on teaching by Shelby Robinson

The Kindergarten I teach at on Fridays. These little ones are Korean age 6, meaning they are four year olds!

Two of my fourth graders.

Before I came to Korea, I had a lot of expectations and thoughts about what my experience would be like. I thought I would teach casually, just here and there, and that I would be going on these big, grand adventures throughout Southeast Asia. I thought that teaching wouldn't really be a big part of my life. Or maybe, just too excited to make the leap, I didn't think about the teaching aspect at all. But like most expectations, I was wrong.

Teaching here is a big part of my life. I spend hours and hours Monday through Friday with my students. Laughing with them, being silly with them, teaching them how to correctly pronounce things like "change" and "finish" and "strange" because all of these words seem to have a magical 'y' on the end of them (finishy has become a big part of my vocabulary), but also getting really frustrated. Being a teacher takes loads of patience and energy. Especially being a teacher in a foreign country where your values and beliefs and working style differ drastically.

Often times, garnering the patience to teach young children exhausts every ounce of my energy. At first I would just speak as slowly as possible, and use a lot of hand motions, and some days with my little-little ones, I'd whip out the little Korean I know just to get them to turn their page. I even tried use the "you'll be so excited you learned another language" card to get them to pay attention, but I just got a lot of blank stares and "mulayos" (I don't know).

But now that I've reached the four-month mark, I've learned a few tricks to make my job easier. I've created competitions and games to gather (and keep) their attention. And most importantly, I've learned to not take teaching so seriously. I've learned that if we don't make it through 3-4 pages in our books today, that the world isn't going to end. I've learned that even if they learn just one word or phrase that day, my work is helping them. I've learned that if they enjoy coming into class and they have fun learning English, I have done my job. Because at the end of the day, being interested and excited to learn is the only way they will learn.

I am excited to see where the remaining eight months in my teaching journey takes me. It's comforting to know that with a little patience and acceptance, the hard and frustrating things gradually reach a place of ease and grace.

*Special shout-out to all of my past teachers~I have so much respect for you and think of you constantly.

*Roll over the images for captions. xx

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week 08 by Shelby Robinson

"To make living itself an art, that is the goal." // Henry Miller

Week eight. I spent the morning with a big cup of coffee and my old journals from July - March and just read. Soaked up the pages' goodness and the tears and frustration and the bliss. I noticed patterns and small, gradual shifts and the ups and downs of the past few seasons. I remembered and cherished and I swear my heart expanded tenfold with the reminder of the people I love and all the small things I'm grateful for.

I'm holding onto these memories extra close this week.

good things lately by Shelby Robinson

+ It's good to be outside, with the sun shining on your face and the wind in your hair. No coat. No plan. No route.

+ It's good to set aside time for self-reflection~to get in touch with they way you're really feeling and know yourself better. It's good to be good to yourself.

+ It's good to have days that revolve around the yummy food you're going to eat. To eat grilled cheese and drink green juice and wander.

+ It's good to breathe. To close your eyes. You're here, right now, in this moment. This moment is all you have. Isn't it beautiful?

Noticing the small things so they eventually become the big things....

week 07 by Shelby Robinson

"Passion and purpose and full-fledged living feel right to me. However ~ passion and purpose and full-fledged living are never tidy or tame, tepid or perfect. They demand a bit of mess and wildness and surrender. They want your rushing river, your spills, your drive, and your need. They want your aliveness. They don't care about your logic. They need your heartbeat." // Victoria Erickson

Week seven. Lots of examining and questions and growth. Silence and learning. I'm grateful for that. I'm grateful for sunny days and students who write me love notes and connecting deeper with my co-workers. I'm grateful for good, real food. Grateful for slow days and documentaries and endless cups of tea.

bali, indonesia by Shelby Robinson

A good trip should leave a lasting impression on you. It should put a small mark on your heart. Stay forever in your mind. If you're lucky, it will stay in the forefront of your mind ~ and allow you to implement its beauty into your current life and daily routines.

For me, that is my trip to Bali. For me, Bali was much more than a trip. It was a small reminder to take care of myself, from the food I eat to the products I use to the things I consume. A reminder to get away from it all for a little while. A reminder to take care of myself mentally, physically and spiritually.

Now let me tell you how ~

Bali is a place where you live by the sun and the tides and the moments and the moods, not by the hours of the day. A place so abundant in fresh juices and smoothies and bananas and coconuts that you can't help but feel lighter. A place where your hair is always salty and sun-soaked and your skin is always warm. A place where light and airy clothes are not just a fashion statement, but a must. A place where the sound of waves crashing below lull you to sleep each night. A place where you wake to the sun peaking through your mosquito net each morning. A place where you feel infinitely free.

The slow-living and mindful moments are what stuck with me the most ~ we swam when we wanted to swim, explored when we wanted to explore, ate when our bellies were hungry. I haven't felt that nourished and rejuvenated in months. Maybe it was the sunshine or the sea or the real foods or the company of amazing gals, or maybe it was a combination of all of these things, but it was a wonderful feeling. For the first time in awhile I felt like I was totally in tune with both my body and my mind. Like they were completely in-sync.

One of the best things was that although I was sad to leave, I wasn't dreading coming home to Korea. I was actually excited to debrief and start making a plan to implement all of the lovely things I had experienced into my everyday life. And I was also really excited to relive the moments in the photos above. It has made the transition back to the cold a bit easier.

So if you ever find yourself in Bali, be sure to rent scooters (for less than 10 rupiah a day), eat loads of fresh coconuts, buy a sarong or two from the ladies on the beach, avoid the corrupt police at all costs, and lather on sunscreen often. More often than you think you need to. For real.

I'll be going back to Indonesia for sure.

week 06 by Shelby Robinson

It's hard to believe that week six was spent in Bali. And it was pure bliss, let me tell you. I am so inspired by the slow and nourishing way of life we had there and the fresh fish and fresh fruit on the beach and the simplicity of the days. But I'll get more into that in my next post ~ I have way too much to share.

On our second day, Lindsey and Jackie and I wandered the Bingin Beach next to our hut to take a few beachy, mermaid-inspired photos. We collected shells and kelp and found the prettiest pools during low tide. I broke the rules a bit this week ~ these shots aren't technically self-portraits as they were shot by my lovely friends, but hey, rigidity is boring. Bendin' the rules a bit.

And yes, I know... I missed week five. I promised myself I'd tack on an extra week at at the end of the 52 weeks (just this once).

My Korean Bathroom by Shelby Robinson

When I first got to my apartment in Korea, I was pretty shocked to see no tub and no shower in my bathroom. Shocked to see just a hose attached to my sink.

Mornings were a little awkward as I tried to navigate the new experience (showering without getting my towel wet or figuring out how to have warm water was next to impossible) and like most things, I missed my "normal" shower back home.

But I've seriously grown to love the space. I have so much room! And it makes cleaning my bathroom incredibly simple ~ I can scrub and rinse my sink, floor, walls, and toilet in one fell swoop. It's an awesome thing. The greens are a nice touch too. My mornings are spacious and simple and lovely.

Learning not to judge and criticize things I'm not familiar with. Learning to keep my mind and heart open. Always learning.

week 04 by Shelby Robinson

"So, I close my eyes to old ends and open my heart to new beginnings."  //  Nick Frederickson

Morning hair and morning coffee and PJs. This week marks a full month of being here in South Korea (yesterday was my one-month mark of teaching!) and it's been a whirlwind. It's been full of ups and downs and anger and frustration, but also blissful, calm moments... Last night, I was walking to meet friends for dinner and felt loads happier. Calm. Peaceful. With each step I took, each student I saw running home after a long day filled with schoolwork, with each building I passed (that I recognized!), I felt more at ease. I think I am slowly being able to call Korea home. Slowly getting into a routine. Slowly loving this big, crazy country.

And huge, huge thanks for all the awesome comments on the post I shared yesterday. It's not always easy to share something so personal, but I can't tell you how much your words of encouragement means to me. Thank you for making my transition here just a little bit lighter.

How I've dealt with the loneliness of living abroad so far by Shelby Robinson

Loneliness can mean so many different things. It can be a desire for closeness, for intimacy. An achy feeling for familiarity. A desire for company. Maybe we're dealing with something that we really don't want to face, or maybe we just miss a person or a place a whole lot. Maybe we're living in the past. Maybe we're surrounded by people and still feel alone.

In the mere month of being here, I can't tell you how lonely I've felt. (Mom, family, I promise I'm fine!). Most of my days consist of going to school to teach students who speak basic, basic English, then to the supermarket for groceries or a cafe for tea, and then back to my apartment. Back to a timezone that is totally different from everyone and everything I'm used to. To a place that is still so new and so foreign to me. And more often than not, I'm alone. A lot.

Now don't get me wrong, I've always been one to really enjoy solitude, to need it. But my alone time back home consisted of an hour-and-a-half yoga class or an hour in a coffee shop every day. And then the rest of my days were filled with my big family and my awesome friends and my social job. Here, I don't have that. Here, I have scarce late night Skype sessions and brief Kakao conversations and 3-second Snapchats. Here, I have once-a-week meetups with other foreigners in Korea. Here, I have my big apartment and taped up pictures of late nights and morning coffee and snuggles with my pets back home. Here, I have myself. And it scares the hell out of me.

Before moving to Korea, I knew there were going to be heaps and loads of adjustments. Loads. I knew all of this and honestly... I wanted this. I just didn't know what those adjustments were, or how to prepare, or what to expect. ~ But I suppose that's life. You can plan and plan and prepare and worry and still, it will never go the way you expect. Everything is in a constant state of motion: the things around us, the Earth, our bodies, our minds. You can't predict what will happen five minutes from now, one day from now, one month from now. You just have no way of knowing. Everything is always changing. And yea.... there's beauty in that.

So I've been trying. Trying to explore the feeling of loneliness and getting to know it rather than avoiding it or trying to mask it. And here's what has helped me deal with the loneliness so far:

Journaling

I can't tell you how important this has become to me: a daily (often twice daily) affair with my journal. It gets my thoughts and feelings on paper, calms my mind, puts me in a relaxed state. It's so great to see the progress I've made and the realizations I've reached and the patterns I've noticed, too. And I love how raw and real and honest every word is. It's even allowed me to become more honest with myself. Plus, it's so flippin fun to go back and read old entries.

Reading

Before I left, I went to the used section in Schuler's Books and loaded up on good reads. Books to get lost in, to make me think, to bide my time. (Special thanks to Lindsey for the recommendation to read This Is How You Lose Her, I am in love.)

Embracing It

This has to be the hardest, most important lesson of all for me. To realize that being lonely goes hand in hand with being uncomfortable.... something that I'm not used to. But in the discomfort, comes growth. How are we going to learn and grow if we stay in the same place, doing the same thing, seeing the same things? I've learned to welcome loneliness with non-judgment. To notice it, accept it, and to allow space for it. Even though it's a bit uncomfortable, it must be felt. It's all part of the process. And things always get better.

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Amidst the scariness and the loneliness and the homesickness and hurt, I have grown. I have learned to take things one day at a time, confide in friends and fam back home, and mostly to trust myself. To trust the process. Trust my journey. Because there is meaning and purpose in all things. And I'm still struggling and learning and growing. Always. But allowing and accepting all of my feelings makes me feel just a little bit lighter.

bukhansan national park by Shelby Robinson

Yesterday Jackie and I met in Seoul and made out way to Bukhansan National Park where we planned to hike this beauty. One of my favorite Saturdays yet in Korea.

The walk up was pretty tiring and a bit icy, so it took us around two and a half hours. The final climb to the peak was honestly hilarious - I can't tell you how many times I slipped. The only thing we had to hold onto was a freezing metal bar with icy rocks beneath our feet. But all was well because we were surrounded by other hikers who were super kind and helpful, lending us hands and telling us the best strategies.

Once we made it to the top of the peak, the slipping and cold was all worth it. That view! So, so beautiful. It was the perfect day. We enjoyed gimbap and makgeolli (a rice wine) with some new friends. Also, Korean hikers are so hilarious with their brightly colored hiking gear and pants and matching jackets and hats and the like. We got a good laugh.

Many thanks to the lovely Jackie for being such an excellent guide and for taking me to my first Korean mountain. The first of many!