I’d get comments later about being stuck in S Korea because of Covid. They would leave me a little confused, taken off-guard and even the tiniest bit offended. I was never “stuck”. The only place I would be “stuck” from was Japan next door. Other than that, I doubt I would have left the country anyway. Sure I expected I would have spent more weekends in Seoul but I was building a new life and it kept me more than busy between teaching and the rescue. I was happy and I was content. Sure there was things missing, but I was at peace for the first time in my life and my mental health was better than I had ever been.
I didn’t have many friends or too busy of a social life while on the island but, instead of being the problem I would have thought it to be, it opened up room to focus on animal welfare, my students and hiking. Of my small social life, Kathy and I didn’t hang that month. Who I did hang with a few times with a new friend, Ana, whom I had met in the Hash House Harriers (aka: “a drinking group with a running problem). I also went hiking with an expat couple I had met through the one and only time a book club had gotten together. Only meeting once to a handful of times with other expats seemed to be a common theme. We were almost all on the island temporarily. Even those staying for a few years.
The time I was included with Koreans at a local social event (through a cool local chick I had met) was when I went to a rooftop party. When the police came because of a noise complaint, though, I didn’t realize that it could have turned into big trouble with my teaching career. Thank goodness nothing came of it. One of ongoing examples of how bewildering it was that someone as much of an obliviously cartoonish hot mess superhero of superhero proportions survived.
Cafes continued to be one of my favorite places to be and the developed parts of the island was jam-packed with them. To my delight, Ana and I made it to one on along the coast that I had found on Google Maps. That rustic and eclectic coffee shop overlooking a beautiful beach full of surfers, it was to be one of my favorite experiences on the coast. So was later that night when we went for cocktails and live music. Mostly because of my glory moment during the two years I was to be there when I ended up putting on a show at a bar, dancing outside big windows looking in as live music played. In a formal and conservative culture, that was an extra wild move and the crowd, shocked land giggling away, was loving it. Signature Robin, if I do say so myself.
A new first with my pups was when one of them lost their first baby tooth. It scared me at first thanks to blanking on the fact that they, just like us, get a new set coming in as they come of age. That was the first time that it dawned on me that I was their mama during the formative years. An overwhelming thought that would be special forever. It was the most meaningful of a few firsts that month but there was also lots of routine. For instance, Hitchhikers continued to be my favorite local bar, and I was excited whenever I made it there even though it was pretty frequent.
Vacation time! The closest thing to a summer vacation for the academy was a week in July. Unfortunately (to my annoyance and frustration) my boss shit on the first couple decompression days. The lease was up and I was moving to a house the hubby of my rescue affiliate on the Korean side, Euksoon, had found that was better suited for the fosters. A wonderful handyman named Hwany had started volunteering his services to fix damages the pups did, but we hadn’t finished before my leaving. During my first day out of town, getting calls from my boss that the landlord was planning to show the unit while I was gone, put me into enough of a panic to steal a notable amount of R&R time during my decompression day. You can bet your butt that I was a little resentful about it. It was also the second time I was put into a bad situation from my bosses thanks to this pattern of my bosses not thinking things through and taking appropriate steps for future plans. The first being when my previous (and horrible) bosses hadn’t bothered to look for a teacher in time to replace me, forcing me to stay an extra month.
Busan was to be where I would go for the break in school sessions both of the years I was there. After checking into by Airbnb, determined to make myself relax, the first thing I did was go to the well-known Haeundae Beach to read and veg out. I already lived on Jeju’s vacation island with the most beautiful beaches, so that part wasn’t as impressive, but I was getting exactly what I was needed with hours on a beach chair. Well, minus that not so cool interruption from my boss. Following the beach was the best foot massage I had ever gotten. Lord do I wish I had stayed at that place longer. Not really a city person, it made it extra special when, after that, I got to see one of the most beautiful urban sunsets I had ever experienced. Gamcheon Culture Village was another must see spot of Busan that I made it to. Out of my norm to check out the touristy places, it amused me when I committed to the experience and even went so far as to go to a souvenir shop where I bought things to gift later. The pair of Soju earrings, though, were just for me. Disappointing that they ended up being clip-ons, something I would notice to be more of a norm, but those kind of little things about travel always amused me. Another souvenir I bought for myself was a $250 turquoise and white boho bag at The Westin. It was out of character for me to spend anything beyond double digits for something that qualified as “belongings”. Doing so made me sweat but I adored it and it would become my go-to for years. I was on vacation with money to spend, baby.
It was the first half of the six day holiday. Unlike my usual of traveling to grow and educate myself, the vacation was about relaxation and sightseeing. What opposites. And something I’d have to do more.
ESL ROBIN TEACHER WITH MY STUDENTS
MORE JEJU LIFING AWAY
Jeju Animal Rescue Crew
JEJU HASH HOUSE HARRIERS