Saturday, September 21, 2013

Through a glass darkly

Beautiful Ilsan Beach in Ulsan, Korea

As I hiked along through pine forest on the edge of the East Sea I couldn't help but take a few pictures of where I had begun this hike. I had started on Ilsan Beach, the sand of which you can see in the picture to the right. I had come a long ways, and, though I wasn't aware of it at the time, I had a long ways to go. I was looking for a bridge I saw in travel guides and online. This bridge would take me to a rocky island at the tip of the peninsula I was currently trekking. I didn't know how long it would take nor did I know if I was even in the right place to find it. All I knew is that it was next to the beach. 

Often I feel more confident in where I am going and not so much in where I am in the moment. I know I will get to where I need to be eventually, but in the moment, I feel lacking, overwhelmed, or confused. Not quite sure what I'm doing here, but I just have to keep going because there is a place I need to be and this current place I'm in is not that place. 

I eventually found the bridge as well as the back door (or what was probably really the front door) into the pine forest. It was a beautiful place, that rock formation overlooking the sea. You can see it in the bottom photo. (You can see the rest of the pictures on my facebook page).

I am confident that one day I will find my real home. One day when I am no longer looking through a glass darkly. In the meantime, I have to continue on, using my time wisely, but stopping to take the occasional picture of where I was as a reminder to keep on.

Monday, September 9, 2013


It's hard to lose a pet. I just found out that Elby passed away. The only information I have is that it happened some time in the last 2 weeks, that she died from a skin disease, and that she was found lying peacfully next to a tree.

Elby, you were a great cat. There were many naysayers, and I was one of them for a while when you were young. I even remember a time when I thought about giving you away because you were so naughty all the time. But thank God I gave you a chance. You turned out to be the best cat that I ever knew. You loved keeping me company. Even though you liked your space, you always wanted to be in the same room as me. You rarely spoke, but when you did it was a pleasant sound. I remember when I would call you from another room, you would make a sound that "what did you say?" 

Your long hair was so soft and your bushy tale was so big. You were definitely the softest cat I ever touched. Your color pattern was unrivaled. You were a queen among cats as far as beauty goes. You loved to play games like fetch. You loved to sit in the window and watch the outside world. When you finally went outside, you were a chicken. But I know living on the ranch fixed that. I bet you had a great time out there. I only wish I could have seen you once more before I left. You died too young, but the suffering you experienced is over, so for that I am glad. I have many good memories, though I am sad there will be no more to be made.

Things happen in life that we cannot control. I had to give you up. Many years ago I had to give up another beloved pet. Her name was Sunny. Sunny was a dog, but funny thing is, she was like you in so many ways. She was sweet but very naughty; at the end of our time together she also had bladder problems!! I had to give her up. 

I hope to never give another animal up again. It is simply too painful. Even if it means never keeping a pet again. Rest in peace.
Elby 2008 - 2013

Elby was only an animal, but good animals are hard to find.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Ulsan - For You!

"Ulsan - For you"

This is the slogan for Ulsan. Every city in Korea has an English slogan. For a nicely compiled list, check this guys blog out:

Is Ulsan for me? Honestly, no, Ulsan is not for me. But the reasons my answer is no are not legitimate. Ulsan is not for me because I do not have a car. Ulsan is not for me because it is too noisy. Ulsan is not for me because I feel very alone too often.

Yet, it is not fair for me to judge a city I have only lived in for two weeks. My reasons are not legit because I can get used to the noise (though I may always wish for the peace of a small town) and I will meet people as time goes on. I will, however, always miss having a car. Ha!
Perhaps the biggest reason I cannot judge this place is because Ulsan is so large....I may live here a year and never see all of it. It is, like you see in the picture, a global city. 1.1 million people crammed into a not-so-large area. What you see in the picture is actually somewhat of a slogan for the district of Ulsan that I live in called Buk-gu (meaning something like "northern part, as it sits in the northern part of Ulsan).

What I do find interesting is that Bukgu itself is big. Where I live is a good hour bus ride to the downtown part of the city of Ulsan. So I just assume stay in Bukgu. I have no need to go to the busiest part of the city. I have seen it several times already (during orientation and during several "business trips" with my co-teacher to get my cellphone working). I have never been a city kind of person. My Korean friends make fun of me for that. In fact, the other day I told one of my co-teacher's that its tough to live in the city because of the noise and the lights. She laughed and said, essentially, "You don't live in the city. Bukgu is the countryside."
I beg to differ, but I do understand. Our versions of "countryside" are entirely different from each other.

I can grow to love Ulsan. I was only in Beijing for 5 weeks, saw maybe less than 50% of the city, and would go back in a heartbeat (in fact, I plan on arranging a trip there during my vacation). So I'll give Ulsan a chance. Or maybe I should say, I'll give Bukgu a chance, though, as it turns out, I'm heading downtown next weekend...

Thursday, September 5, 2013


The time goes by so quickly here. I should do my best to make the most of it. Here in Korea, everyone, and I do mean everyone, in my social circle is Korean. Some of them speak English incredibly well, others cannot speak a word of it. Most of them fall somewhere in-between. So I find myself speaking classroom English everywhere I go.

Speaking classroom English is not necessarily a bad thing. It's just that I get tired of talking. So I try to say less and listen more. I only talk when I am spoken to and don't often start a conversation. The last time I started a conversation was actually on the way to my apartment after work yesterday. I was a little over the halfway mark of my 40 min trip when I realized another teacher was going in my direction. When we came to the freeway crossing I told her in Korean that my neighborhood was in Hogye and that I was headed that way. As chance would have it, she was going there too. She was on her way to Hogye Elementary School (which is right next to my apartment) to see her boyfriend who is also a teacher.

She asked me to walk with her and we had a nice conversation (in English, of course). Her English is far above average. Our conversation was very pleasant. I am glad I started this conversation. It turns out she is the youngest teacher in the school (there are some 50 teachers at my school). It was nice to have someone to walk home with. The walk seemed very quick. We never actually introduced ourselves that day, but she already knew my name...

...which brings me to an interesting point. All of the teachers in the school know my name. I stand out like a sore thumb and because I am such a novelty here, not just among the students, but the teachers as well, I hear my name being said ALL of the time. I walk down the hall and kids repeat it over and over again; not always to me, but to each other. I walk in a room full of teachers and there it is again.

I played volleyball with the teachers and staff yesterday. It seemed everyone in the stands who were not participating (about 40 or so people) were talking about me. It was quite distracting.
I guess I just have to get used to this. I think that, in time, I will become less of thing to talk about. It gets old hearing your name repeated over and over again. Don't ask me what they are talking about. I don't speak that level of Korean.