Monday, December 1, 2008

Black Belt pt. 2

Tonight was my first official night at my training center as a real-deal blackbelt.  And it's funny to say ... perhaps it's just the look of the thing around my waist ... but it seems all different to me.  First of all, it's tight ... you have to loop it around your waist twice and it's super thick so it's quite snug.  perhaps it's just the symbolism of the whole thing that's got me thinking about it ... the training I've had to do, the moves I've had to learn and unlearn and then learn again the right way ... the times I wanted to take off and went regardless because it is a commitment ... the tired nights practicing and practicing over and over again the same patterns ... getting hurt and bruised, that part I actually felt was fun in some way :) ... the struggle of it all ... I think I've enjoyed the part about learning how far I can push my body and how I've learned to control my body and my emotions in the midst of it.  There has been so much value in it all.  I find that God speaks to me directly through the humbling process of getting kicked over and over again, something about the depths of this struggle of life we sometimes find ourselves in.  That there is great joy in the hard times and that when we are done with it and on a higher plain of thinking, it all makes sense and comes together like a puzzle.  

Friday, November 28, 2008

it only took about 15 months!

I finally got to put it on yo!  It only took about 15 months of training!  We had a final test ... it was madness ... in truth, I didn't do that great ... we had to perform so many different forms I got some of them mixed up but there was grace since I had been working at it so long.  Had to break some boards and do some fighting then ... booya!  Here you go!  

To answer your questions ... yes, I feel like a badass.  haha!  

Thursday, November 13, 2008

new things

I realize it's been quite a while since my last post ... who even knows if anyone checks this anymore?  haha!  My own fault I suppose!  

Life has been busy of late.  Let me begin by catching you up to speed on my life as it continues in Korea.  

On October 18th I took my black belt test in Seoul.  I had trained for over a year for this and was looking forward to it.  Clearly anxiety and nervousness was abounding but I trusted in my training for whatever was coming.  I must say it was quite the experience.  We headed to Seoul in our team van with some other students who were also taking their test.  To take the test we had to go to the Kukkiwon, the very center of the Taekwondo world.  They dictate all of the rules, patterns, and various issues that govern the martial art for the entire world.  That fact alone was unique in of itself.  Just being in this place you could feel there was a sense of pride and honor in the sport for the Koreans and for me to be going into this place to be tested for black belt was a honor as well.  I was the lone foreigner in the whole place.  Loads of kids and only a few adults around my age.  It was totally in Korean but luckily I had enough knowledge of the language and understanding of the commands that I could easily navigate through the night.  The instructors who were doing the test were quite attentive to me as I was the only white guy in the place so they wanted to make sure I did well and had what I needed.  We were tested on two different forms consisting of blocks, kicks, and punches.  It reminds me of a kind of dance but with fighting moves.  After this was easily accomplished we moved to the sparring part of it.  This bit I was a bit nervous as to who I would spar against and what to expect.  They paired me up with a young Korean probably 18 or 19 years old and about my size.  The judge told me if I kicked him in the head I would fail so to stay away from that.  Noted.  We were only wearing head gear so it was rather light and easy.  I only got a couple of kicks in before we were stopped and the test was over.  The preparation itself took much longer than the actual test but I was glad to have completed it.

The perspective on black belts has changed for me quite a bit.  I think in the west we believe most Korean, Japanese, and Chinese men have their black belts and thus some kind of toughness is attributed to this thought.  In Korea all the young men when they turn 18 or 19 must enroll in the military and it is here the majority of them gain their black belt status.  But within the military they only do very basic training.  Think this is what you need for the test, learn it and here's your belt.  I feel there is some misunderstanding on that level, most of what the west views as every Korean man having their black belt is only partly true.  They have it and they have military combat training but within the sport itself they are on the lower end of knowledge of the art.  

I know what you are thinking ... Master John, do you feel more dangerous now that you have your black belt?  I guess I do.  I've never had to use my training in a real-life situation and hope to never have to.  If I did, I could handle myself well enough to subdue the other but I've also learned that not exactly what martial arts is about.  It's more about controlling your body, your mind, and your emotions.  It's more about being hard on the outside and soft on the inside is the balance most martial artists are going for.  Truthfully ... would I love to use what I've learned one day ... maybe ... if there was some monster that needed to be destroyed in an epic battle of good and evil ... haha!  But as this is real-life ... I guess that won't happen except in my head or in Mersinger's mind.  

Since then work has been good.  I've started bringing my guitar into class and doing a kind of music class with my students.  It's fun and it makes teaching for me more enjoyable and also allows me to be more creative.  We do songs like Twinkle little Star, Farmer in the Dell, Bingo, etc.  The kids love it.  

The picture above is from a night of swing dancing with my friends.  I love the fact how this dance is enjoyed by all people in the world and it's fun watching the Korean enjoy themselves cutting it up on the dance floor.  

that's all for now!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Good luck trying to say that word ... ha!  It took me about a week to twist my tongue around that one.  

Just got back from a long weekend at the beach on the western coast of Korea called Anmyeondo.  A nice place to go and relax for a few days outside of the busy cities in Korea.  

This weekend was Korean Chusok ... which is there holiday to celebrate with family similar to our Thanksgiving in the West.  They also pay respects to family members who has passed away by cleaning up their grave sites and performing ceremonies in honor of their ancestors.  This is quite a busy weekend for traveling as most people leave the cities prompting a mass exodus to various places over this peninsula.  

A group of 6 of us took the journey to the beach.  All English teachers at various schools throughout the Daejeon area.  We took a bus to get to the coast and it occurred to me how easy it was to travel through alternate forms of transportation.  You must have patience and often will have to accommodate conditions but for relatively short periods of time.  It is so very easy to hop in the car and go but when you are without, you have to be creative and somewhat adventurous especially being in a foreign country.  

As my friend on the trip commented, it's all part of the fun.  We were a little unsure of our exact destination as only one of us had been there before.  Add the language factor in there and you have a fun time.  Collectively we could probably muster up a solid game of charades should the situation call for it but we got by good enough and to out little pension cabin for the long weekend.  

As you can see from the pics above it is a beautiful place.  So much of my life was spent on the beach and in the water growing up in Florida.  Which I took for granted for sure.  Being in a place such as this did make me feel right at home.  Not only that but the bloody heat and humidity was about the same as well!  

For the most part during the day we would sit on the beach and do some walking around the interesting outcroppings of rock formations from the beach.  There was a massive resort about a mile down the beach from our location which we decided to check out on our first full day there.  A rather luxurious resort, the only one of this size and magnitude on the island.  It has a nice spa and sauna with great views of the sunset and ocean.  Several of the spas had different theme tea leaf water but part of me doubts the validity of this.  Nonetheless I enjoyed taking dips in the luke warm water of Green Tea, Mint, Roobios, and Jasmine just to name a few.  A nice atmosphere for sure.  

Overall a great weekend to get out of the city and relax on the beach.  It took me back home if only momentarily to wade in the water and to walk on the sand.   

Saturday, August 30, 2008

is there more?

this is me in front of a big palace near Seoul.

what else can I blog about?  I have no idea ... I think I've run out of ideas of things to write on so I'll just type and see what come out ... deal?  Ok!

so the other night coming home from taekwondo I fell of my bike and got banged up a little.  My ego is more wounded than anything else.  there I am riding in front of the bus stop, not going fast or anything and my chain slips, I miss my footing and tumble on the ground letting out some kind of yelp while doing this.  mind you this is in the middle of the street.  while I'm gathering myself my bag has wrapped itself around my arms and I'm having quite a difficult time standing up.  also to note is my crash happened in the middle of the road and the light is green.  it's a rather less traveled road so I was only mildly worried but still worried for the odd chance an insane cab driver will come by.  so anyways, I laugh at myself and ride home.  I'm 27 and still falling off my bike, what the hell I say!

Work is work.  That's all I have to say about that.  I'm trying to find joy in what I do no matter how difficult it can be.  I love it when I can laugh at my kids, they are truly cute and funny but sometimes I'm just so focused on teaching them English I miss the fact that they are to be enjoyed as they have become a part of my life.

I just got my red belt in taekwondo and broke three boards the other night.  Each board is about an inch think so apparently I'm getting stronger and better.  I take my black belt test in October, it's really short, I only have to do 2 forms and some sparring.  Easy I think.  We'll see how it goes I guess.    

Friday, August 22, 2008

home sweet home

so I've made it back from a sweet vaca and am in the full swing of things back in Korea.  The trip home was perfect ... yes it could have been much longer but I found it was just the right amount of time to see everyone, almost everyone, and do what I needed to do to recharge my batteries.  

I did experience a little reverse culture shock arriving in Atlanta ... after a long flight no less ... it wasn't really the language that was overwhelming but more so the various shapes, sizes, and looks of people.  America is so, so diverse.  I loved it.  I loved seeing that.  Like it was a fresh view of my home, this is what it is ... it's messy and people are everywhere but it's beautiful in it's own way.  

Jetlag wasn't too bad traveling to the west.  A couple of hours of sleep lost at night but overall a rather smooth transition.  Coming back to Korea was a different story.  Probably a combo of things: jetlag, the culture, the new apartment.  All of it.  

It was nearly like I was never gone.  Like one year didn't even happen.  Much was the same except for new marriages and new babies.  It made me miss that comfortable pocket I lived in back in the US.  I love that pocket.  Here it feels like a constant, not abrasive but constant struggle and fight to adjust.  I've read in cross-cultural adjustment that the Asian culture is the most difficult to adjust to, it would take at least 5 years.  Going home it took all of 20 mins to fall into line again.  

So ... what did I learn from my first year in Korea?  I learned how to fight.  And I'm not talking about taekwondo ... which I test for back belt in October by the way ... I speak of simply being aggressive with people.  I usually a laid back person but here if you are laid back, from work to the grocery store ... you'll get pushed around a bit.  So you've got to learn to push back, get pissed, if only inwardly ... and speak your mind.  

I learned how important my family is.  How much I love them.  How much I love my friends.  And, oddly enough how much in all my traveling and globe trotting ... how much I do want to settle down and start my own thing with a girl and start a family.  I would like to think I'm becoming a better and stronger man by being here ... maybe I am maybe I'm not ... I guess time will judge.  But I do believe that "oppositions can either break or solidify a man."  Perhaps it's both for a time but in the end a more solid and strong man emerges.  


Thursday, July 17, 2008

aerial view

This is the view from my veranda looking in ... first the living room to the kitchen and then the bedroom near the front door.  Scroll down for better pics!
This is my living room area.  You can't see the magical orange leather couch that was donated by some friends of mine here in Daejeon.  

Looking to the right out of my veranda.  The massive buildings on the left are government buildings and a nice giant park which they are currently renovating.  
Here is my desk and book cases.  You can just picture me sitting there blogging away to you people can't you?
Here is a good shot from my veranda in my new apartment.  Amazing.  Although if you look directly at the bottom of the picture above you can see a rotting carcass of a construction project that halted due to unknown reasons.  Apparently this little square as been festering for some time.  But you must look beyond the nasty to the pretty city and mountain views past it.  
Here's to the left ... the big building is a mega-church where I go on Sundays.  

Saturday, July 12, 2008

no A/C!

so for the most part my move is largely over with ... I now have a much bigger and spacious place closer to the sun ... it's rather strange being in here though, I got used to my cubbie of an apartment all too much over the last 11 months.  

Now I find myself at an ... interesting realization of my personality ... I don't have A/C for at least a few days maybe a week or more and rather than embracing how much of the world lives their daily lives I've been crying like a 27 year old baby.  I laugh at myself but also am rather shocked at my sudden exposure of an addition-like love affair with a simple machine that cools the air.  Did that just rhyme?  Amazing.  So while you fat cats are sitting in your climate controlled rooms enjoying the comfortable balance of your natural body temp to the degree of the room you are in ... I am sweating like a gorilla ... literally like a gorilla people!  And complaining about it too!  

I'll post some pictures in a day or so ... apparently in the move I lost my computer charger so I have to conserve power.  

Friday, July 11, 2008

once again moving ...

here we are once again I find myself moving ... this time not across the Earth but rather down the street and up 14 stories into a much nicer abode for my time in Korea.  I've begun the process of packing up my stuff again ... the term "on the move" would greatly characterize my life since college I would say.

I cannot believe the things I've accumulated over the last 11.5 months ... actually I can.  Now looking at my bags stuffed with various items I realize a great deal of it is sweaters and winter type clothing which I was sorely lacking upon arriving in a place with all 4 season instead of the 1.5 seasons of steamy Florida.  

I will post some pics of the new place once I get settled and having the place looking respectable.  Also the view is rather nice and I'll show you that as well and you'll probably wish you were here.  Muahahaha!

In other news, today I had to journey up to Seoul to get some paper work done to secure my visa and alien card for the next year of stay so I needed to visit the embassy.  The place is a fortress and we only occupied 1/50th of the place for all citizen requests and things of that nature.  Makes me curious I suppose ... lots of mystery and intrigue maybe?  Probably just paperwork and government workers in cubicles playing solitaire.  

Also, I come home in 2 weeks!  Hooray!  Fantastic!  Super-duper!  And other things you can scream.  I'm excited to get a vacation and see my family!  I hope they are excited too!  I'm sure they are, how could they not be? ha!  If you are one of those people, I can't wait to see you!  

Sunday, June 29, 2008


So I realized I have not blogged in a while so I'm kicking this one off with a bang!  Sort of ...
Just a funny story really ... 

After a long week of work and long days it is usually beneficial to unwind in someway to relax and get geared up for the weekend to recoup.  You can understand this I'm sure.  

So this Friday specifically I decided to go to the local public bath as it seems to help relax and make you exceedingly tired by sweating and sitting in absurdly hot rooms.  At this point I've worked all day and had a decent workout at taekwondo so I'm ready to get my sweat on and kick back in desert like heat.  As I'm purchasing my pass to go into the bath house I notice my schools assistant director at the counter making the same transaction as I had only minutes before.  Not wanting to be noticed I act like I didn't see him and head straight for the elevator up to the sweat boxes and relative peace and obscurity.  I hop in the elevator wishing these damn doors would close faster when low and behold in walks in Mr. Lee, the school Assistant Director, maybe the equivalent of a Vice Principle back in the States.  Although I'm not 100% sure of what he does to be honest, I don't see him too much and it seems like he's never around the school.  He was the guy who picked me up from the bus on my arrival into Korea smelling a bit like beer.  But I digress ... 

We meet in the elevator of inevitability and I give the standard respectful greeting, "Annyong-haseo."  We exchange a few short phrases both in English and Korean.  In the back of my mind I'm hoping tonight won't be the night I'm hanging out with my school's vice principle naked in a public bath house.  But alas the universe has a way of putting me in strange and awkward places in my life.  I head into the bath house to unwind and of course our paths cross again.  He strolls over to where I am slowly unwinding from my week and strikes up a conversation with me.  Great!  Just GREAT!  Could this be any more awkward?!  Yes it probably could and it does.  The fully extent of the situation is rather removed from me at this point considering it's been some time since this happened but nonetheless the memory of it all is burned into my mind.  There we are the two of us, employer and employee having a normal conversation in public bath house, except we are completely naked.  Nothing great in the topics of various conversations we had except he called me stupid for not having a Korean girlfriend yet.  Then the funniest part of the night ensues.  He exits the pool we are in and signals me to follow, perhaps to another pool or area of the bath house to continue our conversations.  But no ... he challenges me to a push-up contest in the middle of the place.  He probably pushed out about 10 reps, looking back I should have showed him up and sent him to the abyss of failure but I respectfully declined and told him he was stronger than me, all in Korean no less!  Perhaps it was the heat or just being completely naked chatting with my employer but I walked away from that laughing at myself and just the randomness of the situation.  

Only in Korea can this seem to happen.  So ... the next time you are naked just be thankful you aren't sitting next to your boss chatting about the mundane of life in a pool of hot water.    

Also, the pic is of me, clearly, in a biggest port in Korea called Busan.  Lots of fish.  Yummy.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


This picture has nothing to do with what I am blogging about here but I thought it was an interesting shot taken of some Daejeon buildings at night ... very nice indeed.

There is something rather interesting I've noticed during my time over here in Korea about the matter of waste and the disposal thereof.  Now ... Korea in general is a rather small peninsula there is only so much room on this bit of land for everything under the sun that we humans require to live and function in a somewhat proper manner.  And one of those issues is that of what we do with our waste.  When you touch down in the ROK (that's Republic of Korea, duh) you quickly become aware that they seem to recycle and reuse everything.  If you eat at a restaurant or some kind of quick meal establishment, you will see how there are at least 3 or 4 bins to place various objects in.  Once you figure out what is required of each bin you see that everything has it's place.  The paper goes here, the plastic lids there, the food waste over there, the paper cups go in there, and the liquid waste you dump into this little container.  I truly am impressed by this and was personally glad to see they do this in a way of saying that everyone can take a moment to separate your trash for means to recycle.  After all we only have so much land on this little bit of Earth.  

Then the baffling part begins ... often you'll see litter everywhere, in the streets, in your face, everywhere.  At night it has become common to see young men "passing" out flyers for local bars or clubs in the area.  But I'm liberal with the term "passing" here.  In truth they are taking a handful of flyers and dumping them on the streets and on cars parked near-by.  Picture a young guy just aimlessly walking and dumping flyers on the streets as he's walking along.  It's quite a sight to behold really.  I was quite shocked the first time I saw this but have since learned this is rather common.  The contrast is really striking and leaves one with the (?) hanging over your head.  

I have no clear and pointed thing to say at this point.  Simply my pondering of the strange ways that people live ... in one hand there is a great system in place for recycling and reusing and on the other hand just outside in the street there are young people just carelessly "passing" out flyers to anyone who would love to pick up some trash on the street and read about a random place of business.  Strange huh? 

Sunday, May 11, 2008

breaking through

This is a recent picture of me breaking two wooden boards during a Taekwondo test ... but don't look at my face it's quite scary to behold.  Plus I'm closing my eyes for some reason.  At this point I am a brown belt which is just one color away from black belt.  I've actually been learning some cool things but apparently you don't learn the really cool stuff until you get into the black belt phase of the training:  things like street fighting and knife fighting and other pummeling acts of violence.  I have to laugh at myself sometimes because I love it but I hate violence just for violence.  This becomes far more apparent when we spar with each other.  We gear up in pads and whatnot to protect our vitals and go at it.  Each time I've engaged in this type of training I always end up laughing or lightly hitting my opponent.  Perhaps it's the light atmosphere of the training or the equal mirth expressed by my opponent ... or maybe I just don't take it serious enough to want to genuinely hurt someone.  Either way it's still a lot of fun ... I supposed I've learned of myself through this that I really do abhor violence that is needless and would rather laugh than to inflict hurt on another.  Man I sound really soft right now ... I would like to say that in the given situation I could hold my own by way of fisticuffs but I have really never had to so something like that so how could I truly know at this point.  May I never have to use what I've learned ... this is what I want to get at.  But I do feel I would like to use my skills on my brother-in-law Chris Rattigan just because I feel it would be fun and give me some laughs.   

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

I didn't forget about the Blog ...

no ... I didn't forget about my blogging and truly a lack their of.  I'm not trying to save any face here either, I've just been lazy about it.  I'm getting old ... all of 27 now.  This is a current picture of me and my friend Jin Soo on a hike with some friends from church.

Let's see what news ... what news ... so I'm staying for another year.  The powers that be determined I'm a valuable enough asset to keep and to give some nice stipulations on my contract as well.  I'll be back in the States for just under two weeks ... a very, very short time indeed considering I've missed so much with weddings and new additions to my family.  

It's spring time here in Korea and it is just fantastic.  The weather is great and with the occasional shower here and there the temperature and breeze is just right.  The cherry blossoms where beautiful during the early stages of the season.  I never realized how much I love the color of trees and flowers until all is stripped away during the winter months.  It's almost like I completely forgot what plant life looked like.  I think living in Florida really spoils it all considering it's always green there year-round.  

Within the last month or so I've gotten plugged into a young adults group at a large Presbyterian church across the street.  They do have an English ministry there but I wanted to check out the full scope of things and be submerged, at least somewhat, in a Korean cultural experience.  With the exception of the language and various expressions of their faith, much is the same as in the West.  Although here, church seems to be an all day event, you wake up in the morning, attend service, then at a later service serve in someway, then go to a small group, then after the small group have dinner with your small group ... and that's a pretty standard Sunday in many Korean Christian lives.  Me ... I want to get in and get out to some degree haha!  That just shows my seemingly Western standard of things as far as church goes.  But the people I've met there are fantastic individuals and the ones who speak English do what they can to help me muddle through the translation.  With all that being said I've met some really great friends there who don't seem to be just interested in speaking English or talking to a Western guy but who are genuinely interested in me as a person, which is of course great. 

Ok!  Hopefully I can write more soon!  I realize the last time I wrote was almost two months ago!  I'm a terrible blogger.  Peace to you!


Sunday, March 23, 2008

me and my gold tooth

I fully realize that for some of you this photo will literally gross you out ... but I wanted to show you I now have joined the ranks with some amazing people in having a gold filling in my mouth!  I would like to state that now, officially have a million dollar smile ... 

As the story goes ... I went to the dentist for my bi-decade dental cleaning and realized I had ONE cavity, which I will say is pretty impressive since I haven't gone to the dentist in a very long, long time.  So I had a choice, fill the cavity with porcelain, silver, or gold ... and I thought to myself, "this is my mouth for Pete's sake ... I'll take the gold!"  And thus, we arrive at the gold filled smile now captivating Koreans everywhere.  I showed some of my students last week and they said, "Teacher, that is unhealthy!"  I said, "You are right young one ... but look, it's so shiny!"  

Moving on to other happenings in my life ... after the dentist visit, I thought it would be necessary to visit the local Oriental clinic for some accupunture ... a doctor from the clinic goes to my Taekwondo training center and offered to help me on account of my teeth grinding habit at night ... I must be anxious about something ... so I had several, and when I say "several" I mean about 10 or 12 needles sticking in my body in various places ... hands, wrists, feet, and my face ... yes I said face.  They don't really hurt that badly actually, the press the needle in and push it in some predetermined distance until it hits some nerves and gives you a nice little jolt of electricity.  This, although seemingly painful, is quite relaxing and it would seem that the effective remedy they are going for is only able to sustain for a few days or for the most part of a week, then you need more.  Which is fine with me because it's all free.  

I've just passed yet another color of belt in Taekwondo and thus moved up the ladder of becoming the most dangerous person on the earth ... trust me friend, you'll want me in your corner.  Learning the martial arts is quite enjoyable, I've spent a great deal of time in the gyms tossing the weights over my head and away from my body and can honestly say at this point that perhaps some of my best exercising has been at Taekwondo ... trying to become flexible, an on-going thing and using my body to punch, block, kick, and twist has whipped this white boy into shape.  

Teaching is still going well ... I've got a new group of kindergarten children, they are cute and wild as I try and struggle to impart to them discipline and focus for studies ... and all is in English, as you can imagine, this is fun and not stressful at all! ... actually it gets easier every week as they understand more and more.  I'm seriously considering another year over here ... I have made some reasonable demands on my contract and if all goes well I would be back in the States for a few weeks in August and then back to Korea for another year of teaching.  

I hope this post finds my friends and family in good health and in the best of spirits!


Sunday, March 2, 2008

New Photos

So I still can't seem to get my Thailand photos up ... but here are some recent ones of a day-trip into Seoul to do some sight-seeing and tourism-type activities.  One thing is for sure ... so many more people in Seoul than in Daejeon!  

I went to the War Museum which oddly enough had the display of the Dead Sea Scrolls and some other artifacts from the region: it was pretty cool to see these really old documents and to learn more about the culture and history surrounding this unique find.  I still can't seem to understand why they were on display at the War Museum of all places, a paradox for sure ... or perhaps not and I just need to adjust my mind.

After the Scroll exhibit we went to a nice shopping district near our next destination which was one of many Palaces in Korea.  This place was named Insadong and had soooo many people, the street markets were packed yet it still held a nice atmosphere of enjoyment for all.  I was amazed at the Palace ground and History of the place.  I was reminded just how old this civilization was and is and how they have done an amazing job preserving their heritage.  In some of the pictures you can see the direct contrast between these ancient buildings surrounding by fantastic mountain ranges only to be met just across the street by a modern sky-scraper.  In this place I could really feel the vast gulf of difference between modernization and the ancient ways of the Korean culture.  

We also visited a Buddhist temple ... I think it was the biggest one in Seoul ... there were lots of people praying and offering various gifts and petitions to their ancestors.  The temple itself was quite beautiful and serene; it was once again another unique and enjoyable experience.  

Before we boarded our super-high-speed KTX train to come back to Daejeon we ate dinner at a place that served primarily chicken ... I don't know why but we opted for the super hot sauce that reminds me of the kind my dad used to make when I was visit.  Being fully exhausted at this point we boarded our train to make the journey home and thus concluded a great day in that massive and ancient city.    

Friday, February 15, 2008


a goofy photo ... 

something rather strange happened to me last night ... do not fret, nothing bad or anything of the sort.  I was getting dinner before my taekwondo class and I ordered a dish of pork-cutlet and of course they give you silverware to eat this: a fork and a knife.  As I began to cut into this delicious and juicy meal I realized how hard it was to eat with a fork and knife.  I know it sounds dumb to some extent ... then it occurred to me that I hadn't used a fork in six months.  I had been eating only with chop sticks and spoons.  So on some level and in some way my hand has learned and developed muscles that are accustomed to using chop sticks.  All that being said, I found it much easier to use the choppys rather than the fork.  The fork would slightly cut into my finger and it hurt a bit.  So I cut up the pork and picked up my sticks and proceeded to enjoy the meal.  I had to laugh a little inwardly as I was mildly in shock of this new revelation of my cultural experience.  Will I ever go back to using the stabbing way of eating with forks?  Probably one day ... but for a while I'll choose the extension of my fingers to eat my food as it seems easier and to me now.  

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

funny story (maybe)

so ... I've been here six months ... and only recently did I find out that I should NOT be drinking the tap water! ahhhhhhhh!  
All is well though ... do not fret ... I haven't gotten sick other than the normal common cold that I picked up from one of my kids coughing in my face or wiping their noses on me or something to that effect.  This simply sheds light on my seemingly unfailing daftness.  I seriously have to laugh at myself and at my Korean friends who are telling me this: half yelling-half laughing I said, "why didn't anyone tell me this when I arrived here 6 months ago?!?!"  But alas, I digress ... don't worry, nothing serious has befell my youthful and sculpted frame.  In fact I think I'm a bit more fit and healthy, riding my bike everyday and eating all kinds of ocean life and veggies ... can't go wrong with that.  

this is a funny picture I took while visiting some islands in Thailand ... this is my friend Chris, I don't know if it was cold or he stepped on something, it just looks as if he's in water and doesn't really want to be.  

I have no work for 5 days ... which is a gift from God.  It's the Lunar New Year so perhaps I'll howl at the moon ... cheers for random holidays!


Monday, February 4, 2008

six months ... still under construction

so I am at the six months mark in my journey here in Korea.  what have I learned ... what have I forgotten and must soon re-learn?  well ... the basics in life I'm sure.  
all is well.  work is good ... I rather enjoy teaching ... teaching English is good, but I really like teaching the kids more random things, like an idea to aide them in learning will come into my mind and it will end up being the most enjoyable thing we did that day.  I love days like that, they are moments that truly cannot be replaced.  back to the topic at hand ... what have I learned ...
I miss my home / I miss my family / I miss my friends / I love the new sights / I love learning the new culture, I truly cannot get enough of it / learning language is hard but it's enjoyable and most people who speak what you are learning are patient and so it works out almost every time I attempt to speak this Asian tongue and screw things up / I still have a strange back-of-my-mind desire to get a motorcycle / I really enjoy learning martial arts more so than what I did for all those years in the gym lugging weights around / I like that I can still talk to my friends and family over the internet or phone call, it makes me feel less far away / I like the food / I like how I came to teach little ones but they are teaching me more than I could ever teach them / I hate that I've missed out on my nephew's first few months of life / I hate that I have to miss the weddings of friends and families / I hate February / I enjoy cold weather - not a surprise! / I like that I don't have or need a car / I like that I can speak 3 languages, one well and the other two sparingly but still I can speak and function ... somewhat (english, spanish, korean) / I like that I make six figures in Won / I like being an outsider / I don't like being an outsider / I hate culture-shock / I like that I've realized how much I love and miss my family, I had to come to the other side of earth to realize that: I would like to say that proves the pure stubbornness of anyone with the last name Mitchell / and ... I'm sure there's more!  but another time!  


Sunday, February 3, 2008

the cold ...

so I realized just how adjusted to the colder weather I am when I work up and check the weather and see that the hi today will be in the upper 30s ... oh, that's not bad at all, in fact that's kind of mild ... what ... has ... happened ... to ... me ... I still fully don't know ... but it's in the 30s and 20s most of the time, sometimes less ... and it's really not that bad.  I think perhaps it's easier to adjust to the cold, you put on warm clothes but the heat, you are always hot, no matter how little clothing you wear, unless you are in cool water of course.  At any rate, I found this interesting ... my left foot is larger than my right ... I'm finding out all this stuff about my limbs this year, my arms, now my feet ... perhaps next I'll find out I have super human strength ... oh wait, I already knew that one.  

hope this finds you well!


Saturday, January 26, 2008

public nudity

yes I said "public nudity."  Feel free to squirm a little, I'll wait.  

First, here are more pics of Thailand ... I though you would enjoy the perspectives of different views in the world and these are among the most interesting and beautiful.  Now to my thoughts ... 
For the last few weeks I've been able to frequent a public sauna and bath house near my school.  This is a new and interesting thing to me.  They have these huge rooms, saunas really, where Koreans, and a few Westerners, cram into and sweat out the sweat.  It's all quite nice and relaxing and the end of the outing is finished by washing off in the public bath house.  Personally I have no problems with showering in public places ... I have been used to this from my summer camp of my youth at Camp Sea Gull in North Carolina.  But this is not just some row of shower heads ... they have everything, and I mean everything.  In my mind I will simply enter in and shower and head out ... but this is not the complete way of doing things.  There are several hot spas, there is a sleeping area and little "caves" for one person to take a nap, they have steam rooms, cold baths, and really, really hot baths all coming from some underground upward welling spring source.  There is a level of, "man this is weird" but I realized hell everyone else here is naked why do I care.  I think perhaps I stand out a bit with my different physical features that are not normal to Korean men such as hair on my chest, the color of my hair, and being the only naked Westerner in there.  As I'm writing this I'm wondering why exactly I'm sharing this with you ... I don't fully know so forgive me if this is odd for you.  There is one thing though ... aside from the strange display of public nudity that my western mind is simply not used to I rather enjoy it and always leave feeling refreshed and renewed a bit.  So who knows, perhaps soon there will be public bath houses in the US ... I would say to try it ... it's weird and different but it's a unique thing to experience a way, however strange and odd to us, how a different culture relaxes on the weekends.  

Also this weekend I picked up the Planet Earth DVD series fro BBC.  It's quite amazing and I highly recommend it ... the visual aspect and the landscapes are quite breathtaking and there is so, so very much about this world that I had no idea about.  Especially if you have the HD thing on your TV, apparently that's what it is made for.  

Ok, all is well!  Enjoy yourself!


Saturday, January 12, 2008

just words ...

Above are more photos of my trip to Thailand ... as you can see, we saw many things ... including a Muay Thai fight where the first bouts were between children no more than 10 years old.  Yes, I was disturbed by then until I looked near the ring and saw one of the young fighters mothers yelling at him in much the way a soccer-mom in the west would yell at her kid.  It was a truly universal moment ... and a unique view into this culture.  The country side is also beautiful, this area at the foot of some mountains on the island of Phuket, was, I believe, somewhat new.  After arriving back in Korea I read an article stating that Phuket received 30% of all Thailand's' tourists.  This is a huge amount ... something like 1.5 billion dollars.

I have been trying to post all of my photos from my trip but have been having a bit of trouble with uploading them ... so hopefully soon I will be able to get more loaded to share with you all.  

Now for the update on me ... I am doing well.  I believe, and hope really, that I have somewhat passed through the difficult stages of the whole culture shock cycle.  It did, however, coincide with the holidays so with that it was especially hard this season.  It's a peculiar thing to be so far away from family during the holidays with all that has happened this past year ... I can remember enjoying time with family but also wanting to be elsewhere doing something other than what we had always done ... but this year wanting, more than I thought I would, to be doing the very thing I had done for the past 20 years of my life or so with my family.  The question seems to linger at all times ... what will I do after my contract is up?  I will be the first to inform you, I have no idea.  I find that my mind changes as much as the weather ... two months ago I would have told you I'm going to stay ... now at this point I would say I'll probably leave.  All this talk and thoughts of "what's next" can be very consuming but it seems to come back to the fact that truly I still do not know what I would like to do.  I may want to finish out the school year with my kids in the end or may feel that moving west is the best course.  I do question the longevity of it all being here ... perhaps a bit more schooling for a different part of the world ... perhaps something in the humanitarian field ... perhaps teaching in the States.  The options seem to be endless.  

As for school right now.  The school year is coming to a close soon when we will get new classes and new schedules.  I'm trying to make the most of it and give my students all that I have and to, more importantly, teach them the best and most effective ways that I know how.  

So that updates you as of now and what I am thinking and other things.  Email if you get a chance!