No Room to Grow

While talking with one of my brightest students about her high school and college and job plans, her hopes and dreams, I told her to just find the thing that makes her happy, and try to do that as a job. She looked a me for a moment, a look of confusion on her face before saying:

"I don't have that."

In our whole conversation about job goals, I never once heard any hint of what she would enjoy doing. I know what her dad wants her to do, what her teachers want her to do, and she certainly knows which jobs are most difficult to get and which pay the most. But apparently there's nothing she loves to do.

This makes me really sad.

I know it's rather old hat to complain about the harshness of the Korean school system, but I'm going to jump right in regardless. These are the things I witness on a daily basis. This is the stuff I talk with my students about. I don't know how to fix it, but I can at least give a view from the inside.

The Glass is Half Full (of BS)

"You're so positive! You really have a bright outlook on things!"

So say coworkers and acquaintances, but it's not something I ever really considered to be one of my defining personality traits. Sarcastic, judgmental, with a tendency to complain-- yes, yes, and (according to my mother) yes. But positive, glass-is-half-full gal? Is that really me?

Well, yes and no. Living in a foreign country is a lot harder than you'd expect. Things that should be easy are difficult, every little chore seems a bit more exhausting, and it's easy to begin to feel beaten down and victimized. When your class is canceled, or a taxi driver won't stop for you, or the store stops carrying that familiar brand from home, it's so easy to take it personally, to feel that your school or the country or even the world is against you.

My Renewal Decision and 4 Life Lessons That Helped Me Make It

After thinking heavily about whether or not to renew my contract with EPIK, I’ve decided to return home in August. Signing on for a second year would offer me several enticing financial benefits and mouthwatering travel opportunities. And I’ve had a positive experience at my school, where I would continue to work if I were to renew. But during my time in Korea, I’ve learned or re-learned four life lessons, and made some new discoveries about myself, that have persuaded me to wrap things up at the one-year mark.

Mandu for Breakfast: Jeonju Food Tour Part 2

Hopefully you've recovered from the feast that was Part 1, because I have yet more food to talk to you about. I pretty much always have food to talk about, so it's a wonder I ever write about anything else on this blog. First stop of the day? Dumplings.

I know, eating dumplings for breakfast sounds weird, but in our defense A) we slept in pretty late and B) don't be such a square.

I Won't Share My Oreos

As you get older, birthdays get...complicated. It used to be so easy. Cake and candles, invite your friends over, a pile of presents, rinse, repeat. But now that I'm older, it's more of an annoying obligation that anything else at times. It feels as if I'm expected to have a party, expected to go out, when often all I want to do is stay home with a pizza.

One Year Later

The traditional gift for a first anniversary is paper, so I guess after I write this I'll print a copy and frame it. What I'm trying to say is, a little over one year ago, I arrived in Korea. The modern first anniversary gift is a clock, which seems apt as the time has passed faster than I realized. A year already? Are you sure?

I've been looking back through old posts, and it's a relief to see that my feelings about the country haven't changed that much:

Something that make my life better(Korean)

일요일 오전. 역시나 내앞에는 따뜻한 카페라떼 한잔과 온갖 메모들이 휘갈겨져 있는 노트 한권, 로지텍 블루투스 키보드에 세팅되어 있는 아이패드. 옆에는 여러권의 책이 들어있는 묵직한 백팩이 의자위에 있다.

거의 하루도 빠지지 않고 출근도장을 찍다시피 하는 모 카페 2층.

일요일 그것도 이른 오전이라 그런지… 아니면 천고마비라는 말을 증명이라도 하듯 푸른하늘 때문인지… 카페에는 2층 전체에 나만 혼자 자리잡고 있다.

단돈 3500원에 이 넓은 2층 전체를 무제한으로 빌리고 있다. 음악도 틀어주고, 내 자리 바로 정면에는 커다란 벽걸이 TV에 뮤직비디오도 틀어주고 있구나.

늘 오면서도 무심코 지나쳤는데 오늘 문득 카페 외부 유리벽에 쓰여져 있는 글귀를 보았다.

OOO makes your life better.

평소라면 코웃음치며 정말 유치한 글귀라고 생각했을텐데 오늘따라 왠지 강하게 공감이 간다.

난 이 카페에 주인도 모르고, 개인적으로 프렌차이즈 카페(사실 카페 뿐만 아니라 무엇이든 프렌차이즈를 개인적으로 좋아하지 않는다.음식점이건 체육관이건…)를 좋아하지 않기에, 그리고 커피맛도 중급 이하이기에 그리 좋아하는 카페가 아니다. (더 깊게 얘기하면 이 카페 이전에 있던 개인 카페와 얽힌 이야기가 있지만…그건 심하게 옆길로 새는 이야기이기에.)

그렇다. 좋아하지 않는 카페다. 그런데도 매일 오는 이유는? 사무실에서 넘어져서 세바퀴 구르면 코 닿을듯 가까운 거리이기에 책 보다가 글 쓰다가 언제든 원하면 금방 다녀올 수 있기에 자주 이용한다.

그런데 오늘 저 글귀를 보니 저 말이 정말 사실이라는 생각이 들었다. 가깝게 있다보니 귀한 줄 몰랐을 뿐. 이 카페가 없었더라면 내 생활이 상당히 불편했을듯하다. 글을 쓰고 책 읽고 공부하는 것에도 상당한 영향을 받았을 것이다.
분명 뜯어보면 장점이 많은 곳이다.

Proud of My Work

Before I ever left for Korea I was working at an Insurance Company in San Francisco. My boss was this kooky old Japanese man who lived by a lot of morals and codes. Have you ever watched Mad Men? The office was kind of like that, and even had old type writers.

While he was training me to be an Insurance Agent he would now and then pass on knowledge. This one time he told me that when you do a job you should do it right. You should do such hard work that when it comes time for you to leave (for whatever reason) the company should be sorry to see you go. At that time I was fresh out of college and with a small work history behind me. I tried my best at that job, but know I could have left it better.

Lentil Soup Dinner

Throw some of this stuff together, and chop up some vegetables....

How I Celebrated my 31st and 4th Birthday in Korea

With good food and great friends, that is how you have a wonderful 31st birthday in Korea. Not to mention that it was on Chuseok and I spent the earlier part of the day enjoying the traditions Korea had to offer.

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