write up: a trip to the DMZ (part 3)

this is the 3rd and final part of a series about my recent day-trip to the DMZ. if you need to catch up: my photo highlights, part 1 & part 2.

stop #4: Dora Observatory

Dora Observatory is an outpost next to the DMZ which sits on higher ground, lending the location a nice view of the DMZ itself and also a little bit of North Korea. it’s also across from one of the few villages near the border, as well as a South Korean factory. a few years ago, there were numerous South Korean factories in North Korea because of the cheap labor… but once again, change of government means a change in policy. the factory near the Dora Observatory is the last one that is currently still allowed to run. Continue reading write up: a trip to the DMZ (part 3)

the nature of it

my first adult work week has drawn to a close. it’s been low-key and spent more often than not running errands than in the office. I’ve been shopping, officially registered as a Korean alien, to a meet-up of other native English teachers in the area and everywhere else in between. I taught 4 classes. I have a bank account. I’m a functioning, human adult, with WiFi and a TV in my apartment… this is good.

but all of this is just logistics, small talk and concrete items that don’t measure, acknowledge and certainly don’t answer the real question: is it enough? is this enough?

but that’s what all of life is, that’s the theme of living itself. it’s a a constant quest to get enough, do enough, know enough, see enough, love enough and finally, be happy enough.

so I’ll answer that question with the only frame of reference that is adequate and useful: the frame of today. right now. tomorrow hasn’t come into existence yet; to ask if this lifestyle will be enough is to walk down a dark, disillusioned path that yields no real answers.

so as I snack on grape tomatoes and listen to the Korean wind blow through my apartment, writing and reading and relaxing after a long day at work, I can assure you: it’s enough.

where do I even begin?

obviously there are about a million and one things going through my mind right now: my first day of school, the weird things I’ve noticed, the middle-schoolers, the food, the elderly and the obsession with these slippers that everyone has to wear indoors… but I think I’m going to start where every expat/study abroad student/international traveler must begin. that is, looking like an idiot.

once again, when I think of times that I’ve already looked like an idiot, more than a few instances have come to mind. over it. a couple of these have a running theme, though, so I’m going to run with it and tell you! Continue reading where do I even begin?

my microwave buttons are in Korean

I’m in my studio apartment after quite a long trip, which I’ve survived without any screaming babies or smelly people. That in and of itself deserves some celebration, in my opinion.

so since I’m overwhelmed with Korean and the fact that no one speaks any English and that my apartment has a couch (score!) – I’ll just post these fun facts about the trip thus far:

  • my recruiter quit smoking a year and a half ago, which upgrades him from “church-goer” to “christian”. his wife is ecstatic.
  • they were very excited that I was coming and that I was a girl. as a result, my apartment has various pink alterations that they’ve added since the last teacher, a guy, left. Continue reading my microwave buttons are in Korean

goodbye, USA

well, it’s just before 4am in PA and I’ve packed my bags, weighed them, and nearly cried at the amount of possessions that don’t fit into them. then I shrugged my shoulders and zipped up my bags, leaving that slightly lumpy but comfortable sweater with plenty of rejected-articles of clothing to keep it company. (sidenote: my cousins / Goodwill love me right now, right?!!)

in around 24 hours, I’ll have stepped foot into Seoul. my hope is that the fact that I’m leaving finally hits me before that happens, so I can contain my emotional breakdown to strangers sitting around me on the plane and not make a fool out of myself, mid-greeting at my new place of employment.

btw: my visa looks so pretty, such a pretty sticker! wow! (sarcasm, but it is prettier than my visa from Argentina.)

till next time, USA

xo, Sally

dude, seriously?

I’ve never tried so many times / so hard to leave a country and been encountered with so many issues.

my visa paperwork got delayed, again, because one office was behind in their work. so my passport isn’t back yet. the good news is that I talked to them on the phone and they promised it would be here Thursday.

so obviously I had to move my flight back another two days – Friday AM is the new departure date. Continue reading dude, seriously?

Lessons Learned About Myself in Argentina

book coffee happiness

When you travel, especially when you travel by yourself (as I am currently doing), you learn a whole lot about yourself. You also learn small things, such as how to get around on public transportation, how to use and find maps, how to pack your backpack more efficiently. As helpful as these lessons are, though, they aren’t the real ones. The real lessons are about who you are and what you’re like, separate from home and perhaps despite home. These are the lessons that I am talking about.

Five personal lessons that I’m willing to admit to:

I am Cheap

I am really, really, really cheap. I buy the same three things when I go grocery shopping for a few days of food: bread, bananas, and sandwich meat. This usually costs about 20 pesos, or 5 US dollars. When I have the choice between reloading my card to take the bus or not, I won’t, and then I’ll end up walking 35 minutes uphill because I just couldn’t bring myself to spend the extra pesos. I also get uncomfortable when someone talks about going out to dinner; that’s for rich people.

I am Physically Lazy

When given the choice of two activities, one that involves physical activity but is worth it and one that doesn’t, I will generally choose to be lazy. If asked, I will claim that I like the former.

I Always Get Lost

I will, inevitably, without a single doubt or exception: get lost. No I am not joking. It always happens. Need to get to my hostel? Lost. Need to find the grocery store? Lost. Trying to find that one museum? Lost. This wouldn’t be nearly so bad, except for the next point…

I am Stubborn

One of these days I am going to wake up half transformed into a mule, like Shrek. This point plays into all of the other ones: I am stubborn and won’t spend money (hence being cheap) and if I get lost, I won’t ask for directions more than once. Even if I don’t understand the answer. If someone invites me to do something that I’m clearly not physically fit for, I’ll accept their invitation and then push myself to do the whole thing. You know, since I already claimed I would. My family can attest to this and now that this is on the internet, I really can’t argue when they say, “I told you so!”

I Only Need Two Things: Coffee and a Book

I could spend a whole day reading and writing in any cafe and I would be content and caffeinated. This may or may not be the first thing I do when I visit a city. Does this make me a bad traveler? Maybe, but I don’t care and I’m vividly aware of my lameness. Thankfully, that also means extra good posts for you guys to read!

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What has traveling, backpacking, studying abroad or just visiting a foreign country taught you about yourself?

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