Wednesday, May 11

Goodbye, Korea

I said my goodbyes to Korea four months ago and I've been enjoying the U.S. for the last three... It's high time I made this final post and said farewell to the Korea Chronicles.

My last few days in Korea were crazy and hectic, between packing and mailing boxes home, donating everything else to my bishop and the missionaries, finishing travel arrangements for the next three and half weeks spent in four different Asian countries, and tying up loose ends at my school.

If I remember correctly, I don't think I was all that sad to be saying goodbye. If anything, it just felt a little strange to know I was seeing streets and stores and restaurants for possibly the last time...ever. But walking away from teaching? Am I a despicable human if I admit to having no tears there? And the bitter, icy wind? Wow, I couldn't wait to get to the 80°+ Philippine weather.

I met some pretty cool people in Korea. The mostly sweet, very persistent, Jehovah's witnesses took me to lunch on one of my last days. I requested dak galbi, of course. It's maybe the only Korean meal I will miss. (And, in exchange for lunch, I patiently sat through a little bit of the Jehovah's witnesses' ministering, complete with pamphlets and a book of scripture I agreed to not throw away... Huh, it's sad how many things get misplaced in the process of moving from one country to another...)
Mm...yeah, dak galbi is delicious.

Between some packing, I snapped a few more pictures of my everyday sights in Chuncheon: 
From the second floor of my apartment building...

My mailbox...with all the delightful Korean mail that I couldn't decipher.

My basement, and the path I took to the laundry room. My camera flash makes it look like a nicely-lit space...well, it's not. I had to walk in the dark until just before I reached the laundry room (the doorway at the end on the right) and then, finally, an automatic light would flicker on--if I was lucky. Yeah...the creepiness got my blood pumping more than once...

Aww, my laundry room.

My gift to my apartment building: lovely sticky tabs translating the washing machine into English. of the last times I would walk out of my apartment building...

Oh, oops...I said I was going to try this little cafe across the street at least once before leaving Korea. I...never did. (Hey, it's scary walking into an unknown restaurant by yourself, not knowing what or how to order, and doing it all in front of a bunch of high-school boys! They would have laughed at me!)

My street...

Remember how I always wanted to go in this church that was behind my apartment building? Well, I finally did. As you can see, I only have pictures of the outside. Because the inside ended up being quite boring.

My Mini Stop! Aw, I bought so much soda and junk food here. :) And the young cashier who enjoyed saying "hello" (and all the other English words he knew, which came to a grand total of zero other words): I shall miss him.

One of my last times waiting at this crosswalk, attempting to blend in with all the other Koreans. Even after 6 months, I still got stares. *sigh*
 The red arrow above is pointing to my bakery, where I faithfully bought a loaf of white bread every week or so. I got to where I would just count out my 이천오백 (ee-chun oh-peck--2500 won) halfway up the block and have it ready in my pocket. That way I could properly concentrate on my "kamsahamnida" and "annyeonghi kyeseyo."

My favorite store ever!! Three floors of pure Awesome.

Well, I couldn't leave Korea without stocking up on Korean beauty products, now, could I? I also made trips to Skinfood, Beyond, Nature Republic, and Missha...perhaps it was a little overboard...

Packing and snacking... (Aloe juice became one of my favorite beverages in Korea.)

Teaching was an experience, one I will never forget. I learned so much, one of the biggest things being how to let go and just let the kids be wild from time to time. Or every day. Pictured below in the red coat (and doing a fancy one-legged stand) is one of my favorite 1st graders, the one I'd have shouting matches down the hallway with: "Baby teacher!" "Baby student!" "Baby teacher!
Aw. They're cuties. Especially now that my teaching responsibilities are over.

The note I left on my chalkboard before leaving for the last time. 
Translation: Goodbye! I love you guys. Love: Uh-buh-ree

My last time at Noodle Tree Restaurant, the place that saved my life (nutritionally-speaking) in Chuncheon: 
I thoroughly enjoyed it. And even gave the staff a thank-you card written in fluent English (yeah, they gave me weird looks, I don't care).

 My bishop and his family took me out to dinner on my last night in Chuncheon. We had shabu-shabu, and it was delicious. (Hmm...funny how some of my favorite Korean foods were actually Japanese...) 

After dinner, my bishop dropped me back off at my apartment and I loaded up their car with everything I had bought over the last 6 months and couldn't take with me--bedding, silverware, hangers, storage bins, art supplies--you name it. I even gave Sunny my little purse that I didn't want to take with me and a bottle of nail polish (unplanned, but I couldn't help it after seeing her admiring my makeup on my nightstand).
I'm telling you, there is so much joy in giving. :) :) :)

The next morning, I said my final goodbyes to my home: 
It wasn't much, but it was all mine and I loved it.

Except for the bathroom that was also a shower. I didn't love that.

My street in the cold, dark morning:
Walking away from my apartment and to the train station for the last time was strange and bittersweet. And bitter, bitter cold. I was so very excited to get to the Philippines.

And that's it. That was my last picture in South Korea. 6 months of my life gone and a chapter closed.

The things I won't miss:
kimchi radishes
pickled radishes
men (and women!) spitting in public
teaching English as a foreign language to wild children
octopus tentacles in my soup
hunting for Mtn. Dew
a 20-minute walk to church (am I lazy or what?!)
a 2-hour trip to an English-speaking ward
the threat of North Korea 20 miles to the north
squat toilets
not having toilet paper or soap or paper towels in public restrooms many stairs
forcing myself to eat all of my school lunch, mystery vegetables and all
raw beef in an otherwise-cooked meal
being the only one to celebrate Halloween and the only one to properly celebrate Christmas
having to lug heavy bags of groceries three blocks back to my apartment
getting the "fat" look when I order a large soda at the movies when I'm obviously alone
having to air dry every single piece of clothing
my co-teacher and his inexperience with teaching
my landlady controlling my floor heating
doing food prep on my floor
getting my butt slapped before getting a shot in my butt
drunk vice principals at school dinners
the language barrier

The things I will miss:
my little one-room studio apartment (surprisingly)
having random people come up and yell "hello" or tell me I'm pretty
my sweet 2nd grade girls jabbering at me in Korean, like I understand
aloe juice drink
the easy access to an awesome and gigantic city (Seoul)
ajummas and ahjussis (they're so cute, especially the ones that try to talk to you on the bus)
those teeny tiny mushrooms that are so yummy in soups and stuff
going to the movies by myself
being the only one to understand the American jokes at the movies
cheap open-air markets
the funny Engrish sayings on clothing
Dunkin' Donuts
the Penis Park (juuust kidding)
cheap E.R. visits (I mean, if you must. And I did. Twice.)
badminton practice and tournaments with my school
Hershey's chocolate milk made with that amazing Maeil milk
the freshly-fried corn dogs in Chuncheon's Myeongdong
the opportunity to travel and do awesome things all. the. time.

Korea, overall, you've been a pretty awesome home away from home. Thank you so much for this incredible experience. Thank you for teaching me, embracing me, and giving me skills I will have for the rest of my life. Thank you for training me to handle stressful situations completely on my own (well, and with the help of Google Maps). Thank you for giving me confidence to go anywhere and do anything. I can't wait for my next opportunity to travel solo. I now know that I am tough enough to hack it. And that's an amazing feeling.

Monday, January 18

UTIs and Stuff

What to do if you get a UTI (urinary tract infection) in Korea:

Part One: ER visit

1. Panic momentarily.
2. Remember that Korea has amazing healthcare (*phew*).
3. Go to the emergency room at 2:00 a.m. (the best time to go to an emergency room in Korea, based on my experience...)
4. Give your Korean name to the guy at the front desk ("Um..sir. I think you're mistaken. Despite appearances, I'm not Asian. ...can I give you my American name??").
5. Explain to the ER doctor that you have 피 (pi/ blood) in your pee. Or mime. (Down here. Ouchie.)
6. Be escorted to the bathroom by an Asian nurse who mimes "pee in this here cup."
7. Wait for results in an empty lobby.

8. Get an antibiotic IV drip.
9. Realize that, in addition to your UTI symptom of urgency, you drank gallons of water before coming to the hospital.
10. Painfully wait while your IV drips...drips...drips...
11. Realize your IV bag is still half full and this is gonna be a very long wait...drip...drip...drip...
12. 저기요! (Cheogiyo!/ Excuse me!) 
13. 화장실? (Hwajangshille?/ Bathroom?) YES!! 사랑해요, I love you.
14. Take a little trip with your IV pole down the hallway to empty your bladder.
15. Finish your IV drip...drip...drip... (take ER selfies, scroll through Pinterest)
16. Pay a whopping (not really) 52,000 won for your visit (Only $50 for an ER visit? Yes, please.).
17. Walk home in the creepy 4 a.m. quiet while it starts to snow.

Part Two: Gynecologist visit

1. Walk back to the hospital (this time in daylight), clutching your paper that hopefully has the correct translation for Gynecologist.
2. Stand in the chaotic lobby, hoping you'll magically find a sign that says "IF YOUR NAME IS AUBREE AND YOU HAVE A UTI, ENTER HERE."
3. Have a random nurse spot you, glance at your paper (thank you, google translate), and escort you to the land of vaginas and babies (the tiny 3-room gynecology department).
4. Wait on a plush bench and look around.
5. Visit with the doctor. ("Where you from? Why you here?")
6. Have both the doctor and the nurse babble at you, trying to get you to confirm that you have dysuria. Yes, it's ouchie.
7. Visit some more with the doctor, look at his large atlas of Utah, as well as a dozen other state maps. (He's visiting the Western United States next year for a month and a half,)
8. Say goodbye to the doctor, wait for nurse to print up prescription and bill.
9. Have the doctor come back out with even more maps. ("Wow, sir, so many maps. Wyoming, eh? That'll be...exciting...")
10. Learn that the reason for the doctor's trip is that he's retiring. ("I'm 70 years old."--he looked about 55 or 60, wow!)
11. Pay bill. (23,000 won)
12. Get antibiotic shot. In your butt, duh. (slap, slap)

Part Three: Pharmacy visit

1. Walk 10 feet next door to the pharmacy.
2. Drink the complimentary healthy Korean beverage and wait for all of 5 minutes for them to fill the prescription.

Part Four: Walk home

1. Walk home happily (Who's got drugs? I do!)
2. Have Korean high school boy say "hi" to you like you're a wild animal, respond "hello" and have him and his friend laugh, surprised that "it" can speak.

Yup, I am very satisfied with Korea today. Korean healthcare is awesome. And so cheap. (Not that it matters, because I'm on my school's insurance and it will get reimbursed anyway...)

Moral of the story: get sick or injured in Korea.

Wednesday, January 13

Haesindang Park, Samcheok: the most potentially-offensive blog post I will ever have been warned...

A couple weekends ago, I went to Samcheok to visit my friend, Nick, another TaLK scholar. While there, I enjoyed good food (it was New Year's, after all), good company, and the wonders of Haesindang Park... 

Our New Year's Eve feast:
Super fancy finger foods, thanks to Nick. I simply supplied the sparkling grape juice...

Another meal we had: 
Eggs Benedict. The breakfast of the Gods. Or Benedict.

Ok, now, prepare yourself. Or avert your eyes.

Welcome to Haesindang Park!

We sure are happy to see you!

Yeah, so...this park, *casual clearing of the throat*... It's affectionately referred to as The Penis Park. I don't think I need to explain why...
But I will explain the legend behind the phallic obsession:
Once upon a time in Korean legend-dom, there was a couple engaged to be married. One day, the man went out to sea and never returned. The woman, devastated by the loss of her betrothed, threw herself off a cliff and drowned in the ocean. Around this same time, fish began to disappear from the nearby waters, threatening the livelihood of the townspeople. --Enter Peeing Hero-- One day, a man peed into the ocean. And, lo and behold, he was able to catch fish again! Putting two and two together, he realized that the young woman (a virgin) was, um, lonely and his momentary nudity pleased her. And so, this park was erected (*snicker*) to continue to please the virgin of the sea by letting her gaze upon...well, you get the point...

The young woman from the story:

The Peeing Man from the story:
Or, men, I suppose. Such kind-hearted souls, cheering up that young woman... (Don't judge me for this pose. I was simply following suit of the middle-aged Korean woman taking pictures before me...)

Penis men, complete with penis noses. Sure, why not?

What is the purpose of these strange outcroppings? I think they're for young children to swing on.

A strange, squatting penis...

Ohp, and would you look at that: I Aubree head! 

Every good penis park has your standard zodiac-sign penis: 

Even the benches are fashioned in the phallic trend: 

Oh, honey. Penis hair-dos have never been fashionable. Just, no...never...

Uh...I think this is a brothel:

And this is the pimp: 

And this is the result of those poor life choices: 
What...what is happening here?

Oh, oh dear. Ouch. Be safe, kids. STDs are scary business.

The one on the left is like the Medusa of penises.

And in case you needed a close-up of that: 


The Penis Cannon. Well, done, Korea. Well done.

"Babe? Where should we go for family home evening?"
"I know just the place."

So many penises...I know: it seems like this post is never going to end. I'm almost done!

Just beyond this next photo is the ocean, I promise:

*Phew* We made it. What a long journey.

 See? Haesindang Park is a lovely place. (You know you enjoyed this photographic tour.)

After Nick and I had had our fill of phallic wonders, we made our way back to his place for dinner. By way of the tsunami evacuation route, of course:

After the incredibly bumpy/swervy/motion-sick-inducing bus ride (one must sacrifice for Haesindang), we walked to Home Plus and bought ourselves a little pet:

Aww, aren't we precious together??

Alas, all good things must come to an end...


Nom, nom, nom.

Yup, that was my weekend in Samcheok. :)

Farewell for now!