New Chapter

I have been the worst at making consistent blog posts. I know…I know.

I’ve made a vow to start taking social media, vlogging, and blogging more seriously and I will be collaborating with my two best friends. Our new vision aligns with the original goal of this blog: to talk about travel, exploring social dynamics, and learning more about ourselves through learning more about the world.

That’s why I have decided to rename this blog and bring in my friends Ashley and Arielle to collaborate on posts as well.

I hope that if you do follow this blog that you continue to do so as new content is added. There will also be more travel photography and videos! You can look forward to more consistency, more locations, more voices, and more content.

I will keep the previous posts for any people that are searching for information about EPIK or teaching in Korea. Don’t hesitate to continue to ask questions about that either.

I hope you’ll stay with us on this journey!

 

With love,

Voyage à Trois

 

 

 

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Why I Stayed…

Today marks exactly one year since I departed  SoKo! It’s been pretty rocky (see the last post for details). I went through a variety of emotions and I keep having to remind myself why I left. But first I want to reflect on why I stayed in a few different posts–starting with this one. 

Teaching has always been something that I wanted to do. I went to South Korea with my English Lit degree and I was armed with about 10 days worth of “teacher training” upon arriving in “The Land of the Morning Calm”. I had no clue what I was doing, and I had no idea what it meant to really teach.

There’s so much I look back upon fondly and I often think–OMG I MADE A MISTAKE! ABORTMISSION!! GOBACK!! These thoughts are often at the fore-front of my mind when I am the sole person trying to manage a class of 40 students on a warm Friday afternoon, or when I am sitting in front of a stack of about 180 student responses in need of grading.

Teaching is really tough. What I was doing in South Korea wasn’t teaching, not exactly. Sure, some people head overseas to teach with some experience under their belt and are able to do wonderful things for their students academically–I was not one of those people. I was mostly a conversation partner and cultural ambassador for the curious students who had never seen a 흑인 (black person) in real life. I know that being that representative is hugely important, and I feel confident I made an impact in at least some small way.

I remember on my first day of school, I walked into a classroom of dropped mouths, widened eyes, and whispers. As introductions went around the room, one girl stared in horror. Smiling sweetly, I asked “What’s your name?”

Bad idea.

She shrank a bit further away from me in her seat, her eyes darted to my co-teacher, who translated and urged her to answer. Tears welled up in her eyes as I took a small step closer, extending my hand. “Nice to meet you.” She started to sob and slid all the way underneath her desk. I realized I was scaring her. She wasn’t shy about speaking–she was scared of me. 

I decided to back off from her a bit, making sure I didn’t scare her again. Days turned into weeks and I started to notice I had a certain shadow… literally clinging to me. She followed me closely wherever I went. She was always eager to answer my questions first, and any time I walked by her desk she grabbed my hand and refused to let go. She liked touching my skin and looking at the difference between my palm and the backside of my hand, mesmerized. That is impact, that is change.

The issue of black bodies and hair being touched and examined by non-black people is a sensitive topic. Admittedly, I thought it was a form of subjugation to allow it to happen. However, I started to see it from a different perspective. Of course, everything depends on context, but many encounters with touching and staring, within the context of my school, were educational moments. They were amusing lessons for me, my co-teachers, and my students. Yes, it may look like chocolate, but you shouldn’t try to lick every person with brown skin, Hyobin.  

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Where Have You Been?

Greetings from Sunny California. It’s been a while, I know.

Let me spare you the gritty details and just give you the quick and dirty on what’s been going on since I succumbed to laziness.

My Life, Abridged

  • End of 2016: I was again offered a position with Teach For America one year after declining.
  • January-March 2016: Ended my Seoul EPIK contract, accepted position with TFA, Hopped over to Japan.
  • April-June: Hung out in Japan with Fam. Visited Morocco. Taught Chinese students online. Got Engaged. Boarded plane to TFA in California.
  • July-October: Had major regrets. Most stressful time ever. Quit teaching online. Met and taught amazing kids in my new position. Money flowed away like water in the palm. Got Un-engaged (dis-engaged?). Contemplated life–hard.
  • November-Now: Almost got myself all pulled back together. Identity still a bit shaken. Improving in the second semester. Still teaching amazing kids. BROKE AF.

As you can see, I’ve been busy since South Korea. With all these life changes I’m trying to get back to doing things that I enjoy and challenge myself to be better than I was. My life is begging for consistency, order, and routine to start… And with that, I hope, will come more time (and money) to do things like travel, write, and sleep.

I don’t have any big return post or anything–just wanted to say that I’m here to anyone who might be listening.

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4 Baby Steps for Anxious Expats

Get a buddy

20161029_181448Having at least one person who makes you feel more comfortable navigating the city is always beneficial. It’s difficult, but even putting out an effort to meet just one chill person could really change your whole experience.

Get Involved

For me, I enjoy acting. It’s a fun way for me to get over my shyness and pretend to be someone else for a while. So I decided to pursue that while here in Korea and I’m so glad I did. You can be comfortable doing something you’re used to while also getting out there and meeting new people.

 

Try a Tour Group

Aren’t quite ready to just head out solo-dolo? Try signing up with a tour group. The tour groups in Korea are usually geared toward the young traveler who wants to see the sights and have a good time. Be prepared for booze and cliff diving. It’s really just a bunch of people who are looking for a good time but don’t want to put in all the effort of planning. Bonus is you will automatic group to stick with. … But you also don’t get to choose these people so that could be a plus or a minus. It sucks being stuck with an obnoxious group, but usually the loose structure means you don’t have to be around them too long.

 

Set a Distance Each Weekend

If you’re in a place with a subway system or great bus system challenge yourself to go a little farther each day. Admittedly, this is a difficult task for anxious people. I usually stick to the same familiar areas of town. At least try to get out of your city from time to time and see what a different part of the country has to offer.

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Getting called Ni**er in Helen, GA

Last month I went to the States for a visit. My friends and I went on a camping trip around the North Georgia mountains. It was lovely and a lot of fun, but one incident didn’t quite line up. 


Nestled in the Appalachian mountains north of Atlanta is Georgia’s own little “alpine village”. A tourist town inspired by old Bavaria. The city is Helen of White County, Georgia. According to a helpful young clerk at the Family Dollar, Helen was a town in decline until the start of the 70s when the powers that be decided

20160812_194558to reinvent itself as a village you’d find in the Alps, but right in the Appalachians.

We just happened to be driving through the regular nothing-ness
of southern towns when all of a sudden we see a small Weihnachtsmarkt, chalet style buildings, and various German signage. We had to stop. It was just too weird to pass by.

 

It’s mandated that all the buildings must have this alpine facade, so the Mexican restaurant, family dollar, and Wendy’s all look like they could be in a cozy Bavarian village. But that’s the thing–once you get past the facade the inside of the establishments are the same as in any other part of Georgia. We thought this cute Bier Haus would tout traditional beers and wares, but it was like any corner liquor store.

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Inside the souvenir shops are some items that reflect the town’s overall theme, but outnumbering those are the confederate memorabilia: T-shirts, lawn signs, and license plates to shout out your rebel and redneck pride.

 

Someone couldn’t hold back in letting us know just what the people of this town were really about. We had walked no more than five minutes when a bearded man in a red pick up truck shouted his most guttural “NIGGER” at me as he drove down the road. I don’t think I’ve ever been called a nigger in real life by an adult before. I quickly swiveled my head to catch his eye, but he had deliberately turned his focus on the road ahead of him–to hide that it had been him like a punk.

It’s a strange thing. Since I had arrived in the u.s. I couldn’t stop commenting on how nice everyone was. I realized there was actually things I missed about being in the U.S. I told my friends how much more comfortable i felt in my skin here. I could just exist as myself, take a deep sigh and walk around without feeling watched. Then that happened.

I couldn’t do anything about it but laugh hysterically with my friends. It all seemed so farcical. So after-school special. It was funny because it was so sad. This bummy man driving through this fakgiphye German town in White County, Georgia calling a black girl on the side of the road a nigger. It’s just too perfect.

 

 

To be honest, for the rest of our time in that town I felt the same way I had felt back in Korea. On display, stared at, and slightly out of place. You don’t have to leave home to feel that way. We can get that feeling right in the many Helen ,Georgias across the country.

 

4 Common Korean Conveniences Perfect for Introverts

For the awkward expat that decided to push themselves and travel, things can get a little overwhelming at times. That’s why I’m thankful to a few conveniences here in Korea that are totally cool for the anxious. Here’s my list of the top comforts that will ease your social woes.

 

KakaoTaxi

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KakaoTaxi is a phone app that allows you to request a taxi to your location without having to speak to a real-live person. That’s not the best part! You also input where you are headed–so there’s no need to talk to the driver at all. The app is Korean only, unfortunately, but if you happen to have your address in Hangul it’s a breeze. There’s  an English guide to using the app here.

Grocery Delivery

When I told my co-teacher that’d I’d been lugging my bags home all year and limiting my choices at the grocer because I couldn’t carry all the items, she laughed in my face. She told me that most grocery stores will deliver your goods. Just let them know at the checkout that you’d like to have it delivered to such and such address. I never heard of this in the U.S. BUT even better than that is sitting on your comfy couch in your underwear and ordering groceries from your computer. I know that the U.S. has grocery delivery services, but it isn’t that common or known about. At least not where I was living. I just ordered my first groceries and it was pretty painless (aside from the meticulous delivery man). No need to force yourself to get dressed and deal with the terrors that lurk outside your door. So wonderful. Check out Homeplus or Emart online (No English). T.T

Table Call Buttons

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Few things are more nerve-wracking than trying to get a waiters attention in a busy restaurant. … Well, maybe trying to get a waiter’s attention in an empty restaurant is just as awkward to me. Add a language barrier to that–ALARM! 😉 But in Korea most Korean restaurants (not western-style) and bars have a button on the table that you can press whenever you need some service. I have even seen some buttons that have a tiny picture of what you want (more water, beer, the bill). I don’t know why this isn’t a thing in the U.S.! Someone make it happen.

McDelivery

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McDonald’s makes me feel guilty and gross, but for those first few bites it brings me joy. More joyful, is the fact that I don’t have to leave my bed to get some. A few years ago, I was actually in my first big car accident while on the way to McDonald’s late at night. If only McDelivery had existed in the U.S. I could’ve avoided all of that trauma and drama. No risk of me dyin’ for a Big Mac and a chocolate milkshake. There’s also an English website and app! Yay for ease of use.

 

Do you have any services that allow you to remain chill and comfortable?  I know I’m missing a bunch. Let me know in the comment section.

Sister Visits Seoul

I have been begging my family (who live in Japan) to visit me in Korea (a two-hour flight away) for quite a while now.

Finally, my request was answered by my younger sister, Deja. It was a little difficult, because during her visit I ran into some unexpected money problems, but I tried my best to get out and show her a bit of what Seoul had to offer.

A Little Culture at  Gwanghwamun and Cheonggyecheon

One thing Korea definitely gets right is picturesque locations. Unfortunately, they attract large crowds, but they are must-sees. For her first Sunday in Seoul we decided to visit Cheonggyecheon stream and Gwanghwamun Plaza. The timing was perfect because Seoul was celebrating Buddha’s birthday with the beautiful lantern festival. The same festival I attended last year.

We began the late afternoon admiring the features on the stream and then headed to the plaza. We ended our night walking around the Insadong shopping area looking for some eats.

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Around my Town (Gangdong/Cheonho)

I definitely couldn’t pass up the change to take my sister to one of the many pet cafes in Seoul. It seems like a gross concept, but it’s a nice way to chill and get some animal therapy.

Dog Cafe

Also spotted the Bill Cosby Restaurant.

Bill Cosby
Don’t drink anything!

She definitely had to try Samgyapsal.

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My sister also made a guest appearance at my school and sat in on one of my after-school classes. We played our version of the newlywed game together.

School Visit
Teacher Appreciation Flowers

Hongdae Nightlife

I had to show Deja how Seoul parties.  Seoul goes hard and one of the best places to turn up is Hongdae. The area has an artsy, young feel to it. You can catch tons of singers, rappers, and dancers putting their talents on display as you pregame before the clubs.  No Photos!

 Gangnam STYLE

We also did some underground shopping in Gangnam and perused the shops in Myeongdong.

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View all these photos plus more in the slideshow below.

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I hope I get some more family/friend visits while I’m here in Korea. There’s still a lot to do and see.

P.S. Please look forward to more posts very soon.