Saturday Stream of Consciousness

It’s a rainy Saturday here in Ulsan, so I decided to spend some time at a cafe and do a little writing. The following is what I penned in my notebook:

It is grey and raining in this cafe where the tables look like Morocco: blue, patterned. I am drinking my iced latte, my favorite simple pleasure. And I want to cry like the rain. Croissants. Scones. Chitter chatter. I’m never alone, even though I feel like I am sometimes.

The barista is bringing out more pastries for display and the music isn’t my favorite,  but it’s pleasant. Cars are driving by on the tiny street and I see my apartment from my seat. Why do I love coffee so much? I used to hate it. This place is filled with bamboo and other big, leafy, green plants. The sign on the door says “coffee is always a good idea” and I agree. And I’m looking at the seafood restaurant across the street, but it’s probably too expensive. But the pictures of the lobster look so good.

The rain is rolling down the windows and drip dropping on the outdoor benches. I’m waiting for a package. I wonder when it will come. I wanted to go for a walk today, but the rain.

MUST. ESPRESSO. BLEND. CODE BLACK. That’s what it says on the card on the saucer that my coffee came on. And I think about how many cafes I’ve been to and how much coffee I’ve had with friends, boyfriends. I love it.

Dark chocolate. Cacao. Cashew nut. Mandarin. Good body. (The other side of the card.)

Balance. Am I balanced? The Lexapro makes me feel like I am. Until I feel overwhelmed. Anxiety. Boom. Fuck. I can’t breathe. I can’t make everyone happy, but I can make me happy. This coffee helps. I’m going to Taipei. That helps. Food and art. Food and art. Probably my most favorite things in the whole wide world. I’m going to eat xiao long bao and bubble tea and beef noodle soup and Taiwanese breakfast. Give me culture. Give me experience. I’m not going to just pay bills and die. I’m going to live. I’m going to do everything I want and more!

Colombia “Narino” Supreme. Guatemala “Fraijanes Palo Alto Azul.” Indonesia “Aceh Gayo.” (More from the card.)

I keep looking at it. I didn’t bring an umbrella. And I’m wearing sandals. I don’t really care. I think the rain’s getting heavier. 종가2길. My Korean should be better after all this time. But it’s not. Is not giving a fuck an art? If not, can it be? A family just walked in. The little boy is in awe over the pastries. Mom is wearing neon green and black striped socks. The boy’s wet shoes are squeaking across the floor. Dad looks tired. I look tired. It’s fine.

Origin. Origin. Origin. Origin.

The croissants are looking mighty good. The espresso machine is beautiful. MUST. Custom? Italian? I’ll have one someday.

Purple poncho. This guy is outside leaning on his motorbike, drenched. Driving away. I don’t miss driving. 가위 바위 보. Rock, paper, scissors. An older couple across the street is playing, smiling. They look happy. I like that. 

Pensive. I like that word. I like a lot of words. History. Defined.

Is this Oasis? Shazam. Yes, it is. “Married with Children.”

Eclectic. Marble. Wood. Brown. Black. Cream. The light is soft.

Do other people scream internally? Because I feel like I do that a lot. Sometimes I look at people and wonder how they’ve made it this far. And they do some stupid fucking shit which makes me open my big, fat Jersey mouth. Whatever. I didn’t used to do that. I think living here has made me more fearless. That sounds cliche. Wow. But seriously. I can’t stay quiet anymore. Is it growing up? I don’t know.

I love myself.

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My Kindergarten Job in Korea

When I taught in Korea in 2015, I worked with elementary and middle school students. I figured out almost immediately that middle school was not an age range I enjoyed. So, when I decided to come back last year, I accepted a job teaching kindergarten and elementary.

I work at a private academy (or hagwon), which is different from government-run schools. My working hours are from 9 AM to 6 PM, with 10 days of paid vacation (determined by the school), national holidays off (there are quite a few), health insurance, and a rent-free apartment near school. I am currently the head foreign teacher and make 2,300,000 won/month before taxes. 2,100,000/month is an average starting salary.

My kindergarten classes are between 9:30 AM and 2:30 PM. After that, I teach elementary classes. At my school, I have one homeroom class that I spend the majority of my time with. They are seven years old. I teach them language arts, writing, and project where we do research on a specific topic for two week periods. Additionally, I teach art to my homeroom class as well as the four other kindergarten classes during the week. It completely worked out by accident that I ended up being the art teacher, but I’m really happy about it. It almost feels like I’m using my college degree.

Kindergarteners also get snacks and lunch provided by the school (teachers get lunch, too). It’s usually a well-rounded meal with rice, soup, a protein, and veggies. Most of the time it’s traditional Korean food, but we’ve had things like spaghetti and chicken tenders before, as well. Our cook is freakin’ awesome. I love being able to try different foods at school every day that I might not have been exposed to otherwise.

Fridays are usually special days at school. Sometimes we do cooking classes. Other days, we do field trips (we’ve gone to the whale museum in Ulsan) or have events (we recently did a huge water gun fight). We also have a big birthday party once a month.

After my regular kindergarten classes end, I teach an accelerated reading class to two students twice a week. I also teach two lower level reading classes and a more advanced reading/writing class. For the most part, curriculums and materials are provided. However, I like to supplement with materials I create or find on my own. I’m really grateful that there is a lot of room to do my own thing at work.

This job is so different from the one I held in Korea previously. I am so happy to work here and look forward to coming in every day.

Do you have any questions about teaching in Korea? What’s your job like? Feel free to leave me a comment!

The Squat Toilet

  • This post is a little TMI, so if you prefer not to read about my bathroom misadventures abroad, stop reading now.

Call me spoiled, but I have never been particularly fond of bathrooms without “real” toilets. In fact, they strike fear and anxiety in me that will probably (unfortunately) lead to a bladder infection one day.

It all started in elementary school. My mother and I were at the family friend’s party in upstate New York when the septic tank crapped out (pun absolutely intended). They told me I had to pee in the woods, and I simply couldn’t do it. Instead, I cried and had my mom drive me into town so I could use the restroom at the local toothless bar. It wasn’t ideal, but it was better than the woods.

A few years later, on a trip to Greece with my mom, her friend, and her friend’s son, we had decided to take a road trip from Athens to Halkidiki (about six hours). I was completely unaware of the concept of “Turkish toilets” and naively downed a bottle of Fanta before our departure. Not too long into our journey, I had to use the bathroom. We pulled over and, to my horror, the bathroom was nothing but a hole in the ground with a footprint on either side of it. I ended up taking a nap in the car to keep my mind off the fact that my bladder was going to explode.

Let’s fast forward to Korea. 2015.

I was meeting my friend Hannah in Daegu. After a long bus ride, I finally arrived at the terminal and figured I’d use the restroom. The line was long, but I waited. Finally, a woman exited the stall and it was my turn. I pushed the door open and there was nothing but a squat toilet. Panic. I paused for a moment before turning around and walking away very quickly. I had to pee pretty bad at this point. And, it turned out, that Hannah was across the city at another terminal. So, I took a taxi to find her and we wandered around until we came across a Mom’s Touch (a popular fast food restaurant) where I could use the bathroom.

And we’re going to fast forward again. Korea. 2018.

Krysta and I were in Busan. She was getting her hair dyed, which was a long process (more than 6 hours). I sat with her, watching TV and drinking cold water because it was so brutally hot outside. Finally, it hit me. I had to pee. So, I asked the manager where the bathroom was. She grabbed a key and led me to a door outside. She unlocked it. I froze. It was a squat toilet.

I awkwardly walked inside and closed the door behind me. It was oppressively hot. Terrified I was going to pee on myself, I removed my pants and underwear and hung them on the doorknob. Looking back, it was probably pretty stupid, but I didn’t want to take any chances. As I placed one foot on either side of the “toilet” and proceeded to squat down, I had an overwhelming fear of falling over and reached out to grab the wall on either side of me. What a position I was in. I finished up and went back inside the salon. There wasn’t even a sink, so I slathered my hands in hand sanitizer and waited for Krysta.

I have never felt so embarrassed in private before. As well as mildly traumatized. The entire experience was as bad as I always imagined it to be, and I hope I never have to do that again.

Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation? Do you have a bathroom horror story from abroad? Feel free to share in the comments!

A Weekend in Busan

It’s been well over a year since I’ve written a post, but I felt it was time to start doing so again. Matt and I have been living in Korea since December 2017 (time flies!) and it has been a much better experience for me this time around.

I was inspired to start writing again after an amazing weekend I had in Busan with my friend Krysta. We experienced some next-level hospitality, had a lot of fun, and I really wanted to share.

Saturday morning, Krysta and I headed from Ulsan to Haeundae. I had an appointment for a Korean magic perm, which is a popular permanent straightening process here. The heat and humidity have been quite unbearable lately, and my hair has been an absolute frizz fest. We went to Two Two Salon, which had wonderful reviews from other foreigners on Facebook.

We met with Sophia, the owner, who was extremely welcoming as soon as we walked in the door. She was an older woman, with blue hair and a bubbly personality. Her English was minimal, but we communicated just fine. The entire process took about 2.5 hours and cost 200,000 won ($177). While Krysta and I waited, Sophia and her staff made sure we were fed and hydrated (they even bought us ice cream). As we were leaving, she even gave me two small bottles of argan oil to take care of my hair at home. I was so happy with the results.

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After, we walked down the main street in Haeundae towards the beach. It was around 2 o’clock, but our hotel check-in wasn’t until 4. We decided to go to the hotel anyway and see if we could check in early. The man at the front desk informed us the room wasn’t ready, but offered to take our bags and said we could come back at 3. That was good enough for us, and we headed to lunch.

Krysta and I decided to eat at the Haeundae branch of Galmegi Brewing Co. They’ve been around since 2014 and are Busan’s first American-style microbrewery. I am a huge fan of their yuja gose! For food, I got chicken tacos and Krysta got a pulled pork sandwich with fries. Their food is super authentic and delicious.

After lunch, we continued on our “treat yo’self” adventure. We took the subway closer to Jangsan to get our nails done at Lana Nail Busan. Her shop was a little difficult to find. As we were walking around the complex, Lana called my phone to tell me she saw me and directed us to the shop. When I booked the appointment with her, she had told me that she would be the only one working. However, when we got there, she had asked another employee to come in (on her day off!) so we could both get our manicures done at the same time. Lana’s English was excellent, and she was so fun to talk to. I decided to go for a fun, brightly colored design (I usually do darker colors) and I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.

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We relaxed at SpaLand and had dinner near the beach before heading back to our room for the night. The next morning, we went back to Two Two so Krysta could get her hair dyed. This time, Sophia not only made lunch for us, but shared freshly picked peaches from her rooftop garden as well as rice cakes (they were still warm) made by another local shopkeeper. Lunch consisted of purple rice, radish soup, water kimchi, and an assortment of side dishes. I have never, ever, ever experienced such hospitality in my life.

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I had a great weekend, but wish it was just a tiny bit longer. Next weekend, though, Matt and I head to Osaka for one week for summer vacation and I am so looking forward to it.

What are your plans for next weekend?

Dreams of Becoming a Digital Nomad

Hey guys! I know it’s been a while, but I’ve been focusing most of my time on the food blog I share with Matt (which can be found here) as well as our Instagram page (which can be found on our blog page). I wanted to come back to my personal blog, though, to write about what’s been on my mind lately.

Recently, I started binge-watching The Amazing Race from season one and it has seriously reignited my desire to start traveling again. I’ve been scouring the internet to see how some people have made their dreams of living abroad and traveling long-term a reality. Some blogs I’ve found truly inspiring are The Intrepid Introvert and Nomadic Matt, as well as Eat Your Kimchi (who I have loved since before I lived in Korea.)

Then, I started thinking of things that I could do to make income while living abroad. Of course, the first thing that came to my mind was teaching English since I have experience and I have passion for it. So, I started researching some purely online options to teach. After making a post on Facebook and talking to a couple I knew in Korea, I think I am going to try and apply with VIPKID. The hours are flexible, they provide all the teaching materials, and they offer a great base rate of $14/hr.

Ideally, I’d love to travel while teaching to support myself. There are so many places I want to see and things I want to do. Sometimes I feel stupid being 26 years old and not having a stable 9-5, but I don’t think that is something that is ever going to make me happy.

Does anyone else teach English online through a platform like VIPKID? Please tell me about your experiences!

Or, if you are traveling abroad and working remotely doing something else, tell me about that too!

Return of the Wanderlust

Recently, I’ve had the overwhelming desire to go abroad again. The more I think about it, the more depressed I become about staying in this country. I don’t exactly speak openly about my political beliefs (especially on the internet), but I am truly worried about the future of America; and I feel like I will never have a future here.

I am 26 years old, working hourly as a barista to pay my bills. Overall, I enjoy my job right now, but I don’t feel like it is sustainable even if I pursue a management position. I see that the managers don’t really have lives outside the company. They are always on call, coming in earlier and staying in later than they have to. I don’t want that.

I want to leave work at work and enjoy my life. I want to travel and experience new cultures.

Obviously, I don’t have nearly enough money to make this a reality anytime in the near future. However, it is constantly on my mind. I don’t know where I want to go. Everywhere?

I had a very complicated experience in Korea, but it was mostly due to my particular hagwon. I met so many amazing people and got to see so many amazing things. Compared to what it is right now, my lifestyle was much better in the regard that it felt more financially stable.

Have you been in a similar situation? What have you done/are doing to make your dreams come true?

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!