Headed Home

The time has come.

It’s a little past midnight and my bags are packed, I’ve cleaned my entire apartment and I’m headed to Seoul in the morning to fly back to America.

Looking back on the past year I can’t decide if it flew by or lasted what feels like more than a year. All I know is that it was an incredible and memorable year of my life…one that will always have a special place in my heart. I don’t really know how to sum up the growth and experiences I’ve had over the last 12 months but let’s do a little recap:

  • With no previous teaching experience I moved to a country 7000 miles from home to teach English in an Elementary school.
  • I got my contract and job 10 days before I needed to be in Korea…and I didn’t find out the city I would live in until my last day of orientation.
  • I quickly built relationships with the students and came to LOVE these kids.
  • In my city and all over the country I made friends from all over the world.
  • I am leaving Korea a little more mature, healthier and ready for whatever else life throws my way.

I think I will miss the interaction with the students the most. I never really felt like this was a full-time job, each day I found myself excited to be heading to work for the day…isn’t that the kind of job most people dream of having? Being surrounded by kids for most of the day brought so much joy, excitement and life into my daily routine. It will definitely be missed!

I didn’t know what God had in store for me when he called me to Korea, but I tried my best to shine his light and love my students, co-workers and friends each and every day. All of my students know that I am doing a mission trip next year and they are excited that I will get to help other kids around the world…they even took up a collection to help support me trip!! They are the absolute best!

Here are a couple other random highlights from the year:

  • My two week vacation to Thailand in January.
  • My two week vacation to Japan and the Philippines in August.
  • The chance to travel all over Korea.
  • All of the festivals I went to throughout the year.
  • Living in a country with so many mountains. I loved the chance to hike so much.
  • Having a job that allowed me to save some money each month. A blessing with the way the economy is now.

I feel like I could continue to type…but it would all sound the same after a while.

If I had to find three words to describe this year they would be…Adventure. Maturity. Joy.

Obviously living in another country and doing a job I had never prepared for is one big adventure. I also had many smaller adventures throughout the year! I matured a lot mentally and spiritually. My relationship with the Lord grew stronger and I am a more patient and overall a stronger person that I was when I arrived. And finally JOY. My life this year was truly filled with joy and happiness…something people strive for but very few actually attain.

If you are someone I know in Korea reading this I want to say THANK YOU! All of my friends around this country played a part in making it such a special year, and I will miss them dearly!

If you are reading this and ever consider teaching in Korea…teaching abroad…travelling abroad…or just have a passion you have been too afraid to pursue….PLEASE…GO FOR IT! Take a leap of faith. Step outside your comfort zone and prepare to grow by leaps and bounds, along the way making memories that will be impossible to forget!

I am beyond excited to find myself in America in just 28 short hours. Family, friends, food and football await me on the other side…I am an extremely blessed guy to return to so many great people!

I conclude this year in Korea with Happiness and Joy in my heart, forever thankful and ready to make some new memories in whatever adventures the next turns in the road will bring. If you want to keep up with my future plans and my mission trip in 2014 subscribe to my blog below:

danielwilliams.theworldrace.org

If you are reading this in America…see you soon! Thanks for keeping up with me throughout the year, I love all you guys!

Advertisements
Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Philippines – Rice Terraces adventure

It’s time to wrap up my summer vacation with Blog #2, my adventure to the Philippines. If you missed it, check out the previous blog highlighting my time spent in Japan for the first part of my trip!
At this point it was Wednesday August 7th, and I caught an afternoon flight from Tokyo back to Seoul. I wasn’t able to get a cheap one-way ticket from Tokyo down to Manila so it was actually cheaper to fly back to Seoul and buy a round-trip ticket to Manila.

I had a few hours at the airport to charge all of my electronics and get some food but sadly my flight down to Manila was a little late taking off. It was already a later arrival so I didn’t make it through customs until nearly 1 AM, and with no place booked to stay I just grabbed a cheap hotel near the airport for the night.
As I woke up in the late morning of the following day, my plan was to sightsee a little bit in Manila and catch an overnight night bus that evening to the north. My entire trip was based around getting to the ancient Rice Terraces of the Ifugao people.

end of year fun 168

The hotel desk asked me my plans and they told me I needed to head to the bus station right now and catch a bus during the day. I asked them if there was a bus going to Bunaue and they said there was….which was the first time I experienced something I will call the ‘Philippine over-friendliness’. The people of the Philippines are incredibly friendly, and it’s a GREAT thing, except there were times where people wanted to help so they gave me advice or directions when they really didn’t know what was going on.
I made my way to the bus station and when I tell them my destination they just put me on a bus headed north. I had no clue where it was going, but it had air conditioning, wi-fi and a movie playing so I wasn’t going to complain! I made friends with the guy sitting next to me a couple hours into the ride and he tells me they have sent me off on a pretty bad route. I stayed on that bus for about 5 hours until he told me where to get off and gave me a list of the cities I need to travel to get up to my destination.

end of year fun 148 end of year fun 147

The city I got off in had a mall at the bus area which allowed me to grab some dinner, but I ran into some trouble when the route I was needing to take had stopped running for the day. I was trying to get to San Jose City and there were two other ladies trying to get there as well, so I went with them on a little motor tricycle for a 3 minute ride to another road. We then stood on the side of the road waiting on a ‘jeepney’ to come by that was going to San JoseCity. A quick note, a ‘jeepney’ is a former US military jeep from WWII that was left in the Philippines and they now use them all over the country as a favorite mode of transportation. They are not the most comfortable and can get a little crowded, but they get the job done.

end of year fun 137

At this point I was kind of like ‘What the heck am I doing right now?’. I was standing on the side of the road hoping a jeepney would come by that I needed, but I didn’t even really know where in the country I was, or where I was going. Thankfully one came by that I needed and I hopped in. It would periodically stop on the side of the road to pick up or drop off passengers and as the daylight left us I was treated to an incredible sunset out the back door (which just stays open the whole time).

After about 2 hours of mostly unpaved roads we made it to San JoseCity. It was past 8 PM at this point and I just needed a place to sleep for the night. Thankfully I found what I think was the one hotel in the whole city and was able to get a good night of sleep.

 

The following morning I woke up with the same goal, ‘Get to Banaue!’. I found the bus stop in town…by stop I mean the side of the road with a little blue sign that says ‘bus’. I got on an old bus with no a/c and wooden seats made which got me a couple more hours north, caught another jeepney to get a little closer, one more bus and one final jeepney to get me into town.

The travel experience to get up there was definitely a unique one, not made for people with low patience. I was able to interact with a lot of locals and see a lot of the countryside during the two days, as well as not see any other foreigners!

end of year fun 149 end of year fun 145

When you get to Banaue you immediately see why the Rice Terraces are a main destination; they are captivating. I quickly booked a place to stay for the night and took a tricycle ride up to the main view point. Another main mode of transportation is ‘tricycles’, both pedal and motorcycle, but I only went on motorized ones. It’s just a motorcycle with a little compartment welded onto the side and they are in abundance, especially in the touristy areas.

end of year fun 140

I spent nearly two hours up at the view point, into the early evening. As the clouds and sunlight changed the different areas and levels up the Terraces became more beautiful than just a few minutes earlier. I listened to some music and just soaked it all in. After about an hour hike down the road into the village I got some good dinner and spent me evening watching the Philippines National Basketball team win an Asian tournament game to put them into the final four. A fun experience to watch with some locals!

end of year fun 178 end of year fun 163

The next two days were spent in a village called Batad, which was a little more isolated in the mountains. I hired a tricycle to take me as for as the road would go, which was an hour long ride on a road that literally hung on the side of the mountain. The weather was great and I had some incredible views along the way. We even ran into a little construction work as it appeared they are trying to pave most of that stretch (a great idea).

After getting dropped off at Saddle Point I hiked my way for nearly an hour into the valley of the mountains, where I found my home for the next two days. I found a place to stay and hired a guide to show me around. They gave me a tiny little room because it was their only room for a single traveler, but the view was spectacular. In fact the view from where I ate all my meals was even more magnificent. The rice terraces were a little different from Banaue’s in the fact they formed more of an amphitheater on the mountains.

end of year fun 197 end of year fun 190

I made a few friends while there and spent the first day hiking with some new Dutch friends. We hiked right through all of the rice terraces, a phenomenal experience I will never forget. After a couple hours of hiking we made our way down into a part of the valley where there was a nice waterfall that was probably about 60 feet high. Although the water was a little bit cold it was a refreshing swim after a few hours in the hot sun!

The food at the place I was staying was really really good, and I also took advantage of their massage services that evening. It was just what I needed after so much travel and hiking!

end of year fun 208 end of year fun 215

The following morning I decided to hike to the other side of the valley and scale the mountains on that side to get another view of the terraces. I didn’t really know what I was signing up for at the time, but it turned into a really intense 3 hour hike. After coming back down into the valley I went ahead and made my way all the way down to the waterfall gain so I could do some swimming and relaxing. I spent most of my afternoon there even fitting in an hour long nap on the rocks.

end of year fun 236 end of year fun 242 end of year fun 223 end of year fun 225

I finished the day with another great meal while admiring the scenery and a post-meal massage…because in my opinion you can never have enough massages! Plus I won’t be able to get an hour long massage for only $10 again for a long time.

This is the part of my vacation where it turned from a fun-filled adventure to a downright crazy story. I woke up in the early morning to my room shaking because a Typhoon was hitting the Philippines. The worst part of the country hit was the area I was in.

We didn’t have any power and they told me I should just stay there an extra day and try and let it pass, but I had to get back to Banaue to take my overnight bus to Manila and catch my flight the next day. I spent the morning trying to sleep and relax despite the sideways rain hitting the side of the building and the trees that had fallen outside my window.

end of year fun 251 end of year fun 250

Around lunchtime I found out a group of Israelis who were going to hike out of the valley and to the main road, where hopefully a jeepney would be waiting for them. I knew it was my one shot so I decided to tag along with them.

We had to hike nearly 3 hours in a monsoon, and all I had was a tiny umbrella that did little good. As we made our way to the road just about everything in my backpack was soaked and most of the clothes I had were soaked. Part of the path we took had turned into a river and we had to navigate a lot of different vegetation that could not stay in place because of the storm.

Thankfully the Jeepney was there and we found ourselves taking a hour and half wild ride around the muddy mountain roads. We were pretty worried about erosion wiping out parts of the road so I was just glad to finally pull into Banaue in one piece.
I got a nice warm meal and had a few hours to try and dry out some clothes before my 7 PM bus departure. Unfortunately the bus was blasting the air conditioning and with most of my clothes wet I had a pretty chilly 9 hour ride back to Manila.

 

We arrived in the city a little past 4 AM and I was hoping to do a little sightseeing and shopping, but the rain was still coming down and I decided to just split a cab to the airport with some people from the bus, even though my flight didn’t leave for another 12 hours. I used the time to catch up on the intenet, eat some good food and even get a nice hot shower and hour long massage.

My flight roundtrip to the Philippines was about $220 so I can’t really complain that much, but the Cebu Pacific flight back to Seoul was delayed by 4 hours. After all of my travelling I was just ready to get on that plane and get back to Korea! Finally our plane arrived and we landed in Korea a little past midnight.

They provided some free buses into downtown Seoul so I arrived at my friend’s apartment at 2:15 in the morning, tired and worn out but thankful for an incredible journey! My friend I was visiting was actually my old high school English teacher from Kentucky, who is teaching at Seoul Foreign School. It was great to catch up and spend the next two days relaxing and seeing Seoul one last time before I leave.

I tried my best to sum up my adventure without giving too many details, but there are so many small events along the way that made the trip memorable and special. I really hope to make it back to the Philippines one day to see the other parts of the country people rave about. The people are friendly, the country beautiful and the experiences unforgettable.

end of year fun 174 end of year fun 246

 

If any of you find yourself with a chance to visit the Rice Terraces please do yourself a favor and make it happen. They are often called the ‘8th wonder of the world’ and having spent a couple days in their beauty I can understand why.

I have 5 more days in Korea before I head home for good! I’ll have one more blog post to try my best to wrap up this incredible year.

As always, love you guys and thanks for reading!

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Japan – Tokyo & Mt Fuji

Hey everybody!

I just got back to Korea from my summer vacation and I’m going to split it up into two different blogs. This blog will be about the first part of my trip, a 5 day adventure over to Japan.

I finished up teaching my summer sport camp on Friday August 2nd, and the very next day I was catching a flight over to Tokyo. I had a chance to say one final goodbye to my sister in the morning ( I won’t see her until Thanksgiving) and then headed down south to the city of Busan to catch my 8 PM flight.

I was able to find some really cheap flights on AirAsia, which is the biggest budget airlines in the area, and it was a short 2 hour flight over to Tokyo. Getting through customs was a little long and the airport is a little bit outside of the city so I was cutting it close to getting to my hotel by the midnight deadline. I took an express train into the city followed by a subway over to the ‘Shinjuku’ area, and despite it being 11:30 at night the place was light up, lively and full of people.

end of year fun 037 end of year fun 035

The directions to my hotel were a little difficult and I was really struggling to find out where this place was. Thankfully the Japanese people are really friendly and helpful! This business man could tell I looked lost and he asked me if he could help me out! He spent the next 20 minutes with me finally tracking the place down. This was just one example of a few different times I was helped out by locals.

The place I stayed my nights in Tokyo was a ‘Capsule Hotel’. For people not familiar with the situation I have put a picture of my sleeping compartment below! It was a really large building that comes with a public bath area, saunas, steam room and hot tubs, obviously divided between male and female. There were 3 different floors of men’s sleeping areas where the hallways have two sleeping capsules on each side. There was a pretty good restaurant and massage parlor in the building and everyone was given some two piece robe-like clothing that we had to wear while in the building. I ended up staying there three separate nights of my trip and loved the experience! I slept in the capsule no problem at all and loved getting to use all the different hot tubs and saunas they had.

end of year fun 002 end of year fun 001

With my time in Tokyo I was able to go at my own pace and really soak everything in. The Tokyo metro area has a population pushing 35 million people and most of them seem to be in a pretty big hurry. I went around and saw a lot of the different ‘neighborhoods’ with some really nice buildings. Especially at night the city was full of life, the buildings had all kinds of lights and advertisements on them, even a few with huge television screens. I also took some time to visit a few of the more relaxing places in the city. There was a great park in the Shinjuku area with some beautiful older Japanese style ‘tea gardens’ and buildings, and I was also able to visit the area of the imperial palace. I also had a chance to make my way to the ‘largest crosswalk in the world’. Watching the people scurry across the intersection from 8 different directions was interesting!

end of year fun 019 end of year fun 010

On my last day in Tokyo I was also able to check out the Tokyo Fish Market, the largest fish market in the world. Having grown up fishing my entire life it was a really neat experience. The market is not really designed for tourists, in fact I read they are moving the market to a completely new location next year, so I found myself right in the middle of the action. Some stall owners were still in the process of cleaning and cutting up their fish and it was neat to see the bidding and selling process take place.

end of year fun 129 end of year fun 125

NOW…to the main purpose of my trip to Japan.

I have always enjoyed hiking and physical activity. I have also always enjoyed a good challenge, so knowing I would be living close to Japan I have wanted to climb Mt Fuji all year. It was the main purpose of my trip and will be one of the most memorable experiences from this year in Korea.

I left Tokyo on an 8 AM bus directly to the mountain. After a two hour bus ride I was dropped off at the ‘5th station’ part way up the mountain. It’s the main staging area for hiking and there was a large amount of hikers there getting ready for their adventure up the mountain. Most people go with organized tours and to be going up alone is not as common. I found a locker to put most of my clothing and items in so I could just take one change of clothes, water, gloves, hat, flashlight and of course a camera up with me. After a quick snack and renting a hiking stick from the information desk I was ready to roll!

end of year fun 046 end of year fun 044

Let me go ahead and get this point out there right now….I was not equipped correctly to climb that mountain. My vacation was 12 days and I only had one backpack so I wasn’t able to bring the clothing and items I wish I were able to. That being said I started my journey in a t-shirt and basketball shorts…which got plenty of strange looks from all the Japanese decked out in their extremely nice rain and wind resistant hiking gear.

end of year fun 047

As I started my hike I quickly found myself up into the clouds, so I was forced to throw on my hoodie and sweatpants. The climb began pretty casually but as the elevation continues to get higher the terrain only got harder. It was difficult to really see out off the mountain and I slowly made my way higher and higher, getting to some of the huts where people could get food/water/restrooms and even stay for the night.

end of year fun 052
After over nearly 6 hours of hiking I was getting pretty close to the last group of huts on the mountain. I was planning on getting a place to stay there for the evening…when about 15 minutes before a crazy storm moved in and it started pouring rain. I had a little umbrella but it did little good and I was quickly drenched from head to toe.

As I arrived at the last group of huts I checked the first two huts…only to find they were full. As I walked up to the last hut I was a little nervous because without a place to sleep I had no clue what my plan of action would have been. THANKFULLY they had an open spot and I was able to get inside out of the rain and get a warm meal.

As I ate some dinner the storm passed and for the first time I was able to see out off the mountain, giving me some wonderful views of the clouds and surrounding area.

end of year fun 065 end of year fun 066

Unfortunately, because of the storm I found all my clothing to be SOAKED. I attempted to hang up my hoodie and pants and dry them out a little bit for my continued journey a short 6 hours later. The actual sleeping situation was a downright adventure on its own! I found myself sleeping on a long wooden area sandwiched between a couple old Japanese guys. When they took me to my spot the literally told me, “Try to be skinny.” I slept off and on until 2 AM when I had to get out of bed and start the journey up the rest of the mountain.

Most people try to time their hike to see the sunrise in the morning, which was supposed to occur around 4:45. At this point there is a line of people hiking and in an orderly fashion we attempt to scale Fuji together.  Unfortunately I had to put on a damp hoodie because it wasn’t able to dry out very much, but I did have a dry pair of socks, gloves and a stocking cap to put on.

As this part of the hike begins you can see the trail of lights work its way up towards the top of the mountain. It’s a little discouraging at the beginning because you see how far you still have to climb, but the closer you work your way to the top it’s also encouraging to see how far you’ve come.

The temperature was probably around 40 degrees and in my still semi-wet clothing I had to mentally convince myself I wasn’t cold. I really think the biggest battle to climb the mountain is the mental one. There will be times when you are tired, or cold, or hungry…and the hike is much easier if you have the ability to block those feelings out and focus on one goal…standing on the top.

After 2.5 hours hiking in the dark I made it to the top of the mountain with some time to rest before the sunrise. There were probably a couple hundred people at the top and once we stopped moving everyone was battling the same feelings of cold and weariness. The sunrise came a little later because of some cloud cover but all of us standing up there stood in a peaceful quiet soaking it all in.

end of year fun 086 end of year fun 083

My words can’t really do the experience justice. Everything it took to get to the top of that mountain…the travel, cost, physical challenge…all of it was worth it.

I spent the next hour after the sun rose sitting in a mostly silent reflection on a rock a little off to the side from the main area. After watching the sun rise on a new day I made my way around to the actual peak of the mountain, which was another 40 minute hike each way. Tired and ready to get off the mountain I made quick work of the path down, making it all the way from the peak to the beginning station in about 3.5 hours. A two hour bus ride back to Tokyo and I was ready to get a reward massage and some relaxation and rest at my hotel.

end of year fun 110 end of year fun 095 end of year fun 104 end of year fun 109

My short time in Japan was an incredible experience. There is obviously an entire country left to see, but I had a wonderful time in Tokyo and climbing Mt Fuji will be an amazing memory that will be special to me forever. Each time I see a picture of Mt fuji in the future I will flash back to that early morning and the sun rise of a life-time at over 12,000 feet.

From Japan I headed to the Philippines for another adventure, but that will be coming in another blog. I am sorry for the length of the blog but I wanted to try and give as good a description of the trip as possible!

In case anyone is curious I am down to 9 days left in Korea and will have a final blog post about that coming up as well.

As always, thanks for reading. Love all you guys!

To those is America…see you soon!

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Home Stretch

Hey Everyone!

I am sorry it’s been so long since my last update but I thought it would be a good time to write a post since I just wrapped up teaching for the year.

It’s actually pretty crazy to think…definitely hasn’t really sunk in. For that past nearly 12 months I have been a teacher. My days consisted of students, teaching, lesson plans, school activities…and that life has slowly drawn to a close.

I will be flying back home to America in a little over 3 weeks and my next two weeks I get my vacation for the summer. Actually tomorrow I will be getting on a plane and flying to Japan for 5 days, followed by 5 days in the Philippines. How AWESOME is that?! I haven’t really had a chance to look forward to my vacation so it’s just now sinking in that I’m going. This trip will be a little bit unusual because I’ll be travelling by myself for all of it, but I am really looking forward to the chance to go on my own schedule and visit two unique countries.

My semester ended last week when our school had a ‘Closing Ceremony’ on Wednesday. We had already finished up all the textbook chapters and the review sessions so my classes were able to spend Monday and Tuesday having going away parties for me. My students were so kind to me, they gave me cards and made some powerpoint slides with pictures…it was incredibly difficult saying goodbye to them those last couple days!

end of year fun 039 end of year fun 036 end of year fun 038

This week was our ‘Summer English Sports Camp’. There were 18 third graders who participated and we had an action packed 4 days of different activities and games. We would spend the beginning of the day learning key English words and phrases we were going to be using…then the rest of the camp was spent playing games like relay races, water balloon toss and scavenger hunts.

I wasn’t exactly sure how the camp would turn out, but it ended up being an absolute blast to teach. The kids were great and they LOVED the activities, plus we had a huge food budget so we were able to have awesome snacks every day. Below is a picture of my crew and the certificates and gift cards they got when we finished.

Summer camp

As many of you who read this know by now…I have LOVED my year of teaching here in Korea. I’ve grown and learned a lot in my year here. I am going to write a blog my last week in the country that will give a summary of what I’ve seen and experienced since I got on that plane in Charlotte NC last August.

 

In the mean time I should probably stop typing and go pack from my 10 day adventure I have starting tomorrow. The journey never ends!
I am looking forward to seeing a lot of you guys in less than a month! I’m getting really excited just thinking about it right now.

There are a lot of emotions people have when something great comes to a close. There are even more emotions that come when it becomes apparent that a chapter in life is coming to a close.

I am sure I will deal with a wide range of emotions over the next couple weeks…but in regards to having to say goodbye to my students this last week or two I turn to one of my favorite quotes. Dr Suess captured it so perfectly when he said:

 “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” 

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Winding Down

Hey everyone!

Hope all my friend back home in America had a great 4th of July! It was definitely a little different celebrating in another country but I had a great time with my friends in town. Here is a recap of my most recent Korean adventures:

Busan (June 22nd)

I spent the weekend down in the southern part of Korea in my favorite city. Busan has about 5 Million people but has some great beaches and a little warmer weather than the other parts of Korea. I met up with my friend who went to school with me at WKU and a few others. We enjoyed the beach during the day and went to some of the different clubs at night. We ate as much western food as we could and finished the weekend with an amazing western-style buffet capped off with cheesecake. Great weekend!

Busan

Jeju Island (June 29th)

During my 10 months in Korea all of the Koreans I know have told me about the beauty that is Jeju Island. It’s their version of Hawaii of their southern coast. My friend from college (we applied to the program together) got placed on the island for the year so I finally got around to making a trip down down there. We got blessed with some great weather and were able to enjoy some beautiful water falls, coastal swimming spots on the rocks and nice beaches. My friend Ali owns a motor cycle so I rented a scooter for the weekend and we were able to ride around most of the island. It was the most beautiful place I have seen in Korea, not all they try and make it out to be…it’s not going to be confused for a tropical paradise any time soon…but it was a wonderful weekend trip!

Jeju Jeju-school 027 Jeju-school 015 Jeju-school 044

July 4th Celebration

I celebrated July 4th by wearing an American Flag bandanna on my head all day at school. The kids thought it was the funniest thing ever and just kind of laughed more than normal around me. That evening I took the opportunity to wear my full body eagle outfit I bought last Halloween, because those chances don’t come around very often. I got together with my friend in the area and we had an evening of pizza, ranch for the crusts, coke, fireworks and a great time. Of course when we shot off the fireworks the rain started to come down but that didn’t stop us from keeping the tradition alive!

America

Angye Soccer Tournament Part Two (July 6th)

Angye is the small village town that my sister lives in, about an hour away from my city. Her friend who teaches at the high school hosted the second (and last) soccer tournament of the year. The majority of the guys that got together were British but I was one of the few Americans making an appearance. There were two foreign teams and a Korean team, which allowed us to take turns playing some games of 11 v. 11 and then some games of 7 v 7 on a smaller field. Despite the jokes about ‘Americans playing soccer’ from my British friends I had a great time and was able to make the Red White and Blue proud with my effort. It also gave a chance to spend one last weekend in my sister’s town and say goodbye to a few good friends.

ANGYE  soccer

As you might have picked up from that last sentence, it’s become the point in my year where I am beginning to have a few moments of ‘this is the last time….’. I actually start my second to last full week of teaching this morning! Here is a little summary of my last 7 weeks in the country:

  • 2 weeks of normal teaching
  • 1 week of semester closing ceremony and fun
  • 1 week of Summer Camp
  • 2 weeks of vacation
  • 1 week of sitting at my desk and packing up to leave

I am trying to enjoy as much of these last couple weeks of teaching as possible. As my time winds down each day or moments I have with these kids becomes a little more special to me. These children are why I came to Korea. They make my job worth getting up for every morning and bring joy to every day of ‘work’.

These next weeks are sure to fly by and I will find myself back in America before I know it. The ‘Korean Year’ chapter of my life will be brought to a close….but I have a few more pages to write in this journey, I am going to make sure the last few pages are the best.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dare to Dream

Hello everyone!

I just finished teaching a chapter to my 6th grade students called ‘I want to be a dancer’. We spent a lot of time in the chapter talking about what they want to be when they are older…or what is their DREAM.

When my co-teacher asked the kids ‘What is your dream?’ I thought it sounded funny. Most of my life people have asked ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’, but I actually like the way my textbook asked better.

We have it in our minds that dreams are for kids….that dreams go out the window when life gets in the way. There is no room for dreams with things like student loans, a mortgage and a career to worry about. For some people the career they work so hard for may be their dream, or the family they are raising is all they ever dreamed about…but I think it’s pretty safe to say that most people have forgotten to live with dreams and aspirations.

 

The question is when do we stop having a dream for our lives? At what point does our life change from ‘You can be anything or do anything you want in life!’ to ‘I always wanted to _______!’?

 
I absolutely love getting to teach kids every day, in part because they have an ambition and energy for life that most adults have either lost or buried deep within themselves. When my students are out on the soccer field they think they can be the next Pele. They dream of being teachers, computer programmers, CEOs of Samsung and even the President of Korea. They aren’t afraid to dream because they world hasn’t had the chance to tell them their dreams aren’t attainable.

This week my students were a great reminder to not simply have dreams, but never forget them. Some of your dreams may never fully be reached. You may have new dreams over time….but if you are reading this I want to challenge you to live a life filled with dreams and aspirations!

One of my biggest life dreams is to travel as much of the world as possible, learning from each place I go and sharing my faith with people I meet along the way. It’s a dream that will never be complete as long as I live…but that’s part of the beauty of dreams. They never have to end.

“Hold fast to dreams,
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird,
That cannot fly.”

–          Langston Hughes

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wrapping up May

Happy June everyone!

I can’t believe we’ve turned the page on another month, so I figured it was time to give a little summary of the last half of May. I apologize for the recent lack of blogging but I promise it’s not because I don’t love yall! Here are the highlights of the last 3 weeks over here in Korea!!

My Father Visited Korea:

Easily the highlight of the month! My Dad got into my town on a Wednesday afternoon and stayed until Sunday afternoon. My sister came down on Thursday and we had a couple days with the three of us. They came into visit my school and meet my students, we hiked a famous mountain near my house,  ate a bunch of different Korean meals, visited the big city of Daegu nearby (nearly 3 million people), went bowling, played a bunch of card games….it was an incredible couple days. Obviously I was just happy to see him but I was also happy that he could see what my life has been like this year and where I lived it.

Spring 019 Spring 002 Spring 004

Gumi school volleyball tournament:

For the month of May my school has been preparing for the city volleyball tournament. Each school can enter a team of teachers and we have uniforms and everything. We would practice every day at 3:00, so the last 1.5 hours of my work day was spent playing volleyball…rough life! Despite not playing volleyball much in my life I was the ‘Ace’ of the team and the main attacker. Against most other schools we practiced, I was able to do well by sheer athleticism but by the end of the month my technique was actually pretty good.

After moving on past the preliminary rounds by crushing some teams we ran into the defending champions in the quarter-finals. You only play one game and we lost 21-19. It was a heart breaker! I thought it was unfair because the other team had a former PROFESSIONAL volleyball player on it!! He played in the Korean Volleyball League and scored 80% of their points against us…the fact we nearly won was a great deal. I won’t know what to do now at school this week without volleyball practice!

Spring 071 Spring 072 Spring 068

Korean Pro Baseball Game:

One of my friends organized an event where about 25 of us foreigners got some tickets to a professional Korean Baseball game. We got some seats in the outfield and watched the Busan ‘Lotte’ Giants outlast the Daegu ‘Samsung’ Lions by a score of 2-1. The Samsungs Lions were the home team and have won the last couple Korean League championships, but it was just a neat experience to compare with other sporting events I have been to. The crowd is really into the game and always cheering, but there is also a massive amount of Chicken and Beer being consumed in the stands. Overall a really fun experience despite a low scoring game and an absolutely beautiful evening.

Spring 077 Spring 091 Spring 095

Church foreigner day:

One of the Saturdays my church hosted a ‘foreigner day’, where they hosted an international lunch and had some different events for the foreigners that come to church. The English speaking foreigners only numbered 12 but there was close to 80 Vietnamese, Mongolians and Chinese. After an amazing lunch we had a 10-person jump rope competition, a jok-gu tournament (think of it like 5-a-side tennis with your feet) and a raffle for some great prizes. I ended up winning some laundry detergent and cleaning supplies in the raffle and the whole day was a great experience!

Korea Waygook 2 korea Waygook 1

Well these were some of the many highlights of the last couple weeks in May! There were some other great ones too but I just wanted to hit the main highlights. It’s hard to believe I am within 3 months of being back in the U.S. but there are going to be some great experiences coming up in June.

I hope everyone is doing great wherever you are when you read this. Hopefully you have a smile on your face because you get the blessing of life each new day we wake up…make it a life worth telling!

Miss and Love yall!

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Half Way Through Semester Two

Hello from Korea everyone!

I am at the halfway point of the semester and my students are taking their midterm this week…I figured it’s time for a little reflection and recap of my time here!

This week will be number 38 since I left home, and some days it feels like it has been about 380 weeks since I came to Korea. The last 8 and a half months have been absolutely incredible and as I reflect back on them it’s amazing how much has happened in them. Here are some of the highlights and lowlights:

Highlight: Getting to really know my students and making learning English fun for them.

Highlight: Playing volleyball with other teachers against other schools in the area, we are undefeated this spring and hoping to bring home the Gumi city championship.

Lowlight: How dramatic Korean children can be.

 

Highlight: Korean spring and fall weather.

Highlight: My winter ‘Sports Camp’ I hosted for  a week in January.

Lowlight: Korean winter weather….it was COLD.

 

Highlight: My two week vacation to Thailand in January.

Highlight: Having the second biggest city in the world (Seoul) just a few hours away.

Lowlight: Korean teachers opening windows in the winter to ‘change the air’.

 

Highlight: 4th grade students…the best age to teach!

Highlight: My lunch break is spent playing soccer and pushing kids on swings.

Lowlight: After a few months I got tired of Korean cafeteria food.

 

Highlight: Losing 30 pounds thanks to Healthy Korean food and working out.

Highlight: My church community in Gumi.

Lowlight: Not being able to watch a lot of sports live from back in America.

 

Highlight: The friends I have made all over Korea.

Highlight: The Joy the kids bring me every single day.

Lowlight: Having to leave Korea in less than 4 months.

 

I could have kept going but this would be a really long blog post! The last 8 months of living in Korea have been a wonderful experience, a chance for me to grow and mature…while also trying to make the biggest influence I can on these kids.

It’s going to be tough to leave this job in August. I had to tell my school this week that I won’t be coming back next year and I felt so loved by the amount of teachers and students who have asked me to stay another year. The kids are really sad about it, but I know the Lord is calling me to make a different in other places around the world!

Tomorrow I get to head to the train station and pick up my DAD after school!!! He’ll be visiting me and my sister in Korea for about a week, I can’t wait to have him here and show him around. I’m sure I’ll give a little update later on how it goes.

Hope everyone is doing great back home! Miss each and every one of you and can’t wait till our paths cross again!

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Korean DMZ

Happy May everyone!

Hard to believe another month is starting over here in Korea! I wanted to give you guys a little update on my last weekend of April, which I spent taking a tour of the DMZ.

For those of you that may not know your history, the Korean War never ended in a peace treaty. Instead in 1953 the two sides agreed to a Korean Armistice Agreement. As part of this agreement they created a 160 mile long border that splits the peninsula in two. For 2 km into each country they created an area known as the demilitarized zone, or DMZ.

Considering the war between North and South Korea is not technically over the DMZ is one of the most unique places in the world and also one of the most heavily fortified.

Spring 121 Spring 117

I went on a tour (along with my sister and two friends) with the USO, which organizes tours through the US armed forces. It began with a 9 AM departure in Seoul, which we were lucky to get there in time…thankfully a crazy/awesome taxi driver saved the day!

As we drove north of Seoul I found out that the day before the South Korean government had said it would stop working with North Korea at a joint industrial complex they shared. The complex was used by 120 South Korean companies to employ North Korean workers at a cheap price. (Crazy, I know) The two sides will probably get together and decide to work together again in the future…especially because it makes up something ridiculous like 25% of North Korea’s GDP. Because it was recent news there were a couple places we stopped that were lined with camera crews wanting to talk to the South Koreans returning from the complex that day.

 

The first place we stopped was the 3rd Incursion Tunnel. Since 1974 South Korea has discovered 4 tunnels that lead from North Korea into the country under the DMZ. A North Korean who defected claimed there were plans for 20 tunnels but it has been 23 years since the last tunnel discovery. The tunnel we visited was the closest to Seoul and was about 1150 feet under ground. There tunnels were a little small for the average American but they claimed it would only take one hour to get 20,000 troops through the tunnel and into South Korea.

The tunnels had electricity and sleep quarters for some soldiers when they were discovered, of course since discovery they have been rigged that if North Korea should try to use them again it would end in a quick death for their soldiers.

 

Our second stop was an observation deck where we were able to get our fist look into North Korea. It was crowded with tourists from all over the world using binoculars to get a glimpse of the mystery that lay across the border. The most interesting part of the stop was that the Industrial Complex the two countries shared was in the town we were viewing. They also claimed the town was the 3rd largest in the country…which really showed North Korea’s lack of major cities.

Spring 124

Our final stop was the main reason to take the tour. Due to taking the tour with the USO we were able to go to the Joint Security Area (JSA), an area you had to have a US passport to visit. The JSA is where North and South Korea literally come face to face. It’s where the meetings take place between the two countries when they are on good terms.

One of the US military personnel stationed there gave us a briefing when we arrived, and it was interesting to learn some of the events they have had over the years. In 1976 two American soldiers were killed when they were cutting down a tree and were attacked by North Koreans. Of course the North Koreans claim it never happened but there is a picture that shows one of the Americans getting chased by a North Korean wielding the axe they were using to cut the tree. Two days later they went in again to cut the tree down…but this time with the entire Army behind them including planes flying overhead!

In 1984 a Soviet journalist from a North Korean tour rain across the border and into the South Korean side. Of course the NK’s chased after him and there was a short battle betweens soldiers that resulted in the death of 4 soldiers.

The first thing that struck me was the South Korean (ROK) soldiers. The stand at a ready to attack position and almost appear as statues because they NEVER move! There are two blue buildings and one is the meeting room where the two sides have always negotiated over the years. There is a long conference table that literally straddles the border so as we walked past it we entered into North Korea.

Spring 132 Spring 130

We only had a few minutes in the room but it was such a weird feeling knowing we were in a country that has been in the news for all the wrong reasons the last couple months. So many important people had been in that room over the years, and intense negotiations about the Korean peninsula had taken place, it was a powerful place to visit.

On really important days there are North Korean soldiers lined up on their side of the border, creating a literal face-off between the two sides. This day was a normal day so there was just a lone North Korean soldier staring at us through binoculars.

Spring 136 Spring 134

As we continued our tour we were able to see some of the command/observation posts and at one point were surrounded by North Korea on three sides. We were able to drive up to the ‘Bridge of No Return’…after the war each side brought their prisoner’s of war to this bridge and give them the chance to return to the previous country if they wanted to. Obviously most of the captives returned to the country but a handful of American soldiers actually stayed in the North.

Another fascinating sight was the ‘PropagandaVillage’. Just over the border North Korea has a ‘village’ set up to make it appear that there is a thriving city, when in reality the windows are painted on the buildings and no one actually lives there. They also will blare propaganda all day long about how North Korea is better and the S.K guards should give up their post and come to their country.

Spring 139

It is difficult for me to say too much because I am from an outside perspective, but the situation can appear to be kind of like two children who just can’t get along. Sadly it has left a peninsula divided…and in many cases families divided. The people in the North suffer while the country I live and work in has made itself a world leader by hard work and determination. Here is a great example of some of the childish behavior:

There is a flagpole in the North Korean ‘propaganda village’ so the South Koreans of course built a larger flag pole on their side…this resulted in the North Koreans building the second largest flag pole in the world on their side. Likewise with the buildings at the JSA. When South Korea upgraded their building the North Koreans immediately started construction to build theirs higher, and thankfully the two sided came to an agreed height they can both reach or there might be two skyscrapers by now.

Spring 140

 

We had one final stop on our trip and it is an example of hope the peninsula can one day be united again. South Korea has built a train station that they hope will be the gateway into North Korea. Right now it’s really just a glorified publicity statement, but it was built years ago when there was much more hope of the two countries united. We were able to buy a ‘ticket’ as a souvenir and go on the tracks…that for years to come will never see a train.

Spring 148 Spring 147

Visiting the DMZ was a memorable experience with a lot of different words to describe it. Powerful. Fascinating. Perplexing. It’s tough because most people don’t realize how much the people of North Korea are suffering while the regime in charge has the priorities wrong.

I hope that N.K. will eventually make the main priority feeding the people and growing the economy, not trying to develop weapons and running an army.

 

If anyone gets the chance to visit the DMZ in the future do it, you will never forget it!

Sorry of the long post guys! Hope everyone is doing great back home!

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Spring is in full swing

Hello from Korea!

It’s officially Spring over here in the Far East….kind of. The weather reminds me of Kentucky in how it can’t make up its mind most of the time. The good news is we are out winter!!

Last week was the best time to see the famous Cherry Blossoms and my part of town was covered in them. My walk to school was stunning every day and there were signs of new life everywhere. Sadly the blossoms are no more, but once again everything is green and full of life in Korea.

Spring 047

I previously mentioned how the change in routine and classes have been a breath of fresh air. My 4th graders are still the best group of classes I could ever ask for, and my 6th graders are still behaving themselves for the most part. I have a feeling as the semester turns toward summer they will be a little bit tougher to keep under control.

The weather has generally started warming up, which means I get to spend the majority of my lunch break playing soccer with my 6th graders, or rocking the see-saws and jungle gyms with the younger kids. Below are some pictures of my soccer crew. It’s one of my favorite parts of the day!

soccer kids
The first part of this semester has flown by pretty fast; I am currently through 3 chapters of the 8 I need to teach my 6th grade class. I have a feeling the last part of my year in Korea will continue to just speed up…so I am trying to enjoy each and every experience a new day brings.

This past weekend I was able to get together with some friends at my buddies apartment a few hours away. We had a big dinner, played a bunch of card games, spend some time outside in the great weather and then on Sunday went to an English speaking church before catching a movie. The movie was called ‘oblivion’, a new Tom Cruise movie and it was actually really good!

Most of my weekends have been a little more relaxing and with less travel than that one, but that’s going to be changing these next couple weeks. I have a trip to Seoul booked, my birthday weekend, a trip to Busan and then my Dad is coming to visit. There are some great things planned!

Spring has brought closure to the Winter chapter of my Korean year and new excitement for the Summer phase. I am always torn between Spring and Fall as my favorite time of year, and although Fall might be the winner I love how spring brings so much excitement of new things and a fresh start.

Spring 050 Spring 037

My other highlight of the week was getting confirmation on my summer vacation dates, which means I can go ahead and get my flights booked soon. I am most likely headed to Japan to hike Mt Fuji and then spending some time down in the Philippines. Places that normally would cost thousands of dollars to get to are going to cost a fraction of the price to visit…once again a perk of living in South Korea!
Final point, for anyone back home that is worried about the North Korea situation I appreciate all the prayers and concerns but everything is fine over here. The media back in America has turned a pretty serious situation into a drastic and over-blown one. Obviously there is a SLIGHT chance something could happen but life for the South Koreans moves on like normal so I am doing the same. I think it will all blow over in the next few weeks.
As always, I love to hear from you guys back home! Shoot me a message or email and let me know how you guys are doing. Miss yall!

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.