Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Boarding a One Way Flight

I can't believe I left Germany a year ago.  
I can't believe I have lived in Korea for a year.
I can't believe I'm going back to the United Stated tomorrow. 
Holy. Cow.
Thanks for an absolutely amazing journey, Korea. 
Until we meet again!
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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Packing On Up

In less than four years, I'll have moved four times, three of which were international moves. 

June 2009 -        USA to Germany (Lauf)

October 2010 -  Lauf to Nuernberg

February 2012 - Germany to South Korea (Seoul)

Feburary 2013 - South Korea to USA

Luckily, I haven't accumulated too much stuff and I've never had to ship boxes or furniture.  I could always bring everything I need with me on the plane within one or two suitcases. 

Yesterday night, as David and I were doing a testrun packing, to see if we could fit everything in our bags, I was on autopilot sorting, saving and throwing things away.  Moving is a great way to purge and keep clutter from accumulating.  It's also a great deterrent from spending money on unnecessary things.   I didn't buy much this year knowing another overseas move was on the horizon.  I'm not saying I want to be a suitcase vagabond forever, but the last few years I've learned to live simply with my suitcase or two full of things. 

I am looking forward to settling down for a bit though.  I'll be happy to be in a place that I can start to invest in and to have a home that feels homey and not just temporary.  I'll be living with my parents for a few months until DH & I can get jobs sorted, but after that, hopefully we can take a break with the boxes and masking tape.

D- 7 days until departure.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Roller Coaster Ride

"We have an idea of happiness.  We believe that only certain conditions will make us happy.  But it is often our very idea of happiness that prevents us from being happy." ~ Thich Nhat Hahn

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There are many emotions that human beings experience:  happiness, sadness, excitement, anxiousness, fear, anger, pride, jealousy, laziness, sympathy--the list goes on.  Buddhism teaches there are 108 emotions.  I don't know what they are, but that number is a lot higher than the list I wrote above.

Lately, when I am sitting in my cold apartment, I find myself feeling excited about going back to the US.  Then when I'm at school and see the kids that I spent the past year with, I feel sad, even guilty that I am leaving after only one year.  I'm having bi-polar days and truth be told, it is a bit exhausting.

Tomorrow is graduation day and the official end to the semester and school year for students and teachers. Time to say goodbye and get ready to move on to the next place and time.

학생들이, 안녕히가세요!

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Monday, February 11, 2013

Books about Korea

Over the course of the year, I've picked up quite a few books about Korea and Korean culture.  Here are the ones I've read that I think could be useful to anyone looking to do the same.

1. Korea's Place in the Sun:  A Modern History
by:  Bruce Cumings

This was the first book I bought/read after looking for books about Korea on Amazon. It's long and academic and probably not the best choice for those looking for an introduction to Korea, however could be a good read for people who really love history.  Pick up this book only after having some knowledge about Korea and/or having read some of the books below.

2.  The Koreans
by:  Michael Breen

This was one of the last books I've read about Korea, although I wish it were one of the first!  Perhaps I'm a bit biased since I met the author and heard him speak in person, but I highly recommend this book for first-timers.  The style of writing is easy to read and he approaches the culture from many different points of view presenting the positive and not so positive aspects of the culture.  Definitely a book to have in your Korea collection.

3.  Korea Unmasked
by:  Won-Bok Rhie

This book, or more accurately, this graphic novel, was recommended to me by my colleague.  Presented in comic book format, it is broken down into different sections including Korean History, Education, People, Differences between Japan/China, etc.  At first I enjoyed the lightheartedness of the book, but after awhile, the Korea-centric point of view started to get a bit irritating. Patriotism is okay, but nationalism can be a bit annoying especially when you're hoping to read something without a slanted view.  Still worth a look, but don't let this be your one and only view of Korean culture.

4.  Nothing to Envy
by: Barbara Demick

I mentioned this book once before on my blog, but it's worth a second (and third) mentioning.  It brings to life in a very real way the issues of North Koreans and their lives as defectors in the south.  One of my favorite books I've read this year, beautifully written and easy to read, I'd probably put this as number two on the list after reading "The Koreans", only because I think the other book is a stronger introduction to life in the ROK, however I'd recommend this book to anyone and everyone, even those not interested in life in South Korea.

5.  Tears of Blood
by:  Young-Bok Yoo

I was lucky enough to hear this author speak in person as well,  a former POW of North Korea, this amazing man tells his story about life during the Korean War and the rippling affects it had and continues to have on thousands of families on the Korean peninsula.  Probably not the first book you should pick up, but if after reading "Nothing to Envy", you'd like to get another point of view, this would be my next recommendation.

6.  Please Look After Mom
by:  Kyung-Sook Shin

My most recent read, "Please Look After Mom", is a fictional story about a Korean family in modern day Korea.  It presents cultural issues such as the generation gap between those who grew up in the war and the younger Koreans growing up today.  It addresses family roles and traditions in Korea as well as a more universal experience of the relationship between a child and their mother. It's a bit heart wrenching, but has received overall very good reviews.

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If I had to recommend an order for learning about Korea, I'd say start with number 2, 4, 5, 6, 3 and if you really, really want to know all the nitty-gritty details, read number 1.

Anyone read any other books about Korea you'd like to share?  Or have you read any of the books on the list and disagree?  I'm always open to suggestions^^! 

Happy Reading!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Seoul Subway

As seen somewhere in Seoul ...

*Photo not my property.