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Note to self

Let’s talk conflict avoidance.

It’s safe to assume that no one chases conflict, unless you’re a narcissist. Yet, some of us respond to conflict better than others. My personal method of dealing with strife is to, well, not deal. Which, turns out, is not ideal.

Big surprise: Avoiding a problem won’t make it go away. If I don’t talk about something that’s bothering me, that frustration builds into a much bigger issue. As a fun bonus, it’s usually then misdirected at a third-party who has no idea why I’m acting so hostile!

So, this is no doubt a lesson I’m still learning, but hard conversations are worth having. It might feel uncomfortable in the short-term, but conflict is normal. Figuring out how to navigate interpersonal tension is fun! This is a half-joke, but also, there is a certain amount of pleasure in learning how to approach conflict in a healthy, productive way.

TL;DR, don’t avoid your issues. Future you will be grateful.


Psst. The Popgirl newsletter is still going strong. You can find it here.

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10 Questions About Korea, One Year Later

Yesterday marks exactly one year since I first landed in Korea.

I don’t know if you’ve seen the Same Interview, One Year Apart interview with Billie Eilish, but that’s what originally inspired me to write this blog last year when I moved to SK – purely so I could have a personal record of how I felt then vs. how I felt a year after the fact.

Let’s jump in!

1. Why South Korea? 

I feel like my original answer was something light and fun like “why not South Korea?” Well, standing on the other side of my year here and having committed to another year in the Land of the Morning Calm, I can answer with perhaps more clarity. I love Korea.  I don’t consider it a utopia, however⁠—the country is far from perfect, with narrow “traditional” ideals, rampant classism, damaging beauty standards, and so on. Still, I am immensely grateful I have the opportunity to live in this country and experience life as an ex-pat in Korea.

@ the view from Jinju Lotte Mall Sky Park, July 2020

South Korea is not only full of beautiful natural landscapes to explore, it is also home to some of the kindest and most generous humans on this planet. Of course, I have battled the stressors that come with being a foreigner, but no one in Korea has ever made me feel anything less than welcome. 

2. What are you most excited and/or nervous about? 

Like I mentioned above, I’ve signed on for another year in Korea. Starting in late August, I’ll be teaching in Busan. Though it is the second-largest city in Korea, every time I’ve visited Busan I have been surprised by the seemingly relaxed atmosphere. Seoul can feel incredibly rushed and busy at times. (This is coming from the person who lived just outside of Atlanta for about five years and pretty much only ventured there for concerts, so take this opinion as you want.)

@ Haeundae Beach in Busan, December 2019

Either way, I’ve always felt so energized and refreshed from my outings there. I’m aware that living somewhere is different from just visiting, but looking forward to the changes that will come with moving to a bigger city. Plus, I’ll be closer to the beach!

3. What’s the one thing you packed that you couldn’t have lived without? 

In 2019, I started to truly invest in a hair routine that worked for my curls, so I’d say my Not Your Mother’s Curl Talk conditioner and microfiber hair wrap. Just curly girl things.

4. What about the one thing you definitely didn’t need?  

The first aid kit I purchased specifically to bring with me to Korea, including the 5,000 band-aids inside. I’m not *that* clumsy.  

5. What was the best food you tried? The weirdest?  Any food from home you can’t wait to eat? 

As far as sweets go, there are a ton of desserts I’ve tried and loved in the course of this year. One of the first things I ever had was a melon-flavored convenience store ice cream, it’s still one of my favorites though I’ve since realized that it’s more popular with ajummas. Another favorite of mine is ssiat hotteok, a popular street food. As for savory, some of my top fave dishes are jjimdak (braised chicken stew) and Korean fried chicken with fries and fried tteok.

When I first landed I was determined to be adventurous with food, but I’m still a recovering picky eater. So while it’s not entirely weird, for me, trying Korean fish cakes was pretty outside my comfort zone! In terms of what Americans might find “weird,” one of my favorite traditional snacks is a sticky rice cake with red bean paste.

Right now, the food from back home that I miss most is good Mexican food. Favorite daughter answer: my mom’s cooking, like her brisket and twice-baked potatoes, for example.

6. What is the most touristy thing you did? 

I think it’s safe to say that wearing hanbok (traditional Korean clothing) while touring Gyeongbokgung Palace is the most touristy thing I did. Renting hanbok for the day is a common occurrence in Korea and, done respectfully, it is a special way to appreciate the richness of Korean cultural heritage.

7. What was the hardest adjustment? 

Adjusting my expectations. I had a picture in my head of what things would be like for me and of course, it wasn’t like that at all. Plus, it was a major adjustment to go from living with a roommate to having to figure out living alone in a foreign country.

8. What’s the first thing you’re excited to do when you go back?

See my family! With COVID-19, it’s hard to say when my first trip back home will take place, but I’m looking forward to that reunion whenever it can safely happen!

9. What’s one piece of advice you would give?

Step outside your bubble. You can always find a new perspective and get out of your comfort zone, whether you teach abroad or not. Speaking from experience, it is so much easier to stick with whatever is comfortable. But “easy” doesn’t necessarily mean “good.” You can’t know what’s out there for you until you take those first uncertain steps away from your safety net. Question everything and don’t be afraid to fail. Okay, that’s more than one piece of advice, but you get the idea.

10. Use five words to describe your current state of mind.  

Grateful, self-assured, hopeful, contemplative, and contented.

That’s it for now! As always, thanks for reading 🙂

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Glad to be here

I’ve been teaching in Korea for nearly seven months now. Considering my last update was in November, it’s fair to say an update is well overdue.

I was discussing my feelings towards Korea with a friend recently, how I feel so welcome and at home despite being an obvious outsider. Coming from the South, a stereotypically ‘hospitable’ place, it was something of a culture shock for me to experience the constant, genuine hospitality that Korea has to offer. My friend remarked that what I’m feeling might have to do with Korean culture and the values of generosity and sharing that are woven into it. My situation may be unique, but I don’t think it is.

Living and working here has been a wildly enriching experience for me. I’m learning how to be a better teacher every day. I’m learning more about myself, too. I feel lucky to be here, in spite and also thanks to COVID-19. Let me explain.

The first detected coronavirus case in the States was detected on the same day as the first case in Korea. Since America’s national emergency declaration in mid-March, I’ve had friends and family back home sending more messages than usual. I appreciate the concern, but it feels misplaced.

In late February, my school shut down for a week because two cases were identified in our region. There were plenty of question marks during this time, but I never worried about:

  • Whether or not necessities like food or toilet paper would be available for purchase. The only panic-buying I witnessed was a brief period of masks being sold out, and a system was soon devised where people can only purchase masks on assigned days to avoid future shortages.
  • What would happen if I thought I might be sick and possibly a danger to others. I knew I had reliable coverage through my job. I also knew that drive-through screenings were free and I could access testing easily if I felt I needed it.
  • Whether or not the outbreak was being addressed seriously. Aside from seeing my school weigh the decision of closing its doors, I understood the government was enacting unified effort to curb the outbreak and keep people safe. Everywhere I did manage to go during the height of infection in Korea (there was no quarantine mandate in my area), there was an energy of cautious calm. Hand sanitizer was installed in every public bus and still remains. It’s also a staple at pretty much every cash point in restaurants and stores.

This isn’t to say I felt no concern whatsoever. I had a lot of questions, and when the outbreak jumped from less than a hundred known cases to 200+ in less than 24 hours, I was definitely worried. However, knowing the above made it easy to conclude that panic would not benefit me in this situation.

As I stated before, I feel very fortunate to be in Korea in general, but especially during this time. It is an unsettling and scary time to be alive, yet I feel like I’m living in one of the safest places on the planet. Frankly speaking, I am terrified for everyday Americans (including loved ones) who need and have every right to basic care, but cannot access to it due to limited supplies and a flawed healthcare system. I could write more on this, but Benjamin Davis’ ‘I’d Rather Be Here’: An Expat Perspective From South Korea sums up my opinion perfectly.

It doesn’t feel entirely right to pivot from such a serious topic to my latest escapades. So instead of segueing with “Global pandemic aside, here’s everything I’ve been doing,” I’m going to end this post here.

If you’d like to know about what I’ve been up to while in Korea, keep your eyes peeled. I’ll be posting another update soon. Thanks for reading. Stay safe and if you can, stay home!

x

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Popgirl — #18

As we’re already well into March, it’s no surprise that I had a hard time with this Popgirl issue. Even with Leap Day, the month felt incredibly short, so I didn’t think I had a lot to say about February. To trick myself into writing, I forwent the format and ended up saying a bit more than expected. Enjoy:

In February, South Korea reported over 200 cases of COVID-19 in 24 hours Watching coronavirus spread in South Korea: the good news is that there is no panic. In response, my school shut down for a week. Many teachers I know are still not working, and case numbers continue to rise as daily testing is conducted. Racist, xenophobic responses are also on the rise, particularly in my home country. Negative news stories about China and deflated business as a result are cyclical occurrences for Harry Chan, owner of an 85-year-old restaurant in Seattle’s Chinatown; Oneika Raymond asks us to consider whether there would be as much concern or hoopla if the origin of the virus were North American or European.

Having extra time off in February allowed me to watch a lot of movies. Women love women-led content: here’s looking at you, Birds of Prey (2020), Hustlers (2019), and Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019). I even saw Little Women (2019) in theaters and loved it so much I wrote a blog about it. I also experienced the Taylor Swift: Miss Americana (2020) and Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé (2019) documentaries. Each film is worth watching in my opinion, but Birds of Prey stands out as a joyful proposition for why more female-driven superhero movies should exist.

My thoughts exactly. Also, please stream ‘Garden Song’.

As for other entertainment, I fell back into the K-drama world with Crash Landing on You (2019). The show depicts North Koreans as complex people who are ultimately relatable and even lovable, even if they are culturally different. I cried my way through the final episodes of The Good Place (S4) and felt my adrenaline spike with every cliffhanger on The Stranger (S1). February kicked off with a binge of Netflix’s Next in Fashion (S1). While I was delighted to have a Project Runway-esque show to consume, I felt some important industry conversations were brushed aside in favor of goofy bits. That said, the fourth episode provided some opportunity to examine what streetwear really means beyond looking ‘cool’.

Speaking of fashUN, here’s one of my favorite looks I put together in February:

Also on IG, Michael Buckley linked me to Rhett & Link’s episode of A Conversation With. Listening to the discussion on ‘coming out’ as agnostic was unexpectedly great. Link Neal talked about his first time hugging an openly gay man as a Southern Baptist Christian: “What I wanted to do was hug him back and actually mean it, but the belief that I was ingrained with didn’t allow me to sincerely hug the guy.” I’m grateful to this duo for sharing the stories of their spiritual deconstruction in such a responsible, measured way.

2020 Reading Challenge update: I read two books in February. Not quite as impressive as the 14 I managed the month before, and even worse, I wouldn’t recommend either book. If you have any “must-read” suggestions to help end this reading drought, drop them in the comments!

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On the sidewalk

My parents still live in the house I grew up in. I’ve found this is not the norm. Most people grieve the loss of their childhood homes in early adulthood (if they’re sentimental like me).

Even in my teen years, I never thought of living in my childhood home as a rarity. It was just life. Another fact of life: My paternal grandparents lived three houses down. In the same house my dad grew up in.

I’ve got nostalgic pavements
I’ve got familiar faces
I’ve got a mixed-up memory
And I’ve got favorite places

Kate Nash, ‘Mouthwash’

In many ways, it was a charmed existence. I could lazily stroll down the street to visit with my grandparents and maybe even sneak in an episode of Lizzie McGuire if I timed it right. My world stretched from the cherry laurel tree in our front yard all the way to the old motorboat in my grandparents’ backyard. We rode circles in the driveway and back to our house on bikes that were too big. We built forts out of twigs and scoured photo albums, making up stories about all the black and white photos.

And every time I got ready to leave, my grandpa would say the same refrain. “Stay on the sidewalk,” he’d call from his chair, a throne that doubled as a recliner. It was a sweet reminder to be safe despite the short distance between our homes. When I think about my Papa, that memory sticks the most and has stayed with me well into adulthood.

One lesson I learned from my grandpa is to stay on the sidewalk.

It’s a lesson worth remembering. Not just to be careful and stay safe, but also to stick to the path that’s in front of you. Perseverance is a useful quality to have in your tool belt, especially when life gets tough. As an adult, I see “stay on the sidewalk” as an encouragement to be steady and true. To not just give up when it gets hard, but push forward despite the difficult things.

I’m not denying that some situations require a change in direction. It’s okay to take a u-turn or even forge an entirely new path for yourself. I think that with endurance and resolve at your disposal, you can make the decision to turn left or keep going with much more confidence.

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Time capsule

Ten years ago, I was just starting as a full-time college freshman at my local community college. The college was three minutes from my house and its campus consisted of one building*.

Though it was comically small, I was thrilled to be in attendance. It was my first time consistently going to classes, as desks and droning lectures aren’t a typical mainstay of homeschooling.

Attending a community college that only offered two-year programs might have been the dipping-your-toes-in-the-shallow-end equivalent of experiencing college, but it was right for me. I saved a significant amount of money while earning an Associates degree and knocking out my core classes. But, that’s how I ended my time at GMC.

At the start of 2010, I was delighted by almost everything my tiny alma mater had to offer: The English professor with the deep voice of a long-term smoker, assigning me to write about which The Breakfast Club character I most identified with, and why – I chose Brian, because of course I did. The computer lab where I earned extra credit just by speaking with a tutor. The seemingly endless list of elective courses I could take, like Art History, Bowling, or Criminology.

I took all of those electives and a handful of others, too. I was still figuring out what I wanted to do and figured a few random classes couldn’t hurt in that journey. Spoiler alert: I now have my degree, and I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up.

Still, in January 2010, with a world of possibility at my fingertips, I chose to start college eight months earlier than most of my peers. As I began my college experience and wondered at what I should do, I doubt I considered a future where I was teaching, much less living in another country. Plenty of things happened between then and now to lead me here, of course, but it’s nice to look back. Maybe the optimism and curiosity that motivated me to take unnecessary electives is the very same force motivating me today.

*Please note a second building as was also built during my brief tenure there. It made a big difference.

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Rose-colored glasses

It’s been a minute* since I delivered a proper South Korea update. *Almost three months, according to this.

I originally planned to write monthly updates in a newsletter-y type format. In all honesty, I didn’t feel prepared to write until probably October. Learning how to live alone, on top of living in a foreign country, is taking time. I think that’s okay. I’m slowly but surely finding the rhythm that works for me. It’s a huge change, and at first, I felt disappointed in myself for not adapting more quickly. I had on some “unrealistic expectations”-colored glasses and eventually realized that was just making everything harder.

That said, I’ve traded in my glasses for the more customary rose-tinted ones and am feeling very optimistic about what’s to come. Knowing that this update includes the highlight reel of the past few months, I can only imagine what amazing things are on the horizon.

This recap is a tale of two cities: Jinju and Busan.

Jinju

Jinju Fortress fireworks Namgang Yudeung Festival South Korea

Namgang Yudeung Festival

Like any good millennial, when I first found out I was moving to Jinju, I immediately Googled the city to discover that it hosts a lantern festival annually. In my head, this was Tangled in real life and I felt pretty lucky that I’d be able to see it in person. That said, I never could have imagined the scale of the event. Yudeung is Korean for floating lanterns, and Namgang (남강) translates to Nam River, which is where massive lit displays float. The festival had everything from a knockoff Beauty and the Beast lantern to dinosaurs. The setup for the 10-day festival took weeks. And though it’s been well over a month since the festival ended, when you walk along the river, you can catch some glimpses of lanterns still being taken down.

For a relatively small city, it’s impressive how much work goes into making the festival happen each year. If you’re visiting Korea next October, I definitely recommend a visit to Jinju! Some of the highlights for me were: Making my own “wishing” lantern to float along the river, trying various festival foods, watching live musical performances inside the Jinju Fortress, going through the lantern walkway, and even though I’m afraid of them, seeing the huge fireworks show at the end of the festival.

Autumn Views at Gyeongsangnam-do Arboretum Jinju, South Korea

Gyeongsangnam-do Arboretum

As my new ex-pat friend Christine would say, trees do so much for us. The Gyeongsangnam-do Arboretum (경상남도수목원) is a pure celebration of nature, and it’s right in my backyard. Even though it’s a 40-minute bus ride away from the center of the city and represents an entire province, the arboretum is housed in Jinju. Visiting during fall was a complete delight. Christine, Katie and I spent a good chunk of a Saturday morning there. I can’t wait to see what it looks like in other seasons!

Busan

Adjusting to life in Jinju has been an adventure all on its own. Still, a nice perk to living in the south of South Korea is my proximity to Busan, the second-largest city in the country. I’ve only made two day trips there so far, but if I want to see all Busan has to offer, I anticipate more visits in my future.

View from Busan Tower, Busan South Korea

In October, Katie and I ventured into Busan for a short day trip. We made it into the city just before lunch but still managed to pack in a handful of stops before catching the 7:30 bus to Jinju. Notably, the Busan Tower inside Yongdusan Park has breathtaking views of the city. Access to the observatory is only 8,000 KRW – less than 7 USD, for those at home. Plus, the ticket also includes several fun photo zones as you’re leaving the tower. We also tried ssiat hotteok (a seed-stuffed pancake that originated in Busan) at BIFF Square, traipsed down Book Street, and got in some shopping before calling it a day.

For my second journey to Busan, I teamed up with my friend Josh to participate in a special Pokémon GO event. I’m a newcomer to the game, but I figured it would be a fun way to spend a Saturday.

We ended up in Busan Citizens Park, a former US Army camp and Imperial Japanese Army base that’s been modified into a massive park, for a good three hours playing Pokémon GO. The park is gorgeous, with various green spaces to explore. I think you could easily spend a whole day there, with or without the siren song of wild Pokémon to tempt you.

We initially planned to grab some gimbap at Bujeon Market (per this recommendation) for lunch, but ended up confusing it for Seomyeon Food Alley in our post-Pokémon haze. We might have made our way there eventually, if we didn’t happen upon the only Shake Shack in Busan. It’s easy for me to feel guilty about not sampling more authentic or local food, but I haven’t eaten a true ‘American’ burger in months. A taste of home was exactly what I needed. All in all, it was a great day and I feel really lucky that I only have to spend a few bucks on a bus ticket to enjoy these experiences.

Traveling to Busan for these short visits has also made me eager to explore more of Korea. If you have any suggestions for where I should go next, drop them in the comments!

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Have Confidence, Will Travel

I have confidence in confidence alone.

I love this song from The Sound of Music movie and didn’t know until very recently that it was an addition to the original Broadway show. It’s hilarious to me that Julie Andrews decided the best way to sing it was to go completely nuts with “panic and fear and busy work.” I never saw it as panic so much as someone deciding to fight instead of giving up. The so-called ‘inane’ lyrics have always struck a chord in me, partially thanks to Andrews’ portrayal.

Seeking the courage I lack? Check. Whenever I have a job interview, listening to ‘I Have Confidence’ is one of the ways I hype myself up. Most (‘Edelweiss’ and ‘Climb Ev’ry Mountain,’ hello) songs from The Sound of Music are an instant mood-booster, and ‘I Have Confidence’ is no exception. It’s gotten a lot of play from me this year. The power of musical theater aside, 2019 has tested my confidence time and again. And though there are only three-ish months left, I’m sure this year will continue to test me. Enter Julie Andrews’ least favorite song from The Sound of Music.

Now here I’m facing adventure, then why am I so scared?

I lived in the same city and the same house for 20 years. Moving away for college was a big deal, and I still ended up less than three hours away from my hometown. When I graduated, I toyed with the idea of getting out of Georgia. There was the promise of Maine, where my mom’s family lives, along with a piece of my heart. Washington, D.C. was a contender, with friends waiting to welcome me with banners and cake. Anywhere my twin and her husband moved to was always a good option in my mind – who wouldn’t want to be neighbors with their womb mate?

In the end, I stayed in the same 30-minute radius north of Atlanta for seven years. I hopped around from city to city and as every lease came to an end, I wondered if now was my chance to take that leap. Moving to South Korea was an even bigger move than I ever imagined. There was the issue of packing my entire life into two suitcases, for one. But more than the culture shock and clothing I left behind, there was the sneaking but growing panic. What did I just do? This is what I’ve always dreamed of doing, of getting Out There and Doing Things, so why did I feel so afraid? The answer was a two-headed monster: my fear of failure and fear of change on the offensive. If you hate change, a great way to test yourself is by moving to an entirely new country where you don’t speak the language and know less than .01% of the population.

With each step, I am more certain everything will turn out fine.

The best way I can describe my first two months in South Korea (and the month leading up to my move) is getting shots. It was like taking a big breath and holding it in while waiting for the shot to happen. I knew the pain would be brief and minimal, but the longer I held my breath, the more anxious I became. You might wait 15 seconds for the sting of the injection, but that’s more than enough time to imagine the worst possible outcome. And then the needle breaks your skin and it does just feel like a mosquito bite and a band-aid makes everything okay again.

A less-wordy way to describe it would be to say it was full of trepidation. What would come next? When would that needle stick? But a crucial part of being human is not just breathing in but also letting go, and exhaling. Now that I’ve spent two months holding my breath, I think it’s time I start to breathe out, too.

And while I show them, I’ll show me.

Plenty of people suffer from Imposter Syndrome, that nagging feeling that you shouldn’t actually be here and someone might find out at any moment and eject you from the building just like they do in that one scene from The Emperor’s New Groove. For me, it’s chronic. At some point in every job I’ve ever had, I’ve felt like this. “Fake it ’til you make it,” people say. Faking it should be pretty easy when you feel like a fraud, but it never is. Even if it’s false confidence, it still requires courage.

Instead of faking it, I tend to adopt a “prove yourself” attitude. In the same way Maria sings about showing she’s worthy, I work hard to prove my value. In the name of proving myself capable, I have…

  • skipped breaks and worked off the clock to get things done
  • internalized every performance review as a reflection of Who I Am
  • taken on too much and simply worked until nine, ten, midnight to show that I can handle it
  • and tons of other not-so-healthy actions!

It’s a self-imposed battle against an imaginary enemy. Nine times out of ten, the only person who thinks I don’t have it in me, is me. And I work overtime to prove myself wrong. So, even though my chronic condition has flared up slightly in my first month teaching, I know better than to let it take over. I’ve learned to ask for help, to value my time off and not take constructive criticism as a personal attack. I’m proud of myself for always wanting to do the best I can and I’m learning to source my confidence from that rather proving I belong. So, let them bring on all their problems. I’ll do better than my best.

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As we go on

Time is flying by, and it’s hard to believe that I’ve nearly been in Korea for two full months already. Things I’ve done so far:

TESOL Searching

Finished up my TESOL course. Part of the course exam was two Practical teaching days, where we went to English camps and presented lesson plans. It was nerve-wracking and exciting all at once to be finally working with kids after so many weeks of presenting lesson plans to adults that already understand the language. During the Practicals, I learned a lot about the importance of being flexible and not taking myself too seriously as a teacher. Before I knew it, it was time to graduate the course. I am so glad I decided to take the course in person, I got to meet other first-time teachers and learn useful methods for teaching ESL in a unique environment.

The course took place on Yeongjong Island, which is *technically* part of Incheon, South Korea but it’s also not the mainland, so it’s a good distance from most things. For the month we were there, we’d take an hour train ride into Seoul on the weekends and joke about how we were ‘stuck’ on an island. Looking back, it was the perfect starting ground to experience life in Korea. The island, and Unseo town in particular, is just small enough that we were able to acclimate to it quickly and comfortably. Now that I’m living in a different area altogether, riding the train for just an hour to get to Seoul doesn’t sound so bad!

The Art of Growing Old

I turned 27, my first time celebrating my birthday out of the country. It was a treat spend the day with the friends I’ve been hashtag blessed to meet since moving to Korea. All I wanted to do for my birthday was an “art museum crawl” (like a bar crawl but for art exhibits, because I am very cool) and maybe play some board games, and the day did not disappoint.

It was just by chance that I noticed a Game Cafe as we were wandering around Myeong-dong after a delicious dinner (kbbq, bulgogi, seafood jeon… plus, a surprise cake!) and everyone was game (no pun intended) to check it out with me. Once there, we found most games available were in Korean, but luckily one of us knew the game Dominion well enough to share how to play from memory. It was just a fun added challenge that the cards were in Korean! The night was completely perfect and I felt really grateful that I had the chance to wrap up my celebration playing a card game, which reminded me of spending time with my family back at home.

Fukuoka’n Around

I don’t have much to say about my trip to Japan since it was less of a vacation and more a trip of necessity with a lot of unexpected twists that arose. That said, Japan taught me some pretty useful lessons. Such as:

  • Don’t just trust hours listed online, call ahead.
  • A carry-on suitcase is always better than a single backpack.
  • An impromptu beach trip requires impromptu sunscreen, too.
  • When it doubt, get a corn dog from 7/11.
  • Buy the umbrella in the morning.

Another gem Japan gave me was a trip to a fun little modern art museum in Fukuoka that houses many great exhibits, one even featuring The Madonna of Port Lligat by Salvador Dali. I was drawn to a piece by Japanese artist Shinro Ohtake called WEB – we weren’t allowed to take pictures of it, and I can’t find any photos online, but it was a massive mixed media piece crafted from found objects such as wooden panels, yarn, tissue paper, and old photographs. The web formation and photographs made me think it was about family, but that’s just my interpretation. Either way, it was a really stunning work. This gallery shows some of Ohtake’s art if you want a better visual of what I saw!

More Firsts

After a whirlwind of travel, I finally took a bus down to Jinju, my home-away-from-home for the next year. It’s my first time living alone ever, and as one of seven kids, I’ve always shared some part of my home with another person. So it’s nice to have a space that’s all my own, but I’m also going to miss having a roommate!

View from my rooftop in Jinju.

As I began settling in, I also started training for my 학원 (hagwon, private academy). The semester begins in September, so for the remainder of August, I’ve been learning the ropes at my hagwon and getting the hang of things before I start teaching ‘officially’. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some bright students who are participating in an upcoming English speech competition, and it’s been such a delight. I can’t wait to see what comes next.

That’s all for this month’s recap! These are just a few snapshots into my life in Korea so far. I’m still planning to write more, so I’d love to know if there’s something specific you want to read about! As always, thanks for reading ♡.

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Do you care too much, or not enough?

On the surface, self-care is a trendy wellness practice. When you cut a little deeper, it’s clear that true self-care involves an active, deliberate decision to preserve your health, whether mental or physical.

There’s a difference between self-care and self-indulgence.

https://twitter.com/ThirdEyeShawty/status/914293068689543169

Buying a face mask at Target isn’t self-care. Neither is lighting a candle and using a Lush bath bomb. Sure, some days are tough, and it seems like your best bet is to crawl into bed and have a pint of ice cream for dinner. But all of these activities act more like a band-aid instead of addressing the actual issues.

Caring isn’t a cure, but it is a start.

In my unprofessional opinion, real self-care is a lot simpler (and yet, a lot harder). “True self-care,” says Brianna Weist at ThoughtCatalog, “is making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from. And that often takes doing the thing you least want to do.”

Most people seek out distractions when our reality is too much to deal with, too unpleasant, too dark. Tumblr culture self-care is a crucial example of avoiding real life to #TreatYoSelf and temporarily ‘feel better.’

If you want to move beyond the temporary fix and simply better yourself, you have to get back to the basics. I’m not talking about a sensible white t-shirt or a nice denim jacket here. No, you have to take care of basic human needs like drinking water or going for a walk and soaking in some actual sunlight.

As silly as it might sound, remembering to check in with yourself and breathe more. Do you ever find yourself holding your breath without realizing it? And then put your lungs to work, with a renewed appreciation for the effortless act of breathing in and breathing out? A simple activity like this does wonders! I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure breathing has a proven, lasting positive effect on humans (historically and scientifically speaking).

Outside of the basic stuff, you also have to work on yourself and take intentional steps to get better for the long-term. Like the Times says, self-care is for anyone who wants it. Shifting away from the instant-gratification mindset and making decisions based on whether or not something will make you feel better right now doesn’t happen overnight. You have to constantly work at it, but it’s gratifying work. In the same way you might care for a garden (or in my case, proudly mother two houseplants), the more you maintain your own well-being, the more you’ll grow and flourish.

So, adopt an attitude of self-improvement instead of self-indulgence. Your future self will thank you.