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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 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.

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.

I’m dragging my feet about writing this blog post because it signals the beginning of the end of this blog. I’m officially back in the United States, my contract and extension having ended on May 27th. I have a few more posts that I want to write up, though, before I officially end this blog. Well, end it for the most part. I guess I could keep writing about learning Korean and I’m sure to have more Korean adventures at some point (such as a visit to the local Oriental Market for some kimchi!) but for the most part, this blog will have entered its twilight.

So I made a deal with myself to make sure that I finish these entries in a timely manner. That is to say, before I forget exactly what happened on each day. I’m going to make a list of what I wanted to post about but never got around to it and then for the next week, or however long it takes, I’ll write a post per day, minimum. And this counts as the one for today.

  1. My Day trip to Daegu (Part 1) – already written, just not posted
  2. My Day Trip to Daegu (Part 2)
  3. How Marty was Found
  4. The Yeoido Flower Festival
  5. My Second Lotus Lantern Festival
  6. Cirque du Soliel’s Varekai
  7. Packing
  8. My Last Few Days
  9. The European Korean Kid
  10. My flight home
  11. A Look Back on My Adventures in Korea

As of 11:50am on March 18, my dog Marty is missing.

I had taken him to a park just outside my apartment to play with him off of his leash. The weather has been really nice lately so I let him just wander around the park while I sat on the swings. I was starting to get ready to leave when a group of women come up to me, cooing at Marty because he’s basically adorable. So I was talking to them in English. And then I realized they were recruiting for their church.

They had me almost literally backed into a corner since I was sitting on the swings. But I thought what could be the harm in just listening to them. So for twenty minutes I listened to them while they showed me a video about how they celebrate Passover, which protects them from disaster, and they tried to get me to go to their church on Saturdays instead of Sunday church. They asked me for my phone number and I wrote down the wrong one (actually honest because I can never remember my phone number). And then of course they called it but luckily I didn’t have my cell phone on me so I could just not answer. But a Korean guy answered. Really Korean guy? You couldn’t just not answer  just this one time?

So they kept asking for my phone number when I realized that Marty was missing. He had stopped running back to me after exploring for a while. I went to go look for  him, and the women actually helped look for him. Normally there would be one thing working for me in that Marty wears a harness plus a collar and the collar has my address and phone number on it. However, I had given Marty a bath the day before and forgot to put his second collar on.

Unfortunately I couldn’t find him before I had to go to a meeting for work. After the meeting, I basically sat in my classroom for an hour trying to eat some comfort McDonald’s while starring at cheerful stories about the disaster in Japan. Then taught some classes. Then I asked a counselor to help me make a reward poster, which I brought to the police station after work. Hopefully they’ll be able to find him because I did have any luck looking on Saturday either.

Several people have asked me where would he go or tried to encourage me by saying that he’ll come home when he’s hungry. Here’s the problem. The question is not “Where will Marty go?”. It’s “Where’ won’t Marty go?” He’s a wanderer. I had trained him not to leave the park and this is the first time he’s disobeyed (probably got bored waiting around for me).  But even when he’s in the park he wanders off if he picks up an interesting scent. Marty likes walking and he’ll basically follow that scent to it’s end if he can.

So tomorrow I’ll go out and spend the day looking for him. Hopefully he’ll turn up soon. The weather is getting nicer and the  nights aren’t so cold anymore but I don’t know how long he’ll last on the streets, being tiny and blind. Suwon’s got Jindos running around.

In November, in addition to doing many, many other things (hence minimal posts) I hosted my dad on his first visit to South Korea and then in January I had a visit from my friend, who’s teaching English for JET in Japan (and hence has way more vacation time than me and can go visiting her friends teaching in other countries). In hindsight, these were actually pretty bad times. When my dad came, it was the end of a term, and therefore I, as an HI, had many meetings and other odds and ends to do before the new term in addition to making those NIE classes I posted about. And then when my friend visited it was the first week of Intensive classes.

So now, especially because CDI Yeongtong has three new teachers who will be seeing Suwon and work through fresh eyes, I would like to reflect on how its interesting to see things through other people’s eyes. With my Dad, I went to a lot of places that I had already been too, including Hwaseong Fortress. We also went to Gyeongbuk Palace in Seoul. Most people say that after they’ve been to the Palaces, Hwaseong Fortress isn’t really worth seeing but my dad said he like the fortress better, that it was architecturally more impressive (… or something like that. He said this several months ago.) Personally, I like the Fortress. You can’t do archery at any of the Palaces (to my knowledge).

My dad was also struck by the complete disregard for stoplights that some driver’s here in Korea exhibit. That once bothered me too, but I’ve been here too long to still be concerned with it. Now I just make sure to get out of the way of those motorcycle delivery guys ‘cuz they don’t stop for nothing.

Of course, seeing the world through others’ eyes doesn’t mean I have to limit myself to just newbies to Korea. Recently I’ve been showing my students videos of sitcoms that are relevant to the lessons we’re learning (they really are, I promise!). For my intensive class, I showed them the clips from the Colbert Report where he sings in Korean (previously posted). This time around they found it HILARIOUS (although it was kind of funny since they understood it based on reading the subtitles, not by listening to Colbert’s Korean) and asked me to play it every class. Which I did because they were enjoying it so much that I couldn’t help but not get sick of it.

In my Master’s reading class last term, we read several books that I read in school, including The Giver. One of my students loved it so much, he bought the sequels and read Lois Lowry’s book, Number the the Stars (and blogs about both books, although I am not supposed to know that but that’s what happens when you log onto your blog from Teacher’s computer). He was really passionate about the injustices in both books. It’s always nice to have a student that really gets into the stories we read. It helps you teach better, but also helps you appreciate them even more. Inspiring kids to write blogs and read more books is what teachers and children’s book authors are all about.

So after managing only one post per month in both December and January, I’m going to ease myself gently back into blogging. Although honestly, with the exception of a visit from a certain awesome English teacher in Japan, January was mostly uneventful. It was really cold and I was teaching an extra nine hours a week for Winter Intensives. Which I’ll get around to blogging about eventually. Despite all the extra work (and boy howdy, it was A. LOT. OF. EXTRA. WORK.), I really enjoy the class I taught – NIE3, the same one I taught for Summer Intensives.

Anyway, the other thing I did this January was foster for a short time a schnauzer named Lucy. She’s also a rescue from the Asan shelter and fostering her kind of fell into my lap. The woman who was going to foster her has cats and Lucy turned out to be aggressive towards them (at least at the time; no aggression since) and one of my co-workers wanted to foster and maybe adopt a schnauzer. So I took her for two weeks until he was able to take her in.

Lucy takes her staring very seriously. You will pet her.

While I don’t know Lucy’s whole story, I’m fairly sure she was a street dog before she was a shelter dog. But for being both of those things, she was surprisingly affectionate, well-behaved and obedient. What more could a foster ask for? She caused me (almost) no trouble. Aside from going through my trash when I was at work.

Marty was indifferent towards her.

One interesting side effect of having Lucy here for a few weeks is that it’s finally clicked for Marty that I’m 100% boss. Before he had been having issues with obedience on occasions when his stubborn Yorkie instincts wanted him to, say, run away on his short little legs in the park even though I can catch up to him just by walking briskly. (On a side note, I’ve also realized Marty is not a Yorkshire terrier, but a Maltese Yorkie cross. A morkie if you will. Or a Yorktese but… that sounds gross.)

So I decided to take my new found, not-working-an-extra-9-hours-a-week time to train Marty in playtime skills because, being a shelter dog, he is horrible at playing. Today, I was teaching him how to play hide and seek with a ball and he impressed me. I pretended to hide the ball in three different places while he stayed on the other side of the apartment (something he put up a fight about doing pre-Lucy), putting it in the middle place and making noise etc. so he couldn’t figure out by watching where I hid it. And he went to exactly the right spot as soon as I told him to go. And then he walked right past the ball because he’s blind in one eye and couldn’t see it in the darkness. But eventually he got the toy, because Marty is handicapable.

Coming soon: More serious blog entries on Korea and/or work related things.