8.2013 in betweens- toilet museum

In Suwon, a lovely area close to Ansan, there is a toilet museum. Need I say more? Dedicated to a man who revolutionized the public toilet system in the area, the museum is actually in the shape of a toilet.


An alcove created from an oversized squatter.

The strain, pain, or relief of the go.




Poo shaped signs.


The giant golden poo.


Follow in the path of the poo. (That sounds philosophical.)


Wall showing the different international symbols for male and female toilets.


And finally, don't forget to drop off a donation.



11.2013- inbetweens- camille's visit

and now, back to november 2013.

camille came up for a visit.  knowing it was my last year, she took advantage of knowing someone well enough to crash with.   she had a lot of visits with friends and did a lot of shopping while i went to work.  i was using some of her shopping bags and boxes to pack in february.  

one the weekend we were able to get out together.

first to the trick eye museum. 

then the ice museum.

then a bbq dinner with friends. . . 


2.2014- inbetweens- ansan

there are just those things that you have a tendency to take for granted until you realize you won't have them anymore.

things like a friendly message written on your apartment door in dust.

or the grates around the trees that you just realized are written in english.

then there are the changes, the fact that a place you are leaving will continue to move on without you.  you'll miss it, and if you ever get the chance to return you'll probably have trouble recognizing it.
this archway and other glowing signs started to sprout up indicating different areas of town.


2.2014- inbetweens- veca

how many times can you say goodbye to good friends?  

not enough.  
i met with veca for a long lavish lunch in beomgye.  she had a nice bbq place she wanted to share with me- and i was up for as much bbq as i could pack in me before i left.

i have no memory of the name- i should've grabbed a business card.  i couldn't tell you where it is- other than beomgye, close to the shopping center.

it was so dreamlike.  the place was huge.  lunch wasn't their busy hour, but they were open.  there might have only been a few other people dining there besides us, but we were in a large sunlit section mostly alone.  employees dusted and cleaned windows around us, it was old but really well kept.  

and the food- glorious.  every bbq place specializes in something, and this place specialized in their white kimchi (maybe called winter kimchi- damn i'm forgetting everything!)
a good assortment of fresh veggies to wrap the meat, potatoes baking over the coals. . . 

i was so full.  we made sure not to rush, chatting for a long time while eating.

i'm so thankful for our friendship.  from our first 5 year old class where we'd team teach and chat and gossip while the kids worked- just getting to know each other.  i would've never guess that she read horror.  once she explained that she was reading, 'let the right one in,' i knew we could connect on a lot of levels.  i had a third year of 5 year olds before we worked together again with two first year 6 year old classes.  the polarity of those students cemented us as a teaching team.  we spent so much time complaining or marveling at them alternatively.  

this event was everything i wanted from a 'last' meal in korea with veca.

2.2014- inbetweens- my actual last brighton dinner

while staying with swon i made a final trip out to ansan.  visiting ansan as an outsider was surreal.  while the train ride wasn't complex, it was long.  two and a half hours each way.  

i met first with veca and sunni for a lunch and coffee at cafe de chocolate.  weird to sit across from brighton knowing there were classes while we sipped warm sweet drinks.  

can't remember for sure, but i might have held back the tears till later.  

there might have been something in between. . . maybe  shopped more, or just walked around.  i definitely noticed that a fry pan was opening shortly before i left.  right down the street from my apartment and work.  figures.

i met the brighton group for bbq dinner and a coffee after.  i even forced people together who hadn't wanted to spend time together- just for me.

leaving was hard.  the teachers walked me to the cross walk in front of the train station.  they asked me earlier to spend two days, so we could stay up late. . . but it wasn't possible, and i'd be getting home so late as it was.  they were amazed to hear how long my train ride was.  
i cried.  a lot.  then i waited for my train.

bye handaeup.


2.2014- inbetweens- brighton finishy

so much to accomplish before leaving korea.  here's a look at the last few days at brighton.

i brought glitchy in for part of the day.  she visited my kindy classes and my elementary classes.

here she is visiting with titan class.  andy, lucy, jane, brendan, victoria, and cindy. 

veca t. and i pose inside the teacher's room. (who knew we'd be briefly reunited so soon!)

sophie t. and jin t. at the front desk.

alice, soee, and jessica (kids i had both as kindy and now as elementary) enjoy a final day of snacks and games.

the wall of teachers. . .  

then modified. . .  

the collection of stickers on my supply basket. 

another snack day with my older group.  sara and fiona (as well as their former classmates christina and cristina) often helped me with my korean. since they were great students and more responsible, i'd bring them out to a ttoekbokki joint for their final class.  each of them (and a few of my kindy students) are the type of kids i'd wish to hear from or of in the future. 

and since we're headed out for a snack. . . why not invite the new teachers.  sean t., brittney t., meg t., and julia t. joined us.  some of them were having tteokbokki for the first time and julia t. impressed sara and fiona with her knowledge of k-pop and k-dramas.
and a final ballerina prank (moved them about from their normal home on a shelf.)  to a classroom storage cubby. . .

 in the gym storage cabinet. . .

 hidden behind some decorative bits on a shelf. . .

in the cd cabinet. . . 

on top of a painting. . . 

 and my favorite, behind protective plastic in a display cubby. . .

the usual welcome/ goodbye dinners are an event.  we warned the new teachers of the normal 4 rounds.  round 1- dinner, round 2- drinks, round 3- noraebang with drinks, round 4- ice cream or more food. . .with drinks.

well, the dynamics of brighton had changed a lot.  during dinner we usually have a few speeches- newbies introduce themselves while the outgoing teachers give appreciation for their opportunities.  as our boss asked us to start i complained that we would have to yell too much over the crowded bbq place and asked to save it for round 2.  instead of drinks though, round 2 moved straight to noraebang.  several of the korean teachers bowed out early and even the noraebang was cut short a bit.  i know that a different crowd would've had a livelier ending/ beginning- i've participated in them. . . but not this group.  i felt a little bad for the newbies- but perhaps they'll have their own blow-outs.  
here's the fruit platter (ornamented with dry ice) from the noraebang.

2.2014- inbetweens- apartment dinner

sunni, veca, and hazel came by for a meal and some quality time before i finished at brighton.

2.2014- inbetweens- hazel's wedding

at the start of 2014 i had to prepare to leave korea. . . and not just packing.  i wanted to find time to spend with my friends in a meaningful way- even with the rush of the end of the school year closing in on all of us.

my first teaching partner had left brighton, though she was still in touch with us.  her last year was difficult.  she became difficult to work with and i hadn't spoken to her in a while.  we both wanted to put it behind us and i wanted to leave as friends.  basically, we did just that.  talked it over a little and decided we'd do our best to wipe the slate clean and think of how much fun we had my first year.

shortly afterward patching things up with hazel, i received an invitation to her wedding.  it was on a saturday (which i had fewer and fewer of remaining), it would be a long bus ride to daegu and back for what would be a short ceremony, i'd be leaving glitchy all day, not many other teachers planned on attending.  i had plenty of reasons to not attend, but i sort of wanted to- i just needed one shining incentive.  i found out another former brighton teacher, whom i adored, would attend. . . and she planned to take the bus- so i had a bus buddy.  and i had a way to spend a whole day with sunni t.  

i asked tracey t. to watch after glitchy, which she did graciously and i hopped on the bus in the early morning.  i figured that i might get a small nap in, or i'd be able to spend time chatting with sunni- both would be good. 

surprises on the bus included:  1- both her sisters took the bus.  i figured they would be at the venue with hazel.  i guess their task was to escort the guests on the chartered bus.  they passed out fruit and rice cake snacks as well as coffees and juice.  neither of them ever smiled.

and 2- i got to watch some of the opening ceremonies to the sochi winter olympics on a giant flat screen tv located at the front of the bus.  

there was a couple of naps and lots of chatting.  i was so thankful for sunni's  company.  i think there might have been one other foreigner, but i'm not much for striking up a conversation with a complete stranger.  especially early in the morning.

we sat for a while at a rest stop.  able to use the toilets, grab a snack, and stretch our legs.

this is the view from the interior of the bathroom of the rest stop.  (and if you think that's good, rest stop food is a major part of their draw)

sunni bought herself a nice camera her last year at brighton.  while no longer on the hagwon schedule, she gave herself time to join a photography class.  the last few times i met with her she was really excited to show me some of the assignments she worked on for that class.  she talked about how helpful the people in the class werewhat i found funny was that she was showing an interest in places that my friends and i (the foreigners) would go to in seoul and ansan that she had never been to before.  she was getting to see her own country in a new way- kind of like a tourist- and it was fun to share that with her.

and since i also had a newish camera.  i walked around with her while she took shots.

once in daegu we only had about a half hour before the wedding ceremony.  the bus driver also announced that he'd be leaving back to ansan in about an hour and a half.  (i don't remember the times exactly, but it was something like 11 when we arrived.  the ceremony and buffet would start at 11:30, and the bus would leave around 12:30)  doesn't seem like much time (especially by western standards) and even the koreans were a little huffy about the rush of it all.  turns out there was plenty of time.

we surveyed the lobby and found the gift desk.  (this is where you fill out an envelope and fill it with money.)

the elevator system was a little confusing, but we finally figured out how to get to her wedding room.

she didn't have a separate bride room where guests greeted her, but rather an alcove on the same floor.  the way it was dressed up paired with the small rise from the rest of the lobby made it feel especially zoo-like.

you could sit and pose with the bride for a picture and the attendants would make sure her dress and flowers were perfectly set each time.

this particular wedding hall had more bells and whistles than previous wedding halls that i had seen.  the floor of their wedding had a little garden area with a pretty water feature and was kept warm with a propane flame.

the flowers and lights that lined the 'runway' raised and lowered as the bride and groom entered separately.  i tried to take a picture of the groom, as did sunni.  neither of us were fast enough.  he jogged down the aisle with a really happy bounce to his step. he's the only son in his family and just getting married in his mid or late 30's- late by traditional korean standards.  when i pointed out how it must be such a relief to his family to see him married, sunni laughed at me and joked that i understood korean culture too well.

everything is run so efficiently at these modern wedding halls.  ceremonies are kept under 30 minutes.  i think the shortest i witnessed might have been 16 minutes long, and this might have been the longest reaching over 25 minutes.

each minute with an attendant to perfect the dress.

each minute with an attendant to show them where to stand and what to do.

each minute with a conspicuous photographer (this one clad in plaid, jeans, and trainers).  two in this shot, the photographer behind the couple and the videographer in front.

and each of those minutes are caught on live video with two large viewing areas to the side of the main event.

part of the reason the ceremony ran long was because the groom wanted to sing a song.  he started with a guitar, then got too nervous to continue and sang the song sans instrument.  it was sweet.

the grooms family's faces were beaming from ear to ear through the entire ceremony.  it was odd to see hazel's family seem so unhappy.  i didn't see either of her sisters smile once.  (actually, i was surprised to find out she had two older sisters.  i only knew of one.)

there were larger family pictures, and then friend pictures as well (which i don't have since i was on the other side of the camera).  our brighton bosses showed up to offer congratulations.  also two other former teachers (judy t., nikki t.) also joined.  judy, nikki, hazel, and i had all been 5 year old teachers together, along with amanda.  it was a nice way to see them again.  both judy and nikki moved on to different teaching jobs after our year with 5 year olds.

we moved on to the buffet event, which featured foods similar to VIPS.  plenty of variety and yummy.  everyone except for the main bridal party were finished eating before needing to board the bus.  hazel's sisters carried food with them and picked up more at the rest stop on the way home.  as we exited the bus they both thanked everyone with the first smiles i'd seen on them all day.  i got both a korean and english 'thank you,' one from each sister.

i'd been searching for ways to spend quality time with friends before leaving korea.  turned out that this wedding excursion was just what i was looking for.