the sun. 
It’s been a noisy busy week this week as supporters have been filling the streets pushing for voters to vote for their favorite candidate on Election Day, April 11th. There are 7 candidates running for Congress / Parliament. It wasn’t fully explained to me, and the people I talk to don’t really seem interested in politics enough to explain it. 
My friends have complained how the volunteers for each candidate have been driving around in these small trucks, dancing and chanting. These #6 Candidate supporters are wearing the candidate’s face. Memorable. 

Found the biggest book bag EVER! I want to crawl inside and have someone carry me haha

Snorted and choked on my breakfast when I realized what the name was. What a funky name .. heehee. Does it exist in America?

Massively stalkerish of me, but I love seeing Koreans wearing Brooklyn shirts. Plus see all the old people exercising at like 7 in the morning. They rock! … I wish we were more like that at home. 

They finally arrived!! (^_^) I love the cherry blossoms!
This place really hit the spot. It’s so popular, you often wait in a long line just to get in. Paper thin dumplings, a Daegu specialty, with a Busan-style gochujang, a hot paste made from chilli peppers, along with fish cakes and rice cakes (Ddeokbokki – 떡볶이). Sooo so good! 

My cast mates and I went for a night out, and I got to try out a new Western restaurant downtown. The theme that night was Hawaiian but clearly we lacked in that department. Needless to say, it was good bonding with them. 
My home for the past week and this coming week until our show on the 14th. Ouch how my body aches (ㅠ_ㅠ) but gotta make this show awesome! (^_^)

A Week in Photos #1

The week started off still recovering from a brutal cold from last week. A teacher was kind enough to make me Chicken Noodle Ginseng Soup. There have been many foreign teachers here who have experienced the hospitality of Korean teachers at their school when it comes to being cared for while sick. They take it to heart that you live alone and have no family to care for you. 

After being so sick for a week, it was refreshing to start a Monday morning with a beautiful sunrise. I couldn’t help but think of Norah Jone’s song. 

I was surprised to find that the footpath that usually helped me cross the river by my house was being rebuilt into a bridge. I’ll miss those steps! 

Spring finally arrived this week. I was walking around and couldn’t help but have a smile on my face. The good weather just brought smiles to everyone, it was contagious! So when I spotted the sun slowly melting into the horizon in this little beautiful alley, I just had to snap a pic. 

In that perfect night, when the breeze was just right and spring was just so present, we found this claw crane with the most random prizes. Take note of the Shrek key chain, the coffee Chiclets, hair clip and baseball themed lighter. In that mood I was in, it just made me smile and love Korea a little more. 

This car has been pimped out! This series is usually targeted for women, but these people went the extra step and added eyelashes to the car’s head lights. Great way to end the night’s stroll. I personally like the pink version of the Chevrolet Spark. 

A sign of spring!
It was Matt’s birthday week! So we celebrated at our favorite bar with our favorite bartenders ^_^

I had to say goodbye to Roman this week, who is heading back to Latvia (ㅠ ㅠ). One day I’ll visit you Roman! This is just a long “see you later”

We made homemade stovetop pizza! And by we I mean Dave…. the rest of us were awesome topping sprinklers ^_^
A friend played an awesome gig downtown. PMP Machine at Horus Garage – Great band, great songs. The vocals were just awesome!