Thursday, December 2, 2010


Tired. Worn. Weary. Fatigued. Depleted. Sapped. Knackered. Drained. Whacked. Flagging. Exhausted. Fried. Overworked. Beat. Petered out. Spent.

They look the way I feel these days:

I can't wait for a Christmas break in a few weeks!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Habitat for Humanity

Last weekend I went with a group of 12 high school students on a Habitat for Humanity building trip to a village near Mayuge (South-Eastern Uganda). It was a short but meaningful trip.

As I ventured further and further from city life, I became overwhelmed by the number of children I saw. There were children in the trees, children picking crops, children cooking food, children running barefoot down roads, children asleep under trees, and children selling fruit at stands. There were children caring for children, caring for children.

According to the CIA World Factbook, the mean age in Uganda is 15 and both the rate of growth and birthrate second only to Niger. Last weekend was my first real encounter with those statistics.

In Mayuge, so many beautiful and young faces smiled at me as I passed by. So many curious small hands reached out to pat mazungu skin. So much high pitched laughter echoed as we played games in the road. So many eyes traced our every move. So many little beings, just eager to be noticed.

I am very thankful that I was able to spend a few days experiencing a different life. I know our building efforts only make a tiny contribution to a much larger cause. However, I hope that we gave back as much as the people of Mayuge gave to me.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Oh the Things You Can Do!

It feels like it has been months since I last posted; the three weeks that have passed have blurred into a mélange of emotions and experiences.

First of all, I have been in the midst of housing chaos. Three weeks ago, I thought I was moving all the way across town, then I was not moving at all, then I was moving down the street with one week’s notice, and finally I was set to move one block away with just two day’s warning (at the immediate close of my girls’ first major soccer tournament)! As if two days to pack my things in the midst of teaching, coaching, and general living wasn’t enough, I also had to consider things like hiring/firing of guards, logistics of moving, etc. Needless to say, my move was a bit stressful, but eventually it was worth every ounce of anxiety I experienced. I upgraded… big time! I transitioned from a relatively small place with a shared compound to a gorgeous three-bedroom house with a huge kitchen, a wrapping porch (I have been coveting a porch since I lived in Tennessee), a bathtub (and 3 bathrooms), a large seating area, and a spacious yard for the dog to play in. My animals are relishing the extra space to run, tackle, hide, chew, etc and I am loving the counter and closet space! I hired a lovely Ugandan woman named Harriet to live in the extra two-bedroom house on my compound and act as a day guard/property caretaker. She is ecstatic over the new job/home and I feel so safe having another woman constantly around the compound. I have also settled in with a new night guard named Jaqueen. Check out a few pics of the new place:

While moving has been a central focus, coaching has been as well. We have had two major tournaments in the last few weeks, one with local teams, and one international. The local tournament was relatively low-key, packing just one weekend full of games and BBQs. The international tournament was quite a big ordeal, though. Six other international schools from South Africa, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Zimbabwe flew their teams to Uganda to compete in the ISSEA football tournament. There were three full days of games (each team played 8-9 games), four days of connected events, and many opportunities to interact with other coaches and students from around Africa. These events are always exhausting but so much fun. The ISU girls ended in third place and the ISU boys’ team took the title this year. Pretty exciting tournament to host!

Apart from moving and coaching, I have also been trying to keep my focus on teaching. In the last three weeks I have submitted grades, had a parent-teacher conference day, survived the added stress of a school accreditation visit (with three different accrediting sources at the same time!), started 5 new units simultaneously, and have smoothed out a variety of student meltdowns. Good thing I love my kids!

And who would I be if I didn’t also pack in a bit of social? I hosted my first party in my new house this weekend. I encouraged my friends to wear something that they look at and wonder “why on earth did I waste packing space for that!?!” I had about 25 friends show up at different points in time in winter clothes, formal wear, obscenely high heels, odd hats, dresses from the 80’s, kilts, robes, cow suits (oh wait, that was me), fake mustaches, light-up glasses, etc. It was a night of laughs. I also participated in a quiz night where I successfully avoided ending up last (out of 20 teams) by a whole point and a half. What can I say, I am one smart woman!

Man, it is even tiring to write about all the things I have done in the last three weeks. I need a vacation! If you made it to this point in the blog, congratulations! I will hopefully have less to share in my next posting.

Friday, October 22, 2010

A week of discovery

This week I have been on vacation. There’s nothing like a few days off and some time out of town to reflect on life and progress. I spent my first three days on a safari to Murchison Falls in the northeastern region of Uganda. Then I went on an overnight trip to Bulago Island to lounge by a pool in the middle of Lake Victoria. I left myself three days to settle back in before starting work again. While vacationing, I have contemplated many things and have made numerous deep and not-so-profound discoveries in the last few days. A few such discoveries:

*Giraffe are the coolest creatures ever made. I can’t believe they live in the same country I do!
*It has officially been almost 3 months since I have watched any television (I am not counting the downloaded versions of Glee that I have my kids pay for and bring in for lunch-time viewing parties. They aren’t on a TV when we watch them, so they shouldn’t count).
*I can now get myself in and out of Kampala successfully using public transport all on my own. Hello, Freedom and Flexibility, my name is Sarah.
*My kitten can (and does) sprint up and down all the mosquito screens in my house whenever I am not looking. My puppy eats my shoes. Grrr.
*Warthogs look surprisingly like lions when they shuffle in the brush (and you desperately want to see a lion).
*Lakes can sort of feel like an ocean. For this land-locked beach junkie, that is a good thing indeed.
*It is worth paying for a guide on a safari. They can spot leopards in trees in the distance (a very rare spotting, I am told).
*Once I sort out my housing situation, I would like to acquire a goat. They are just funny and idiotic creatures. When I move I will happily donate him to the kid who walks the herd of goats down my street.
*Generally, I am feeling much more positive about this place. I like that.

Just for fun, a brief photo journey through my last week:
Murchison Falls:

Bulago Island:

Does vacation have to end?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

This week I danced

in front of the entire ISU community (perhaps 700 people?) for Ugandan Independence Day...

I watched monkeys leap from trees in the botanical garden...

I coached...

And watched my animals grow...

...just another typical week in Kampala.

Monday, September 27, 2010

walking with rhinos

I went with about 15 of my coworkers and their spouses to a rhino sanctuary just a few hours outside Kampala. It was great fun and a nice escape from city-ish life. I walked within about 50 feet of a family of white rhinos and watched the mom nurse the baby. I scanned trees for monkeys (and managed to spot a few). I laughed at the Guinea fowl that failed to swerve off the road and tried to outrun the car instead. I pet a baby bush buck and was woken up by an oversized lizard scampering along the tin roof. I saw a massive snake sunning on the road. I successfully avoided acquiring any new mosquito bites.

Not a bad way to spend a Sat. night/Sunday morning, if you ask me!

Like an obsessed mother...

…I would like to post my fourth post about my animals in a row. They are doing well, thanks for asking! I just came back inside from my favorite pet parent time: every night I take Benvolio out and wind him down by throwing tennis balls across the yard. He mostly gets the idea of fetch and it is fun to watch him bound back and forth between the fruit trees. Scout, who is normally an indoor cat, get to come along (but isn’t allowed to wander). She stays safely tucked in to my sweatshirt and we get some quality snuggle time. Recently she has taken to sneaking down one of my sleeves to watch as I throw the ball with my other arm. She purrs and acts strangely calm (a sharp contrast to the spastic kitten she is in the house).
Isn’t she cute?

I am also happy to report that my babies survived their first night without me at home (my capable guards took care of them) when I went away to a rhino sanctuary for the night. Benvolio may have sulked a bit when I got home, but they will live without me from time to time (this was a whole 16 hour trip).
Look at his pitiful sulking face:

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Benvolio and I took a long walk today to a produce market down the hill. He is an energetic and obedient walker, so I thought it sounded like a good idea. As we exited the nice compounds that comprise Lubowa and wandered our way into the lower wetlands, I began to doubt myself. I quickly discovered that I was not taking my puppy on the beginner's walking loop. [I should note that this was my first time taking this route. Numerous people had told me that it was a safe but interesting shortcut to Zana market. And interesting it was!]

As birds called from the brush, I remembered that people told me there were chimps living in this area. I'm not really sure how Benvolio would react to a chimpanzee, but luckily we did not have to see. Giant estates transitioned into buzzing shanty towns. People and animals abounded. Women looked up from open fire cooking to smile and exchange greetings. Children balancing water bottles on their heads darted out of allies to shout excitedly in Lugandan about a white woman... with a dog! Goats and chickens meandered into the road. Stray cats skittered under stools and cows lumbered down water-logged dirt paths. Shirtless boys and men played barefoot soccer on litter strewn fields and shopkeepers rearranged their ware. We dodged puddles, boda-bodas, disoriented cattle, and families walking home from church. We slowed to answer every single "how are you?" and heard dozens of "I am well/fine" replies.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that my usually fearful puppy did quite well heading to the market. He walked beside me and only cowered a couple times (when stray dogs came too close). We even crossed a major road and fandangled our way through a crowd to barter for fruit and vegetables. All the while, my little guy followed obligingly. He occasionally looked up at me with a note of hesitation, but overall, did well.

Did well, that is, until we saw a sickly looking turkey. Let me revise: a sickly looking turkey plus a very normal looking guy selling plastic chairs and bowls. I don't know what it was about this seemingly non-threatening pair that set him off, but Benvolio froze. He crumpled to the ground and completely refused to move. I had to pick him up and carry him about a block. Now, he may be a puppy, but he ain't a small dog!

After a bit, he let me put him down. Then he proceeded to drag me as quickly as he could back up the hill.

While I found it quite fun to see a new side of life here, perhaps the usual Lubowa route is more Benvolio's style at this stage of the game.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Cats and Dogs

Who said that cats and dogs can't get along?

Let's be honest, half an hour ago they were chasing each other. But here's the picture that gives me faith they will be friends in the end.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Home Improvement

If these two faces aren't going to make me happy when I come home, what will?!?

Meet Scout. She is super spunky and completely fearless. I am going to have my hands full with her, I can tell. But I am hopeful that like her namesake (Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird), she uses her feisty enthusiasm for positive things… like making me smile! Or killing bugs/lizards! Scout is one of my favorite characters ever. As my first cat, my Scout now has big expectations to live up to.

Meet Benvolio (yes, I'm a total English nerd, another literary reference). Benvolio is the most docile, sweet three-month old puppy ever. He is like a constant shadow following me around. Like his namesake, I hope he distracts me from things that might be dragging me down (Why should I cares about a lack of power or planning for 5 classes, anyhow?) and serves as a loyal friend. I have no doubt he will succeed at both.

I know there are all sorts of movies and stories about how cats and dogs hate each other, but for now my new little ones are getting along splendidly! What a fun way to spend my Friday (many thanks to the Muslim church and the Ugandan government for the last minute declaration of a public holiday: Eid).

Monday, September 6, 2010

Things that sound the same but aren't...

Every time I drive down Entebbe Road I notice something new. Today it was a rickety wooden box with “Rollex” painted in red letters that caught my attention. I laughed to myself (and my friend, Aura) that I wouldn’t trust the brand of any watches coming out of that box only to learn a new term: a Rollex is actually a Ugandan food. It is a chapatti (tortilla) with something rolled inside. Can you guess what it is? Give you a hint… the name sort of sounds like it! Roll(ed)…

That’s right: rolled eggs = rollex! Haha. Love it! Will have to try one some day soon ☺

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Ugandan Victories

I had heard that the Uganda vs. Angola match was going to be crazy, but nothing prepared me for the 10,000ish people piling through matatu-jammed dirt roads and highly disorganized pedestrian entrances into Mandela National Stadium yesterday.

Along with 17 co-workers and friends, I traversed the chaos that comprised the stadium vicinity. Vevuzales sounded, tattered hand painted flags fluttered, and hundreds of whistle-blowing Africans pulsated in a flexing mass of frenetic excitement. With my purse tightly clenched in my left hand and my friend’s hand firmly secured in my right, I laughed and submitted to the current of people surging towards the gates.

About 20 minutes of crowd surfing and about 50 excited cries of “Muzungu! Ya Uganda!” later, we surfaced on the inside of the ticket counters. The large group I was attending the game with slowly reassembled on the inside of the security check where was finally enough room for our flag capes to wave freely and our voices to carry to each other. Then we made our way over to the VIP section (tickets were only $10 for front/center seats!).

Despite menacing grey clouds, we opted for prime, exposed seats in third row. Within minutes of kickoff heavy droplets were pinging down, adding their excited drumming to the bleating horns and zealous shouts. We were also graced with the presence of President Museveni, whose seat required him to walk through the VIP section. He was greeted with cheers, waves, and a giant collection of security officials. I was about 100 feet away from him and managed to snap one blurry picture!
The game itself was invigorating and SO much fun. Uganda scored early in the first half and a celebratory air surged through the stadium. The crowd went nuts: singing, dancing, shouting, When the Ugandan team scored their second goal, flares were lit and cheers persisted for minutes. Goal three was just icing on the cake.

While driving home amidst throngs of Ugandans celebrating the country’s victory, I couldn’t help but get excited for adventures to come here. Saturday was just a brief glimpse into a few of the excitements this country has to offer!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Top 5 moments of the day:

1) When I realized that my boxes did indeed arrive and that the contents were by and large intact! (only 4+ months of transit later)
2) When I played soccer for the first time in Uganda... in my own cleats (they were in the box I was afraid would never make it)!
3) When I discovered that BOTH my power AND my water were running tonight! Meaning I could use my new microwave to heat leftovers AND wash my feet :) Ah, the small things I am learning to appreciate!
4) When I hung a few things on my walls (again, from my shipment) and realized that my place finally has a tiny semblance of being settled!
5) When I watched my group of grade 9 students debate definitions of multiculturalism and identity. Call me a nerdy teacher if you like, but it is fun to observe kids' minds at work. Especially when they are grappling with big issues!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Some things I am thankful for:

This has been one of the most challenging weeks of my life for many reasons, but it has also given me many things and people to be thankful for:
Amber and Aura for acting as advocates and ceaselessly seeking solutions,
Mark and Tina for giving me rides and letting me use their washing machine,
Rob for making me laugh always,
Lynda for giving big hugs,
Elizabeth and Cathie for calming me down when I lost my keys,
Bryn for giving pep talks,
a teacher whose name I can't remember for thinking I was British (I am prone to accents? She has a British one...),
Jamie and Lindsey for being my neighbors and so much more,
Tony and Gracious for working so many hours to keep my compound safe,
all the kids today for reminding me why I teach,
Casey and Nicki for inviting me to social events,
all 20 people who showed up to my first attempt to gather for making me feel like I might have friends,
Emily and Bre for Skyping and reminding me I do have friends,
Sue for explaining many many IB things to me,
Mom for encouragement,
dozens of people for taking the time to remind me through Facebook that they care,
TCIS students who sent me sweet messages and made me smile,
the people who restored the power long enough to charge my computer (and do my laundry),
Sara for attempting to resolve many issues,
the mosquito that snuck into my net last night but resisted biting me for giving me a few moments of peace,
Kathleen for her constant optimism,
Stella for letting me keep my classroom key,
the guards at the school gate for always greeting me so warmly,
the children selling sugar cane on my walk home for never giving up and inspiring perseverance,
the colored birds everywhere that remind me that nature is pretty sweet,
and of course... God for seeing beyond today.

Tonight, I am going to bed exhausted but grateful. Thanks to everyone who helped my fluctuating attitude swing back towards the positive side.

Monday, August 16, 2010


This is just to say that I hate power outages. Yes, already. I have had power for all of about 6 hours in the last 4 days... combined! I need to do tons of work, but my computer dies every couple hours because I can't charge it (courtesy of the power outages). And I have not gotten strong lanterns yet, alas I am stuck with a few candles that can only cast their meager beams so far. The dark was a good excuse not to do anything and sleep early one night... but four nights in a row?!?

I guess I just need to shake it off and adopt the acronym everyone at school recites with a laugh when things don't go as planned (which seems to be often): TIA... this is Africa!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Adjustments Round 1

I have now been in Uganda for exactly one week. I can’t believe how long/short this week has been! I really had no idea what to expect, but life here has still managed to surprise me immensely!

I am adjusting to so many things: applying bug repellant every few hours, endlessly killing flies/mosquitoes/ants, talking to every single person I meet on the road and asking them how they are in Luganda (it is considered rude not to exchange this question and appropriate responses), turning on the lights at night (when the power is working) to scare any large bugs/lizards, and similarly, not pouring anything in the dark (I have heard horror stories of frogs/bugs in unexamined glasses). I now assume it will take 20 minutes to walk to school and another 5-10 to make it across the sprawling school campus, sleep through the daily song beaconing devout Muslims to 4:30 am prayer, ignore the honks of every vehicle passing by (they honk to signal a free seat), and anticipate obscene traffic going back/forth to Kampala. I am more accustomed to having my compound patrolled by both a day guard and a night guard (complete with a gun), watching birds of every shape and color dart about, sleeping under a mosquito net, boiling water to do my dishes, locating candles every time the power goes out (usually at least once a day), and waiting about 5 times longer than I would anywhere else in the world to do anything (a 4 person line at the bank might take an hour).

These are a few of the adjustments I have been making this week. Not to mention all the new things that come with working in a new school, interacting with a new community, making new friends…

Honestly, I am exhausted. But, I am also really excited for things to come. Each day life feels more natural here. I am excited for the day when things really start to feel like home!

A few snapshots of my new life (there is a full album with many more on my facebook page if you are interested):
My house (the smaller one):

My school:


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Things Unknown

I am sitting in an armchair in my parents’ living room and contemplating the fact that by this time next week, I will be in Africa. I have read many country profiles, talked to friends who have lived in Kampala, browsed East Africa guides, perused a variety of articles related to security, read the info packet provided by my school, looked at pictures, and yet… I still do not really know what to expect.

Sample things I do not know: what I will eat on a daily basis, whether I will get a car, cook, gun (Peter’s idea), or dog, how fast (or slow) my internet will be, how I will get home from the airport or to my work, when (if) I will get the boxes I shipped from Korea, what my new coworkers and students will be like, who my friends will be, which church I will go to, how I will fare as an IB teacher, where I will have a chance to travel to, how I will avoid crazy terrorists, whether I will be able to find towels that are affordable, if I will love Uganda as much as I hope I will...

Insecurities, doubts, and fears tend to creep in when unknowns cloud the forefront of my mind. However, I know that this is part of God’s plan for me. And when I relax in that faith, I am pretty stinking excited.

Life is about to change. I am about to change. A week has never felt so short/long.

Monday, July 5, 2010

On Being American

As an American who spends the majority of the year abroad, I find my stance on nationalism to be ambivalent. So often I find myself flabbergasted by political decisions and ashamed of egocentric and ignorant actions Americans take that profoundly impact other nations/people. The U.S. does not have a positive face in much of the international sphere and, as I have learned more about social justice issues, I have grown more sympathetic towards foreign perceptions of us as a nation. Accordingly, I was a bit surprised when, sitting in an completely over-done parade of red, white, and blue in my American church on the 4th of July, I was hit with a profound wave of unfiltered warmth for my home country.

It was not the recitation of the pledge of allegiance or the bell rendition of “God Bless America” that got me. Instead it was some of the faces that I watched singing that choked me up: powdered, wrinkled, freckled, scarred, Chinese, Filipino, Caucasian, Democrat, Republican…even at a mostly middle/upper class church in a ritzy Californian suburb the diversity of the American people struck me. It reminded me of the things I love about the United States.

I love the plethora of cultures that comprise each community. I love that this is a nation where multiple religions, stances, affiliations, and interests are not only tolerated, but legally protected. I love the warmth of people. I love that no two Americans share the same experiences because this nation has so many sub-cultures and differences: geographical, philosophical, and political. I love that people can both protest and praise. I love that I grew up in a community where fear was not a prominent emotion. I love that individuality is encouraged.

My 4th of July celebrations were characteristic of my American experience. I went for a run through my parents' neighborhood and watched flags wave from manicured houses. I sang “Amazing Grace” at a highly patriotic church service where the Boy Scouts served as color guards. Then I joined one of my best friends for lunch at a vegetarian Indian restaurant for lunch and followed it with a Korean desert from a shopping center where everything was written in Hangul. I sat on my parents' couch and talked with them while I drank a diet coke with added vitamins (what could be more American than that?!?). Then I joined my brother and his friends (4 friends, 4 different ethnicities) for a San Francisco-style holiday celebration. We drank organic beer and ate arugula and artichoke pizza on the edge of pier. Then we watched fireworks over the bay amongst crowds of people representing every culture imaginable. We ended the night in a diner (because our organic meal #1 was not particularly satiating) before driving back to the South Bay. All-in-all, a good holiday—one in which I claimed my American identity proudly.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Highlights from a week at home:

10) Reading. Mostly books that I will be teaching at this stage, but still. It’s fun to have time to read.

9) Purging old books, clothes, shoes, purses… my room is so much cleaner!

8) Discovering, after years of believing that dresses look awful on me, that they can actually look good! I may have bought one or two… or 7 dresses in the last week. I am done shopping.

7) Eating lots of delicious food that is hard to find abroad: spicy shrimp, salads with fruit and fancy cheeses, gorgonzola and spinach ravioli, lotsa sushi, Maryanne’s ice cream, good Californian wine, Yougurtland fro yo, Peet’s coffee, Mom’s French onion soup, pearl tea, grandma’s cooking… California is the best place in the world to eat! Yum.

6) Sorting clothes at a homeless support center with the high school kids from church (I started volunteering with the youth group). InnVision is a cool organization!

5) Eating kinchee-chigeh, sporting my dae han min guk temporary tattoo + teeshirt, and cheering on the Korean team at Strike. It was fun being one of the only non-Koreans there… I felt like I was back in Daejeon again!

4) Spending time on the beach. I LOVE the ocean.

3) Donavon’s goal in the 91st minute. So fun to be a part of that moment cheering alongside my fellow Americans at the Brit ☺

2) Seeing Wicked in San Francisco with my mom, my brother (gasp), and my brother’s girlfriend (the only reason my brother considered going… way to go Marina!). One word: amazing!

1) Spending time with people. Highlights are always people. Got to spend time with many quality people this week. It is nice to be closer to them (geographically speaking). Reunions rock.

That's my Dad!

I'm a proud daughter! My dad won a leadership award for his work with Kaiser Permanente. He has worked hard as a doctor and also an administrator. He recently helped design a new hospital (Kaiser Santa Clara) and has helped oversee his hospital's transition into the new building. This link talks a bit about his accomplishments. Pretty cool. Go Dad!

Friday, June 18, 2010

What's in a name?

It has been a week since I left Korea and returned to California. Among other things, two topics spin in the forefront of my ponderings: 1) names and 2) my current transition point. For the last three years, my blog has been called “Sarah’s Korean Adventures,” a literal label correlating with my experiences abroad. However, as numerous individuals have pointed out to me, this descriptor is no longer accurate. As I re-acclimate to California, a familiar, yet surprisingly foreign, English-speaking community, I find I am often greeted with friendly questions like “Are you from around here?” or “What do you do?” To such questions, I fumble to find an accurate and comprehensible response. My muddled replies are often as discombobulated as my transition, fragmented into boxes being shipped around the globe and scattered into shared memories with people continents away. I struggle to articulate the significance of my experiences, the differences between cultures, and the whirlwind of emotions that accompany me along my move to others, and even to myself.

The title of my blog suddenly becomes especially symbolic. As I reflect upon my time in Korea, readjust/reconnect to my American community, and anticipate my transition to Africa, I must redefine my own conceptions of myself. I find myself asking deep questions about my purpose, plans, and goals. I grasp for the words to express my faith and my trust that each of these seemingly random communities are a part of God’s plan for my life. I search for a label that somehow captures the deep continuity that transcends continents; that describes my philosophy of living in many respects.

I am not fully satisfied with my blog title. It is a work in progress. But at this present point in my transition, it begins to encompass a bit of my outlook on my international experiences.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Reminiscing from my California bedroom, upon returning home from Korea

Since the start of this blog 3 years ago, I have travelled to 17 countries, taught 15 classes, taken 56 flights (spent goodness knows how many hours in planes), helped build 2 houses, and have sold about $1500 worth of original earrings to raise money for various causes. I have had SO many interesting and stretching experiences!

At work, I have survived my first full time teaching job and have honed my teaching skills (shout-out to LeeAnne with the use of the word “hone”). I have directed Shakespeare plays, let my students stand on desks and do poetry slams, dissected poetry, led a teacher book club panel, and have acclimated to a 1-1 laptop environment. The acronyms A1, A2, TOK, MYP, CAS, OCK, RBB, AA, ESLR, PLC, and MK mean something to me now. I have head coached my first soccer team (and we made it to a championship match!). I have chaperoned 5 international trips with groups of students. I have learned what it looks like to share my faith with students. I have organized the first English department birthday parade ☺

Beyond school, I have lived in a country where I did not know the language (sadly, this is still an apt description of me… my Korean is not nearly as good as I wished it would be) and have acclimated in many ways to a new culture. Sorting garbage and freezing my food garbage has become second nature. The cycles of yellow dust seem a natural part of my life. Random dancers in the street, people dressed in giant soju costumes, ajumas sporting rhinestone animal print coats with plaid pants and a floral visor hardly get a second glance. I bow at everyone I meet. I occasionally complain that my food isn’t spicy enough for me and have distinct kimchee preferences.

I have flung myself into the world: I have spooned tigers, jumped out of an airplane, climbed Mt. Fuji, descended into an Egyptian pyramid, floated in the Dead Sea, tasted a scorpion, and held a koala. I have collected 3 piercings, one tattoo, dozens of sand-flea scars, and 4 surgery incisions. I have taken every form of transportation imaginable: trains, planes, bicycles, camels, canoes, rafts, elephants, tuk-tuks, jeepnies, motorcycles, subways, taxis, hydrofoils, zip lines… Many social justice issues have come to my attention and I have tried to become an activist for those in need (especially for women trapped in the Thai sex industry).

In my own community, I have learned to articulate the subtle differences between Americans and Canadians. I have (unwillingly) adopted some of the Minnesotan vowels (thanks to Emily and Bre). I have joined a home church. I have friends from every continent except Antarctica… does anyone actually live there? I have frequented rooftops, Click apartments, a dozen different coffee shops, and a variety of neighborhood restaurants. I know the KTX and bus schedules well. Thousands of people have seen me naked (at the jimjilbang… don’t worry, I haven’t become an exhibitionist or anything). I have refined my pottery making skills under the tutelage of a skilled Korean potter.

But most importantly, I have made lasting and deep relationships. I have grown in my faith and have listened to students question, seek, and discover God. I know and am known by my kids here. My friends in Korea have been my family, my church, my travel buddies, and my rocks. I am so incredibly sad to part with them.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Letting Go

I think my month’s hiatus from blogging represents my denial of my upcoming transition. Subconsciously, I have been refusing to acknowledge that a chapter of my life is coming to a close. Perhaps, by abandoning my blog, I thought I could postpone the inevitable. But alas, I find myself in a two-thirds empty apartment, having already said tearful farewells to some, and nervously anticipating many more goodbyes in the upcoming weeks… I might as well kick-start the blog again.

Last week, my move became especially real. In the same day I shipped most of my clothes, shoes, books, and household items to Uganda (with the help of a fantastic packing man at the local post office) and I got my new teaching assignment for next year (grades 7, 9, 11, and 12 MYP and DP English). The next day, I had the entire soccer team over for our end of season banquet and awards ceremony. All the girls wrote incredibly kind notes of appreciation and well wishes that were assembled into a book. As I sat on my couch reading their letters, the realization that these girls would no longer by in my life began to sink in. The nervous anticipation of distance has also begun to seep into my social life. Two times in the last week, typical conversations with friends have spiraled into collective crying over departures. Whether I want to deny it or not, in 2 weeks I am going to be leaving the country and community that has been my home for the last 3 years!

There are so many things and people I am going to miss! What will life be like when some of my closest friends no longer have their classrooms besides mine? Or when my coffee buddies and Thursday night supper club crew are continents away? Things just won’t be the same without Click girls, soccer logistics, Home Church, dorm kids, pottery class, rooftop BBQs, or the best students anyone could ask for!

While I want to revel in every moment, the grieving process has begun. I know that home will be meaningful and Uganda will be a new adventure, but I am not quite ready to let go of Korea just yet.

Monday, April 19, 2010

2nd Place!

Last week I announced an open tryout for my girls' varsity team, just 2 days before the start of our large international APAC tournament. With half my team severely injured or sick with the flu, I never would have guessed that we would make it into a championship game. One can never underestimate the power of determination and heart, though.

Five other teams travelled to Daejeon for the APAC tournament: Hong Kong International School, Shanghai American School- Puxi, Shanghai American School- Pudong, Brent International School, and Western Academy of Beijing. My girls fought with such perseverance that they ended the round robin portion of the tournament in 1st place and finished the championship game in 2nd. I was so proud of them and their positive attitudes! Even with injuries and brand new players, I have never seen them play with such determination! I am one proud coach.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

International Chicken Appeal

When Emily, LeeAnne, and I discovered that there was a Museum of Chicken Art in Seoul, we were immediately intrigued. What would a chicken art museum hold? Bronze busts of chickens past? Scrawlings on canvas resembling chicken scratches? Plastic replicas of famous poultry food dishes? Paintings drawn by renowned cowards? It was a combination of boredom and curiosity that lured us in its direction.

When we arrived at the tiny musée, we were greeted by three older women sitting in a room surrounded by hundreds of miniature chickens from around the world. An entire floor of polished international chicken figurines glared from behind glass windows, carefully dusted wooden hens rested on benches, proud paintings of roosters atop fences, trees, and farmers watched our bewilderment. I am quite certain that the first floor must have belonged to an obsessive and eccentric grandma who forbid her relatives to dispose of her "valuable" collection. We climbed the stairs and found an entire floor of traditional Korean chicken funeral statues. Apparently chickens were known for holding all the zodiac signs in their feathers and thus, were important symbols on graves.

Talk about a random experience!