30 Day Yoga Challenge: Days 21-25

Hi everyone! I apologize for the lack of updates – I have not forgotten about the DO YOU YOGA 30 Day Challenge! Life and work have just been super crazy for the past few days. Here are the videos I’ve done:

Day 21 -“Yoga on Your Back”

Day 22 – “Hamstring Flexibility Part II”

Day 23 – “Standing Eagle Flow”

Day 24 – “Half Moon Flow”

Day 25 – “Yoga to Restore”

I have no complaints about any of these videos, and I am feeling more flexible every day. Today’s video, “Yoga to Restore,” was slow, but my body definitely needed it. It was very soothing and provided some deep stretches. I also repeated days 13 and 17 for fun. I just wanted a little more from my workout.

On Sunday, I went into Manhattan to visit my friend Brit. We went to MoMA to see A Revolutionary Impulse: The Rise of the Russian Avant-Garde. It was a wonderful exhibit and featured works by El Lissitzky and Kazimir Malevich, two artists I really enjoyed while I was studying art history in college. We also saw Francis Picabia: Our Heads Are Round so Our Thoughts Can Change Direction. It was a retrospective and I found it to be absolutely brilliant. I wish I had taken more pictures.

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For lunch, we went to a Korean BBQ place called Jongro. We had samgyeopsal, tteokbokki, and haemul pajeon. Everything was very authentic and delicious. We also wandered around a bunch of Korean cosmetics stores and went into H-Mart so I could buy some snacks I missed!

How is your week going?

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The Post-Graduate Struggle

When I decided to leave for Korea, I was under the impression that teaching English there would fix all my problems. Namely, my financial instability and my emotional distress caused by my financial instability. However, the stress of my job ended up taking an even greater toll on my psyche despite the fact that I was making considerably more money than I had been at home.

Since returning to New Jersey, I honestly spend the majority of my time watching Netflix in bed and crying about how much money I don’t have, even though I am currently working. Student loans. Car insurance. Phone bill. Gas. After all my expenses are paid, I have very little left for myself and it tortures me. I am officially back to square one.

In Korea, I had more than enough money to go out to dinner multiple times per week, treat myself to some new cosmetics, or even take a weekend trip on a whim. And that was after I sent half my paycheck home to take care of my expenses! Now, an iced caramel latte at Dunkin’ Donuts is hardly affordable.

The state that I (and many of my peers) are currently in is a sad one. What did we go to college for? To be in debt for the rest of our lives and not find jobs in our fields?  To work somewhere part-time and still live at home with our parents three or four or five years after graduating?

It hardly makes me feel better when I see people working in positions which I know they got because their families have money, connections, or both. The system is truly flawed because of this. I am absolutely certain that there are much more qualified people who could be working in so many of the jobs out there, but are not given a chance because of some petty reason.

Then, of course, there are the jobs that expect you to have five years of experience for an entry level position when you only went to school for four. How is anyone supposed to gain experience if employers are not willing to take a chance on a promising individual and teach her or him the skills necessary to do that job?

It baffles me. It saddens me.Please feel free to add your comments, and perhaps we could get a discussion going.

Korean Food Appreciation Post

I’ve recently been missing some things about Korea – particularly food. So, I thought I’d write a post about some of my favorite dishes I had while I was living in Ulsan!

Shabu Shabu

– While it’s not technically a Korean dish (it’s Japanese), there were shabu shabu restaurants everywhere in Korea! Steve and I probably ate this more than anything else when we went out for dinner. Shabu shabu consists of thinly sliced pieces of raw meat, which you cook in a boiling pot of broth at your table. You also add vegetables like bok choy and cabbage. When everything is cooked, you can roll it up in rice paper along with an assortment of other raw veggies!

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Barbecue (고기구이)

– I loved eating barbecue in Korea, especially samgyeopsal (삼겹살) which is pork belly. It was always so much fun going out to a restaurant with friends and cooking your dinner right at the table. My favorite restaurant in downtown Ulsan always put out a side dish of spicy bean sprouts and I also enjoyed ssamjang (쌈장), which is a thick sauce you can dip your meat in before you wrap it in a lettuce leaf.

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Gamjatang (감자탕)

– Gamjatang is a pork spine stew that has potatoes, radish greens, onions, peppers, and sometimes noodles or dumplings. It was one of my favorite things to eat during the super cold winter months because it certainly warmed you right up!

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Pajeon (파전)

– Pajeon is a green onion pancake that I wish I had gotten to eat more of during my stay. My favorite kind had seafood cooked into it (squid and prawn). Usually not enough for a whole meal, but definitely good for a yummy snack.

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Dak Galbi (닭갈비)

– Dak galbi is a stir fried chicken dish made with gochujang (red pepper paste), cabbage, onions, and rice cakes. You can usually add in other items, like cheese or ramen (that’s how I liked it!). Everything is cooked together on a big hot plate. When it’s ready, just scoop and eat!

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In addition to these particular dishes, I also miss chains like Paris Baguette, Lotteria, and Ediya. Paris Baguette had cheap, yummy sandwiches and salads which were great in a pinch. At Lotteria, I loved the Mozzerella in the Burger sandwich. And finally, at Ediya, they had a toffee nut latte which was absolutely to die for!

Three Weeks Later

It’s been three weeks since I left Korea. I’m very happy to be home in New Jersey and able to see my mom and friends. It’s nice to have access to familiar things, as well, such as the lake I like walking around, the boardwalk at Point Pleasant, and even my favorite restaurants. Pizza and bagels were sorely missed.

I just got a job at a restaurant near my house. I won’t have to spend a lot of money on gas and I think I’ll be able to do some saving. In the meantime, I plan on getting certified to teach ESL in public schools here. There are a few tests I have to take, including math, but some friends have offered to tutor me. I’m really grateful for that. The other tests are for oral and written proficiency, which I’m not worried about.

Even though I was only in Korea for six months, it’s admittedly been a little strange getting reacclimated to life at home. It took quite some time to get over the jet lag, and all my days seemed to get mushed together. I got so used to using Facebook messenger or Skype to talk to my friends at home (the only person I texted or called in Korea through my actual phone plan was Hannah), but now I can communicate with them without needing the internet. I also don’t have to bow at people or handle money like a Korean (which I found myself doing for a while right after I got back). I’m also thrilled to have my car again and not have to rely on public transportation when I need to go somewhere.

Anyway, I’m still getting back into the groove of things, and it’s really nice to have found a job so quickly. I hate sitting at home with nothing to do!

I’m also thinking of changing the name of my blog. If you have any suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments!

A Broken Contract and a Midnight Run

I’ve been back in New Jersey for twelve days. I was debating over whether or not I should write about why I chose to leave Korea, and I’ve finally decided that I would.

Working in Korea was making me very unhappy. Not the kids or being in the classroom, but my superiors and their actions. I felt anxious all the time, to the point that there was a constant knot in my stomach. For those that don’t know, many hagwons use CCTV to watch students and teachers. Whenever I tried to do something fun in class, my boss would pull me aside after and tell me “no games, we must promote more study.” I’m sorry, but how are you supposed to teach a nine year old without the use of games or activities?

I was also getting very tired of seeing other teachers hit and discipline students so harshly. That’s something I’m not used to seeing in America and, by sitting quietly on the sideline, it made me feel like I was condoning child abuse, which I most certainly was not.

Additionally, the Korean teachers at my hagwon kept to themselves and there was very little communication. Often, I would walk in and find papers or new schedules on my desk with no explanation of what they were or what I was supposed to do with them. Sometimes, I would be given about five minutes notice that I was supposed to administer a test to a class. If I got courageous enough to ask someone for help or clarification, I mostly got blank looks. And, of course, still no explanation.

My breaking point came after two events. First, I was given a new class with very little notice and was expected to come to work about an hour earlier than I had been coming in all year. There were also no materials and the other foreign teacher and I were supposed to find time to make some from scratch (we had no knowledge of the level of the students, either). Second, (I will not go into this in great detail because it is not my tale to tell) one of my coworkers was berated and belittled in front of the office for standing her ground on a matter that affected her personally. In response, she was called names and was denied the things she asked for.

For me, this was absolutely a toxic environment and I had to remove myself from it. I packed up all my belongings and left without telling anyone at work.

Eating All The Things in Daegu

Wow, I’ve been really lazy about posting recently! Time to get caught up.

March 1st was Independence Movement Day, which is a national holiday, so everyone had off from work. Hannah and I decided to meet up in Daegu.

I decided to cut down my travel time and take the KTX. We were supposed to meet up at noon, but I got there much earlier than expected (like always because I’m obviously crazy about ever being late).

I took the subway straight to Banwoldang Stating to wait for Hannah. There is a lot of underground shopping there, so I decided to treat myself to some new cosmetics. When Hannah arrived, we did some more shopping before deciding we were starving and went off to find some lunch.

Hannah had heard about an all-you-can-eat barbecue place for 10,000 won per person. That sounded amazing, so we took the subway to find it. After walking around for a while, we found the restaurant, only to discover that it was closed! So disappointing. And this always seems to happen to us. Last time we were in Daegu together, it was the Hello Kitty Cafe that was shut down. A little upset, we went back to downtown Daegu to try and find something else.

Then, we saw it. Another all-you-can-eat barbecue restaurant for 9,900 won per person! It was called Mr. Pig and we rushed in. There was a line practically out the door. When we were finally seated, we were ready to go help ourselves.

Oh. My. God. It was beautiful! There was unlimited rice and noodles, Chinese-style chicken, fried mandu, french fries, soup, and tteokbokki. Then, the good stuff. There was an assortment of both pork and beef to pile onto plates and cook yourself. Also, lots of veggies to wrap your meat in. We had some serious eyes bigger than stomach syndrome going on. I’m not sure how much we ate, but it was a lot. And it was worth every bite.

After we paid, we walked around some more and hit up ArtBox (one of our favorite stores).

When we had finally digested our amazing lunch, we had to have dessert, of course! We found a cute dessert cafe and each got a caramel macchiato and an order of cinnamon caramel honey bread to share. Delicious. We spent a lot of time just hanging out and talking.

After a slight snafu over train times (Hannah had missed the last one back to Sangju), her boyfriend said he would come pick her up and she came with me to the KTX station. Overall, it was a great day in Daegu!

 

A Sunny Sunday

Yesterday, the weather was better than it had been in a long time: sunny and about 53 degrees. So, Steve and I decided we would have an adventure day!

In the morning, we woke up early and made our way to Dong Gu (another area of Ulsan) to find Saint Dionysus Greek Orthodox Church. My mom had told me it existed a few months ago and I had been meaning to go. After taking the bus to the wrong stop, we got in a taxi and the driver took us right to the front steps. It was beautiful! I took a few pictures before heading inside.

We had arrived just before Holy Communion. It has been a very long time since I’ve attended service on a Sunday. While I don’t consider myself a practitioner, I do feel that it’s still part of my heritage. Steve and I stood in the back. The priest spoke in a combination of Korean and Greek, and I was surprised to see quite a number of Greek people in attendance.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get any pictures of the interior of the church, but it was incredible. You would have never known you were in Korea,  except for the fact that all the lettering that should have been in Greek, was painted in hangeul.

After church, Steve and I instinctively headed toward the water (we’re a Scorpio and a Cancer) and took a nice long walk to Ilsan Beach. We were starving by the time we got there, and found a Korean buffet to try.

Holy. Shit. This place was amazing. There was sushi and other fresh seafood, make your own bibimbap, a salad bar, a cheese station, soups, a steamer overflowing with mandu, and a selection of fried foods. The wait staff even brought us a plate of steak with vegetables and massive bowls of udon. We ate so much! Then, we ate dessert. There was ice cream, bungeoppang (carp-shaped pastry filled with red bean), fresh fruits, and other sweet things to nibble on.

After, we left Ilsan Beach and made our way to the Jangsaengpo Whale Museum, something else I’ve been wanting to do since I’ve been here. The museum is situated right next to the harbor and you can see all he boats coming in and out. What I did not expect, though, was that the majority of the exhibit was on whaling and that made me kind of upset. After walking through the main exhibit hall, we went to a secondary building which serves as a small aquarium and movie theatre. We even got to see dolphins! Overall, it was a lot of fun and I definitely suggest going if you’re visiting Ulsan.

What did you do this weekend?