Summer in Seattle – The Move Day 3

I need to officially make an apology. If you read my post yesterday I talked about waking up on the floor in Seattle. This is not the truth. I have been given a lovely, and very comfortable air mattress to sleep on, and without it I would not have ever gotten over jet lag so quickly.  I need to thank my sister-in-law for her hospitality.

The view from the oldest Starbuck’s looking at the farmer’s market at Pike Place Market.

And yesterday, I was able to enjoy her hospitality even more by heading to downtown Seattle to enjoy a beautiful summer day. Most people think of Seattle as a dreary and rainy place, and for most of the year, they are probably right. But if you are ever in Seattle during the summer months, the rain clouds get blown out of the way, the sun comes shining down, and it is the perfect time to go outside and enjoy the day. There are plenty of things to do when it is sunny outside too. Being right on Puget Sound, there are many things to do on the water. Go to the shore, and you can see people out there on boats, kayaks or paddled boards. And if you go to the right points during the right time of the year, you can see whales as they make their migration through the waters. There are also many great restaurants and night spots, and if the Mariners are in town, you could always go out and catch a baseball game.

The strange art that can be found at Pike Place Market

But Seattle’s biggest draw on the waterfront is the Pike Place Market. The daily catch of fish is brought here, and the farmers will also come in with their freshest produce. This is the place that offers Seattles most iconic picture of big salmon being tossed from one employee to another so they can sell it to the nearest customer. Despite the fresh food that can be bought here, it also has the oldest Starbuck’s, a few brew pubs, and a bunch of tiny shops that offer anything from souvenir t-shirts to little knick-knacks that are made by some local artist. Musicians will come down and perform for spare change, and there is one of the strangest collection of eclectic people that you will ever see. It is a great way to spend an afternoon, and I do not believe that it could ever get boring, no matter how many times you visit it.

The view from the top portion of Pike Place Market and the construction taking place right now

Unfortunately, right now, it is being renovated and expanded. The demand for new shops and new nooks and crannies has caused Seattle to tear down the eyesore that was the overpass that ran along the coast, and to build more to their biggest tourist destination. It makes it a little difficult to navigate at this time. If you want to get from the pier to the central market, you might have to go up certain elevators, find hidden staircases, and backtrack from time to time, but in the long run, it will make this part of Seattle even more exciting and fun to visit.

The sunset over Alki Beach

Even though Seattle has this image of always raining, there is a reason that so many people flock to this city to visit or live, summer. It makes me see why this place has grown over the years into one of America’s most iconic cities, and I am glad that I got to spend a little time out here while I am in the process of moving. I would also like to thank my sister-in-law again for the great space for me and all my stuff and your air mattress is a lot more comfortable than it would be sleeping on the hard floor.

Waking up on the Floor in Seattle – The Move Day 2

My happy morning face

The biggest question I have gotten from my friends over the last couple of weeks has been, “Has it hit you yet?”

It is a legitimate question, especially from teachers. They know the feeling when it finally does hit. It usually happens about a week or two into summer. They have been running at a break-neck pace throughout the school year to make sure that their students get the most out of every moment during the school day, and all of a sudden it is over. The pace slows down, but the mind still grips on to this reality that they have been forced to live for ten months. And then some time during that second week, every teacher will look over at whoever they are hanging out with, and ask, “What day of the week is it?” That is when it hits them. They are on summer break, and they can now relax a little bit before the insanity starts up again.

This feeling happens to everybody who goes through huge changes in their lives. They know that it is coming, and they try to handle it with grace while trying to juggle all their usual responsibilities. It makes life busier than what they are used to, and they do not really have the time to process the change that they are going through. It isn’t until they have started to live that new lifestyle that they can actually process the change that their life has undergone. That is when it has officially hit them.

When my friends asked me if it had hit me yet over the past couple of weeks, they were talking about the fact that I would be wrapping up my life in one country and moving out to another country; that the great students I got to work with in Korea would no longer be a part of my life, and that I would be working with a completely new set of students with their owns little quirks and ambitions; that the lifestyle that I had become accustomed to over the past four years would have to change and I would have to adjust a whole new culture and language. It would be a lot to process for anybody, and I was too busy closing out the school year, and packing to really think about it. When asked that question, I would always have to tell them, “No, it probably won’t hit me until I wake up on the floor in Seattle.”

A rare sunset from Alki Beach in West Seattle

Well, yesterday was that day. I had taken all of my worldly possessions, and put them on a plane to travel half way around the world to end up crashing on a floor at my sister-in-law’s place in Seattle. And yes, I did spend the day walking around like a person that only grabbed a couple of hours of sleep on a long plane ride finding themselves in a completely different time zone, but I was able to start to process that changes that my life was going through. And of course, it is a little scary because there is a little bit of the unknown that I am venturing out into. But at the same time, it is exciting because it means that I will get to enjoy a new adventure that allows me to see the world in a whole new way.

But at the same time, the answer is only partly true. The whole reality has not hit me yet. I can only process the fact that I am no longer a resident of South Korea. So I will have to adjust my answer for those who ask me if it has hit me yet. It won’t be able to process how much life has changed until I wake up in my new place in Bangkok. So until then I will continue to move my worldly possession from place to place and wake up in various other places in America in the meantime.

The Legacy – The Move Day 1

The last view I had of my classroom over the past four years.

“My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings,
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
– “Ozymandias” by Percy Bysshe Shelley

One of my favorite poems to teach during my tenure at Korea International School was Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Ozymandias” especially during the year where the ones in charge came up with the theme of “Leave a Legacy”. I have always thought this poem gave a truth about life and the legacies that we leave behind, and I have been thinking about these things a lot during my last couple of months as I wrapped up my time there. Is it possible to leave a legacy behind? How long will it be before my name is no longer mentioned in the hallways of the school that I had spent four years at? Should I feel offended that as soon as the last students I taught there, I will quickly be forgotten?

The last view of my apartment I had lived in for the last four years.

It made it even harder as I packed up all of my stuff and took all of artwork off of my bulletin boards that everything was returning back to the way it was when I first arrived in Korea, stark, undecorated, and sanitary. My last look at my classroom, and the last look of my apartment had the same feel, all traces of my impact had been washed away so the next person that came in to take my place could start to make their mark. As I prepared to get ready for my next adventure in Thailand, I couldn’t help but looking at my time here and wonder if it had been worth the time and effort that I had put into it.

Life in Dongcheon-dong continuing on.

As far as the greater impact my presence had to South Korea as whole, it was hard to make me believe that I had actually done something. The society still moves on like a well-oiled machine. People continue to work jobs to try to get a little ahead, and students still work themselves hard to try to become a part of this cycle. Words of a madman to the north passes the lips of the people from time to time as they wonder how their relationships with larger nations from the west affect what is going on. Poor air from the east mingles with the exhaust of the big city to make some days unsafe to venture outside, but on the days you can, it is a beautiful experience to watch the blooming of spring, the green of summer, or the melancholy of autumn. The year comes and the year goes, and we get mixed into the grind.

Knowing all of this, how can I look at the empty classroom and the empty apartment and believe that I had an impact?

The last moment before getting in the cab to depart South Korea forever.

It was while I was riding away in the taxi to the airport, spending those last moments in South Korea that the answer came to me. I could not worry about making a huge change in society. What I did would eventually be returned to a state as if I had never been there. My legacy should not come from the programs I made or the mark I left behind; it should come from the connections I made with the people I came across. This is what made my time in Korea worth every moment. I do believe that every student that went through my class now has a different perspective on the world, and will think about what they witness more instead of just accepting it as the truth, while challenging the truths that I always believed to be true. I do believe that the colleagues that I worked with in my four years grew because of my influence almost as much as I have grown as a teacher because of their influence. And more importantly, I do believe that the society has felt a minor shock wave because of the slightly punk rock hippie that invaded their world for four years, as I learned to look at my world with a more international perspective.

It wasn’t all about my legacy. It was about their legacy as well. I hope the people I came in contact with during these four amazing years have somehow been changed by presence, because I know I have been changed by their presence.

Thank you Korea for four amazing years full of happiness and heartache. Each moment has allowed me to grow as a person, and even though I may no longer be living and working out there anymore, your legacy lives on with me.

Hopping the Fence

I am told to beware of the greener grass,
For I will always chase after the dream
Of belonging to a happier class,
And life is not as bad as it would seem.
What these naysayers don’t like to admit
Is green will eventually turn to brown,
And the place that you used to think was it
No longer holds the prestigious renown.
It does not matter how much you will try
To revive the grass to greener color,
For it is already destined to die,
And it is time to look for another.
Don’t be afraid to hop over the fence
When the time comes to depart from hence.

Like a Dog in Dirt on a Hot Day – The PreMove Day 4

For those of you following this blog the last few days, you know that I have not done a really good job of capturing the essence of my new home in Bangkok with the pictures I took. I had been busy meeting new people, arranging new accommodations, and learning a little bit about my new position. Because of this, I did not pull out my phone very often to take pictures. That is the real reason that you are not getting a good visual representation. This theme continued on my last day in town, and this is the only picture that I took of that day. Normally I would not have shared a picture like this with you, but it is all I had, so it is what I have to go with. I also have to explain something profound and deep by only using this picture that really describes the way I feel about taking on this new challenge in my life. So all I could come up with is that my move feels like a dog in dirt on a hot day.

I know that this might seem like a huge leap to make a connection with, but for those of you that have dogs and have been outside with them on a hot day, you will know what I am talking about. My dog, Bear, who I have talked about on this blog from time to time, would find dirt on a hot day, and dig himself a hole. It was under that initial layer of dirt where he would be able to find a nice cool patch that he would cozy up to in order to cool off. He would be able to sleep the afternoon away with a big old grin on his face, much like the dog was that I had come across when I took the picture.

Now what does this have to do with my move. Well, going out to Bangkok and meeting all of these new people while looking at the place where I was going to live was like finding a nice cool patch of dirt on a hot summer day. It was really great to get to know these people a little before making the move. I did not long lasting friendships in that short period, but it calm down my nerves a bit that the people I will be working with are dedicated educators who like to have fun at the same time. It also showed me about the new place I am going to live, a comfortable house that is not too large, and not too small and has enough character to make it unlike any of the other houses that other people might live in. It also showed me the neighborhood I am going to live in with all of amenities and escapes that I will enjoy over the next years. I was everybody to find a little bit of comfort in a stressful time, and it had helped to alleviate some of my concerns.

Moving to a new place can be very stressful, and moving to a new culture and country can add a lot to that stress. I had been feeling that pressure over the last couple of weeks as I tried to wrap up my time in Korea while getting ready for my next jump. It is the busy time of the school year as the things that brought comfort in my house slowly disappeared as I started to pack things up. Add on to all of this one big unknown, and I would toss and turn throughout the evening as I tried to make sense of something I would never be able to touch. That is why this trip was so important to me. I did not take a lot of pictures because I was too busy digging into the dirt of my new life until I could find that comfortable spot. I know it was just a premove to the bigger jump that will take place towards the middle of the summer, but it has given me the comfort that I was looking for. And just like that dog in the picture I have found joy. Of course, there are still some trials and tribulations coming up in the next few weeks, but for right now I am going to enjoy the cool and get the sleep I have been looking for. I will be just like a dog in dirt on a hot day.

Sammakorn – The PreMove Day 3

I started the day promising myself that I would take more pictures during the day.

I ended up taking one.

I would like to claim that this little place is available for rent on Air B n’ B for a very modest price, but I cannot in all honesty make that claim. At first, I was amazed at the sheer size of the place. There was no way that this place could be somebody’s house. It had to be a clubhouse for one of the neighborhoods in Bangkok, but after I talked to a couple of people in the area, that it was in fact somebody’s house. Apparently, there was a rich model that owned this place, and lived there with her family. It blew my mind that this kind of place could be situated so close to places like I had posted the day before. But that is what goes on in Bangkok and I am going to have to accept this reality to soon because in a couple of months, it will be a part of my reality.

Today was spent looking for a place to live in the neighborhood where this house sat, Sammakorn. This place is a twenty minute drive during good traffic from the school I will be working in, and even though the neighborhood around the school was very nice with a lot to offer, I felt like Sammakorn was more my speed. There were a lot of great restaurants in this neighborhood and a huge street market. The houses belonged more to a neighborhood with more Thai people living in it, so I would have to learn the language in order to get around more, and be forced to be a part of the culture more. This is the whole reason that I moved overseas in the first place. I don’t want to just live in a different country; I really want to get to know its culture and people. I felt like this was the place where I could do that.

It took all day of looking at many different places and talking to many different landlords, but we eventually was able to find a new place that I would call my home next year. I know you want me to supply you with pictures, but like I said earlier, I didn’t take any. I wasn’t thinking about it as I was looking at these places. I was more concerned with what the place looked like and if I could be comfortable there. The place we decided on is tucked away in a quiet neighborhood. It is a one floor house with a tiny yard, but it has a nice front patio protected from the shade of a mango tree. And yes, the mango tree produces fresh mangoes twice a year. We were told over a thousand every year. Now, I am sure that is an exaggeration, but twice a year, I will be enjoying fresh mango on a regular basis. It also has a brand new kitchen with a full sized fridge. I haven’t had a full sized fridge in so long that I forgot what it was like to open my fridge door without something falling out of it. It is also has three bedrooms and two full baths with one of other bathrooms having a great fresco of a jaguar painted into the tile. The whole house has made me really excited about the move, and has made the moving process even a little easier.

Overall, the day proved to be very productive, and justified the reason that we came out in the first place. Of course, I was also able to spend the day getting to know a few of my new colleagues and checking out the places in our new neighborhood, but it is the house that we found that makes me know that I have also found a home. It will be a couple of months before I get to see it again, but in the meantime, it has put my mind at ease. It is not as big as the mansion that I took a picture of, but I would never want something that big. I am glad that these small things are coming together, and making the move that will happen soon easier.

Checking out the Neighborhood – The PreMove Day 2

I do enjoy taking pictures, and I even have a nice Canon camera that I pull out for time to time when I know I am going to experience some opportunities for great pictures. Most of the time though, I just take my phone around and I feel like I can take some pretty nice pictures that I can use while working on this blog. While I am traveling, I usually take anywhere for ten to fifty pictures a day, and I can sort through them to bring you the best of what I have experienced.

This was not the case this time around.

I know why I didn’t take as many pictures. I was pretty busy looking at different houses that I could possibly move into, meeting new colleagues that I will be working with next year, and getting a tour of the school. All of these were great reasons to pull out the phone and take some pictures. I could look at the different houses, and compare them to others I would see tomorrow. I can take picture of the people I will be working with and show them to my family to let them know that I would be working with sane people. I could have taken pictures of the school to show others the beautiful campus that I will get to work on next year. Instead, the only time I pulled out the phone to take a picture was to snap a shot of a cock fighting ring and two run down houses on a river that is pretty close to the school.

I know that these pictures are a piece of Thailand, and there are many places like this all over the town, but this is not a complete picture of what is happening out in Bangkok. The houses that I got to look at were all two story with three bedrooms and two full bathrooms. They were full furnished and even came with a small lawn that I had not been able to experience in a long time. They sat next to neighborhoods with large mansions and houses so big that I did not believe that they could exist in any culture. The strange thing about all of them was that they all existed so close to each other that it seemed as if there was no line between social classes in Bangkok. I know that they exist and it is sad to see, but at the same time, it did not seem to disturb any of the people that were living in the neighborhood. It was just a part of what made it the neighborhood.

I wish I had more pictures to show you because it is truly a beautiful place, and the visit out made me excited for the change I am making in my life. We were not able to find a new place this first day out here, but the school is really amazing, and the neighborhood that it is in will make a wonderful diverse home for next year. I am glad I came out to prepare for this big leap and I do think it will make things easier in the coming months.