The Pizza Predicament

The Pizza Predicament Title Image

Where to Begin?

I’m not sure exactly where to start off this story, but I guess I should give a little background information.  I currently live in a very small town in South Korea.  There genuinely isn’t much here and our only claim to fame is a filming site for a movie no one watches anymore.  Because I’m vegetarian there aren’t many options of places to get food.  Surprisingly,  pretty much everything at restaurants have meat in it.  So, I’ve got about two places I go to and one of them is pizza.

The Pizza

There are a couple places that have pizza here, but my favorite is a place called Pizza Tour.  They don’t deliver, so usually I go straight there after work and get myself a potato pizza.  I know, potato pizza sounds weird, but don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it!  The only two people who work there are the owners, husband and wife.  I think the husband does other work during the day since the wife is usually there alone and he gets to the restaurant around 5pm-ish.  They are so, so kind and have helped me out a few times.  Once it started to pour down rain after I had gotten inside.  Before I could leave the wife told me to wait.  I watched her go to the back room and come back with an umbrella!  She didn’t want me getting wet on the way back to my car.

The Predicament

I have to admit that I get pizza too often.  I get it at least once a week (usually on Fridays), but sometimes I get it twice a week if I don’t feel like cooking.  It’s at the point where if I was going to move, I would stop and tell them goodbye before doing so.  Anyway, I was there on a Friday getting my weekly potato pizza when the husband tried to tell me something.

Language Barriers

My Korean level is that of an infant.  Their English level is almost non-existent.  So, there we were at the counter trying to communicate.  He would say a sentence and I would look confused.  He tried again and I would repeat back the words I understood so that we could potentially work towards the goal of communication.  It was very tedious and it took probably a good 10 minutes.  I know this, because I know exactly how long it takes for them to cook my pizza.  Eventually we got to the point where I understood that they were trying to tell me.  They would be out of town for a week!  I was so excited that we finally got the message across, but I was also sad because no pizza for a week.  He then proceeded to tell me that they weren’t getting another dough shipment, so they may run out of dough before then.

Disappointment and Embarrassment

After the husband finished telling me what was going on, the wife had come to the counter to talk as well.  This is where I started to get embarrassed… The wife proceeds to look at me all concerned and say “Oh, no!  What are you going to eat if not pizza??”  All I could do was laugh and tell her that I would be fine.  But she still seemed very concerned for my well-being.  I can cook and I frequently do!  I’m just lazy and I really like pizza.  So, as I walked out of Pizza Tour with my potato pizza, I immediately called my friend here in Korea to tell her my story.  We laughed at my embarrassment together 🙂

Potato Pizza from Pizza Tour
The key to a good potato pizza is full potato wedges. Little potato chunks just don’t cut it.

The Truth

Pizza!  The next week I drove past the shop and looked to see if they were open.  One day I passed to see a sign on the door and workers pulling equipment out of the shop.  My heart broke in two.  They weren’t closing for a week.  I had misunderstood.  They were closing FOREVER and moving to ANOTHER TOWN.

Now

It’s been almost a year since they’ve closed and I haven’t had a pizza to match what they cooked.  They moved their store about an hour and  a half away, and I have to admit that I’ve been tempted to try and find them.  One day I will track them down and tell them how much I’ve missed them.  Until then, I’ll need to learn to make my own pizza…

A Day in the Life of a South Korean Middle School Student

Students in Class - Title Image

I feel like this needs a disclaimer in case someone gets mad at me?  I want to start off by emphasizing that I live in a countryside town in South Korea.  Experiences in other, bigger towns will differ.  My comparisons are coming from my own middle school experiences in a suburban Texas town.  Not every middle school is the same, not every student is the same… This is more the experience of my students.  Also, it’s important to note that middle school in South Korea are called 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade.  So, if you asked what grade they were in at school, they would maybe say “1st grade middle school.”  1st grade is equivalent to 7th grade in America, 2nd is 8th, and 3rd is 9th.  Elementary is 6 years, middle school is 3 years, and high school is 3 years. Okay, let’s begin!

Before School

Before school, it seems majority of my students wake up around 7-7:30am.  Breakfast can range from a full meal of soup, rice, meat, and eggs; to simple rice and kimchi.  Other students will stop at a corner store (CU or GS25) to get maybe a bread, kimbap, or some other snack food.  Most students get to school on their own by walking, bike, or the city bus.  There aren’t separate school buses like in America.  Students have to be at school by 8:20am.  There is a teacher and students at the front of the building to greet teachers and students who come into school.  One of the students is in charge of checking off when a student arrives at school (like an attendance list).  My school is very small with a total of 90 students so this is something other schools probably don’t do.  But as far as I know, there are always students who are assigned to greet others as they arrive to school.

 

My Middle School
The front of my middle school

 

The School Day

Schedule

This is one of the places where middle school completely differs from many, if not most, schools in the states (as far as I know).  The class schedule for each day is different.  Not block scheduling, but each day is totally different.  First, I want to break down the time schedule for the day.  The time schedule never changes, but the amount of classes each day does.

Time Table

Students have to be at school by 8:20am.
From 8:20-8:40am – homeroom class
1st Period – 8:50-9:35am
2nd Period – 9:45-10:30am
3rd Period – 10:40-11:25am
4th Period – 11:35-12:20pm
Lunch – 12:20-1:05pm
5th Period – 1:10-1:55pm
6th Period – 2:05-2:50pm
Cleaning Time – 2:50-3:10pm
7th Period – 3:10-3:55pm
8th Period – 4:05-4:55pm

Okay, now that that’s out of the way… I mentioned before that each day has a different amount of classes, right?  Remember that?  Okay… Now I’m going to explain what I mean exactly

Classes Per Day

Monday: 1st to 7th class, with an optional 8th class
Tuesday: 1st to 6th class, with an optional 7th and 8th class
Wednesday: 1st to 8th class
Thursday: 1st to 6th class, with an optional 7th and 8th class
Friday: 1st to 7th class, with an optional 8th class

In all honestly, I’m 90% sure my class on Mon, Tue, Thur, Fri in 8th period is the only one available.  So, there is really only 3-4 students who stay for that and the rest go home.  Now, I’m going to show you, as simply as possible, the weekly schedule for my 1st graders this semester.  For my optional class, 4 second grade students come on Mon and Tues, while 3 1st graders come on Thurs and Fri.

Example of Weekly Schedule

Monday: 1st-Korean, 2nd-Art, 3rd-PE, 4th-Careers, 5th-Math, 6th-Social Studies, 7th-Homeroom
Tuesday: 1st-English, 2nd-PE, 3rd-Korean, 4th-Careers, 5th-Music, 6th-Science, 7th-Optional After School Class
Wednesday: 1st-Chinese Writing, 2nd-Korean, 3rd-English, 4th-Careers, 5th-Math, 6th-Social Studies, 7th-Science, 8th-Club Class
Thursday: 1st-Music, 2nd-Korean, 3rd-Math, 4th-Home Economics, 5th-Science, 6th-English, 7th-Optional After School Class, 8th-My After School Class
Friday: 1st-Art, 2nd-PE, 3rd-Korean, 4th-Social Studies, 5th-Home Economics, 6th-Math, 7th-Chinese Writing, 8th-My After School Class

As you can see, it’s completely mixed up.  Oh, I guess you’re wondering why I said the weekly schedule for 1st graders this semester and not for one student this semester?  That’s because classrooms are different here.

 

Students in Classroom
In the classroom

Classrooms

Classrooms in South Korea don’t belong to the teachers.  Teachers here don’t have their own rooms, excluding more elective classes like music and art.  All the teachers at the school share one office.  At my school there are 14 teachers (including me) and we all have a desk/computer in the office.  Three of the teachers actually rotate schools.  The art teacher is here on Mon, Wed, and Fri; while the Music and Ethics teachers are here on Tues and Thurs.

Back to the point, students stay in their classroom all day.  All the students in that one class stay together and have all the same classes all day.  This makes bullying a problem since students never have a class or chance to be away from someone who bullies them.  The most teachers can do is rearrange the seating chart.  Because the classroom belongs to the students and not the teachers, the students are the ones who decorate the classroom together.

Teachers will bring their books, other supplies, and laptop to the classroom.  They connect the laptop to the TV so all students can see the materials.  Most teachers have a basket or baskets that they use to bring their things to each room.  If there is a lot to carry, they usually find a student from that class during the break and have them help carry the materials.

 

South Korean School Lunch

Picture by Stayca on Flickr available under public license

Lunch

Lunch for students is free, totally free.  Because it’s free, you never see any students bring a lunch.  The word among the teachers is that our school lunches are awful compared to the schools around us.  I used to eat the lunches and while they weren’t great, they weren’t horrible either.  Now that I’m vegetarian, I opt out of the lunches.  Teachers pay for lunches, but it’s cheap and charged on a monthly basis.  There are times when the cafeteria runs out of food.  Their policy is more along the lines of making too little than having anything left over.  If they run out of food (not a usual issue, but it has been known to happen), they will cook up something else like eggs, fruit, or anything extra they happen to have in the kitchen. Most of my students complain about the lunches, but they all enjoy Wednesday lunch.  Wednesday lunches are “special” in the sense that it’s typically junk food and a juice box or dessert cake.

 

Students Cleaning
Students sweeping the front entrance of the school

Responsibilities and Cleaning Time

At the beginning of each semester, students are given certain chores and responsibilities around the school. Some responsibilities include:

  • Greeting everyone who comes in the front of the building (students should come to school early)
  • Taking attendance at the front of the school (students should come early)
  • Picking up trash outside around the school (students should come early)
  • Getting the daily milk boxes for students and bringing it to homeroom class
  • Going to the teachers’ office and picking up the laptop before class and setting it up in the classroom
  • Cleaning the blackboard after each class
  • Class president
  • etc. (I’m sure there are more that I’m not aware of)

During cleaning time, each student has a chore they have to do.  Usually, you’ll see the homeroom teachers walking around the school and checking to make sure all the students are doing what they should be doing.  Some of the cleaning chores are:

  • Sweeping
  • Mopping
  • Taking out the trash
  • Taking out the recycling
  • Cleaning the bathrooms

I want to note that the sweeping, mopping, and taking out the trash/recycling isn’t just for their classroom, but the whole school.  There are students assigned to sweep the hallways, mop the teachers’ room, take out the trash from the principal’s office.  Students are responsible for cleaning the whole school.  My school doesn’t have a janitorial staff.  If the students get something dirty, they are responsible for cleaning it up.  There have been times when a student would spill their milk during class.  If that happened they would go out to get a mop and clean it up themselves.  While I don’t think students necessarily take good care of things at school, I do think they are more conscience of the messes they make.

 

Students in the Computer Lab
In the computer lab

After School

You would think that after school would be pretty varied for students, but it’s not.  If you ask a student what they did after school, they will likely say one of three things…

Academy

Academy or hagwon (학원) is basically after school tutoring.  Most students go to academy after school and its almost seen as a necessity in Korea.  The idea is, if you child isn’t going to academy, they won’t do as well and won’t get into good schools.  It doesn’t come cheap, so not all of my students go since I live in a poor area.  Academy is pretty much school after school.  Kids may walk around town for a bit and buy snacks before going to academy, but once they are there it’s back to class.  Typical academy classes are English, Math, Korean, History, and Science.

Most of my students stay at academy until around 8pm, but some stay as late at 10pm.  I believe there is even a law in Korea that states middle school students can’t stay at academy past 10pm.  Because students stay so late, snacks or dinner is provided.  One of my students loves Friday’s dinner because it’s always a hamburger from a restaurant called Mom’s Touch.  Some students going to academy on the weekend as well as during school holidays/breaks.  Personally, I don’t like the academy culture.  I think it’s too much for students and they don’t have any time to develop interests or hobbies.

 

Shooting Competition
Shooting Competition

Sports Teams

Sports teams in Korea are not like they are back in America.  The only sports team my school has is Shooting Club.  Shooting, you say?  In Korea?  Yes, in Korea.  Guns are illegal in Korea, however, these aren’t real guns, but very very very impressive airguns.  I went to shooting club a couple times and the guns are super heavy and look and feel like a real gun.  There are two guns that they use: rifle and handgun.  More specific than that, I really couldn’t tell you.  My schools Shooting Club is part of the high school Shooting Club.  Well, only in the sense that they share the same practice space and guns.  But the ones who are in shooting club in middle school, continue on in high school.  My students in Shooting Club are very good and typically place 1st or 2nd in national competitions.  Those in shooting club usually exercise for 45 minutes after school then have shooting practice for around 3 hours.  When they have a competition come up, they will spend most of the weekend practicing for the competition.

As for other sports, I know the other middle school in my area has a boy’s soccer team.

 

Picture of a PC Room in South Korea
Picture by Rob Fahey on Flickr available under public license

Activities

Those who don’t go to Academy or aren’t on the shooting team do one of two things, go to the PC room or go to Karaoke rooms.  The PC Room (or PC Bang) is just a big building with a crap ton of computers, comfy chairs, and headsets.  You pay money to sit and use the computers to play online games.  Usually they also sell snacks there.  Karaoke rooms (or norebang) are individual rooms for people to go in and sing songs.  You can get smaller individual rooms or you can get bigger rooms for larger groups.  You pay for time and choose your song from a huge book of songs, Korean and English.  Obviously, there are more songs in Korean, but some of my students always enjoy telling me if they sang an English song.

 

 

Well, there we go!  This is a day in the life of a South Korean middle school student.  There is so so much more I could have put in here about school policies and how the school year is set up, but I think I’ll cut off here and share those stories for another time.  Thanks for taking the time to read!

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

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