Tag Archives: Gyeonggi English Village

Quiet Endings and Lunar New Year

24 Jan

Well, this is the last week of Book Club at Gyeonggi English Village. After today, the weekday reading classes for young Korean students will be no more.  The program will continue for our Saturday students, but this is the last day we will see our familiar itty-bitty weekday faces.

I have been teaching in the Book Club for just a few months.  While working with young children requires a lot of hands on attention and can sometimes be challenging, I am really glad that I did it.  Even in their most ornery moments, the youngest students have an innocence about them that can’t be replaced.

We had a little party celebrating our last days of Book Club.  We ate food, played some games and then parted with a simple good-bye present.  When it comes to that moment when it is time to say good-bye I often am met with an unexpected surge of emotion.  This time was no different. One of my littlest students left after her last class and then turned around and came back knocking at the door only to say when I let her in, “I’ll miss you!”  Very sweet.

It’s been a good experience working with book club.  It is different from other camp-like programs at English Village. The parents bring their young students to class and then wait for them to be finished.  This gives us an opportunity to interact with them, often about their children or simple questions about the program and learning English.  Many parents are generous and bring treats to the teachers before class ranging from fresh fruit to teas and coffees.

The Saturday program will continue on – a simple day of morning classes and then an afternoon of reading books to visiting students. Last week when reading a story to some of our young afternoon visitors, I had a bit of a reality check.  The story was called Click, Clack Moo:Cows that Type.  A cute story if you’re inclined to check it out.  Often while reading a word or two comes up that needs to be explained in the simplest of English.  In the midst of reading I thought, “Oh no!  They probably don’t even know what a typewriter is!”

Now mind you, I remember the typewriter well. I learned to type on one in high school.  I still remember the feel of clicking the keys and then hitting the lever to make the carriage return.  It was a bit of a shock to notice this familiar but antiquated machinery was like a dinosaur to them.

When it came time to explain, the older brother of the group made it easy for me.  As I pointed to it and asked who knew what a typewriter was, he simply stated, “It is an old computer.”  Sure!  That will work.  An old computer, indeed.

As this week comes to a close we are preparing for a little break at English Village.  Next weekend is the lunar new year, a big holiday in South Korea. Koreans  typically spend the holiday with friends and family leaving city streets quiet and desolate.   The holiday itself is this Thursday and Friday, but English Village teachers are off for the week.

I’m grateful for the break before returning to a different schedule of teaching.  Upon return I will continue to teach the little ones their Saturday classes, continue working the weekend and then teach our Middle School camp-like programs a few days during the week.

It is a quiet day with grey skies as we slowly slip into the weekend.  The last day of book-club has fizzled away with just a Saturday’s work before the long break.  A quiet winter good-bye for now!  And feel free to write… it’s always good to hear from you!

Reiki Break

16 Jan

It’s a quiet day at English Village.  Winter is here, but it’s not making a big fuss. Sure, it’s blowing around some icy cold air. Whispering, “you might want to think twice about that walk outside.”  Overall, it’s being generally well-behaved….but still winter, nonetheless.

The program I have been teaching these past couple of months at English Village is nearing an end.  It’s a book club targeted to blossoming English readers as young as 3 to as old as 8 or 9.  The students are grouped into small classes by age and reading ability and spend some of their time here reading different character stories including Clifford, Nate the Great and Arthur.  There are weekday and Saturday classes but after January 24, the weekday classes will exist no more.  My book club co-teacher and I will likely be relocated to new (or old) pastures, teaching somewhere else in the Gyeonggi English Village landscape.

With the polite, but still cold weather my motivation for venturing out and about continues to slide.  Lately I am doing my best to engage and entertain myself mostly at the home front.  I have started training once a week at the on-campus weight room with one of our English teachers who is also an experienced trainer.  As it’s been perhaps 20 years since I have been in a weight room, mostly occupied with the gentle work of yoga in the interim, it is a bit of an adjustment to my mind, body and being.  While reacquainting myself with the various exercises, I do my best to maintain the balanced attitude and physical stature of yoga while still responding adequately to the heavy (to me!) weights descending upon my body. The intention is to build some strength… but my desire is to do so in a moderate way.

I continue to lead a weekly yoga class for interested teachers at English Village.  This week there was a little twist in the routine as I led a yoga class for elementary and middle school students studying and living here for a month-long program.  Leading yoga for younger people continues to be a new experience for me.  I am still finding my feet or perhaps my wings when teaching yoga to kids. Overall, the class went really well.  While they weren’t exactly hoisting me onto their shoulders and chanting “yoga!  yoga!” when it was finished, I would call it a success.  There were 31 pre-adolescent Korean girls tightly packed in a very cold room at 4pm in the afternoon. They were generally quiet and mostly engaged throughout the entire class.  I say, “Bravo!”

Recently I began offering Reiki treatments to teachers here at English Village. Reiki, as you may know, is a spiritual practice of mine for nearly ten years.  It is a simple but powerful spiritual tool and healing art that originated in Japan.  An intrigued collection of teachers have responded to the call and received a hands on Reiki-treatment.  For some, they share it is their first time trying something “like this…”  It seems their reasons to try Reiki are many – curiosity, health and healing, a need for restoration and relaxation.  I am really grateful to be able to offer to those who are interested here.  Often there is nothing like a Reiki treatment to turn over a new leaf, get past a cold, regain some balance, or just really let go if even for a little bit.

I have heard my Reiki teacher compare taking a Reiki class, typically a two or three-day commitment, to going on a Hawaiian vacation. Indeed, it is truly a restorative break to bask extensively in the practice and energy of Reiki.

I can recall, over 5 years ago, when I traveled to an annual Reiki gathering at a retreat center in the pristine forests of Oregon. Collectively as Reiki students, practitioners and teachers, we spent the whole weekend giving each other Reiki treatments, sharing, and listening to stories from some of the leaders of our Reiki tradition.  After that time away from the city and dipping in Reiki for days, I was amazed to see that a problem that was persistently on my mind prior to the gathering was completely resolved within me.  I felt at ease and wholeheartedly clear as to what I needed to do.  I returned to New Orleans, my home at the time, and fearlessly and easily took action on that insight. Good things naturally flowed afterwards. Self-Reiki-Badge

While I am here with quiet time at English Village, my Reiki practice is one of the things I lean on.  At the foundation of my practice is daily self-treatments.  Part of the beauty of Reiki is that you can easily give it to yourself.  We are taught in classes that Reiki is for self first.  After nearly ten years of practice, daily self-treatments are almost like breathing to me. It’s hard to imagine a day without them.  Reiki Master Pamela Miles has created a badge to bring to light and honor the importance of daily Reiki self-treatments.  Click on the red badge to learn more.

In addition to self-treatment and giving hands-on treatments to people here,  I also send Reiki daily to friends and family all over the world.  As a second degree practitioner, I can do what is known as a distance Reiki treatment and send Reiki to people, places and situations anywhere and at any point in time. An interesting benefit of Reiki is that sending it to others it is actually a way to care for myself. As I send daily to the needs and requests of others, I just feel better.  It’s amazing how while sending Reiki the thoughts and entanglements of the day begin to dismantle.

As a traveler, how lucky I am that no matter where I am in the world, I have Reiki with me.  All I need to do is give myself a treatment to begin to melt away whatever it is… a cold or flu, anxiety, fatigue.

Are you curious about Reiki or perhaps a Reiki practitioner yourself?  Do you have your own Reiki story to share? It would be fun to hear from you!  I am also happy to answer any questions about Reiki.  Ask away. If you’d like to experience Reiki for yourself, you can always request a distant Reiki treatment.  If you are in South Korea, a hands-on treatment may also be an option.  Visit my Services page to learn more.

Here is a simple video introducing Reiki presented by Reiki Master Pamela Miles.  If you would like to learn Reiki for yourself, there are teachers all over the world!  Here is a database of teachers and classes in the Usui Shiki Ryoho system, the traditional system that I know and trust.  I can also recommend my teacher, Elizabeth Ohmer Pellegrin, located in New Orleans but willing to travel for classes anywhere on the planet.

Thanks for reading!  And remember, it’s always great to hear from you!

Happy New Ear!

3 Jan

Well it seems all too easily 2013 has slipped away with the arrival of 2014.  As is typical here at English Village, we worked right through the holidays.  And so I shared my New Years with a very young assembly of party-goers, our students.  As I did my best in class to communicate about the New Year in very simple English, two of my youngest students liked saying “Happy New Ear”… instead of “Happy New Year”… and so, I pass their amusement on to you.

It continues to be a quiet winter season.  The snow is periodically melting giving way to dirty streets and icy patches.  English Village is currently entertaining a group of month-long visitors for a program called VIP.  This student body is generally around 11 – 14 years old.  The month of January is a winter holiday for Korean students.  As learning English and studying is a high priority here, around 200 lucky students are spending their winter holiday here.  I am not teaching these students as I am teaching the youngest students at English Village, a program where we read books, do simple english activities, play games and do crafts.  Truly a world apart from the busy adolescent body of VIP.

I continue to be aware of what an odd life I lead here in English Village.  Recently a friend from Germany wished me well in my current adventures in the UK.  “I am not in the UK…” I had to distinguish to him.  “I am at a place called English Village… it’s in South Korea.” True, the architecture of English Village is hardly reminiscent of South Korea… and it’s not intended to be.  This is a place where South Koreans can be immersed in the English language and something like western life… without leaving their country.  It’s the only place where I can feel like a rock stock just for smiling, saying hello and speaking English.

Despite the strangeness of life in English Village, there are many things that I cannot help but be grateful for.  In the simplest of terms it has afforded me a safe and mostly gentle respite in life where I can live, develop and grow.  It is nestled in the un-busy hills of Paju City that always feels like a relief to me after returning home from a day in Seoul.  There are many friendly English-speaking faces here and a whole network of resources for surviving and navigating life in South Korea.  Plus, there is a whole world to discover not far outside our door and easy access to Seoul.

Recently I took myself on a little pre-New Years celebration/adventure to a traditional Korean bath, known as a jjimjibang.  I went to a bath in Seoul called Dragon Hill known for its friendliness and accessibility to foreigners (that’s me…).  It was only my second visit since arriving in Korea.  I have to admit it still takes a little “somethin'” for me to go to a public place where I will be walking around naked in front of strangers.  While it might seem unusual to some Americans, the practice is quite common in Korea. At the Dragon Hill spa, you take the elevator to the women’s sauna floor, find your locker, take off your clothes and you’re on your way!

The sauna itself is filled with a myriad of inviting, warm, herbal baths.  Ah, so nice and invigorating.  It’s sort of fun for me to go there as a foreigner who doesn’t speak or understand Korean.  In some ways I get to be almost invisible as I glide in and out of the tubs surrounded by many Korean faces and bodies.  It’s also a joy to share the innocence of unspoken communication… the simple things that are done to acknowledge someone else in a friendly way – a laugh, a smile when there is something to be said but no words to use.

While at Dragon Hill I gave myself a special New Years treat and signed up for a massage.  This was, as it turns out, no ordinary massage… but 90 minutes of full body acupressure, thai massage, foot massage, facial acupressure, head massage and facial treatment… whew!  Are you feeling relaxed yet?  It was, in fact, one of the most kind and loving things I have ever done for myself.  At one point I just laughed out loud in sheer joy as I had some sort of facial treatment on my face (that felt really cool and refreshing) while my body continued to be coaxed into release and relaxation.  Granted, it wasn’t quite the personal “massage therapist” experience you might have back in the States.  At one point I heard someone call the name of the man who was giving me my message. He responded to the call immediately and just dropped my leg on the table in mid-massage.  Nonetheless, he was very good at what he did and I was grateful.

As this year has come to an end, myself and others are looking to the New Year with some sort of intention or fresh energy. In honor of that I thought I would share a few of the things that really make a difference in my life.  If you know me or read my blog, you are already aware that Reiki and SGI Buddhism are both spiritual pillars in my life.  But here are a few others that I seldom mention that would enhance any New Year.  Enjoy!

  1. Dan Millman’s 4 Minute Workout
    You many know Dan Millman, the well-loved guru whose story is told in the movie Peaceful Warrior. I learned this sweet little workout during a cold, quiet winter in Germany.  It’s great because it moves and addresses every part of the body in only 4 minutes.  It’s a perfect way to bring some movement into your life on daily basis.
  2. Art of Living Sudarshan Kriya
    I stumbled upon the Art of Living in post-hurricane Katrina New Orleans.  Their was something about the organizational name that caught my attention.  I attended an informational session and felt inspired to take their first course which teaches the Sudharshan Kriya.  The Kriya is a simple sequence of breathing and movements.  I have done it regularly for about 7 years now. It’s something I can count on to ease stress, reduce anxiety, bring me back to my body, and help release any physical pains or discomforts.  Click here for more information and to find a course near you.
  3. Radiant Recovery
    Many of us know… on some level… you are what you eat.  For many people, myself included, eating a heathy and appropriate diet is the difference between day and night in health and feeling good.  A friend referred me to this program of eating.  It’s signature book is “Potatoes not Prozac” as part of the ensemble of new eating habits is eating a potato before bed.  It is targeted for people who are “sugar sensitive” and gently unfolds a program backed by science to support health and well-being. Do you think you might be sugar sensitive?  Read here to learn more!

How about you?  What are your plans and inspirations for the New Year?  Any cherished goodies to share to help launch me and others into the New Year?

Wishing you a powerful, happy and transformative New Year!  And as always, thanks for reading!

Photo on top, in class with the little ones we made party hats for our New Years celebration!

Looking Back

19 Dec

It’s hard to believe it… but its been a year since I first arrived at Gyeonggi English Village!  It was July of 2012 when I first saw the posting for the job on Dave’s ESL Cafe.  I was in France at the time doing a work exchange at a bed and breakfast.  I knew that I wanted to keep traveling. A friend encouraged me to explore jobs teaching ESL (English as a Second Language).  I perused many jobs on the internet and I applied for one. The job here at English Village.  And here I am.

After I applied, it was a month or so until I heard from them.  I happily had a brief Skype interview at 4am my time. Shortly after I was offered the job and then began the quick rearranging of my world and life in the direction of South Korea.  This needed to include a return to the States for the lengthy Korean visa process. I quickly needed a new place to go as my current arrangement in France was nearing the end.  Thankfully and luckily, I made plans to do a work exchange with a family in the States through the website helpx.net.  I booked a cheap last minute flight with a German airline called Condor and within what seemed like the blink of an eye I was back in the States.  And so began the process of getting a Korean visa, which took me in total nearly 4 months.

When the visa finally came through it was almost a shock… so many months of preparation and planning and then… suddenly… I actually needed to BOOK a ticket to Korea!  I was exhilarated and nervous all at the same time!  As some friends and family know, I am not one of those laid back, calm, cool and collected travelers.  I get nervous. Really nervous.  And while my heart, mind and spirit truly love the excitement, adventure and experience of going to new places… the journey for me often comes with good helping of anxiety.

I can still remember the night before I was to leave for Korea.  I was at my parent’s house where I had been visiting for a few days prior to my departure.  Suddenly I had this thought that going to Korea was just a crazy notion.  I called my friend, Reiki teacher and often co-pilot on this journey and asked… “am I crazy?  Is this a crazy idea?” Her response, as it often is, was, “what does you gut say” and truth be told… my gut was really okay with it.  And so the next day I got on a plane and flew to Korea.

When I arrived I was also really nervous.  Happily for me the school arranged for me to be picked up by taxi at the airport to drive me the hour or so journey to English Village in Paju City.  At the airport the taxi driver held a sign with my name on it and took my hand as he led me to the taxi.  He was a friendly older man and I was grateful for his parent-like support.

My beginning at English Village was cold and  a little rocky.  My first day of work there was a major ice storm and I spent my day carefully walking up and down icy steps waiting for the HR staff to return to the office and direct me where to go.  But in time, slowly, I began to find my way and collect the people, places and things I needed to be warmer and more at home.

As I began teaching in the classroom I was also… really nervous.  With a background in higher education and professional experience leading students and workshops, I knew I was a good teacher.  But it had been over ten years since I had done that.  In the wake of that was a decade of personal challenges that had my confidence and nerves more than a little shaky.  In the beginning I did my best, I showed up, and I did the work even though I was scared.

In a short amount of time my confidence increased and I felt more satisfied and capable in the classroom.  I did my best to pay attention to the teachers I thought were good and adapted my technique accordingly.  In time I took on some additional projects creating curriculum for the program and continued to develop myself personally and professionally.

This past year has also been a big year for me in my spiritual development.  About three years ago I became a member of a Buddhist organization called SGI (Soka Gakkai International).  I discovered the practice when I still lived in New Orleans.  A Buddhist friend there introduced me to the practice and suggested that I explore chanting “nam myoho renge kyo” for things that I wanted.  Surprisingly, as I began to chant I found the things I was chanting for gently appeared in my life.  When I became a member, my life began to change quickly and within a few months I left New Orleans and had a ticket to Europe. I took this new practice with me on the road living in Germany and France.  I connected with a few local SGI groups while in Europe, but it wasn’t until I came to South Korea that I found an SGI group where I became a regular member.

With the support of English-speaking expat leaders in South Korea, I have learned a great deal more about the practice and about myself.  I have been inspired to increase my regular chanting, the foundation of the practice.  I see now more clearly that regular chanting is a bedrock I can rest on to continue to meet and overcome challenges in my life and to usher in new and good things for myself.  In my life as it is, with so much opportunity but also challenges and uncertainty, the foundation of a good spiritual practice makes all the difference in the world.  It makes the impossible… possible.

Here are a few photos from the year:

And so, a year has come and gone.  And now the question that beckons is… what’s next?  Well, as you can see, I am still at English Village!  I have learned on this journey that it is best to be open to and take action for new possibilities and then be prepared… for the unexpected.  Sometimes things stay the same but sometimes when you least expect it they have a way of changing on a dime.

Thanks for being a part of this journey in whatever way you may be… a friend or a family member, a curious reader or fellow traveler.

I am writing from my cold office in English Village, hesitant to take off my gloves to type on the keys as there is an icy cold lingering in the room. The snowy weather has quieted down the campus with fewer teachers, fewer students and less activity.  As the holidays grow closer, they will nearly be missed at English Village.  We will be working through it all.

Good bye for now from the cold and frozen land of Paju English Village.  Sending warm holiday thoughts your way!

Featured image at top, a snowy bouquet of flowers outside a Seoul subway station.

Winter Fun

12 Dec

Well, it seems winter has come to Paju.  And I have to say, I find myself greeting it with a bit of child-like enthusiasm.  For the most part, I am prepared for the winter.  I have warm clothes.  My refrigerator and freezer and filled with food.  I have delicious herbal teas, some good movies, a book or two, and a strange life living and working at English Village that is (mostly) easily sustained even in the midst of the winter snow and cold.  As I, and all foreign teachers, live right here on the English Village campus, even with a few inches of snow… it’s an easy commute to work.

Paju is in a strange pocket of weather in South Korea.  With a full spectrum of four seasons, it is known for having a surprising dive into seasonal extremes.  It is unexpectedly hot and humid in the summer (but in truth it ain’t got nothin’ on New Orleans!) and the winters are long…long… and cold.  The winters here are cold even compared to our neighbor just an hour to the South, the grand city of Seoul.  Paju has a biting humidity with a cold winter wind that can chill you to the bones and an exorbitant amount of snow.

So today, with a healthy blanket of snow already on the ground and a fresh batch of snow scattering in the skies, I am staying inside.  I am already well-underway with my winter hibernation activities.  I have been busy cooking healthy, yummy food, practicing yoga and reiki, reading books and watching movies.  I have even broken out the watercolors and started a little light painting.  Winter fun.  What more could a girl ask for?

Alas, this is just the beginning of the winter season.  It is possible my lighthearted winter attitude will fade as winter and the snow drifts grow deeper.  The winters here are extraordinarily long.  Last December when I first arrived here in Paju and South Korea, my first day of life and work was met with a was a terrible ice storm.  I wore my long down coat doing my best to keep my frozen New Orleans body warm, still in shock from the cold weather.  I didn’t take that coat off again until April…. we will see how I and the weather fair this year.

This past weekend I made two very yummy dishes that helped keep me warm, happy and satisfied.  The first was spinach polenta lasagna.  I followed a very simple recipe I found online, modified it a bit to suit my tastes and cupboard, and easily assembled layers of gooey wonderfulness.  What a treat it was.  It tasted delicious and is an easy way to eat Lasagna gluten free!  I also made some carrot soup.  I basically followed a recipe from the foodnetwork.  It is a very easy carrot soup enhanced with fresh chopped onions, garlic and I added some fresh ginger.  It is sautéed in a curry paste and then cooked up with some stock with a hint of cayenne pepper.  About an hour later with a little help from my immersion blender and a dollop of greek yogurt on top, it was a smooth and satisfying winter treat.  Delicious!

I continue to lead a weekly yoga class for interested teachers at English Village.  The winter weather provides a few challenges as we begin our yoga class in the early evening bundled up and huddled up feeling at first unable to move.  We practice in a nice size room with a heater that doesn’t come close to heating the room.  I begin the practice with my wool scarf tied around my neck, in layers and two pairs of wool socks on.  Slowly as we warm up it gets a little bit easier… and in truth I get so interested in the yoga I forget that I am cold.  But it is still cold nonetheless.  At any rate, it is a really nice mid-week diversion particularly as we are coming into the sometimes isolating land of English Village in winter.

I sang Christmas carols with my students this week.  It wasn’t a planned thing.  But in one of my younger classes a few of the girls started singing the carols they knew.  So I jumped on the boat, wrote the words on the board to perhaps help them with their English, and we sang a few songs.  In truth I find I like singing with the students.  I like it perhaps… more than they do…  Lately I have had some fun teaching my youngest students songs from my (and most americans’) childhood.  My repertoire includes the hokey pokey, the itsy-bitsy spider, and of course… “head and shoulders, knees and toes (knees and toes…)”… you know the one.

I suppose Christmas is just around the corner now.  Even though there is a bit of Christmas energy on the EV campus, its easy to forget being here in South Korea.  As best as I can tell, many people in South Korea celebrate Christmas but it’s not the all-encompassing seasonal experience it can be in the States.  I am told that many folks in South Korea simply go out to dinner to celebrate, much like we would on New Years Eve.

Good-bye for now from the newly frozen and snow-covered land of English Village in Paju City South Korea.  Doing my best to keep it simple and stay warm!

Winter Warm-up

6 Dec

Good morning from English Village!  Winter is slowly creeping in.  Admittedly, I am not a cold weather person.  But with some proper layering and a good scarf… so far, not so bad!  As the cold weather has begun to show her face, it is standard these days to see teachers roaming about wearing coats, hats and scarves – inside and out.

It’s been a good week.  Life has been about teaching English, staying warm and easing into winter. Warm soups and spicy herbal teas. Enthusiastic (and some not so enthusiastic) young Korean English students.  And the regular  diversion to Seoul.

This past Sunday I went with some friends from my SGI Buddhist group to a restaurant in Itaewon (in Seoul) called Petra’s Palace.  It was wonderful!  It’s a mediterranean restaurant owned by a family from Jordan.  The selections are delectable.  I had the chicken kabob.  Another friend had the curry.  There was hummus and tabouleh for everyone.  The best thing for me was – nearly the entire menu included items with no sugar added!  Hooray!  It was a wonderful, satisfying meal and I look forward to going back.

When we were leaving Petra and heading up the small windy road in Itaewon, a Korean man on a motorcycle buzzed by in an elaborate flair.  His motorcycle was decorated with…I’m not sure what… but it was big and unexpected and he couldn’t help but be noticed as he sped loudly down the alleyway.  It was such a breath of fresh air to see something outrageous… if even for a moment.  After living in New Orleans for 13 years, it seems that is something my spirit has been missing.

Adventures in teaching English continue.  Overall, it’s really a great break to teach small groups of young children.  While most days ease by with the typical reading of books and English games and activities… every once in a while there is something unexpected or unpredictable.  I have a few little ones who don’t get along with each other and this is challenging in class.  They say things to each other in Korean and… I don’t know what they are saying.  So I don’t know if one is provoking the other or if I need to intervene.  Inevitably it ends with someone getting mad, not talking, stomping off and sometimes… in the swinging of little arms and someone getting hit.  Yikes.  Nothing too serious, as it is little people arms and little people hits.  The parents are helpful and supportive but as they speak limited English and I don’t speak Korean… it can be difficult to create a good resolution.

I have some happy breakfast news in my world of healthy eating.  A friend of mine recently turned me on to a new protein powder called Juvo Raw Green Protein.  I just got it this week from my favorite Korean delivering company, iherb.com.  It’s fabulous and I am so excited.  It turns out this product was actually created by a Korean doctor who teaches at a local university. It has wonderful ingredients, doesn’t taste too bad, and provides all the nutrients and proteins I need for breakfast in the morning.  It has slimmed down my morning routine considerably (which typically includes making oatmeal and eggs every morning.  Ugh.)  I follow a diet called radiant recovery for people with sugar sensitivity.  At the heart of this diet is plenty of protein and healthy carbs at every meal (oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa…).  It takes some effort to do, but it is well worth it.  This protein powder is a big help!  Yippee!

The winter slowdown is starting to kick in.  The skies are white.  The wind is cold.  And the need and desire to be out and about is… diminishing.  Life is slow right now.  And in truth, it feels pretty good.

Good bye for now from the newly barren lands of English Village, reminiscent of the stark and quiet country I saw when I arrived here nearly a year ago.  I am sending warm winter thoughts your way!  Feel free to write and let me know how you are.  It’s always good to hear from you!

New Nest

14 Nov

It’s a chilly day in Paju, South Korea.  I am taking a little break hovered around the electric heater like a campfire.  While true, it is not yet winter, the icy cool Paju weather has begun to make an appearance. The long cold winter is just around the corner.

My big English Village news this week is that I have moved into a larger apartment.  This is not a small event for me.  As someone who has been traveling for the past three years, often living in the grace and space of other people’s homes in a variety of situations (the most unexpected of which was a mattress lovingly placed on top of a table in an extra storage room)… my two-room apartment (an upgrade from my one-room space of the last ten months) feels like a castle.  I could hardly hide my joy as I was moving in.  So much room.

I have a tub in my new apartment.  It is a most loved addition as it seems I am part fish and need a regular immersion in water.  This is, however, no ordinary tub.  It is a Korean size tub.  Quite simply it means… it is small. No room for long “western” sized legs.  No room to expand and relax or even move side to side.  But it does have a cumfy built-in head rest. The best part is that it holds hot water just the same and, thankfully, at least I can fit in.

I continue to teach, entertain and negotiate my relationships with my new young students. Mostly… they are so cute.  This week I explored doing a little yoga with them to try to focus some of their endless spritely energy.  Their willing nimble bodies moved and grooved happily into a variety of child-friendly yoga poses.

One student who I teach one-on-one I am learning is a bit of a joker and likes to play games with me.  She will often say a different name from what something actually is in the spirit of her own little fun.  The other day she decided when reading a book about a variety of creatures, that I was the octopus and she was, of course, the princess.  Alas, who can argue with that!

One of my student’s loves to play the game hangman.  You know how it goes – you guess a letter and if that letter is not in the word you get a body part drawn on the classic hangman post resembling the number 7. When she plays she adds her own twist.  She draws the hangman in typical Korean cute fashion –  a delicate girl head and body, with fancy hair,  bow and dress.  Too funny. Another student recently showed up for class in a sweatshirt with a Ninja face hood complete with see through eyes on the hood.  I was pretty impressed and very cool as far as kids things go.  And still, another student when drawing a picture of a turtle had to include the much loved Korean ponytail often drawn by little girls in pictures and drawings.

Earlier this week I attended the local Korean chapter of my Buddhist group, Soka Gakkai International.  It is quite a system we have established to negotiate connecting with our obvious language barriers.  There is one young member who went to college in the United States and speaks excellent English.  We begin the journey with her contacting me via text. She lets me know when the meeting is and what time to be ready.  Then a different Korean member picks me up at English Village and takes me to the meeting.  The ride is friendly but often quiet with little to communicate.  A few stops are made along the way, picking up other women SGI members.

Arriving at the meeting, its always a joy to experience the excitement and love I feel from this group even though we can’t communicate.  Often young members are excited to see me and I wonder if some of them have ever seen someone who isn’t Korean before.  And so I listen to the meeting, with the help of my friendly translator who meets me there.  In no time at all the meeting is over and once again I am whisked back safely to English Village.

As the weather turns cooler and with my new big apartment, I find myself more inclined to nesting and staying warm at home. Cooking soups.  Feeling somehow like I want to prepare myself for the winter.

But for now, it’s an afternoon of classes.  It’s just another day at English Village.

Photo: The bright Fall lights on the English Village Campus.

Settling In

3 Nov

I have been back in South Korea for over a week now.  While my sleep, for the most part, is back on Korean time, it seems my mind, body and being are still assimilating to life back in South Korea.  Admittedly, my six-week stay in the States has me remembering now the things that are familiar and good in my home culture.  The ease of movement in a land where, mostly, I know the rules… and the language. Quality built and well insulated homes.  Easy access to healthy food.

That said, I still feel a certain element of independence and spark of excitement at just being in South Korea. Today was my first trip into Seoul since returning.  I appreciated the foreign familiarity of staring into the many Korean faces on the subway, all of us united in the study of our smart phones.  The recognizable but still indiscernible to me sound of the Korean language.  The simple pleasure of walking in Seoul on a perfectly moderate fall day, catching a glimpse of the Seoul Tower in the background.  Despite missing things about home, I can’t deny that I am also grateful to be here.

My first week returning to English Village has been a bit bumpy for me.  Thankfully my week-long sleep adjustment finally resulted in success – sleeping all the way until 5am… Hurray!  While not quite cold yet, there is a new damp bite in the air… a chilly reminder of the winter months that lie ahead.  A daunting prospect for me at best.  And then there is the mold. My newish work assignment at English Village has me working in a building that has some mold problems.  Since returning, one day I turned on the heater to warm up the place and doing so must have launched a variety of unwanted things in to the air.  What resulted for me was a very painful allergic reaction.  This experience has me hesitant in my new work environment.

But bumpy as its been, I can’t help but stop to smell the roses.  I continue with my pre-US departure work assignment now teaching small classes of young children learning to read.  This is quite a change from the busloads of adolescent youth I was teaching in my previous assignment.  Days now include a quieter tone and the innocence and genuine enthusiasm of the children I work with.  Additionally, we get to see the same kids each week, so I have some time to get to know them.

Most of my students are really sweet and enthusiastic.  They range from a very young age of about four years old to 9-year-old.  Their English level spans from still learning their ABCs to quite conversational.  As I get to know them, its fun to consider what they like to do and choose activities and games that best suit them.  At times they are wild with their unbridled childlike energy… which can be fun and contageous… and other times a bit of a challenge in the classroom.

This week’s adventures in the classroom included a bit of a scavenger hunt – roaming the campus looking for words we read in our book “Under the Sky”.  Along the way, we stumbled upon the two resident turtles at English Village.  They were a big hit with my little student who found them while looking for rocks.

Also, while the leaves are changing color here in Paju, some of my students created some colorful trees of their own.  I was impressed with their bold selection of colors!

Today I made my way to Seoul for the chapter meeting of my Buddhist SGI group, known as Morning Sun.  I can always count on this group to provide a friendly face, a good hug, as well as some wisdom and inspiration.  Three years into this practice, I continue to appreciate its consistent message of never give up and of making the impossible possible.  I also am fed by the reminder that part of the happiness of life is the joy and growth in overcoming life’s challenges. It helps me to keep an attitude of never give up when surrounded by the spirit and energy of this Buddhist group.  I particularly appreciate the spark and enthusiasm of this Seoul SGI group that to me feels so vibrant and alive.

After my day in Seoul, I am now settled in a bit for a little relaxation.  On my way home, I stopped at the local Home Plus store and treated myself to a few familiar goodies.  Sometimes the little things make a difference.

And with that I will leave you for now… settling in for the night on a quiet cool evening in Paju City, South Korea.

Top photo is a snapshot of some bright bold Fall leaves on the English Village campus.

Back to the Future

24 Oct

Well, it happened.  I returned to visit the States, time passed ever so quickly, and before I knew it… it was time to come home… or return to Korea.  It seems the lines of what is home have become blurred a little bit.  But nonetheless, it happened.  At 11am on Tuesday I boarded a United Airline flight and ten short hours later… I was here… in tomorrow… in Korea.

The way here was mostly uneventful, departing from the San Francisco airport.  Boarding the plane, I had some casual conversation with a young man visiting South Korea who, it turns out, knows a teacher where I work!  Once seated in the plane I had a brief conversation with a sweet Korean woman returning from a 30 day visit to the States.  Unfortunately, her trip focused on visiting national parks.  With the government shutdown, for much of her journey this was not an option and her trip was utterly devastated.

Before the flight even took off, I was fortunate enough to move to a near empty row of seats.  I was content to make myself comfortable with two empty seat between me and the next passenger.  What a difference a little room makes on a long flight!  I was also given a tip by a fellow passenger.  She told me about a website called seatguru.com.  This site helps you pick the best seat on the plane.  A good resource indeed!

When I landed in Korea I easily found a bus that took me in the direction of home.  From there I took a taxi to return to Gyeonggi English Village.  When I got in the taxi, I offered where I needed to go using my best Korean (which is not very good).  The poor driver looked at me funny, then made a phone call and handed the phone to me.  It was his daughter… who apparently speaks English.  I told her in English where I wanted to go and returned the phone to her father.  Ah, too bad for me… but at least I made it back!

As I was walking through the English Village entrance way, two suitcases in tow, I saw a cute little face that looked familiar.  I soon recognized that it was a little girl from one of the classes I had taught the last two weeks before I left.  As sweet as can be, she ran up to me and gave me a big hug and wouldn’t let go of holding my hand.  It was the perfect welcome back.

My first night of Korea-time sleeping was…. not the best.  But, alas, all is well.

I spent most of my day today enjoying the amazing fall weather, unpacking and reacclimating myself to English Village.  It was good to see some familiar faces and connect with a few teachers.  I have also learned, typical to English Village, that much has changed since I left. Teachers have left, some unexpectedly, others have been promoted and programs are changing.  But that is the nature of the game here – change.  And for the most part, that is okay with me.

Tomorrow is my first day back at work.  There is an easy step and feel in the air.  In my absence Fall has snuck in and the village is adorned with Halloween lanterns.  I must admit, I already miss my fluffy towels and electric dryer back in the States.  That said, it’s still good to be back… 13 hours ahead of where I came from… in the present… in the future.

Photo of the hills surrounding English Village with hints of Fall color just starting to set in.

Update from the Heartland

7 Oct

It’s a quiet Sunday afternoon in small town mid-west USA.  All is good.  The air is fresh and  crisp.  The scene is quiet.  There is a hint of Fall color in the trees and Halloween is not far around the corner.

As you may know, I am immersed in an unexpected detour from my life in South Korea, now in the mid-west USA where my family resides. I learned recently of some serious health challenges of a family member and since have ridden the wave that landed me back home in the States for a visit. When I say home, I suppose I say that loosely.  I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri but haven’t lived there for nearly 20 years. I spent my last thirteen years in the States living in New Orleans. Almost ten years ago, my parents left St. Louis and diverted to a different neck of the woods to be close to family and grandchildren.  So my visit home, while surrounded by family and a place I have visited, is in many ways unfamiliar to me.

Daily life here is simple but not without some much-needed joy and exploration.  How fortunate I am, particularly without a vehicle, that my parent’s church just down the street offers a yoga class three days a week!  I have also connected with local members of my SGI Buddhist organization.  They have been so friendly and supportive. One member even picked me up this morning to attend the monthly World Peace Gathering. It did me a world of good to spend a little time out in life connecting with new people and chanting as well.

It continues to be an easy breeze being back in the States.  My body and being are more than grateful for a big helping of cushy conveniences and American luxuries.  That said, there is certainly a part of me that now feels in some way at “home” in South Korea.  I noticed this when an SGI member today bowed and said “annyeonghaseyo” which is Korean for hello.  My heart leapt and my eyes lit up in recognition.

I was seriously tickled the other night by my youngest nephew, now 7 years old.  We were playing a game of charades of sorts.  He would act something out and I had to guess what it was.  One time he did a dance… and I was thinking… there is no way I am going to recognize this dance.  I am so out of touch with young American culture.  I asked him to hum the song and still didn’t recognize it.  “Okay I give up!” I said. ” What is it?”  It was none other than “Gangnam Style” the mega-hit by Korean pop star Psy.  “That song is from South Korea!” I told him.   “Did you know that?”  His eyes lit up and he took off in excitement to tell his brothers.

Life here has been good but also challenging.  There are the basics challenges of the health issues that are facing my family right now.  Additionally are the challenges (and blessings) of three adults (that would be my parents and myself) living together when we haven’t done so since they were the parents and I was the child. While we have had a few ups and downs in our adventure of co-habitation, it is still certainly worthwhile to be here at this important time.

And so with that I will depart from my nearly weekly update of my gypsy life, looking less gypsy-like nested comfortably in the heartland of the States. Please feel free to write and share what is up in your life.  It’s always good to hear from you!

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