Weekly Travel Theme: The Moment

I can’t remember a time in my life where I wasn’t traveling. Ever since I was little Dani Tami, my parents constantly took us out of Agoura and onto either the open rode in a 15 seater van, or piled us into a plane to some country at the other corner of the globe. It is something I’ve always known. Spring and winter break never meant staying in town, and while looking back, these are trips that I am so grateful to my parents for. From a young age, they made me have to wander, whether I knew it then or not.  So really, they shouldn’t be shocked at my current locale now should they? The answer is no.  So Mama and Papa Schaeff, it’s all your fault!

This week’s travel theme is about “the moment”. The moment that you know your life is changed by travel either by a place, thing, time, person, whatever.  I actually quite frequently get this feeling of absolute content whenever I’m traveling that’s much different from the feeling of the normal day-to-day. It’s one of those feelings that sparks so often, even in doing normal everyday things like taking a shower, that “real life” feels so far away in that second. Actually, since living in Korea, I’ve had so many of those moments. So many “I’m so happy I’m in Korea” moments, which helped me realize that moving here was the best decision I’ve ever made.

That being said, It’s kind of hard to pick just one moment that changed my life, so I’m going to pick two. The one that started it all, and a more recent one.  Full circle that shit.

I can pinpoint that moment when I knew I needed to live abroad. I was in 4th grade, on a spring break trip with my family to Paris.  I remember standing in a little street shop wanting to buy one of those collectors silver spoons that people used to collect like shot glasses. Maybe they still do, but I don’t.  Either way, my dad gave me a few Francs to buy it, and then we made a mad dash out to the main street and into a random burst of hail.  Across the street were the larger-than-life green and gold statues gleaming down at me in my yellow puffy jacket and red beret. The cars were driving haphazardly, yet somehow weaving in and out of each other in some fashion of chaotic order which I still to this day can’t place, even with my most likely ADD. We were trying to catch a Mercedes Benz taxi. A Mercedes Benz taxi!  Wow, “Paris is rich!” I thought!  That smell of the ice smashing on the pavement is one that I still catch random whiffs of in moments that are fleeting, and I am instantly transported back to Paris as the little girl in the jacket that could stop traffic.  After that trip, while wearing our matching Sorbonne University sweatshirts, my sister and I both told our mom that we were going to go to college at Sorbonne and live in Paris.

That didn’t happen for either of us, but I still look at that certainty as the pivotal moment of when I just knew I wasn’t going to spend my whole life living in the States.

Flash forward to adult woman “mature” life and my first solo trip to the stunning, magnificent, lush Bali! I had found a guy named Gusti who offered to take me on a half day excursion on the back of his motorbike to see some temples and a Luwak coffee plantation.  The plantation was actually something that I thought was going to be a scam and I’d be just nodding my head in a polite effort to get it over with. However, after about a minute of meeting Oher, and listening to him tell me about harvesting the different kinds of coffee beans, I was totally interested. I knew I wasn’t just asking random questions to appease him. Instead, I started to find him remarkably charming in a sweet old man kind of way.  After teaching about all the different kinds of beans, showing me how to crack them open, introducing me to the pooping Luwak, and letting me smell all the various herbs, we sat down to taste some coffee and indulge in conversation.

Over 10 little cups of coffee and tea, Oher asked about the places I’ve traveled, explained how he’s studied English for 4 years just by talking with customers, told me about his 10 year old daughter, Wayan, who loves Hello Kitty, and how he has been raising her on his own since his wife of 25 years passed away 2 years ago, a subject that actually brought him to tears.  As he teared up, it reminded me of why I am so in love with experiencing all the world has. I love meeting people on these journeys and getting a little glimpse into their world that’s so different from my own, but fundamentally so similar when you get down to the bare bones of being a human. Here I was sitting at a hand carved wooden table with a 45ish year old man who looked well into his 60s, who spoke remarkable English for being self-taught, some snakeskin fruit and 10 empty cups of coffee, enjoying one of the best moments I’ve had while on the move.

I actually happened to be wearing a Hello Kitty ring that I bought in Korea for 2,000won. I gave it to Oher as a gift for his daughter from an American girl. He was so shocked that I was just giving it to him. I said I could buy another, it was no problem.  He said thank you about a million times and was so eternally grateful for that small plastic piece of jewelry that it just made me smile.

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These are moments that remind me of why I’m so happy I’m staying in Korea another year. Another year of exploring this whack but stunning continent, and after that, who knows what the next moment will be 🙂

 

I decided to start writing some weekly travel theme pieces that other travel blogs will be changing up each week. So look out for some random variety 🙂

WTF?! Wednesday ~ Mrs. Lee, What Planet You From?

Hi everyone! It’s been a little while since posting my last WTF?! Wednesday jam because I was on a wondrous trip to Bali followed by a big move out of North Korea.  But, I’m back today! And happier than ever because A) I just found some new bedding so my apartment will slowly stop looking like a college dorm, and B) because CORI is coming to visit me at the end of the month!!! She’s coming to Seoul and then we are planning to pop on over to Tokyo since I have a long weekend in the beginning of October. WEEEEE!!

Now onto this week in WTFness! I actually took these photos 2 weeks ago when I was forced to co-teach (if you could even call it that), with the laziest, sloppiest, most absurd ajumma (old Korean woman) I’ve ever come in contact with.  I feel she, her wardrobe and just general demeanor are well deserving of their own post.

I am actually unsure if her name is really Mrs. Lee because she never even responded when I called her by “name”, but that’s what she told me it was… that one time she actually spoke to me. That brief moment in time was very brisk and almost non-existent.  It was like she couldn’t be bothered to be around a dirty foreigner. She didn’t ask my name, didn’t say hello, but just tossed me this handwritten questionnaire and ran away.  If you are confused, on the left side it says “Question 1-5”, and on the right it says “Answer”. So, I did as was asked of me and wrote her 5 questions that I was burning to know about her, expecting to receive some awe-inspiring answers in return.  Never got those.

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Then came the time to meet and do something called TEACH the students. You’d think that one would dress presentable for a day on the job, and also be a little more involved. But no no. Not “Mrs. Lee”. She showed up to work like so and carried on in the back of class reading the newspaper and catching up on some zzzzz’s. She also walked into each class carrying a box of glue sticks and a mug filled with pens that she never used.

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The only bit of teaching that “Mrs. Lee” did was when she began class.  She started by yelling at the students, followed by hitting a few so hard on the head, and finally, wrote a grammatically correct phrase on the board for the students to repeat 10 times. Only they weren’t grammatical at all, and the students knew it.  Her phrase choices were stupid, to put things bluntly.

In the first 6th grade class the phrase was “How you?”, the second was “Where from?” and the last (which she finally got right!) was “Be quiet”, also quite suiting for that particular class, but that’s neither here nor there.  I began class by asking the students how to correct their “teacher’s” English.

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One of the biggest things that qualifies this as a WTF?! moment is the fact that she had ZERO idea of how to use a computer. She didn’t know what a mouse was or what to call the monitor. I know that she is older, but I found it bizarre that Jin had to spend a good portion of her time teaching “Mrs. Lee” the basic vocabulary that accompanies this technology that’s so abundant in our lives. Actually, the Vice Principal wanted me to teach “Mrs. Lee” how to teach, but I refused. My job is to teach the students, not to teach the teacher how to be a teacher. Especially when she had applied for this position under the pretenses that she was a teacher.  Oh, and because she couldn’t be bothered to even ask me my name.

On top of no basic computer knowledge, she also refused to eat in the cafeteria with everyone else, but instead conned a student into bringing her lunch in her classroom, which the Vice Principal was outraged about. She also STOLE one of the 3rd grade point frogs and one of the 6th grade point monkeys off our progress board. A token of her time as a teacher, perhaps?

If I can find it within myself to find one thing that I am pleased with in regards to “Mrs. Lee”, it’s that I strongly believe she brought me closer to my 6th graders. They are usually too cool for school, but having her there really made them appreciate me and hands were actually shooting up to volunteer, which NEVER happens.  So thank you for that wacko lady!

Alas, those two WTF weeks came and went, and now I have a brand new co-teacher named Shin hye and she’s young and sweet and pretty and I’m excited to have permanency once again!