A Trip to the Jinju Lantern Festival.

This week, as apart of the Jinju lantern fest, I went with a few friends down to Jinju. We stayed at an Airbnb and had a good time in the new city. This town wasn’t all sunshine, several bus drivers drove right pass me and refused to let me on when I knocked on the door while the bus was stopped right next to the bus stop, either that or they drove past  me completely…Feeling jaded, this led me to distrust a taxi driver who was taking me to the Jinju station – I ended up getting out early because I had the wrong station on the mapping app that I was using to keep tabs on our route. Nevertheless, I realized I was tripping when I walked to the station and found it to be the wrong destination. From that point, I decided not to let the rudeness of a few bus drivers detract from the fact that I am in Korea, living one of my life’s many dreams (Winning a Korean jam, reliable girlfriend, and Graduate school in Portland are next^^), able to afford travel and have good friends/family that I can lean on during good times and bad. #RealFulbrightExperience #EyesofWalle.

 

Thanks for reading everyone! My posts will likely take on this shorter tone for the next few posts because of my packed schedule, current <planning phase> of my life, and just energy consolidation.^&^

Thanks for supporting and shout outs to family and friends who are sending me messages of support while I’m away. I appreciate it all and hope you all are living out fulfilling, safe, and lovely lives wherever you all are! #StayWoke ^^

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Not “Goodbye”, but”See you Later” my friends. 

Hello everyone!
Yet again, my capacity to take photos has outpaced my ability to seriously reflect upon and write about my experiences across this Southeast Asian adventure. However, I  finally have time to sit down and talk about a major milestone that I just passed in my Korean journey that includes both my completion of orientation and my recent move to the city of Sejong. Let’s get into it!

 

Orientation

So, you all have probably already viewed the smiling faces in the photos above. These were each taken on the final day of orientation – placement day. This day comprised of waking up early, cleaning out our dorm rooms, dressing in business professional wear, gathering our luggage across two different rooms on two different forms, listening to the words of our supervisors (OCT’s, Laura and Director Shim), reading/signing our contracts, taking photos together and saying goodbyes.

Goodbye’s were difficult, yet hugs and photos were peaceful and filled with heartfelt sentiments.

Personally, I chose to write and deliver notes to everyone who had left an especially notable mark on my experience during the 6-week, landlocked, jam-packed, restricting orientation period that served as the preface to my current school and city placement. The notes helped me with grieving and coming to terms with the fact that I was soon not going to be surrounded by, mostly-friendly, native English speakers with whom I shared variably common culture with.

Notes prefaced hugs, and hugs were followed by photos. The photos will mark the memories for later, but they cannot replace the warmth nor reproduce the peculiar feelings of connection, grievance, anger, happiness, confusion, and friendship that I shared with each of the individuals above. It’s a little grim, or at least existential, but I believe that with each good bye I gain perspective on the eventuality of my own mortality. This is a common thought that I have, and it definitely challenges me to really think about what it is I am doing with the year of life I am spending in South Korea and what it will mean to the legacy I both want and will achieve in the greater, longer, story that is my life.

Definitely been thinking a lot about both mortality and goodbyes amidst the recent passing of my grandmother and recent departure from the group I spent numerous arduous hours of programming and Korean classes with.

However, no sooner than I was finished saying goodbye, I was quickly met with several “Hello’s” from my new co-teachers (one of which is in the final photo of this post!), students, host family and new neighbors/ community members.

Moving forward after moving to Sejong.

So, I have just laid down roots in a new Korean city, and it is the current political/administrative capital of South Korea. Within this picturesque metropolis – which has every block purposefully planned to a Tee, I find myself struggling to find my own rhythm and not simply getting swept into the status quo and rather robotic, stressful and patriarchal day-to-day culture of the city.

It’s funny how I came to South Korea as an expression of my own freedom, only to land a full-time job that will also leave me as a guest in another families’ home.

Life’s funny like that.^&^

Nevertheless, rest assured that I am forging my own path forward in this journey. I found a spot to dance, I am taking time and initiative to travel, I am making nice and connections with my new host family, new co-workers, and members of the community.

I am enacting all of my willpower and leftover strength/time toward advancing myself as an individual, intellectual, and African-American. My progression is currently being directed in a manner which will allow me to find inner peace, reach for my own goals, better navigate and operate within my current community, and plot the path for transitioning into my next phase of life – which will likely be the pursuit of a Master’s degree at Portland State University in Urban Planning. From there, I hope to begin a professional career of helping improve the transportation, sanitation and communal networks of cities across the world in sustainable and community-inclusive ways.
This post grew kind of preachy toward the end, but I write these words to keep my goals in context, because it has been a recurring theme of previous Fulbright and English teachers in Korea to get “comfortable” with the systems, communities and living circumstances of this country – because it is relatively safe, advanced, and offers a plethora of opportunities and privileges that are at once, attractive, and upon examination in-context of immigration law/sentiments,  internal classism, educational stresses (particularly on high school students), ongoing gender stereotypes (wives do A LOT of work here) and other peculiar social norms, the advances can be alarming because of a recurring sentiment of being weary of critical self-reflection upon a national-level.

 

It would seem that negligence and ignorance of lower classes is the cost of progressive nationalism, but this is an opinion written by a foreigner and should be taken with a grain of salt.

 

Nonetheless, I have 11 months to go and a lot more to learn and experience while here.
Please wish me luck going forward!

I will continue to share my experiences!

Thanks for Reading!

Two weekends Across Seoul

Hello everyone!

I am back and finally getting back into to updating my Blog.. I am currently teaching in Sejong city and. as such ,will be completing this and one more blog post retroactively via memories that lie further away than my average blog posts.^^ Please bear with me as I back track through my recent adventures and as I trek forward into new ones!

 

During my orientation period at Jungwon university, I spent two weekends in Seoul, and met with many friends and also took many photos. During my time in Seoul, I was able to visit the Korean Ambassador’s residence (though there is technically no current sitting Ambassadors for Korea – as per the absence of an appointee from the current Trump administration, eat with a few friends, find time to rest and FINALLY dance together with the Seoul Seekers.

Going forward in this Korea trip, I will certainly visit Seoul at least a few more times and also view various other locations around South Korea. This year long grant period will definitely hold with it opportunities for challenges, growth, reflection, introspection and deciding who I want to be.

 

Thank you for reading. I look forward to catching up on other posts and further detailing my story!

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ambassadors_of_the_United_States#Current_U.S._ambassadors)

 

Jumping into the Third Week:

속초 (Sokcho)

  • So this weekend, the ETA cohort and I went to a eastward beach village / town named 속초. There, we stayed at the classy Class 300 hotel and FINALLY got to have a day off.  Up until 속초 Saturday, the entire cohort had been hard at work completing studies, cultural workshops, eating, and whatever else our program coordinators told us to complete. Nonetheless, Sokcho was a quiet beach

New Friends (새러운 친구)

  • So, I have been making many new friends during this trip. Not necessarily close friends, but people who are reasonably trustworthy, open, dependable, and willing to avoid rushing to conclusions. Overall, this a good, diverse, group of people who each deserve to be here and the collective work ethic, understanding and accomplishment between each of us. I am feeling quite blessed, privileged, grateful, lucky and inspired from being considered a peer amongst this group of individuals.
  • I am definitely regularly encouraged, challenged and inspired by the members of my cohort, current group of Fulbrighters,

Mid-term(중간 시험)

  • So….I had mid-terms this week. And the build was VERY stressful. Honestly, the whole Korean class format of 4, last week 5, hours a day is very tedious and draining. Though I am certainly learning a lot and getting plenty of practice my schedule for class preparation and homework are definitely taking toll on my sleep cycle, stress levels, and time / patience for interpersonal relationships. (Friendship, romance, family, breaking, professional and beyond).
  • Anyway, I only have two more weeks to cover SIX more chapters- about 80-120 words & 2-4 grammar points to memorize per chapter, to complete so I please send me positive vibes or words to help keep me focused a strong on this final stretch!

Cooking Class (요리하는 수업)

  • Phew! Yesterday I had a cooking class in in Cheongju and it was amazing! My OCT, Mai Tong, actually volunteered to cook with me when one of my dietary restrictions required me to set up my own station. ^&^ Mai Tong is awesome and I also got try my hand at making Kimbap – though I only watched Mai Tong make the Deokbeok-gi.
  • After eating my friends and I walked around Cheongju and had an adventure, while also getting to each other better.

Teaching FEP & Breaking Class (가르치는 것)

  • I have been teaching dance to some visiting Korean students. They’re pretty young, relatively new to English, and normally don’t talk much. However, like any other human, they often have a lot to say that they just feel awkward about sharing / vocalizing – so verbal participation hasn’t been so high. However, they really try, are very receptive and actually know more a lot more than they let on – which are each very important things for me to keep in mind throughout the duration of my grant year.
  • Either way, I am teaching my first official “Fulbright English Class” later this week so please wish me luck. I am less concerned with the students liking me than them actually taking something away from my class. That being said, I would prefer for them to respect, like and appreciate me – which is a lot to ask. Therefore, I am going to put an honest effort into gathering and compiling information about my upcoming classroom environment before actually getting in front of the children.^&^ (I am quite lucky to have my class during the latter half of the program – because I have the privilege of asking other ETA’s about their experience with these students.)

The remaining two weeks of Orientation.

  • Phew. Brought this up earlier, but I only have about two more weeks at this orientation and so I am going try to make the most of it. I will do my best to keep these posts somewhat regular during this time – but please bear with me because I have a lot to do and soak in within a relatively short amount of time.

 

* Thanks for Reading! *

2nd week of Fulbright ETA Orientation: Death, Love, FUN, Korean classes and Workshops

Phew. It has been awhile everyone. How have you all been? I hope you all have been well.^&^

I apologize for my hiatus, but A LOT has been going on and I am honestly still in the midst of a lot. So, really quick run down is coming up.

Death – I called my father this Monday and he hit me with the news that my grandmother had recently passed away… Her name was Josephine, and she was a pillar of our family. Always quick to help, share kind words, and just support anyone who needed it – especially her family members. I’m not going to get to into this, but she did have some last words for me: “Do good and try your best” – Josephine Brown. To honor her words, I am moving forward as best I can as smart and wholeheartedly as possible. I love my grandmother, so she will likely come up in future posts, as the grieving process will be long.

Love – No specifics, but I have a new LOVE interests within my present cohort. *Cue audience woo’s* More updates will come as this relationship develops, but it has not randomly formed out of left field. We have been in contact for some time before this program and have proceeded to “click” after meeting in-person.

FUN – Phew! I need more time for this FUN stuff. I honestly have programming for 8-11 hours a day, and this is not including the essential chores of house cleaning, laundry, and decompressing from the earlier week.

I have been breaking (breakdancing) in-between the breaks of my Korean class but I am CRAVING something more substantial as I re-adjust to living in S. Korea again.

Korea classes – EVERY WEEKDAY, except this upcoming Friday, for 5 – 7 hours depending on the day. Honestly, though this this is quite stressful and energy draining, I am quite thankful for the KAEC and the Fulbright commission’s commitment to ensuring that ETA’s have a fully-funded intensive Korean program before teaching for year. This program is very well put together in terms of behind-the-scenes funding and management. However, I just wish I had more free time worked into the running activity because I am itching to dance, and compete!

Workshops – Phew, the workshops. On top of our regular Korean classes, we have regularly scheduled teaching and cultural workshops that are meant to give us insight into aspects of the social structure, teaching cultures/philosophies, and classroom dynamics within South Korea. Though these workshops also leave me quite tired, they are very informative and ultimately helpful.

BONUS: FOOD

I have been eating free meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner since my entry to Korea – save for two excursions that included both sweet potato and blueberry/raspberry pizzas. Pictures will come…with time, opportunity, and the prospect of me not forgetting.^&^

 

That’s it for now everyone. I shall now be off to sleep and rest for the next day. Please wish me luck – especially my family and friends. And please also pray for my grandmother to rest in peace if you all have religion, time, and the energy.

 

Thank you!

Portland to Seattle and on to LA.

From the land where “the dream of the 90’s is alive” to a few days in Seattle, this week has truly been interesting and educational. 

  • Monday was my arrival in Portland, 
  • Tuesday featured a 4th of July celbration with the family of my good friend Haley – who let me stay at her home during my entire stay!
  •  Wednesday beckoned opportunity, because I was able to interview with a rep from Portland State University about pursuing a graduate degree in Urban / Regional Planning upon my return from S. Korea. Needless to say, the interview went swimmingly! Now I plan to further prepare for my future application, degree and profession by securing a GIS certificate whilst abroad.
  • Wednesday pt. 2 – After my interview, I briefly toured the campus and downtown Portland before returning to Haley’s home. From there, Haley took me to the Amtrak station and I began my journey toward Seattle.
  • Thursday – So I met a beautiful, knowledgeable and friendly female co-passenger on the Amtrak as I made my way from Portland to Seattle. Her name was Leesza (apologies if I butchered the spelling^π^). Anyway, we connected through talking about travel, healthcare, and life until we arrived to the city of Seattle. From there, we parted ways onto our respective journies. For me, this mwant taking a cab from the Amtrak station to the home of a generous Couchsurfing host^π^ (Who let me stay at his place in Seattle free of charge for two nights and three days!) From there on I slept.
  • Thursday pt. 2 – Aftwr a slow but productive morning in a new environment, I hopped on a bus – the stop was right outside of the home, and then I rode around the city to complete errands, meet with a rep from the University of Washington, qnd to meet with/ bid farewell to my good friend. We spent the evening together talking, dancing and just connecting in a park within Seattle’s chinatown district.
  • Friday (Today) –  Today, I went to breakfast with my gracious couchsurfing host and two fellow travelers whom he was hosting. The other two travelers Colin(m) and Ko-len(f) both spoke Mandarin and Cabtonese but Ko-len was from the mainland of China, whereas Colin was from Hong Kong. Apparently the distinction is quite important. As an example, Colin was a triplet – with two identical  brothers, and had an older sister, while Ko-len was an only child directly because of (mainland?)China’s one child policy. Anyway regardless of the differences between their geo-political origins, they had been friends since their pre-teens because their fathers were friends. They both came together to this city, and will likely travel together again in the future. Though we met for a short time, we had much to share with each other, and so we did as much as time allowed.
  • Friday pt. 2 – After eating breakfast together, my host took me to the train station and I boarded the metro with two checked bags, a backpack, and a large carry-on. Luckily Seattle’s DOT has regimented a space for luggage on train-cars, and so I was able to store my large, heavy and bulky items in the corner as I sat down – resting from the minor fatigue brought on by lugging my luggage to the platform. 
  • Friday pt. 3 – After arriving to the Seattle airport via train, I ran into both Alaskans and Atlantans whike enroute to my terminal. As I have listened to quite a bit of Alaska public radio, I was able to connect with them on some of their statewide/local issues. Ha, aftee meeting them I went through security…only to recieve a surpise groin patdown…. Just as the male passenger behind also recieved.(I would hope that my selection was due to either a glitch in the hardward or software because I was not carrying anything)
  • Friday pt. 4 –  Now, I am patiently waiting for my flight to LA and will proceed to catch up on blogging, messaging, reading, and hopefully also rest, during this brief dtint of increasingly rare downtime.

Thanks for reading!

Please enjoy the photos below from Seattle and Portland!


The Return

For those of you who do not know, I have recieved the Fulbright ETA – English Teaching Assistantship, Scholarship and will be returning to South Korea for at-least one year. Though this blog is no longer commissioned by Kennesaw State University, I will be using it to document my travels as I embark on another journey abroad.
That being said, expect less of a filter – though future content and tone will remain reasonably respectful of all parties involved.
Anyway, I am excited and I hope some of you all will be happy to read along as once-again leave the United States to go teach abroad in South Korea! I promise that the trip will be filled with adventure, dance, food, friends and life -events, not to mention possible romance, teaching stories and outrageous situations / random acts of kindness. 
This will truly be an adventure, and I am excited. Thank you to everyone who has followed thus far and welcome aboard to anyone who is just joining in. Departure date is T-minus 13 days in counting.
Allons-y!

A blast from the past, yet a telling reminder of where I have come from as I move half a planet away.