Thursday, August 23, 2012

New Hair

This week I finally got around to cutting my hair, it only took about a year and a half of complaining about how long it was to get it cut.

I knew that I wanted to get it done before I left here, because I have heard how nice it is to get your hair done here, or at least in an Asian country. I am not being stereotypical because the person who told me how amazing it is to get your hair done in an Asian country was in fact Asian ( or at least half Asian). Not sure if that actually counts but there you go.

It was great! I guess I should start at the beginning...right. I didn't want to go alone because I wasn't sure if I would be able to explain what I wanted. So when I heard that one of my co-teachers, Jinny, was going I asked her if I could tag along. She tends to go to the more expensive places though but at the point that I had got with my hair I was willing to pay anything.

The next day we went to the big department store and found the hair salon. In truth I have never been to a true hair salon. Growing up I always had my mom do my hair and the other times I was too cheap to pay full price so I always went to one of those academies. It was fun to see the dynamics of the place and everything.

Jinny was getting a perm and that was a whole different process then when I got my perm back in Idaho, they pulled out these gadgets and wires and the whole shebang.

It was pretty intense, then when they got to me. I had drawn a picture of what I wanted. I thought it was quite clever but they just started laughing at me. Then they pulled out a tablet that had about 15 pictures of different styles that I could choose from. We got the message across though and I got to experience a full scalp massage. Then they cut and styled my hair. I should of gotten a picture but we were running short on time and had to rush to work. So yeah, still working on that picture of the new hair. Many of my students noticed though a few of my boy students said that it looks the same. :( grrr

So here you go a before and after picture. The after picture is a little blurry but you get the idea :)

It also was a lot cheaper than I thought it would be :) And I like paying less than what I expect.

Speaking about money, I also transferred money a couple of days ago. The exchange rate is killer and I guess I have been going out to eat more than I thought I did, whoops...a girls got to eat, well. I only sent home about half of what I was expecting to so the whole 'saving money while I am over here' idea didn't turn out to be what I thought it would but oh well. I am still going to enjoy myself. bwahaha.....aha

Monday, August 20, 2012

Same old Story

I think that I am going to officially announce that I will update my blogs every Monday unless I get around to it on Thursday. :)

This past week was the last of my intensives week. That means my schedule has returned to normal, and when I say normal I mean I work from 2pm until 10pm. I really liked the other schedule, I felt like I had a normal job. My extra classes I had were great as well and I will miss those girls I got to teach. Alas, my normal schedule is better though because it is easier to skype people. (hint: you people should skype me now)

So this past weekend I went on a non-date with a guy that I met at the supermarket. I call it a non-date because it was just me and him but I explained to him on the non-date that I don't date people outside of my religion and he was okay with that because he says he wants an Asian wife. Anyways, we went on a five hour hike up in the mountains. (it was either that or drinking and you all know how I feel about drinking). The hike was really fun, and kinda dangerous because earlier in the day it had rained and so the trail was slick. I only fell once and thankfully to my hopkido training I knew how to fall properly and not be hurt. We only got lost twice and because of the heat I was drenched in sweat a few minutes in so you can only imagine how wet I was by the end. Not attractive so again I was glad it was a non-date.

It was actually really cool because like halfway in we got around to talking about alcohol and he said he didn't drink. I said I don't drink as well and he asked if I was Mormon. He wasn't so this led up to about a two hour talk about Mormons and my religion. That part was awesome! I felt like a missionary and everything again! The whole hike was worth those hours of sharing!

Well, it seems from the word of mouth my work is back on the tipsy. One teacher is leaving at the end of the week and our most 'intelligent' director has decided to not hire another teacher. It might be possible that I don't have that long to be here. Many of the other teachers are not taking it well and the moral at my work has taken a dive. We have textbooks though for the next term so we might see some of that, I am still unsure that I will see my year mark or even my 9 month mark. Hope for the best.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

YSA in Korean o_0

Nothing like a YSA conference to get you back on track and give a little perspective to your life.

To tell the truth I was a bit rebelious at the beginning. Maybe I should start at the beginning....

A few months ago my ward started talking about a big YSA (Young Single Adults) conference and to me it looked like EFY(Especially for Youth) for single adults. I wasn't sure I could go because I have work and part of the weeklong event happened on the weekdays. We worked it out that I could at least go on the weekend. I was still unsure if I really wanted to go though. But with the right amount of pressure (and if the activity is a good one) you can make me do anything. I can't really say no.

When the friday before the Conference hit, I didn't feel like I wanted to go at all. My bad mood toward it got worse when I arrived and discovered that this conference was just like EFY. Don't get me wrong, I loved EFY. I loved attending it and then being a counselor and everything. I was not happy though, because I had the feeling like I had digressed, EFY was for strengthening the YOUTH and encouraging them to be stronger in the gospel. I felt like I was a bit too old for these types of activities. This conference to me felt like it went against everything I was trying to do to be treated like an adult.  That and I also felt like a burden to my group because I couldn't understand anything that was going on around me and that everyone was forced to cater to me. I don't like depending on people nor do I like putting people in positions where they feel uncomfortable.

So going into the conference I wasn't in the greatest mindsets. Thankfully that changed as I let my pride go and allowed myself to learn.

Anyways when I first got there it didn't help that I had registration problems and my bad mood got worse. (I am never going to trust anything to my friend who helped me sign up, that was the twentieth time he has screwed up with me and I'm losing patience.) We were given new YSA shirts and so I really felt like I was at EFY.
 We had a field day where we all were organized into our different 'family' groups and had to compete against each other. Thankfully they gave us a lot of water so we didn't die from the heat, because it was HOT! We had jump roping and sit-up races and water soaker sliding thing, we got wet and that was the most important thing. The activities broke my resistance that I was too old for these type of things and I allowed myself to have some fun. So my mood changed there about the activities at least.

Then we had some free time to change and clean-up, the whole conference was very planned out and had a pretty strict schedule, but they did give us a lot of time to relax between events. That evening we had a FHE (family home evening) type activity. Well, it was more like getting to know yourself activity where we were given a color brain test and we talked about the different types of personalities we were. We discussed our strengths with others that were strongest in the personality types as well. We even made a poster to represent ourselves which was great because I was able to do some drawing. At least images are easy to communicate even if I couldn't do it through language.

Actually most of my group spoke english fairly well and there were two guys there who spoke fluently. They were both going to college in the states and were just home for summer vacation. Very helpful because they were the ones translating for me most of the time. I was talking to one of them after the FHE activity and we were talking about labeling ourselves. He said something profound about cautioning that we shouldn't allow ourselves to focus on the labels because that limits us against other characteristics we can develop. I was stunned, not only did something deep come from a korean, not many have the language capability, but this is a guy and up till this point my opinion of guys have dwindled (more about this later).

We had a small evening devotional which was all in Korean but by that time I was used to zoning out whenever Korean is spoken without a translator, occasionally the group remembered I was there and translated for me but for the most part I was overlooked. I really didn't mind that much though and I got used to it after a while.

The next day was Sunday and that was the day that I was leaving. Because of my imminent departure the guy who was the most fluent in english kinda took me under his wing and started translating everything for me. ( Even the prayers ). Consequently, I was able to talk with him more than any of the other guys and he impressed me. Nobody get excited, I think the likelihood of us getting together is unlikely. What he did do though is renew my faith in the male gender. There are guys out there that are intelligent and funny and have the capability to uplift rather than tear down. I had forgotten how amazing some guys can be. There just not that many out there that have reached this level of respectability. Meeting one of these few elites though made me realize something about myself, I don't deserve a guy like that. I'm a jerk, I was a jerk to Han (my translator friend) and thinking back at the few months I've been here, I realize that I've become more like a jerk or a mean spiteful bitter person. So now I have a new goal in sight, I am going to become less of a jerk. Can't become totally not a jerk because then people wont recognize me but if I can become less of a jerk then maybe people will be able to stand my presence :) Therefore Guys are amazing and I'm a jerk. Here is an illustration to help visualize this concept (apologies to those who have already seen this:)

I went back to Masan after lunch and spent the rest of the day sleeping. (we had early mornings and late nights that was totally not like my normal schedule). The trip home was funny though cause, again everyone was speaking Korean so I pulled out my book and started reading. One of the parts of the book was really funny so I started laughing. The car went silent and when I looked up everyone was looking at me strange. I merely smiled and showed them I was just reading. The rest of the trip I was ignored.

Well that was long, you all get a gold star for getting through all of this post. Till next week :)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Bus Drivers Hate Me

The day after Blue One, I was burned and exhausted but still gunhoe about my Temple Stay.

Now, I shall explain what a Temple Stay is. This is a program that anyone can sign up for and you can stay at a Buddhist temple and follow the regime of a Buddhist Monk for as long as you want. I chose only for two days and a night. The temple I chose also has a focus on Martial Arts so that I got to see some monks kick butt.

Normally these temples are remote and so sometimes are a challenge to find.  As I found out; I woke up early with this knowlegde and got to a bus terminal; then arrived at the city of Gyeungju where the extremely helpful instructions told me to find the nearest tourist kiosk. I got out of the terminal and couldn't see any kiosk in sight. I went over to a couple bus stops but none of them had the buses listed that I needed. Finally I ran into a couple from I think Australia and had them direct me to the Kiosk. It was conveniently in plain sight (behind three buildings...grr). The stop I needed was across the street and my directions said to take the bus for 45minutes and after a tunnel wait five minutes then I should listen for the stop name to be announced. Well we got past the tunnel and five minutes passed but no stop and we were already pretty far out in the country. Finally I got up the courage to ask the driver. Well my Korean ability allowed me to understand the word 'no' at that point but he waived me off as though I was a particular annoying fly. Sheepishly I got back into my seat uncertain of my next move. Thankfully, after a few stops the people who had overheard my request told me my stop was here. After that I was able to find the Temple, meet the office director and got signed in. They gave me an uniform (it had the loosest pants I've ever worn). Quickly, I got changed into the Dobo and caught the Archery lessons in time.
At the lessons I discovered that the instructor was from Strasbourg (that is a French City that was in my mission) and three other participants were from France as well. So I spent most of my stay speaking french :)
We were kept on a pretty strict schedule but at the same time it was pretty relaxed. After Archery lessons we were suppose to do community service but because of the heat it was canceled so I went up to the shrine at the top of the mountain where they were having Sunomundo Demonstrations. After which we were allowed to take photos with some of the monks:

I'll add a video at the end of some of the awesome moves I go to see and do. The girl next to me was one of the french girls I became friends with.

Dinner was a monk's diet which was only vegetables. Surprisingly tasty, also one of the rules is that you can't leave any food behind. So you had to eat everything you took even if you thought it was weird or nasty.

We had Orientation after dinner and this is where we were shown the proper way to meditate and bow. They also went through some of the chants with us and what they mean and also a little about the Buddhist religion. I remembered a lot of it from my World Religion class but it was interesting to get a refresher. We went straight to evening chanting after that. We were invited to chant along if we wanted but I contented myself to just listening and following along.

After chanting, we had our own Sunomundo (Martial Arts) Training. This was awesome because it was slightly different from Hopkido. More slow kicks and punches. You had to hold your leg in one position for a longer time than a simple kick. Then we spent an hour meditating in various poses. By then it was time for bed and I was so tired that I didn't mind so much, sleeping with ten other people on the floor. Here is a picture of the room:
I fell asleep really quick but I didn't stay that way for long. Around midnight I woke up, too hot to sleep and my shoulders absolutely killing me because of the sunburns I got yesterday. Everyone else had a blanket covering them, crazy, Hot! I tossed and dozed for the rest of the night until the monk with the wake-up bell came around at four in the morning. I quickly got dressed and went up to the shrine to catch the morning chants. This lasted about a half hour and then we went to the top of the shrine to meditate. We watched the sun rise over the mountainside. Absolutely breathtaking and totally worth the early hour. Then we did some walking meditation and stretching when we arrived at the bottom of the mountain. I snapped a quick pick of a local rice field on our way:

We had breakfast around 7 and had free time for about an hour after that. I tried to sleep but my shoulders and the floor never did learn to get along. We met up again as a group and we did some more Martial Arts training, this session was more focused on yoga moves and stretching, I could follow most of them but some were pretty extreme. We even did a move that I remember doing when I was in gymnastics, called the bridge. The splits were a bit hard and I had to do the easier option that was given. :) Sorry, mom I don't do Yoga

We had tea time then with one of the Masters and I learned I was the only American there. We had people from Canada, England, France, Holland, Sweden, Germany, and of course Korea, but I was the only one to represent the USA. Awesome, represent :)

There was one more Demonstration at the shrine and I explored a bit as well. There was a gigatic buddha carved into the side of the mountain. Here are some pics:

 It was an amazing experience and the last thing that I did was have lunch. Best way to finish anything off, is with a really delicious meal :)

On the way home I got off the bus a little early so that I could take some awesome pictures of some water lily gardens in the City:
It was an end of a really good day and like anything good there has to have something that goes wrong and that happened on the bus ride home.

I got my ticket to go home to Masan, this is about a two hour bus ride. So naturally I fell asleep. Well when I woke up as the bus was pulling into a bus terminal and everyone started getting off the bus. I looked around and realized I was not in Masan. I went up to the driver and handed him my ticket asking him if this was Masan. He got angry and started spouting out a lot of Korean but I figured out through body language that I had missed my stop and was now in a completely different city called Gimhae. The bus driver shooed me off the bus and basically told me in Korean 'good luck, get out of my hair'. I was still tired so I didn't care as much. I went to the ticket office and unlike all the other Korean Cities that have a lot of tourist have signs in English as well as Korean, not this City. Everything was in Korean, thankfully I know enough korean to find my town and got a ticket (not terribly expensive) and took another bus home. This one actually stopping at the Masan Bus Terminal.
Stressful but worth it.
Now lets see if I can get ta video to work:

Blue One

Yeah!!! For vacations and the last time off I'll have for a few months but anyway it was a unique one at that.

Vacation started on the first of August (Happy Switzerland day) and went to the fifth, well, technically the third but the weekend was tacked on there for good measure. I wasn't sure what I was going to do with that much time off. I at first wanted to go to Japan, but that turned out larger than what I would allow for my budget. Then I thought I would head down to Jeju Island, but I waited too long to get a hotel and so all of them were book, that and I didn't feel like overexerting myself to go through the traveling hoops of packing, buying a plane ticket and all that muck. I then realized that the vacation was in two days and I had bettter figure something out or I would be sitting at home staring at the wall wondering what I was doing with my life. With that depressing vision in my head I went on the internet and found the most Korean of activities I could sign up for and sent in my reservation. I signed up for the TempleStay at Golgulsa Temple in Gyeungju. I will explain what this is later.

The Temple stay lasted only two days and I was still unsure what I should do the rest of my time. My answer came a day before as I was talking to my coworkers about where I was going for the Temple Stay. They were surprised and said they too were going to Gyeungju but on the day before to a waterpark called Blue One. I thought that would be fun and asked if I could tag along. They all loved the idea and so another one of my days were planned. The reason I'm telling all you this is to show that I am discovering more and more here that it is better not to plan things too far in advance, that like the culture here things happen like right when events happen and a lot of times you just got to go with it.

So here I am with my coworkers, Hannah and Jinny and one of their friends, Dorothy, who is another English teacher at another Hagwon. Funny story before I start talking about the Waterpark Adventure. We met up with Dorothy in her town about an hour out of Masan, the plan was to switch cars for Dorothy's car when we met up with her. Well after we parked Jinny's car and with Dorothy went to her car. Well her car was parked in a parking lot that was completely full. Her car was blacked in by about six cars in front of it. Here is a diagram:
Just add one more row of cars and the red car was Dorothy's. Well I thought, 'great, now we got to all squish into Jinny's Car (size equivalent to a smart car). Nope, all the cars were left in neutral and so does everyone know the mind puzzle game where you had to move the cars around in order to get the one special car off the board? Well I got to play a life sized game of that. So picture me and three small thin Asian girls pushing around a bunch of cars and if your laughing well that is how I felt.
And yes I took a picture of it :)

Well, we got out and arrived at the park just after opening. Now most would think that if you've been to one waterpark you've been to them all and your right but when you add a different culture into the mix then things get interesting. First strange thing I encountered was that there was a requirement to wear a hat. That is why I am sporting the black cap in the first picture. Supposedly it reduces the amount of hair in the draining system, not sure if that really works but we must comply. The next big surprise was my nasty discovery that there was no changing stalls in the locker room, and young and old were stripping down in front of each other. I refused and found the bathroom but couldn't help feeling like I was back in my figure drawing class in highschool, oh so awkward. After everyone was ready we took pictures outside and went and got our mandatory life vests. I at first said that I could swim that I didn't need a vest. Well then I got stopped by a fairly attractive life guard and was told that I HAD to have one. I grumbled a bit but complied. As we were floating in the wave pool I realized the reason why it was required as I watched the gigantic tsunami hurtling toward me. The wave was huge, like twice the size we have back in the states and completely chuck full of Koreans. It was awesome and it was hilarious to watch people search for their belongings after the wave passed. I even lost my hat when the first wave that hit. So awesome!

We were at the park for about eight great hours and I only put on sunscreen like once. So yeah my shoulders are quite red. Totally worth it.

I got home alright that night and slept fairly well other than the fact that I was super excited for my Temple Stay the next day. I think that I will talk about the Temple Stay in another post that way this one won't be too long. That and I got videos :)