Trip Across Korea Part 4

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After dropping Kristen off at the bus terminal I headed north to Andong and decided to visit a traditional village (하회마을). I arrived about two hours  before the place was closing and so I strolled along  aimlessly looking at all the different houses.  I decided to buy some soju for the friend who lent me his car. Andong is known for its soju, so it was a nice gift.  That night I stayed in a jjimjilbang and decided to get up early to visit another traditional village in Andong, however it was closed when I got there. Realizing that I had nothing to do for three hours I decided I would just drive straight to Gangneung.

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Trip Across Korea Part 3

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Our hostel in Gyeongju.

On our way to Gyeongju we stopped at a rest area to grab some coffee. I approached the counter where two middle-aged women were working. The two women were arguing over who was going to help take my order. I ordered our drinks in Korean and the woman who was helping me turns and tells her co-worker, “See, I told you she spoke Korean.” The other woman comes forward and says, “I can help you then.” The fear of a foreigner walking up to the counter is something that amuses me. How will this person react? We continued on to Gyeongju.

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Trip Across Korea Part 2

Picture spot at the rest area.
Picture spot at the rest area.

After leaving Yeosu, we embarked on our two to three-hour journey towards Macheon Village (마천마을) to see the terraced rice fields. On our way we decided to stop at a rest area. What a beautiful place this was! The area was a lush green and the sky was really heavy with rain clouds! I haven’t seen a rest area like this before, so Kristen and I decided to walk around and enjoy the fresh air before we jumped back in the car to continue our journey to Macheon.

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Trip Across Korea Part 1

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Thanks to Heegyu letting us borrow his car for a week, Kristen and I were able to embark on a trip across Korea. Our first stop was Jeonju Hanok Village (전주한옥마을). We picked a motel nearby and headed out about 9 the next morning.  When we arrived we were surprised by the number of people who were there.  Families and groups of students were everywhere.

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Jeonju Hanok Village.

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A low key vacation

So I didn’t really go anywhere exciting for summer vacation. As in I didn’t leave the country or end up on some island with nice beaches. Luckily for me, I didn’t book such a vacation, because my foot still doesn’t let me walk more than a few hours at a time without swelling a bit and then I need to rest and it goes back to its slightly swollen self the next morning.

A friend of mine went to Thailand with her parents and offered me to stay at her place in Incheon for free. I figured it was a good idea, because at least I would have a change of scenery.  The scenery change was nice some days I stayed home because I walked too much the day before, other days I went traveling solo.

I don’t mind traveling solo, however, I always felt out of place being solo in restaurants and coffee shops. Those who live in Korea, would understand this statement.  Most places are filled with couples or friends, not with single people sitting and eating a meal in a nice restaurant by themselves. Read More

Hiking in Seorak National Park

IMG_1327 (Entrance to Seorak National Park.)

This weekend a good friend of mine, K, came to visit. We decided to go to 속초 (Sokcho) and climb 설악산 ( Mt. Seorak). We didn’t pick the highest peak but we set out on a good hike early Saturday morning. We met up with two of her friends, one was totally unprepared and didn’t know we were going to be hiking.

The weather was a little overcast but really nice and it was GREEN! Very green indeed. I like the way the hiking trails are set up as there are rest stops along the way with covered tables and restaurants serving food. The hike itself was supposed to take 2 hours up and less time down.  We blazed through the first part of the hike as it was mostly flat ground. When we started to descend up we realized that we had to take breaks more often. I thought my legs would give out with all the stairs. I think  I like the natural stairs with the rocks than the man-made metal stairs. The variation in the natural steps is much easier to climb than a consistent step.

IMG_1363 (Natural stone steps.)

We encountered a sign along the way that said : 10 minutes until the top. They lied. This part was steeper and it was not 10 minutes at all. And whoever encountered the second sign: 5 minutes until the top broke it in half. Because it wasn’t 5 minutes from that sign either. We made it to the top and the views were spectacular and lots of people. Children were able to receive an award with their names carved into it. We rested and headed back down and realized the signs were written by the person coming down the mountain.

IMG_1386 (Views at the top of our hike.)

K and I took turns sliding down the mountain, I slipped on the stairs at the top, slipped again in the middle and got a rope burn on my arm and slipped one more time for good measure towards the bottom. Needless to say I am not graceful and at least I have enough balance to keep my head up so there are no cracked skulls. Go me~

We prepared lunch so we ate our sandwiches on a rock and rested for a bit. After coming down the mountain we took the taxi back to the bus terminal for some coffee. We all refused to ride the, “Oh, Hell no~” bus. ( Insert Gabriel Iglesias voice) That bus was loaded to the brim and none of us planned on being sweating sardines.

I feel really accomplished having made it to the top. My body aches all over even though it has now been two days. Might be worth going back to conquer the bigger peak once I’m in better physical shape. It was nice to have some fresh air for the weekend.

IMG_1391 Me at the top of our route.

Saltwater and fresh air…a day of healing

I headed home after work with the gym-teacher’s wife, who is filling in for another teacher on absence, and she asked what I was doing this weekend. I said nothing as I only have 2,000 won to my name. (less than $2.00)  So she hands me money and I tell her no I’m okay, after about 3 times of this she gives me about 30,000 won and asks me to pay her back later. My co-teacher also offered me money but I declined. I don’t like owing people or feeling in debt to them.

So I started my Saturday trying to tackle my taxes, which I failed so, I am going to pay turbo tax this year to file my state taxes since I got a totally different refund amount than them. They are giving me more money so they can keep $30.00 of mine.  After that wasn’t going well, I decided to do laundry and tidy up my apartment. I cleaned all the dishes I have been ignoring. Not the ones in the sink, I clean those daily. But all the dishes through the apartment. I probably should have mopped and did some dusting but I’m a bit lazy so that will have to wait. I walked around the track several times last night and I came back and I had a lot of thoughts in my head.

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A fellow EPIK teacher on facebook posted this quote and it resonated with me. I am starting all over again. It isn’t easy, most days I can handle my thoughts. But then there are days when you are by yourself the thoughts rear their ugly heads and wage war in my mind.  Part of my journey while I am here in South Korea will be to learn to grow as a person and love myself. Starting over, fresh, some place new where no one knows me is the perfect place to do that. I can be who I want, I can learn to love myself without being reminded of the past.  Unfortunately webmd or any other online site that talks about health can do a bit of damage although it can also be eye-opening. I looked up body image and came across BDD (Body dysmorphic disorder).  I’m not the classic extreme example of this, as I am not on the thin side and imagine that I am heavy, or I hate myself so much I can’t walk out of the house. But I do suffer from a degree of it. I’m hyper paranoid about my skin and hair. And If I can see it I fear others can and they might make fun of me if I am not perfect looking in that way. I also tend to compare myself to people who are much heavier than me. A lot of the time I find women who are probably on average (50~100lbs ) more than me, prettier or more attractive. Or I feel we are the same size.  I don’t have that inner degree of confidence that I accept my body the way it is.  I always wonder why my skin isn’t as nice, or I have darker hair or more body hair than other women. Why they always look better than me, and yet I never feel pretty enough. I don’t like wearing makeup but when I put it on, I want to take it off because I can’t tell if the makeup looks better or worse on me.  So Saturday, I struggled a bit with myself and my inner demons. And I told myself to go to bed and not think about it.

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Some words of advice I found as I continue to work on myself.

With that being said, my favorite place to go when I feel upset or just like to be alone is the beach. So I knew that was where I would be headed on Sunday. I packed up my backpack and headed out around 10 A.M. It took about 45 mins or so to get to the beginning of the beach which was all rocks but still really beautiful. The smell of salt water just instantly melts away whatever is brewing inside the mind and it dissipates into silence. The ocean is vast, beautiful and always takes my breath away.  It was a perfect time to reflect on myself and realize I am okay just the way I am and it is okay to struggle with that. I am learning to love myself one day at a time. It isn’t an easy road.

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The blue-green water, the crashing waves and the smell of salt water just made me feel at peace. It was warm but breezy and the perfect day to hunt for shells. If you know my family at all we have an obsession about collecting shells every time we go to the beach. Even if it is the same beach we always go to. We always need more jingle shells. Or maybe we will get a cool shell that is finally complete. Because the cool shells are always the  ones that you find bits and pieces of and think, “Oh! I wonder if I can find a whole one?” Yes you probably will say that out loud as you are searching.

The first part of the beach was really rocky but the rocks had this beautiful mineral sheen to them. They were so pretty I actually picked up a few of them along the way since I haven’t seen rocks like that before. Next on the list, sea glass. Lots of sea glass. Which makes sense as we are on the ocean so more sea glass should wash ashore. Blue, green and brown sea glass collected? Check.  Every beach has its own “typical shells.” The shells you always collect and are like these are the cool shells of the beach, the majority of the population. They very in shape, size, and color, but normally the shells you collect the most of are these. What we are after are the prized possessions.  The truly unique shells of the beach. One of the first bits I found was a sand dollar. A SAND DOLLAR?! Could it be…I could find one? Granted it was only a piece but it gave me hope that maybe I would find this elusive sand dollar whole somewhere on the beach.

And when we do find said elusive shell…we say out loud, “oooo waaaahhhhah!!!!!! A SAND DOLLAR!!!!” like a five year old child receiving candy, we have found the ultimate prize on the beach.

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I was so excited it got separated from the rest of the shells as I didn’t want it to break. Collecting sea shells is soothing, because you only focus on the shells. The details of the shells, the curves, lines, designs, colors, is it partial or whole? These are the questions we ask ourselves. If we find a piece of sea glass on the beach we ask ourselves does this constitute being sea glass? Is it smooth enough?  There is something about nature, whether it is an ocean, a forest, a mountain or a field…it soothes the soul. It erases the worries of the mind and gives us a fresh start for the day.

It does not matter where you live, everyone should have a place to go that relieves their mind and soothes their soul. For me that has always been the smell of salt water. The ocean. If there was no ocean in sight or I was in a land locked area it was the nearest body of water. Be it a river, a lake or a stream. I always knew where the closest body of water is, because when I am sad, when my mind is cluttered, when I want to be alone, to clear my head of all thoughts, I go and sit by water. And I stare at the ocean, or that body of water and let whatever is bothering me wash away. I always walk away feeling better.

I have turned my life upside down and am starting new. It isn’t easy and each day is a new adventure. Every day I am challenging the old me and creating the new me. The me, I have always seen inside my head. The pretty woman who radiates confidence and is full of life, charging straight ahead after her dreams. I’m building her day by day. So there are days I fall back and those inner demons chase me, but I acknowledge it. I embrace it, if I feel like crying…I do. If I feel like laying in bed all day…I do. If I need to find water, I will. As I get older I realize no matter where we are in the world, whether you transplant yourself to another state or country, you should always know what keeps you calm. What keeps you centered.  For me that is salt water and no matter where I go in life, I know that is always the place I will go when I need to think things through or free my mind of worries.

Where do you go to clear your mind? And if it isn’t a place, what soothes your soul?

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I was looking at the shells I collected today and the ones that struck me the most were the sea glass. It’s like every piece is a shard of ourselves. And no matter how long we collect it or how many pieces we have in our collection it will never be complete, it will never completely be a testament to who we are. Why? Because we are individuals and no matter how we try to define ourselves it takes many pieces to make a whole and we don’t necessarily make a uniform shape, but maybe we are forever expanding…? Forever continuing to grow and shape ourselves as our lives continue…as life shapes us one day at a time. Some food for thought.

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