14 days in to the New Year and I think it's finally sunk in at what a year 2015 really was. I arrived in Korea in October 2014, so 2015 was the first year where I truly spent the whole year in Korea (despite some travelling outside the country along the way). I lived in Korea for all of 2015. My entire year was based around this country. A country that not too long ago, was still foreign to me. And now I call it home.
Although mangosteen and washing my face are two great feats, let's take a further look at my most favourite memories, or simply things I am proud of, from 2015. In no particular order, here they are.
When I first found out I would be teaching in the province of Jeollanamdo, I researched, and researched, and researched. That's what I do. Research things until I am fulfilled. (Am I ever??!) Out of all the natural wonders in this province, Wolchulsan was the first one that really spoke to me, and I thought "I have to go there". Maybe it was the rocky cliff faces, or the unique cloud bridge. I'm not sure what took me so long, but after being here for almost a year already- I finally did it! A refreshing, and fulfilling fall hike that I got to share with a good friend.
2. Volunteering At The Orphanage
In March 2015, I started volunteering at the Illo (city outside of Mokpo) orphanage every Thursday. These kids put a smile on your face the minute you walk through the door. Besides having fun with them while teaching them some English, along the way, I also became close with the other volunteers. Although I knew them before, volunteering at the Orphanage really brought us together, and now they are my closest friends here in Korea. And for that, I am so thankful!
Like I said before, I lived in Korea for all of 2015. But being here also granted me amazing opportunities to travel to other countries, for which I am so grateful! The Philippines is an amazing country filled with beautiful beaches and kind locals. The highlight of my ten days spent there was definitely island hopping in El Nido, with me and my four friends. The local guide knew all the right spots, and all the right times to go to avoid overcrowding. The guide and the "captain" of the boat also cooked us a fresh, delicious lunch, consisting of grilled fish, pork, veggies, fresh tomatoes and onions, and rice.
One of my favourite memories of my time spent in Thailand was spent here, at the Elephant Nature Park, a conservation and rehabilitation centre for elephants. We fed them, bathed them, trekked through the jungle with them,. It was all so surreal, being so close to these gentle giants!
This place. Simply magical! The scenery, the people, the air. It was all breathtaking. A place I will never forget.
I got food poisoning the SECOND day of my 21 day vacation period. My first case of food poisoning EVER. The worst of it (zero food, and trying to locate a toilet every couple minutes) lasted three full days, and then some of it (I won't give you specifics...) continued into the Philippines. Regardless, I'm proud that still made the most out of my time and said a big f-you to food poisoning!
6. Conquering 2 Open ClassesPart of being a teacher here in Korea means opening your class once a semester, so other teachers (and principal, VP), can come in. They observe, then critique you and give feedback. I put a lot of hard work in to these classes, and it paid off. During the class, I had the other teachers (including the Principal) smiling, laughing, and thoroughly enjoying watching the kids learn through my methods. I received only positive feedback, and I was (and still am) very proud.
I've always loved camping, but it's never been a priority, or at the top of my to-do list. It's such a great way to see a country, and I'm so glad I made it a priority this past camping season.
8. Making Camping A Priority
I'm proud of my 2015 year. These are eight things among a myriad of others. I moved apartments, continued learning Korean, and always tried to keep an open mind (especially when it came to food...). I also got scammed in Bangkok, had to say some difficult goodbyes to fellow English teacher friends, and also got told I have eleven cavities. But hey! It's all part of the experience, for better or for worse.
To say I learned a lot is an understatement. I'm excited to continue learning, and see what this year has to offer. Bring it on 2016!