Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Bidding 'adieu' to the Ox

I think I've come up with a list of rules for 2010 and beyond.

A friend and I were trying to figure out what the new decade will be called. We had the Eighties, the Nineties, and most recently, the '00s (or, as the friend called it, 'the Noughties'...). So we wondered about the upcoming decade... 'the Tennies'? Anyone?

Anyway, first on the list is...

LESS use of the word "maybe". Seriously, I am sick of this word, and people who use it on a regular basis. I think the "maybe" option on invites (or, if we're getting with the times, evites) should be eliminated. The "maybe" option on the brink of an important question should also be axed. Remember the days when, if you wrote out a question, the only options were "check YES or NO"? People should be forced to choose one side of the coin or the other. I think the only time a "maybe" should be allowed (around me, anyway) is if it's included with a cheeky grin or a wink... yea, you know what I'm talking about!

Next, I am planning on physically de-cluttering my life. In a wholesome sense. A lot of people may wonder why I'm announcing this on here, but I feel that if I don't acknowledge it in a visual sense, I'll never do it.

MORE endorphins. Seek them, embrace them, allow them, and use them. Endorphins are a wonderful thing.

If and when the universe throws me a sign, I have to do my best to follow it... even if the little devil on my shoulder is telling me otherwise. If by chance I don't... I should try to at least give it some thought before saying "hmmm... I think I'll take the other route!" Less impulsive behaviour is important here.

MORE impulsive behaviour... generally speaking.

Find MORE reasons to write and LESS reasons to think myself in circles.

GO. WITH. THE. FLOW... and let life happen. Acknowledge the bumps and treasure the movement.

Finally (but certainly not last or least on the list), learn to embrace and live in the moment. Things in life do happen for a reason. And if, at the time, the moment doesn't make sense, all I have to do is get through it, because in getting through, I will have learned a lesson. And that's something to be thankful for.

I think that's enough ranting for 2009, don't you agree? It's time to chill the bubbly in anticipation of a fabulous year ahead of us!

HAPPY NEW YEAR, 2010, dearest readers!

I wish you abundant peace and beautiful moments in life, filled with everything your hearts long for. It's been a joy writing for you this year. I promise to keep up in 2010, if you promise to keep visiting.

To readers in the east, enjoy the lunar eclipse on new year's eve. And to my readers out west, have fun under the blue moon!


I found this photo on Google Images by searching "What a wonderful world!"
Appropriate, I think!


Image courtesy of Google Images

On a funnier note...

This baby MADE my day! I hope you get as much a laugh out of it as I did. Oh, and if you're not already, get inspired!!


Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Don't just like

I found this while flipping through the December 2009 issue of Elle magazine. It's from an ad campaign done by Research in Motion for BlackBerry. This is what it said:

Don't just like.

LIKE is watered-down love.
Like is mediocre.
Like is the wishy-washy emotion of content.
Athletes don't do it for the like of a sport.
Artists don't suffer for like of art.
There is no I like NY t-shirt.
And Romeo didn't just like Juliet.

LOVE. Now that's powerful stuff.
Love changes things.
Upsets things.
Conquers things.
Love is at the root of everything good that
has ever happened and will ever happen.


Wow! Simple, yet profound, no?
I thought so.

Now, go love something (or someone)!


Image courtesy of Google Images

Global comfort gestures

I've been anticipating writing this post for a while now. The reason for the delay is because I was waiting for a package to arrive from my mum in Toronto. But this afternoon, when I got home from school, I saw not only the cute package sitting at my doorstep, but also a card... from someone else.

These past few days have been filled with beautiful gestures and wonderful surprises that have truly left me grinning like a fool... but a fool, with a full heart.

I was feeling a bit down over Christmas because, with the exception of my family, I hadn't heard from a few close friends back home. I didn't think it would be a problem for me, but I realize now, that it makes a difference when you're away from home over the holidays. Little gestures go a long way. It's one of the lessons I've learned this Christmas.

I started my winter hours at school on Monday this week. What do they involve? Well, seeing as how this is the break before the new school year starts in March, there's no students at school, except for the ones who are taking extra or special classes. I was supposed to have a 'winter camp' but it was cancelled due to a lack of interest from the students at my school. My co-teacher compensated by creating a class for me to teach twice a week, two hours each time, from this week till the end of January... to a grand total of five students. Today was supposed to be my first class... a grand total of zero students showed up.

The result? I get to sit and 'desk warm' at the coldest desk at school for half days, every day, from now until the end of January.

It could be worse. Rest assured, SFTC will be seeing a lot more action in the coming days, as I plan my escape to sunnier skies, somewhere tropical. Stay tuned!

So, yesterday, I wasn't looking forward to coming in to school. It was the first day back after the Christmas break, and after overdosing on 'happy', I dreaded having to sit, mute, in a cold staffroom.

Until I got to my desk to see a card and a Canada Post package waiting for me. Two friends, one from Toronto, and the other, from the Canadian NWT, had thought of me before the holidays and send treats in the post!

The card was from the same friend who sent me the stack of magazines earlier in the semester, when her father was visiting Korea. The card is now proudly displayed at my desk, right in between the caricature drawing of me, done by a student, and my timetable.

The package was from a dear friend I made while in journalism school. She, having traveled through Asia for many years, said she knew the difference a package from home would make. I was told to expect a card from her... but not a package! So, you can imagine my surprise when I opened the Canada Post package to find some lovely treats - a chocolate Santa (with ingredients listed in English AND French), some soap, a non-tacky, non-Koreanized reporter's notebook, and a magnet with the Canada 2010 Winter Olympics logo on it (now proudly displayed on my fridge at home).

I can't begin to express how I felt, sitting at my desk, in the cold hours of the morning. Despite the chaos with my schedule, I felt such a warmth fill my heart as I read and reread the cards over and over.

Thank you, friends!

Then, this afternoon, after I stopped off to pick up some soup from the restaurant across the street, I came home to find the package from my mum and the card (from a friend who I've met exactly ONE time in my life).

The package from mum contained neatly packed items that I'd asked for... including eye-drops that I desperately needed to battle the dry Seoul winter. My brother argued and said I could easily find it here, but it's a matter of comfort and principle. The stuff I used in Toronto worked well, so why switch?

The card was an unexpected and absolute heart-warming surprise. It's the first time during my time here, that I've actually taken a step back and thought about everyone I know at home. About the people I've met along the way.

In the card, this friend mentioned that it's very rare when you meet someone and have an absolute, instant connection. I couldn't agree more. And when it happens, you truly have to treasure it. Despite our single meeting, I feel as though I've known this person for a much longer time... and for that, I consider myself blessed. Thank you, dear Clubdir (not seals)!

So the lesson from this is that no matter how far away you gravitate from home, sometimes, it helps to have home come to you (whether in the form of packages, long e-mails or cards in the post), because it reminds you of... well, you! All it takes sometimes, is the comfort of familiar handwriting or an inside joke to quell even the saddest of thoughts.

Because it's very easy to forget you, sometimes, when you're off trying to discover other parts of yourself. When home comes to you, it helps you remember that you aren't really alone. That even through the silence and chaos, home is always with you.

So thanks, dear friends and family! You've managed to warm my heart this winter's day. And I couldn't be more blessed.

Stay tuned for the New Year's special.



Image courtesy of Google Images

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Merry Christmas, 2009

Dear readers,

I hope you're all enjoying a blessed holiday with the ones who love and care about you. May you all have peace, joy and happiness in your hearts, along with plenty of laughter. I'm going to be spending the day with a few friends in Seoul, at a small potluck lunner. My contribution? Chicken with paprika and parsley, tossed in a pan. It's simple and easy enough to make on my one hotplate... and it's delicious too!

As I head out the door, here's a little throwback for you all to enjoy... it's a song I overdose on, every Christmas. I hope you enjoy it as well!

All my love,


Monday, 21 December 2009

C is for Couples... I mean, Christmas... I mean...

Merry Christmas! ...but only if you're a couple. Screw you, if you're solo (or single).

"... and here I thought being single in Toronto was bad," I said to S, as we walked through the sea of tinsel and bows that flooded the newly built shopping mall by her house. "But this is just taking it to a whole new level. We've been here since September and there's been not one but two, TWO holidays dedicated to couples!"

S stifled a laugh. She's become used to this, I think. I've started to just blurt things out as I see and observe. Nothing is filtered anymore. It can't be helped. This country is just... random.

"I mean, look at this! Who gives out cards with big, red hearts on them, for Christmas??" I asked, while picking up and analyzing an over-sized package that looked more fitting for a valentine's special.

"What happened to 'Christmas is for families'... what about baby Jesus?" I didn't understand why I was becoming so irritated. Then, words I didn't realize I'd said out loud, flew past my lips.

"Thank you baby Jesus for being born, so that I can ____ a ______!!"

As I said this, I felt a sharp pain on my shoulder. S was hitting me. Repeatedly.

"Why are you doing that?" I asked, even more annoyed now.

"It was either roll on the floor, laughing at what you just said, or hit you."

Fair enough, I suppose.

But truly, for the first time in years, I find myself willing the holiday season to be over and done with. The concept's all wrong here. Sure there's twinkly lights galore, and Christmas songs blasting from almost every corner in the city... but something's off.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, I asked some of my coworkers what their plans were for the holidays. "Will you be making dinner?" I asked Mrs. P, over lunch in the cafeteria.

She nonchalantly bobbed her head and continued to munch on her kimchi... she was thinking.

"Christmas is a big deal for you," she said... it was more a statement than a question. "But in Korea, Christmas is for lovers."

What? I couldn't have heard that correctly.

"Don't you mean Valentine's day?" I asked, still not sure we were on the same page.

"That one also, plus Pepero day... White day too," she said.

So she was essentially telling me that even though this country had not one, but THREE days dedicated to couples and coupledome... they were now also designating Christmas as a "holiday for lovers."

... I had no words.

I was flabbergasted, as I dug into my rice and breaded fish.

"S, you're solo. Aren't you going to be lonely for Christmas?" said a new voice.

I looked up to see one of the other teachers had decided to join the conversation. Mrs. P had quickly managed to translate what we were talking about, and now it seemed as though everyone at the table was intrigued.

"Why would I be lonely?" I asked. "I mean, it's my first Christmas away from my family, but I'm not lonely. I have my friends who are like family to me over here."

I was fuming at this point. What was wrong with them? Had they not watched Christmas movies or specials on TV? My brain went through the mental archives to try and find one example of a movie that designated Christmas as a "lovers holiday". Not one. I mean, of course there's the sentimental ones that deal with love as part of the holidays... but definitely none that make it centre focus.

"But don't you want a namja-chingu?" asked Mrs. S. That was the Korean equivalent of 'boyfriend'.

What I wanted to say was, "No, I'm actually in the running to become the Slut from Seoul, you know?"

But what came out was, "Actually, yes... but definitely not from Korea. The men here are too... needy. I could never walk out in a matching couple's outfit and be serious. Sorry!"

This drew a mixed reaction from the table, which consisted of mostly older Korean teachers.

I had to have some sense of honesty here. Otherwise they would spend all day debating the fact that baby Jesus WAS in fact born so that I could ____ a _____!

Not in my mind.

Anyway, that being said, MERRY CHRISTMAS, dear readers! I love you all very much and hope you have a safe and fabulous week ahead. Sending warm wishes and beautiful thoughts to you and yours!


Friday, 18 December 2009

2009 century post

This is my 100th post for the year.
It may not be much in terms of what's out in the blogosphere right now, but for me, this is rather exciting.

Over the course of 2009, I've had a 100 reasons to come here and share my thoughts with you, dear readers. It's been quite the year for me and SFTC! And really, during some of those moments, I'm not sure what I would have done without you. So for that, all I can say is, 'Thank you for being a friend!'

We're just under two weeks away from 2010, and the thoughts are starting to swirl. I've had an eventful few weeks, starting from the end of November... but it's nothing to complain about. The other day I was meeting S at DaVinci for a random coffee date. I had just had a 'EUREKA!' moment a few minutes prior, and wanted to come share it with her. So I ran in through the doors (my vanilla latte almost ready and waiting for me), and stood in front of her with the biggest smile on my face.

"Umm... what the hell is wrong with you?" she asked, in between trying to thaw out her frozen hands and taking sips of her latte.

"S! We're in Seoul!" I said, while looking at her as though I'd just conveyed the most important information of the year with her. "We're in Seoul! SEOUL!"

"S, you've gone nuts!" she said, almost too nonchalantly.

Perhaps that may have been the case. But never in my wildest dreams as a child, did I ever think I'd one day be living across the planet from all that I held comfortable and natural. It was my four-month epiphany.

I then went on to explain to her that while laying on my bed minutes before, I'd had a surge of freedom just soar through my body. I couldn't explain it, but it felt so good. It felt as though every bad thing that had happened thus far was... passé! Just... gone.

And I want to contain that feeling as we edge ourselves into 2010.

There's so many wonderful things to look forward to, this coming year. Not only does a new year bring a sense of a clean slate, but this is a double whammy because it's also the start of a new decade. I'll turn a quarter of a century in the year ahead. This is a time for reflection and action, on my part. And I'm looking forward to it all.

I've spent this past decade in various forms of education... I started high school at the beginning of 2000, and now, ten years later, having finished three forms of study since then, I find myself on the cliff of a new volume in my life.

The time I've spent on my own thus far has taught me to embrace life in all it's goodness and negativity, rather than fight it. Last night, a friend said to me, "we need to get right into the moment, and feel whatever it is we need to feel in order to get through it... why fight it?"

He said our North American culture has taught us to respond with "I'm OK," to every question that's thrown our way, with regards to feelings. We answer this way, even when we're not.

He couldn't be more right.

So, here's looking towards 2010, in all it's positive and negative glory. Here's learning to live in, and embrace life's journey and the feelings that come with it, from one moment to the next. But mostly, here's to all of your good health, happiness and peace.

May all of you set sail on experiences that will make you bolder, stronger, and more in love with who you are, than ever before.

Here's to 2010!


Image courtesy of Google Images

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Chicka, count to 10

"I'm my own worst enemy!" I yelled at J, through the computer screen. We were laughing at each other and catching up on Skype after a few weeks of not chatting or talking. I guess you can say we both had our own Seoul-isms going on.

"Aren't we all?!" she yelled back. "Seriously, think about it... no one's perfect, and even when we don't think we're making mistakes, somewhere through it, we end up screwing up anyway."

She was right. I knew that. I know that. But it still didn't ease the fact that until the feelings of anxiety and irritation passed, that concept would simply not process.

"We're human, S," she said. "You said it yourself, we're learning and growing with each passing experience... sometimes it's hard but it passes."

And it does. I've been through enough moments in my life where I've felt as though the walls were going to close in on me, and the ground was going to eat me alive... but I'm here now, looking back on those moments thinking, 'I went crazy... for nothing!'

Except in those moments, it didn't feel like nothing. In those moments... reveling and living through those moments... those were hard times.

But that's the beauty of life I guess. You get through them... eventually. Even through the stormiest days and darkest nights... we get through them. There's always an end. And then we move on to the next chapter... or for some people, the next volume.

So why is it that when we're going through the 10th, 15th or 80th storm of our lives, we always feel as though we're about to be consumed? So much so to the point where that feeling of '... this is it!' takes over, sending us straight to the brink of a mental warfare, with no one else but ourselves?

Truly, we're our own worst enemies. If only we could program ourselves to count to ten before every impulse.

If only.


Thursday, 10 December 2009

For love of a great escape

"But words are things, and a small drop of ink, falling like dew, upon a thought, produces that which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think."
- Lord Byron
That Lord Byron was on to something. I'm a bit embarrassed to say that I don't know him as well as I'd like to. The only reason I'm speaking about him now, is because a friend quoted him earlier this week, and I was fascinated. I've spent the better part of my free time since, reading up on his work, and recognizing fragments of what I've heard quoted by others. In university, I did everything in my power to avoid entire courses dedicated to single poets and authors... I think I regret that now, because the more I read up on Lord Byron, the more I enjoy him.

My mum was the first person to introduce me to William Wordsworth, as a child. She taught me "Daffodils," a beautiful poem by him, that I memorized and recited whenever given the chance.

There's something to be said about the classics. Words, novels, poems, quotes... all written before radio, before TV, before... Facebook. These people only had the world around them (the real world), conversations and true social experiences to draw inspiration from. Absolute brilliance.

Which is why, when I need to escape from my everyday reality, I can't help but turn to a book. Sometimes a movie works as well, but it's easier to get distracted from a movie than it is from a good book.

Take for instance, last night: I was unable to turn my mind off, with a thousand and one thoughts swirling through my brain at a mile a second. I tried watching TV, to no avail... something about the seizure inducing commercials made me quit. Then, I tried watching a movie... but only owning movies that I've watched too many times to count, I found myself distracted once again.

As a last resort, I turned to Miss Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Over my life, I've read this book perhaps four times. Yet two and a half hours later, I was passed out in my bed, with the most content smile I've had in a few days. I don't even know where the time went, but it was so easy to lay there, flipping through page after page of an absolute masterpiece. These authors knew the importance of imagery... of descriptive words... of bringing emotions, personalities and moods on to paper. They knew how to create the perfect escape, free of reality's abundant distractions.

So this winter, I'm looking forward to curling up in bed with the classics. I'm looking forward to having my brain think of words that are longer than two syllables. But more than anything, I'm looking forward to my literary escape.


Image courtesy of Dreamstime Stock

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Gift wrap 2009

As 2009 begins to take its final bow, I can't help but sit and wonder of all that's transpired in my life since January. To say this year has been a roller-coaster ride would be an understatement. Looking back to the earlier months, I never would have imagined I'd find myself spending Christmas in Seoul, Korea... writing this entry in a staffroom filled with teachers who continue to glance (very obviously) over my shoulder as I type. Hi, Mr. S!

I've endured a lot this year, but I've learned more. The lessons have come as a result of peculiar situations and odd circumstances, but, having made it through, I feel as though I can now sit back and reflect.

I remember stressing out in January about starting my internship with the CBC. I didn't think it would actually happen, but working with the News at Six team was an experience I'm glad I had. There's nothing quite like working in a breaking newsroom, where the gun is held to your head everyday, to have your stories in... yesterday. I had a chance to move fast and learned more than I ever imagined I would. I met some wonderful people who I know I'll be in touch with for a long time to come.

The following months were spent at the magazine -- definitely not what I expected it to be. I was blessed with editors who looked after me and were truly concerned about my well-being in the industry. I was fortunate to be offered some wonderful advice from professionals who I consider not only mentors, but friends. Though it was difficult at times, I don't regret it for a moment, because I know I grew through that experience. Working at the magazine also allowed me to focus on my style of writing more, and I now know the direction I'd like to head in... you'll hear more about this in 2010, I assure you. Sit tight.

The last quarter of 2009 brought me to Seoul, Korea. Who would have thought? They say everything in life happens for a reason, and, without a doubt, I can say that I was meant to be here, at this time. Despite the difficulties, there's something serendipitous about the whole experience. I haven't quite figured it out yet, but I'm sure it will come to me one day.

There's something to be said about fate, isn't there? It's been so surreal meeting people from all across the globe, and forming friendships that feel as though they're antiques -- precious and old. I've met many wonderful people from all corners of the planet, each with their own wonderful and unique gifts that have come as blessings into my life. It's hard to imagine that I've only known some of them for a few months... and it's even harder to fathom that one day, not too long from now, I'll have to say goodbye to them as we each scuttle off to our own neck of the woods. But rest assured, these will be life-long friends.

One of the main things this journey has taught me so far, is that we live on a very small planet. Truly... mobility is so easy these days, with all the options available. And what's even more amazing is the fact that technology has brought us closer than ever. Actually, this is also quite scary. I suppose it depends on how you look at it.

All I'm saying is that I'm grateful to Skype, Facebook, Hotmail, Gmail, snail mail, cellphones and text messages for allowing me to stay in touch with those I love and care about. This journey might have been quite different otherwise, I think.

Along the way, I think this has been one of the biggest years in terms of personal growth, trials and achievements. I'm fortunate to have a dear family who have been nothing but a constant support to me, and friends who have stood by and been the best cheerleaders and entertainers a girl could ever ask for.

So this quick note is for you, dear readers and people in my life...

I'm thankful to

those of you who make me think
those of you who tell me to stop thinking
those of you who insist I think a little harder
those of you who put dirty thoughts into my mind
those of you who make me laugh till I cry
those of you who insist I try everything at least once
those of you who make me take risks
those of you who see what's past the surface
those of you who've broken down the wall
those of you who let me vent
those of you who share your stories with me
those of you who I've shared unbelievable coffee dates with
those of you who I've shared eye-opening conversations with
those of you who've made me feel like a million bucks
those of you who let me be me

... but mostly, I'm thankful to those of you who are active participants in my life right now. I'm looking forward to spending and sharing an amazing 2010 with you.


Image courtesy of Dreamstime Stock

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Slipping away like the sand to the tide

How's this for a visual: "... slipping away like the sand to the tide..."

It's a line from one of my favourite songs by the Sugababes called Lost in You. You should check it out if you've got time. It's also on the Love Actually soundtrack, (a fabulous movie for the season, I think).

And that's just about how I feel right now...

These past few weeks have been bizarre to say the least. I'm trying to stick to some sort of routine in my life, but the more I try, the quicker that idea gets thrown out the window.

It's strange being on my own. In one sense I've got this amazing amount of independence, not only because I've got my own place, but also because I'm in a country where I'm pretty much alone. Everyone I've met here so far has been a new face, with a new personality (well, some are tried and true), and has come with a new story to tell. It's fascinating and refreshing all the same.

But sometimes... it's exhausting. Having to tell your own story over and over again... it gets exhausting. I've always been a better listener than a speaker. There's only a handful of people who know the depths of my soul... and I like it that way. So having to sit through conversations sometimes with new people who want to know everything about you... well, that starts to take it's toll. Unless, of course, it's a kindred spirit who you want to spill your guts to. And that takes a special someone. Those people are far and few between, but when you meet them... it's like a refreshing sip of iced-tea on a blistering hot summer's day.

There's a handful of travelers that I've met, who get it. They live in the present, focus on the present and enjoy the present. It's these people who are fabulous to speak with. They, in simple terms, manage to put things into perspective so well. Hopefully I'll get to that point someday... where I don't think about the past (apparently the New Year's song Auld Lang Syne is about that... leaving the past, way behind), and don't stress about the future. I've become better, but I know I need to work on it.

In the meanwhile, I'm allowing myself to slip away for a while... why not, right?


Monday, 7 December 2009

Both feet out the door

I always ask my mother to tell me the same story every time. And each time, just like the times before, she uses the same words, with the same tones, which in turn, give me the same imagery and the same butterflies in my tummy.

I think I'm ready to share this story with you.

Better late than never...

Mum talks about a period in my childhood that I sometimes choose to block out. Not because it was traumatic or tragic, but simply because it reminds me of simpler times, that I sometimes wish I could revisit.

"Do you remember the grill gate at our old house?" she says, with a look that means she's on autopilot. Mum has told me this story many times over the years. Those words unlock the portal to my memory bank.

"The big metal one in front of the main door, remember?" she says, smiling.

"Yea, I do," I say, already knowing how the story ends, but willing her to go on.

"Well, for years as a baby, you would stand at that gate and look out at the world. You would stare, bug-eyed, at all that was happening outside it, but never once would you try to venture out past it," she says; the memory of those moments, transporting her back in time with me.

"How come?" I ask. This is our game... I egg her on, and she willingly complies.

"Well, I was never sure. You even grew tall enough to reach the latch, but you'd never once thought to open it back then, and run out. The neighbour's children and your brother would be out playing, and you would simply stand there and watch... in awe. You were quite the observer."

"When did it all change?" I ask, with a smile. This is my favourite part.

"Well, after years of watching and observing all that was around you, one day you decided it was time. Your little hand reached up for the metal latch, opened the door and you took one step out... then another... and another... until you were far enough away from the door, but close enough that you could come running back if you needed to," she says, laughing. This part always makes her laugh. "I'm not sure why you were so scared.... but I knew."

"What did you know?"

"I knew that once you were out those doors, the world was your playground," she says, with a beautiful smile brightening the lines on her face that I've come to respect and admire so much. "And as usual, I was right."


"Yea. It's the story of your life, you know?" she says. Her face always turns serious at this part. "All your life, through all your pivotal experiences, you've waited and watched as others around you move and shift. You stay still and wait your turn... but when you feel you're ready, there's no turning back."

I love the comfort and silence at this break.

"It takes you longer than others to make choices, S, but you always make them when you're ready. You come around in your own time, and on your own terms. That experience of the grill gate reminds me of the fact that you've been this way since you were a child," she says. "And you've never proven me wrong."

Mum, I suppose you're right, and funny enough, I do remember it all. It simply helps to be reminded sometimes.

Thank you for observing me while I observed. And thank you now, for watching me while I play. But most of all, thank you for always encouraging me back up, when I fall down during the games.


Sunday, 6 December 2009

Workshop Vacation

On Friday this past week, I had to attend a mandatory workshop at my neighbourhood office of education. The last time I had to sit through one of these, it was on a Friday afternoon, just before my weekend began. Needless to say, the roomful of teachers were neither excited nor thrilled about that fact. So, as you can imagine, we weren't looking forward to this one either. Especially because they told us it would take up the entire day.

We got lucky, though! This time, the district office of education had planned a day trip for us, to Nami Island in Korea's Gangwon province. It was such a wonderful surprise, and a well deserved break from the daily grind of teaching ESL. Here are some of my favourite photos from that trip.

They say that Nami Island is a place for lovers. It's funny, because right now I can say that just about any place in Korea is a place for lovers. There's couples and cute couple-ish things in almost every neck of the woods out here. However, it's pretty obvious that with each season, Nami Island draws tons of lovers to its romantic and scenic nature trails. It's kind of neat, because most of the older Koreans stay away from it... they prefer mountains and hiking trails. More on that in another post.

We took a short ferry ride from the mainland to the island. It was absolutely breathtaking... being surrounded by mountains and crisp, fresh air. A welcoming change from the constant layer of smog that surrounds Seoul. And the funny part about this, is that you don't notice how bad the air is in the city, until you leave it.

One of Korea's most famous dramas, Winter Sonata, was filmed here. The entire island has signs on it that refer to various scenes from the drama. It's a love story, go figure. What a perfect place to film it. Even my (maybe) cynical heart felt warm and cozy as I walked the trails and took in the refreshing scenery. You can't help but feel happy on Nami Island!


Wednesday, 2 December 2009

A Dream Unfolds

I received a beautiful gift today -- one that is both thoughtful, and so unexpected.

Two of my colleagues, (one, a Korean language teacher, and the other, a math teacher), had been working together on this gift for a few weeks now, without my knowledge.

This morning, the two of them walked into my classroom and presented me with a bright yellow enevelope and a black pouch. I wasn't sure what was going on, or what the customs were in terms of receiving and opening gifts, so I simply said 'Thank You' and placed the envelope on my table. They insisted that I open it at that very moment, because they said they had instructions for me.

Still feeling those nervous butterflies dancing in the pit of my stomach (the ones that surface everytime someone says they have a surprise for me), I slowly opened the envelope. It revealed a paper with some Chinese, Korean and English words printed on it. I was confused. They then asked me to open the pouch, which contained my very own Korean “dojang” 도장 (aka Korean Seal).

Mrs S and C had been working on this gift with a lot of attention. For days, they looked over my name in English, focusing on the characters, letters and sounds, while trying to synch them with similar sounds in Korean and Chinese characters. I remember Mrs. C had approached me not too long ago, and had asked me to spell out my name in English. I wasn't sure what it was for, but I did it anyway, without much thought.

I guess this was the final result.

It seems everyone in Korean has their own dojang stamp, and it has more value than a signature made by pen. If someone were to steal your dojang and use it as their own, it would be considered identity theft. Although, they do need to be registered in order to be considered legal.

"If you want to buy a car or house, you need a dojang, otherwise it's not valid," said Mrs S, while we sipped on our post-lunch coffee. "I gave my daughter one for her 10th birthday."

I always wondered what the seals around the sign-in table were about.

Anyway, after just completing three months at my school, and in Korea, this was such a welcoming present.

Now, the meaning they came up with. They played around with my name a little bit, because they said they wanted it to reflect my personality, and their wishes for me. They blended in Chinese characters with Korean to get "SI MONG".

The paper in the yellow envelope read as follows:

[SI - pronounced "SHE"] UNFOLD


"A Dream Unfolds!"

Yes, it included the exclaimation mark. I think this has to be one of the most thoughtful gifts I've ever received. After they instructed me on how and when to use it, they said they were thankful to have met me, and offered up some wonderful wishes.... all unexpected. Even now, six hours later, I'm still reeling.

This country never ceases to surprise me.

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