After weeks of planning and counting down, I finally made the trip to Taiwan in mid-September. After a rough August at work, this break was so needed and so well deserved. Though my visit fell during the biggest super-typhoon of the year, I still had a kick ass time, and made it to almost all of my top destinations.
A friend of mine, and a guy who I had sort of been seeing off and on in Seoul also just so happened to be in Taipei at the time. After hanging out solo for most of the day, I met up with him and his friend (rather, ran into them) on Elephant Mountain. After 10 minutes of his constant bitching about bug bites, I was over it. He wanted to know what I was up to for the rest of the day, so I told him about the temples I planned to visit. His exact words were, “Well, that sounds kind of boring… I don’t want to do that… But I don’t know what else we’ll do, so we’ll just come with you.”
In my head, I’m thinking, damn… I do NOT want to spend the rest of the day in this beautiful (albeit rainy) country with this whiney human. I very strategically pulled out my map while we were on the subway and said, “Heyyyy, you guys should totally go check out the Memorial… You’ll reallyyyy like it. I went earlier, so I’m going to go on to the temple... Oh! Here’s your stop. Have fun – byeeeee!”
Meryl Streep, look out… because I truly deserve a Golden Globe for this performance. It was so well done that they didn’t even realize I was shaking them off. I gave them a smile, waved, and, as the train doors closed behind them, I breathed a sigh of relief in honor of my solitude. We tried to hang out again the next night, which resulted in us having a big argument on the streets of Taipei, me walking back to my hostel by myself in the middle of the night, and him sleeping with a random girl he met at the club.
He was a total shit head for the entirety of the time we were talking to each other… and I should have realized it sooner, but his accent made it easy to forgive his rude comments and damn near constant complaining. You really do learn whether or not you vibe with a person when you travel with them.
If a super-typhoon couldn’t ruin my trip, you’d better believe I wasn’t going to let a (for lack of a better word) fuckboy ruin it either. Taiwan was so dope and I loved every minute of wandering around solo in the pouring rain. My hostel was cheap, clean, trendy, and the staff was so friendly. My last night, I stayed at a fancier hotel close to the airport where I treated myself to a bubble bath, room service, and jumped on the extremely comfy bed in a bathrobe. Of all the places I visited in my few days there, my top three favorite spots were Bitou Cape, Ximending Cinema Street, and Elephant Mountain. Read more about where I stayed, what I did, and how I struggled with Mandarin here.
Shortly after I returned to work, I was dealt a seriously blow to the chest. I was told that my favorite student, Sabina… aka Tomato… would be leaving our school. If you know anything at all about my kindy class, you likely know all about her, and how she’s the cutest, spunkiest five-year-old I have ever met. We have the same birthday, and for all of these reasons, she’s both my favorite, and a huge part of the reason I resigned my teaching contract.
Though she showed no signs of it at school, she apparently was extremely unhappy. Her parents said she cried at home every night because of the amount of homework she had. For the record, this “homework,” was never assigned by me, and I think it is absolutely ridiculous that a poor kindergartener goes home at night stressed to the point of tears. On top of the work load, due to road construction, she also had an hour long bus ride every evening… so, at five-years-old, Sabina was going to school and beginning classes at 9:40 in the morning and not getting home until after 6:00 in the evening.
I know that kids move, teachers leave, and life goes on for all parties involved, and I especially understood given Sabina’s circumstances… but I’ll tell you what, all of the waterproof mascara in the world could not have prepared me for Sabina’s last day. To make matters worse, I didn’t find out it was her last day until it WAS her last day. I cancelled classes, took the kids outside, and we played for the rest of the afternoon.
In my break period, with teary eyes, I sat at my desk and wrote a letter to her parents. I told them how proud I was of her, how far she had come, and how they should be very proud, too. I asked them to please keep me updated on her progress, gave them my contact info, and let them know that I would always be willing to nanny, tutor, or babysit for free.
The following week I received a message from Sabina’s mom. I have never had a direct line of communication with my students’ parents before. With the language barrier that’s typically left to the Korean co-teacher, so this was extremely rare. Her message said, “Miss Kirstie, you have changed our minds. I’m truly moved. At home, parents take care of kids, but at school they totally rely on their teachers. Having a good teacher like you is lucky for Sabina and I. On Tuesday, say, “Hello tomato,” to Sabina as always.”
So the next week, Sabina came back. Basically, the week was one hell of an emotional rollercoaster. I cannot begin to explain how sad I was to see her go, or how excited I was to hear that her parents had decided against switching schools. Mostly, I was really happy that what I was doing was finally actually making a difference.
Sadly, the emotional roller coaster did not end there. Sabina ended up leaving Beethoven class for good in October, which, though it left me devastated, I totally understood. At the end of the day, all I want for Sabina is the same thing I want for all of my students in my kindy class – for them to be happy (and to stop gluing their hands together and coloring their faces). I still keep in touch with her mom and get adorable pictures like this one!
Like I mentioned, with October came another Tomato related blow. This time I was told she was “on vacation,” which I’ve realized is what they say about every kid who’s actually leaving or has already left. Eventually, one day her mom sent me a message saying Sabina wouldn’t be coming back. Every morning, when I did feelings with Beethoven class, all of the kids pointed out that, “Sabina is absent today.” They didn’t, and, even though we have a new 12th student, still don’t know she’s gone. I miss that kid a hell of a lot, and our class just isn’t the same without her.
Between the tomato shaped hole in Beethoven class and my Taiwan blow-up with Mr. Mosquito Bite, I was feeling pretty down and out when October began. I needed a girl’s weekend and I needed it fast. Thankfully, that’s just how we started the month. A couple girlfriends and I loaded up our backpacks with cheese balls, champagne, and face masks, and headed to Banu Glamping site for a weekend away from the city. Aside from the sound of me popping open bottles of champagne at the crack of dawn, it was really relaxing. Give me a barefoot walk in the grass, some fresh air, a mimosa filled mug and I’m totally in my happy place. Read all about our trip (and other quirky Seoul escapes) here.
Getting Back on the Horse... Then Promptly getting off it
The following week, I decided to stop being down about Mr. Mosquito Bite and got back on the proverbial dating horse. I re-downloaded Tinder, and, after swiping left so many times my finger nearly fell off, I managed to match with a few promising, seemingly charming, fellas. One in particular stuck out to me. True to form, the one I had most interest in was the one who was only in town for the week (of course).
We made tentative plans to grab drinks throughout the week, but I was both battling a cold and unsure about meeting him. Mr. Mosquito Bite, and his laundry list of things wrong with me, had left me feeling rather crushed, and I wasn’t sure I was ready to let that happen again. However, Mr. October was persistent, and FaceTimed me one night that week.
Since I was about to go to bed, and refused to get up to turn the light on, my video was totally dark. The fact that he didn’t complain about my laziness, (and that the call proved he was as attractive and charming as in his photos and messages), made me finally decide that, perhaps all men weren’t evil. I decided to meet him that Friday night, and, after work, attempted to make myself look like an attractive human.
The evening was filled with more chicken and beer than either of us could actually consume, soju-ice cups at Dongdaemun Design Plaza, and an epically perfect first kiss beside a weird chair-butt statue. When it started to rain he gave me his jacket, and we went back to his hotel to finish our soju, (which at that point we probably didn’t need any more of).
Considering it was our first time meeting in person, there was no uncomfortable hello, no painfully awkward silences, and, the next morning at breakfast, I enjoyed his company just as much as I had the night before. I couldn’t help but to feel a little bummed as he checked out of the hotel that morning, and really regretted not meeting him earlier in the week. Ya see, Mr. October is a tour manager for a group (who apparently sings one of my favorite gym pump up songs). They played a music festival in Seoul, and were leaving that morning to head to Japan – the next stop on their tour.
We had made jokes all week about me joining them in Osaka for the weekend… but at the time I really hadn’t really anticipated enjoying his company enough to hop on a plane for more of it. When I got home that day, it was already Saturday afternoon… and after very little deliberation, I entered serious auto-pilot, YOLO mode. I packed my backpack, looked up flights, got my Monday morning classes covered, and finalized my booking on the way to the airport... So for the second time in 2016, a Tinder matchup was taking me on an international date... Lol.
At around midnight, I arrived in Osaka where I, without a working phone, caught a bus and then somehow (without getting lost) walked to the Ritz Carlton. I am still SO impressed with my ability to hit the ground and navigate in totally foreign cities… because it took me most of my life to figure out how to get from Pleasant Garden to Greensboro. I was always reading a book in the car, and so I literally never paid attention to where we were going. Anyway, back to my story… I rolled in to the fanciest place I have ever stepped foot in with my backpack and a hoodie on. Looking highly disheveled, and totally out of place, I asked to link up to their Wi-Fi so I could get in touch with Mr. October to tell him I was there.
As you should be at that time of night, he had accidentally fallen asleep… but I’ll tell ya what, in the five-ish minutes I waited before he came downstairs, I seriously questioned my decision to go all the way there. In my head I was thinking, “WHAT IF THIS IS ALL A JOKE, AND I CAME ALL THE WAY TO JAPAN AND HE’S GONNA BLOW ME OFF?” …But then he came downstairs, asked if I was hungry, and I stopped my crazy girl musings.
While he worked the next morning, I went out to explore Osaka, and then, that afternoon, we all headed to the venue. I was so wrapped up in living in the moment that weekend that I barely had my camera out to record anything, but believe me when I say that as we drove over the bridge from Osaka to Kansai, I witnessed one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen in my life. One of the singers made some ridiculous noises while warming up his voice in the van, and I wanted to laugh but somehow held it in when I noticed no one else was phased.
When we got to the festival we were given drinks, and the girlfriend of one of the brothers in the group took me under her wing while Mr. October got to work. We sipped champagne, talked about life, travels, and Mr. October, then, when it was show time, watched the performance from backstage. I was genuinely surprised by how down to earth this girl was. Despite dating a celebrity, she was so hardworking and totally had her own stuff going for her… And she wasn’t the only one. Everyone I met that weekend was SO grounded. It was inspiring to be around such hardworking, motivated, and successful people, Mr. October included.
The trip was brief, but epic, and, as with all of my trips to Japan, involved me stuffing my face with sushi. Way too early that Monday morning, I headed back to the airport, back to Korea, and back to work.
I realized a couple important things that weekend… one being that no tinder date in the past, present, or future of tinder dates could ever top this one (and, so I promptly deleted the app… cause ya gotta end on a high note). I also realized that if you want cool things to happen, you have to get the hell out of the house and start living. Given that I’d never been to a music festival (until Ultra a few months earlier), I never thought in a million years that I would end up backstage at a music festival in Japan of all places. When you open yourself up to new people and experiences, (and booking impromptu flights), life has a pretty cool way of making awesome stuff happen.
Another thing I learned that weekend is that I do in-fact have a type… and that my type is the go-getter – guys who are so focused and hardworking that they honestly don’t really have time for me. It’s taken me ages to realize this, but, from major league baseball players to guys climbing the corporate ladder, literally every guy I have EVER been in to for an extended period of time has been this way… and I’m alright with that… because even though, at times, I may think I want a relationship, I have absolutely zero time for one right now.
Mr. October was, and is, one hell of an awesome guy, and I have so much respect for his kind heart and work ethic. Our first kiss was on an odd butt-statue-chair in Seoul, and our last was at the Ritz Carlton in Osaka... So, as much as I'd love to see him again, I'm pretty satisfied with the epic story we created in our short time together.
Our timing was shit, but I’m thankful that he reminded I deserve much more than a fuckboy who complains about mosquito bites… and also for unintentionally making me get my ass in gear as far as chasing my dreams is concerned. I realized that, yes, I have a type… and yes, I want to be with a successful guy… but just like badass band girlfriend who took me under her wing, I want to have my own things going for me, too. With Tinder deleted and Mr. October no longer in Korea, I stopped worrying about boys altogether.
Halloween on the han
October got cold, just in time for Halloween when a few coworkers and I went on a booze cruise on the Han River. I really love Halloween now that people have stopped wearing store bought costumes and started getting creative. Stephanie and I dressed as a strawberry and pineapple wearing boxing gloves. Get it?! - Fruit punch! I thought my costume was wildly original, but, somehow, there were THREE other pineapples on the boat that night. None of them had boxing gloves, so, in my totally biased opinion, I think my costume was better. All in all, it was a great night and a pretty kick ass month.
Only two more months left in the 2016 recap! – Catch up on the shenanigans from January to August below and stay tuned to read about how I ended the year!