When Steven and I started thinking about moving to Korea, we guessed that if we stayed here for three years, we’d pay off most or all of our student loans. That didn’t mean we were committed to staying for three years. It just meant that Korea might be the rainbow that brought us to the pot of gold and way out of a huge portion of our paychecks disappearing at the end of every month. When we got the jobs, we sold almost all of our furniture, let our friend Evie take what we couldn’t or didn’t want to sell, and moved about twenty boxes of personal items into Steven’s parents’ attic. We drove our car, our luggage, and our dog to the end of the country, said goodbye to our friends and family, and flew across the Pacific Ocean.

YEAR ONE

June-July-August

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We arrived in Busan with a built in support system: Kate, Chaz, Kelly, and Kat met us at the airport, and Kayse arrived within days. I remember a lot of rain at first, followed by the worst humidity. School was boring for the first month – it was the end of the semester and the teachers wanted to finish the work they had started without incorporating me into it. I finally got to teach English Camp lessons (not the whole camp, but parts of it) for three weeks in July and August, and my vice principal at that time let me leave in the afternoons. We met Amy, Meghan and Kyle, and Rena and Patrick, Vas, and Marybeth (who at the time was only visiting from Japan), and we hung out with them all a lot – drinking, singing, swimming, more drinking… The first few months were easy, breezy, save for the fact that I was sick a lot. The food did not agree well with me, although I loved eating it. Every morning at 10 a.m. I had a spicy bathroom adventure. We moved into our crappy apartment and started working on buying furniture and decorations to make it into a home. We started taking Korean classes and picking up bits of the language. Kayse, Steven, and I spent many hours at Brown Chip in PNU and Caffe Benne in Seomyeon studying. My friend from high school passed away in August, and that was tough.

September-October-November

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We had a week long break for Chuseok and that was followed with a free week long trip to Seoul for orientation. We met lots of new friends and had a great time just hanging out with a ton of other foreigners from around the world who had made the crazy decision to work for EPIK in Korea. I missed the Fireworks Festival because I was sick, and came close to missing the Halloween party craziness in KSU – but everyone forced me to come out, and everyone got insanely drunk (when in Rome…). I started to fall in love with K-Pop (Miss A and Narsha, specifically). In November we had our first North Korea scare (the attack on Yeonpyeong Island). Almost six months in and I finally figured out the stupid bus route to my school. I missed being home for Thanksgiving but made up for it with a long night of delicious food and Mafia at Meghan and Kyle’s. I kept growing my hair out. That semester I worked with a substitute teacher while my main co-teacher was out of the country, and that was tough. He didn’t speak English and he also hit the kids when he wasn’t happy with them. I was anxious for Ji-Eun to return.

This:

The world in which you were born is just one model of reality. Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you. They are unique manifestations of the human spirit. (Wade Davis)

December-January-February

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Had a terrible Christmas – our water pipes burst from it being so cold and we only got one card/gift in the mail from my grandparents. We spent HOURS in a bus in traffic trying to get to and from an orphanage, and I was in a terrible disposition. It wasn’t a great day. I started the Teeny Tiny Book Reports on this blog, and through those books got back into my passion for working on abolishing human trafficking. In January, Kate and I went to Seoul for a conference put on by Not for Sale and Onnuri Church, and I got to meet David Batstone. I started a small group of friends and invited the Busan community to join me in learning about trafficking issues. Winter Camp was cold but fun, but my new VP made me stay at school all day with nothing to do. That sucked. Winter in Korea kinda sucked. Kayse’s mom and sister came for a visit, and it was fun to show Korea off to people from the outside. Ashley showed up at the end of February!

March-April-May

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The new school year started, with the triumphant return of Ji-eun, who literally trusted me enough to let me start teaching one lesson all by myself every week, and treated me as a co-teacher the other two lessons a week. I also had a new co-teacher, Miss Shin. She was very sweet, if not a little shy. She had never taught English, nor worked with a co-teacher, so teaching with her was fine but a little boring. But it was a good rhythm, and much better than the previous semester. I had tons of stomach issues and finally was diagnosed with gastritis. Got medicine and changed my diet, which helped a lot. We went to the DMZ. Meghan found out she was pregnant, and in May she and Kyle went home. Kate and Chaz made preparations to leave, and that was hard.

YEAR TWO

June-July-August

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We made it through our first year and went home for two weeks. It was crazy manic fun. We came back renewed but also CERTAIN that we would only stay for one more year. It only took a couple of months to realize that our second year was a million times better than the first year – we knew more Korean, we knew how to explore more, we knew which restaurants to avoid, etc. I started my human trafficking blog. Ashley and I went to Japan and met Rebekah!

September-October-November

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I read the worst book of my life (Divergent). I struggled with the idea of staying a third year, and also looked forward to it. I wondered what would come after I finally left this country. I attempted to go to the Fireworks Festival, but after sitting on the beach guarding an area for all of my friends, it started to rain and I left. I learned about the Korean emotion called “jeong.” I met Young, who was substituting for Miss Shin for the semester, and Young and I became insta-friends. I bought my first scooter.

December-January-February

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Winter was whatever: cold, English Camp, boring, vacation. Chelsea and Ian left. Nikki showed up at the end of February, which was great!

March-April-May

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The new school year began. Ji-eun trusted me with teaching all my classes on my own (with her help, of course), and Miss Shin returned with lots of new ideas for making class better. She trusted me to start teaching a class on my own and started to utilize me better in her lessons. Our scooter was stolen. We bought a new one. Our scooter was returned. We sold it. Ashley, Nikki, Kayse, and I were in a dragon boat race with all of Ashley’s Ulsan friends.

YEAR THREE

June-July-August

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We prepared for Kayse to go home, and she was gracious enough to take Sasha with her. We had a murder mystery party for her going away party. I cried through a teacher dinner on the day she left. Steven and I went to Japan for our vacation. I got LASIK surgery on my eyes! Someone I know died. My last summer camp. There were some typhoons. Psy went viral. I learned how to French braid. We got to know Jayna, Charlie, and Sarah. I thought about becoming a substance abuse counselor.

September-October-November

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I watched the seasons begin to change and understood that it would be the last time I saw fall on these mountains. Elizabeth came for a visit, which was AMAZING. We went home for Steven’s sister’s wedding. While home, my DMACC advisor insisted I reconsider my future, and look into the MSW program at U of Iowa. We came back. I applied for grad school. I started doing Korean tutoring with Gen and Pete with an amazing Korean friend named Minja – she’s an excellent teacher.

December-January-February

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Kat came for a visit. I read some good books. Last winter camp. Wine Train. Got one of the only good hair cuts I’ve ever gotten in Korea. It was cold and we hibernated. Ashley left. So did Jayna, Sarah, and Charlie.

March-April-May

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It started to get warmer. We didn’t have many foreign friends left (only Nikki and Shikara), so I spent most of my time with Koreans (Young and Yoonjeong, Ji-eun and Yongjin, Minja). Seomyeon suddenly became the coolest place in Busan. My mom and her boyfriend Jack came for a visit! I started to sell the furniture and pack everything. I found out that I got into the MSW program, but that I would not be considered an Iowa resident (basically making it financially impossible/insane to pursue the program at this time) – that was a pretty tough day.

June 2013

Rebekah came for one more visit, and we spent the entire month packing, purging, selling, and preparing to leave. I write this on my last full day in Korea. I still can’t believe it.

WHAT’S NEXT?

I know some things and I don’t know some things… but we’re basically debt free and ready to start the next chapter!

Advertisements