Tidbits for Tuesday, June 18th.

Well, I tired to do the “photo-a-day” thing for my blog, but it doesn’t always work out that way. So, it may be more of a “When Sarah gets around to taking a picture blog post.”

In the meantime, here’s what’s been happening in a Different Kind of South:

  1. Yesterday I attended a workshop for creative co-teaching. Though I was puzzled on why I had to attend (I mean, have I have 25 days left in Korea and now I’m not even lesson planning), it was a good workshop. I’m a sucker for professional development.
  2. Yesterday I gave my final schedule to my host family. It was awkward and everyone was like “So, you’re not coming back?” Yeah. That’s about right.
  3. It’s less than two weeks until the Fulbright Final Dinner. Essentially, it’s a fond farewell to Korea with (hopefully) good food.

One Year

Below is text from the email that rocked my world:

Dear Miss Carey,

Congratulations!  We are pleased to inform you that you have been selected for a US Student Fulbright award for 2012-2013 to Korea, South.  Shortly you will receive a letter from the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board with further details of the award.

Today is a special day for me. A year ago today, on March 28, 2012, at 5:01 pm, I was informed of my status as a Fulbright grantee. Actually, the email came exactly one minute after I closed out of my email while working at the campus writing center. It was probably good thing, as I would have never been able to concentrate through my Irish Literature class. Instead, I would have thrown paper confetti everywhere as we read Ulysses. 

Yes, this year has been crazy, thrilling, and all-around a brand new thing. It’s been a fast year. I specifically remember thinking last year that “Oh, this time next year, I’ll almost be finished with my year in Korea. But I don’t have to worry, that’s a long time from now.”

Well, it wasn’t so long. I only have 108 days left in my contract. That’s just  little over three months. With my remaining time in Korea, I want to embrace as much as I can. Time is not only short, it’s blazing fast and will whip right by you in a second.

However, in this brief time, I’ve become a teacher, I’ve reevaluated my life path, and I’ve made brave new leaps in ways I could never imagine. I’ve learned a bit of Korean, learned to communicate with charades, went to Japan, flown on airplanes alone, and learned to respect the beauty of nature.

It’s funny what a year can do. It’s going to be great to see what the next 108 days hold.

Here’s to the year that was and the year that will be.

geon bae!


An Absolutely True Story About An Absolutely Normal Friday

This an absolutely true story of an absolutely normal Friday.

This afternoon, I am certain that I slipped into an alternate universe after climbing the large hill that would take me into town so I could catch the bus home. Allow me to explain in the only way I know how.

After conquering the hill that takes  me into central Seogwipo, I heard a faint “Excuse me! Excuse me!” coming from a car along the street. I stopped to find a woman in her late 40s, early 50s calling out to me. Honestly, I thought she was another one of my coteachers; I have been meeting new people all week. Instead, the woman asked if I was a teacher and if I had a moment so she could practice English. Before my brain could process anything, I said that I had about 30 minutes. The woman then took me inside a coffee shop where we had peach iced tea. As it turns out, her daughter-in-law owned the coffee shop, her husband is on the Jeju Island Council, and she learned English on her own. If I remember correctly, she said that she learned English by listening to recordings of the Bible being read in English. She said that she has a group of women that practice English and that she had many English conversation partners in the past who were English teachers. Do I usually take offers from strangers? Absolutely not. My mother didn’t raise an idiot. However, I was glad I stopped for tea. 

After the strange tea incident, I went to the post office and then boarded a bus for home. Feeling a bit frisky, I took a different bus, which would go the long way around town. As soon as I stepped on the bus, an elderly Korean man noticed me. The dialogue was as follows:

HELLO! I LIKE FOREIGNERS! (This is from the front to the back of the bus). THE UNITED STATES IS SO GREAT! I LOVE THE UNITED STATES!

May I mention to my readers that this was not in coherent English. After the bus pulls away and everybody is aware of the presence of a waygook (foreigner) on the bus, the man ceases to speak. However, when he rings the bell to get off the bus, the man stops, and in brilliantly loud English says WELCOME TO SEOGWIPO! IT WAS NICE TO MEET YOU! (SOMETHING ABOUT THE UNITED STATES)! The man did not say this while getting off the bus, but he was standing there as the bus door was open, holding up the whole route. I will be forever known as the foreigner that held up the bus route.

I thought I was now out of the way of awkward situations. Now it was time to ride the bus back to where I needed to go.

I was wrong.

Before long, I am the only one left on the bus and the bus driver stops at the “Loyal Souls Cemetery” bus stop for his 20-minute break. He asked where I needed to go, and then he got off, made a phone call, and smoked a cigarette. Now I’m by myself at the Loyal Souls Cemetery terminal end of a bus route with a smoking bus driver who speaks a bit of English. This has happened before; I’m no stranger to riding a full bus route. However, the time at Loyal Souls was eerily wonderful. I’m not one to feel sentimental about nature or secluded places, but the Loyal Souls 20-minute stop made me feel strangely welcome and warm.

I eventually made it back to the Jungang Rotary, where I caught my bus home, and slipped back into the familiar. This may be a normal Friday for most people: encountering English language learners and non-American USA enthusiasts while riding to a cemetery.  However, today will be the day I believe I slipped into a stranger world, a different plane of existence, if but for two hours (Okay, not really. But you get my point).

Today is the day I lived an absolutely true story about an absolutely normal Friday.

geon bae!


Walk of Shame and other adventures in teaching.

Today was the opening ceremony for new first grade middle school students. Like the dutiful teacher I am, I went to be introduced to the new students by the vice principal. Long story short: I walked up on stage at the wrong time and had to walk off in front of 150-200 people. In other words: a packed, Korean middle school gym. I did the walk of shame, only there wasn’t much to be ashamed of after the fact. Just Sarah Teacher being a foreigner. In the words of eloquent Black Eyed Peas front man, Will.i.am, “I gotta stay as fly as I can be.”

In other news:

The school year has been going well. It’s only day two, but everything has gone off without a hitch. I’ve decided to be more purposeful in my teaching this semester. It’s hard to explain what I mean, but I’m going to have more purpose. At the end of the semester last winter, I was thinking, “Hey, let’s just play a rad round of speed quiz.”  Maybe I was a bit exhausted.

Here’s to a great Tuesday!

geon bae,



A Different Kind of South: Birthday Edition

dat baby

That’s me on March 4th, 1990, 7 days after I was born on February 25th, 1990.

22 years and 364 days ago, my mom was eating spaghetti (at least I think that’s how the story goes) and then I was like “LOL, time to get born, so get on to the hospital.” My February 25 birthdays have come and gone. I remember on my 7th birthday, I couldn’t recall if it was my birthday because I

Thanks parents!

Thanks parents!

had just been released from the hospital for pneumonia.  I distinctly remember asking if it was my birthday. Sometimes we forget. Of course, there was my 10th, 16th, 20th, and 21st birthdays. All very good ones.

The boy came 5 years later. I'm sure glad he did!

The boy came 5 years later. I’m sure glad he did!

For my 23rd birthday though, I’ll be abroad. I’ve never been abroad on my birthday, but it’s been quite the adventure. If you would have told my parents 23 years ago today that “23 years from this very day, the day before your daughter’s birthday, she will be living on a Korean island, eating sea urchin guts, and sucking down snail meat,” they’d laugh because they couldn’t imagine that far down the road. I don’t think any parent can. But nevertheless, I’ve graduated college, made good friends, and here I am, almost 23 years later, celebrating my birthday with my Korean family. There’s been special galbi dinner, cream and milk cake, peeling oyster things off of rocks, and even an eel in a bowl that plumb scared me out of the room to the hilarity of my host family. This has been a good birthday and it hasn’t even started.

Overall, if someone were to ask me right now (preferable a handsome Korean newsman), “Sarah, how would you rate your life after 23 years on a scale of 1 to 5?” I’d give that handsome Korean newsman a 4.98. 23 years ago, my life was on the brink of just getting better and better. I have no regrets and I think I’ve made healthy life choices. Here’s to birthdays. Here’s to my biological family. Here’s to my Korean family. Here’s to another fabulous 23 years.

geon bae!


When the ROK Air Force parodied “Les Mis”

Ladies and gentlemen, I (or South Korea’s Air Force) present this:

If you’ve lived under a rock, this short film by the South Korean Air Force is a parody of the hit musical Les Miserables. If you didn’t already know, in South Korea, every able-bodied man is required to complete 2 years of military service. If you’re in the military, you might as well have some fun along the way. Kudos to the ROK Air Force for making me smile.

On a more cliched note, I went with my best friend to see Les Miserables when I was visiting the old home place. It was a magical, depressing, hopeful, fun film. I hope to one day see it on stage. Of course, my favorite song was I Dreamed a Dream (closely followed by Do You Hear the People Sing?). Enjoy it below. After enjoying the ROK version above, of course.

geon bae!


Lessons from Tokyo

Lessons from Tokyo

  1. Crepes in Tokyo are unreal delicious. I had a cream cheese crepe today, wrapped in a waxy paper cone.
  2. In Harajuku, the crowds cannot be stirred with a stick. It was so heavy with human traffic, but I don’t regret going to the famous fashion and shopping district. While there, I purchased a grab bag for 3,000 yen and received a face cream bottle, makeup bag, body wash, and lots of other personal grooming products. I certainly got my money back on that purchase.
  3. So far, I’ve eaten at Denny’s (a place I wouldn’t touch in the States) and the Japanese version of the US chain Shoney’s. Good grief, was it delicious and I was impressed. Best crab pasta I’ve eaten. I think there’s something iconic about eating western-style foods in a foreign country.
  4. Today I went to my first Hello Kitty store. I think it’s high time to confess that Hello Kitty is my juvenile guilty pleasure. There’s something adorable about a white Japanese bobcat dressed in pink. I bought a mug with various Hello Kitty pictures on it.
  5. I have discovered Tokyo to be a friendly city. Part of my coat was touching the floor in the restaurant and Japanese woman kindly let me know. How nice.
  6. Subways are confusing.
  7. Tokyo is notorious for being expensive, but if you play a mean budgeting game, you can do a lot for minimal money.
  8. Two words: Picture booth. Alley and I went into a the many famous Tokyo picture booths, which made our eyes look bigger and our skin flawless. It was most beautiful.
  9. We sometimes get on the wrong subways and/or trains. As they say, you always find your way home.
  10. For some reason, toast is much better in Asia. Sorry, USA.
  11. Hostels are great places to meet other people from foreign countries. It’s an experience in itself.
  12. Tokyo is a busy, crowded city not for the faint of tourist heart.

Have you been to Tokyo? What did you like?

geon bae from the Land of the Rising Sun!