Why I Travel – To Change

So I wrote a piece for Duke Stewart Writes, a wonderful travel website that you should definitely check out.

The title pretty much sums it up nicely – just a few things I’ve come to learn this past year abroad.

P.S. Life is Wonderful.

Round Two! *Ding Ding Ding*: and Other Sports Sounds

*whispers* ‘I see foreign people..’

So, that’s partly due to moving to Suncheon, and no longer being the token foreigner, but i mean, (realtalk) I went back to NZ last week and I did a hellavalot of staring. You westerners got some crazy-arse hair and I dig it. Hard. It would seem that beards is also a thing, and ya’ll seem to have gotten the memo about being 6 feet tall, so that’s like, cool or whatever. Of course, I had lots of other thoughts and feelings about being back home, but all you really need to know is that the hair was great and I ate a lot of cheese. And you don’t even really need to know that.

Today is my first day working at my new school – and by working, I do mean refreshing my facebook newsfeed for 4 hours, eating lunch, and then watching documentaries about treehouses for another 4 hours. My arse is BEAT. And then of course, I return to my apartment – which is a trillion times bigger than the last – and inevitably bump into another English teacher in the lift. And then I’m 10 years old again, and at a school dance feeling pressured to dance with a boy, but it’s like; how does one even make contact with aliens? The dumb thing is, the aliens are probably super chill, and it’s not their fault that I’ve forgotten how to people.

So that’s the struggle at the moment. Imaginary. Completely in my head. It ain’t real.

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The last couple of months at my last schools was kind of a long drawn out goodbye, and involved getting a lot of lovely presents and letters from the students and staff. The vice principal – who i think was the saddest about my leaving – tried to spend as much time with me as possible, which was the sweetest thing. I think my favourite was when he surprised me by picking me up before school, and showing me around the local market, introducing me to some of his childhood friends who were now vendors. Dude even took me to the street where he grew up. What a dude. Nice people are just nice, you know?

This summer in Korea has involved spending a lot of time at the beach, camping, festivals, saying goodbye to friends, meeting new ones, and even a bit of mud wrestling thrown in there. At one point we found ourselves leading a parade, and with a water gun filled with paint thrust into our hands, we, confused, obligingly took to running through the street soaking middle schoolers and unimpressed ajummas. There was also Korea Burn, which is basically Burning Man: The Korea Edition. There’s no goddamn way I’m going in to detail about that, but to summarise; nudity and body-paint. Do with that what you will.

There’s not much else more to say really. I can wear shoes inside at my new school. Which is insanity. Got a tattoo. Long overdue. I have fairy lights and Balinese sarongs hanging on the walls of my apartment, because who doesn’t secretly crave the approval of Tumblr hipsters?? Being robbed of my tablet in Hongdae has encouraged me to take up doodling. With like, a pen and paper, just as the cavemen did. So at least I’m doing something creative. Crass as it may sometimes be. And at least I’m still loving this life.

Crass as it may sometimes be.

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This seems like something worth mentioning.

Untitled-1So by now, I think the bulk of you know that I’ve decided to stay on in the ROK another year. So the opposite of what I’d planned basically. Although I think the ‘opposite’ of a non-plan would technically just be a ‘plan’, so forget I said anything; shut it down, kill it dead, nothing to see here.

There’s no honest to chosen-deity reason for my staying, but my feelings at the moment (yes, I do feel things, thank you Shnuggs) are that I’m not quite ready to leave yet. I LOVE New Zealand, I do. Almost sickeningly so, but it’s always gonna be there. There’s nothing I love more than coming home after a long day; but this particularly long, particularly wonderful day might just end up spanning a few years. Probably not entirely in Korea – it’s kind of phenomenal how many places and faces a person can squeeze into a single day right? There’s just SO much more to do. So many places to see, so many people to meet. It’s all kind of an obscene amount of fun. Plus, anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that impermanence is the the key to a healthy, happy me. A.k.a. the ball pit of denial I call life.

New job, new city, new friends. No less scary than last time, except now I’m lucky enough to also have people in Korea I can call ‘old’ friends. Although the bulk of you are actually younger than me. But that’s okay too, because I’m very wisdomous and have much wisdom to pass on about [think of something and insert here before publishing DON'T FORGET DUMMY].

Plus, I’ve mastered those bus ticket machines by now, so one more year and i might just have a handle on these Starship Enterprise fandangles they call toilets. First the toilets, then; the world.

Still kickin’.

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Yeah yeah. I started a thing and then I stopped doing the thing like many things that have come before. Don’t look at me as if you didn’t expect this. Remember those two ‘novels’ I started writing? The 23 songs that I wrote the first half of? Those not-even-close-to-finished paintings that are gathering dust in a family member’s garage somewhere? How about that bookshelf that’s currently a bit too horizontal to quite shelve any books just yet? Oh, and my personal favourite – that Masters degree in architecture that I did I did for a larf. A beautiful, expensive larf. I think this is what those in my world would refer to as; ‘a failure to commit.’ And yes, by ‘my world’ I do mean the world of…just, people; in general. Yesterday I found myself actually calculating just how many different careers I can fit in by the time I’m 50. So minus the next year and a bit of teaching English, and figuring about 2.5 years for each – 6 months of courting it, 1 year of loving it, 6 months of falling out of love with it, 6 months of loathing it with every fibre of my being (MATH) – I’m looking at approximately 9.2 different careers. I’m putting the 0.2 down to the two and a half months where I try to put a band together, but it quickly spirals out of control as I become power hungry and alienate my band members as I trample on their talent with my ‘vision’. So DON’T you tell me I don’t have life goals.

Okay, I began this post with the intention of updating you on life sans the aide of alcohol or Youtube. But my angle is still to accomplish this with minimal effort. This month so far has officially been the weirdest point of my time on Korea, and I could write about it, but no, and nah, but also; NOPE. Are my reasons. So apologies if you follow me on Twitter, or if we’re Facebook friends, because none of this will be new to you. This is simply a copy and paste of teaching anecdotes from said social medias. I said I’d update my blog. I didn’t say I’d make all your dreams come true. That doesn’t sound like me at all.

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‘You look good in those jeans teacher.’
Thank you. Tiny child.

Me: ‘What is your country’s symbolic animal?’
Student: ‘Emoji, teacher.’

*I enter the classroom to find 5 boys lying on top of each other*
‘What are you weirdos doing?’
‘WE ARE HAMBURGER TEACHER. BOY HAMBURGER!!’

Me: ‘Everyone take out your homework.’
Students: ‘No teacher. Do the chicken. Do the chicken first.’
OR: ‘No teacher. Do the tongue. Do the tongue first.’
(Apparently I do a good chicken impression and tongue…thing)

Cardigan over sleeveless shirt. Cardy slips, revealing sliver of shoulder.
A teenager screams.
‘No teacher! Body is boom! Boys is wolf!’

‘ENCORE! ENCORE! ENCOOOORE!!!!!’ *flips a chair*
What’s more Rock and roll than ABC’s with grade 3′s. You tell me.

Weird class prank: students only respond in Japanese.
Weird result: I actually understand them better than usual.

Student walks up to my desk, takes the teabag outta my tea and squeezes it into her mouth. I guess you could say we homies.

Told my students l that I was a big shot show runner and to pitch me tv show pilots, so i guess u could say im a big fan of my work.
P.S. Keep those eyes peeled for a certain ‘ero-drama’ – a dramatic sexy sitcom involving a love triangle between 2 dogs and one dog’s owner.

So my co-teacher is giving the kids a RIGHT telling off. Their foreheads are on their desks as instructed.
Then one kid stands up and starts singing; ‘Let it goooo! Let it goooo!’
A kid from another class pops his head in at that moment and says; ‘Elsa??’

I’m 1000% done.

Nothing says graduation day quite like reenacting the entire plot of Mamma Mia with glitter canons.

Student: ‘Long time no see, Olivia.’ Me: ‘But I saw you yesterday?’ Student: ‘Yesterday was a long time teacher.’

‘You drink Obama teacher?’ – 6 year old inquiring about my coffee. Black americano. Uh.

‘Everyone looks delicious!’
Remember kids, spelling mistakes inevitably lead to a life of cannibalism. #PSA

‘Hello teacher, I am Soo mi, and we will be best friends now.’

‘I like board car’ Board car? No student, I think you mean ‘I like vodka.’
Oh. Wait.
(Yes, my student wrote this, and yes, he meant this.)

feeling pretty good about the 16 kids i beat at arm wrestling today. lol kids r so weak.

Just experienced my CT slamming her foot down on the accelerator, flying over speed bumps and yelling; ‘ROLLER COASTER!!’ Students loved it.

So we’re learning directions in class at the moment, and a student just came up to me and said; ‘go straight olivia’ and i’m all; ‘i could never fully commit to that’ and then i ran away.

Had to finish class early because the nurse came in and gave my students sticks to pee on.

Am now super stoked about my class full of 6yr olds w/ pee hands.

‘You’re my favourite teacher & you are beautiful & funny and you have small hair’ Kids – they build you up just to diss your thin hair.

Okay, sweet jesus I could go on forever, but there are other ways I need to spend my time, and all of those ways involve various types of staring blankly at the internet. But you get it. Yes. Good. Teaching English abroad is…never dull

Really Really REALLY lazy update on shit.

Finally updating my blog but in THE LAZIEST FUCKING WAY POSSIBLE.

But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.

Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto. Yet another wonderful adventure that I don’t know whether to gush about or hold close to my chest. I don’t know if I have the energy to do either – yes, I do find the art of mysteriousness taxing on my energy levels. Which my over exposed internet presence can probably attest to – *cough* Facebook and Twitter *cough* *unladylike splutter* I haven’t been mysterious since MSN Messenger. So why have I been tired since 2006? It’s funny you should ask that internets…

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Japan is so…calm. Just the energy of the place. So still. And while stillness seems impossible in a country so peppered with microcosms of subculture, both traditional and overwhelmingly bizarre, I think part of the stillness I observed was more about an equilibrium of all these things. There is such potential for chaos here, at Shibuya crossing for example, or in downtown Osaka, but such potential is never reached. Voices are never raised, horns are never honked, people rarely stray beyond the left of the sidewalk disrupting the flow of things, no judging stares are cast, and nobody, and I mean nobody betrays the law of the little green and red men. (With exception for a local vagrant named Shota. Hey buddy.) And if you’re thinking; ‘Oh how obedient.’ then I challenge you to jaywalk at Shibuya crossing. That’ll learn ya. Because I see grace. I see a consideration for others, and that even though you’re in a hurry, who’s to say your hurry is more pressing than an-others hurry. Everyone still embraces their individuality fiercely. With white knuckled self-worth. Something I was in such awe of. But this fierce individuality is never at the expense of others. My individuality is not the sacrificial lamb to your individuality. There’s plenty of grassy knoll for all us lambs to frolic.

A receipt fell from my pocket while I was waiting at a crossing, and I felt an immediate sense of alarm – not for fear of judgement, but more of a; *gasp* ‘How awful of me!’ It’s not that this isn’t a sentiment that I wouldn’t have already felt anywhere else, but I was so absolute in this sentiment, like never before, and after only a week in Japan. I welcomed that absoluteness really. I mean I may very well get over it just as quickly – as I got under it? – but I like the pure thought behind it. Like talking in hushed tones on public transport, and not eating strong smelling or loud foods. Corn chips for example. There are no written rules to these things, just pure consideration for others. In two weeks I never saw an agitated Japanese person, because no-one seems to be giving anyone else a reason to be agitated. (Edit; I remember a friend pointed out two men arguing in front of a restaurant one night, but I had no idea what he was pointing at. It all looked kinda chill to me.)

So here would be a good time to put in a disclaimer, in that I was only here for two weeks, as a tourist who barely walks the surfaces of life here, and these are merely my own observations. Like anything exterior of myself, I don’t really know a god damn thing, and I’m doubtful I’m even faintly clued up on the versa of that vice. All I can tell you is what I took from my experience, and they were all good things. While there are particular people and places I’ll miss, I think what I’ll miss the most is the sincerity of the people.

I feel I should say a little something about what I actually did in Japan. But let’s inject a point of mysteriousness into my usual internet babble for once aye? It was good friends, good food and good sake that made this trip. That and jet-boating around an icy lake in the shadow of Mount Fuji with a drunken gold-toothed local fellow. But in all fairness, that also involved good friends, good food, and well, probably good sake too.

As I write this, I’m eight hours into a nine hour bus ride back to Tokyo – thus marks my last night in Japan. My feet are strangely swollen, and all I can smell is the plastic bag of rubbish in front of me, which smells of sun baked banana peel and an excessive amount of coffee cups – I don’t dislike it. After dropping our bags off at a capsule hotel in Shinjuku, we’ll be sharing our last meal and hopefully some great sake with our new friend Shota. I’m not overwhelmed with any kind of emotion right now. It’s strange actually. I just feel…still. Happy. Maybe it’s because I’ve been sitting in the sun reading a good book* all day, watching the Japanese countryside whip by, and drinking more coffee than my irregular heartbeat can really deal with. All good things.

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*Read Eat, Pray, Love, watched A Map for Saturday and started on some Jack Kerouac. How painfully literal of me.