Seoul, Magic, and Some Other Things

I believe in Christ, like I believe in the sun—not because I can see it, but by it I can see everything else. –C.S. Lewis

The world is but a canvas for our imagination. — Henry David Thoreau

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As March draws near, I realize that I am almost halfway through my time here in Korea. The school semester is about to change which means I get different classes, different children. I’ve been told the cold weather will just get warmer from here. Things will change again for the next six months I am here. I find myself partly excited to see who God brings into my life the next six months to bless me or hopefully be a blessing to, but I am also sad to be saying goodbye to the children in my life now. They bring me so much joy and are definitely my favorite part of being in Korea. I do adore teaching these children so much!

This past week was the Lunar New Year or Soellal. We got three days off work, so I took the chance to spend it in Seoul. This time alone. It was my first solo trip. This is something I’ve been wanting to do as part of my “pushing myself out of my comfort zone” challenge. But I was more nervous before the trip than I ever was during the trip. I felt pretty comfortable traveling around. I, of course, had a few times where I missed the company of others during the trip, but I was also glad to experience a trip on my own for the first time. My favorite day, though, was when I jampacked my day with Lotte World (an indoor theme park), Lotte World Mall, and Lotte World Mall Aquarium. I had found a 50% discount online for Lotte World, which I thought was lucky. I paid less than $30 for something that would have cost closer to $60. It was a rainy day, so I was glad I had chosen all indoor things to do. It turned out to be quite the magical day for me, and I really wish to share my experience.

I honestly do not know what it was that day, but it was the first time in a long time I was bit by the creativity bug. I have always adored artsy things, such as dancing, singing, music, art, reading fiction, and writing fiction. However, I did not really see myself as an artist until my time at my university, where my professors and teachers poured into me, encouraged me, and opened my eyes to see that being an artist doesn’t necessarily mean we are strictly a painter, or writer, or dancer…Artists are people who create as they go through life. However, it had been a while since I had felt any sort of creative. Especially since coming here to Korea, I have not had any creative urges. It was startling to me since I thought Korea would open me up the way Japan had.

Yet, suddenly, that rainy, Sunday morning, in a cute AirBnB room, I found myself inspired to be creative. I left the room feeling like my eyes had been opened. The whole way to Lotte World, where I was beginning my day, was full of noticing and having a rain of ideas for my writing (and by writing, I mean my fiction writing). I was really impressed with the size of Lotte World, being an indoor theme park. It was like stepping into a small Disneyland in the way that it had its own character to its own stories (although Disney is much more magical, so it is hard to compare this place to Disney).

 

The first ride I rode there literally made me feel like I was flying. I’m sure the people sitting next to me could see my excitement as the VR experience took us on a fantasy flying journey. I loved that I felt the jerk of our flying machine and the splash of water from the waterfalls and wave spurts we flew past. It literally made me tear up because I was thinking, “This is how it would feel to fly.” I now tuck this experience in my pocket and will not be surprised if I see this experience pop up again and again in my stories.

It’s pretty funny my favorite ride was my first ride, but I still enjoyed my time in Lotte World. However, I left it after spending a few hours there to explore the Lotte World Mall (I was tired of waiting in lines and struggling to find the only rollercoaster in the place—had no luck). I wanted to go to Lotte World Mall only because I had seen one small picture on a random blog of a Totoro from Studio Ghibli’s My Neighbor Totoro. If you know me at all, you know I adore Studio Ghibli, or at least the movies I’ve seen (and I haven’t seen as many as there are). So here I was popping into random stores, only with a vague hope of finding something Totoro-themed.

I often feel like I am being guided when I explore. I somehow find my way more often than I should. I found the Mall only because I decided to go to the Aquarium (I thought I was already in the mall but it was just a department store). While I was on my way to the Aquarium in the Mall, I just would pop into random stores. I saw a glimpse of an interesting store a little ways away in a different direction than I was headed and decided to check it out. On my way there, I discovered the Studio Ghibli store. When I was looking for something Totoro-themed, I was not expecting this.

 

Studio Ghibli’s movies are some of the few movies out there that speak to something in me. My creativity? My love of art? My love of story? Whatever it is, I love the works of Miyazaki. So, discovering this store was a little too exciting for me and I spent quite a bit of time in there looking at everything. After I finally dragged myself out of the store, I found the Aquarium and went inside.

Just so you can fully grasp where I was coming from, I have only been to the aquarium in Tulsa, Oklahoma and an aquarium in Dallas, Texas. So, I did not have high hopes of spending a lot of time in this aquarium. I was not sure if it was worth the money. What I did not know was this would definitely be the high of my day. When I first entered, it seemed like every other aquarium I had been to (the whole two—haha). I was enjoying myself, even stood for a while to watch the otters, when I suddenly saw the exit.

Disappointed, I thought that this was another small aquarium. I was just about to leave, when I saw people coming up an escalator through a tunnel tank (typically known as shark tunnels except I did not see many sharks in any I saw there). There was no way down from where I was, but I knew that meant there was more to this aquarium than I had seen. So, I turned around and found the rest of the aquarium. I think from that moment on, my opinion of aquariums flew through the ceiling. This aquarium seemed to keep going. I saw my first whales, two Beluga whales, where I spent twenty to thirty minutes watching them swim. I walked through many tank tunnels. Finally, I found the largest tank I have ever seen full of fish swimming gracefully through the water. I was awestruck the whole time. I spent another long while sitting and gazing at this large tank until I checked the time to see it was 6pm. I was hungry, and so I reluctantly left my position and went in search of food, leaving behind this magical aquarium.

 

There was themed food at the top of the Mall, so I made my way up to the top floors. I was surprised to see so many familiar restaurants, but there were also restaurants from other parts of the world. I really enjoyed walking around the little village of food. It was impressive to see. I finally settled on a place I knew I would probably not experience in America, and went into a K-pop entertainment diner. I really enjoyed eating while listening to live music. After dinner, I went to Lotte Tower, where I was stumbled upon another show I thoroughly enjoyed. Then I decided to head back to my room.

 

All this to say, the whole day felt quite magical to me.

Since then, I have had a random creativity awaken in me. I wonder if solo trips often do this, and if so, maybe I should do it more often. On the train back home after my trip to Seoul was over, I was hit by the clearest picture of an idea for a drawing. Now, I have never, ever thought of myself as an artist in the sense of drawing at all. I used to love drawing and would do it all the time. I used to draw all the time. But I have literally only drawn once since my sophomore year of high school. I thought I had grown tired of drawing. I had no ideas or enjoyment while drawing anymore.

So, you can imagine the surprising I felt when this clear and strong idea for a drawing arose. I felt an urgency to create it. Even though I felt my drawing ability would not do it justice (because as said before, I have never seen myself as an artist in that way). So, despite of this, I spent the next ten hours after returning home drawing. It is not done, and not a masterpiece, but it makes me unexpectedly happy.

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I bring this up only to say that I still feel this strange electric zing! of creativity running through me. I do not want it to go just yet. I’m partially afraid my busy work schedule might stamp it out. However, I am also inspired by the inspiration. It reminds me of my dreams. It reminds me of the life I want to live. It reminds me I feel closest to God when I am creating, or appreciating another’s art, whether it be through art, dance, music, or reading and writing.

I think the point I have with this post is just to say I felt like I rediscovered my love for art and want to be an artist of life. Not in order to be the best, because I know I am not. But in order to give my best and glorify God through it all. I do not doubt at all that my inspiration comes from God. It is through Him I see everything else. This actually reminds me of a quote by C.S. Lewis: “I believe in Christ, like I believe in the sun—not because I can see it, but by it I can see everything else.”

This weekend I felt I was seeing everything through different eyes. I was allowing God to change how I saw things and because of this was able to fully enjoy the solo trip. A trip I was afraid I would not enjoy. I feel this post may be a bit awkward, but I really just wanted to share this experience. I really wanted to tell about this magical day. Maybe partially for the purpose of reminding myself of it later.

I really hope everyone can experience this joy throughout their lives. I can’t say my time in Korea has been easy, but it has definitely been quite the adventure so far! I do not regret my decision to come here for a second. I hope everyone can take those jumps that scare you and find you learn something from it. I have learned that with God that I am capable of much more than I ever thought I could. I can trust God knows what He is doing. I may not know what comes in my future, but God is my inspiration and I will keep following where He leads! One thing I know is God keeps waking up the dreamer in me. I just hope I allow God to help me to keep making those dreams realities!

Blessings!

Some other pictures of my time in Seoul:

 

—The Adversity Rose—

Kaitlyn Rose

DREAM. PURSUE. EXPERIENCE. GROW.

This blog will cover travel, personal growth, and life in general.

Adjusting to a Foreign Country

The more you like yourself, the less you are like anyone else, which makes you unique. –Walt Disney

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Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul, South Korea

This is a much-needed update about my time in Korea. I feel bad for not doing well in keeping up with my posts, but transitioning to a new life makes it hard to find time for anything except breathing and eating. I’ve been in Korea for a little over a month now and have been officially teaching English for four weeks. If you are looking for someone to paint you a false picture of all rainbows and sparkles about moving to another country, then don’t look here! I will be honest and say it is a big adjustment and I am trying to learn to love myself through the process.

First, I’ll start by sharing my experiences with teaching. I have to say that week one of teaching felt like a disaster and was one of my more stressful experiences. I had so much to learn and so much to do and was making a million and one mistakes every day that it is no wonder that I cried my first day of teaching. Despite this, I was pretty excited to be teaching and adored the kids. The weeks that followed were much better and I have been adjusting pretty well to the crazy teaching schedule. I really do love teaching these kids and they are so adorable!

I teach five-year-olds five classes in the morning and early afternoon (Korean age is actually a year or two older than American age, so the five-year-olds are actually around three- or four-years-old). They are my favorite classes to teach because they are so sweet and loving! They tell me constantly that they love me and give me many hugs. I really do love them! After a short break/prep time, I teach four classes of first graders that come from another school. I am slowly learning to enjoy teaching them too. They definitely were not my favorite that first week, but now I actually enjoy teaching them on most days. Because they are older, I feel they can sometimes be a bit hard to control. However, after getting some classroom management help, I’ve been doing much better.

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My first graders drawing and reading after their monthly exam.

I still make a lot of mistakes every day, but teaching is a learning experience. I know I will continue to get better and learn the best way to help my students the most! I want them to do well. Grading, although sometimes a lot of work, can be quite entertaining. It is fun to see what the kids think about and their thought processes. I have laughed many times, because who would not laugh when a kid compares himself to a parrot because he is a good listener? Or when they are supposed to create a new creature and one says that his creature has 100,000,000 billion teeth? It is pretty entertaining.

We had a pajama day for the five-, six-, and seven-year-olds this last Friday, which was probably the cutest thing I have ever seen. I wore my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fuzzy pajama bottoms and was petted and hugged by many little children that day. My favorite was either the dino slippers one boy wore, or the boy who was so proud to show me his alphabet pajamas. I am glad I work at a place that has dress up days! Halloween is next!

 

 

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Brayden’s dino slippers for Pajama Day.

 

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Yeonjun’s alphabet pajamas he was so proud to show me.
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My homeroom class on Pajama Day.

I love talking about the kids and can probably talk about them all day. I obviously will not–But here are some more pictures!

 

Since I am at work most of the time, my time outside work has been spent relaxing, cleaning my apartment, cooking, eating and sleeping. I have struggled with figuring out how to shop for food the most. I can clean, organize, and do laundry just fine. Cooking and shopping for food? I have no clue what I am doing. I never knew it was this hard to figure out. My first two weeks were ramen and curry every night. Not doing a whole lot better about my meals now, but have been taking it a meal at a time.

There are no driers here, so I hang my clothes to dry. I have no problem with doing this until it is an extra humid day and the clothes take three days to dry. Or when they dry wrinkled and I have no way to unwrinkled them. Still a struggle. I probably will invest in a steamer. I do find that I do better with laundry here though than I did back home. I am not entirely sure why, but it is true.

I have figured out how to handle the wet floor from the showers (since you just shower on the bathroom floor), so it is no longer that much of a problem. However, my skin reacts strongly to the water here. Maybe because of the chemicals used to clean the water, but I wash my face with bottle water and am looking for a shower head filter. Itching on my hands after washing my hands is not too bad, but itching on my back, arms, chest, neck, and head while showering is something else entirely. Also found out I am allergic to the body wash I have been using for the past several months. Yay! Now I have to be weary about all the products I use. My face and hair have not liked the move here either, and am currently looking for ways to solve those problems.

I have enjoyed exploring my city during the weekends, taking time to explore stores, restaurants, cafes, churches, and just getting used to how to get around. My friend/coworker and I have decided we like the trains better than the buses, against what most of our other coworkers think. Trains seem much more straightforward to us and less stressful than buses where you have to find the right bus and press the stop button when you get off. We had several bad experiences with them and no bad experiences with trains. So, we like trains. We walk so much here that I think I lost some weight from it all. I am used to feeling my feet and legs ache.

However, maybe because of the stress of moving, teaching, time change, food change, weather and air change, I think my immune system is down. I’ve been sick the past two weeks which makes it hard to explore as much as I would like. I am in the process of trying to build my immune system back up. I’m ready to not have to cough every five minutes.

Because this week is a big Korean holiday called Chuseok, I have three days off work so I was able to go to Seoul this past weekend and meet up with some friends and explore. It was a great way to release some stress and just have some fun, even if I got sick after coming back. We explored Myeongdong, Gangnam, did some karaoke, and went to Namsan Tower and the Gyeongbokgung Palace. It was a blast and I am excited for my next adventure! It was also nice to see some familiar faces and I really enjoyed hanging with my friends!

Since I have been struggling with some acne and hair problems, I have been trying to learn to love myself with those imperfections. It is much easier to love yourself when you don’t hate looking at yourself in the mirror. It is something I know God has been working with me on. So, I’ve been focusing a lot on trying to love myself with the imperfections as I am trying to find the solution, and how not to stress as I stress about things too much. Everything has worked out so far, so there is no need to stress!

Final update, I have a bank account, my alien registration card, and a Korean phone number even if I am planning to switch around my phone plan. I will get my first full pay check in a couple of weeks, and will have to pay my first month of bills soon after. Little by little I am settling in for my year of living here!

I am really glad to be here and really do love my job, even if things have not been super easy. And I do have some prayer requests!

  • Please continue to pray that I would be able to find a home church while I am here!
  • I would love prayer for my body. I need to build back up my immune system so I can stop being sick.
  • Also, that I can find a good shower filter so I can take a shower without itching like crazy and getting red marks all over my body.
  • Prayer that I will be able to make some more friends here!
  • I would always like prayer that I will continue to learn how to be a good teacher.
  • Please pray for my students as well!
  • Prayer that I will be able to pick up on the language while I am here
  • Prayer that I’ll have a better ease at locating the things I need. I still have had no luck locating a few necessities in stores.