Nightswimming

“I’m pining for the moon. And what if there were two, side by side in orbit around the fairest sun? That bright, tight forever drum could not describe nightswimming.” -R.E.M., “Nightswimming”

Moving to a foreign country allows you the opportunity to reinvent yourself like no other situation. When I moved to Korea, I made the decision to do just that. It’s not that I thought there was anything wrong with who I was before, but it’s easy to get too complacent. It’s nice to be able to go somewhere where no one knows your name or past and discover a lovelier you, just like the Pernice Brothers song. This past weekend gave me a chance to do just that.

Last week was one of the more difficult weeks I’ve had in Korea for various reasons that are not worth getting into here. In Korea, there are numerous companies that do trips for foreigners to different places around the country. I thought I wouldn’t enjoy it because of the long, early morning bus rides and sharing a room with a bunch of strangers. (I don’t even like sharing a room with people I do know!) Surely, that wouldn’t be my cup of tea. Even so, my friend and I made plans to go on a trip to Geoje Island for Buddha’s Birthday, and I was a little nervous about the whole ordeal. At one point, I almost cancelled for a few reasons. After the week I’d had, though, I realized that a long weekend away was exactly what I needed.

When we first got to the island, I was a little surprised. I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting, but I wasn’t totally impressed. The beach looked very small, and it seemed to be an older part of town with very little around. Shortly after arriving, we went on a tour to another part of the island. It was beautiful. Even though I was running on just a few hours of sleep, I got a second wind, and we went to explore. I don’t know what got into me, but I was climbing all over the rocks. It made me wonder why we weren’t staying closer to this part of the town, but I guess it’s because it’d be more expensive to stay there.

geojerocks
Beautiful.

After exploring for a bit, we went back with the group to check into our accommodations. They initially placed us four of us in a tiny room with one bed, so two of us would have had to sleep on the floor, and we’d be stepping all over each other. I hated to complain, but it wouldn’t work for us. They moved us to another room with all ondol, and it wasn’t as nice as the other room but worked for us because it had more room. I think we won the roommate lottery, though. Our roommates were a couple from Daegu, and they were awesome.

After getting settled, we basically spent the rest of the day just hanging out and doing some much needed drinking. We went to the braai that was offered as part of the trip with Waegook Travel and met some really cool people. We also got free cocktails, which were jungle juice. Before I knew it, I was feeling pretty social and happy. I don’t remember how it came up, but I think someone talked about going skinny dipping. (I do remember that the Waegook guys said that they would do the next trip to the mud festival for free for anyone who went skinny dipping.) Nightswimming has been on my bucket list pretty much ever since the song. It took a while, but I eventually decided that this was the perfect time and place to do it. A new friend and I left the big group and went to the other side of the beach to go nightswimming. The water was freezing, but as we learned in March when I went to Holi Hai (See “Synesthesia” post), that doesn’t bother me. No one seemed to believe that we did it, but it didn’t matter because we knew we did. It was liberating, and I’m so glad I can check it off my bucket list. New Lindsey!

On Sunday, I got to check another item off my bucket list: kayaking. I’m not exactly the most athletic person, but I always thought it would be fun. We ventured out to the island until my friend started feeling sick. There was a cave, but I didn’t see if we could go into it. Maybe next time if I ever go back.

The island we kayaked to
The island we kayaked to

Somehow, I managed to get out of bed the next day to go to Oedo Island. I’d heard that it was beautiful, but my expectations were admittedly low at this point. The ferry first stopped to see Haegeumgang. I don’t know much about it, but it’s apparently kind of a big deal. There was also a cave, but we didn’t go in it for some reason.

ferryoedo
Haegeumgang

The ferry eventually made it to Oedo Island, and I immediately felt like I was transported to a different place. Even though it is owned by Koreans, there’s a heavy European influence. The ferry took us to Oedo Botanica. Having been to Chicago Botanic Gardens this time of year and being disappointed, I have to say that these gardens did not let me down. They were beautiful, though Disney-esque. We walked all around the gardens and took a ton of pictures. I’d say it was worth the money and getting up early to see it.

Not bad.
Not bad.
Statues at Oedo. I have nothing to say.
Statues at Oedo. I have nothing to say.

Overall, it was a great trip, and I’m glad I went. I met so many awesome people. I challenged myself and did some things I’ve always wanted to do. I probably wouldn’t want to do a trip like this every month (It’s exhausting!), but I would definitely do it again and am already trying to decide what I want to do for the next one. It’ll likely be Namhae Island in June, but there are so many places to go and so many cool people to meet! I might have to stay another year just to be able to go all these places. For now, I think I’ll heed Dr. Seuss’s advice: “Out there things can happen, and frequently do, To people as brainy and footsy as you. And when things start to happen, don’t worry, don’t stew. Just go right along, you’ll start happening too!”

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All These Things That I’ve Done

“While everyone’s lost, the battle is won with all these things that I’ve done.” -The Killers, “All These Things That I’ve Done”

Today marks three months since I arrived in South Korea. In a way, it’s actually kind of unbelievable. It really feels like it’s been so much longer. So much – good, bad, and somewhere in between – has happened in only three months.

I suppose I’ll start with the ways that I have already changed. I’ve become open to so much more than even I thought was possible. I mean this in every sense of the word. I’ve learned to expect the unexpected. I’ve had more “Korean surprises” than I can count. Some were good, many not so good. There are a lot of things I’m still struggling with and will continue to struggle with, but I’m learning every day.

I’ve grown accustomed to certain things in Korea. Things that felt awkward at first are now becoming second nature. I fully expect that whenever I do return to the US or wherever I go next, I will be bowing to everyone I see, just because it’s so natural now. There are still some Korean things I can’t get used to and probably never will (bathroom and hygiene habits, for example), but I just look at most of them as different, not “bad.” I’ve basically learned to ignore them.

malwakingaway
Me when I see some of these things I won’t even mention.

That’s the boring stuff no one wants to hear about, though. How else have I changed? What else have I done? I feel like the answers to these questions could each be a whole blog themselves. In a nutshell, a lot has changed. I’ve become less shy. I am and always will be an introvert, but I am much more adventurous than I ever was. I’ve met up with people I’d never met in person and gained a lot of new friends that way. I have met so many interesting people. There’s not a lot to do or a lot of people to meet in my little town, so I travel as much as I can, while still allowing at least one weekend a month to be the hermit my sanity needs me to be. I’ve done things and eaten foods I never thought I would, like octopus and silk worm larvae. I now can say with certainty that I don’t like them and don’t need to try them ever again. Still, it’s pretty bold for a vegetarian, especially one who never liked seafood.

Pretty sure I looked like this when I tried the octopus and silk worm larvae.
Pretty sure I looked like this when I tried the tiny piece of octopus and silk worm larvae.

In addition to trying new foods, I’ve opened up and taken chances I never thought I’d take. Some didn’t pan out the way I hoped, but they’re all part of the experience. I’m trying to be positive and hope some good comes out of them. I’ve been lost and found, literally and metaphorically, and I’ve learned to look at it as an adventure. I’ve made some amazing friends that I hope to have for life. I’m really living it and taking it all in right now.

momentswillbestoriesperks
I already have stories to last a lifetime.

So what hasn’t changed? I escape my small town as much as I can because it gets lonely/boring after a while. I still turn to the same thing I have for my entire life: music. I have always been passionate about music, but with so little to do, I feel like it’s even more of a constant in my life. I’ve been discovering all kinds of new music. I’m not pretending everything here is all rainbows and butterflies (especially as the culture shock sets in), but music, as always, helps me get through those hard times and makes the good times even better. Sometimes it’s nice to just tune out the world and forget everything. I should probably stop there because we all know this is a subject I can talk about for hours, and this is already getting long.

Do not disturb me when I'm in music mode.
Do not disturb me when I’m in music mode. Seth Cohen is my soulmate.

In the three months that I’ve been here, I’ve also managed to check a few things off my bucket list, such as the Holi Hai Festival, which I wrote a blog about a couple months ago. Another item on the list was to go to a lantern festival. (Thanks, Tangled!) I went to the Lotus Lantern Festival a couple days ago in Seoul. It was so beautiful and worth the wait. I can’t even begin to describe the peace and awe I felt at the temple. There’s still a lot left on my list, but I have many plans for more this summer.

lotuslantern
One of many pictures I took at the Lotus Lantern Festival. Pictures couldn’t do it justice.

“What’s next?” I’ve had many people ask me this question. The truth is that I really don’t know. I was thinking that I would try to transfer to Busan next year or find a job in a hagwon there because I really love the city. (I’m actually not as much of a fan of Seoul.) However, a transfer is very difficult, and I’d have to go through the whole application process again with no guarantees. I’ve also thought about going back to the US, but I’m not sure what I would do or where I would go there because I don’t want to do the same thing I was doing. Thoughts of teaching in Europe have also crossed my mind, but that probably won’t happen yet. As of now, the only thing I know for sure is that I don’t want to stay where I am. If I’m being honest, I don’t like my town, and I really don’t like teaching middle school. My province has a different curriculum than others, and I’m struggling with it. While I don’t know what I want to do, I do know what I don’t want. (Just call me the modern day, female Lloyd Dobler. “I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career…”) For now, I’ll just take everything as it comes and whatever time I have left here.

Pretty much.
Pretty much.