As of right now, this is the last blog post I plan to write about Korea. I’m still trying to learn Korean, although grad school has kind of side-tracked me on that. But maybe once I get back into the swing of it, I’ll post a little more about studying the language.

It’s been a year now since I’ve been back in the States and I originally envisioned this post being longer. I figured there’d be a lot I miss about Korea, and in someways there is. I’ve been putting off writing this post. I’m not really sure why but there’s a certain amount of sadness in looking back at my time in Korea.

When I first got back, like I said, I figured there’d be a lot that I miss. And I do. I miss my awesome apartment that was so close to a bunch of parks, walking distance from work and the main stores. I miss Seoul, and every time I’ve gone into a city since leaving Korea I’ve had flashbacks of walking around Seoul’s streets. I miss being able to travel around the country so cheaply, eat great food cheaply, do almost everything cheaply. I miss all the new experiences and the festivals. But after thinking about it for a year, the only thing that I really, truly miss are my students. I can always go back to Korea, see the sights, experience the festivals again. To a certain extent I miss the friends I made in Korea, but luckily things like Skype and Facebook make it pretty easy to keep in touch now. That’s not really the case with my students.

While I was teaching I used to collect the pictures my students drew for their projects at the end of class and hang them up over the wall. So over the course of a term, you could see all the work they had done. When the term was over, I took them home and put them in a binder. When I was getting ready to leave, it was obvious the binder was too big. I had a really hard time going through and figuring out which ones I should take back with me. I basically wanted them all, since each one reminded me of a specific class or specific student. Then the horrible happened. Even with the binder wheedled down, I realized it wouldn’t fit in my luggage. I asked a co-worker to ship the binder to me, but unfortunately my request was forgotten and the binder was left, with all my students work, in my apartment when a cleaning crew came to clean it out for the next teacher. I’m glad that I at least took out the letters some of my students wrote to me and brought them with me, so at least I still have those.

That’s probably my only real regret from Korea: not bringing that binder with me. I should have tried to make room in my luggage, or stuff it into my backpack somehow. And I had also asked that a letter I had written to a student be delivered to him. He had asked me for a study guide on logical fallacies the last few classes and I wasn’t able to find the copies of the work sheet. But he wrote me such a nice letter saying good-bye and he was one of my favorite students. I don’t think that letter ever got to him.

On a happier note, a mini-regret I have is that I never started any classes by speaking to them in German. I always wanted to it, but never did. In hindsight, it would have been a good April Fool’s Day prank, to speak German but pretend it was English and act like I expect them to know what I’m saying.

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I got an email from WordPress about an 2011 annual report for my blog, prepared by their stats help monkey no less. It’s kind of interesting to look through so I thought I’d post it. However, this is not my official return to this blog. I’m still planning on staying away from posting about Korea for a year after I left and then reflecting on my experiences. So there shouldn’t be another post on here until May 28th, 2011. However, I am posting on my other blog, Adventures in Graduate School, which may include somethings about Korea if I run out of grad adventures to talk about.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 7,300 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

I was going to post about packing and my last few days in Korea, but I honestly can’t remember enough about those events to justify their own blog posts. But I will say, when moving to another country, pack early. Also, be careful where you leave your Spacebags. They can develop holes.

On the last day I worked, I went down to April to say good-bye to Karen. It was kind of sad; since I had a half day on Friday but just about no one else did, I couldn’t say good-bye to anyone in CDI. While waiting for her, I saw something I had never seen before: a western child speaking Korean.

He was waiting outside the glass doors talking to a Korean man and I didn’t think much of it. Then he walked inside and up to the Korean counselors and started talking to them. IN KOREAN! I hadn’t even seen an adult westerner speaking Korean with remote accuracy, let alone a child. But children have a way of picking these things up quickly. I have to admit, I’m somewhat jealous. Still not even close to being able to speak Korean well. And since I upgraded my laptop to Vista, I lost my Rosetta Stone progress *tear*.

I’d really like to know that kid’s story too. How did he learn such good Korean?

Next up: My Last Blog entry. I need to give this one some thought, as it will be reflecting on my time in Korea.

Before I left for Korea, I celebrated my 22nd birthday and my dad took me to go see Cirque du Soliel’s Kooza in Washington DC. It was a pretty amazing show. So when I found out Varekai was playing in Jamsil for almost the  entire month of May, I decided to had to go. It had been a while since I had been able to any kind of show or big entertainment so this would be a nice farewell to Korea.

I ended up going with Karen, a friend I trained with who had recently returned to Korea to teach at Yeongtong’s April branch,  her boyfriend, Brandon and a Korean friend of theirs (who bought the tickets for us). Karen had seen Cirque du Soliel before but Brandon had missed it and I don’t think their friend had seen it either.

Even if circus or performance art isn’t your thing, Cirque is a pretty unique experience. The tents (at least in my two experiences) are small so even if you have seats in the back you can still see everything. The performances are like a mixture of classic circus acts and these crazy acrobatic stunts. It’s very impressive and seeing the more dangerous ones really do take your breath away. And the costumes are pretty crazy. The ones for Kooza were a little more traditional and clown-like but the Varekai costumes were just amazingly over the top. The performance we saw (apparently there are differnet versions) is a retelling of the story of Icarus where he crashes into an enchanted forest, so the costumes of the different creatures were really like something out of the imagination.

And luckily for us we were only four rows from the stage so we really got to see all the details. Probably the most amazing part of being that close, as Brandon pointed out, is that you can see what the performers doing the more intense acts go through. With so much going on during a performance, it’s guaranteed that they won’t do everything with 100% accuracy and when you’re really close you can see as performers start to get strained or loose their footing. But then you also get to see how the correct themselves.

And after that we meet up with another group of fellow teachers and went to get some Coldstone ice cream. All in all, it was a fantastic last weekend in South Korea.

Aside from getting to see a piece of Korean culture and tradition, another reason to go see the local festivals is that they only happen once a year. And if you’re only there for a year, you basically only get one chance to see them. Obviously. Luckily, since I stayed for year and a half, I got to see the Lotus Lantern Festival twice. This is probably my second favorite Korean festival after Mud Fest. Naturally (seriously, go to Mud Fest if you can!).

I wish this time around, I had also been able to go to some of the other, smaller festivals that celebrate Buddha’s birthday and lead up to the lantern festival. Unfortunately, this time around I was also quite busy, and therefore I wasn’t able to help continue the AWESOME scavenger hunt from the year before. But at least I got to see the lanterns again. A bunch of (wise) co-workers went too.

Last time around, I had tried to take pictures which failed miserably. This time I took videos. MUCH more successful. So if you go to this festival, record it with videos.

This only came out in the darkness because it was stationary.

One funny thing happened at the festival. I was standing up against the barrier between the onlookers and the parade. Next to me was a family who spoke French. The daughter was sitting up close to the barrier and, being a cute foreign child, a woman in the parade came by and gave her a lantern and everyone was delighted. Not sure what to do with it, she gave it to her parents who were sitting behind her and they put it on the floor. So then another woman gave her another lantern and she passed that back to her parents who put it down. Then the girl was given a pikachu lantern (which I have to admit was super cool). This continued until everyone in her family, which was about six or seven people, had a lantern. It was cute the first couple of times but… there were other people who wanted lanterns (like me!). Share your lanterns, French-speaking people.

Anyway, lanterns are pretty cool souvenirs to get from Korean, but difficult to take home as they are made of paper. I had gotten a lantern from an AMAZING Tibetan restaurant in Dongdaemuncalled Everest and only managed to get it home because it could be folded up. And even then, it still got a tear on one of the paper panes.

I mentioned in an earlier blog post about the importance of getting out and seeing the different Korean festivals. There are a lot to see and, aside from being fun, they’re a great opportunity to experience aspects of Korean culture that you don’t normally have access to.

On April 16th, I stumbled onto the Yeouido Flower Festival (여의도 봄꽃축제). I overheard some coworkers talking about going to a “cherry blossom festival” and decided to see if there wasn’t something like that going on in Seoul. I had been planning to go to Yeouido that weekend anyway, since I hadn’t been there for a while and it turned out there was a flower  festival there. The festival was started in 2005 to celebrate the couple of days in spring when the cherry trees along the Han River are in bloom.

Seoul Framed with Flowers

The prime place to see the flowers are along Yeoiseo-ro (여의서로), a street that has a fantastic view of the Han, the trees and also the business buildings of Yeouido, including the famous 63 Building. It was pretty crowded there, even for Korea. I was basically sandwiched between people for about an hour until I got to a slightly less crowded street. Where I found a delightful art display. The street was lined with artwork from university students that were using flowers to make sculptures. They were probably the highlight of the trip, actually. Enjoy!

I really have to make sure I finish up this blog quickly because I was looking back at my Laundry List of Blog Posts post and realized that, in addition to NOT finishing a post a day like I said I would,  I’m starting to forget exactly what I wanted to write about in the first place. So, I’m going to be a good blogger and try and get them all written down this weekend. I’d hate to look back at this in a few years and see some line about how I wanted to write about something but couldn’t remember it, because if I can’t remember it now, I’m certainly not going to be remembering it in a few years.

Anyway, procrastinating some more, I’ve recently been introduced to a website called Quizlet , which basically lets you upload, download and study flashcards for different subjects. It also has a “learn” and “test” program set up to help you along. And of course, now I’m using it to help learn more Korean. For Korean, the flash cards are written in Hangul with the English below them. However, if you don’t yet know how to read Hangul, there’s audio for the cards (or at least the ones I’ve been using) to hear what the Hangul sounds like. So you can use them to learn Hangul too, yay!

I stumbled onto to it because my sister had been making flashcards (by hand, not by computer) to study for her college final in a Japanese course. Unfortunately for her, they ended up being basically useless. But it did remind me of how nice it is to carry around cards that you can just whip out and begin studying if you have random free time, like while riding on the subway or waiting to me up with someone. Some people play Angry Birds on their iPhone, I study vocabulary! Of course, unless I’m using a smart phone, I can’t really carry Quizlet’s flashcards around with me, but whatever. It’s another free resource to use.

A few days ago my blog got a comment, asking if I was feeling any culture shock since coming home. In college, I studied abroad twice in Germany and didn’t experience a whole lot of culture shock but each time I was only away for a month. So after being gone for a year and a half I didn’t really know what to expect.

Again I’ve actually had very little reverse culture shock. One thing that I noticed right away was that there was less landscaping back in DC and Maryland and things were far apart. I guess I had forgot that but it wasn’t really shocking. I did however have two definite instance of reverse culture shock and both were when I was picking up lunch alone in a fast food restaurant. Both places were pretty packed and in the first instance, which was the day I got back, I was a 100% minority but there wasn’t a single Asian around me, let alone a Korean.

The second time I was definitely in the majority but it still felt weird being around so many English speakers but still not really having anyone to talk to since I was alone (like if I went into a Korean fast food place unless I was with someone I wouldn’t really be able to talk to anyone but for a better reason since I can’t speak enough Korean). This time around, I actually felt a little nauseous and overwhelmed for a moment. It was very strange especially since it’s only been when I was alone getting food. Maybe it’s because I had to run out and get lunch at the McDonald’s next to work so many times especially towards the end of my time in Korea so I have a strong memory of what it’s “SUPPOSED” to be like getting lunch at a fast food place.

Okay, now for the long overdue post on how Marty was found (Side Note: He’s sleeping next to me now with his head on my shoulder, making it a challenge to type). To recap, Marty went missing the day after St. Patrick’s Day. I was reunited with him about a month later on April 14. He had apparently wandered over to Kyunghee University, which is just around the corner from where he had disappeared BUT is also across a highway. I’m still not sure how he crossed that highway, if he really did at all. When my students asked me why he was at the University, I told them he wanted to go to school and get smarter.

So here’s how I was reunited with him. In addition to spending basically all of March putting up missing flyers to find Marty, and then putting them into the millions of mailboxes in Yeongtong after it became apparent that people were taking down my flyers (I was not happy to discover this.), I also gave color ones to Yeongtong vets. One day, April14th to be exact, I got a text during class (but like a good teacher I did not check it until after class was up at 10pm). It was from the local vet that was across the street from work and basically said they think they had Marty.

I was pretty excited to get this text, especially since my hope in finding my dog was really starting to wane. I figured that a vet would definitely be able to recognize him. Even though he’s a yorkie, he’s pretty unique with his one eye, floppy ears and lighter than average coloring. But I was still doubtful because I had already been notified from other sources about other yorkies that were definitely not Marty.

I asked one of the Korean counselors to call the vet and ask if the dog only had one eye. For some reason, she called by the CDI phone and not her cellphone, which will be important later. When I asked if it was Marty, she only nodded which made me suspicious. Was she nodding just so I would go to the vet and check or was she nodding because it was actually Marty?

Anyway, I went to the vet and she was very happy to see me. She assured me it was definitely Marty and gave me the cell phone number of the woman who found him since she had gone home. So I went back to work and asked the counselor to call again and again she called from a CDI phone. The woman wanted to meet me at a Nong Hyup bank near the Kyunghee entrance. I was pretty much a mess of nerves the whole 15 minute walk there. What if it wasn’t Marty? I was so nervous, I didn’t even have my iPod on, which I basically live by.

So I got there and the woman is waiting with a friend inside the bank’s entrance. I can’t fully tell if it’s Marty. But once I got in and held him, I knew it was my dog. He had kind of a funny hair cut and smelled slightly medicinal so I’m thinking that grooming was why the woman had brought him into the vet in the first place. I was so overwhelmed that I only vaguely remember thanking the woman and leaving. The walk back to my apartment was kind of stressful. Marty was shaking the whole way and clearly didn’t like being on the street. However, once he was back in the apartment he was his happy, carefree self and gladly socialized with Han and explored how the apartment had changed in the month he was missing.

So the next day, one of the CDI administrators comes up to me slightly annoyed and asks why I didn’t thank the woman for finding my dog. Now, what happened after I got Marty may have been shrouded in vagueness, but I know I thanked her several times. Apparently the woman had called CDI (she had it’s number because the counselor called her from a CDI phone) and said she felt that I wasn’t grateful enough that she had returned my dog. And my boss felt that it reflected badly on the school so they wanted me to meet again with her.

I was perfectly happy to meet with her because I did want to know more about how she had found my dog and when she had found him since it seemed like she had had him for a little while. But I was pretty annoyed about all the offense people were taking about this. First of all, it did not seem like the woman spoke much English, so it’s not like I could have really thanked her properly when I met with her. Second of all, while I do understand she had bought things for Marty and had probably bonded with him, he had a harness on when he went missing and was clearly someone’s pet. Why did she try to keep him instead of trying to find his owner? And if his harness was missing and she thought he was a stray, why did she not take him to a vet to get at the very least his creepy missing eye looked at? ( I love Marty, but his eye is creepy.)

But that meeting never came to pass. She kept calling the school but postponing the meeting because she had health problems and has to be at the hospital a lot. So I’ll never really know what happened to Marty in that month he was missing. Occasionally I’ll notice he’s a little timid in situations that he wasn’t timid in before but overall there don’t seem to be any lasting effects of being missing. And actually one good thing has come from this. Marty was a little stubborn before he disappeared but  now he’s pretty much 100% obedient to me (However I wouldn’t recommend loosing your dog as a method of obedience training…).

Alright, Daegu Part 2, which will actually go with my  next post about how Marty was found.

The whole reason I went to Daegu was to rescue a Welsh corgi puppy from the KAPS (Korean Animal Protection Society) shelter. I randomly found him in a video on the ARK website – he hadn’t been at the shelter long enough to have his own adoption page. When I got there, a shelter volunteer had taken him out and clipped his nails. Unfortunately, the little guy’s a barker so for the 2 or 3 weeks he had been there he hadn’t really been taken out of his cage because the volunteers thought he might be aggressive. So they couldn’t tell me too much about him.

So I took this mystery dog home with me to Marty. He was very quiet on the train ride home. At first he sat under the seat watching me but eventually he let me sit him in my lap. After a little while, I noticed he was silently crying and there were bubbles coming out of his nose, like when a little kid is crying hysterically. Poor puppy.

Well after thinking it over for a few days, I decided to call him Han Solo (since han(a) means 1 in Korean and solo is also 1). He’s in the US with me, Marty and my beagle and frankly loving having a big backyard to run around in.

I can’t say for certain what kind of background Marty or Han came from but the likely two scenarios are either they were owned by a Korean who no longer wanted them (Marty probably when he lost his eye and Han when he grew bigger and started to chew on stuff) OR, and slightly more distressing, they were owned by a foreigner who abandoned them when they went home.

Before I left, I noticed there were a lot of dogs out and about around Yeongtong. Which makes sense, since the weather was nicer so people were coming out of hibernation. But I also noticed that a lot of the dogs were owned by foreigners. I know a few of them, who have every intention of bringing their dog home with them, but I know just from looking at the ARK page there are a lot of people who still don’t bring their animals home with them. Sometimes it’s because of unforeseen problems, but it seems like a lot of times it’s because of unforeseen costs. Four of my co-workers actually got puppies from pet shops shortly before I left and I can only hope they bring their dogs home with them.

It’s a big responsibility having pets, even more so when you have to travel with them. Here’s a quick step by step for getting your pet home with you:

  1. Get a carrier for your pet that it can stand up and move around naturally in.
  2. Get your pet used to the carrier to ease it’s anxiety on travel day.
  3. Make sure your pet is vaccinated for rabies no fewer than 30 days before your flight.
  4. There are likely to be other health requirements and vaccinations depending on what country/ state you’re going to to make sure you’re aware of them (I few into Dulles, and a rabies vaccination is all Washington DC wanted).
  5. After you book your flight, reserve a spot for your pet. (Side Note: Try to make sure it’s a non-stop flight and that the airline has a separate pressurized, temperature controlled cabin for pets, if your pet is flying cargo). Generally pets lighter than 5kg, with carrier, can be carry-ons while larger pets fly as cargo. The price will vary by airline so make sure you’re aware of what they charge, and be ready to pay it when you go to the airport.
  6. Take your pet to the vet and get a certificate of vaccination and health certificate. Also, the airline might have a form that you need to fill out. Make sure those are with your at the airport when you check in.
  7. When you take your pet to the airport, make sure there is something absorbent in the carrier, like newspaper or a pee pad. Also, the carrier should have a water bottle and a flight’s worth of food attached to the door so the pet has access to it. The airline will likely give further instructions.
  8. At Incheon airport, take your pet with its forms to the customs office on the second floor. It’s in section 8, if I remember correctly. They’ll charge a small few (10,000 won for dogs and cats) and issue you another health certificate that you need when you check-in.