Welcome to the 18th issue of The Interiors Project and the final issue for this school year. We still have two and a half weeks of school left but many of our international teaching friends will be done this Friday!
It’s my pleasure to introduce Christine Martin who teaches in Seoul, Korea. Christine and I met through the blogging world and I am both intrigued by, and a bit envious of, her next adventure which is to launch a design business from Laos. Please enjoy this tour of her home in Korea and, as a special treat, Christine has contributed a guest post that I will run on Thursday, 7th June.
Tell us a little bit about your home.
Our home is 85m². It’s in a Korean suburb of Seoul called Bundang, only about six kilometers from school.
What is your favourite thing about your current space?
My favorite thing is the light. Even though we are surrounded by towering apartment buildings, our 11th floor position allows for much natural light. The best is from about 11 A.M. to 2P.M. when sunshine spills in through the sliding glass windows and onto our two bean bag chairs. It’s a great place for reading or napping.
How do you define “home”?
I like this quote from Maya Angelou: “I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.” It resonates with me because I’ve made home in so many places. I just need a few essentials to create home: colorful pillows, a couple of lamps, my favorite art pieces from Tunisia, a rug and some plants. Those things just comfort me and express who I am and what’s important to me. I think home should be able to do those things.
In what countries have you lived?
I’ve lived in Barcelona, Spain~Medellin, Colombia~Tunis, Tunisia~Seoul, Korea.
Each place was like a new life chapter. They have formed who I am today and I treasure every experience.
What do you love about your current city?
I love the urban planning that values outdoor space. Seoul’s major river, the Han River, has many tributaries and several neighborhoods are planned around them. Bike and pedestrian paths give people access to get from place to place without needing a car or public transportation. On weekends, the grassy patches are crawling with families playing badminton, in-line skating, or picnicking under umbrellas. People of all ages are out exercising on a daily basis. I just love that.
To what city/country would you most like to return?
Wow, that’s a hard one. There’s a special place in my heart for Bali. Ubud is one city we’ve returned to several times and it just feels so comfortable to us. It’s naturally lovely and the yoga + organic cuisine makes it easy to feel wellness. The art and culture also draw me, as well as the gentle quality of the people. There is the side of over tourism and increased pollution that bothers me though. This is the negative side effect of popular travel destinations.
Do you still feel homesick?
Absolutely; it comes in waves every three months or so. More than the places in California, I miss my family and friends. It is the largest cost of living overseas… missing the weddings and births and just everyday events. I relish in my time at home.
Do you consider yourself a risk-taker?
Yeah. I think that it’s always a risk leaving a place you’ve established yourself in to pursue another one. What we do as international teachers is really wild. I think we are used to it since we surround ourselves with people who shift and change all the time. But, it’s quite a remarkable way to live.
June marks the end of my husband and my teaching careers (15 years). We’re setting out to follow new passions: his in yoga + life coaching; mine in interior design. International teaching led us to this point. We don’t want to give up the lifestyle of overseas living, so we are moving to Luang Prabang, Laos to set things up there. It’s incredibly terrifying and liberating all at once.
How has living overseas changed you?
I think I have a broader sense of appreciation. I used to think that travel was great, but there was no place better than California to live. When I set out on my first international teaching gig, I really only planned two years away from home. I was certain I’d be back after that. Fast forward eight more years, and here I am. I’ve found elements I’ve loved and treasured in each place I’ve lived. But, the biggest discovery I’ve made living overseas has been the enjoyment and satisfaction I get creating our home space again and again. Slowly, it dawned on me that this is the path I want to follow. For this epiphany, I am very grateful.
When you move to a new country, what kinds of things do you do/find/purchase to make that place home?
If our shipment has not yet arrived, one of my first trips is to the local nursery for plants. I like to have at least two large ones. Plants and fresh flowers make indoors feel like an extension of the outdoors. The nature effect is really powerful in adding positivity to a space. Also, I like to find out where the nearest coffee shop is in our new neighborhood. Cafes are both social and relaxing places. Having a close place where I can do school work or write is pretty important to me.
What do you like to buy when travelling?
Jewelry and art. Actually, I believe jewelry IS art and justify my ridiculous amounts of it that way to my husband. Both are unique and representative of a place. I love being able to conjure up memories of Bali or India or Colombia with a ring or earrings. Art is more of an investment but when I see a striking piece, I normally go for it.
Where will you travel next?
Well, with our new careers, I think our travel will be limited for a while. But, Nepal has been on the top of our lists. I hope we can get there soon.
What is the same about kids all over the world?
Kids need time and room to grow. They’re not robots; not all the same. It sounds corny, but each is unique and special. As teachers, we want to fulfill our roles and have them learn what our curriculum has delineated for that year. But, it’s OK if they all don’t learn to write perfect paragraphs or convert percents to decimals in month scheduled. Learning to problem solve, nurture friendships, and honor their individuality are lessons that will lead to greater things. A while back, I wrote a post called: Turning Desks: 10 Things I Learned From Students. I think it applies to kids everywhere.
Please leave your love notes for Christine in the comments section below.