Merry Christmasy!

First of all, apologies to the universe and my karma for sending out an ill-timed Kim Jong-il Christmas card.  I didn't know he was going to die an hour'ish later.  My bad (still funny?):

Second, check out my insanely cute new students from my wonderful new school.  They were all "Merry Christmas, we're so cute it's stupid!":

Aaaand, today we volunteered at the Ulsan orphanage to show the kiddos a good time.  I think they enjoyed it...they seemed to be either exhilerated or terrified by the amount of waygooks singing carols all up in their faces.

Merry, Merry.  Here's to happiness and magic for all.


Melbourne and magic with m'bro - Part 2

M'brain went elsewhere in the last post about Melbourne.  Record scratch/rewind:  what happened in Australia?  LOTS!

After a long flight (turns out Oz isn't as close as it looks on the map), my favorite Australian picked me up at the airport and gave me a quick half-day-50-cent tour around the city, which was marvelous enough on 4 hours of sleep over 14 hours of travel.  First stop, VEGGIE BAR!  This man knew the way to my heart.  We ate <drooled> and stared out into Fitzroy on Brunswick Street and I immediately knew I loved this place.  It was almost as if he hired actors to walk by as we were eating, just to amaze me, it was that unreal.  What's that stuff called?  Character and charm?  Oh man.  This place has it...it reminded me of Deep Ellum, where I used to live in Dallas, but wayyyy better.  Naturally, my battery was totally die and I didn't get a chance to take many pictures.  I was also totally infatuated with my full belly, excellent company, and supreme surroundings.

That night and the next morning, I happily be-bopped around the city for more food, hopped a bus to Phillip Island where I checked Churchill Isle (I was kind of confused by this place, actually) a koala reserve, and saw a wallabe or two before we headed to the penguin parade.  The tour was alright...the bus driver disliked me and a fellow traveler because we were late getting back to the bus after a stop.  He legit yelled at us for being six minutes late.  He must have thought I was a total smart-ass when I just smiled big and laughed at him because it took me a good minute to realize he was actually yelling at us...that jolly Australian accent is so coated with pleasure. 

Aside from that, the penguin parade is quite possibly the most adorable thing I've ever seen in my life.  Over 1,000 Little Penguins came trotting up out of the water for us, following their little route home, as they do every evening.  The Little Penguin reserve takes precautions to preserve the sanctity of this nightly migration, so we watched from out of the way and weren't allowed to take pictures or video in order to keep from disturbing the Little Penguin's routine.  The place is totally non-profit and awesome and seriously the cutest little thing I've ever seen.  Check it out.  And take a jacket.  For whatever insane reason I didn't equate that penguins = cold.  Erghhbrrr.

Once M'bro and I met up, we zipped out to NSW for his show, I drooled over the scenery, and we slept hard that night.  Poor M'bro; his allergies were insane.  Poor me; we had to share the bed.  It was like sleeping with an epileptic goose all night.

His festival was ballin', and he is such a rock star.  He has fans!  And groupies.  It was totally weird. I love him and everything about him and what he does.  Hearts, M'bro, big hearts.  We travel really well together.

Of course, on our way back to Victoria, we were almost murdered and had clothes made out of our dead, murdered skin at a remote cactus museum we wandered in upon.  More about this later.

Other magnificent things about Oz with M'bro that would end up being you totally had to be there stories that anyone's eyes would glaze over at (so I'mma share anyway):

-Great Ocean Drive.  Hot damn.
-12 apostles.  Hot damn.
-Discovering hidden trails and salamander'ish'y things.
-Watching surfers from the edge of a cliff.
-Not falling off the edge of a cliff.
-Helping an Echidna cross the road (M'bro is definitely related to me). To get to the other side.  ba doop chhh.
-Winding through the forest.  Rookie right side driver. Screaming not to die.
-$17 chickpea burgers
-Hijacking the Marriot.  Learning that M'bro is a terrible liar.
-Treasury Park, as if we'd never seen ducks before.
-Afternoon beers, evening beers, night beers = drunk M'bro.
-Not getting a hug goodbye because of way-too-hungover M'bro.  Priceless and slightly disconcerting.

I sadly/miserably/tearfully left M'bro on a rainy Wednesday morning after getting him severely obliterated the night before, and hit up the airport for an 8 hour flight to Guanzhou, China, where I had a 14 hour layover waiting for me.  I definitely thought I would either A) be sleeping for 14 hours on the airport floor or b) shelling out like a mo'fo for an airport hotel.  Turns out, neither happened, because China Southern Airlines is the man.  They set me up with a temporary visa for the night and a shuttle to a hotel, where my room came with breakfast.  Breakfast a veg couldn't eat, but still nice.  I made friends along the way who were up for exploring Guangzhou proper for the night, for better or worse...

Dude, I know I shouldn't judge a country by one part of a city seen on one night, but I learned immediately that China is a whole different ball game from Korea.  A few hours in G-town was pah-lenty.  I'm surprised my feet are still attached to my body after crossing the street, and I'm no rookie to the "different country, crazy driving" phenom.  I've been around, yall, and this was nuts.  Naturally, my evening kicked off  with a giant disgusting truck full of sweet, beautiful, fat pigs going off to slaughter pulling up right alongside my animal activist self.  Damnit.  Also, I learned that veg-sushi in Guangzhou = spaghetti noodles on soy sauce.  Boom.  There were so many other aspects of this single-night experience that were disturbing and can't be put into words.  Some places just make you feel really uncomfortable and this was one of them for me.  Guangzhou, I am not a fan of you.  Get yourself together.

The rest of the trip back was seamless, and cold, because this effing place is cold and I'm really not sure I'm going to survive the winter.

And so, bam. Go Australia. It was quick, it was not Korean, and it will require faaaar more exploration at some point in my lifetime.  I say that about a lot of places (not Guangzhou, China), and this tops the list.  I'm enamored.

As for the job, I managed to work things out to stay in Korea for the next 6 months.  I'm relieved by this, as exciting and enlightening as it was to consider picking up and sailing away somewhere new on a whim...I'm glad my original plans get to stay intact.

Let me quickly point out (and stop quickly before this happens again...) that "relieved" doesn't mean that I'm happy or sad about staying...I just am.  It's good for a lot of reasons, but it's also blah for a lot of reasons.  I am toooootally grateful for the panic the brief job/country/life search caused me, as I uncovered some pretty awesome potential opportunities to consider for my "next step" after traveling next year. There are some really attractive options on my list to look into, all of which ensure that no matter what, I'll be embarking onward, somewhere with everything I desire to make me smile and breathe big and sigh and say "wowie-wow-wow!"  So, for that, word.

And so, bam. Go Australia.


Christmas Shopping

It just occurred to me that it actually 'tis the season...I've lost all concept of holidays while away from home.  This will be my first Christmas away from my family and America, and I'm finding it to be quite a relief, honestly:  Holiday sales.  Malls.  Parking.  I'm twitching thinking about it all.   It's really, really great to be away from the stores and the shopping and the madness that is in full swing in 'merica right now.  This process has all been feeling sillier and sillier to me over the past few years, but there's been no escaping it until now.

I'm no Scrooge...I totally dig the spirit.  It's effing cooooold here, and that means winter and holidays, right?  It's so cold I curse every 2 steps of the way outside, but those curse words are totally full of holiday cheer (ohmygottsitssocoldiwanttobreakthings).  And, I mean, I stopped tonight for hot chocolate and played Christmas carols for my students while they made adorable holiday cards.  So what up, holidays, mama got-chu.  Without the malls and shopping and commercials and screaming.  Boo-ya.

All of this to say, I feel Christmasy, but without all the overwhelming commercial pressure.  I actually couldn't think of anything to add to my family's annual "Santa's Wishlist."  There is not a thing in the world that I want or need right now...and let's be honest, I am pretty silly and frivolous and can always think of something.  But this year?  I'm coo'.  Must be growing up.

This got me thinking.  *I* don't need anything.  But many others do.  Many others need and want things that I would never consider needing and wanting in my life.

Remember earlier this year when I volunteered with the International Rescue Committee?   I liked it a lot.  It's a great organization.  I wish I could still volunteer.  But I can't right now, so I've decided to support them in a different way for Christmas.

This year I'm giving sustainable gifts to refugees in honor of my family and friends.  You should too.  Everyone should.  Go to their site and fill up your cart with mosquito nets, school supplies, emergency food for children, temporary shelters...the options in their catalog are endless and more than affordable.

The Rescue Gifts items in this catalog represent many of the programs, projects and tools that compose the IRC's work every day around the world. Allowing us to deliver comprehensive and holistic help to uprooted people, your gift will be used where and when most needed. And, when combined with those of other donors, your Rescue Gift becomes a powerful means to survival, recovery, and the restoration of dignity and self-reliance for those uprooted by conflict or natural disaster.

Take my word that this organization is well worth your gander.  I met and worked with a small sample of the people these gifts help.  "Restoration of dignity and self-reliance" means the world to those who have been broken down by unimaginable circumstances, something anyone reading this post from a warm, comfy chair in front of a computer cannot fathom.

Give a good gift this year, one that matters and one that will legitimately make a few lives in the world a little better.  I think.... I think that is what is important and what we are really supposed to do during the holidays.  Give.  Like, for real give.



Melbourne and magic with m'bro

Oh Gotts.  I love Melbourne.  There are so, so many reasons for my enchantment with this place, first and foremost, it being a straight up ballin' city, buuuuut I can't help but wonder if my fascination lies within the fact that it's my first trip outside of Korea in 6 months.  I don't want to think that because so many amazing things happened during my week there, but it is plausible.

Because of this, I've been fully enlightened by m'brain!   I didn't really realize just how disenchanted I am with Korea until I got to Melbourne.  Before the plane even landed, I saw green stuff.  Like, GRASS.  And the sky was blue and the clouds were WHITE!  And I was going to have dericious food options other than bibimbap and garlic cloves, OH GOD!

I was already euphorically high just from looking out the window of the plane when I was picked up from the airport by one beautiful and incredible Melbourne-man-turned-amazing-penpal who I met in Peru last year (having penpals counts, yall).  Everything REALLY wonderful and magical started right then:  I ate falafel!  I looked at street art!  I drooled over people with tattoos and dreadlocks!  I read street signs in English!  I wore dresses and tank tops!  I felt sunshine, like real, legit sunshine that turned my shoulders red!  I saw animals in fields living lovely lives!  So much, so many, so much greatness. My brain was on absorption overload and the break from Korea was welcomed more than I could have anticipated.

When I met up with m'bro, we drove out to his show in NSW and I became even more obsessed.  The sky!  THE SKY TOUCHES THE GROUND OUT THERE.  There's nothing like it.  I could have driven for days staring out the window.  Apparently, during the drive, everything I filled my brother and his tour mate in on about Korea resulted in them questioning my happiness.  "You really hate it, huh?"  "It's that bad?"

Mmmmmm.  Cue the enlightenment:  I've actually never felt unhappy here, nor like I wanted out.  In fact, I thought I was having a great time.  I mean, I have been having a great time, fully due to the incredible soulmate-like-friends I've made and the memories we've been creating together.  I really wasn't aware that I was coming across so cynically while talking about my experiences, though.  I'd explain this by saying there's a certain dry humor you pick up after living in Korea in order to accept and live normally with so many vague cultural differences that seem absurd and it obviously can't translate to anyone who hasn't lived here and done this.  No thang, right?  It's just the way we roll on about living in Korea and it  makes us laugh.  "It's funny because it's true, duuurp."

BUT!  I've thought about it more seriously.  While I don't mind living here and I am growing a lot and learning a lot and blah blah blah, I definitely am looking to be wow'ed.  There's no wow-factor here.  And I learned this past week that I really need that.  I need to stare out a window and sigh over the sky and the fields and the free range cows, sheep, and alpaca's (Australia has alpaca's?).  I need to eat more food that makes me moan blissfully.  I need to stare at beautiful, interesting people expressing-not-oppressing themselves.  This I need, I need this.

My re-negotiated contract at Omni ends in 2 weeks, and due to many infuriating complications created by my boss there, it's a legit possibility that I'll be forced to find a new country to explore, which despite the hassle and looooong stretch from my original plan, I will just have to roll with.  I simply can't do anything about the small power a disillusioned boss wants to dangle over the heads of his outgoing foreign teachers.  My co-worker and I are fighting it and hoping for the best for the sake of our original plans, but I definitely see potential in opening different doors, given my recent enlightenment.

Wherever I go and whatever I do next needs to be awesome and it has to make me sigh loudly and smile to the point that strangers think I'm crazy and possibly on drugs.  Mama's on a mission.

I need:
-A blue sky.  Oh God, I need a blue sky.
-Moan-worthy food
-Culture!   Real, for real culture.

Also, for the record, my backpack has now touched 6 continents.  Booyakasha.

And on that note, this post has officially lost direction.  Stay tuned for actual tales from Melbourne.