several thousand words

If a picture is worth a thousand words, here are several:

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Because food is the most important, here is a picture of the not-quite-a-Chimichanga I ate at a nearby Mexican place. I cannot begin to tell you how happy I was to find it.Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

And the chips. And the sauceless salsa. It was still delicious.

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We made plant books in science class a few weeks ago. They pressed flowers and leaves and wrote about stems and systems. My favorite is the magnifying glass. Such creativity!

Christmas

Christmas has come to my house! This is a little light-box thing I got from a place called Butter. They have cheap home stuff like towels and candles and decorations, and they finally put out their holiday stuff. I was lucky to get out of there with only this.

Fabrics

I’m getting addicted to flowers and fabric. Everyone in my school and friends circle knows it now. I’ve become the Floral Mania. 

Rainbow Socks

Finally, the socks I made. First time I’ve tried socks in several years. They actually fit! 

ottermei.

wax on, wax off

From the other side of the dream, the hazy pastel perfection is muddied. The grass is green but brown tipped, moisture-less. The people are starry eyed and their shoes are patched from neglect.

My friends, my fellow quarter life crises-goers, it is not dreamy wonderland living the dream life. It is reality, same as usual, and there’s no cake and no fairies bouncing around to make life a living paradise. No, reality is still the same. Still gritty, occasionally terrible, occasionally transcendental. Of course you know that. Of course you knew, really, that living your dream wouldn’t be all fun and games. Someone will spill the mayo. Every time.

I had a dream to move to Korea and teach. It was going to be an everyday miracle, to wake up in another country, see my students’ smiling faces, share something joyous and wondrous with them, awaken desire for learning, experience culture in a beautiful nation…

I don’t want to rain on my own parade, but it’s hardly like that. Waking up at 5am anywhere is torture, and my students are just kids, not figments of my imagination, so they cry and get in fights and ask me to repeat myself fifty million times…less sylvan glades of learning and more crowd control in a mob.

But that’s not to say I’m unhappy. Of course I’m happy. I’m working a fulfilling job, and I am in another country, surrounded by the language I love and living independently. All those are part of a dream. But it’s not rosy, self. I knew it, I knew it, I knew it, says my self. A chant for the sidewalks as my feet strain against the 9 hour days.

So my mind turns again inward, to further dreams, wilder dreams, and again my imagination is caught and swept away from the present to bounds of freedom unrealizable.

Again I wax poetic to cover up the dismal mundanity of real life.

my dream, my old friend

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This is the story of my path to Korea. The story of my dream.

Ever since I was a child, I’ve been fascinated by Asian culture. I can’t pinpoint the reason, other than its otherness. Reason enough for the human soul to be caught and captivated. The strange and beautiful things I saw in books and on TV thrilled me. My mother had lived in Japan when she was small, and so our house was laced with influences of the Orient. Chopsticks when we made stir-fry, the entire series of Godzilla movies on VHS, beautiful dragonware china, pokemon cards, Japanese language books, and of course, Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z on TV.

But it wasn’t just that. My parents had lived in Belgium after they got married, and my mother had studied French, so we also had French song tapes and Spanish song tapes, and books about the Arctic circle and sled dogs. We grew up, my brother and I, surrounded by the rest of the world. It never seemed too big or far away or foreign. We never felt that it was closed off to us. I dreamed of traveling the world my whole life, and spent most of my time deep in books. I think those early days also gave me the love of language I still have. Singing along in French and Spanish just for fun, finding funny ways of saying everyday words, imitating accents…it taught me to love and to play with sounds, important for a future linguist.

When I was a child, I had normal dreams. Artist, vet, then when my horse phase was strong, horse-breeder, jockey, Olympic equestrian. In junior high school it was illustrator overseas, living in Britain with a house in Japan. In high school I started getting interested in languages, after pulling Mario Pei’s The Story of Language randomly off the library shelf. Bless you, Mr. Pei. I started seriously learning Japanese, then Swedish, looking back to my ancestry. I entered college, with one eye ever on my freedom after school to travel. To do something.

Then came Taiwan. The turning point. I don’t know how many people my age can claim a turning point in their lives, and maybe it’s too early to see if it actually was. But certainly Taiwan has given me the dream I’m currently working towards. Before Taiwan, I just wanted to travel. I wasn’t keen on teaching (another story), so that part was actually kind of awful for me in the beginning. I was dreading the teaching part of the experience. But a year in Taiwan halfway through college… Dream come true, my friends.

While in Taiwan, so very many things happened. I have a backlog of stories and anecdotes, so I’ll save that for later, but suffice it to say that it was the best year of my life. I was independent for the first time, working a full time job, living in a foreign country, with the freedom to do anything. I was also making more money than I had ever before. Eight hundred a month without paying rent! Riches.

But a funny thing happened there too. I began to love teaching. I don’t think I saw it that way at first. I thought I loved playing with my students, in class and out, that I loved making them laugh or getting interested in what I was saying.

Slowly, I realized what was going on. It was a bit of a revelation, I can tell you, and actually one that I still fight, believe it or not. I grew up NEVER going to teach. That was the one thing absolutely outside of my identity, probably due to all the bad experiences I had in public school before I was homeschooled. The me, the soul part of me, reeled from this abrupt change. But it made sense. I had been a natural teacher my whole life, enjoying helping my friends with work and sharing (teaching) my friends and family things I’d learned or read. The world was laughing at me.

I accepted it quickly though, because I was also getting interested in Korea at the same time, and it was the easiest and most logical way to live there. I still can’t explain “why Korea” when someone asks. I say it’s because I was already interested in the Korean language, and that’s true. I think Korean is the most beautiful language there is, but that’s also hard to explain. Do I need to? Cookie dough is my favorite ice cream, Korean is my favorite language. Done. Fine.

But that was just the impetus to look into Korea as a whole. I was also already watching Korean dramas, and while I knew that dramas are not any good sort of representation for real life (I’d also watched a LOT of Taiwanese dramas before going to Taiwan), I was intrigued by the kind of ideals I saw portrayed through their show writing. The culture behind the shows, so to speak. How they made characters react to certain situations, and who was slated as the good or bad guy and for what reasons. Deep stuff, I tell you.

At any rate, I read about Korea, I found Eatyourkimchi and watched all the videos, I tried Korean food for the first time and nearly died of joy…a lot went on in Taiwan to fuel my passion for Korea. Despite your warnings, dear school nurse, of Korean men.

So Korea it was. I had notebooks full of plans for living there, teaching there, blogging there… It was pure joy. But there was also the Big Gap. The two years of black hole college waiting to suck my fervor and joy away. I’m exaggerating. Slightly.

I’m on the other end now of it now though. Graduated, job in hand, counting down the weeks. Weeks.

I wonder what other people’s dream stories are like. Whether they’ve changed as much, and as often, as mine. Whether they’re working on their dreams now. I hope you are, friends. I hope you never let go of dreaming.

otter.

a few updates; dreams come true

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It’s rare I take pictures of myself. I’m not a selfie-centered person. But this has created the odd conundrum of me not knowing what I looked like most of the time. Sometimes I do want to remember that fun day I looked nice and rode in a car with my best friend for four hours to Austin and had some crazy good food…yeah, or maybe I just want to join my generation. Whatevs, yo.

But, yes, indeed, I was in Austin this week. I have relatives down there, and my cousin took me to to all the hot-spot awesome eateries and local joints. I mean, it sounds like we partied mightily, but really we went thrift shopping and comic book store-ing, and then went home to watch Doctor Who with burgers. Aw chyeah. My kind of vacation.

Although it’s a strong contestant, the watching Doctor Who and burgers and tea dueling (you heard me), are the not the reason I called this post “Dreams come true.” No, my friends, I have news.

I passed the EPIK interview a couple weeks ago, and while that in itself was amazing and wonderful and something I’m incredibly grateful for, I will have to turn it down. I will turn it down for a better offer that came from an unexpected source. Long story short, I have a friend who teaches in Korea and her school was hiring so she sent me a message right after my EPIK interview. After getting more information and looking up the school, I immediately sent in my resume and started praying I’d get in. Honestly, this school is perfect. It’s exactly what I wanted to look for after I got into Korea with EPIK, and it has the same benefits if not slightly better. Her school is a private Christian international school outside of Seoul. They prepare their students for enrollment in overseas schools and have a ton of extracurricular stuff; music, martial arts, gardening, drama, debate…everything. They’re also bilingual, so almost all of the courses are taught in English. And get this – that means I’ll be a regular home room teacher, not just the ESL (as far as I know; that may change). I’ll teach science and math and history and grammar…the whole nine yards, including idioms like that.

Honestly, this terrified me at first. I’ve never thought about teaching anything other than English, and I have no experience to do so. However, I know I can do it. I was homeschooled so I know the mechanics of teaching, as well as how to pick and choose curriculum and make things interesting. But it’s going to be so good. I mean, as an ESL co-teacher in a normal Korean school, it was likely I wouldn’t be a real teacher. And I don’t mean that the way it sounds. English teachers can’t interact with the students like the native Korean teachers – we just can’t communicate in that way for the most part. Plus, ESL teachers are rarely permanent. Schools know they don’t often last more than a year or two, and that means they can’t be a real part of the school policy building. I have no idea how much involvement is normal, but from what I’ve heard, it’s not much.

In this school, I’ll be a normal staff teacher who can be involved in curriculum planning and discussion. In fact, during my interview, they were telling me about some changes as if I was already there and part of it. It was brilliant.

I’m beyond excited. I was happy to get in with EPIK, and I have no problems with them. But this will be so much easier, and so much more challenging at the same time. Yes, I’ll be a teacher with greater responsibilities and more work, but I’ll know someone already who works there, and who knows the school and has told me all about it. That unknown factor with EPIK kept me from feeling one hundred percent calm. I just couldn’t be sure I wouldn’t be in a bad situation.

Because of all this, I’ve laid out a calendar of things to research. Beginning with general teaching theory, I’m going to get materials and information on teaching math, science, humanities, and then brush up on grammar and English right before I leave. There isn’t much time left now…it’s coming up fast, and I’ll be in Korea before I know it.

Wish me luck!

otter.