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.

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autumn in Korea; biking by Paldang Dam

A walk in the park...

The beautiful park near the dam; definitely the best picture, which is probably why I put it on the homepage…

I realize my last couple of posts make it seem like I’m slipping into a melancholy and grey-tinted depression…and that’s not at all true. Sure, life is murky and strange these days (part of adjusting), but I’m not dour and weepy and quite as poetically philosophical as I sound.

On the contrary, when I have fun, I really have fun. Fall here is incredible. Coming from Texas, whose version of fall tends to be, “Hey, it’s November! Time to bring the temps all the way down to 80 and kill the trees! Whoooo!” having any kind of transition to winter is a treat. I never knew what fall was. Here, I call it Autumn, because holy pancakes, Batman, the colors and weather are sublime.

I feel like Anne of Green Gables, with the shining waters, warm reds of Octobers, and now the promise of a chilly, mystical November. Perfect for my writing and tea-drinking desires.

PaldangDam2

The dam itself. Dam.

In honor of the season, my friend and I went biking by the Paldang Dam, about an hour outside of Seoul. You can rent bikes there cheap; 10,000won ($10) for the day. We got the cute ones with baskets, and trundled off. Now, my friend is a marathoner, so she probably considered our five hour outing a light jaunt. My sedentary thighs were not so happy, but I muscled (ha) through and had a grand old time. The leaves were just beginning to turn, and the mountains were a beautiful ombre of every tree color imaginable.

Fallcolors

Lotus2

I’d never seen lotus in its natural environment. Those strange roots they serve at school come from these? Incredible.

Restaurant

It’s a big touristy spot, so there was a really nice restaurant about halfway down with bibimbap and really incredible pajeon. Unfortunately, I have no idea what the name of the place was. I was too hungry to care, so I had some tunnel-vision going. Food.

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The off-roading; where we lugged our bikes up a very steep hill. The picture doesn’t do it justice.

 

We also had a bit of an off-road adventure to get to a nearby park. The bike path doesn’t go to it, as far as we know, so we lugged our bikes up and down forest trails, slipping and sliding and being laughed at by the men behind us. Hey, you guys arrived twenty minutes after we did. Take that.

It was so worth it though. The park was quiet, lush, and right on a kind of peninsula into the dam area. It looked more like a lake, really, and with the mountains and lotus leaves, you could believe you were in the middle of nowhere. Never mind the ahjumma’s next to you dancing to their trot music.

 

PeacefulRiver2

We stopped for coffee and to rest a little at the park; I got mine iced, which flummoxed the vendor, but it was warm in the sun. And I really, really wanted a picture of the man selling chestnuts. He had the most incredible beard I’ve seen here. But in beard-language, it could have meant “nice old grandfather” or “seriously creepy.” I didn’t want to take the chance.

It was a nice way to spend Halloween, at any rate, since Korea doesn’t do much for the holiday. And as it’s beginning to be really cold here, it was the perfect opportunity.

ReadyforKimchi

Cabbages getting ready for kimchi.

Floof

The floof. That’s what I named it.

PaldangDam

Tis me. I’m very happy.

otter.

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.

I’m in Korea…

…at last. Actually I’ve been here over two weeks. But I’ve been so busy and so without internet that I haven’t had a moment to write. 

Where to begin? Dragonflies are everywhere, darting between pedestrians, over the river near my apartment, past the cyclists. The humidity shakes the air and makes it feel like the earth is sweating. I close my eyes and I can hear my students’ voices; after only a week their personalities are ingrained in my head. 

The walk to my school is variegated, like a patchwork quilt of different sights; a church with nuns in full habit, a Burger King/gas station, a seafood store with live fish in tanks, a construction site, gardens in the space between the sidewalk and fences…and my friend tells me that the trees I see are cherry trees. Spring is going to be something else.

For the second time in my life, I have moved around the world and not felt it. The hardest part is always the trip over. Asia itself doesn’t faze me. I was thrown in the deep end here, having only a day before starting work full time. Jump and swim. Now the walks to school, the stores, and stations seem familiar. I’m blessed to have a very good sense of direction. Now that I’m used to how my area looks, I can go to a place once and go again no problem. 

There is so much to say now, it’ll take weeks to tell it all. At least I won’t run out of material for a while.


The river near my apartment. It’s about a quarter mile walk. The water is so shallow you can see the backs of the fish swimming. 

  
  

On the way to my apartment. Paris Baguette of course. It’s as common as Starbucks, and contrary to the sign on the door, does not open at seven. 

Until next time,

otter.