Thursday, February 20, 2020

Naked in a Korean Spa


korean spa, naked, jjimjilbang, spaland


I'm pretty sure I haven't been naked in a room full of people since I was a baby and didn't know the concept of nudity.

I was super nervous to visit SpaLand in Busan with my friend Gabby, but going to a jjimjilbang is a necessary Korean experience so I knew I had to go before I leave.

I haven't looked into going to a jjimjilbang in Jinju because I know my students go with their friends or moms on the weekends and having a student see me naked is NOT an experience I would like to have. I've done plenty of embarrassing things in my life, but I don't think I would be able to recover from that.

SpaLand is a bit pricier than the average jjimjilbang and has a 4 hour time limit, but it's the "famous" one and a good journey from Jinju, so I knew my chances of running into a student were low.

if you need help with body acceptance, this book is a good place to start
The awkwardness of being naked with your friend surrounded by other naked ladies wore off after a few minutes. We walked into the women-only bathing area, tiny towels covering our chests, and washed off before we got into one of the warm salt pools.

I'm sure some people were looking at me because I'm a blonde-ish, big chested foreigner with a couple tattoos, but I didn't notice. SpaLand is used to foreigners visiting so I wasn't an anomaly. People just casually look at each other and it didn't feel weird!

I saw big titties, small titties, old lady saggy titties, stretch marks, scars, skin discoloration, huge bushes, no bushes, tramp stamps (on a Korean woman!), and everything in between.

Korean women are usually always very put together - perfect hair and makeup and clothes. My girl students have complained to me that they don't want to date a Korean guy because they expect all girls to look and act the same way, and if you don't act the "proper" way they will just dump you and find a girl that does (the patriarchy is a curse everywhere). Being in a bathhouse surrounded by naked women made me realize (again) that it really is the male gaze that ruins our freedom, makes us self-conscious and ashamed.

(Necessary disclaimer: this is not MEN'S fault but the patriarchy, a very important distinction that guys like to ignore so they can get self-righteous and ignore what women have to say. It's dumb that I even feel the need to do a disclaimer because only 10 people read this blog and I bet you they're all women. That is all. Carry on.)

I know I can't change the past, but I can't believe it took me almost a full 12 months to go to a jjimjilbang! I wish I had gone sooner and way more often.

If you're ever in Korea, definitely go to one, especially if you're nervous about the nudity. You will feel like an animal at a watering hole, but in the best way possible.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

2020 Reading

book on white background with coffee


Will update this post throughout 2020! These are not ALL the books I've read in 2020, just the ones that fulfill my bare-minimum reading goals for the year.

To find everything I read, follow me on Goodreads.

January

  1. Translated: Human Acts by Han Kang (Korea)
  2. Unread Shelf: Edinburgh by Alexander Chee
  3. Library: Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl
  4. Audiobook: The Last Tudor by Philippa Gregory

February

  1. Translated: b, Book, and Me by Kim Sagwa (Korea)
  2. Unread Shelf: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  3. Library:
  4. Audiobook: Fascism by Madeleine Albright 

March

  1. Translated: Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo (Korea)
  2. Unread Shelf: The Vietnam War: An Intimate History by Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns
  3. Library: The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
  4. Audiobook: 

April

  1. Translated: Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami (Japan)
  2. Unread Shelf: 
  3. Library:
  4. Audiobook: 

May

  1. Translated: 
  2. Unread Shelf: 
  3. Library:
  4. Audiobook: 

June

  1. Translated: 
  2. Unread Shelf: 
  3. Library:
  4. Audiobook: 

July

  1. Translated: 
  2. Unread Shelf: 
  3. Library:
  4. Audiobook: 

August

  1. Translated: 
  2. Unread Shelf: 
  3. Library:
  4. Audiobook: 

September

  1. Translated: 
  2. Unread Shelf: 
  3. Library:
  4. Audiobook: 

October

  1. Translated: 
  2. Unread Shelf: 
  3. Library:
  4. Audiobook: 

November

  1. Translated: 
  2. Unread Shelf: 
  3. Library:
  4. Audiobook: 

December

  1. Translated: 
  2. Unread Shelf: 
  3. Library:
  4. Audiobook: 

Friday, February 7, 2020

No Longer a Teacher

Victoria sits in chair in front of a pink wall on a rooftop cafe in Jinju, South Korea
pink cafe in Jinju, Korea
My babies (aka 16 year old teenagers) graduated yesterday. None of the blogs prepared me for this, for falling in love with 518 students and then having your heartbroken 518 times when you have to say goodbye. 

I KNOW I'll miss them more than they miss me, since they've had foreign English teachers before and will have many more in the future. But these were my first kids and I am grateful for every single one of them. 

They'll grow up to do great things and I hope I made English as fun and welcoming as possible. 

Brb need to go before I start crying in the office again. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

I'm Leaving Korea

Korean traditional building with blue sky

I'm leaving Korea, a fact that I should probably have led with instead of writing about my feelings.

I had every intention to stay a second year, to move schools to work at a kindergarten and work with my friend and fall in love with adorable Korean children. That was how my 2020 was supposed to play out.

At the end of December we found out my uncle has brain cancer. It's not one of those "Get Well Soon!" and "Stay Strong! You Can Do This!" tumors. It's a matter of time tumor.

No one's forcing me to come home, but I know where I'm needed. Korea loves me but Korea doesn't need me. I COULD stay, but I know myself. I'd be a worried wreck and crying all the time and feeling sorry for myself on top of feeling sorry for my family.

I like being useful so I must go home.

I'm sure I'll come back to Korea someday, whether as soon as this fall or 50 years from now when I've forgotten everything except annyeonghasaeyo.

So this post is sad, but also a reminder to live your goddamn life. You could do everything the way you're supposed to do and still get brain cancer at 42 so you might as do whatever you want while you can.

I have no idea if I'm going to write on this blog when I'm home. I hate writing for my travel (slash book slash feelings slash whatever) blog when I'm in America. I have lots of stories and lots of pictures to share from my time in Korea though, so I'll probably retroactively post, the way I do with my Instagram. Never post anything in real time, baby!

I have a few travel plans in the works (Jeju Island, Japan, maybe Vietnam) before I return to the motherland. My life isn't stopping or pausing just because I'll be home, a fact I've had to remind myself of a few times. This is my life, this is happening. I can't believe this is happening. This shouldn't be happening.