“Travel empties out everything you've [put] into the box called your life, all the things you accumulate to tell you who you are” ~ Claire Fontaine
Maybe if I used reverse psychology I would be better at blogging? Tell myself I won't write today until that nagging feeling of "why not?" breaks my hold on other daily activities until I am sitting in front of my computer typing away about the random tidbits of my everyday life?
No? Well a girl can dream.
Well, I am here now and I guess that is really what counts in the end. Also, if my family's comments are any indication, you haven't caught up since August anyways so, really, I am just making your job a lot easier. I am being considerate of other people's schedules! Take that lack of blog writing!
No, but in all honesty, November. Wow there are so many things that happened in November I am amazed I didn't drop from exhaustion.
I started the glorious month of November off my swearing off any and all forms of caffeine (that includes the Excedrin I take for my lack of caffeine headaches I get when I miss a cup.) I actually started not drinking caffeine on October 28th and I didn't resume until December 1st. For those who don't want to do the math that is 34 days without caffeine. Thirty-four days. Thirty-four! Now if you don't know me that well that may not seem like a big deal, so she gave up caffeine for a mere month? Trust me people. It's a big deal. I live and breathe for my coffee and tea. I have at least one cup in the morning, probably another before lunch. One or two when I get home from work. Sometimes I'd have a cup of tea before bed. Addicted does not even begin to describe my reliance on the glorious drug that is caffeine.
They say the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, right? I figured I really needed to do something about my consumption of caffeine when I went from breakfast to dinner without having a cup of coffee or tea and had a headache for most of the evening because of it... So my month of abstaining from caffeine began. I also just had to prove to myself that I could do it. Caffeine does not rule me!
I picked the worst month in the universe to stop drinking caffeine.
November is probably one of my favorite months. Aside from October and Halloween (it's definitely my number one love), November is second. I love fall and the holiday season and it doesn't hurt that it's my birth month. Fall is is total bloom and the holiday spirit starts peaking through the haze of cobwebs and skeletons.
It is also NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo is "National Novel Writing Month." It's a month dedicated to writing at least 50,000 words of a new novel during the month of November. It's a chance to meet up with other writers in your area, or to explore your creative side, and to do something you wouldn't necessarily do any other time. You get some great pep talks from other writers (some famous some not so much). If you have enough people in your area then sometimes you can meet up and have "write-ins" where you all just sit around and write for a few hours. It's a great experience. And for me it's a challenge to do what I know I can do if I wanted to, but I just don't for eleven months out of the year. But most of the writing takes place in cafes, for me anyways, and what do you do in cafes most of the time? Drink coffee or tea. What was I abstaining from? Coffee or tea.
Apparently I am a masochist. I am also a procrastinator. To make things easier on yourself you should write about 1500 words a day to get to the goal of 50,000 by the end of November. Two weeks into November and I barely had 10,000 words. By the end of three weeks I only had about 16,000. That meant that for the last week of November I had to punch out 34,000 words. When I finally got down to it I was having to write 5,000 words a day to finish it time. But finish I did. For the second time I became a "winner" of NaNoWriMo!! Woohoo go me.
It became a very big struggle to write, teach, socialize, and generally participate in life without caffeine. I don't recommend it.
But manage I did! I had a very productive month that I am still surprised I made it through without breaking and drinking a cup of coffee. No matter how much I wanted to.
When I wasn't writing I was doing a myriad of other things. Sometimes I went hiking (and saw some amazingly beautiful trees). Koreans are very into hiking. I am sure other countries are too, but seriously, you see so many adjummas and adjhussis climbing mountains in Korea it borders on crazy. One of the most common thing to see elderly people in is obnoxiously bright climbing gear. And I mean obnoxiously bright. Neon green, pink, orange, yellow, and red, and all of them usually on one part of their body. Like, seriously, I saw an old lady with a bright green hat, orange backpack, pink shoes, and a yellow jacket once. She was brighter than the sun. But more power to the old lady, I don't see a lot of retired grandma and grandpas back home waking up at 5 am just to go hike up a mountain. Although I'm sure it doesn't hurt that once they get up to the top they sit around drinking Makgeolli and eating. I prefer the trees myself.
And the Buddhist Temples are pretty amazing as well.
Between hiking, writing, my birthday, a friend coming to visit me, and various other day to day activities I was a busy woman. And school was no different. The school year is coming to an end so we are preparing a lot for the students. Most of November was spent finishing up lessons, preparing final tests, preparing school festival activities, making sure we had enough prep and review time, and my co-teacher was getting married at the end of November.
When I say I don't understand how I survived November I really mean I don't understand how I survived November.
Our students are great though. One of the lessons for our sixth graders is "Because we should save the earth." Besides the annoying fact that the lesson teaches them to begin sentences with the word "because" I enjoy this lesson. It's all about recycling and saving the planet. One of the activities for the students is to make a poster saying we need to save the earth and then giving a few examples of what we should do to accomplish that. The kids really took the assignment to heart this year. I had some great posters and I liked them so much I ended up putting every single one on the walls of my classroom.
Some were crazy creative in their designs.
Some were just wacky and fun.
And then some were heartbreakingly accurate.
Not gonna lie, that last one made me tear up a little.
At the end of the year our school had a festival that showcased all the different classes and clubs for the entire school. It was a bunch of dancing, singing, drumming, taekwondo-ing, magic-show madness, and general shenanigans that took weeks of planning and practicing and culminated in a Saturday spent at school. Or, technically, a convention center, but still. My favorite moments can be summed up pretty well.
Tiny dancers (and I mean tiny, it was the kindergartners and they were adorable in their tiny hanboks), cute drumming babies (again kindergartners drumming, I may have squealed with happiness and cute overload), Spirited Away music on the flute, "Puff the Magic Dragon" on Recorder, and a Taekwondo performance to Pirates of the Caribbean and Queen, and a magic show that had "Living La Vida Loca" as their background music. I think I had more fun than most of the parents. I also found out (because there were displays about each club) that there is an English reading club at my school. I had not even heard of it but apparently it's a thing. That's pretty awesome in my opinion.
Here are a few shots of all the kids doing a fan dance at the very end.
And of course there are three very important holidays in November. 빼빼로 Day, my birthday, and Thanksgiving! Woot woot. I kind of made out like a bandit with 빼빼로 from my students.
My co-teacher told all of the other teachers it was my birthday and they surprised me with a cake and a song in the teacher's room. It was really sweet and made me feel very loved. (sorry no pics because I don't know if my fellow teachers would appreciate their picture on the internet...)
And then Thanksgiving! I find I really miss being home during the holiday season. So this year a group of expat friends and I decided we were going to make our own Thanksgiving. We ordered a turkey, went to all the foreign markets we could find to get all the fixings and trimming for an authentic Thanksgiving dinner.
It was delicious and tasted like home.
Speaking of home one of my best friends from home has been travelling around south east Asia for the past six months and she decided to end out her random ramblings in Korea while she waits for an English teaching job in China. It has been quite fun having a roommate. I am going to miss her when she leaves but it gives me someone to stay with in China when I go and visit! I will see that wall... I will!
I ended my crazy hectic month of November by attending my first Korean wedding. I don't really know what I was expecting but I had a great time. There are some strange differences, like all the brides will sit in a little room and before the wedding people will go in and sit and have their picture taken with her. And people don't really give gifts, they give money, but the money doesn't go to the bride and groom it goes to their parents to pay for the wedding. I can't say much about the ceremony because it was in Korean but they had some people come up and perform some songs in the middle of the ceremony. It was sweet, a little strange at times, but then the groom sang to my co-teacher and I may have teared up a bit (shush don't judge me it was adorable). Brides and grooms don't kiss each other at weddings, at least not at this one. They did do the formal bows to both sets of parents. I really liked that bit, the groom did the full on "get on the floor bow" but my co-teacher did the formal "half" bow because of her dress. Then after the ceremony we all went into this huge dining room and ate. And ate and ate and ate. The buffet was huge and it was delicious. If you ever have a chance to go to a Korean wedding go just for the food.
I kept having flashbacks to an episode of Gilmore Girls when Lane Kim gets married and how they have the wedding for her Korean relatives and then the second wedding for everyone else. I always thought it was a dramatization but seriously, all Koreans do is see the wedding, eat the food, drop of the money, and then they peace out. It was super quick and then bam we were gone.
I'm sure I missed some things but November is starting to become a blur. Oh the life of a Native English Teacher... I am finding that I am domesticating myself into this life and I don't necessarily see myself as a traveler anymore. I really must fix this.
Future plans? Yes. Traveling to Japan for a week of my winter vacation. going to China for Buddha's birthday, and making sure to explore every ounce of Korea that I can reach during my weekends and the rest of my vacation time? Sounds perfect to me.
Until the next time!!!