Korea 2015

Well, well, well. What a whirlwind of events that have happened from October to present-day. To give you a brief up-to-today timeline and my Korea adventures…

On October 13th, a bird had pooped on me and then a couple of hours later, I received the most anticipated email: “Congratulations! You are now medically cleared to depart for Peace Corps Volunteer service.”  I made sure I took it easy that whole day and drank a shot of whiskey later that night to celebrate my diligence, patience, and flexibility.

I have been invited to serve in the Peace Corps as a Teaching English for Livelihood (TEL) to train English teachers in Colombia. I will be receiving necessary training for three months and then serve for two years. Before serving, I had to undergo legal and medical clearance to ensure my suitability to serve in Colombia.

I put in a four week notice at my first big girl job, then wrapped up my work/personal business, and finally, bid farewell to everyone I cared about in Austin, Texas.

On November 22nd, I returned to Dallas, Texas to be with my family and spend time with them. In the making, I had set up a fundraiser, collected my savings and last paycheck to make visiting to Korea happen. (thank you to those who helped me with my fundraiser; I cannot thank you enough)

My grandma on my mom’s side (in Korean, she is called my “Weh” grandma) is 85 years old and my grandpa passed away. My grandma on my dad’s side (in Korean, she is called my “Chin” grandma) and grandpa (“Chin” grandpa) are in their late 70s.

I will be in Colombia beginning January of 2016 and with the little time remaining from now until then, I had wanted to visit my grandparents who are in Korea.

The two weeks I was there was memorable and time of lots of laughter. Here are some of my memories:

With my “Chin” grand parents, I went to Incheon’s famous fish market. My grandparents picked the fish and as soon as we selected them, the fisherman grabbed the fish and hit its head on the cutting board. That was my cue to walk out to avoid seeing the gutting. eek.

There are little restaurants nearby where you can enjoy the fish with rice, soup, alcoholic beverages, etc. So, take a gander at the before and after. Talk about F-R-E-S-H.

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Transitioning to probably my least favorite experience in Korea…I am unsure exactly what happened, but I had gained tons of acne on my face during the time I moved from Austin to Dallas. When I came to Korea, my “Chin” grandma flipped out and grabbed my face and asked what on earth happened to my “milky, white skin.” Well…beats me.

She immediately made an appointment to the dermatologist for me where they treat patients with skin lasers. To let you know, along with a S-line (curvy coca cola shaped body), a V-shaped face (Koreans love small faces), and skinniness, Koreans highly value “milky, white skin.”

***Note: this part may include details that are weird***

So, I had worked for a medical device consulting company, and when I entered the dermatologist, I was bragging to my grandma that the skin lasers displayed on the walls were medical devices and they had to get prior registration approval and continued to show off my knowledge on and on without really knowing what I was getting myself into.

What a day that had been… I had my pimples poked with a needle, squeezed out with probably a wrench (my eyes were covered during this painful, horrible time, so I am guessing what the tools looked like), and the doctor stamped something cold and then used two lasers on my face. The lasers felt like little static on my face and I smelt burning skin. It was the craziest, most painful, experience ever!!!!!! All this for beauty!!!!!!

I may be sharing more information than needed, but I also had these whiteheads clumped together below my eye. Okay, not very visible unless you stare at me real close, but my “Chin” grandma has eagle eyes. She asked the doctor to remove this problem area, too, and I thought it would just feel like the lasers that reminded me of static.

TOTALLY WRONG.

This actual laser felt like a hot needle that pierced that thin layer of skin. Unknowingly, tears ran down my face and after experiencing hell, the doctor says, “It didn’t hurt, right?” (teasing).

I was like…silent. What a terrible joke.

Anyway, here is the place I went. Never again!!!

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Moving forward to better experiences… Korea is very cold right now. I was wearing layers, a hat, gloves, a scarf, you name it. After walking out of the dermatologist with my “Chin” grandma, we walked by the most popular food stand near her neighborhood. We saw “Ddeok-bok-gi” (rice cakes in hot pepper paste mixed with fish cakes and green onions; it’s a popular snack food in Korea) being made right in front of our eyes. It was pretty spicy, but it was so good. My grandma had always wanted to eat here because she would see all the children coming from school waiting in line to eat here. I had always wanted to eat “Ddeok-bok-gi” in this kind of atmosphere (outside, cold) and with someone I cared about. Well, guess we knocked this experience off our bucket lists.

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When I stayed with my “Weh” grandma the following week, I listened to her talk about her little goldfish pets. The red fish are males and the other green/brown fish are females. Some of the females have children in their bellies and they are the chubbiest of the bunch. It was fun to see my grandma take care of them and also complain how much they poop.

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In a nutshell, I visited my “Weh” grandpa’s grave, I met up with my Korea office colleagues, I never went hungry, I took glamor shots in the snow, I drank banana milk every day (banana milk is the best thing in Korea) and I left happy.

 

I am fortunate to have seen my grandparents before my two-year service in Colombia. They went through a lot: Japanese colonization, Korean War, raising their kids through tough times, and hunger. Without them, I literally would not be here.

There’s a lot of love in my life and I am very thankful.

 

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