Last Images: The Final Month in Korea (Day 2)

Day 2.

This is the view from my bed. Sometimes there’s a big bag of rice. Sometimes it’s just the sorter. Regardless, it’s become part of my world for the past year.

The view from my bed.

The view from my bed.


Last Images: The Final Month in Korea (Day 1)

One month from today, I’ll board at plane at the Seoul-Incheon International Airport. It will take me to the Dallas Fort-Worth International Airport and then straight  into Lexington on the wings of the night. To celebrate my final month in Korea, I’m hosting a “Last Images” series. Each day, I’ll take a random photo and then share it with you.

Today’s photo is the image of construction right outside of my bedroom window. Enjoy.

The view from my window.

The view from my window.

In defense of rural people and places.

Yesterday, I had a good conversation with one of my students. She speaks English very well (the result of years of learning English at school and going to English academy after school), and has lots of opinions about Korea. She was especially troubled at the bias against students in rural areas.

Paraphrased, this is what she said, “Teachers tell us that students in Seoul are so much better and are under so much more stress than we are. But we take the same tests as they do, and we do the same things as we do. The problem with Korea is that they think that bigger is better. They think Jeju is less because we’re not Seoul.”

I told her that Korea is not alone in its rural bias. It is alive and well in the USA, too.

I grew up in a small town in Kentucky – and by small, I mean 200 people (as recorded by the 2000 US Census). We have one general store, 6 churches, and a school building that no longer functions as a school. We have to go to the next county over if we want Wal-Mart or a hospital or a quality Mexican restaurant. Because of the lack of resources, many people are leaving. I believe this is the story of many rural towns, not just mine in Kentucky.

But, perhaps it’s time to stand up for rural America and her people.

Despite the lack of resources and even perceived isolation at the local levels – rural America is good at heart. While there is a lack of modern entertainment, “good” schools, and general bustle, the rural setting is a place of quiet thoughtfulness. The days are longer, the nights a bit darker, and the silence? Well.  sometimes deafening.

But, in my experience, rural America has nurtured a constant sense of pure amazement. Ask me how I feel anytime I get on a subway in Seoul. I can’t stop thinking about how people can dig miles of tunnels underground and stick trains in them. Ask me how I feel when I get on an airplane. Freaking amazing. Ask me what it’s like when I’m in Kentucky and I see a plane flying overhead. I feel like someone’s on a good adventure. Ask me what it’s like to overlook a city skyline and then lament the lack of green space. All too real.

If anything, students in rural areas (whether the USA or Korea), may have a greater appreciation for the world at hand. For it is this “isolation” from the big cities that helps develop a sense of wonder and amazement at the world beyond the fragile city limits. In a big city, there’s everything to see and do. In rural settings, it’s all to the imagination.

So, I say to my students at my (somewhat) rural island school, take your imagination and run with it. The size of a city does not measure one’s intellect or potential. If my fate depended on the fact that I was born near and raised in a 200-person town, I probably would have never went to a top Kentucky college or became a Fulbright scholar.

In the end and in defense of rural people and rural places, I say that we are bigger dreamers, harder workers, and the most creative. Sure, we’ll have to drive a bit to get to a hospital, theater, restaurant, or supermarket, but all of these amenities can never add up to the constant feeling of amazement and wonder.

geon bae!


Tidbits: Tuesday, June 11th.

Tidbits, because a whole post just won’t cut it.

  • Today is achievement testing for my whole school. I get to school, only to be told that I’ll be teaching one 30-minute class. Essentially, I’ve been here four hours staring at the computer and working on odds and ends. I’m not really frustrated, just baffled. Even after a year in Korea, this scheduling still baffles me.
  • The rainy season has come upon us again. When I arrived in August, it was downpour after downpour. It’s the same again, only lighter. Rain boots, ahoy!
  • I counted, and not counting the weekend I go to Seoul for the farewell dinner, I have about three weekends left with my homestay family. Shattering and sobering all at the same time.
  • Don’t forget that I’m a shameless blog promoter. Be sure to check out my post-Korea blog, Runaway Sister. Seriously. Click the link. Subscribe.

geon bae!


Now we’re finished.

Today, June 10, is the beginning of the end. Today signifies the initiation of the speeding downward-slope of the end of my grant year. Ladies and gentlemen, I was around 32 days left in Korea and it’s not without some bitterness. I also say it’s the end because for the next three weeks, I am conducting speaking exams. After the three weeks, I have two weeks, one of which is consumed by exams. Essentially, I have one week left to teach my students and then be on my way.

For example, this morning I realized I was finally, completely at ease in Korea. It took over 10 months, but I woke up and realized that it’s no longer a strange place to be. I guess that’s what happens when you live abroad. I ate my bagel with cream cheese and jam, and realized that strangely enough, I was home. Sure, I’ll be jetting out of Korea in a little over a month, but for now I am home.

I have also struggled with a teaching slump. For you teachers out there, you probably know what I’m talking about: the inability to plan a lesson, the constant distraction of the Internet or something that isn’t lesson planning. You know that tug. During my teacher slump, I started evaluating myself. I realized that I was in the slump because I was stressed and afraid. Afraid I wasn’t making a difference, stressed that my students probably don’t care about English as much as I do.

Then, my mother, in her infinite wisdom, helped solve my funk.

In a roundabout way, she said “Sarah, you can’t make all the difference. You’re just planting the seed and other teachers in the future will water it.”

I then realized that it’s not all on me to change the scope of my students’ lives. Sure, I’m an important part, but I’m not the gardener and the harvester. I should probably not be as hard on myself. So, thankfully, I can report that I’m climbing out of the teacher slump. Hooray!

In the meantime, allow me to participate in some shameless plugging. I love blogging, and I’ve already launched my post-Korea blog. Of course, I won’t be posting until after I leave Korea, but if you don’t mind, can you check it out (and maybe even subscribe)? You can check out Runaway Sister here.

geon bae!


“We’ve got a long way to go, and a short time to get there” or Thinking about the end.

I believe the song classic song “East Bound and Down” says it best: “We’ve got a long way to go, and a short time to get there.”  

I have 35 days left in my contract and 36 days until I depart Korea. I feel like I have so much to do. I’m planning for my new classroom, while wrapping up loose ends in my class here in Korea. There are things to do, people to see, and life to live. There’s a farewell dinner in Seoul in a three weeks, and from there, I will have two weeks left in Korea.

Where did the time go? I know I’ve been saying that for weeks, months even, but where did it go? Yesterday was March 4, and I was beginning a new school year. Now it’s June 7th, and the time’s half gone.

As the old hymn says “Time is filled with swift transition.”

geon bae!


Tired, and something else like it.

Guys, it’s time for a confession: I am tired. No, exhausted. I think it’s because I’m afraid I’m not making much of a difference. I sit to make a lesson, and I freeze-up at my computer.

“What if they don’t like it?”

“What if it flops?”

“What if…?”

“What ifs” are the bane of my teaching career. I always think “What if?” but never in a positive context. That might be why I’m so tired. I’m worried about making a difference. Do that, and compound it with the fact that I have 5 weeks left in Korea, and I feel just “Ugh” some days. Namely, today.

So, today, I’m working to overcome the What If monster. But today is only one day, and each class period and a new opportunity.

geon bae!