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.

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a few updates; dreams come true

AustinCollage

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.