Tag Archives: Korean community

Surprises that warm the heart.

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The days keep flying and I just keep wishing I had more time.

More time to read, write, work out, bake delicious food, travel, longer weekends, drink coffee, drink tea. Drink wine with my husband. I keep finding myself wishing for more time.  Our weekends here are precious and valued time that Tom and I spend together traveling Korea and (if we are lucky) sometimes with our friends!

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…and so when Tom and I were presented with the opportunity to volunteer at an International English camp a few weeks back we debated over if we would give up our “precious time” to spend a weekend with kids after working 40 hours with kids. – We all need breaks every now and then 😉 We had heard great things about the camp and decided: “What the heck! Let’s do it.”

So, three weeks ago Tom and I went with 40 other foreign English teachers to volunteer at an International English Camp about 2 hours away from our city of Yeosu. 200 Korean middle school students in grade two (equivalent to our 8th grade in America) lined the pavement holding signs and cheering as the foreign teachers got off the bus upon arrival at camp. This was only the beginning of a fun-filled weekend teaching the kids how to cook food from our native countries, playing games/sports, doing a talent show, having a massive bonfire (fireworks were included!), stargazing, and teaching them a little about the places we originally call home.The best part about this was being able to hang out and have fun with the middle school kiddos in a normal environment! No pressure of studying. Just conversation and having fun. I have talked a bit about the pressures that the kids have in Korea to study, perform, study, perform AND repeat. If you’re interested in learning what these kids go through or just grasp an understanding of our life as teachers in Korea click here for a short 20 minute documentary! The camp was a great opportunity for us to be immersed in the culture of Korea that we so dearly love while getting to know some of the most amazing kids in a fun environment.

It was a heart warming weekend to say the least.

At the end one of the boys gave a wonderful speech that made me cry. He said the camp had given him confidence to use his English in conversation without being scared. Through all the hard days of teaching…feeling like what we are doing isn’t making a difference… that I am not teaching them enough. It’s the moments like this volunteer English camp that reminded me sometimes it’s the little moments in life that make a difference. It’s the smiles, hugs, and love. It’s the company of spending time with kids. Just getting to know them. Having the opportunity at the International camp showed me that what we are doing CAN make an impact!

The weekend we spent with the kiddos was a weekend that warmed my heart. I realized how selfish I was initially to view it as giving up “my time” when the kids had done SO much to warm my heart during our weekend together.

What things have you been doing lately (or have others done for YOU!?!)  that warm your heart?

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Learning Korean culture through hiking.

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Remember how I told you guys we loved to hike?

That’s pretty much an understatement.

This past weekend we found ourselves back in the mountains after taking a two week hiatus while Tom nursed a sprained ankle from playing volleyball.  I probably said (at least five times) ” I am so happy right now.” It had been two weeks of not hiking and while I had really enjoyed two weekends in our lovely little city of Yeosu I was itching to get back to what we love to do- hike.

7 peaks later and at our 7th National park we found ourselves loving the beautiful fall colors. We started at 10 am and finished around 4pm allowing plenty of time for us to be in nature together, climbing mountain peak after mountain peak, and time to just- think. It dawned on me near the end of the hike that (almost) everything I know about Korea I learned from hiking. I mean we have spent hours in the mountains so perhaps I am bias. Everything from food, culture, terrain, and just life in Korea I have learnt from days we have spent in the mountains. Let me break it down a bit easier for ya. I added in pictures from our weekend hike in Naejangsan National Park.

Korean Kindness-

Our first hike in Korea and not knowing a thing about how long it would take, what to pack, how much we would wanna eat, etc. We set out to find ourselves just a bit exhausted and extremely under packed when it came to food. There have been countless times we have been offered food, drink, or even just company, and it helps refuel us through the remainder of our hikes. Which brings me to my next point…Korean community.

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Community in Korea-

Ah! Where to begin. Koreans love family. They love community. They love togetherness. To be quite frank- I love it too. We love that they sit together in circles sharing food, drink, and laughter. We have seen people dancing, eating, laughing, and relaxing together at the top of the mountains. We have been invited to join the fun and we have sat next to groups admiring the fun. The community reflects back to what I have seen while I have been teaching as well. The students try to share treats, they share picnic lunches, and their class becomes a family. It’s all about community in Korea…and I love that.

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Korea is stunningly beautiful. 

Whoa. We have sat at the top of mountain peaks overlooking beautiful fall colored valleys. We have spotted cities from afar. Seen the sea that looks royal blue for as far as the world goes. Islands littering the backdrop of what looks like a painting. Gosh, the list just goes on: rivers winding through the base of a mountain, waterfalls, people on other peaks, mountain ridges giving you 360 degree views of just plain gorgeous. We’ve seen the seasons change from spring, to summer, to autumn , and have learned that each season brings a new look at beauty as we discover it through hiking. We have learned about the land from hiking Korea and we understand how to adapt for hiking as the weather has changed.

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Koreans are committed!

The majority of people we see hiking typically consist of an older population. They don’t give up and they are pretty tough. I love passing climbers on the way up or down and hearing them shout excitedly after I greet them politely in Korean. Korean’s are the hardest working people that I have met, but they sure do know how to celebrate when they get to the top of a peak. Photos, food, and soju (traditional Korean drink) galore. If they are into hiking they are committed right down to their matching outfits and ridiculously expensive hiking gear/outfits. They work hard and they play hard. They are committed to finish what they start and will encourage you along the way with their greetings in Korean. I love when they shout “ASA” (sorta like: “get it!!!!”) and “FIGHTING” ( sorta like: “don’t give up!!!” which sounds like “Pi-ting”)

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Tom atop a busy mountain peak in Naejangsan National Park!

Food

Tom and I usually pack nuts, trail mix, ham sandwiches, granola, fruit, and lots of water for our hiking treks. Koreans pack full on meals when hiking. I have even seen them pack hot water in a canvas and concoct up some delicious noodles at the top of a mountain. I never underestimate what they will pack when it comes to food. I’ve seen noodles, Kimbap (Korea’s version of sushi rolls) plenty of soju, and entire ensembles of pots/pans and a full on meal. We have learned that Koreans love to eat (don’t ask me how they all stay so thin) and they love to go all out with their meals- even at the top of a mountain.

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We had an absolute blast hiking this past weekend and I love being able to document our life here on the blog! Here are a few more of my favorites:

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This guy and the beautiful Korean fall. I am one lucky lady.

This guy and the beautiful Korean fall. I am one lucky lady.

Exhausted and full of sweat.  Pure bliss on one of the peaks.

Exhausted and full of sweat. Pure bliss on one of the peaks.

Almost done!!

Almost done!!

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Every good hike must come to an end… finishing at Naejangsa temple.