It happened!!!  I had a good day at work.  It’s been one month of living in Korea, 3 weeks working with the students on campus, and yesterday, Saturday, finally felt right.  It all started with getting more than 5 hours sleep; a necessity for this homo sapien to feel and function normally.  I thought I loved sleep before, but now my love and appreciation for sweet sweet slumber has grown exponentially.  

To put things in perspective, I had 14 hours sleep total in 3 days while on overnight shifts this past week.  

The next awesome occurrences, and I say this with all sincerity, were the caf meals.  It isn’t horrible food, but when you eat rice 3 meals a day and most of those meals are spicy, as a person who has a sweet-tooth that rivals Augustus Gloop’s, it’s the curry dish and tiny steroid-free (I assume) chicken burger that make a stomach smile.  Next came a quick Skype trip-planning session for my upcoming escape with my boyfriend to Bali.  Oooeee, I’m excited!

Cafeteria Curry in Korea

Fitness Centre

The good times didn’t end there.  The best parts of my day were 3 “teachable” moments with different groups of our residence girls that had my weary heart jump with glee.  I was about to plunge back into work when a student asked if I’d take her to the fitness centre.  Usually we need a group of girls to go to justify a don leaving the residence.  A lot of our students spent time with family this weekend. Selfishly, I wanted to leave too.  A second student joined us and we walked the 30 seconds to the gym.

Now, weights and running don’t particularly turn my crank.  I prefer the carefree competition and synergy of team sports.  I also feel inept and awkward sweating, red-faced in front of mirrored walls as I struggle to perform movement that requires abs or strength.  The feel-good moment at the gym was when the girls asked for help with how to use the machines and what exercises to try.  Luckily, over the years, various friends have taught me a thing or two when a surge of moxie to re-attempt the “gym life” arises.  I taught the girls what a circuit was, how to breathe mindfully, what parts of their body an exercise was targeting, and what “activate your core!” means.  There were no injuries and they want to come back for a leg day (we did upper body this time).  And, I even had fun.  I’d say that was a success.

BHA Fitness Centre

Creative Sparks

The second “moment” came when a girl in my family (we group the girls into don families for organization and team-building) and one of her friends called me upstairs to check out something cool they were working on.  They had placed a cellphone flashlight underneath a carbonated beverage, similar to a lava lamp, shaking it every so often to produce bubbles for a neat visual effect.  They asked me to take a picture with my phone.  I remembered I had my DSLR on me from our Frisbee event earlier that day.  I snapped a few, but the girl in my family (we’ll call her S) started fiddling with lighting and backgrounds.  It was a chance to hand over my camera and let them explore and be creative.

They analysed the subtleties of light and composition, tweaking bits here and there.  S was the brains of the operation, using mirrors to reflect light, selecting different materials for backdrops, and moving lamps around to discover new effects.  The neatest part was that S has shown apathy towards school, extra-curricular activities, and anything but sleep.  But, as a photographer’s assistant, she was on fire.  It was awesome to watch her take charge of the situation and be learning and creating. I taught the other student what the buttons on the camera do, how it has an “eye” that blinks and a “pupil” that lets light in, and how the “temperature” of a picture can be altered.  Their delight with each discovery was infectious and I felt myself inspired to invest more time into this hobby I enjoy, to be able to pass on more information for them to run with.

Photography Experimenting with Light

Basketball & Boys

The third inspiring part of my day was in one of my happy places, the basketball court.  Three residence girls I don’t yet know needed a don for the gym since it was dark out.  I was tired and had things to do, but how could I turn down their chance to shoot around and have fun?  A fair number of girls enjoy going to the fitness centre and gym, though most end up chatting.  I think they feel comfortable in that space.  They feel able push themselves, and what could be more important for learning and growing and developing as a person?

When I first met my family of girls, I needed writing samples, so I had them write about the pros and cons of going to an all-girls school.  It’s a new experience for me and I was curious what their opinion on the subject is.  Almost all of them used the word “comfortable” when they described the pros.  Many felt able to excel, fail, and try again without the pressure of looking a certain way for boys or getting into scuffles over them.  They developed better friendships in this environment.

I have been learning a lot.  Growing up I had more crushes on boys than I can count.  I can even remember the first one in Kindergarten with his freckles and impish smile.  Too much of my adolescence was spent thinking about boys.  They would be the highlights and low points of sporting events and finding out class assignments on the first day of school.  As the often single friend in my social groups, it was a measure of self-worth and identity.  I wonder who I would be now if my experience then were different.  Did I mention yet I’m a fan of the “Nurture” debate?

…back to the girls in the gym.  Two of them play for the school’s varsity team and the other was along for fun with her friends.  I shot around for a little on my own, before one girl surprised me by asking me to join them in 2-on-2.  Not only was I delighted, I was shocked at her confidence to ask an older, unknown person to play.  What fantastic gumption!  We split up the academy girls so the teams were “even” and, again, I was witness to magic.  There were two-foot stops, jump shots, smart and simple passes, and cheers for the non-academy player when she performed well.  I offered tiny tidbits of my basketball IQ and watched as they incorporated the pick-and-rolls and boxed out.  

Needless to say, I was a happy camper, to be back in the paint and coaching, and the girls had a ball too (pun definitely intended).

BHA Basketball Courts

It’s the Simple Things

Other highlights from the last 2 days include: leaving campus for the first time in 3 weeks during my 2.5 hour mid-day break to pick up a friend’s friend’s rental car, feeling the wind on my face on the drive, and snippets of sunshine and warmth while walking between buildings.  It’s the simple things, folks.

I’m also looking forward to tonight.  A few of us are heading into town to celebrate a birthday, eat real food, and dance on a beach.

I’ll leave you with some pictures from last weekend.  Cheers!

About TMc


Me having a seat in front of one of the famous Brighton Bathing Boxes in Australia!

Heya! I’m Tara (Tar-ah)! Welcome to Travel with TMc where you’ll find quirky language tidbits, travel hacks for Canadians, and stories from the road. I hope you enjoy!
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