Passive Agressive, Drama or Ignorance.

Something feels like dye in water, poisoning my mind that hasn’t been this healthy in some time. Two things on the heart. I’ve said it before and with time, unfortunately, it doesn’t stop – neither does the over analysing.

I’m now in my fourth year living and teaching English in South Korea. I see blatant segregation all of the time. In this school, I sit in the teacher’s room with all of the other teachers. I was put at the table right at the front, by the door, that students come in and out of all day long – only to see what I am doing on my computer. I am also next to the microwave and coffee maker and in front of the first aid kit. My problem is not sitting here. The problem is that I have been put here for a reason. Why is it that all of the other teachers will sit next to each other in neat rows? Today, we were in class and the Korean teacher was teaching the children about sizes. She was asking for a “bigger size” and said, in Korean, how the foreigners go to Itaewon to buy “big size” clothing. That whole attitude just annoys me. It’s me against them.

I’ve been trying to establish some kind of relationship with my Korean co teacher for the whole month I have been working here. She is quiet, soft spoken and young (I bet younger than me), but I can see she’s got this sarcastic attitude. I’ve made a few attempts to get together with her on a non school evening for dinner but it’s clear she isn’t interested. I do this not because I want to be her best friend but rather, experienced a great friendship with both of my Korean co workers at my previous job and it made work that much better. I’ve given up on meeting with her and have decided that I am going to do what needs to be done and get out of here.

To change the subject, I’ve been holding onto a lot of anger regarding two friends I had in University. We were very close and when we all three went out separate way, we kind of lost contact. However, a few months ago, when I was at home, it turned out that all 3 of us were in Cape Town at the same time. We planned an entire weekend to sleep over and hang. We had a great time with lots of laughing, drinking, sharing and just generally being together as though time had not moved an inch. As soon as the weekend was over, that was that – done again. I had my farewell and sent out a few invitation. One of the girls did not respond, only to reply to my message asking her to confirm, DURING my farewell, that she was “swamped, sorry.” It hurt my feelings that it was sent during, but more so that there was no excuse. And that was that, good-bye again.

The other girl seems to be more on my mind. Lately, she’s been posting all of these photos about being a loyal friend and how if someone wants to be in your life, they will be etc. I get so angry when I see those because she’s just given me a fat miss again. I sent her a message asking her to help me out during my teaching practical. I had to ask her 3 times, did she come through? Not at all. I was really disappointed and I know I shouldn’t be – we should actually only rely on ourselves to get things done (and in actuality, I did my own lessons and they were great!). Principle is – she acts so holier than though with her motivational quotes and sayings that she’s such a great friend when actually – what I see the most in her is a backstabbing nature, apathy and a general lack of shit to be a friend at all.

What do I do now? Be passive aggressive (old me) and delete her, confront her (do not feel like drama!) or just leave it!!

 

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Back Bone.

It’s dead quiet in the office. Just what I need. I’ve been given the period off from teaching because the students are doing a reading activity. This week has been overwhelming, to say the least. I brought my happy-go-lucky, ecstatically happy attitude with me from South Africa and it stuck, for the first week or two. Starting a new job stresses the hell out of me. This time around, I have a more global view on teaching – having taught at schools in South Africa recently. I’ve made the decision (for now), that this will be my last year in South Korea. I’ve decided that being broke and happy might just be a better good luck charm than having more money and what the rest of Korea brings.

However, as it’s my fourth year in South Korea and I have gained a little back bone, I decided it was time to nip in the bud the way that my co teacher was starting to act (surprisingly like my last co teacher – manipulative and having me do all of the work). For one week, I came home in a panic state, heart beating heavily and feeling so restless. I felt overwhelmed not only because I am trying to get into the swing of things, but I have also got to learn to work very closely with another Korean co teacher. If our personalities or teaching styles don’t fit together, you’re screwed. She threw work at me as if I had been working here for months, and I took it on with a smile on my face. However, when Wednesday this week came around, I decided to have a chat with her. My main problem being, that she had scheduled more classes than stated in my contract for which I should be getting paid, but am not. She, on the other hand, is being paid for them. I am already working over time most days, which also awards me over time pay, yet nothing has come of it. She used the line that she thought I wanted to participate and “become friends” with the students. I politely told her that I am willing to help with anything and prepare as much as I can, but on principle – I should be getting paid for it. All of this spiralled into a great conversation where she apologised for giving me a heavy work load and ever since, she’s been taking a fair share of responsibility instead of piling things onto me. I still offer to help and I am happy to, but there’s a fine line between helping/sharing the work and being taken advantage of. I am very glad I did this. I realised last night, that I walked away from all of my previous public school jobs with comments like “You were the best foreign teacher we’ve had” and “please can you renew your contract”, but I realised that it was because I was a pure push over and did everything without batting an eyelid. My attitude grew last year when I was more passive aggressive. This year, I approached it – head on. Either way, in Korea – they like you if you’re a complicit and subservient worker with a smile on your face. This year around, perhaps I won’t be asked to renew.

With intentions of writing this morning, I did not know my rant would go on for this long – but I am glad I did. I am also very excited about this upcoming weekend away in Sokcho, on the beach. I bought a Nikon D3100 camera this week and am so keen to start shooting. Since speaking with my co teacher, I feel 100% more relaxed and calm and now, I can really fit into place.

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Such is Life.

~Need need need~ reflection time. I spent yesterday hungover in bed and although my soul craved some thinking time, I wasn’t very much up for it. When I diverge into alcohol, I generally do/say things I regret and for that reasons, I do feel a bit replenished. Sitting at the bus stop this morning, I realised that I didn’t feel bad because I wanted to do the things that I shouldn’t be but rather didn’t want to do the things I shouldn’t. That felt more freeing, and shows me, once again, my growth. I always want to give myself praise for the times where growth and self improvement is witnessed. Speaking on the phone with a friend who complained about a girl who drinks too much and sits on online dating websites when they’re out, it kind of hit hard “That used to be me.”

Recently, I met a 22 year old young man who went to the same University as me. When he asked me what I usually do on Friday nights, I replied truthfully “I stay at home.” His response being something along the lines of “Ha, you’re so lame.” Thank God I am not 22 anymore, ha-ha.

All in all, the tired bad feelings will be gone soon. It’s hard to feel excited and optimistic this morning when I feel like I need to puke. Such is life.

What To Expect When Teaching/ Living in South Korea.

Coming to Korea is definitely a culture shock. I always thought it was a small world – until arriving here. My first impression was that I was on a different planet but it was exciting. Learning about a new culture has only made me a stronger, more worldly and open minded person. It was here, that a lot of growing was done.

Below, a list of things to expect/ prepare for your life in South Korea.

1. There are 4 distinct seasons. Extreme summers and winters, which usually last much long than autumn and spring. There is a month or so of unbearable humidity in summer.

2. Finding larger clothes and shoes is difficult. You will be able to go to American owned stores in Seoul (Forever21/h&m) etc to find clothes slightly bigger. Otherwise, it may prove difficult for bigger people. Shoes usually go up to a size 6 (for girls) boys, I am not too sure, but also quite small. You can, again, travel to Seoul for those things.

3. Koreans will share food. You will hardly ever get your own plate of food unless you are at a western style restaurant (more expensive). You will eat with chopsticks, order some kind of meat or soup usually that comes with many side dishes (radish, onion, kimchi).

4. Koreans will not smile at you as you pass them by. A nod/bow is a sign of respect/hello/goodbye. They also tend to stare at foreigners quite a bit.

5. The level of English is appalling, so be prepared to use google translate, pictures, hand signals and to learn some Korean. The Korean alphabet is very easy to learn.

6. Students spend many hours a day studying. After regular school, they attend after school programmes – such as English and Taekwondo lessons. They usually get home very late. If you are teaching at an English academy, you will most likely work long hours as opposed to at a Public School.

7. The transport is fantastic making it easy to travel. The buses, subway, train and taxis are great. However, taxi drivers are usually quite rude.

8. Koreans don’t wear swimming costumes but will swim in their clothes. They also do not appreciate women to show their shoulders in public and cleavage.However, short shorts are appropriate.

9. I would suggest you bring your own towels (size wise), toothpaste, deodorant (very expensive and hardly any brands), clothes for a year if you’re larger and medication that you’ll need for the year.

10. Internet speed is amazing and you can pick up wifi just about anywhere.

11. Koreans will drink soju with meals and is seen as a great bonding tool, especially with business men. It is a type of alcohol similar taste to vodka but less percentage of alcohol. It is drank in shot glasses in copious amounts. You’ll often see drunk men walking home at night. Soju is very cheap and can be bought at any convenience store. A typical summers night is spent drinking Soju outside a convenience store among foreigners.

12. There are convenience stores EVERYWHERE.

13. Shops usually open around 10/10:30am and are open late (8-10pm).

14. The foreigner part of Seoul is Itaewon, and you can find two South African restaurants there (Braai Republic and Twiga), that sell all sorts of South African food and drinks.

15. Try and keep your personal life to yourself because Koreans like to gossip a bit, especially at work.

16. It is very safe and you can leave your doors open/unlocked, walk around the street at night and take transport by yourself anytime.

17. Foreigners are always up to make new friends, there are many Facebook groups for different cities etc and they have regular meet ups etc.

18. The apartment given to you will most likely to be quite small, and there is usually not a closed off shower but rather a shower head in the middle of the bathroom to shower.

19. The women make use of squat toilets. Most restaurants will make use of those but otherwise, you should be fine finding a western toilet. Koreans do not flush the toilet paper down the toilet, but throw it into an open bin next to the toilet.

20. The men spit on the streets, a lot.

21. Koreans are crazy for fried chicken, beer, kimchi, rice and Kpop.

22. During your holidays, most foreigners will travel to other South East Asian countries as it is quite cheap.

23. There are private karaoke and DVD rooms which are very popular. You can get a group of friends together and go singing, or go watch a movie on a big screen with a couch and have drinks and snacks. These can be found almost anywhere.

24. It is more expensive to live here. If advice bringing R6000-00 to R10 000-00 ($600- $1000) for the first month in Korea.

25. It is not rude to use your cell phone during dinner or social events, or any time, in fact.

26. Drinking in public is legal.

27. You do not wear shoes inside the house you will take them off at the entrance and walk in your socks or in ‘inside shoes’. ‘Inside shoes’ applies at work.

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Soju
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Grade 5 students learning Backstreet Boys
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Heart-shaped leaf; Icheon-Si, Gyeonggi-Do
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Kimchi and rice

 

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Korean BBQ
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Gyeongbuk Palace; Seoul
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Winter snow; Ansan-si, Gyeonggi-Do
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Tall buildings; Gangnam, Seoul

Thank You, Universe.

My MacBook took a dive and instead of panicking, cursing and complaining to everyone I knew – I calmly contacted a computer guy, packed up the machine and sent it off the next day. My life is calm. I am noticing changes everyday. I can see how these antidepressants are saving me. I no longer make my compulsive lists and worry excessively. I realised that it was the OCD fuelling the anxiety and vice versa.

I’ve been back in Korea for a week and a half. Luckily, a week of that has been time off. It’s been great for me to relax, get my head right, get used to jet lag as well as getting my new apartment up to scratch. I’ve had fun. It’s Sunday evening and I am ready for the upcoming week.

I know I have things on my mind, I know I have things to do but they are not controlling me. I’m checking them off one by one almost effortlessly and I hope that that contributes to a rational train of thought. Before, I would be frantically making lists about money, things I had to do, things I had to buy and worrying about them – If they’d be done in time, what if they went wrong etc. I’ve taken on the attitude that I’m loving life and doing the best to be kind and give to others and I feel as though the universe is thanking me back, in many ways.

When I arrived home just over 3 months ago, I was back at my heaviest weight. I sit here today, half way back to my lowest. This was done rather effortlessly, too. I’m not obsessing over my weight for the first time in almost two years and THAT is also freeing. I love my body, but I also am aware of what I am eating and what it’s doing to my body. There is really only one thing I can conclude with this – my demise was living opposite the McDonalds for an entire year. My body had taught me that it’s not the occasional or even daily chocolate bar or ice cream that makes me blow up, but it’s the fast food. I spent the greater part of one year eating 2-3 McDonalds meals a day for dinner. It was easy, affordable and two minutes away. Is the McDonalds close to me in my new city? Yes, it is. It’s about 5-7 minutes walk away. But, those added few minutes really discourage me. I have lean chicken breasts, veg, fruit and yogurt in my fridge. I’ve stocked up on some great South African spices and I’m more than happy to cook. I’ve decided to eat the Korean lunch at school with the students and teachers, but also realise that this is not going to make me gain weight. It is about portion control.

Thank you, universe.

Fat Girl Back in Korea.

I’ve set up shop, once again, in South Korea. I landed a few days ago and am still jet lagged but extremely grateful for my experience at home as well as feeling super optimistic about the year ahead.

I am back in my old time, Icheon. This is where I grew into the person I am today. Admittedly, it started off on a rough note at the beginning of 2012, but half a year later – I’d experienced a whole lot more of life and with some deep introspection and love for myself, I turned the experience into one of the best of my life. I am happy to be here. It is a small town with some beautiful parks. I have the most amazing apartment and my school seems nice.

I arrived back in Korea 5/6kg lighter than when I left 3 months ago. The airplane seatbelt felt looser and that was great. For the first time since 2012, I am not basing my emotions on my weight and my eating. I am feeling confident and happy in my skin and of course, would love to eat better and continue to lose weight. It’s been so freeing to deal with life without the added hatred of my body.

My visit home made me so much stronger. I really engulfed the value of family and the friends that I know will be with me for life. I was in my place, I had my people and I was surrounded by beauty. Before leaving South Africa, I took a walk on the beach alone after having a final breakfast with my mom. I said a prayer out loud, because there was no one around. I thanked the Lord for my wonderful experience at home and asked him to bless me during my upcoming year back in Korea. I asked Him to make me more aware of the beauty in Korea, even though it is a different kind of beauty to South Africa. The truth is, there is beauty anywhere – it’s just how you perceive it. My closing thoughts were that – coming back to Korea was MY choice. Even though I was utterly bleak to return, I knew that it was what I chose to do.

I think the Lord will bless me this year coupled with the fact that I need to stay positive and see the best in the world.