Weekly Photo: Foreign

This week’s Photo Challenge is Foreign.

When I first read the theme I of course immediately went to all of the travels I have had over the past couple of years and thought about posting pictures of the beautiful scenery and unusual signage.  However, as I was scrolling through my photos it dawned on me that the foreign-est thing in all of my travels was probably the type of housing that I lived in during most of my country visits.

The MOST foreign of all to me was probably my first extended trip outside of my military travels when I took a job in South Korea.  When I first moved to Korea in 2007, I went there with my 15 year old daughter.  We were supposed to get a “2-bedroom” apartment near the school I worked at.  When we arrived, this place was not available and were were put into temporary housing which happened to be a studio (one single room in all) apartment with a twin bed.  This was meant to be a short-term housing assignment but after about 3 weeks we were still in this tiny little apartment.

I remember one night as we lay side-by-side (literally hip to hip) in this single room that sat above a mechanic shop and consisted of a twin bed, a camp stove, a dressing table and a refrigerator, with the neon lights from a million open businesses and the sounds of Karaoke streaming from some nearby club, Madison looks over me and just says, “What the hell mom?” We both broke down and just laughed.  What else could you do?  I actually didn’t take any pictures of this place though I’m not sure why.

We finally did get our 2-room apartment (Gimpo/Kimpo, South Korea) which was only slightly bigger than the studio room we had started in.  It was down some back alley that sounded like a farm and smelled like one as well.  We lived in this tiny little apartment that had one room big enough to hold a twin bed and nothing more and my room which also served as the laundry room and had a 3rd room which served as the kitchen and living room.  The bathroom was off of the “living room” and the toilet always ran and the sink always leaked.  There were so many cockroaches in this place that we would use an entire can of Korean  Raid approximately every two days.  It was so bad that one night Madison came into my room and crawled into bed and slept sometimes.  One night she sat upright in my bed and started pointing randomly at the walls saying, “there’s one… there’s another” over and over again and eventually laid back down and slept.

Gimpo- Kitchen view with door to Madison’s room. View taken from my bedroom door. Bathroom door is directly to the left.

View of my bedroom from the living room. The door is a laundry area. It was big enough to hold a washer and dryer.

Gimpo – closet that is about 2 feet from my bed.

Gimpo view from Madison’s door and Kitchen. Obviously looking at the living room. Bathroom door is directly next to television.

Gimpo – laundry room

Gimpo – Madison’s entire room..her ENTIRE room.

Gimpo entire kitchen as seen from the living room.

After about 2-3 months we left this place and the school I was teaching at and moved to another school in Bucheon.  This apartment was actually quite cool.  It had a long entry with a bathroom off the hallway. In front of the bathroom door was the galley kitchen that was attached to the living room. The kitchen actually sat under the stairway which led to our 3 foot tall bedroom. Yes, you heard me, 3 foot tall bedroom.  Every night we would climb those stairs and sleep on our mattresses that were on the floor.  The area we slept in had just enough room to hold one mattress and some korean bedding.  It was insane that 2 full-grown people could exist in this tiny little place, but exist we did.  We had 3 bowls, 3 plates, 3 sets of chopsticks, 3-4 glasses, one couch, one table.  That was pretty much it.

Bucheon view towards front door

Bucheon living room- view from kitchen

Bucheon View from kitchen and living room. Only window in the apartment.

Stairway to 3 foot tall sleeping area and kitchen under stairs. Living room is directly to the right.

Bucheon stairway blocked by kitchen stand. Kitchen sink, microwave and refrigerator are all on that one way.

Bucheon living room as seen from the kitchen.

I stayed at this school and apartment for the rest of my first year.  It was seriously lovely.  Talk about simplifying and down-sizing.  It was really amazing how easy it was to exist without an entire house full of things that felt so necessary at one point of my life.  After this first year I obtained a job at a university and moved into a nearly proper apartment where I lived for several months, at one point with both of my daughters.  Eventually both of my daughters went back to the U.S. while I continued to live and teach in Korea at this UNI.  When my daughters decided to move back to the U.S., I moved into the UNI dorm.  This was a TINY apartment, once again a one room apartment.  I actually miss this place sometimes.  It was small but had everything I could ever want or need.  There was a time Miranda lived in it with me when she came back to visit and ended up teaching English at a small private school for a time.

Seoul Dorm- kitchen and dining room as seen from the living room bedroom.

Seoul dorm-living room bedroom as seen from the kitchen dining room.

Seoul dorm bathroom, all of it. Hand held shower nozzle is directly in front of the toilet.

Seoul dorm- bathroom and kitchen and front door as seen from living room.

Seoul kitchen as seen from living room.

The beauty of my time in Korea was it WAS foreign but after a short time became the norm.  Everything was small and I existed in a space that was comfortable and un-crowded.  Both of my daughters miss the food and the culture and just about everything about our time in Korea.  It was an amazing experience and probably made every other “foreign” foreign experience feel not so foreign.

Other foreign views:

  1. Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreign | Bams’ Blog
  2. Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreign « beyondpaisley
  3. Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreign « It’s Just Me
  4. WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE: FOREIGN « Francine In Retirement
  5. Weekly Photo Challenge; Foreign « So where’s the snow?
  6. Weekly Photo Challenge – Foreign | Canoe Communications
  7. Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreign « patriciaddrury
  8. Foreign? | Thirdeyemom
  9. Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreign | Wind Against Current
  10. Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreign « All that I am, all that I ever was…
  11. weekly photo challenge : foreign | bodhisattvaintraining
  12. Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreign | Even A Girl Like Me

Extreme Simplicity

My daughter was making fun of my blog’s title saying, “Wow mom, simplicity and legendary should probably NOT be used in the same sentence because it’s sort of a contradiction.” The truth is I have lived a life of LEGENDARY simplicity.  By fault or plan I have had very few things for most of my life and as a matter of fact, most of my life has had very little to do with the things in it.

I find life more entertaining, elegant and happy when I have fewer belongings.  I am always amazed at the people who spend most of their lives slaving away at their jobs, saving their money and planning their retirement – AND – complaining about how little time they have in their lives and at the same time how much junk they have.

I often hear people say things like, “If I only had more time in the day..I can’t wait to retire.. if I only had more money..if I could only find more time to relax..” and on and on.  When you try to tell them to change their job or their plans or their life they will say, “Oh, I’d like to.. my spouse would never let/accept.. I’m too young.. I’m too old.. I’m too deep in debt.. after I pay off my house or car or tv or the next big thing I buy that will strap me to this spot or this job for the rest of my life… then I’ll look into a different lifestyle.”

I’m not against working hard (if it involves a follow-up play hard or relax hard moment).  I’m also not against owning items.  I have a computer, ipad, ipod, random other things in my home that I love and would hate to lose.  However, if I did lose them it would not destroy me.  I refuse to let the things I own – own me.  I am lucky right now to have what I want in my life, but if given a choice, I would chose to have time over money, travel and friends over things.

The one thing that can sometimes be difficult to let go of is the internal turmoil, the everyday stresses or the financial worries.  Having less can also provide stress and emotional imbalance.  In the past two years I have found a way to release even some of those problems.  I call it extreme activity.  This allows you to fall into extreme bliss which leads you back to extreme simplicity.  Possibly Legendary Simplicity.  Not everyone would agree with me, as a matter of fact, many have begun to think I’m crazy for it.  Maybe so, but it’s just one more idea to put away in your little future chest of maybe one day I will”.

Stay young – live long. Peace. (clink the links)

Canopy in Ecuador – Flying like a bird, through the trees.  In control but not.  Jungle beauty. Sounds below you – swish of metal on rope above.  High above the trees.  Bouncing – fast – slow – upside down.  Belly jumping.  Laughing.  Nervous. Laughing. Happy.  Calm.  Release. Memories

Skydiving in Venezuela – (tandem of course) –

Dropping.  Falling.  Extreme letting go.  Brain goes empty, everything is beautiful.  Calmness envelopes the body and mind.  No worries, no bills, no drama.  There is sound but it’s a loud rushing sound like a waterfall, like a hard rain, like a windy day.  Life and sight rushing by.  How long?  I don’t know. Chute opens pulling you towards the sun. So fast the air leaves your lungs.  Pause. Floating.  The world lays before you.  Total in its beauty.  Unmarred.  Serene. Closer – closer.  Then quickly you touch the ground.  You breathe again. You’ve been breathing the entire time but at the same time holding your breath.  Nothing again will be the same.

Canyoning in Venezuela – (2 more links) 2nd link , 3rd link – Scared, hot, cold, falling, jumping, sliding, wet.  Energy, Exhaustion and Emotion.  Rushing water.  Drowns thought. High-low-tired-wide awake.  Heart racing.  No worries only the moment.  No thinking only moving.  Laughter. Fear. Laughter. Memories.

Rafting in Barinas, Venezuela Tranquil. Floating. Momentary rush. Popping, Falling, Jumping, Pressing, Screaming, Laughing.  Heart racing – muscles burning. Mind high. Jungle around you.  Instructions = movement.  Movement = rush.  No worries.  Unity. Teamwork. Cooperation. Happy. Wet. Memories.

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Guamanchi Tours – Merida, Los Llanos, Barinas, Los Nevades

Skydivevenezuela – Aeropuerto de Higuerote, Miranda, Venezuela

What would you do today? – Practicing Simplicity

I woke up this morning and after my normal routine of yoga, breakfast and coffee, I sat down and happened to read  7 LESSONS FROM A YEAR ON THE ROAD a blog written by Brian and Shannon a couple who have been traveling since 2010.  This blog revolves around a couple who basically got fed up with the daily grind and decided to hit the road.  Of course there is more to it than that but once they got started the travel bug stuck and they just kept going and going.  It’s an awesome blog about how they did it with tips on how you can also make that break.   http://EverywhereOnce.com

Within minutes of reading this blog I ironically happened upon a quote from Positive Atmosphere a facebook page with a quote of the day that read, What would you do today?… If you really weren’t afraid?… If you weren’t worried?… If you weren’t unsure?… What would you do today if you knew you couldn’t fail?…”

I began to think about my own version of “A year on the road” which began for me in about 1984 and continues today.  My version was in no way organized, there was no planning and I cannot actually give tips on how to make this lifestyle work for anyone.  Mine was just an ideology formed from reading high-adventure books, watching movies about people who lived amazing and worldly lives without fear, or possibly because of fear, and listening to stories from a variety of people who had already REALLY experienced so many parts of the world because they faced their fears and played like NIKE and Just did it!  Not to mention a few lucky events that propelled me into this current life.

So at 16 I joined the Navy, began a career of traveling around bits and pieces of the United States and the world, eventually got married had kids, got divorced, put myself through university, taught English in Korea and landed my current job which actually pays me to travel the world.  AWESOME!!!  Like my very short description of Brian and Shannon’s blog, with me there was more to it than that as well.

Yes, I was inspired by all the books, movies, and worldly friends I had.  Yes, I always dreamed of a life of high-end travel and adventure. Yes, I wanted to let go and just live out those dreams.  However, little things always seemed to get in the way.  Little things like, immaturity, fear, lack of money, lack of focus, lack of motivation, raising children… well a lot of little things got in the way.  Lucky for me some very random events propelled me into action.  Lucky for me I took these random events and moved instead of just sitting still.

My first lucky event began on the day I decided to live.  I debated talking about this initial catalyst as it was a very personal event that to be quite honest is nobody’s business.  However, it WAS possibly the most important event in my history leading me towards my current life.  I don’t want to minimize what happened because at the time I really felt that ending everything was what I wanted to do. There were many motivations behind that decision that today seem quite ridiculous but in the moment the emotions were real.  I was 17 years old.  I remember distinctly gathering up pills, writing good-bye notes, taking the pills and waiting for someone to come down to my bedroom and find me.  No one came.  I laid there and realized that no one was going to come and at that point I had to make a decision.  I am here today so obviously I made a decision to live.  My decision to live was a permanent decision.  I have never looked back and have never regretted that decision.  For me deciding to live involved facing one of my biggest fears. LIFE. Most decisions since then have been pretty darn easy.

Of course that decision alone did not bring me to my life today.  I still got caught up in all the same things that most young people get into.  Material things, money problems, limitations on time and imagination, marriage, children different life goals and on and on goes the list.

The next lucky events that catapulted me into my current lifestyle involved  having been told more than one time that I might potentially have cancer and would need a second opinion to rule it out.  The 3rd time doctors told me this I didn’t believe it was true but I sat myself down and had a good, long, hard look at my life and decided I was not doing something right.  I made a decision to forge ahead in life, simplify and start living out some of my dreams.  I got a divorce, put myself through college and raised two lovely daughters.  During those years of financial struggle I sucked in my fear, minimized worry, simplified my life and began to enjoy the U.S. by car and train.  I began to truly appreciate some of the most amazing aspects of parenting and life in general.

For many years I worked no more than 17 hours a week (by choice) and for most of the past 20 years made between $8,000 and $17,000 ANNUALLY.  Some people were shocked that I could do it (and do it so well) while others said they were envious of my ability to give up so much.  My sister actually conducted a study on poverty based on my life and financial situation at the time.  No one asked me how I felt about the sacrifices I made and honestly the only sacrifice I felt I was making involved earning less money and having more time which to me was not a sacrifice.  Thanks to Steve Jobs for reminding us…“My favorite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.”

There were other lucky events that taught me to lose fear, worry less and enjoy the simple and amazing things in life.  For instance having my entire house robbed two times in 6 months when my kids were in elementary school, losing most of my worldly possessions to sea damage during shipping most recently and moving about 15 times in less than 20 years all led me to realize that the material things in life didn’t hold a lot of value.  It’s actually easier, cheaper and more fun to travel light.

The final leap to my present life involved being fed up with my current job. I was teaching English in Korea at a University making less than the equivalent of $1,200 a month and living in a one room studio.  Yes, one room.  I had 3 plates, 3 spoons, knives and forks.  None of my own furniture and not a lot else.  The economy in the U.S. had hit a very low spot.  However the failing economy didn’t really bother me too much and had almost no effect on my life because I didn’t have a much to begin with.

At any rate I was still struggling paying off any of my U.S. bills and so decided I should probably apply for work back in the U.S.  Some considered my timing  awful as the terrible downturn in the economy had resulted in not a lot of job opportunity.  I decided to throw caution to the wind and apply for this government job I had read about that involved being paid to travel the world and live nicely in other countries.  With no money in my bank, limited credit card limits I flew from Korea to Japan to take a computerized exam.  There were no guarantees for a job.  I was mocked by many as wasting my limited resources and time.  Over two years I spent more money and time on the random and unlikely possibility of obtaining gainful employment in this job that fit my childhood dreams of travel and adventure.

Several people asked me, “Aren’t you afraid you have wasted time and money and you won’t even get this job?”  In truth I was happy where I was and I had given up being afraid of going for ANY opportunities many years earlier.  I loved my life and was just checking out random ideas and opportunities.  The point is, I was enjoying my life during this two year period the same as I had enjoyed my life for many years.  The job was awesome but it wasn’t my end goal.  My end goal was simply to continue to enjoy my life and attempt to appreciate all the amazing things the world had to offer.  This lack of worry and fear might actually be what helped me land the job, but more important it IS what has helped me to continually pursue a better life for myself as well as for my kids.

I don’t have a playbook and I can’t give advice on what anyone else should do I just know what I did and how I got here.  Every time I was over-loaded, stressed out or desperate I would go back to my own 3 simple, easy to follow rules.

1.  Breathe in.    2.  Breathe out.    3.  Repeat.

“Most of life is on-the-job training. Some of the most important things can only be learned in the process of doing them. You do something and you get feedback — about what works and what doesn’t. If you don’t do anything for fear of doing it wrong, poorly, or badly, you never get any feedback, and therefore you never get to improve. -Jack Canfield

Aside from world and national travel, good food and good wine, humor is my favorite pastime.  I love ironic and even sarcastic humor because to me they are based in reality.  I find humor in so many things.  I especially find a bit of humor in how complicated so many people make so many things.  How annoyed people get with the little things.  Like how slow computers are or how long we have to wait to get places or how long it takes to heat up a cup of coffee.

Life is quite simple and quite amazing if you can let go of some of your little set-backs.  If you really look at life as a whole it is not that difficult.  According to Louis CK  “Everything is amazing and nobody is happy”  This is a great clip from an insightful man about how crazy and spoiled and mixed up WE make everything.

Photo Montage of what choosing life, practicing simplicity and living my life as fearlessly as possible has given to me.

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Links to simple living-