Love.

“It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, ‘Yes.’

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.”


Not related to Korea, but a friend posted it on Facebook and I love it.

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One More Thing

I had a nice talk/vent with my aunt on the phone last night and was able to get a lot of my frustrations out…and as I told her, it feels a bit like I have a weight on my shoulders that I can’t seem to shake off.  
Another thing that’s on my mind is stuff with work.
Culture Differences + Gossipy/Bitchy Co-Workers + Minimal Vacation + Incompetence = No Fun.

I like my classes well enough, it’s just the work environment itself.
We got a new owner back in January and it’s had its ups and downs, but as long as I get paid on time and the school doesn’t get shut down, then I’m a pretty easy-going person, I’d like to think.
However, the Korean teachers (minus 1 of them who seems pretty mellow) and now the other 3 foreign teachers (1 not as much) talk SO MUCH SMACK on this guy.
I mean, no one is perfect, and he certainly isn’t, but I think he’s trying.
It’s just so wearing.  The negativity.  
Like, as soon as he leaves the room, they start in on him.  One Korean girl and 2 foreigners in particular.

It’s just crazy.  And half the time, I’m wondering if they’re hearing the words that are coming out of their mouths.  
I’ve pretty much stopped talking and zone out or leave the room during it because it just makes me so angry.  The Korean girl seems to really like drama and gossip anyway because she initiates most of it, but the foreigners are pretty good people.  
I wonder how much of this is brought on because we work so much and just…stress-overload/exhaustion.

Either way, it’s just so tiring…day in and day out.
And especially now that the owner has been coming in more often.

I’ve stuck up for him a few times, but they give me crazy looks and just brush my comments away.  So, I’ve just resorted to keeping out of it.

So much drama.  😦

And Finally…

Update

This is just a quick update about my thoughts from yesterday’s post.

1. The project that I do with my students is called “20 Things I like About Myself”
http://artclassworks.blogspot.kr/2012/05/self-esteem-portraits.html
It worked really well last year and created a great visual. And although I only have elementary school kids, I like that it gets them thinking positively about themselves. It was easier for some students than others.
Some students couldn’t even get up to 10 (even with my assistance and giving them word the vocabulary as needed…

2. I wrote out my own “20 Things” (It’s a private post)–I’ve heard of people doing things like this in therapy and such, and honestly it was fantastic. I felt so much better afterward. I should try and find a way to display it. Maybe.
Either way, I highly recommend doing it.

3. This was just a random idea that I had, but I wanted to write it down so I could come back to it sometime and so I wouldn’t forget.
The whole beauty thing really strikes a cord (chord?) with me because it breaks my heart that these kids (and people) go through this. The whole culture is centered around your appearance (and what you can achieve, or how many activities you say you’re involved with). And it crushes them.
And hurts me too because children should be happy and be able to think positively about themselves.

I thought it would be really cool to be able to have some sort of event or workshop focused on building self-esteem.

I like doing projects and stuff and have done a few things back home, but this would really be challenging.
1. It would take a long while to organize.
2. I don’t speak Korean.
3. I’d probably have to change my visa status because I’m doing something other than teaching
a. Unless I got a Korean to assist me
b. Unless I made it more of an event..then I think it would be ok
4. Publicity would be super hard because of the language barrier.
5. Creativity is sort of a new thing here. Usually they go by the book and are very much like study machines
6. They don’t take well to criticism (which, this isn’t, but they might take it as such…because saying something on them needs improvement…or something)…
7. Foreigners are pretty low on the totem pole…so…yeah.

But…it would be REALLY, REALLY cool if it got off the ground. Like…amazing.
Hmm…things to think about.
Bring some positive thoughts into this place.


Anyway, off to work!

Beauty. Self-Esteem. And All That Jazz.

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted, which usually means I write a massive post…but I’ll try and keep it short this time.

First off, I haven’t been updating as much because…well, I haven’t really felt like writing and two, because during the second year, it really does become more of a “home”, and most people don’t write about their day-to-day activities. I’m also not as busy as I was during the first year. Focusing really hard on saving.

Anyway, the main focus of this post is on a few things. Instead of an intro though, I guess I’ll just dive right in.

Korea has really been a shock to me in more ways than one. Aside from language and food barriers, there’s also the culture aspect. AspectS.
As you may know, Korea is an extremely homogeneous society. Homogeneous as in most people look similar, act similar, dress similar, etc. And straying from that “same-ness” can be…a bad choice (assuming it’s a choice to begin with. ie: looks. Get to that later).
Pretty much right away, as a foreigner, you’ll have people staring at you. Not always super-noticeable and it’s not always constant. But you do have a bit of a celebrity status, in a way. People look at you, but it’s pretty much just out of curiosity and they don’t mean any harm by it. Again, it’s not all the time, but it’s often enough that you take notice. At first it bothers you and then you just say “Eff it.” And just stop caring. But…you do care. And you don’t realize it because you bury that feeling.

One of the things I miss most about being home IS the multi-cultural aspect. Granted, we aren’t perfect either and we have racism and such, but I miss being able to walk down the street and not feel strange or unusual.

They stare because you look different…and they’re curious. At times it’s kind of like being an animal at a zoo.
But. Obviously, I’m not an animal. I’m a human being…with a family and a past and goals and dreams.
But anyway.

Looks are a HUGE (and by HUGE…I mean, you need to experience it to believe it) part of the culture here.
Mirrors are in elevators, people taking self-photos in public and girls applying makeup in the middle of a date or in a coffee shop with friends is all completely normal.

They have A standard of beauty..and if you don’t stack up…people will tell you. And often. And I’m a foreigner. It’s so much worse for Koreans.
Light/White skin-and by white, I don’t mean Caucasian….I mean…white. (whiteners are added to lotions and SPF 50+ is the standard for sunscreen), strong jaw (V-Line), and general Western-looking features are best. Wide/Big eyes. (Surgery to “correct” their eyes is EXTREMELY common).
And skinny. “Diet, Diet, Diet”–another common word.
It makes me sick, and it starts young.

I’m not trying to bash them, but I’m just very concerned and I feel really terrible knowing my beloved kindergartners and elementary schoolers are headed toward that mess as they age…and some of them already are.
Parents sometimes give their kids plastic surgery as a HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION present. The comments about appearance and everything come from friends and family members. Plastic surgery ads are common too.

Anyway, I’ve been asked quite a few times if I’m going to stay a 3rd year, and I honestly don’t know.
Being away from home isn’t anything crazy anymore, it’s just part of the game. I’m now taking my own well-being into account. I feel like my self-esteem has taken a major blow since I’ve been here and confidence too.
It stems from the foreigner population being placed at the bottom of the totem pole and people not giving a (Pardon my French) Fuck about you. You’re extremely expendable. They know foreigners come and go, so what are you to them.
My Korean friends are nice, but unless they’ve been abroad, it can be difficult for them to fully understand what it’s like to come to a country that is so focused on appearance and working. I was brought up in a way that encouraged me to try different sports and activities and to be the best person that I could be. Honest, hard-working, patient, kind, and also that inner-beauty is a very real thing that should also be nurtured and polished.
I mentioned that my self-esteem has taken a hit and I don’t want that to come off as a pity-party or that I’m fishing for compliments or whatever. I think this is definitely one of those “testing” experiences. It’s meant to make me stronger, and that’s the angle I’m working on right now.
I don’t think compliments will really help. I’m not depressed and I still like the way I look, but I’m just more (and more often) aware of what I look like…and my flaws. So, I know it’s up to me now to embrace those flaws too.
I’m just not used to hearing direct criticism (or laughter) about parts of my body.

“Teacher, baby?” (pointing/touching my belly pooch)

“Oh your feet. Very big.”

*pointing to the men’s section* when asking about shoes for me

I’ve had friends who have been turned away from trying on clothes because “No, no. You too big!”

I suppose it all ties into them being a homogeneous society.
If you don’t travel, then all you see is what you know.
They aren’t used to seeing girls with muscles or girls running for enjoyment (however, it’s much bigger in Japan!) or with shoe sizes much above a 7.

I was even second-guessing my own toned legs a few weeks back. I started asking myself if my legs were too big. Which I’ve NEVER even considered until now. I normally love my legs and have worked very hard to get them toned and into the shape they are. I’m fine with it now…but again, now I’m super aware of that.
I also noticed yesterday that I was happy when the sales-clerk correctly guessed my size for a dress I wanted to try on (and it was a small).
Why the hell do I care about this?
My brain is starting to focus more on appearance and I feel like I’m digging my heels in the dirt trying to stop it.
I want to be focused on my skills and attributes and have confidence out the window, but I’m working on not nit-picking my body and what the gossip is at work.

This isn’t me.

I’ve never been the type to care about gossip or celebrity junk, and here I am getting sucked in (except celebrities).

So, that’s my answer about staying for a 3rd year.

I honestly have no idea.

I love the idea of saving more money and continuing to pay off debt. That’s my number 1 priority, but it all depends on how I’m doing (mentally) around the 7-8 month mark. If I’m still reeling from the comments and the looks and am in need of some TLC, then I’ll leave.
If I’ve got everything is under control and I’m happy, then I’ll *consider* staying longer.

I really like the teaching part and would be happier with another school, but my own personal well-being comes first.

Note: The comments and looks aren’t all the time, but once you get one, it sticks with you. Even if you don’t want it to.
Be careful with your words.

Note 2: You don’t need to be worried or anything. I’m not going through depression and I’m not starving myself or anything. Still me, but just a little frazzled and trying to find myself again.

Note 3: I did this last year, but I’m doing “self-esteem”/”What I Like About Me” projects with my classes. I did it with 2 classes last year and I’m going to try and do it with all of them (except beginner 1.1 class) this year because I think it’s so important. If you’re curious, just ask about it and I can explain it. Don’t want to get too wordy on here.

This is a great follow-up blog entry, and I really suggest/recommend that you read it too.

http://www.buzzfeed.com/ashleyperez/i-wasnt-beautiful-enough-to-live-in-south-korea

This is good too: