Thursday, December 17, 2015

An Amazing Four Years

It's been a long time since I posted anything here, but there are a couple of important things happening around this time of year and I felt like I had some things to say.

Four years ago I met Minyoung (MY) for the first time.  He and I had a lovely first date in Changwon on Dec. 10, 2011.

From that point on we saw each other every weekend until mid-April when a business trip took him out of the country during the weekend and we went two weeks without seeing each other.  It was at this point, after less than five months of dating, that I realized I really loved him.  I assume this is when he had the same realization, if not earlier, because he asked me to move in with him when I moved to Seoul.

I immediately said yes because I knew that saying goodbye to him every week was one of the most painful things I'd ever experienced.  I actually spent a lot of time thinking about this over the next month or so.  I knew I didn't want to be separated from MY, but I also knew that moving in together was a huge step.  Even if we already spent every weekend living together and had since fairly early in the relationship (I'm sorry if this disappoints people, but realistically, he lived four hours away.  For my father's sanity I'll say no more.)

We decided to move in together in April, but knew this wouldn't happen until October.  This was actually a very good thing in my mind since it gave us lots of time to talk about hour personal habits and our expectations and needs when it came to living together.  We knew we'd be living in a very small apartment in Seoul (Seen in this post) and that we needed ground rules.  We learned what really bugged each other and what didn't bother us at all.  I got lucky.  MY's only real peeve is having someone mess with his personal things (textbooks, video games, papers).  The most I'll do is push all of his study materials back into their little corner when they begin to overtake the room, typically only at exam time.

There's a funny story illustrating this.  When MY got our apartment in Daegu I was still in the US and would be for another two weeks.  MY moved in and was sleeping on blankets on the floor, using a plastic bin as a table since we had no furniture.  His mom came by and asked why he didn't put any of the dishes away or buy a table or something.  He promptly replied that he wouldn't dare because I'd move everything around anyways.  So what was the point?  Besides, he didn't care where things were as long as he could find them.

And he was right.  My first morning there, before starting work, I set to work scrubbing and organizing the kitchen.  That weekend we bought the furniture we wanted that I could find in Daegu, then we ordered the couch and bed because I couldn't find one I was happy with.  Since that first weekend we've added a TV, TV stand, and a stack-able storage compartment, but that's it.  I knew what we needed and had an idea in my head of what I wanted to fit each spot.  He knew that and knew he didn't care.

Granted, this doesn't mean he can't.  Once we were settled we bought a TV at Costco and a TV stand.  Those were all his, he picked both and I merely said okay.  The opposite of the rest, lol.

This is proving to be a true novel of a post.

Well, if you survived the rambling I'll get to the point.

MY and I are having our wedding ceremony this January.  My dad and Linda are flying in from NYC to be a part of it.  I'll try to do a post on it, but if I don't, I'm sure I can bribe my friend Krissi to do it if I offer her enough Starbucks coffee.  Love you Krissi!

I'm truly lucky to find someone like MY.  Someone who doesn't mind me at my worst, puts up with me at my best, and loves me no matter how I am.  He flew to the other side of the world just to meet my family.  He lived through meeting my dad, despite language and cultural barriers.  And he's nervous about seeing him again next month, but he's still glad I'll have my parents there for our wedding.

It's say we learn from our mistakes, but I think we really learn when we realize that not everything wrong is a mistake.  Dating Zack for so long was wrong, we weren't right for each other in the long term and would have ended eventually.  But was it a mistake?  No.  I know I learned a lot from our relationship.  Both about myself and others.  He's pretty smart, I'm sure he learned some stuff himself.  Hopefully what he learned has helped him as well as what I learned helped me.

Just took a look at his Facebook page, he's now engaged and looks very happy.  I doubt he'll ever read this, but if he does - "I wish you all the happiness I myself have."

I know he read it four years ago, when I posted about that lovely Christmas email.

The short of it is - don't settle.  If you're not sure if you're happy, then you likely aren't.  Find someone that you hate to say goodbye to.  Find someone who balances you.  Someone who feels like home, even if you're stuck sharing a one room studio with no bathroom fan and a twin bed.

MY and I survived that hellhole of an apartment - we can survive anything.

More to come about us in a month.  Hope I don't freeze in my hanbook!

Monday, June 15, 2015


*Note, unless otherwise stated, all photos were taken by Christine Skobe.

So, when I first took the job at YT I had a coworker named Mora.  She was very nice and we worked well together, but we weren't friends and only hung out once outside of work, and that was her goodbye party.  Her last day was July 4th last year.  I didn't get a new coworker until August 4th, my Canadian boss covered the other classes instead.  Those that weren't merged with mine or transferred to me.

So, on August 4th I was super excited to be getting a new coworker as, while I've made lots of good friends in Korea, most of them were still in Seoul and those that weren't had left Korea (Savannah, I'm looking at you... :P).  I'd met a few people in Daegu, like Marc and Ros, but it always takes a bit to get to know people.

Plus, I was just hoping for a super cool co-worker.

Welp, I got one.

Christine had been in Korea for several years down in Busan, but had left in the winter to backpack around Southeast Asia for a bit before flying back to Canada to visit her family.  So, she found herself in Daegu in the same situation as me.  She'd been in Korea for several years, had some great friends that had left, but those that hadn't were now in a different city.

She's done a lot of couchsurfing, both hosting and staying, so when she heard about a couchsurfing meetup in Daegu she planned to go and asked if I wanted to come along.  Since it was happening at Suseong Lake (a beautiful place) and I had nothing better to do I went along with her, though I've only couchsurfed once.  I'm super glad I went, as it was a lot of fun.  That's also where I met Amanda and Natalie, but more on them later.

Christine is also the one that instigated the revival of the Daegu Sunday Book Club with Ros and myself.  Thing is, Christine is an instigator, not a manager, so Ros and I ended up running it.  With me doing more of the work as we knew that Ros was leaving in the spring, while I was staying.  So, the book club is all thanks to Christine.

August, September and October were probably my best months at work as working with Christine was never dull.  Work is always made better when you're working with friends.

We also took a few trips together, once we went down to Busan, where we went to a very nice jjimjilbang.  and then went over to Nampo, where the Busan Film Festival is held and ate street food for dinner.

Christine and myself

Odeng and Ddukbokki
We also visiting an alley that is all little book stalls, some of them carried English books, as well as Korean.  It was just a fun day.

Just a week or so after this trip Christine got some rather crucial news.  Her mom was due to have surgery at the end of November and complications were very likely.  After a lot of thought Christine turned in her notice at work and left to go back to Canada, as she was the only one that could truly take care of her mother.
About a week before she left though, we took another trip.  This time we went to my old town, Changwon.  Where we rented bikes and visited Changwon House, City 7 and Yongji Lake.  I don't have a post about Changwon House, but I visited there on a field trip my first year in Korea.  It's an old farmhouse complex for a gentleman landowner.

She took pictures while bike riding, very brave.
The pond at Changwon House
Me, barely getting time to pose.
So gorgeous and sunny
Yongji Lake
Christine ended up flying back to Canada a week or so into November.  Her mother had surgery in January (the doctor rescheduled it) and now her mother is doing great.  Christine took a CELTA course in April and went to go teach for a month in Germany in May.  Now she's backpacking around Europe.

I don't know if she'll ever come back to Korea, or if we'll ever live near each other again.  But I do know she's one of those rare friends that lasts for years, even when life keeps you from talking for several months.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Downtown Daegu

Wow, it's been a long time.  I meant to post more over the past year, but it just didn't happen.  I suppose part of that is because I've come to view my life in Korea as normal and not worth blogging about, even when I do things that all of ya'll back in the  States might find interesting.

So, to that effect, while I currently have free time, I'll write several posts about things I did in the past year.  Then I'll schedule them to come out every week.

I never posted a video of our apartment in Daegu, but I'll try to do that when I get back to Korea, as I'm currently in NYC visiting my Dad and Linda.

Our apartment is located in a great spot.  We're only about a five minute walk from Line 2 on the subway and then about a 10-15 minute walk from the Downtown center and the river.  We're also a 15 minute car ride from MY's mom's house, which is nice.

Here are some pictures of Downtown.

A Beautiful Fall Day

A Snowy Night

Some shots of the roads downtown from Starbucks

Decorated for Christmas
It really has been a trip living so close to the center of Daegu.  It's so easy to get anywhere.  We can walk for about 20 minutes and be at Daegu Train Station, or take a short subway ride and be at the Daegu Bus Terminal and East Daegu Train Station.  It's really convenient.  I'm also a ten minute walk from a bus that takes me straight to where I play board games sometimes, but more on that in another post.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

New Beginnings

So, I arrived in Daegu, South Korea in the afternoon of March 17th after three flights and a bus ride that took me from Niceville to Houston, Beijing, and Seoul before arriving in Daegu.

I started work the next day and so far I'm really enjoying my job.  I work 1pm-9pm, like my first job, and everything from the students to my fellow staff is very nice.

My first weekend back MY and I went in search of furniture and we're still waiting on bed.  Once the apartment is finished we'll make a video and I'll put it up.  MY did a good job picking out an apartment.  It's in a great location and is very nice with no hints of mold.  Just to test the moisture of the air he left an apple core out overnight and it dried up, which is a good sign.

So everything has been proceeding quietly and it's currently a rain Spring Saturday in South Korea.  MY is out meeting with his group to go over a project for Monday and I'm about to dive into some more of my Master's work.  But, before that, I'd like to share what happened last night.

For the past two weeks MY's been meeting me at the bus stop when I get off the bus to come home.  Last night he told me he couldn't because he had to find something for his project.  Now, I was a little suspicious, but shrugged it off since he's typically a very honest fellow and I haven't even been back in Korea for a full two weeks yet.  So, while we've discussed our future, I didn't expect him to do this so quickly.  I didn't even notice him extracting my favorite color of roses from me a few days ago.

Needless to say, I was very surprised when I opened the front door to find the lights off and this on the floor:
With him standing in a suite with a dozen pink roses between the candles and this wall:
There was a romantic song in the background and when I walked over to him, he started reading me a really sweet and romantic letter he had written before going down on one knee and presenting me with this:
He'd also prepared wine with cheese, fruit, and crackers for afterwards.  Then he cooked us some samgyupsal (uncured bacon).
Oh, needless to say, I said yes.

Note: All pictures were taken after the proposal was concluded and I'd had time to dry my eyes.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

A Winter Wedding

The month of December was fairly uneventful in terms of things to do until Christmas.  Elli and I spent the morning opening presents with our grandparents and talking on Skype to Dad and Linda.  In the afternoon we drove to Navarre with our cousins to celebrate the holiday with our Mom's side of the family.

I don't have any pictures since they were all taken on Derrick and Margret's camera and they were never posted to Facebook....

On the day after Christmas Elli and I were up and at the airport before the sun rose to fly up to New York.  Dad and Linda picked us up at about 11am and we headed off for lunch.

Then that evening we met Linda's sons, Matt and Kevin and Matt's fiancee, Stephanie.
L to R: Kevin, Me, Linda, Dad, Matt, Elli
The new addition is Stephanie, my future sister-in-law.
While in New York we did all sorts of touristy things like visiting The Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, Wall Street, Ellis Island, Times Square and Central Park.  We also saw The Lion King on Broadway, which was spectacular, though the actual seats were terrible (not the location, the actual seats and non-existent leg room.
Dad and Elli in Grand Central Station
Radio City Music Hall
Central Park
Times Square
Southern View from Empire State Building
Coldest day of the year at the Statue of Liberty
Warming up inside the Empire State Building
Great picture of Dad and Linda
Oh, we also visited Koreatown for lunch.
 One day we also got a massive snowfall, which made Elli extremely happy since she hasn't lived long enough with snow to get tired of it.  We also went sledding.
Elli, right before she discovered the joys of shoveling snow.
This ride did not end well.
It was cold.
On our first Saturday we all drove down to South Jersey and met the rest of Linda's family.  We then spent the night at her mother's house.  It was really nice meeting everyone.

New Year's Day was the day of the big event.  My dad and Linda got married.

It was a very quiet ceremony in the living room.  Her best friend conducted the ceremony and the only guests were us children, Linda's mother, and one of Linda's brothers and his wife.
The cake Elli and I made.
Aren't they adorable?
I was the only one that knew how to put it on...
Cutting the cake.
Only missing MY.
Aren't my new stepbrothers really tall?  Dad is six foot, if that gives you an idea of their height...

The visit up there was very nice and I'm sad we didn't get to stay more than ten days.  But Dad ended up getting a job while we were there and started it soon after we left, so it was ultimately a perfectly timed visit.

Maybe next time I come back to the states I'll just bypass Florida and go up to New York.

Though Apple Jack and Kay-Kay wouldn't like that at all....

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Thanksgiving Family

Well, I've been back in the States for three and a half months now and lots of exciting things happened.  They aren't really about Korea, but since when has that stopped me from posting things here?  Now that I'm away from that hellish job I'm trying to get myself writing again when I'm not busy with my masters or work, so hopefully, this blog will never go so long without being updated ever again.

It's not that I didn't have awesome stuff to share with y'all last year, it was just too depressing to write because work was like a cancer sucking the fun out of life.

Well, last February MY and I talked and we decided that if it was possible he would come to the US and meet my family while I was back visiting them between jobs.  This ended up being possible and on November 21st he landed at our little airport here in Niceville.

It had only been a few weeks, but I was very excited to see him.  The 22nd was his birthday and he was quite surprised when we had a nice dinner and a cake for him.  He definitely wasn't expecting a gift from my grandparents.

On the 23rd he and I prepared Korean barbecue for Apple Jack, Kay-Kay, and Elli.

It was delicious.
The Table
The Chef
I apologize for the poor quality of the pictures. They were all taken on an iPhone 4.

On the 24th we went and saw the Nutcracker up at the collage with my cousin Rebecca.  Then on the 25th we got my Dad and Linda's house tidied up.  I did the inside while MY discovered the joys of a leaf blower (remember, most people in Korea don't have yards).
This driveway was buried before.
On the 26th we sat around and played board games with Elli and my cousins, Andrew and Rebecca.

Then, on the 27th, the major event occurred: MY got to meet my dad and Linda.

Linda and I just stood back and watched as MY was unfailingly polite and my dad enjoyed being the center of so much fearful respect.  Eventually Linda browbeat my dad into stepping off his pedestal and telling MY it was okay to call him Mike, but until then he was always Sir.  This led to an amusing incident later where my dad got called Sir Mike by MY by accident.

He loved that.

But, at least he didn't call my dad grandfather.  I accidently called MY's mother 'grandmother' instead of 'mother' in Korean.  They're fairly similar, but I was rather embarrassed.  Luckily, she was as nice about it as my dad was about being called Sir Mike, which is at least flattering.

On Thanksgiving we all gathered at Apple Jack and Kay-Kay's house to have a lovely meal.  Because there were eleven of us we pulled the small table out of the kitchen and made it larger in the middle of the living room.  So we had six in the living room and five at the round dining room table. It was quite a group:

The entire branch of our family.
On Friday the 29th the weather warmed up an we took MY to see a good Florida beach.  We also ate seafood at the Crab Trap.

On the 30th MY and I made a Korean dinner for my dad, Linda, Elli, Apple Jack, and Kay-Kay.  We made Bulgogi and a couple egg dishes served with kimchi we found at Fresh Market.  It was MY's mother's recipe for bulgogi.

Too small a table and too many people.
I don't really remember what we did Saturday the 1st of December, but that's when the Sir Mike event occurred while we were playing Eurorails.

On the 2nd Dad and Linda flew back to Tuckahoe, NY and MY and I went on a date.  I introduced him to Olive Garden (he said that the portions were much too big and heavy) and then we went and saw Frozen at the movies.

On the 3rd I took MY to Fort Walton Beach and took him down memory lane before going by the Indian Temple Mound Museum and saying hi to Michael.  Then I introduced him to Goofy Golf.  I was winning at first, but once he figured it out I lost, badly.  He's got much better hand-eye coordination than I do.

On the 4th we just relaxed at the house and, sadly, on the 5th he caught a plane back to Korea.

I haven't seen him since.

Just some random photos from his visit:

Watching the football game as we cook bulgogi.

My dad sharing one of his great loves with MY: movies.

Us :)


MY is helping Apple Jack with his computer.

A Long Year

I haven't posted anything in over a year due to the fact that this past year was a very bi-polar one.  Any time spent at work was almost always hell on earth.  The boss was not pleasant.  She had favorites and if you weren't one of her favorites than nothing you ever did was good enough.  Even if parents were happy, students were happy, and there was visible proof (through tests and such) that the students were actually learning and improving.  There was scream and yelling, combined with miscommunication that made the place a nightmare.  No one that worked there while I was there actually enjoyed it.  Some thought it was merely fine and that there were worse places, but they also tended to be those that the boss liked.

Then there was the apartment.

It had a minor mold problem when we moved in that quickly turned into a serious mold problem.  Then, when they came out to fix it they just tore down the wallpaper and didn't do anything to clean it, so it came back just as badly.  Took a lot of bugging to get it fixed, which might have caused some of the health problems I later had.  The mold wasn't helped by the poor insulation.  The front door and door to the porch were always coated in condensation and the apartment never got very warm.  Also, the water in the wintertime never got above lukewarm, which made showering in an unheated bathroom miserable.  Unlike in my first apartment, where the hot water heated up the bathroom in a matter of minutes.

By the front door.
By the bathroom.
Behind the TV.
Now, there were good things.  The students were lovely (most) and the few that weren't still tried their best.  I never had a bad group of students, though I had a few kindergartners that had issues of some sort or another.  Valerie (my friend that took over my classes) knows who I'm talking about.  We also always got paid on time and the boss never cheated me out of any money, but I know that several people after me were cheated.  But, I think part of the reason she didn't cheat me was because I have a Korean boyfriend (which she hated) and so I'd be more likely to go to the Korean Labor Board.  Our building was also very well-heated and cooled and we we always had supplies for decorating our classrooms.

Where I worked:

My classroom for kindergarten.

My babies.  I miss them.
At the opposite end of the spectrum was life outside of work.  MY and I shared a small studio apartment for the entire year and survived.  We also went on several little trips around Korea on three day weekends.
It was freezing.
We decided not to brave the ice.
Looks a bit like the Gulf Coast doesn't it?
Yes, that is Savannah and myself sitting on golden poop.
Last summer he and I flew over to Fukuoka, Japan for four days.  It was very lovely, but insanely hot.  As bad as Florida is sometimes.

Ramen Shop!
Gambling horse racing thing.
Creepy tomato thing eating MY.
He was too hot and tired to smile....
Old-style Street
Deserted Market Street
MY's cooked seafood.
Kimchi Fried Japan?
Fresh made dumplings
Adorable yumminess.
Don't judge, everywhere else had an hour wait and we were starving.
Antiquated subway tickets.  Japan, you're killing me.
Pork cutlet goodness at the airport.
Udong again
My position ended two weeks early unexpectedly, so I guess they did cheat me out of two weeks pay, though at least I didn't do the work.  On my last day of work I had a low fever and my throat was killing me.  By 4am my tonsils were swollen so badly I couldn't swallow anything and could barely breath.  MY called an ambulance and took me to the emergency room.  I ended up having xrays and blood tests done to determine it was bacterial tonsillitis.  Then I was given two IVs.  One for antibiotics and another for dehydration.  They offered to let me stay, but since I was done working I went home instead.  I was sent off with more antibiotics and strong Tylenol.

The entire visit cost about $130, the ambulance ride was free.

I spent the weekend laying in bed sick and with no energy while MY moved all of our stuff to the temporary apartment we stayed in for the month of October.  He's really amazing.

About two weeks after my job ended I noticed that my hand was red and sore.  Went to a clinic and had it x-rayed before being given an anti-inflamatory and told to come back in two days.  When I came back my hand was worse and was now beginning to swell.

The doctor took one look at it and sent me to a nearby hospital.

Turned out I had cellulitis.  And it was starting to appear in my foot also, which was definitely not good.

So I got put on two types of oral antibiotics and was told to come in for three days in a row to be given a shot of antibiotics also.  Then I was told, in no uncertain terms, that I was to keep both my right foot and right hand elevated up over my heart for as much as possible.  This made it impossible to leave our tiny temporary apartment for almost two weeks.  I was also unable to play computer games and could barely do any of my masters' work, let alone write.

Needless to say, I watched a lot of movies and tv shows.  Which got old very quickly since MY was at work all day, as were all of my friends.

I was set to fly out of Korea on October 28th and on the 27th I was well enough to go to a jjimjilbang with my friends Valerie and Stephanie, which was very nice.

I was exhausted and still recovering when I arrived back in Florida, but I was happily back with my family and ready to prepare for MY's visit at the end of November.