Monday, 10 November 2014

Lessons in Gratitude

Being here, in South Korea, has taught me many things. One of the most important lessons I've learned has been gratitude.

The water here isn't potable without being boiled or treated first. When we first moved here we purchased a pack of six 2 liter bottles each week. In an effort to save money, I started boiling drinking water for us. It was very time consuming to boil enough water for two people and a dog. I can't imagine boiling it for an entire family. Something that, according to a friend, is fairly common. Thankfully, we were able to rent a water machine that filters water for us.

Drinking...
 
In addition to not being potable, hot water isn't available with the turn of a spigot. For hot water, we push a button on the thermostat and the water will heart. It doesn't take long, maybe 5 minutes or so.  However, this means when you take a shower in the winter, the hear turns off until you signal for the thermostat to stop heating the water.
 
In the winter time, out bathroom is freezing because we must leave the window open to prevent mold. There is no other ventilation and because of the bathroom's design, the entire room gets wet when we shower.  Likewise, the kitchen window stays cracked because that's how case, cable and other things are run into the house.
 
Some smaller, random things come to mind, like food safety and hygiene. Many restaurants don't have soap or towels. I've seen a waitress drink from a soup ladle and then return it to the pot.
 

Liquid Soap
 
 
As I've mentioned in a previous post, I've come to be more grateful for the smaller, everyday, blessings in life and I see God's hand in them. This past Christmas I was overjoyed to receive a box of American toiletries. The Christmas before, if they same person had given me toothpaste and deodorant, I would have believed them crazy or thought that they didn't care enough to purchase  a more personal gift. Not that you can get more personal that armpits and tongues.
 
Slowly, I've learned to be more grateful for what God has given me and for where he has allowed me to call my home. I've never been more thankful that I was born an American. ( I realize the environment and living conditions in Korea are not the worst in the world and that saddens me.) I  still think that as a country we've made some bad decisions and have wandered off the path. But now, I truly know how blessed we are and I hope we are brave enough to hold on to it.
 
 

 

Friday, 7 November 2014

Candy and Spam: Holidays in Korea Part 1

Experiencing the holidays and celebrations of another culture is a fun part of traveling. We've been in Korea for almost a year now, so we've seen some interesting things come and go. Today, I'll just share a handful of the holidays with you.

Pepero Day came around on November 11th.  This is a day that would make Hallmark proud. Hershey should stand up and take notice. This day is entirely devoted to exchanging packages of wafer like cookie sticks.

http://coreaymas.wordpress.com/2011/11/10/pepero-day-tradicion-coreana-happy-pepero-day-feliz-dia-de-pepero/
 Some are dipped in chocolate, others have a chocolate filling. Some have nuts. Some don't. When I first saw them, I figured they would have a fake sweet taste and be pretty disgusting. After receiving several packages from my students, I discovered that the chocolate dipped with nuts is my favorite flavor.


 According to my students, this day was originally a day to celebrate farmers. According to Wikipedia, people originally traded Pepero with wishes of becoming tall and then. It also pointed out that the date, 11/11, resembles the cookies sticks.

Valentine's Day is celebrated on February 14th but it is a day for women to buy men gifts. Stores go crazy with big displays of imported candy, Pepero and Spam gift sets.
SPAM Classic
http://www.hormelfoods.com/Brands/BrandWall/SPAM-Family-of-Products

Men return the favor on March 14th or White Day. Again, the stores are filled to the brim with trinkets, chocolate and Spam. On both holidays, children brought me chocolate and handmade cards.

I'll tell you one thing. This country has candy marketing down pat. I wish I would have taken pictures of the outrageous displays. Even sidewalk vendors set up to sell candy and cheesy gifts.




Thursday, 6 November 2014

Nothing, If Not Honest

My students very rarely refrain  from telling me what they think. My Monday/Thursday high-schoolers are no exception.

I walked into the classroom and greeted that as I usually do. Kip looked at me and exclaimed, "What happened to your clothes?"

Quickly, I looked down and scanned my clothes for signs of stains or tears. Earlier in the day, I'd had a narrow miss with a student splattering red sauce near me and I thought, perhaps, some had spilled on me and I'd overlooked it. I saw nothing.

"What's wrong with them?" I asked him.

"They've changed."

"No", I insisted, "I've worn this all day".

"No", he said, exasperated at my ignorance. He pointed to my sundress and heels.

"Your style. It was bad. It got better"

*Inspired by a Mama Kat prompt

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Seventeen

The Mama Kat prompt that intrigued me the most this week was about a memorable summer. Whenever I think of that summer, I think of Tim McGraw's song "Seventeen".

Seventeen only comes once in a lifetime
Don't it just fly by wild and free
Goin any way the wind blew, baby

My 17th summer was a major turning point in my life. It was this summer that I began to chart the course for the rest of my life.

Seventeen, livin on crazy dreams

As summer approached, I faced the decision of choosing between spending a week with the Amish or a month long Governor's School at the College of Charleston. I chose Charleston and  it was a decision that changed everything.


Prior to that summer, I dated a boy for several years. By some standards, he could have been considered mentally or emotionally abusive. Despite my straight A track record, he told me I was stupid and that no one else would want "a girl like me". Whatever that meant.

That summer, I met my friends. Friends that I still hold dear to my heart. They encouraged me to end the relationship and stood by me when it turned it explosive. We went on picnics, shopping excursions and beach trips. We played board games, went on scavenger hunts and to the Imax. We laughed, and made enough inside jokes and memories to last a lifetime.

Legs hangin' off the Bayou Bridge
Feedin' fish potato chips
And talkin' about the mysteries of the universe
Yeah, the world was somewhere else
We had the Summer all to ourselves
And the stars went off like fireworks
 That summer, I opened my heart to another boy, and he broke it. At the time, I was devastated. Today, I am much stronger because of it. If we had stayed together, he would have become my crutch. To this day,  I cannot thank him enough. It was just what I needed to help me feel free.

The summer ended and I was ready. Ready for love, ready for college, ready for God.
Rock and roll and faded blue jeans
And standing on the edge of everything
Seventeen
One of my dear friends convinced me to attend Converse College and I truly believe that was the perfect place for me at the perfect time. Her friendship led me to the friendship of others who taught me a lot about my faith.
In addition to healing my heart and helping me to choose a college that summer gave me one of my closest friends. Luisa and I have  stayed close since that summer together. We spent even more time together in college. Out respective campuses were only minutes apart. She was the Maid of Honor in my wedding and, regrettably, I will be away for hers. She is a true friend and always will be.
My 17th summer gifted me with a free heart, a new found strength, and a second sister.
Seventeen only comes once in a lifetime
Don't it just fly by wild and free
Goin any way the wind blew, baby

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Jane of All Trades

I've held quite a few jobs, but I can't really say I have a career. I graduated college about 3.5 years ago and I majored in Creative and Professional Writing.

I love writing and I want to make a career of it. I can't imagine going to school for something different. I think those 4 years really helped me to hone my skills.

I've been a baseball scorekeeper, concession stand worker, cashier, freelance writer, customer service rep and legal assistant. Now, I'm teaching English. I do not foresee myself continuing to teach once we return to the States. (Although. I have tinkered with the idea of teaching Pre-K.)

I love to learn new skills and have many interests, so its been hard for me to pick something that holds my interest and I feel I can commit to for a long period of time. That being said, my two favorite jobs have been working as a legal assistant and a freelance writer.

So, I'm in the perfect phase of my life to consider what career I would like to enter into. At the moment, I have a couple of dreams mashed together.

1. I would like to have a substantial amount of my income come from freelance writing. Yeah, I know, this isn't really a "new" career but one I've wanted to truly break into for a while. In the past, I've picked up side jobs here and there.



2. I would like to own a bakery. I'm not entirely sure I'd want to be the 5am baker, but I like to create flavor combinations, and design marketing.



3. I think I would also like to go into event planning. I really enjoy putting together events. I like to plan menus and decorations.



This post was inspired by a Mama Kat prompt. Hop on over to check out the other responses and to link up your own post.

Monday, 3 November 2014

How We Got Here

If you read my earlier posts, you may remember that I mentioned that my husband and I are currently teaching English in Daegu, South Korea.

                                                        (Our trip to Suseong Lake)

I would like to share with you the story of how we came to be in South Korea.

In 2009, my husband and I were dating. He took advantage of the opportunity to teach in Changwon, South Korea for one year. Before the year was out, we were engaged and I spent my summer vacation visiting him.



We married in 2010, moved to PA and tossed around the idea of moving back to South Korea pretty continuously.

In 2013, we were seriously considering either moving to sunny SC or back to South Korea.  One day, Mike looked at me and asked, "Tell me what you want to do. South Carolina or South Korea?"

Instantly, in my gut, I felt that I should answer South Korea. However, I spoke out of my own desire to move back to my home state.

Before bed, I did a Bible study in my Charles Stanley Life Principles  Bible. Throughout the Scriptures he highlights consistent life principles. Throughout my study,  one principle kept standing out. Basically, it said that to obey God means to obey the initial promptings of the Holy Spirit. (Side note: if you don't have one of these Bibles I highly recommend it. He explains things so clearly.)

I started to feel as if I should have gone with that "gut feeling" and told my husband we were going to South Korea. I prayed and asked God for a sign that this was the right decision. I turned to the next page in my Bible, and there it was- the same principle again!

The next day, I told my husband we should go to South Korea and explained why. We started looking and applying for jobs.

Nothing was coming through, yet we still felt this was what God was calling us to do. So, we put in notices at our jobs and with our landlord.

We packed up and moved out.

The day after we moved out, my husband found and applied for a particular job. Within days we had interviewed and accepted the job.

And, here we are 1 month into our second year's contract.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

A New Adventure!

Hello!

I have an announcement!

I am starting a new blog, called Wit and Wanderings.

I am still going to post to Diary of a Chocoholic. Ideally, I want continue to post funny stories and  my baking adventures on this blog.

I'm starting Wit and Wanderings because sometimes I want to talk about my faith. When I post it on here I feel like I am coming across as preachy since this is not why you came to visit my blog.

I'm also going to sponsor a once a month book club on Wit and Wanderings. If you're a reader, please come by and link up your own reviews. I will have a theme each month and the post will go up on the last day of the month.  Since the month of May is almost over, I'm not going to choose a theme for the month. Post a review of anything you like.

If you're interested in learning more about my faith, as well as some life lessons I've been learning in Korea and want some good book recommendations please come over to Wit  and Wanderings and follow along there as well.

I'm hoping that working on both blogs will keep my creative juices flowing!