23 June 2014

Korea is teaching me...

My husband left for a few weeks, and someone else stole my heart.

It might have been day two or three, or maybe even the first time I heard them repeat a word in English, muttering as to not disturb anyone, but still wanting to hear themselves say it. Maybe it was when they called me, "Teacher" for the first time, or explained and then apologized why they fell asleep in my class. I'm not sure, but either way, I do believe my heart was stolen politely and quietly by the youth of Korea, and thus, Korea itself.

I've said this before, but it is so hard to explain the gravity of a student on the edge of their seat, waiting for you to say a word they don't know so they can repeat and commit it to memory.

Today I met with a woman I will be tutoring once or twice a week after we are both finished teaching at our respective schools. She is a Korean who teaches Chinese who has a dream of learning English well enough that she is no longer shy or nervous to speak it. She told me she was nervous to talk to me, and I made sure to tell her she was much more adept than she realized, which was no stretch.

I have found it to be true with her, my students, co teachers and the people I have had lunch with on schools days that it is a challenge to talk simply (and slowly...) but also use regular jargon that makes everything seem much more natural than the rules they know so well from studying their books. And this has done wonders for my understanding of just how complex the English language is, something that I have never totally had to understand. For example, when I greet the students when they come in to class, I have to make a conscious effort to not say "hello", followed by "how are you" because they have learned and will repeat until their death to say hello and also immediately "I'm fine thank you, and you?" It is like clockwork. This is a typical conversation at the beginning of class:

me: "good morning! how are you today?"
student: "I'm fine, thank you, and you?"
me: "I'm doing really well today, thank you for asking...how is your day going, good or bad?"
student: "I'm fine, thank you, and you?"

Forcing myself to speak as I would normally, in a regular-school setting is something I hope will stick with them in order for them to learn other ways of greeting each other. Of course, every single textbook tells the students to respond how they do, so they will still do well in the grade book.

I didn't realize but the second I stepped foot in that school, I would be regarded as the "expert" of the English language. (if they were to examine my test scores and school records, they'd find how misguided that may be) I am asked daily, sometimes more than once, to check the grammar and usage of a particular sentence or paragraph, especially now that finals are coming up next week. If you know the really weird things about me, you probably know that editing is something that has always gotten me excited. There is no better flattery than someone asking me to edit a paper of theirs. And here I am not only allowed to do that any day of the week, but it is expected of me.

There are other ways Korea has stolen my heart. Seeing it through the eyes of people who have just arrived to the squadron make the country come alive. I took a few people on their first train ride to the shopping mall a few stops away (which is coincidentally just a 10 minute walk from my school) and even though Tyler and I spent his birthday there, and I have been a couple other times, was blown away anew by each of the 10 floors, and the rooftop garden that I had never noticed before. Korea does shopping and entertainment really well, and this building is no exception.

I couldn't help but snap a picture of this clothing rack in the mall/plaza...my brother Andrew will appreciate another great example of the korean/english that is so entertaining. I can't wait for his visit here!
The plaza had a basement half devoted to little "fast food" eateries, but the other half devoted to amazing Korean produce and fish and otherwise impossible to find (outside of our American commissary, of course) imported food, like this awesome sauerkraut.
somewhere over the yonder, there is a patch of green that resembles some sort of football field that belongs to the school I teach at. :) It was fun to find that and point it out to my friends.
I couldn't believe the other times I'd been to AK Plaza I have totally missed this rooftop garden. It gave an amazing view of the city of Pyeongtaek and surrounding area and was great to imagine bringing up snacks and drinks in the future to enjoy it even more.
Kory and I met in January, at our mutual friend, Emily's baby shower in Tucson. Tyler and I were on our way to Korea and Kory and her husband Jason joined us this summer. It has been fun showing her around a little bit and even better that I talked them into living close to us over in the Pine House :) 
Back in April or May, I was able to go to a rare cultural briefing on base given by a man whose position had been the liaison between the Korean and American militaries in Korea. He spoke Korean fluently and had lived as the Koreans live with his family for quite some time and was very knowledgeable in explaining the vast differences, and few similarities, of our two cultures. It was here that I learned about how important food is to the Korean culture and that eating by yourself is taken as a sign that you have been excommunicated by your family and friends. So while I usually have lunch buddies in the cafeteria in Mrs. Kim and Mrs. Pa, a couple times they haven't been able to eat lunch with me so I've been handed (very politely) off to someone else, so I never have to eat alone and risk the public humiliation that would apparently ensue (not that I would know about it, not speaking Korean and all...) Today's lunch buddy was a guy whose name I knew I could remember, until he said I can just call him "Mo" and prior Korean association went out the window. We talked on the way to the cafeteria and realized that we were nearly the same age, him being born just a month and 10 days after me. Apparently that meant we were friends and he reached out and shook my hand (the first time in all of the introductions I had made that a hand was extended to me) I know that one's age is on the same level of importance as the food thing, so I took it as a great sign that I now have an official "friend". We ate with my faithful lunch buddy, Yung Sun, and I was glad to have someone else in the school who is no longer too shy to practice their English on. When we got back to the teacher's room after lunch, Mo told me that he was "ordered" to treat me to coffee, but he decided that coffee would be too hot and disappeared to the "lounge" side of the room. I didn't know if it was the fact that when we shook hands, he could tell how sweaty I was from the humidity and heat, or if he was sick of watching me take napkin after napkin to wipe my sweaty brow from the spicy kimchi and soup at lunch. Either way, he came back with this pouch and said it was much better than coffee today. The pouch was frozen like a rock but melted very quickly when I held it up to my neck to help me cool down (where were these things hiding?!?) it finally melted and I was able to enjoy the "milk shake" pouch, which was basically sweetened frozen milk. And it was awesome. Thank you, Mo.
I know you're not supposed to have favorites, but my last class of first graders (16 year olds) on Mondays might just be it. I have never seen a more excited group of kids to play the game "stay standing" and I dare say that after 3 rounds, they still don't fully understand how it works. 
This sweet boy came wearing his friend's blanket as a cape, so I made him hold it up for a picture. He was very kind and explained that he and "many others" were awake and watching the 4am Korea World Cup game so they might be a little sleepy. I told him I understood, but hopefully class was fun enough that they would stay awake. It worked for everyone except him.

Of course, I would be amiss if I didn't acknowledge the fabulous Fiendettes who stuck around this summer, even though our husbands are all away. I have received a couple awesome gifts from my Secret Sister and it is driving me nuts trying to figure out who is spoiling me! Whoever gave this awesome personalized breakfast tray (with both of our names/"call signs") had it delivered to my front door by the time I got home from school last week!
Korea is not without it's quirks and inconveniences (as I had to pause just now and kill yet another centipede-looking bug) but it has grown on me rather quickly. Even saying such today might mean that I risk having a terrible day tomorrow, as things have been going, but I am not the least bit concerned that these students and this country have swept me off my feet.

18 June 2014

Lunchee, Frenchee, and Englishee

It didn't take me very long into my communication degree at Bethel to figure out that I have what "they" like to call a "high external self concept", which means that I may or may not be easily persuaded by external factors. I'm not trying to point fingers, but this could be why my online shopping favorites coincide with which magazines/catalogs come to my PO box...or why I can read one article that says white rice is completely void of all nutrients and should never be consumed. Which explains why I would immediately throw out the 7 varieties of white rice in my cupboard only to read another article that says brown rice has more minute traces of arsenic than white because the "hull is still on the grain" and that's where the arsenic hides so if you must eat rice, white really is better. And so I proceed to dig in my trash and salvage the precious arsenic-free rice...but hey, I'm no scientist. Just your poster child for knowing your audience.

This is really the only reason I can think of to explain why, when teaching the English language in the state of Texas, my English actually got worse. Or why, as I am seeing all too quickly, I am now answering the students when they ask how "lunchee" was, I respond with a chipper grin, "lunchee was good!" Or when I finally understand what a student is saying, say very quickly, "okayokayokay" with full appreciation.

But don't worry, I still haven't totally mastered the Korean language or culture...after my first two days sitting in the English building eating lunch alone, I decided to jump feet first and get meals in the cafeteria, like the rest of the staff. And most of the time, the food is good! I ask my co-teachers to go ahead of me in line and tell me what everything is, of course...and most of the time, I eat all of my lunch. For example, today was delicious. There is usually a stew of some sort (almost always spicy); today was chicken and carrots. The cold salad of the day was an even spicier fresh cucumber with sesame seeds. The kimchi was the regular cabbage kind (delicious) and the soup was what looked and tasted like a collard green with onion miso soup. Of course with rice (cooked with different grains, to increase the nutritional value), which I always take a lot of, since I love rice and sometimes it's the only thing my taste buds can truly appreciate. I tried it all and finished most of it. 

For the most part, I'm glad I chose to eat lunch with everyone. For starters, the teacher's lunchroom is separated by a couple doors and is, as far as I can tell, the only part of the cafeteria with a working air conditioner. So for the most part it is comfortable, with the exception of sweating through all the spicy food and not understanding what my lunch buddies are talking about, unless they speak to me in English.

And then there are days when the co-teachers (Mrs. Pa and Mrs. Koh) don't know how to tell me that maybe I won't really care for the food that day (I told them that while I "like" seafood, I'm still learning to really "enjoy" it) for example...last week there was a particular dish that looked like a tasty cabbage salad. I followed suit and took a big pile of it (to compliment the fried mackerel that I took but basically convinced myself I wouldn't try...and after watching the ladies pick bones out of their teeth, knew I wasn't missing out on much). I took a bite of the red salad and surprisingly, it was pretty good! I commented that I like the cabbage salad and took another bite (of a different looking piece of cabbage, but still covered in the same delicious red sauce) I examined it between my chopsticks while Mrs. Pa noticed my curiosity. Before I knew it, I was chewing said item and made eye contact with her in a way that didn't need a language "this tastes different than the cabbage" She immediately turned to Mrs. Koh and in Korean they spoke to each other about what I was chewing, and the best way to translate. My eyes gave it away and she started to explain what I was eating. I spoke around the long, stringy, chewy thing in my mouth and said, "don't. let me finish chewing it and then you can tell me." my eyes darted for a napkin and in true Korean style, didn't find a single one on our table or the one next to us. I thought that maybe I could make a run for the bathroom. If only I knew where the bathroom was. But then I decided to be brave. And thought how badly I wanted my terrible peanut butter and jelly from the past week. I swallowed hard. And winced as I asked, "what did I eat?" Mrs. Pa and Mrs. Koh agreed that the best translation was "dried squid". Oh. just dried SQUID.  I'm sure my eyes said it as I spoke, "I like the cabbage better". But hey, chalk one up for eating squid! wahooooooo.......actually, if I'm being truly honest, I thought I would hear the dreaded "octopus" when I finished chewing, so squid seemed ironically not as terrible. huh.

While I can not actually admit to remembering any students' names (except for Jin Hoh, who is lazy as can be and will actually request to stand in class so he doesn't fall asleep), I will say that I am treated like everyone's best friend. Last Wednesday was the "5th Annual Foreign Language Competition" and while there were quite a few languages making their appearance (Chinese, Russian, Japanese), they chose to start the competition with English, which I was a judge, along with Mrs. Pa and Mrs. Koh. We sat at the side of the gymnasium, which was a good 10 degrees warmer than outside. The 1st and 2nd graders (16 and 17 year olds) were all seated in the audience, all of my students, a total of 360+ students, and a few parents. The students presenting were behind us in the bleachers and were busy practicing their lines while introductions were made.

I was told earlier in the day that I was to introduce the English portion of the competition, and like most things, I have learned to just nod and go along with it. I didn't know what introducing the English part meant, but after seeing the huge assembly knew I had to get more details. When Mrs. Koh made sure I knew I was speaking, I asked what exactly I should speak about. She answered with the very vague, "tell them good luck and you are happy to hear their presentations"... Little did I know that I would be the introduction immediately following the Vice Principal and that I would have my own introduction-of course in Korean, which I didn't know what they were saying to illicit such a grand applause; before I knew it I was standing 6 feet above them on the stage with a microphone. I resisted the urge to chatter like a good Midwesterner and said simple (I think), "Hello" (followed by cheering that I relegate to be similar to that of a World Cup star...just sayin'...) and then, "I am excited...to hear your presentations...I know...you have worked hard...Don't be nervous...Do your best...and have fun! Good luck!" I would be surprised if the crowd knew what I was saying, but after their raucous applause I felt like I needed to sign autographs. The competition followed with groups of 2-4 presenting on topics such as "Eminem's Life", "Skateboarding", "The Three Little Pigs" and a math game that had to do with the end result being an elephant (they scored the worst, in my book) I wish very terribly that I had brought my phone to take pictures or a video, and while I was very serious in my judging on pronunciation, memorization and expression, thoroughly enjoyed the competition.

I wish I could explain what a joy it is to me to teach these students the English language. I barely feel qualified, especially when I see the students working so hard to understand the correct grammar. It is the most humbling experience realizing that you speak the language that these students want and need, in their minds, to become successful in the world. I don't know where I get it, but every class period is a new burst of energy and a new dose of patience for those students who work themselves to the point of exhaustion.
(this student was like this as I returned from lunch...while some students fall asleep in class, I do not punish or embarrass them, as I know the pressure they feel with their grades and especially with finals coming up in a couple weeks)

This week we are planning the students' dream vacations and learning about asking permission. While I relegate myself to humiliation for the sake of them feeling relaxed, I will say that acting out being a tour guide or being a thief with the assumption that they don't understand the words I'm saying, only my actions, has made every class a bit more exciting and challenging.

10 June 2014

teach Korea

It seems like all of my awkward and sweaty Korean experiences have needed a few days for me to lose the goosebumps and process before sharing. And my first couple days teaching were no exception.

My first day, last Monday, I was to be at the school at 8:20 to introduce myself in the staff meeting, so I walked in to the teacher's room, armed with my book bag and the 5 gifts I was "supposed to" give (chocolates wrapped in tissue paper) (one for each English co-teacher and the other two for the principal and vice principal). I was immediately escorted by Ms. Koh (the co-teacher who speaks the best English) to the staff meeting, which was outside the main building. The room was FULL. I mean, we sat at the wayyyyy back and there were probably about 15 rows of 5 desks on each side of the room, all full. I wondered where all these people had been hiding the 3 times I'd been to the school previously. The person standing at the front with the microphone motioned to Ms. Koh next to me and she nodded at me and started walking. So I quickly followed. Alllllllllll the wayyyyyyy downnnn the aisle. I was handed the microphone and gave a very simple greeting and told them all how excited I was to be in Korea and to be teaching their students. I couldn't think of anything else, especially to a group where I had no idea if they knew what I was saying or if I had suddenly sprouted two extra heads. I handed the microphone to Ms. Koh and she added a couple things in Korean which made the crowd ooh and aah. Then we walked back down the aisle and she told me I could go back to the teacher's room and not have to sit in on the staff meeting, which would of course be nothing I could understand.

And it wouldn't be a proper first day of teaching if you (and the Korean co-teacher) can't figure out how to work the equipment. The most frustrating thing to date is having all 3 of the computers that I have access to and will use on a regular basis be in Korean. Every day, I appreciate coming home to my simple laptop in English.

It turns out that on Mondays and Tuesdays, I will be teaching all 1st graders (which is high school sophomores, I believe...?) and 4 class periods of 50 minutes each. I figured out that their bell (which is delightful and upbeat music) rings at 40 minutes after every hour, signaling the end of a class period and doesn't ring again until 50 minutes after every hour, which means the students (and ME!) have a leisurely 10 minute break between every class. Anyone who wishes can visit the snack bar or use the bathroom during this time (me included!) It's amazing. My first day slideshow was both wildly successful and a terrible flop, depending on which class I was showing it to. It had pictures of where I grew up, where I had lived, my family and friends and some of my hobbies and took anywhere from 7 minutes to get through to 20 minutes. The first class had the most questions and are the most energetic. I was quite surprised that the very first question I got asked was if I could speak to them in a British accent. I managed to keep back my laughter and spoke to them in a way that Jude Law would be ashamed. After my slideshow introduction, I asked if each one of them could stand and introduce themselves by giving their name, telling me who is in their family and their favorite hobbies. After the first day and having 15 extra minutes at the end of the class, I added asking them about their favorite animal, which left us with only 13 extra minutes. I would be lying if I said I understood a single name, but boy did I pretend. As far as I can tell, the Koreans introduce themselves with their last name first (a lot of them are Kims) and then what they call themselves. For example, the one teacher who seems to like sitting with me at lunch and practicing his English introduced himself as Kim Yung Sun. And the next day all I could remember was Sun so he said yes, and then said Yung Sun.

As far as teaching goes, I have had to be very simple and slow, which I've found it hard to not dumb my own speech down in doing so. In this school, the students all live on campus (many high schools are boarding schools) and are training for technical jobs. (the equivalent of attending a vocational college in the U.S.) So their motivation for learning English is simply not as high as other Korean high schools because they are not taking a college entrance exam that is dependent on their grasp of the English language. These students hope to learn English for potential job advancement, or future travel. Or perhaps just because the Korean government requires it. So my lessons need to be fun and motivating.

Speaking of motivating. For some reason, the air conditioner has not been turned on in the school (except for the room where the staff eats lunch in the cafeteria, thank goodness) so while I have this big fancy English wing (a separate building from the rest of the school), it is hot and stuffy from the moment students walk in. And if you have ever been in a humid climate in the summer, you know what that feels like. It's the kind of weather where you wonder why your face has a permanent sheen, or why there are beads of sweat on your forearms after bringing the trash down. There is no eyeliner, eyeshadow or blush that can stay on a face after being exposed to this kind of humidity. So not only do I literally come home and have to dry my soggy body out, but the poor students are not only exhausted from their 12 hour school days, but the room is probably 80 degrees (and again, stuffy) so in the likely event that they do not understand what the American teacher is saying, it is very easy for them to slowly (or quickly) nod off. I'd like to say that my teaching is so good or my height so intimidating that no one would ever dare not pay attention, but that is simply not the reality. One time yesterday during my otherwise amazing lesson on geography and the World Cup, I counted 10 dark haired heads down. Out of 20. And yes, neither I nor the co-teacher condone sleeping in class, but I can truly understand how it happens. Especially when the teacher is at the front of the room sweating through her clothes.

I could go on and on, but I am honestly having so much fun. It's only been 4 days, so I won't get ahead of myself. Apparently tomorrow I'm judging the students' English speech competition. I might have also agreed to playing in a soccer game and reading a historical novel to my friend, Yung Sun. I'm interested to see what kind of trouble can be caused by a mediocre grasp of the English language and a polite and eager new teacher.

29 May 2014

the visa is here!

Well, ladies and gentlemen...it turns out I got my visa today. Only I thought I had gotten ripped off.

It went a little something like this...

After my 4 hour wait at the immigration office last Monday, I was hoping my visa would arrive this week so I can finally start teaching this coming Monday. Today was the day, apparently. Of course the day I had planned to go to Seoul for a quick trip. The plan was to leave at 10:30 to get on a bus to Seoul at 10:50, however, a Korean called and in very poor English informed me he would be delivering my visa between 11am-12pm. I asked if he could come earlier, and he said one of his very few known English words, "impossible". I asked if he could come later, and again, "impossible". I knew someone had to be at the receiving end of this because of my experience getting my ARC delivered a month and a half ago. So in my mind I would be cancelling my trip to Seoul. I received two more phone calls from different people and they all said that my visa would be delivered today, between 11-12. Until finally, a phone call came at 10:05 and that person said he would be at the house at 10:30. How perfect! And then I could leave immediately and make it in time for the bus. To my utter shock and amazement, this Korean was on time right at 10:30, something that is almost unheard of. I quickly grabbed the rest of my stuff and my certified mail envelope and ran out the door to meet Jamie, who had already bought me a bus ticket and was waiting. Of course I opened the envelope at a stop light. Inside was just my passport (which I had to leave with the immigration office). No visa. OF COURSE this would happen. I made it on base in record time and pulled into the parking lot just as Jamie was speaking and motioning to the bus driver that I was coming. Whew! Sat down, calmed myself and told Jamie that I waited for nothing.

It wasn't until I got a phone call from my sweet and super helpful recruiter, Ciena, on the bus ride home that I realized I had, actually gotten my visa. She had me take a picture with my phone and email it to her (something we have done a lot of) I told her about the valid until date, and how that didn't make any sense since I was going to be teaching until May 2015. She promised to get to the bottom of it, and would call back with the results. A little while later I heard back from her, with good news and bad news. The sticker on my passport is my visa. (cue dumbfounded laughter inside my head) (seriously? I did ALL THAT WORK for a STICKER??) But unfortunately, it does expire in February. I have never gotten a visa before-how was I supposed to know it would be in my passport? Duh.

When Tyler got his assignment to Korea, it was just for 12 months. However, when we got here his commander asked if he'd like to extend to 18 months, keeping us here until August. We were hoping this would happen, as moving in just 12 months again seemed less than ideal. Unfortunately, since his original paperwork said "10 Feb 2014", (when we arrived in Korea) that is what I had to get put on my SOFA stamp in my passport (what I got when I got to base, saying that I don't have to leave the country every 90 days) but his official paperwork to extend literally JUST cleared LAST week (when my passport was at the immigration office) so because my SOFA stamp is my primary "visa" (or what I received first), my work (E2) visa is my secondary and instead of being based off my work contract, is based off of my SOFA stamp, which is only good until 10 Feb 2015.

Does this confuse you? It confuses the heck out of me. This is what I've had to deal with during this entire process. Hey Tyler, remember the last week of February when I first heard about this job? Neither one of us were sure if it's what I wanted because it's full time (I maybe just wanted to work part time), the school is 20 minutes by car (versus the numerous schools that are down the street from our house), and it would require getting a work visa. Remember when we said, "well it certainly won't hurt to send them my resume" ?? Remember that? Well here we are. The longest process of my life-I think I was engaged to Tyler in a shorter amount of time than it has taken to start teaching here.

It's like I have had no brain for this entire thing. Case in point: when Ciena found a company in Seoul that could process my apostille (the thing from the US government that tells the Korean government I am who I say I am) in a fraction of the time, I was so excited that I got my pages and pages of paperwork finished in literally one day, including two separate trips to get fingerprinted. I went to the post office on base (which is a US post office) and put everything in a "Priority Express" envelope. The guy stamped it, swiped my credit card, and sent it off without a single word. When Mr. Kim hadn't received it two weeks later, I went back to the post office and asked how long a priority express envelope should take to reach Seoul. "Seoul?!?" They asked, incredulous. (I had of course gotten the attention of all 4 people behind the counter, even though I had just asked the one in front of me) "If you're sending something to Seoul, you should definitely go to a Korean post office because anything that gets sent here goes to the US first and then out to it's destination" Of course, any rationally-minded person not in an extreme hurry would have thought of this. Nope, not me...

Or maybe when I needed to wire Mr. Kim 280,000 Korean won for using his "expedited" apostille service. Not only did it take two different days to call USAA (our bank back home, whose international wire transfer hours are only 8am-4pm central time), staying up past my bedtime to wait for 8am central time and 6 people later, (of course I had to use my precious skype credit to call an international phone number) but she finally realized that I needed to transfer it in won, which is not a currency that they can transfer. So then I withdrew money from the ATM (in USD), went to the US post office to buy a money order and pick up yet another express envelope (this was before I realized I needed to use a Korean post office) to mail the money order off immediately. There I was, standing with the $280 money order in my hand when I read on the bottom, "NEGOTIABLE ONLY IN THE US". So how did I think Mr. Kim would be able to cash this money order? I walked to the food court down the hall to think and wrap by brain around what it is that I had just done, and how to fix it. I googled "can you return a money order" on my phone (seriously-thank the good Lord for iphones!) and figured out that yes, you can, or you can just go to a bank and make the money order out to yourself and cash it. (again, dumbfounded laughter) So I walked to the bank in the BX (everything I have done this day has all been in the same building, mind you, so here I am walking back and forth like an idiot) and tried to explain to the very nice tellers what I had done and what I needed to do. They were all so helpful I wanted to reach over and hug them all. We cashed in my money order and he gave me very clear directions to a Korean bank which is just past the money changer just outside the gate. The Korean bank graciously wired my 280,000 won to Mr. Kim's account and he confirmed that he did, in fact, receive the money. And I felt like I needed to find the nearest bar.

But you're all saying, "it's going to be sooooooo worth it" And right now, I'm just thankful I'm starting next Monday, when I will just work the first two days of the week and then get Wednesday through Friday off for a paid holiday. Whew!

I promise this saga is almost over and you'll be reading about my teaching mishaps soon enough.

27 May 2014

the ROK and the what ifs...

As I drove home from base yesterday, after dropping the man off at the terminal, I couldn't believe that I am all alone in a foreign country. No, of course I am not totally alone. The fabulous Fiendettes are always close by, (until most of them leave for the summer) but I still could not and cannot wrap my brain around the fact that I am in Korea alone, without my husband. I attempted to swallow the rock that had lodged itself in my throat and glanced in the back at the dumb manual treadmill I had convinced Tyler to let me order months ago, which apparently had arrived weeks prior to the BX but since the jerk who took my order neglected to write down my correct phone number, each attempt to reach me was in vain. At least I'll have that to put together to occupy my time. And then, there's of course actually using the treadmill. Still the rock.

Of course, I am to start teaching English next week. Which has been long-awaited and totally my decision (with the enthusiastic support of my husband), so I really am to blame about being left on this peninsula alone. But I still can't believe that I'm here and Tyler will be there, in the land of fresh air and wide-open spaces. With mountains and English road signs and REI.

No, it's not Korea. As much as I am homesick, I am still over-the-moon excited about starting teaching English. But for some reason that rock is still lodged in my throat and my heart still races and my eyes feel bloodshot. What if is stronger than the smell of kimchi when I think about the myriad of things that could go wrong in the next 35 days. What if the dog runs away. What if the toilet floods the bathroom. What if crickets or ants or dragonflies come through the walls. What if I get hopelessly lost. What if I get a flat tire. What if I run out of food and the commissary is closed or I have no gas in my car to take me to base to get food and I walk to the Korean grocery store down the street but I have no won, or the store is also closed, or I can't tell what anything is. (seriously. these thoughts have crossed my mind) What if it gets so humid in the house that our humidifier can't keep up and mold grows everywhere. What if the dog goes crazy in the house all day. What if.

But you know what. What if. What if I start this teaching job and it totally blows me away. What if I learn Korean. (gasp!) What if, when I get a flat tire, I know how to communicate with whomever comes to my rescue, at least a little bit. What if my house stays clean, the clothes stay folded and my dog still feels loved. What if the days go by so quickly that I wonder how I can convince time to slow down, even with my husband away. What if my desire to prove to myself that I can do this is so much stronger than my desire to go home. What if.

I know this routine well. These first couple days are always the hardest. And before I know it, my mind goes from thinking how no wife should ever go through this to I hope he's having as much fun as I am.

And in the meantime, I'll look at pictures of our adventures together and start scheming for the next.

We took a trip to the beach on Sunday and although we took a wrong turn, there were no bathrooms in sight and it was misty most of the day, still managed to have a fantastic time. There is something about fried chicken in Korea...
We were both shocked at how green and clean the water was...this is not the Korea we are used to seeing around the base.

And these weird war-type huts were all over the place. Some were actual "houses" others were just a hole in the ground surrounded by sandbags and wire.
Washed-up starfish
Ada was too busy with her surroundings to be concerned with taking a selfie with us.

Never a happier dog than when she's exploring with us.
Korea and their signs...
And we finished the day with a quick walk to a restaurant back in our neighborhood. I ordered a salad-type deal that you were supposed to add rice rice and the ketchup-looking sauce and mix it all together. It was quite tasty.

Thanks for checking in! I look forward to giving you all positive reports that I am, indeed, thriving and loving it over here.