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.

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.

A mug for my thoughts?

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I was called into the school nurse’s office after lunch today. I haven’t really had much communication with the school nurse, but she’s a very vogue woman who’s always handy with a genuinely broad smile. She practically beams at me every time I see her.  So I went to her office – which happens to be the warmest, nicest smelling, most colourful and most Zen nurses office I’ve ever seen. ‘Present’ she says, and she hands me a green package. I opened it tentatively, obviously a little confused. Inside was an incredibly expensive – according to my co-teacher – traditional Korean ceramic mug. She was giving it to me with a ‘Mother’s love’ I was told. Something to keep me warm. ‘From my heart to yours’ she said, ( with the aid of a translator) holding one hand to her heart and the other to mine. I was understandably floored, and she very happily accepted my hug.

It so happens that her daughter had moved to New Zealand to study for a year a couple of years back. During that time she’d missed her terribly. So despite having had nil verbal contact with this woman, the smiles exchanged in the school hallways weren’t summoned out of simple politeness, but from a place of genuine caring. To her I’m that young girl far away from home, and could do with something to keep me warm. So I’m definitely feeling pretty warm these days. Despite completely freezing my tits off.

P is for Pffffft.

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Oh boy. Oh boy oh boy.

Love. Infatuation. Obsession. Call it what you like. All this bird knows is that she’s utterly consumed. I’m feeling things that I haven’t felt in a long time. I’m madly and irrevocably head over heels in love. With a HOUSE.

Yeah.

Actually, I don’t know if it’s the house itself or the idea of the house that I’m in love with. But that’s always it isn’t it? You fall in love with the idea of something and then hope the idea and the thing itself fall in sync? Like that 8th shot of soju? Or buying a 4-pack of stockings when you don’t even know if they’re the right colour? Or like MOVING TO SOUTH KOREA? STOP TALKING NONSENSE, SELF. Okay, so I think I’m in love with both. The thing and the idea. The thing being; a house nestled against a hill in the Korean countryside. The idea; the completely self sufficient, hands-on, loved up process that went into building and sustaining it.

Okay, I’m in LOVE with the idea. But I’m in LUST with the thing. Oh my god, JUST GET ON WITH IT ALREADY. I’ve barely even started and I’m already at that point, that inevitable point that I reach with every blog post, where I regret ever having started anything and become wildly disillusioned with my life and the world – but mostly just the blog post; because I’m a normal rational human woman who has normal rational emotions regarding her own personal internet ramblings. So to summarise; I’m 70% sure I know what this blog post is about, and the other 30% is just persistence fueled by social accountability to keep this very da-fuq(?) blog updated. This blog is very confused about what it’s supposed to be and what the function of math is.

‘P is for Point’

The school guidance counselor invited some of us to his house after the school’s talent show today because we finished early. It was on a hill, smack bang in the middle of nowheresville. We drank tea. We ‘ooohed’ and ‘aaaahed’. I liked the house very much. It was a very good house.

‘E is for Example’

Here. Pictures. Look see.

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‘C is for Comment’

Well la-de-dah you say. A cutesy little house you say. ‘Pfffft’ you…say. Then you toss your hair and strut away. Because for some reason I’m imagining you’re Spanky dressed in drag. But you see Spanky, the man built this house with his bare hands. Literally. An adobe built outer with a tree-house like inner. The house had a swing at the entrance, gooseberry vines enveloping the exterior, green beer bottles through the clay walls that let streams of emerald light in, ladders and bookshelves for days, and patch-worked everything else. If it wasn’t made by hand, it was found. Everything they served us was from the garden, everything they served it on was made from the forest that surrounded us. Our parting gifts were hand-made soap and a bag to collect berries in as we made our way down the long berry laden driveway and over the river to our cars. Even the music we were listening to was recorded by them; the wife being a ukelele teacher for the outer-lying country schools. Well of course she is.

blog_10 houseOne thing that was constantly running through my head was; ‘Omg I wish my parents could see this,’ with another being; ‘Omg I wish I understood what everyone was saying.’ In fact, I think the reason I was so taken with these people and this place, was that they seemed like people my parents would be friends with. Wonderfully eclectic, creatively ambitious, musically present, joyful and carefree individuals.

So I fell in lust with a house. And I fell in love with an idea. It reminded me of why I’d been doing what I’d been doing for the past 6 years of my life. And I can’t even really elaborate much on that to be honest. But the thing about Korea, is that everybody lives in an apartment. It’s the status-quo; with exceptions reserved solely for farmers. And being in this house was such a shift from that. I fell in love with the idea that I will get to do this someday. Because I will. I mean, I sorely lack ambition. In a BIG way. To the untrained eye, this may just look like laziness, but no, I assure you it’s just lack of ambition. And no, they’re not one in the same. Why? Because shut up.

So I will continue to happily meander through life, with at least one thing that I will eventually reach for. Maybe. Probably. Fingers crossed.

Maybe the abridged version of this post is that I saw a pretty house and learnt nothing.

Here’s hoping the next post is that clear cut.

And hopefully there will be more coming soon!  But don’t hope too hard!  Just hope a medium amount!

Let Me Introduce My Cult.

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I know what camp is. It’s Kirsty Alley and Steve Guttenberg getting messed around by the Olsen twins in the wilderness. It’s the Jonas Brothers and Demi Lovato doing all the feelings in the wilderness. It’s Lindsay Lohan completely losing her shit, and meeting herself in cabin in the wilderness and then trying to get her parents back together. Something like that. These were the results of my extensive research. Wilderness dramaz. Eeerrrgh.

In an attempt to further my research, and to just be a generally less useless human being in this world, I volunteered to be a camp leader at the Seongam International Youth Camp this weekend. A camp in the Korean wilderness where the brightest middle-school students in the province get to ‘share in other people’s cults.’ And I was one such cult sharer. I shared it good. (Debatable)

As the only Kiwi out of thirty international camp leaders, – a bunch of just stupidly delightful Canadians, Americans, Brits, Irish and South African folk –  the task of being a sole ambassador for New Zealand could seem daunting. But aside from a quick presentation, a youtube clip of the haka, and an incessant and slightly obnoxious desire to bring my jar of Marmite down for breakfast; I think my general Kiwi charm and razor-sharp wit was enough. Too bad it was lost on my students. And too bad I’m not all that charming. And too bad acting like a complete barmy idiot doesn’t exactly qualify as wit; but rather a lack of it. Okay, so maybe my methods left much to be desired; but my intentions were good, and at least I gave an honest portrayal of what an individual shaped by the Kiwi culture might look like. However questionable the sample.

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So I had fun. And you know how much I hate to write about all the fun. It squeezes all the juicy fun out of it. What I will say though, is that all my prior knowledge of what a school camp was  – not that; ‘pitch a tent in the NZ wilderness, chuck your beers in your DIY river fridge, biff some sausies on the barbie’ kinda camp – were actually no use to me in this instance. Not a lick of drama, not an ounce of stress, not worry in the world. We hiked, we sang, we played, we danced, we hugged, we huddled around a fire, we ate, we drank, we were merry. And I’ve never felt so damn appreciated. I mean, I’ve kind of come to get used to the immense appreciation and respect that Koreans tend to show us foreign teachers, but this weekend was on another level entirely. And on top of this was the incredible nature of the kids. These were all kids who wanted to learn more about English speaking cultures. They wanted to be there, they wanted to spend time with us. They were genuinely interested in who we were, where we came from and what we had to say; and all this lent towards creating the most amazing environment to be a part of. What I did learn about camps though, is that their true worth, is in the friendships we make and the stories we share; all of which can only be learnt through experience.

So sap, sap, sap, yap, yap, yap; I loved camp, so there.

Items on my bucket list seem to be dropping like flies these days.

We Crave a Different Kind Of Buzz

I’ve started using my ipod again. This is a big deal. So just play along. Pretend this is HUGE news. Pretend you care. Please. Because, since I’ve left NZ, I’ve had a really hard time listening to music. It’s a nostalgia thing. Even happy music makes me miss…something. And here’s the kicker; I PAY for music now. Yeah. I know. Look at me being good at society. What can I say. I just couldn’t bring myself to let Lorde miss out on $17.99. She has to save up for that 6th form ball after all. Oh oh oh, and I IRONED something the other day. As in, for reasons other than to ‘make shit dry faster.’ Times they are a’changing for me here.

I’ve been kept pretty busy lately. Ironing and paying for music no-less. But I’ve done other stuff too. Really. I’ve managed to have a tonne of fun, but I’ve also had a LOT of frustrations to reign in. Mostly to do with communication. It’s not even the language barrier that’s a struggle – that’s surprisingly doable if you’re prepared to flail plenty – but it’s all the last minute information that I get. I thought I’d read enough blogs prior to my arrival to be prepared for this, but that’s not really possible. A surprise class, a surprise cancellation, a surprise field trip, a surprise dinner, a surprise parent-teacher conference, a surprise curriculum that you were expected to have written and filled out last week, but are only just hearing about it as you are being told off for not having done it, and my favourite; when my co-teacher decides to surprise me at the beginning of class by telling me that I’m going to teach the lesson and then leaves the room as I stand there confused and unprepared for any such lesson. And the best thing of course, is on top of my own frustration is my co-teacher’s frustration in me.

For the most part, she really seems to like me. She asks about my life. She likes to ask me for music and movie recommendations. She loves to go outside and take photos with me. Actually, she loves to go outside and have me take photos of her. Dammit if Koreans don’t love selfies. But then there are times where she has no time for the extra work that I seem to come with. The package I come in seems to involve a lot of paperwork. And I can’t help it. Neither can she. So we just push through it and exchange headaches.

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And next week I have an open-class. In which I submit a lesson plan, teach it, film it, then go over the footage a week later with seven other teachers across the county so they can critique me. As you could imagine, I’m utterly ECSTATIC about this prospect.

So. I’ve come across a bit of of a lull in the job front. But that’s okay. I’ve become a ‘live for the weekend’ kind of human. I think we just refer to these as ‘humans.’ Last weekend involved another 20-odd NET teachers rioting in Mokpo. Okay, so maybe not rioting, but we certainly brought the Norae-bang house down. We were obviously so charming that we got ourselves some free drinks from the manager of a bar, and made social with ACTUAL Koreans. After some appalling dance-offs in a club, we retired to a not-so-quaint Love-Motel that played porn on a 50″ flat-screen. Vivid. Oh so vivid. Damn you Samsung and your quality products.

I also had a pretty eventful teacher’s dinner last week. Possibly the booziest, most ruckus dinner yet. It was in Gwangju (the big ol’ smoke), and I remember falling asleep in the car on the way there, and waking up to the sweet sound of Me and My Bobby McGee on the radio. Oh god it was a nice moment. You have to understand that I’m currently being slowly beaten to death with K-pop, so in that moment, hearing Janis was complete utter heaven on earth. The rest of the night was less…peaceful.

To keep it short-ish, there was much soju and Hite involved. Shot after shot after shot. Faces got redder. Brows got sweatier. The room got louder. Everyone got friendlier. One of the older teachers, who I honestly don’t recognise from school, has decided that her son and I would make beautiful babies. She’d like me to go visit him should I venture to Japan during the winter break. Two of the male teachers, one 48, one 55; decided to compete for my attention. ‘Who is the most handsome?’ ‘Who do you think has the most money?’ They like to sing ‘beautiful Olivia’ to me at school, so this was no real surprise. They’re both actually very sweet guys. ‘Not him,’ they would say, pointing at each other; ‘he is a dangerous man.’ Oh my. The three of us had a photo taken together in front of a triceratops skeleton at last weeks field trip, and I so badly wish I had it so I could show you these goons.

So it was a ruckus evening. It was a sashimi restaurant too, so no such luck with carbs to soak any of it up. The school receptionist who seems to have taken a liking to me, told me I was a ‘good friend.’ I was pretty touched, especially considering our conversations are a complete hit and miss language wise. I really wish I could understand these folk, because I don’t think I’ll ever truly get to know who they are. On the other hand, it may be to their advantage not knowing quite what I’m saying. Nobody needs that much sarcasm in their lives. Hell, I don’t even think I know what I’m saying most of the time. Thanks to all the broken English that comes out of my mouth these days, I think I’m finally getting to the point. Probably the complete opposite to my six years at university.

So where am I at right now?

I’m looking forward to the weekend. I’m looking forward to being with new friends, watching hundreds of lanterns fill the night sky, doing things I’ve never done in a yet another place I’ve never been. That’s where I’m at.

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