Soju, an exceptionally easy pup to love, continued to be Mr. Popular around town and a turd to the other fosters until the bitter-sweet goodbye. Bitter because it broke my heart to lose such a love-bug but sweet to move him one more step toward his permanent home.
He left pretty early in the month and Kygo (soon to be mistakenly renamed Tygo by my Korean affiliate) was one of the next fosters I brought in around the same time. He was a little guy with short white fur who was super chill and, sadly, ended up having a heart condition. Because of that, he was only with me for a week before going back to Eun Suk. Summer was a brown little gal who also came from Eun Suk. So was Sofia. Another white fluff of a pup who loved people. Once Mila left to be with her new diplomat expat family in Seoul, Sofia took over as the most destructive trouble maker of the crew. She also ended up being the first pup I’d regret not adopting myself.
Pebble was the last foster to come in for the month and her arrival wasn’t until the end. English teachers from the other side of the island had been driving by her litter in the parking lot of a construction site and had become more and more worried since she was so much smaller than the rest. Little girl didn’t have the white Jindo look that was most popular among the rescues that ended up with me but she did have the pretty and common appearance/breed mix of being all brown with a darker snout and tail. While she may have been the smallest pup I had ever taken in, she made up for it with her big personality. She was running the pack in no time.
Then there was the other parts of rescue that added plenty to make it a full-time labor of love. Vet visits, constantly on the hunt for all different kinds of volunteers, forever cleaning, managing all the different people involved, puppy destruction (my Rainbow flip flops being the biggest bummer of the month) and oh so much more. Besides the direct puppy love, though, there were also other great moments that kept me going through it all. One way being updates from adopters. That month I got one from the new daddy of what may have been my shortest foster pup when he shared picts and video of her having a blast in her new life in Busan. There was also an exciting update about Saja. He was the doggo I had personally rescued from behind the building of my old place and was proving to be doing better and better at learning what it was like to live a different life from being tied up on three foot chain and forgot about outside.
Hanging at Em’s with her and Maggie for the first time was an exciting addition to solidifying our team. We had just decided on the name of JARC – Jeju Animal Rescue Crew (one that I had been using to refer to us anyway) which made it perfect timing for our first (and would end up being only) hang. Another kind of support was getting some personal recognition for my efforts when going to a fundraiser Eun Suk was putting on. While just the slightest bit uncomfortable and somewhat overwhelming, it was also a feel-good sensation when she began raving about me in Korea to others involved. The validation was one of the kind of shots in the arm that could keep up the stamina needed agains how draining it all was. Especially after the rougher days like dealing with doggie damage to the apartment. Ugh.
While rescue tended to bogart my time, it wasn’t the only thing in my life. As someone who suffered from a level of FOMO that could have used therapy, I never felt like I was exploring the island enough. Reflection, though, usually left me happy with what I managed to do and amazed at even that much given how overwhelmed I was by rescue. Even so, in the moment I tended to feel like I was only reaching 25% of my fun and exploration goals.
Besides restaurants taking up my time (because, duh, food), there were cafes. It had been shocking when first getting to S Korea how there were even more everywhere than in the US. It was also one way the culture and I finally fit. Well, minus the modern look of so many of them, having so little non-pastry food options and the fact that they often didn’t open until 10 or 11 AM. Who of us that are addicted can wait that long for our caffeine!? Of all the tons of them I visited, one of my favorites remained to be a coastal cafe in an area known as Aewol that was warm, full of art and had a surfer instructor (the owner’s son?) running in and out from giving lessons right outside. It even had a slightly run down boho vibe that I absolutely adored. Doubling down with why it was so great: it was dog-friendly. When a new hiking friend and I went together, it made for one lovely April afternoon.
Starting off the list of firsts for the month was finally getting to an art gallery. The Arte Museum had an amazing display of slightly interactive art with big visuals. I loved it. There was so much color, light, movement and elements of nature that I was able to mentally commit to the present much more than my goal-oriented mind usually let me. Next on the list of exploration was the island’s aquarium. Any place I found myself around enclosed life tended to give me the same reactive cycle. First: yay! Animals! Second, oh wait…they’re trapped. Third: oh man, I’m being a part of supporting that.
Maybe it had just been a while but I was falling in love more with those sea creatures more than ever before. It was certainly reigniting the urge to get scuba certified. So much color, beauty and gracefulness. The stingrays were so big and turtles so full of graceful and slow movement. Just like that, I understood why so many people loved them. The show put on was mostly just a presentation of Korean dialogue. Boring for me but I did enjoy the little bit of acrobatics and dolphin performance that reminded me of an old bestie and her days working as aquarium trainer.
Olle trails continued to be my favorite and constantly introduced me to new things. For one, an odd and random tourist attraction that was a U.F.O.-themed hotel with a seafood restaurant. Also a gorgeous garden open for the public, though still being built. A random score for the month had been being sent a sequined jumpsuit for some amateur plus-size modeling that I had finally gotten around to taking pictures in. I’d probably never wear it since it was scratchy and uncomfortable but it was still fun in theory.
There was, of course, places to revisit. The bar Mallet, for one. Plucky (the wine bar across from me) was great since the staff loved me bringing my pups in. It was actually where Pebble was dropped off. Then there was Mexican food. Of course I had to go back to a spot not too far away that I had been introduced to by the daughter of the owners at my first hagwon. The chicken burrito was OK but it was the cream sauce that I had to do again. I also went back to another Mexican restaurant of about the same quality, though what I was going back for was the nachos. So-so food but the service was a bit unpleasantly aloof so I doubted I’d be back after that. I at least found a little entertainment in that attitude as it reminded me of home.
A first I had in food for the month was visiting a pizza cafe place in the Aewol neighborhood and a popular (for a reason) BBQ place in the area full of expats an hour away known as the GEC. It had a hip vibe with tagging art outside, was dog friendly and had cool staff. I knew I’d keep coming back from the moment I went back.
Then there was the spots right by my apartment I frequented two or three times a month. I loved the corn pizza at a spot a block over and at the fried chicken a few doors down from them was pretty good, too. As time was passing, though, I was cooking more at home and eating out less. I had heard it said more than once that the cost of groceries on an island meant that we barely saved from eating out but I suppose I was getting a little bored with checking out new restaurants.
While I had been told it enough times to make it annoying, it did prove true that life was a lot easier with a car. Easier but less favorable in some ways. For one, it made me feel less exposed to the community. It also took away the pleasure of getting lost in thought on bus rides and definitely deprived me of a lot of the direct exposure I got to nature from daily walking to and from busses/places. A not fun (and almost instant) side-effect of that also being that I started putting on some of the weight I had lost.
Then there was the first time I got trapped in by another car at the parking lot on one of my rescue vet runs. A bit entertaining as it was something I had read about being a “thing” in Korea, but it felt rude and annoying none-the-less. Especially since I was on a time crunch to get to work. Doubling that annoyance was when no one answered upon calling the phone number listed in the bottom right of the windshield. Also a “thing” done in S Korea. They finally did not too long after but the damage was already done. I was stressed.
Teaching was pretty much the same day to day. Ten or more classes with no breaks and the chaos of things being changed nonstop was getting to me more and more. I still thought the world of the owners and the vibe they were going for, but those elements were making me feel like an exhausted and only OK teacher instead of the great one I wanted to be. Not OK and not sustainable longterm. Still, I enjoyed my students, my coworkers and I continued to be surprised at how much I liked teaching. Especially for highlights of the month like the flea market we threw where kids could bring in stuff to buy and sell in order to raise money for a good cause. Also Easter. One of the kids gave me a cute stuffed bunny that my colleague K had taken within minutes and wore on his shoulder for the rest of the day. The Easter theme also gave me the chance to use that Friday (Game Day) for an egg hunt. Such great fun.
One of the biggest events for the month didn’t come until the end. A new love interest entered my life.
I met S at Hitchhikers Lounge on the night when I happened to be in the grouchiest mood I had allowed myself to show in public during my entire time in Jeju. I had been talking to another man when he walked up and we had an instant spark. The chemistry was there and it was strong. He was kind, intelligent and had a big dazzling smile. All major turn-ons for me. Not to mention that he was there on scholarship for his doctorate from a poor part of Ghana. I admired that and you bet your britches was drawn to it. When the original fella turned around to talk to his friend for just a minute, it was too late. No one was going to be able to pull S and I away from each other.
From that first moment, he went out of his way to treat me like a queen. Trying so hard seemed to mean that there were quite often small screwups. Something I found a bit annoying as someone used to doing things solo, but also endearing. One thing that got to me more than a little, though, was his moving in for the weekend. Saturday night was great for sure but spending the entire next day together was something I couldn’t handle. Even more, while embarrassed that he passed out again Sunday night (especially because of his wall-shaking snoring) he still did it. It was also the last time he would ever feel awkward about moving in for weekends.
Regardless of all that, we still managed the day after our first night together to have a lovely and long meal at Korean BBQ spot where we drank plenty more somaek and then at the wine spot across from my apartment where my newest foster, Pebble, was dropped off. He even took the lead to hold her in a doggie shoulder bag most of the time.
It was a 0-10 relationship. Something that sent me spinning. Especially considering that I usually didn’t do relationships at all. And what had turned into a day of heavy drinking the day after a night of the same was something I typically didn’t care for. We were new, excited and it calmed my nerves, though, so I figured it was temporary. What wasn’t fun about it was how it made my weird defense mechanism of rambling about myself worse. I laid it all out there, warts and all, unintentionally daring him to leave. He was a great listener, though, and didn’t seem phased by a single thing. In fact, while I watched from the inside at the nervous train-wreck I was being, it seemed to make him like me even more.
The next Friday, we went out to a Spanish restaurant, Granada, for one of the most romantic dates I’d ever been on. We even ended up making out in the rain.
I was happy when he let me split the bill. The main reason being that it made me realized that he must be on a strict budget given that he was there on a scholarship. Especially with three sons back home. I, on the other hand, was getting settlements from being screwed over for years by being underpaid in the gig economy. I was also getting Covid stipends here and there. For once I could take care of myself and afford to be the one covering the tab. He was an absolute sweetheart and crazy into me so I’d also have to watch his trying to spoil me. There was a safety net in that I usually looked for in men. Just my type.
The one I wish I adopted.