Goodbye Korea Series | Emilio & Gina

I think this post will be the beginning of all my goodbye posts to my dear friends in Korea. We have 23 days left and every day my heart breaks a little bit more. I cannot believe how fast the past few months have gone. It only felt like yesterday when we had six months and now it's less than that. In the coming days, we'll be meeting with our friends that we've made in Korea. Some we will see again and others, who knows when we will meet again. Recently, Markus and I were able to meet with Emilio & Gina. We don't have many couple friends in Korea, so the few that we do have, we really appreciate. They have similar tastes to Markus and I and it's always fun meeting up with them.

Emilio was in our EPIK orientation class all the way back in August of 2011. We haven't kept in touch with many people from orientation, but Emilio is one of the few that we make the effort to see. He and Markus have so much in common. This last time we met, they spent the whole time talking to each other about anime and kaiju movies. Markus doesn't have any geeky friends here besides Emilio, so when they get together he gets very excited. Gina came about a year ago and she's really incredible. Every time we meet, it's like seeing an old friend. Even though we haven't known each other long, Gina is the type of person that you instantly feel comfortable with. She's one of the kindest people I've ever met and she's a perfect match for Emilio.
Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict
Breakfast Burger
We hadn't seen Emilio or Gina for months. It's sad, but it happens. Life takes over and then you before you know it, months have passed. We were determined to see each other before we left. After going back and forth for a bit, we finally agreed on a date. Gina recommended Bruns Week, an amazing brunch place in Nampodong and we readily agreed. Markus and I will never say no to brunch. It's like a rule, who doesn't like brunch? The food was amazing. I can't even describe how good. It's been ages since I've had brunch and it felt like coming home. Everything was really exquisite and the restaurant was really classy. It felt a bit like some of the restaurants back home.

After we ate at Bruns Week, we weren't ready to say goodbye, so we headed to another cafe. We spent a couple hours chatting and people watching. It was really strange, but everyone in this cafe was a bit off in some way. The girls at the table next to us were taking a nap, a girl across the way was straightening her hair, and a guy at another table had a mini-projector and was watching a movie. After we finished at the cafe, we still weren't ready to part, so we went to the thrift store area of Nampodong. It was like heaven for me. There was store after store of amazing vintage clothes. I can't believe it took me two years to find this place, but in all honesty, it's for the best. I'm sure I would have spent all money and then where would I be? Broke, but with lots of cool clothes.

When we were finally ready to say goodbye, we had spent almost eight hours together. I think we all knew it was our last time and we just weren't ready. Even though, I don't know when we'll see Emilio and Gina again but we're very thankful for their friendship. I know that once we meet again, it'll be like no time passed and we'll just pick up right where we left off!

Seung Ah Unnie's Korean Wedding | Busan, South Korea

Markus and I have been lucky enough to attend three Korean weddings in our two years in Korea. Three of my dearest unnie's have gotten married while we've been here. Korean weddings are completely different from American weddings. It's almost shocking how different.  At the first wedding we attended, I was overwhelmed and really confused. By this third one, Markus and I were pros. We knew all the tricks and it made for an enjoyable wedding experience. Despite the differences, there are still some really amazing things about Korean weddings and I'm thankful that I had the chance to witness real Korean weddings.

One of the biggest differences in Korean weddings is the venue. The wedding and reception is in the same place. Basically throughout Korea they have these nondescript office buildings and inside them are wedding halls. I once asked my co-teacher if Koreans got married in churches and she said that some did, but they were poor. Many Koreans look down on the couple if they don't get married in a wedding hall. It's sort of sad in a way because all the weddings I've been to have looked exactly the same. There is nothing unique or different, the only difference is the bride and groom.

One thing that I don't like about Korean weddings is the lack of reverence for the bride and groom. Everyone sort of stands outside the seating area and just talks loudly while the ceremony is happening. Everyone comes and pays their respects and then they just do their own thing.  It's a bit strange, but it's completely normal. At this wedding, there were so many people, the most I've ever seen. They were all talking so loudly and blocking the view that I couldn't see much. I got a bit annoyed and gave up. Instead of trying to fight for a view, Markus and I headed to the buffet.

The best part about Korean weddings is the food.  Traditionally, everyone gives a monetary present ranging from 30,000 won to 50,000 won ($30-$50) depending on how close you are to the bride or groom. Once you arrive at the wedding and hand over your present, they give you a ticket for the lunch buffet. After you've seen the bride and said your greetings, you can stay and watch the ceremony or head to the buffet. Since this was our third wedding, we knew the score. Almost 50% of the guests will go straight to the buffet. After Markus and I watched a little bit of the ceremony we quickly headed to the buffet to try and avoid large crowds. When we arrived we were shocked to see the place was full and that everyone had the same idea. The food at this buffet was quite exceptional and really delicious.

After attending three Korean weddings, I can say that I truly do miss weddings back home. I miss the sweetness and elegance of the wedding ceremony. I miss being able to dance and have a great time at the reception. Weddings in Korea are so rushed and for some people it's only an hour or two out of your day. I can't wait for some of my friends to get married so I can experience an American wedding again, it's been way too long.

Unnie Time

Love triangle?
Markus and I have been very lucky to have amazing co-workers. Markus used to work on the Magic English Bus. I know it sounds so awesome right? Basically, he would ride the Magic English Bus from school to school spreading the joy of English. It was a dream job for anyone in Korea and Markus was able to spend our first six months in Korea working there. On the bus, Markus had the most amazing Korean co-teachers, Gloria unnie and Seulhee unnie.

Cutie Unnies
Gloria unnie and Seulhee unnie are so awesome. Within five minutes of meeting them, I was instantly comfortable and knew that we would be friends forever. Not only are they beautiful but they're hilarious. They always have me laughing and the time always goes so fast when we're together. They speak English better than most Koreans I meet. They know more than just textbook English, but they know about pop culture so it's never awkward. I'm so thankful for their friendship and having them in our lives here, makes this experience even better.

Life of an Ex-Pat | Discovery

Living and working in another country is not only a time of adventure, but also a time of discovery. You'll discover new foods and cultures. You'll experience things you've only read about in books or seen on TV. Every single day of your life becomes an adventure. There are things that you'll learn about yourself that you never knew existed. It's more than just seeing the wonders of the world, even though that's exciting as well. You'll learn how much you can take. You'll be challenged to see how far you can step out of your comfort zone. You'll experience things that are beyond imagination.

Life in Korea has been both a blessing and a curse.  Things that would be simple back home become difficult and challenging. Sometimes leaving the house, you have to mentally prepare yourself for what the day will be like. I find myself having pretend conversations in Korean in my head so that when I do speak to a Korean I don't sound ridiculous. It's the little things that begin to take its toll after a while, but with the bad, there is always good. I'm so thankful for the opportunity to be living in such a beautiful country. Many people end up leaving Korea bitter and resentful, but I know that I won't feel that way.  My dreams of living in a far off land would not have come true. I would have lived a life of regret and now that I know what it's like, I can move on.

I discovered so much about myself in the past 18 months. I've learned that here is so much more going on in the world than what happens in my tiny little existence. The work ethic in Korea is unreal. The kids are always studying. Their days start at 7am and they don't end until close to 11pm. The adults are always working, trying to strive for more, trying to reach the next level. Koreans work themselves to exhaustion, but it's ingrained in them to have the best life possible. They are a resilient people and that is something that I can truly admire.

I've also learned that there is so much to see and experience. We are so blessed to live in such a beautiful world. America is a diverse and amazing country, but it only scratches the surface of what is out there. Being an ex-pat has given me the opportunity to explore countries that I never would have been able to afford or thought of. Last year, I was able to finally travel to the Philippines. I finally saw the land of my people and the home of my parents. It was a moving experience and one I might have missed out on.

The most important thing I learned about myself is that I can conquer my fears. When I was younger, I was always known to be a spoiled brat. I never finished anything and I'm pretty sure that all my family and friends thought I would never amount to anything. I took all of their doubts and negativity and used that to fuel my determination to make something of myself. I've been blessed with a wonderful husband and a job that I love. After moving abroad, I used that same determination to succeed in Korea as well. 

Before coming here, I was worried that it wasn't going to work out. I went through all the scenarios in my head. They ranged from naughty children, horrible co-workers and nasty living conditions. Despite all these possibilities, I was determined to make it work. Thankfully, none of my scenarios came to fruition. I wake every day with the hope that this day will be better than the last and to make the most of my situation. Having this sort of attitude has taught me one important lesson. As long as I strive to do my best and always be optimistic, I can truly do anything and conquer any fears. 

My time in Korea is coming to a close soon, but the lessons I've learned and the challenges I've faced have made me a better person. I've become a better version of myself. I've grown into a stronger woman. I've discovered how much I can handle and how far I can go. I've discovered that anything is really and truly possible. 

Farewell Hwesik

One of the most important things about having a successful and happy life in Korea is having great co-workers. I've been very blessed thus far and I have worked with some amazing people. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end and three of my closest co-workers, Kelly, Jenny and Mickey, left last month with the start of the new school year.

The Waygooks and Mickey Unnie
Kelly has been one of the best people to work with. She's been my office mate, my teacher and most of all, my friend. I couldn't have asked for a better person to work with. She's always ready to listen to me sing or complain. Any time I would go to her with a problem, she would always be ready to help. She's quite possibly one of the most selfless people I've ever met and I'm so thankful for the opportunity to work with her.

Jenny, Kelly, Mickey unnie, Me and Doug

Ever since I arrived in Busan, Kelly and Jenny have been there. They've been the two people that I've relied on the most. Jenny took care of not only me, but Markus too. She was the best co-teacher and always there whenever I had a stupid question. She always anticipated my needs and was always there to pick me up. She's amazing and when I think of Korea, I will always think of her. I'm sad that Jenny, Kelly and Mickey unnie no longer work with me, but I'm very thankful for the short time we had together. They made this crazy adventure worth it and for that I will always be grateful.