Tag Archives: Slice of Life Challenge

Rainy Saturday Adventure

Had I known it was going to be such yucky weather today, I would have postponed. Jeju is much better to explore on sunny, clear days. Today’s plan was to try out a new-to-us restaurant on the northeastern part of the island, Tennessee Table, which has a substantial Instagram following. Of course, we had to also make a pit stop on the way to get donuts at our favorite place, Randy’s Donuts, a chain from California that has *miraculously* made its way to our tiny speck of an island.

As we left, we noticed a blue-gray painted across the sky, but not a rain cloud in sight. Just as we were about to pull up to the donut shop, the rain began. “At least this means the line won’t be too long today. The rain will have kept people away,” we naively said. After parking (down the street, since Randy’s lot was full), we were shocked to find that the line was the longest it’s ever been, snaking around the back side of the building. Undeterred, we took our place at the end of the line to wait our turn. Forty-five minutes later, we had the goods. And before you say it, yes, the wait is worth it. These are some damn good donuts.

See the line behind me?!?!

After devouring the chocolate-covered one first in the car, we set the GPS for our next destination, Tennessee Table, which was about an hour away. The rain had given us a reprieve, and we were able to enjoy the cherry blossoms that seemed to pop up outside our windows as we cruised down the highway, singing along to my girls’ night playlist.

About 20 minutes into the trip, we were enveloped in a blanket of fog so thick you could only see about 2-3 car lengths in front of you. Slowing down considerably, I switched on the hazard lights to alert others to my presence. Jess, sitting in the passenger seat and free from the stress of driving through the soupy, barely visible sky, marveled at the scene, taking photo after photo of the eerie backdrop. As we drove through pine tree-lined backroads, I felt like I was in the movie Twilight, which seemed to always be covered in fog. The predicted time of about an hour took us longer in the end, but we made it to Tennessee Table for lunch.

Jessica, the owner, welcomed us in her southern twang, and her accent, coupled with the decor on the walls, reminded me of home. Jess had the chicken burger with fries and a milkshake and I had the veggie burger with fries and a coke. The food was delicious and lived up to its Instagram hype. Just look at the photos and you’ll understand.

We talked to Jessica, learning a bit more about her story. She has been in Jeju for 13 years, and after being a teacher for 15 years, five of which in Jeju, she decided to follow her dream of opening a restaurant, thus Tennessee Table was born. She, along with her Korean husband, built the entire restaurant themselves, which was very impressive, but something she said she’d never do again. After our conversation (including an unprompted “Bless your heart”), we headed back out. Stopping off in a Korean bookstore for a quick browse, we got back on the road.

On the way home, we made a detour to see the ocean, but the wind and rain ensured our visit was short-lived. The waves were much bigger than normal, which meant the surfers were out, but Jess and I agreed that you couldn’t pay us enough to get into that freezing cold sea on a day like today.

The ride home was a little stressful, as again, we drove through patches of dense fog, but we made it safely back to the GEC (our part of Jeju). We made one more stop on the way home to get Chai tea lattes from Grumpy Baby, a perfect end to the day.

The Perfect Ending to a Stressful Week

I’ll be honest, this week has been pretty shitty. I’ve dealt with some rudeness, hardly had any time during the day due to loads of meetings, been stressed out with the amount of work I’ve had to do, and on top of that, I started my period, which has been unpleasant. I was proud of myself for just making it to Friday.

Tonight, a few friends and I went out to dinner at Donato’s, a pizza place near Hyeopjae Beach. It was my first time here, and let me tell you, this place is legit. The pizzas were made with quality ingredients in a wood-fired oven, something that’s rare to find in Jeju. We each ordered a pizza (mine was the Chevre made with goat cheese from France) and all shared a Caesar salad. The pizza was served with a balsamic glaze and local honey on the side. I loved everything and will definitely be going back.

The conversation was easy, sometimes involving all four of us, but other times, we broke off in twos to chat. We told stories from this week and from years in the past, empathized with one another, laughed (maybe a little too loudly), and teased each other. I enjoyed taking a trip down memory lane and sharing bits of my life from the past decade as an international school teacher, and I loved getting to know my new friends even more through their stories. It was the perfect antidote to a crappy week.

Toward the end of dinner, I went over to say hi to a student from my school who was eating with her family. I noticed her when we got there, and I waved, but she didn’t come to say hi, so I thought I would go to her. She’s one of those students who always has a smile on her face and chats with me whenever she sees me. I also talked with her family briefly, as they were getting ready to leave.

On the drive home, I blasted my 90’s playlist on Spotify and we sang (mostly out of tune) loudly along with the Backstreet Boys, Wilson Phillips, Shania Twain, Hanson, and Boyz II Men, laughing all the way home. My mood was lifted, as I shook off the negativity of the past week. Fridays should always end like this!

Currently

I’m currently…

Listening to the Dear Evan Hansen soundtrack and it’s bringing me back to a year ago, when I was in isolation for months on end in Jakarta, unable to leave my housing compound. I would work all day, and in the evenings, when I needed to get the pent-up angst and energy out, I would walk circles around my pond, blasting this soundtrack, tears streaming down my face.

Loving my healthy, happy plants, fresh baked bread, friends who listen when you’ve had a bad day, and writing in the SOL Challenge.

Drinking water. I have not drank enough water today and I need to hydrate to stave off the headache that’s trying to creep in.

Thinking about the next step I should take in developing the curriculum. We have made tremendous progress, and I know what needs to happen, but I haven’t yet decided the order in which to go about it. I need some head space and time to do this big picture thinking.

Wanting to wake up late tomorrow and read my book while sipping on English breakfast tea (sigh, tomorrow’s Friday…I guess I’ll have to wait til Saturday).

Procrastinating so many things…well, I’m not really procrastinating them, it’s just that I have a to do list so full it’s about to burst and I don’t have enough hours in the day to get to all of them in a timely manner.

Needing some rest, a good cry, a hug from my mom and dad, exercise, and a day off to catch up.

Reading an easy read, The Return by Nicholas Sparks. When there’s so much going on in the world that you aren’t sure will work out, there’s something comforting about reading books like this…where you just know it’s going to all turn out alright.

Worrying about whether or not I should go home this summer, vaccinations (when? really not until the fall? which one will they give us?), and the stress that’s been a constant this week.

Wondering which book I will read next…I have so many to choose from in my ‘to read’ stack. I’m leaning toward The Huntress by Kate Quinn. I fell in love with The Alice Network, which I read while I was in quarantine this summer. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend it.

Anticipating a little getaway to Seoul during Spring Break in 3 weeks. We have just been given the green light to travel to the mainland for 4 days at the start of the break without the requirement of a Covid test. This is definitely a silver lining!

What are you currently up to?

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Should I stay, or should I go? This is the question that’s been haunting me the past couple of months. It’s the question on all of our minds at the moment, and I’m sorry to say, I don’t yet have the answer. In a non-Covid world, the answer is simple. I’d go. In a heartbeat. No questions asked. Not even a question, in fact. But in a Covid world, with so much uncertainty, it becomes much more complicated to decide. What’s the best thing to do? What’s the safest? What’s in my best interest?

The question on my mind, as an international school educator, is whether or not to go back home this summer to see my family. I always go home (well, there was that one year I traveled Europe instead) for the summer, where I spend time with my family and see my friends I haven’t seen in a while and drive all around the great state of Texas to visit far-flung relatives and eat my favorite foods (in Austin, mostly) and shop for all the things I always buy in America (here’s looking at you, tampons with applicators, Mexican spices, deodorant, toothpaste, makeup, all the books, and much more).

I mean, I didn’t get see them at Christmas (another one of those trips I almost always make), which means if I don’t go home, it’ll have been a year without seeing them except for through a screen. And then there’s the new baby who’s due in May, a new niece that I can’t wait to hold and cuddle and love on. If I don’t go home, she’ll be more than 6 months old the first time I meet her. Also, I could use some family time, what with a worldwide pandemic causing all kinds of stress and undue worry and anxiety that we’re all dealing with.

But with Covid and all the stress and risk that comes with it, do I dare? Going home means leaving my safe bubble on Jeju (where the cases are really low…like ridiculously low…as in about 500 total cases since the pandemic started and only one death) and going to America, where the cases are crazy high and the death count is astronomical. Not to mention the actual travel there, with long haul flights, crammed in a small space with lots of people and germs galore. And then there’s the Covid tests, the ones that have given me anxiety ever since the last one I had in Seoul during quarantine, where I screamed and cried for a long time after. I’ll do anything to avoid that again. It’s not just one test either, it’s five at minimum. I shudder at the thought. Quarantine, while now only when I return to Korea (since Texas has lifted all restrictions), is still not something I’m excited about. Frankly, I had enough of that in 2020.

The biggest fear I have though is if I actually get Covid. Apart from the obvious fear of contracting a horrendous respiratory illness that could kill me, I’m worried that contracting the virus might mean I lose my job. I love my job and my life in Jeju, and I don’t want to give that up, but the reality is that if I were to get Covid in the states, I could very well lose my job (legitimately- I’ve checked) if I were not able to quickly recover and return back to work. Is that a risk I’m willing to take? Does choosing not to go home for fear of catching Covid and possibly losing my job mean I love my family any less? Does it make me selfish? Am I overreacting?

What’s the right decision? I feel like I’m damned if I do, and damned if I don’t. I thought that writing about it would make the decision clear, that processing the pros and cons would somehow show me what to do, but it hasn’t. Does anyone have any advice?

Taking a “Sick” Day

Normally, taking a sick day involves you suffering at home, most likely laid up in bed and feeling really crappy. Well, this morning, while I was interviewing a candidate for a teaching position at my school, I noticed my eye was really weepy. For some unknown reason, my eye kept watering uncontrollably. I had to repeatedly wipe my eye, hoping the interviewee didn’t notice. After the interview, I asked my Head of School to have a look at my eye. Her assessment that it was a possible eye infection. Around 10:00am, I decided to get it checked out at the doctor.

Just as suspected, I was diagnosed with allergic conjunctivitis and given some drops to help it clear up. In all my years of teaching, I’ve never had an eye infection before, but the doc said it was highly contagious on the first day, so I needed to stay home the rest of the day. It was so strange to take a “sick” day without actually feeling sick, however my unexpected day of rest was appreciated.

It’s back to work tomorrow!

Sundays are Fleeting

I relish my weekends, more so lately as I seem to be working longer and longer hours on school days that bleed into my evenings. The opportunity to sleep in, taking comfort in the additional time wrapped up in my covers, knowing that there’s nowhere I have to be, nothing I have to do, paired with the unstructured day ahead, where I can choose to do anything I want to do (even if it’s nothing at all), is the very definition of luxury. My weekends are the time when I recharge my proverbial batteries, catch up on the things I want to do, rather than the things I have to do. During the month of March, my mornings are spent lazing on the couch, a cup of tea in one hand with my laptop on my lap, reading and commenting on my fellow slicers’ posts, while I enjoy the mid-morning sun streaming in through the windows and the light spring breeze coming through the open patio door.

Sundays start out just as promising as Saturdays, my morning routine the same, except for when I catch up with Shags on Facetime like today (I always welcome this break in the routine), but somewhere around lunchtime, time speeds up, the grains of sand falling faster than they should, and before I know it, Sunday’s almost gone. As time flies, I begin mourning the loss, knowing that the impending morning will be here quicker than I expect, the alarm interrupting my perfect slumber, stirring– no shaking– me awake, bringing me back to the realization that I can no longer sleep, that I can’t ease into the day, waking with the sun as I had done when it was Sunday.

I wonder, is it the knowing that it’s coming that eats up my Sundays? Does anyone else feel like their Sundays are fleeting? Or is it just me?

Korean Grocery Store Finds

One of my favorite things to do whenever I move (and sometimes when I travel) to a new place is to scope out the grocery stores and see what they have on offer. I usually find some unusual things mixed in with the ordinary. Korea is no different, however as far as grocery stores go, I can find most of what I want to buy here (if I’m willing to pay the high price tag, that is), which hasn’t always been the case in my other locations. There are a few things I can’t find, but they are things I can live without.

In no particular order, here are some of my favorite Korean grocery store finds.

How’d you like to buy 1 cantaloupe for $30 USD?!? Lucky for me, I hate cantaloupe!

Not sure what these are, but some people were cooking up these Korean snacks in the middle of the store. As far as I can tell, they are sandwiches, with cooked eggs acting at the “bread” part and meat and other fillings inside.

This sign totally made me laugh! I’m not sure if the sign is meant to entice the foreigners to buy the snacks or the locals, since foreigners buying them makes them more attractive.

There are sooooo many unusual Pringles flavors to choose from, but these caught my eye! I’m thinking the butter caramel ones might be good, but I’d definitely have to pass on the Sweet Mayo Flavour Cheese…yuck!

Now I’ve heard that onion tea is great for your skin and makes you look younger, but I don’t think I could stomach the taste!

This one is a peanut butter flavored drink, like a PB version of hot chocolate. I have some, but haven’t tried it yet. My friend says it’s pretty good. This is the Skippy brand.

Need a glass of wine, but don’t have a glass? Just buy the single serve version- glass included! 🙂

This one threw me off for sure. I’ve had peanut butter before, and I’ve had squid (not my favorite, but I’ve had it) too, but never in a million years would I have put these two flavors together! Would you?!?

This one is so weird for many reasons. For one, who buys 9 green beans at a time? Why do we need plastic packaging? And why do these 9 green beans cost nearly $2 USD?!? Needless to say, I didn’t buy them, but I have to say, I do miss eating fresh green beans. They must not grow them here or they must not be “a thing” in Korea.

Anyone fancy some seaweed flavored oatmeal?? I love it that it’s Quaker brand, too! 🙂

Have you ever seen anything at your local grocery store that made you laugh or wonder who in the heck would ever want to eat that?

Friday Night in Jeju

Living in Jeju, an island in South Korea, means that my Friday nights are much different than when I lived in big cities with tons of nightlife. Where I live is a bit (okay…a lot) more low key; add Covid in the mix, and Fridays are a lot quieter now.

After a busy week at work (which ones aren’t these days?), I was ready for some down time. I picked up some fresh tulips at the local supermarket first, and after deciding that cooking wasn’t in the cards tonight, I headed to Gla Gla to pick up a take-away Poke bowl. While I waited on my order, I snapped a few pics of the surrounding area. This street is full of restaurants, cafes, and shops where you can buy fresh fish, since it’s located on a port.

Back at home, I settled in for a night of catching up on my shows. Grey’s Anatomy and Station 19 are back…after a very long hiatus…so I watched them both. I won’t reveal any spoilers, but if you are religious viewers like me, you are in for an emotional ride!

The Last Paragraphs of My Biography

Have you ever been inspired to write something from a book you’re reading? Well, I’m reading The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (which is great by the way!) and in it, Xiomara’s teacher gives her a few writing assignments that we, as readers, get to see. In the book, Xiomara (the poet) writes the rough draft as a poem, saying the truth, but ends up turning in an essay that is more in line with what she thinks is acceptable. Assignment number two, which was to write the last paragraphs of your biography, caught my attention. With a mixture of excitement and fear, it made me wonder…what would they say about me, about the life I’ve lived? I mean, really, What would they say?

Here’s Xiomara’s rough draft of her assignment:

And here’s her final draft:

Here goes…my rough draft of the Last Paragraphs of My Biography:

Jennifer loved with her whole heart and
treated her friends like family.
While she never married or had children of her own,
she developed strong relationships with her nieces and nephew,
and they came to visit her often,
wherever she happened to be.

During her lifetime, she lived
on six continents, traveling to the
far reaches of the world, in search of
adventure and understanding.
Her dream of someday living in Paris
came true. She spent her days wandering,
writing, and wondering. (Oh, and eating lots of croissants!)

She didn’t always get it right,
and she made lots of mistakes,
some she’d rather not share,
but one thing remained the same,
she always learned from her mistakes
and tried to do better the next time.

Despite all of her fear and worry and doubt
that she wouldn’t be good enough,
she finally authored and published a book
and then another and another.
Jennifer was also a sought-after
speaker and workshop leader,
sharing her passion for writing and the PYP.

Jennifer may be remembered
as many things: a friend,
an educator, a writer, a sister,
an aunt, a daughter, a reader,
a traveler,

but most importantly,
she should be remembered
as always following her passions,
standing up for what she believed in,
and for loving with her whole heart.

I think I’ll save the final draft for another slice. 😉