Friday, December 8, 2017

New year, new blog!

Thank you readers for the last few years of following along. It has been quite the ride and one I am thankful to have had you with me for. I am not finished writing but I have however moved to a new space with a brand new name.

If you fancy, join me at my new blog @  www.jerricafromamerica.com . Hope to see you all there!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Happy one year, Korea!

One year in Korea. Something I wasn't sure I'd ever be saying when I started this whole thing.

From the beginning, I was uncertain I wanted to be here, unprepared beyond words, and my capabilities as a teacher? the most unsure I have ever been about anything. But failure doesn't scare me as much as it should, and luckily, the potential of that was never enough to scare me away.

The last year has been a ride. One that goes as high as it does low with a lot of craziness and laughter and confusion in between. One that I barely remember and yet can't (and don't want to) remember a life without. One I am so thankful for beyond words, measure, and my being in itself.

School life, for me, has been a dream. My many Korean co-workers have been both kind and welcoming and we share an unexplainable bond despite having never shared the same language. They make being here easy even on my most confusing day. And I never take for granted how very lucky I am for that.

And then there's my students. Who make even my worst days better, without even trying. With their goofy American waves, overly excited to see me attitudes, and blind and true effort in learning, even when they have no idea what I am saying. They made choosing to stay an effortless decision and will make my one day goodbye undoubtedly unbearable. They are my proof that I was so very wrong in assuming I could never love them as much as my little ones. So very wrong and yet so very thankful.



And last, but certainly not least, are my friends. My day one'ers, my weird and ever so eccentric Jeongeup family, and my extra special ones. The ones who make being here worth it and who will have forever changed my life in ways they may never really know. The ones who truly understand both the hardships and comforts of being away, the ever so confusing life in Korea, and the ones who without effort, or judgement, so easily understand me.








And let's not forget about the travel. The freedom, the ease, and the proximity. With 3 amazing trips to the Philippines, Japan, and Hong Kong, I can't help but laugh at the times I said "I never want to go to Asia." Life has thrown me a lot of curveballs, but this is by far my favorite and most laughable one. 






So thank you for the year, Korea. Thank you for one of my most special and memorable anniversaries to date. For the reminder that communication and love is so much more than words. For the memories and relationships that have changed me in ways I still do not know. And for this very special 365 days in another random series of my never-ending mini lives.

I couldn't know then what I know now but I would choose it every time.

And hell, am I ever so thankful that I gambled on this.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Cheers to the New Year!

2016. What a year. 

What a tragic, exciting, confusing, and blissfully beautiful year. 

It was a year that I never could've seen coming. And a year in a life I never dreamed would be mine. 

I just finished my first semester of teaching in South Korea and though things weren't always smooth, I often wonder how I got so lucky. So lucky to have gotten none of the things I asked for but everything I didn't know I wanted.

Funny how life works that way.

Life at school makes me laugh. On the hard days, on the great days, and on every day in between.

Like when the Teacher's fold their arms into hearts above their heads and shout "Good Morning!" as I walk through the door. Like when the students tell me that they want my eyes inside of their head because they don't quite have the words. Like when my Principal greets me with a hello and a high five like he's just one of us. Like when I'm given daily gifts from endless oranges, to floss, to coffee coasters, to candy, and socks, for reasons still unbeknownst to me. Like when they drag me to make kimchi and teach me to dance like Michael Jackson. Like when they borrow me for a history lesson and I say the words "Industrial Revolution" and the class goes wild with screams and applause. And like when my fellow Teacher practices saying "I will miss you" somewhere north of 100 times before he feels completely confident in saying his pre winter vacation goodbyes. They make me feel so loved and welcomed and remind me every day that communication is so much more than words. For this, I am so, so thankful.






And if school wasn't enough of a positive experience, there are all of those people that make my social life actually social somehow. From the casual coffee and dinner dates to those not-so-casual 7 am soju nights that I should but never regret. So many good friends that I can hardly remember a life without. So many perfectly perfect weirdos that make this life here feel complete. An amazing group of equally dysfunctional souls that make my cheeks actually hurt from smiling too much. It's my biggest problem at the moment, and the best problem I've maybe ever had. I owe them so much of my happiness here and I've never felt more fortunate for these once-in-a-lifetime kind of friends.






Most days I don't know what is happening, or why, or how I got here exactly. Sometimes I don't know what the universe was thinking or how I got so damn lucky. All I know is this: 2016 was hard and confusing and great simultaneously. It was broken, and sad, and equal parts wonderful. It was one I'll always cherish but one I can't wait to let go.

I'm ready for whatever you're bringing 2017. The good, the bad, and the travel. I'm ready for the calm. I'm ready for the crazy. I'm ready for it all.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

I won't know until I get there


It’s a cold and cloudy day with the dread of winter in the air. I’m staring desperately at my calendar hoping once again that my to-do list will magically disappear with little to no effort on my part. Instead though, all I can do is stare at the date and wonder if time really does pass by more quickly as we get older. It sure does feel that way lately.

Most days I feel like I went to bed at 18 and woke up quickly approaching the final year of my twenties. The time in between but a blur of college parties, that long-term relationship, and a few random moves across the planet. Those years equally as forgettable as they are memorable on most days anymore.

When I wrote about what I wanted at 18, I dreamt only of what I knew might be possible. I dreamt of the good job, the big house, the handsome husband, my blue-eyed children, and the puppy that I would ultimately name “Snoop”.  The sort of things that most people want before the universe laughs in your face and tells you to try again.

Just a few years later, I graduated college with no solid plans of making that dream a reality. It seemed as though everyone around me was finding their job, their person, and was doing big things. They were doing all of this all while I was simply falling apart. My relationship was on the verge of failure, I had a mountain of college debt, and my dream of being elsewhere was ever-so present. My once blind optimism wavered and my world crumbled quickly. 

That year 4 years ago was the hardest one and one that I'd erase completely if I didn't know it'd lead me here. It was the year that ultimately brought me away from the only thing I knew to what I never knew I wanted. My soul was elsewhere all along and it took just one big move to know it. To know that it was the only move. And to know that things would never be the same again because of it.  

And now I'm here, doing a job I never thought I wanted, in a place I never dreamed of being. 10 years from writing that promising letter to myself, wondering how all of this happened exactly. How all of those years disappeared so quickly without having achieved any of those once solid plans. Wondering if those plans were ever really meant to be mine or if traveling saved me from a life I wasn't meant to have then, or now, or maybe ever. 

I'm choosing now to live without real plans. To continue to work towards goals and dreams, but without the pressure of plans weighing on me in the process. To choose to be happy, doing whatever that means at any given moment. And to trust that whatever is ahead feels even half as good as this. 

Onwards to adventures or the yard with kids and puppies. Onwards to all of it or none of the above. Where I go from here, I don't know just yet. And if my past is any indicator, I won't know until I get there. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Finding happiness in Korea


It’s been two months now since I boarded the plane to my new life in South Korea. My feelings far too clouded then with sadness and uncertainty to foresee a life as beautiful as this. I hoped so desperately that I would like my job, have big (and little) adventures, and cure those ever-so-present feelings of loneliness that I only feel in places that feel easy and comfortable.

I wasn't always confident in my decision to come here. In fact, on most days leading up to the move, I struggled to find the reasons. I struggled through goodbyes, learning to read Korean, and holding chopsticks was a seemingly never-ending failure. But with a serious lack of direction, and no real reason to be elsewhere, Korea felt as good as anywhere.

Beyond moving to Asia though, was the reality that I would be teaching humans actual things. English things, but things, nonetheless. Someone trusted me enough to pay me and fly me out from America to speak, practice, impart wisdom of some sort, and hopefully not fail miserably in my attempt. They trusted me to stand in front of a classroom, once a very real nightmare of mine, and speak words to somewhere north of 700 different students (mostly teenagers!!) a week.

And somewhere in the past few months, I found a kind of confidence. Maybe it's the constant stares and 'Hello's' from strangers and non-strangers, alike, the never-ending compliments on my blonde hair and blue eyes, or the fact that I feel like I actually might be good at this. I have developed a real love for my students, the staff, my schools, teaching, my amazing friends, and a life I never would have seen coming.

Things are sometimes difficult, almost always confusing, and on the days we have Octopus soup for lunch, I always dream of the crap America used to feed me. But on most days, it really is more than I could have asked for. And here's why:













- Teacher's are bowed to, acknowledged, and most importantly of all, respected. As they should be, in every country, across the board. Time to get with, America.
- School lunches are healthy and delicious, unless I see tentacles, of course.
- Outside shoes are switched for inside shoes called "slippers" upon entering the building. It's smart, it's clean, and best of all, it's casual, meaning that I never ever have to pretend to like wearing heels.
- Despite not knowing a lick of each other's languages, there is always a sense of sweetness and understanding between me and everyone I meet. It is beautiful and quite unlike anywhere else I've visited and lived to date.
- My friends, having only known me for a few short weeks, understand me in a way that most people never have. It's rare to find friendships like this, but I have them both at home and abroad, and that makes me feel like the luckiest girl alive.
- The adventures are everywhere. In the form of food, and festivals, and fireworks. In the form of hiking, and hugs, and hand holding with strangers. In the form of trying to properly order a coffee or tell just one taxi driver just one time how to successfully get me anywhere.

Every day is something new or ridiculous or confusing or exciting. Most days, it is all of these things and more. My life, in almost no way, is what I pictured it would be all those years ago when I thought plans were useful. And in almost all ways, it is better than I ever imagined it could be. To fate, or the universe, or the random, but significant events that led me here, thank you. Thank you for this very sweet, and beautiful, and chaotic ride you've led me on. Thank you for all of this. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Life in Korea: Expect the unexpected

How did I get here? To this very moment in time? 

This moment of me quietly sipping on cappuccino in Jeongeup, South Korea. Surrounded by constant stares from strangers, a room full of English textbooks, and my head spinning in directions I didn't know existed. 

How did all of my choices and heartbreaks and dreams bring me here. To this very moment and this very place. 

The last 30 days have been a blur of emotions and new beginnings. A fair share of excitement and mental breakdowns and everything in between. It wasn't always easy. But the good stuff never is. 

It started as it always does. Me desperately struggling through hugs and 'see you later's' and wondering what part of this is worth the agony of these seemingly never-ending goodbyes. I didn't know it then, but my hopes were high that I'd see the worth eventually. 

The first leg of my flight was direct to Shanghai. Out of the hundreds of people aboard the flight, I was the only foreigner. Literally the only person with blonde hair and blue eyes who spoke even a lick of English. I was immediately the center of everyone's attention, and felt sickeningly like a stranger in my own skin. It was the first time that I realized how quickly my life was about to change. How crushingly lonely this move could be. How I was about to be "that foreigner" for a very, very long time. Maybe much longer than I was ready for. 

I arrived in Busan, South Korea, way too many hours later and was thankfully instantly surrounded by hundreds of people in the same unimaginable boat. Also desperately recovering from jetlag and goodbyes and with no clue of how they got here either. We quickly bonded through 10 days of orientation, lectures, dorms, learning Korean, field trips, demo lessons, and infamous subway and soju dates.






And maybe best of all was that after a long and tedious 9 MONTHS of this process, we FINALLY found out where we were going and who we would be teaching. 

My fate? 

4 days of 7th - 9th grade at an all girls Middle School.
1 day of 5th and 6th grade at an Elementary School. 
Jeongeup, Jeonbuk, South Korea. 

Everything I'd envisioned about this year quickly dissipated. My stickers and hand clappers would be stored away and instead I'd be teaching classrooms full of teenage girls. TEENAGE GIRLS. I don't know who trusted me with this, but I had no choice but to embrace it. 

Just 15 hours later we were bused from orientation to our locations and all of my new friends were now friends who were dispersed to random and mostly far away places around the country. I was dropped off at my new apartment, and though I should've felt nothing but grateful, the reality was much more grim. I was tired, and sad, and I have never felt more alone in my life. 

So, I unpacked. 
Everything I had. 
Immediately. 

I unpacked through tears and a few brief moments of crushingly loneliness and terror. Because if I didn't unpack then, I don't know that I ever really would have. I just wanted to go back to being comfortable, to see one friendly face, and to slap myself for how wrong I was in coming here. I wanted to turn around and leave before I even gave it a chance. 

Instead though, I put on my big girl pants and wandered. I wandered to the very first coffee shop I found. I opened my email and had a message sitting there from my very first friend. She introduced me to more friends, and before the day was over, I had 14 other once lost little souls in my corner to help me through the transition. It was the first time I felt a teeny glimmer of happiness, and the first time that I felt like things might actually be ok here. 

School started just 3 days later. This is when I discovered that instead of co-teaching all year as planned, I would instead be teaching alone. No one actually told me this though, I only found out when thirty-five 16-year-olds sat staring at me and no one else showed up. On that day or on any day since. In those moments of sheer panic, I had no choice but to be confident and roll with it. To make something out of nothing. To pretend that I knew what I was doing. To pretend that all eyes on me and being the center of attention wasn't desperately out of my comfort zone. To acknowledge that this was indeed my life. For the next year. And to figure it out somehow.

But that day just a couple of weeks ago was my last really hard day here. Because every day since then has been good. Not just good, but pretty freaking great. So great in fact that I am actually struggling to remember just how sad I really was. 

School has become easier. I finally have a schedule, and books, and for some reason unbeknownst to me, the kids might even like me. They bow, frantically wave hello, and bring me gifts of food and/or handwritten letters daily. They compliment my 'pretty blue eyes', constantly tell me I'm beautiful (hello ego boost), and try their best to speak to me in English, even when they don't have the words. I also have those 150 elementary students once a week to find energy in, play games with, and a better co-teacher there than I ever could've hoped for. I really do feel like I have the best of both worlds. And I know after talking to other people, just how very fortunate I am for this. 




And beyond work, life has been more unexpected than ever. I've made more friends than I can count, experienced my first (and second...) earthquake, and somehow fell more in love with Korea than I ever thought possible. It's been a crazy couple of weeks and I imagine this is only the beginning. 



So far, it's been a terrifying, beautiful, and comical experience and a life I never would have believed would be mine. A life so far fetched from what I envisioned that I can't help but laugh at the universe for bringing me here. To this place, with my coffee, and my lesson plans, in this teeny tiny corner of South Korea.  

Monday, July 11, 2016

Korea, here I come!!

Signed, sealed, delivered. 

Officially, official.

I am moving to Korea!!

Now now, I know what you're thinking. I've been met with enough blank stares after sharing this news to know it wasn't exactly expected. Sometimes I get congratulated, sometimes I get hugs (thank you!!), and more often than not I get, "be careful", "wait what?", "not North right?", and my personal favorite, "but why?"

So while I have you here, please do let me explain.

If you remember, three years ago I made my first move abroad. That year quickly turned into two.. then three.. then into maybe every single year in my foreseeable future. And somewhere in those years, I met some pretty rad people. People who unknowingly would change the course of my life forever. Writers, travelers, some of my very best friends, and you guessed it, even English teachers. We talked, I listened, and continuing a life abroad sounded better all the time.

I considered many places in my quest to find my place in the TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) world. I considered Thailand, Spain, Taiwan, and Japan, but Korea was always the winner for me. It was always highly recommended by friends, is consistently listed as one of the best places to teach abroad, and offers by far the best benefits around. It's also safe, and beautiful, and a lover of the outdoors haven.

So this year I finally committed. Yes.. I know.. I committed to something. I finished my TEFL certificate, applied, interviewed, was accepted into EPIK, was offered a job, did more paperwork than it takes to get into Harvard (I'm sure of it), and finally received my teaching contract. I don't know how it all happened exactly, but I'm now moving to a corner of the world I barely knew existed before I intentionally burst my own midwestern bubble. It's here, it's here, it's here!!

As far as logistics, I don't know where I'm living, the name of my school, or who I'll be teaching. I don't have a visa, or a plane ticket, and my to-do list never ends. I don't speak (or read or write) Korean, I've never been to Asia, and I can barely hold a chopstick without flinging a piece of chicken across the room. So I guess it's safe to say that I'm almost prepared...

And that's exactly why I'm going.

Because it's new, challenging, terrifying, exciting, beautiful, and everything in between. It is everything I need and am craving in these days of ease and contentment. My comfort zone is constantly being shattered with every step of this process and I oddly find comfort in being uncomfortable.

This 8 month process is now coming to a close. I'm now exactly 5 weeks away from departure day. The day I'll be so excited I can't sleep while also drowning in a puddle of my own tears on the airport floor as I say goodbye again. The day I finally leave for Korea. The day a new life begins again.