Thursday, August 26, 2010

the tides of change

Our year here in Korea is flying past and we've come to the point when you begin to consider staying or start packing your bags to get the heck outta here. 

For us this has been a loaded question we've been thinking and talking through for the past month. Most foreign teachers here are single and just out of college. They aren't married and they are free to blow with the wind as they please. For us it's a bit different, as I am not teaching so we live on a one person budget in a one person home. Part of the fun of this kind of adventure is going places and getting to see and do things you could never do back home. Living abroad is not for the faint of heart but rather for the adventurous, curious, and endlessly flexible. 

The past month and a half for us has been full of adjustments. Our dear friends Ian and Casey took off on a whirl-wind world wide trip toward home. They covered southeast Asia than made their way across Europe and will be arriving home tomorrow, Friday Aug 27th. We have missed them so much. We hung out with them every weekend and even started a Sunday routine a few weeks before they left. All four of us would go running at a park near their building than come back to our place have dinner and watch a movie. It was so nice to be able to know we always had friends to hang out with on the weekends and not have to go to the bar just to be social. Alas, their time ended here (all to soon) and we are missing them but happy that they were still able to take the trip of a lifetime, even after a very disappointing year in Korea.

Ian and Casey (primarily Ian) is to blame in causing us to really consider moving to Portland, OR when we get back stateside whether in 2011 or 2012. Thus, we have been very anxious for them to return home and see how they adjust to American life as well as the failing economy and job market. 

All this to say we suddenly began considering staying in Korea for another year when Ben started looking for jobs back home. We've been doing all we can to stay abreast of whats happening with the economy and things just don't seem to be improving in the least. That was our thinking when we left, we go away for year get rid of some more debt than come back and things will be better. Alas, they are not and this has caused us to really re-think leaving our situation here in Jecheon. 

All in all we have it quite nice here. We have a tiny little apartment but it is air-conditioned, re-modeled, and safe. Ben has a WONDERFUL employer and boss, co-workers, and school. He has enjoyed the challenge of teaching and learned a lot about working with kids and being flexible. Together we've learned to live on a budget (and a very tight one at that), we've paid of a credit card and a medical bills, and we've grown closer to each other and God. What more could you want out of a year abroad? 

As we crunched numbers and began thinking about another year we were taken back at how much more we could accomplish by staying just one more year. If we stay we'll be debt free (minus a few school loans) and have saved about 10K, that is more than we had ever hoped to accomplish here. That would take us several years to accomplish back home because of the cost of living etc. 

If we decide to stay another year we would also be able to see and experience more of Korea. Personally, a year was surprisingly not enough time to see and do everything I wanted to do here. Last year had its surprises with Mom being diagnosed with cancer and an unexpected trip home and just being overwhelmed at adjusting to life abroad and living on a budget. It didn't allow us to do as much exploring here as we'd hoped. Ben would receive a substantial pay raise and that would allow us to pay off more, save more, and have enough to really be able to do some fun stuff here ie: skiing in the winter, more beach trips in the summer, trips to Seoul for Kraze Burgers and Starbucks etc. We would also plan to take a trip to a southeast Asian location to scare away some of the winter blues and soak in some more culture while we're on the other side of the planet. Its a must do if you live here for more than a year. There is just sooo much to do and see and explore over here outside of Korea and not taking that opportunity would be regretful.

We will hopefully be meeting with Mr. Lee soon in hopes of nailing out exactly what our next steps are whether we stay or head home. At the moment its looking like we will stay another year and knock out some more debt and stash some more cash. This decision does not come without hours and hours of late nights talking, going on long late night walks to talk, lists upon lists of pros and cons of staying or going, and lots and lots of prayer. We'd ask we your continued prayer as we finalize our decision but just wanted to give everyone a heads up on which direction we're headed. 

We have felt so loved and supported during this past year here as we've received boxes and cards and emails from family and friends. A huge THANK-YOU to all of you! We love you and miss you all sooo much and couldn't do this without you. 

Monday, August 23, 2010

another weekend in Jecheon

Summer break has come and gone and we are longing for fall and winter. The summer heat and humidity have been oppressive to say the least and we are impatiently looking forward to fall and winter. We've been told fall is short but gorgeous with the changing of the leaves. For a summer lover that I am I never thought I'd ever change but here I've come to long for winter or at least the cooler months. Summer has brought bugs, spiders, flies, centipedes, and endless terrible smells. In the winter most if any of those didn't exist and/or were much less potent.

Last weekend was the Jecheon International Film and Music Festival. We had modestly high hopes for it being an "International" festival however those were quickly dashed after we studied the list and descriptions of films available for the viewing. Most of the films were in Korea and than another large percent of them were about bands we'd never heard of. Nothing appealed to us in the least. We then decided to attended the "New Artist Discovery" which we happened to stumble upon while wondering down town. We knew there was suppose to be some kind of performance onto of a building but the map was so badly drawn we couldn't find it but lucked out by following our ears. There were 5 groups that participated. We genuinely were impressed and enjoyed the first 2 performances one was an acoustic guitar duo and another a odd funny band. The last 3 steadily went down hill.

an early shot of the stage before the show began

the logo all over town

band #1: two acoustic guitarists (?) the guy (pictured) also played this other instrument still have no idea what it is but it put a hose into his mouth and powered it via air than played this keyboard, kinda reminded me of a different version of an accordian.

last but not least the rappers - HAHAHAHAHA!!! we laughed our heads off at this pair 30 seconds later we had had enough and left so we don't exactly know who won the competition.

Lately I've been feeling a bit crafty and discovered a good place to start for ideas. I found a simple pattern for a bracelet and they suggested using any number of materials and I had none of them. So I came up with my own. After digging around I found I had an extra pair of hiking boot laces and a random black shoe lace... perfect! I made Ben a bracelet and a key chain for his apt key. He was quite pleased to say the least. He's not one to wear man-jewelry (aside from the wedding ring) so I was tickle to see just how much he liked it.

This is my latest Korean hair cut. I took in a picture of Victoria Beckham's pob (Posh bob) and well... I came out with this. Its cute but not what I wanted. The lady has cut my hair twice now and she gets sooo unbelievably frustrated because its not pin straight and doesn't just fall into place. It took her forever to blow dry my hair with a itty bitty round brush than a flat iron all of which didn't work. The pic is after I tackled it the next day. The style I walked out with was utterly Korean short hair with wavey bangs and all. And of course you run into someone you know with the weird hair and blurt out "I just got my hair cut this isn't how I normally look!" Most people having lived in this city long enough to need a hair cut completely understand. oh well, tis life in Korea.

Monday, August 16, 2010

summer break part II

NOTE* being sort of lazy and taking sooo long to finally post these pics I posted I later realized that when it comes to chronology these are backwards; so the if that bothers you and you wish to know the order of it all start from the bottom and work up for this post as well as the other (summer break parts I and II) :)

this was our view... aaahhh relaxing!

we rounded out the week with a relaxing picnic under the Korean pines Sunday evening. There was hardly anyone to be found in this normally bustling picnic spot, understandably so as it was 90 degrees and ridiculously humid. The walk there was horrible but so worth it. I laid out on our straw mat and read while Ben went off exploring for a while.

My new fav frozen treat: vanilla milkshake in a pouch

Haven't seen a bus this dec'd out in side here yet. It reminded me of something you'd see in an India how they decorate everything, but mostly I just thought it was terribly ugly and funny. This was on our way home of Tour-de-Corea day 2.

View out from the Danyang bus terminal.

Connected to the Danyang bus terminal is this mini-museum in honor of the 2002 Korea Japan World Cup they hosted jointly. It had never been open when I'd been there so we were pleasantly surprised to be able to take a quick look as we waited for the bus to arrive.

Korean style camping in/on/next to the dammed up stream we swam in. This is precisely how many people die every year here because the summer is the rainy season and a few days of heavy rain and that becomes a river with a nasty current.

chili pepper rock!

a very very very old tree, Mr. Lee made sure I got a pic of it

a people only suspension bridge across the stream.

our swimming hole, it was refreshing and sooo beautiful

the sheer rock just above us was amazing, kids were climbing up parts of it and jumping off, it isn't very deep in some spots so it was actually quite dangerous for them to be jumping off a 10 ft high cliff

looking down the main street in the village

Mr. Lee's mother-in-law lives in a house directly across the street, it was sooo handy to have a place to change and a bathroom so close to the swimming hole

it was fairly busy the day we went but we didn't care because we were so hot and desperate to cool off

people brought their little grills and were cooking/eating 5 ft from the stream, they bring their sam-gap-sal (pork) and grill it along with kimchee and watermelon and... they don't picnic lightly.

It isn't proper to just wear a swim suit when swimming in a river/stream (sooo glad I noted that the previous day) so I wore my swim suit underneath a t-shirt and shorts. When I was changing Mr. Lee asked Ben in a panic if I was wearing a swim suit and informed him that this is not the beach, swim suits are for the beach only, got it.

a really cool old gong in an old Korean village Mr. Lee took us to @ Chungpung Lake

Mr. Lee explained that this was for weddings a long time ago. They would carry the bride in this "box" and she was not allowed to get out even to pee so there is a hole in the bottom of it with a bowl attached... enough said.

old school kitchen

Mr. Lee showed us around a good portion of the old Korean village. They use a portion of the village for film and TV production. On the other side of the lake are a few hotels and the most popular place to go bungee jumping. We hiked all the way to the top of the mount as pictured. The view was spectacular, promptly just before we reached the top my camera battery decided it was done for the day so I have no pics. We hope to go back again sometime as it was a beautiful place with so much more to check out.

another classic Ben pic, he fit right in with all the funny faces.

I loved these guys they all had different faces hand carved into the wood. I took a serious of pics of them up-close to capture their character.

Friday, August 13, 2010

summer break part I

NOTE* being sort of lazy and taking sooo long to finally post these pics I posted I later realized that when it comes to chronology these are backwards; so the if that bothers you and you wish to know the order of it all start from the bottom and work up for this post as well as the other (summer break parts I and II) :)

no idea where this was we drove for ever and ever and stopped every now and than so I could take pics

Ben and Mr. Lee... oh my boys will be boys.

how does that go; in a van down by the river.... korean camping, they just set up anywhere and its so odd


we went up there to get a view of the bridge and the surrounding, it was quiet beautiful

there's Ben way below on the bridge

we were here in the winter and it was so pretty to see it all green in the summer without all the snow and ice

Ben and Mr. Lee taking it all in

Big beautiful sunflowers - Ben was the photog

Photog Mr. Lee- us and the rocks

me and the rock - thanks Mr. Lee

Korean tourist/photo op Mr. Lee took us too on our 2-day Tour-de-Corea

Proof that we were driving through the middle of no where, his car GPS couldn't find us on the dirt back roads.

wild bee hive

typical mountain farmstead

Mr. Lee took us to his fields because we were curious to see them.

Some pepper plants, the peppers hadn't yet turned red (as of the past 2 weeks they are all turning and its just so neat to see fields of green turn to have bright red peppers hanging from them)

Korean sweet potato plants = coguma

His fields are tucked in a pretty little valley between the mountains. It was so incredibly picturesque. He works at his fields every weekend and some week days aside from his full time job of running the school. Its very typically Korean to do so. It's just plain hard work and most people have a field somewhere and the crops last them through the winter

Another Korean standard: man-made waterfall in Danyang

Menu at the wild boar restaurant. This was a special lunch Mr. Lee treated us too.

Its mildly disturbing how they always have a picture of the animal you're about to eat hanging up. It makes me feel funny to take a bite and look up and see this;

The restaurant sign. It was just across from the river, we sat on the floor in front of a huge window that looked out over the huge river and the gorgeous mountains.

Some of the many side dishes, they were several I'd never had before including 2 types of wild mushrooms, homemade pickles, pickled ferns, and

more sides... mushrooms, dried spicy shrimp, kimchee, pickles, sesame leaf in the basket. All of the sides are made on site.

Korean BBQ'd Wild Boar = DELICIOUS!!!

Say Kimchee, yes, thats spicy red hot kimchee going in my mouth. It's actually really great with meat.

Following the boar and many side dishes, Mr. Lee ordered this cold buckwheat noodle soup. The broth is tasty but is like a slushee than melts as you eat it. I was mildly terrified to try it as cold slimy noodles in savory broth just don't sound like my cuppa tea but I was pleasantly surprised.

Ben actually enjoyed the meal although his face says otherwise in this pic, he was super full and ready for a nap when I took this.