Don’t Expect the Worst

Photo by Kumiko SHIMIZU on Unsplash

Lack of Information

One day last month, all the students and most of the teachers went on a hiking trip!  Trips and other school events are shared with the teachers through the weekly meetings and through the school messenger system.  I’m at the weekly meetings, but I don’t speak Korean.  Similarly, I am not able to have the school messenger system on my computer.  Therefore, my co-teacher has the responsibility of sharing such information with me so I can know schedule changes.  However, my current co-teacher doesn’t seem to give a crap and continues to not tell me things.

Office Selfie

Student Story Time

So, it’s Thursday and I’ve got my after school class with three 1st grade students.  Before class starts, one of the students asks me to wait before I start the game so he has time to get back.  I agree and one of the other students has conversation with me while we wait.  She asks me if I know what the students are doing tomorrow.  I tell her that I have no idea and she proceeds to tell me that the whole school is going on a hiking trip.

I’m sitting there like “you’ve got to be f*ckin’ kidding me.”  The week before the hiking trip my co-teacher and I were scheduling the student’s speaking test and he tells me, “We can’t have speaking test that day.  There is a special event.”  That leads me to believe that there will be some sort of assembly in the auditorium.  Because surely if the entire school was going on a hiking trip, he would tell me something like that… Nope.  He didn’t and I had to find out from another student.

Chicken

This is a side story and totally unrelated to the hiking day, but it’s really too funny not to share.  Remember how I said that one student asked me to not start the game until he came back?  I thought that maybe he wanted to go to the bathroom or needed to talk to another teacher or something along those lines.  Instead, when my student comes running into class, he’s got chicken.  Yes, fried chicken on a stick.  This kid sprinted out of school and went to the store to buy himself some chicken and sprinted back to class with chicken.  He sits down and he is panting and I’m in utter shock.  Then I start laughing, a really good laugh.  I haven’t laughed this hard in a really long time.

He proceeds to tell me that he was starving and couldn’t wait 45 minutes for class to end before he got something to eat.  The rest of the time he was eating his chicken and playing the game, I would laugh each time I looked at him.  I was full of giggles.  Finally, he finishes his chicken and I think that’s the end of it.  Instead, he starts pulling candy out of his pockets!  I started laughing again and I really couldn’t stop.  He shared his candy with everyone and honestly he made my day so much better.  I was bitter that my co-teacher didn’t bother to tell me about the hiking trip, but this one student managed to end my day on a really great note.

 

ashim-d-silva-106271-unsplash
Photo by Ashim D’Silva on Unsplash

Hiking Day

I get to school and practically no one is there.  There is the P.E. teacher, art teacher, secretary, and career teacher.  I don’t really talk to any of them so I felt a little awkward.  Well, I do talk to the career teacher, but she stays in her own room and not the main teachers’ office.  After sitting for a bit, one of my students comes into the teachers’ room and turns in some paperwork to me.  I find out that there are 4 students who weren’t able to go on the hiking trip and had to stay at school in the library.  I felt kind of bad for them, so I decided to give them my computer and let them use my Netflix account to watch a movie.  They chose a Korean movie and I checked on them a few times to make sure they were okay.

During the morning I worked on my blog.  The students offered for me to watch the movie with them, but I don’t think they noticed that there weren’t English subtitles so I declined.  But I wanted to work on my blog.  I was really excited to start everything up and was planning on spending the whole day getting lots of work done.  A little before lunch time I went to the teachers’ sleeping room and took a nap through lunch time.  When I came back from lunch I was the only one in the teachers’ room and had no idea where anyone else was.  I figured they were probably still out to lunch.

Surprising Conversation

Soon, the student who turned in her paper this morning came into the teachers’ room and asked to sit and talk to me!  She said that she thought I was lonely since she knows that my current co-teacher doesn’t talk to me.  Actually, it felt really nice to see that the students noticed how my current co-teacher interacts with me.  My last co-teacher and I were really close and talked a lot.  She also was responsible and told me all the things that were going on in the school, even things that weren’t important like student gossip.  But knowing that other people could see the lack of daily conversation I was getting really made me feel good.

Anyway, she started to talk to me and it was really really nice!  Sometimes when I talk to students it can be awkward and fumbling, but she is really great at continuing conversation and it was really smooth.  Of course, we had some language issues, but other than that there weren’t any awkward pauses.  Soon, the three other students came down and talked to me as well.

 

pajeon
Pajeon photo by amanderson2 on Flickr available under public license

Everyone Came Back

Around 2:30pm, the students and teachers came back from the hiking trip.  Previously, the girl told me that she had to stay until 3:30pm and that she would stay and talk to me until then.  However, once everyone got back, the principal decided that those who went on the hiking trip could leave for the day, and the 4 students who had to stay behind could leave too.  She felt guilty leaving, but I told her I would be fine and that she had made me happy.

I was a little disappointed, but decided to get back to work on my blog.  Soon, my principal came in and told me about how they were cooking pumpkin pajeon in the Home Economics room.  (Pajeon is almost like a vegetable pancake.  You take veggies and slice them very thinly and coat them in flour and egg, then fry it in a pan.)  At first I said I wasn’t hungry, but I decided I would go check it out anyway.  Why be such a downer?

 

Makgeolli photo by ~Cytryna~ on Flickr available under public license

Pumpkin Pajeon and Makgeolli

I go and see who is in the room and I find the shooting coach!  Him and I get along really well even though his English is really bad and my Korean is really bad.  So, he sat me down put some pajeon in front of me.  The career teacher was the one who was cooking and she told me that I should eat a lot because pumpkin was good for a cold and I had a really bad one that had been lingering.  She also had the shooting coach pour me some makgeolli (Korean rice wine) because it has probiotics and would also be good for my cold.

They kept pouring makgeolli and putting pajeon in front of me.  They wanted to make sure I felt cared for and I did.  I could feel their friendship and I wanted to cry because I had been feeling ignored at school.  I sat there for an hour and a half eating, drinking, and talking with other teachers.  After everything was gone, I offered to help clean, but they pushed me out and wouldn’t let me help.

Time to Go

Finally, it was time to go and I was surprised to find myself happy.  I had expected this day to go by so slowly and to have no one talk to me all day.  What I found was that other teachers do enjoy my company and do care about me.  Plus, students wanted to make sure that I was happy as well!  I had no idea that so many people at the school cared about me like that.  I had let my co-teacher’s negative attitude infect me.  This day really helped to remind me of why I love working here and why I continue to stay.

Now, I try to go into work with a clear head and think “this is going to be a good day,” instead of “I don’t want to go to work today.”  Since then, that one student has me sit with her once a week during her free period and talk to her.

Lesson learned: Don’t expect the worst.

 

Get to Know Tonks

Quick Facts

  • She would kiss your face forever if you didn’t stop her.
  • But her kisses are so gentle, you almost don’t mind.
  • If she is up on her hind legs looking at you, it’s because you have something she wants.
  • Tonks will do almost anything to be pet as a reward.
  • She enjoys sleeping above my head on a pile of down pillows.
  • She doesn’t usually like kisses, however, if I’m giving a lot to Remus then she wants some too.
  • Goes frantic over seaweed (or any food).

Selfie of Hillary and Tonks

Our Story

Why not?

It started off as a small idea.. Why not get a second dog?  Really, what harm could it do?  I’ve got one already, two can’t be much worse.  So, I took to the internet and searched for dogs available for adoption in South Korea.  I utilized two websites: Craigslist and and Rescue Korea.  Later, I sent messages to about 4 or 5 people asking about the dogs for adoption.  I didn’t want a puppy (did not want to house train right now) and I wanted to ask about a trial run to see if the new dog would get along with Remus.  After all, Remus is my first priority.  Eventually, everyone got back to me saying there was already a list of people interested, but that they would get back to me if others fell through.  I decided that since things didn’t work out, Remus would continue as an only child.  That’s what was meant to happen, right?

Picture of Tonks from her Adoption Profile
Picture of Tonks from her Adoption Profile

The Email

About two or three months had passed when I did something strange.  I decided to check my email.  This doesn’t sound that strange, but it is for someone like me who only checks email while at work.  I see a frantic email from a man named Tim.  Apparently I had messaged Tim about his dog that was up for adoption.  At the time, there was a long line of people, but all potentials fell through and he would be leaving South Korea in 2 months.  His dog needed to find a home, and fast.  I sat for a while and thought about it… Is this the right decision for me now?  I had changed my mind about getting a second dog, but now I’m questioning it.  The last thing I wanted was for his dog to end up in a shelter in Korea.  Hearing of any dog going to a shelter breaks my heart, but in Korea the conditions are worse and usually dire.  In the end, my heart won over my head.

Picture of Tonks from her Adoption Profile
Picture of Tonks from her Adoption Profile

Her Goodbye

After talking to Tim for a bit, we decided to do a pick up in about a month.  That means I only had weeks to prepare my home and figure out the best way to introduce another dog to Remus.  Eventually, I decided this couldn’t be done alone and I needed a partner.  I enlisted the help of my friend.  The plan: drive 2 hours to pick up Tonks, have her sit in a booster seat in the back with my friend, drive two hours back, drop Tonks and my friend off at the beach, go pick up Remus, and have them meet at the beach before going back home together.

I met Tim at the train station and he talked to me about Tonks and walked me through her toys and treats.  As he went to say goodbye, it truly broke my heart.  He didn’t want to leave her, but he needed to go back to his home country and take care of his parents.  One of his parents was dealing with lung issues, while the other was allergic to dogs.  Seeing him break down as he handed her over, reminded me of how I felt dropping Remus off before I came to Korea.  And I knew it was just for 1 year.  This was going to be a forever kind of goodbye.

A picture of Remus and Tonks after first meeting
Remus and Tonks after first meeting

The Meeting

Driving home felt like it took forever, but we made it!  As the dogs met at the beach, they seemed… not friendly, but not bothered by the presence of the other.  I was worried about their attitudes after going back to the apartment, but we couldn’t stay outside forever.  Remus seemed a bit confused as to why this new dog was coming with us, but he accepted her inside.  However, he didn’t want her getting to close to him and didn’t like her on the bed.  I did a ton of research beforehand and the internet says to give your original dog lots of attention so they don’t get jealous and lash out.  Also, you need to make it known that the original dog was the “alpha” and let them set the ton of interactions.  I gave tons of treats and everyone pretty much settled in!

Remus and Tonks Together
Remus and Tonks after a few days of settling in

My Misconception

I mistakenly thought that they would immediately become fast friends and be completely comfortable with each other.  It’s been a little over 3 months now since Tonks has arrived and they are still working out little kinks here and there.  Each day they get closer and close.  Recently, they are allowing sniffing of each other.  Not an “on alert” kind of sniff, but a comfortable, I-know-you-aren’t-a-threat kind of sniff.  They both sleep on the bed, albeit on opposite sides of me.  However, they do allow occasional contact in passing and will sometimes touch butts during nap time cuddle sessions.  She genuinely brings joy into my life, and I do think Remus doesn’t mind having her around the apartment.  There is still lots of room to grow, but I’m learning to be patient.

Tonks Photo Gallery

My Life with Dogs Illustrated Using 5 Children’s Books

Header Image

Remus and Tonks… Where to begin?  Whoever said “two is better than one” never had more than one dog.  My two dogs are the loves of my life and also the bane of my existence.  I will now list 5 children’s books that perfectly depict my relationship with my dogs.

  1. No, David by David Shannon

    No, David by David Shannon Book Cover
    I’m positive I say “No” to my dogs more than anything else, but mostly to Tonks.  Tonks intensely stares at my plate of food, “No, Tonks.”  I stop petting Tonks after 20 minutes and she paws at me for more, “No, Tonks.”  Tonks cries on the floor because she wants me to pick her up instead of using the bed stairs, “No, Tonks.”  I haven’t had Tonks for very long so she is still learning the house rules.  As for Remus, he loves giving me puppy dog eyes to try and get me to pick up his toy that fell of the bed, “No, Remus.”

  2. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff

    If You Give a Mouse a Cookie - Cover
    You give’em something and they are not content, they just want more!  For example, when I’m cutting fruit or vegetables I’ll occasionally give them a small piece.  Remus knows that one piece does not mean he will get more.  Tonks has not learned that yet.  One day I was cutting bananas and I gave each of the dogs a small bit.  From that day forward, she will sit and stare at me as I’m chopping.  Another example would be how Remus and Tonks refuse to just sleep on the bed.  The prince and princess want to sleep on a pillow on the bed.  I now have 4 down pillows on my bed because my dogs stole my first two pillows.  They are so spoiled.

  3. Goodnight, Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

    Goodnight Moon - Cover
    This is all Remus.  We can’t just go to bed, that would be too easy.  Before we go to bed, Remus has to gather all his toys and bring them on the bed.  Heaven forbid we try to sleep without all his toys.  Not only that, but he keeps his favorite toy in his mouth when he sleeps.  It wouldn’t bother me much, but it’s wasn’t directly in my face.  Every night, I go to sleep with either a slobbery, half-stuffed toy in my face, or Remus’s farting butt in my face.  In contrast, Tonks sleeps like a princess on the pillows above my head.

  4. Go the Fuck to Sleep by Adam Mansbach


    I frequently question if Remus is a dog or some other animal.  He is nocturnal.  I’ll try to play with him after our evening walk and he just wants to cuddle next to me.  However, as soon as the lights go off he’s full of energy and trying to get me to play fetch with him.  “Remus, go to sleep.”  No, thanks!  “Remus, it’s bed time.”  I’d rather play!  “REMUS, BED TIME!” Ugh, you’re such a drag… Meanwhile, Tonks is giving me a WTF look and while pawing at me for more pets.

  5. Love You Forever by Robert Munsch

    Love You Forever by Robert Munsch Book Cover
    At the end of the day, there is no one I love more than Remus and Tonks.  I wake up to millions of dog kisses.  I come home and they are excited to see me.  I go to sleep never wanting for cuddles.  Yes, sometimes I need a break because they do drive me crazy.  But above all, my life wouldn’t be as wonderful if they weren’t in it.

Get to Know Remus

Remus's Dog Trading Card

Quick Facts

  • Hates oranges, but always wants a piece when he sees it and says “Why would you give me that?? You know I don’t like oranges!”
  • Will put his slobbery toy on your face when he wants to play at bedtime
  • If you say “Where’s your toy?” he will frantically run around until he finds one
  • Loves to sleep right next to your belly
  • Gives great kisses
  • Checks on you when you sneeze
  • Puts his whole face into your mouth when you yawn
  • Loves tennis balls over all things and won’t drop it unless you throw a second one
  • Accidentally swallows so much sand at the beach that he poops straight sand afterwards
  • Will only show affection to others if I’m not there
  • Steals your plastic bottles when you aren’t looking
  • Likes to be praised when he eats and sometimes needs to be reminded to chew
  • Named after Remus Lupin (not Uncle Remus)
  • Prefers the squeaker inside the toy rather than the toy itself
  • If you aren’t careful, you’ll get a tongue up your nose
Remus and I at the Park
Remus and I at the Park

Our Story

Just an Idea

Back in 2013, before I even imagined living in Korea, I was a wandering millennial trying to get a job.  I landed a job at Stone Oak Family Practice in San Antonio, TX.  Not the fanciest of jobs, but I absolutely loved it!  The patients were kind and my coworkers were family.  Soon after getting the job, I moved out of my Aunt and Uncle’s home into my first apartment.  I quickly realized it was pretty lonely coming home.

I had always liked the idea of getting a dog and a lot of my friends had retired racing greyhounds.  Also, my best friend was on the puppy train as well.  I can’t deny her influence.  So, I decided I was going to get a retired greyhound!  The perfect couch potato for my small apartment.  I was seriously prepared to the point where I bought and read books on how to prepare yourself and your home for a retired racing dog.  However, a couple months later, a friend posted on Facebook that his dachshund just had puppies.  Then came…

Remus's First Picture
Remus’s First Picture

The Choice

I immediately commented claiming one.  Then, I took it back.  Finally, I decided to just go for it and I chose the only girl of the litter.  After sharing the news with friends, I was bombarded with conflicting information.  Which gender is better??  Is a boy what I’m looking for?  How about a girl?  What qualities did I want in my dog?  I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO PICK!!!  Eventually, I told my friend to just pick the cuddliest one.  I wanted a dog who would cuddle me to death.  They said, “I know the perfect one.”  The perfect one ended up being my Remus.

Remus and His First Friend
Remus and His First Friend

Rough Beginning

Let me tell you, Remus was the cutest puppy!  However, we did struggle a lot in the beginning.  He was my first dog so I didn’t know what I was doing.  Plus, he was a dachshund mix and stubborn as all get out.  Also, (totally not anyone’s fault) I fractured my kneecap the week after I got him.  That made things difficult, but we were determined.  My best friend had just gotten a golden retriever puppy the month before me, but her puppy was already house trained while I was literally begging Remus to pee outside.  No, seriously.  I was on my hands and knees crying and pleading with him to pee outside.  That was my first mistake, never show weakness.

Remus Passed Puppy Class
Remus Passed Puppy Class

The Pissing Contest

After I broke down crying, something clicked between us and he would tell me when he needed to go out.  It was magical, but the worst was yet to come.  He knew.  He knew what made me upset.  War had been declared.  I know what you’re thinking, but I’m not being dramatic.  Remus was and is smart.  When he didn’t want me going into work, he would pee on my scrubs.  Literally walk over to them and pee on them.  When I wasn’t giving him enough attention, he would stand over my feet and pee on them.  It was devastating, but I had to stand firm.  Eventually, we moved on from the pee thing, but he still remembers.  To this day, if I piss him off, he will pee on something just to watch me get mad.

Remus's First Halloween
Remus’s First Halloween

From Nothing to Everything

Having Remus changed my life.  My whole attitude and outlook changed.  I didn’t know that I could love something as much as I loved him.  I didn’t know that I could be as brave as I needed to be for him.  Because of Remus, I’m a better person.  Before, I would just stay home after work and watch TV or read a book.  After, we went to the park every day and I became social!  I was always an awkward person.  You know that weird girl who stood in the corner at parties and just watched people?  That would have been me, except I didn’t even go to parties.  But, here I was at the park, store, daycare, wherever, actually talking to people.  I made park friends and was having full blown out conversations with people, sharing future dreams.  I hadn’t ever done that before.

Remus and I with Matching Shirts
My brother put Remus in his shirt so we could match across the ocean 🙂

The Separation

Leaving Remus behind was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  I decided to move to South Korea, but didn’t think I should take Remus with me to begin with.  What if I didn’t like it?  I didn’t want to stress him out if I was just going to come back after one year.  One of my aunts volunteered to take Remus for the year while I was away (this didn’t last and Remus ended up with my mom).  My doctor gave me a couple Xanex so I wouldn’t have a panic attack dropping him off with my aunt.  It was heart wrenching leaving him behind.

On his 2nd birthday, I was in Korea and he was in Texas.  I started crying at work and had to take some time to walk around outside to calm down.  I revered back to scared Hillary and didn’t go out much.  Granted, I’m sure culture shock played a part, but I know it was partially because Remus wasn’t with me.

Love Lock for Remus
I hung a Love Lock at N. Seoul Tower for Remus

Reunited and it Feels so Good

Once I realized I was going to say, I saved up the money to get him here!  He flew alone, so it was pretty expensive.  I could have flown to Texas and back and it would have been cheaper, but I didn’t want to wait for summer vacation!  Having him here felt like a dream.  I couldn’t believe it!  However, he wasn’t the same dog, not exactly.

Remus and I Cuddling
Back together after a year apart

Different, but the Same

He was, but he wasn’t at the same time.  When Remus and I went to the park together in Texas, he was friendly with everyone!  He was the dog who, when an owner threw the ball for their dog who ignored it, would go get it and bring it back to that person in exchange for belly rubs.  He loved everyone and was quick to make friends, animal and human.

However, he had become scared and timid.  He wasn’t excited to meet new people and was very protective of me.  When it was just us two together, he felt like the same dog.  But because of his lack of socialization for a year (my mom lives in a small town and works nights at a hospital), his attitude changed a bit.  We are slowly getting back to that place, but it takes time.  He’s good with other dogs now, but not with people.

Remus Covered in Sand
Remus at his favorite place, the beach

Life in Korea

Remus’s favorite place is the beach!  Since I live so close to it (7 minutes walking) we go there often.  His favorite activity is frisbee!  But, you need to make sure he is watching where you throw it.  If he doesn’t see you throw it, you’ll be going to fetch it yourself.  We also like to go to the local park (15 minute drive), but I don’t let him run around off leash there.  He used to, but then he caught a bunny and since then I never let him run around.  Maybe sometimes in the areas where there aren’t animals… We also like to walk around a local pond called Lotus Lake!  During the spring it’s so beautiful, filled with lily-pads and flowers!  He likes meeting other dogs, but isn’t interested in meeting other people.  However, we’ve had a big life change recently… One called, Tonks!

Remus Photo Gallery