Category: open mic night

Fulbright conference

So I got back from Hwacheon last Tuesday, had a few days to rest, and then was off again for the bi-annual Fulbright conference on Friday.  This is a big conference that Fulbright does every semester – every single Fulbright teacher in the country, plus the entire Fulbright staff, all congregate in one place to swap teaching and traveling tips.  Because Gyeongju was the capital of the ancient Silla dynasty for the entire 1000+ years of the dynasty, the fall conference is always held in Gyeongju.  Gyeongju is kind of a big deal :).  Which was nice for me, because I didn’t have to travel anywhere – while other people were coming in from buses, trains, and even planes, all I had to do was hop on a bus for 10 minutes and I was there.

My beautiful city 🙂

Friday night was pretty awesome.  I had been soooo excited to see everyone – most of them I hadn’t seen or even spoke with at all since departure day 2 months earlier.  So we all had a big reunion, started the conference workshops, and overall had a splendid time – I did, at least.  In addition to that, there was another open mic night on Friday in downtown Gyeongju.  I had signed up to recite a poem – IF, by Rudyard Kipling, a poem about what it takes to be a man – one of my all-time favorites.  I was planning on going by myself after the workshops finished for the night.  However, because everyone else was in a strange city with a free evening, I became the resident expert, and about ten other Fulbrighters ended up coming to the open mic with me.  It was alot of fun – I was nervous about reciting (I had never done anything like that before), but being there with my dear friends made it all worth it.

Saturday, though, was not quite as awesome.  I woke up with my voice sounding like a scratched up record.  I felt fine – didn’t have a sniffle, a sneeze, or even the smallest trace of a sore throat – but my voice sounded awful.  By Sunday morning it was completely gone.  I could not utter a sound above a whisper.  And, in the midst of an excited reunion over 100 people strong, that basically meant that I could not say anything, period.  No one could hear me when I tried, anyway.  Somehow I kept ending up next to another Fulrbighter who is partially deaf and mostly blind.  My inability to speak loudly and his inability to read my lips left us completely unable to communicate anything, try as hard as we might.  It felt like salt was bring rubbed in my wound, just adding insult to injury.

We went to a Russian restaurant on Saturday night
I loved playing tour guide for all of my friends 🙂
On the walk back from the restaurant

All day on Sunday throughout the cultural tour around Gyeongju, I felt more and more invisible.  It was even worse because this weekend was supposed to be my respite.  I had soooo been looking forward to having a weekend to just relax and not worry about the stresses of my homestay – the weekend was finally here, and I was forced to sit on the sidelines, unable to participate in any of the conversations.  By Sunday afternoon I couldn’t take it anymore.  I slipped away from the tour (it was optional, anyway), and had a picnic with some second-year teachers who had also opted to not go on the tour, since they had gone last year.  I still felt mostly invisible, but in the smaller group I was able to get some points across if I really tried.

Seokuram grotto
Bulguska temple
Wishing stones
A good luck pig
This random old Korean lady who decided to give us a tour.  It was awesome.
Fulbright picnic

Sunday night there was a goodbye dinner.  There was a wonderful meal, a beautiful venue, and sparkling conversation – and I was still mute.  It was unbearable.  I never realized how important it is to me to be heard until I wasn’t anymore.  I slipped away early and just started wandering.  I heard music somewhere in the city, and followed my ears (at least those still worked!) until I found a traditional dance performance of some kind.  I sat in the back and watched for a while.  Then I happened to glance over to my left, and lo and behold, there was Adam, my friend from Hwacheon!  He had gotten restless too, apparently.  He came over and asked if I was ok – I wasn’t, not at all – and so he suggested that we go on a walk.

Gyeongju at night….it’s pretty at any time of day!

There in the still night, with no huge crowd to drown out my whispers, was the first time I had been heard all weekend.  And I just let it out.  Adam’s a good listener, and if felt so good to release all of my frustrations that had been pent up over the course of the weekend.  When we came back I went to an informal Bible study that the Christians in the group had quickly organized by word of mouth.  I was so grateful to have my friends there around me, particularly Dianna, the teacher who was at my school last year.  She had come to Gyeongju early to visit, and we had spent the day together on Thursday.  I told her all of my frustrations with my homestay, my excitement about the upcoming conference, yada yada yada.  Well, at the Bible study she was able to relay those sentiments to the group so that they could pray for me.  My inability to do so myself frustrated me to no end, but I was so grateful that I had shared with her while I was able to, and that she was willing to be my voice when I had none.

Tuesday I woke up still voiceless, and with a migraine to boot.  Needless to say, that was a longggg day.  Although I must say, if I HAD to have a migraine, that was a good day to have it – since I also had no voice, I didn’t really teach, just showed a movie in class.  It’s killing me, though, because I really WANT to teach – I love it, it’s the whole reason I came to Korea in the first place!  And all of my students want to say hello and talk to me, and I can’t say anything to them!  It’s really quite depressing.  My co-teachers actually sent me home early today, telling me to rest.  Super sweet of them, but I don’t think they realized how very much I WANTED to be there.  Oh well, such is Korea – always trying to help :).  Anyway, that’s my life right now.  Voiceless and banished from school.  I’m sorry this wasn’t a happier post.  I’m one sad puppy right now :(.

The people in my life….

I love my life.  I love it.  And no, I’m not saying that everything is always wonderful and perfect.  But I am saying that God is faithful, and I am starting to actually feel at home here.  This week I’ve been able to hang out with a lot of previously un-hung-out with people, and it was wonderful.  I still barely speak to my host family, but I’m finally starting to find my niches and be accepted in other circles, and it’s a great feeling.

Anyway, last Saturday I went to the Gyeongju National Museum with some friends.  It was myself, another foreign teacher in Gyeongju, Harry, the other Fulbright teacher in Gyeongju (Elizabeth), and Art, a Fulbrighter living in Pohang, about 20 minutes away.  Art was the 1st Fulbrighter I’d seen other than Elizabeth since departure day, and it was lovely to see him.  So we went to the museum (Gyeongju has enough culture in it to last a lifetime of sightseeing!!), and then went for lunch.  We went to a little out-of-the-way Italian restaurant, and I got….lasagna!!!  I had been craving it for weeks, but had been told that there was nowhere in Gyeongju to get it.  I was in heaven :D.

Oh ya…we’re Fulbright scholars…
Harry, Art, and Elizabeth
I don’t know….we were really giggly that day

I had a dejá vu moment coming back from lunch.  I had my bike with me, so Elizabeth and I decided to bike together.  It was just like my ride with Anthony, except this time I was pedaling and she was on the back.  We had a couple of spills, but caught on surprisingly quickly, especially considering the fact that Elizabeth has never ridden a bike before, lol.  Now all I need is a picture to document it… 🙂

Sunday I went to church again (it was so good to be back after having missed it the week before because of Chuseok!), and then when out to lunch after with some guys from church.  I actually ended up singing on the worship team during the service.  I don’t even like my voice on a normal day, and I was still sick anyway (I’ve had a nasty cough for several weeks now), but I wanted to serve in the church, and that was what they needed, and so I found myself up on the stage.  Regardless of my nerves, though, it wasn’t too bad, and I’m looking forward to being back up there next weekend.

On Wednesday I went on an excursion with my friend, 효지 (Hyo-ji).  She’s another English teacher in my school, and was the first person to befriend me when I got there.  We went for a walk around a bunch of historic sites (our school sits smack dab in the middle of the historic district, so it’s very convenient).  She bought me a hot green tea latte, and then we meandered through the forests and walking paths and old tombs.  One of the tombs has been opened by the Korean government, and we were actually able to go inside!  Then, for dinner, she had heard about a great little traditional Korean restaurant (it’s located inside an actual traditional Korean house complex….pretty neat), but didn’t quite know where it was.  So we started looking for it, and finally stumbled upon it, hidden in the winding alleys of the backstreets of Gyeongju.  The meal was wonderful, and the company lovely, even if she is always chiding me for not taking care of myself – she has self-appointed herself as my 언니 (older sister), which to her means nagging me to drink water, and stay warm, and eat my vegetables, and all of that.  But I don’t mind, it makes me feel loved :).  And I’m sure that my mom’s grateful to hear that someone’s looking out for me over here!! 😉

The oldest astronomical observatory in Eastern Asia

Beautiful Gyeongju…those big humps are ancient royal tombs

The entrance to the tomb….also the only picture of Hyo-ji that I was able to sneak 🙂
The restaurant we went to

After dinner, the sun had set, and so we went to Anapji pond.  Anapji is (another!) famous landmark in Gyeongju.  It used to be part of the palace complex during the Shilla dynasty, when Gyeongju was the capital of Korea.  It’s absolutely breathtaking at night.  Check out the pictures below….

Thursday was dance night again.  I decided to hang out with Jennifer again, but this time we didn’t skip the dance.  We went out to dinner first – and met some new friends while there.  That seems to happen a lot in this town – you’re just more outgoing and friendly, and make friends with anyone who look like they’ll talk to you.  In this case, it was 2 guys – Jennifer had already met one of them, so we sat down with them and had dinner together.

The dance was lovely, as usual.  It’s fun, but every time I dance salsa it reminds me how much I miss West Coast Swing :(.  Oh well, WCS will still be waiting for me when I come home… In the meantime, I’m trying to make the best of things and just improve my latin dancing while I have the chance.  Oh, I also got 2 more requests from Koreans to be my boyfriend at the dance….my grand total is racking up, lol.

On Friday, I went to the Expo…again.  This time it was a school field trip.  I didn’t really do anything particularly new this time – saw a couple of different shows, bought a dress made in India (I’m an XL in Korean sizes…can you believe it??), had lunch there – but the best part about this trip (aside from the exquisite weather) was the people I was with.  I hung out with a bunch of co-teachers and students the whole day….and it was so.much.fun.  I adore my school and everyone in it :).

Some of the shows that we watched at the Expo

Oh, Je-hun…. 🙂
Me and my students… <3

An old teacher at school.  She always calls me 예쁘다 (beautiful).  That’s the extent of our conversations.  She just grabbed me here and insisted on a picture….

Me, Dae-seon, and Je-hun….three cool cats 🙂

Friday evening, the fun continued!  Through a bizarre and I would say God-sent series of coincidences, I heard about a Korean woman who’s wanting to learn Spanish.  She’s married to a westerner, so she speaks fluent English, and she’s really motivated to learn Spanish, but hasn’t been able to find any opportunities to learn here in Gyeongju.  So we met up for coffee, and worked out a time when we can get together and do a language exchange – I teach her Spanish, she teaches me Korean.  She was sooo motivated, I think it’s going to be a really good fire under me to get me learning.  Plus, I’ll get to practice my Spanish.  I’m super excited :).

After that, I went to an open mic / poetry night.  It’s the first one I’ve ever been to, and I really enjoyed it.  I loved seeing into other people’s hearts…it was really intriguing.  Besides which, the poems / songs / speeches / etc were all really well done.  I think I’m going to try to prepare something for the next one….

Looking over this, I’ve realized something.  In all of these stories, the focus has been on the people I was with.  I’m so grateful for who God has sent into my life.  It’s not where I thought I wanted to be, but I’m starting to see that it’s where I needed to be.  They are the reason that I’m so excited about what God’s going to do during the rest of this year…