Post #100: Goodbye Coco Busan, Hello Free Bird

Coco Busan started as a little idea in my mind 2.5 years ago in Edmonton, Alberta, when I decided to leave Canada on my own and venture to Korea.

Once I published my first post (and received comments in a matter of minutes), I realized the power of connecting instantly to people through my writing.  In the two years I lived in Korea, this blog has been both an anchor to and expression of my creativity, and a continual link to my friends and family at home and around the world.

Thank you to all of you who read my posts and scrolled through my photos, whether it was once or every time I published.  Your views and comments inspired my to continue writing even during times when my Korea routine and teaching schedule felt stagnant.  The novelty of receiving instant feedback from both friends and strangers has never worn off; I still get excited when a new comment appears after I’ve stayed up way to late (again!) to publish a post.

I am writing this from Delhi, and tomorrow night will board a train to Rajasthan.  I hope you’ll join me at my brand-new blog, Free Bird, where I’ll be sharing words, images and video clips to document my 15-week journey through India, Indonesia, and Cambodia.

Korea: Thank you for two years of writing and photographic inspiration!

With Love,

Coco xo

Kindergarten Goodbye

Last weekend, my students graduated kindergarten–a two-hour ceremony that featured caps and gowns, song and dance acts, and a re-imagined version of The Blind Men and the Elephant, for which I constructed a miniature elephant from cardboard, felt, and packing tape–the same tape I used to seal up the three boxes I shipped home to Canada.

This week, while I begin my travels through India, my students will begin Grade 1 and the start of a long road through Korea’s education system: days in public school, afternoons in hagwons, and evenings spent studying, often until they sleep.

I want to give them backyards to run around in and afternoons off and free time with their friends.  I want to give them a school life that inspires them to form their own ideas about themselves and the world.  I want their little spirits to to thrive and grow and create.  Have fun, I told them, kneeling down to hug each one in our last moment together.  I will miss you.

They have graduated kindergarten, but in my mind they’ll be six years old forever, lined up in coats and boots, handing me colour-paper cards that say Goodbye Courtney Teacher.  I love you.  Please don’t forget me.

I won’t forget you.



ps–I am writing this from Delhi.

Up next: Post #100 on Coco Busan (last one!) with the link to my new blog…

Friends–the hardest thing to leave. Always.

These are a few…


of the people I’ll miss.

Above: Shane and Rose, Kent and Amanda, Sam and Jesse, Johnathan, Wooram, Jin, Haven and Ina, Gina, Tabitha, Amanda and Kyle. (Joe, too–but he’s coming with me.)

There are many more whose presence I will remember when I look back on the chapter of life I spent in Korea. (Hello to my original Busan Crew: Ashley and Jason, Leah, Bryan, and Dianna.  Also: Wonseop, Adi, Branden, Ashley, Kendra, Hena, Paul, Becky, Stephanie, Peter in Seoul, and all my co-teachers…)

Korea–you’ve blessed me with two years of new friendships.

Thank you. xx

Butterflies + Waterfalls (and India in nine days!)

Coco Busan friends, readers, all my peeps out there…yes, it’s creeping to the end of February and I travelled to the Philippines in December and I’m still posting about it. Yes, I’ve been back in Korea for almost two months, and have been living life here as well.  But I’ve got a thing about chronology.  And following a storyline through to the end.  It may be a minor obsession, but let’s just call me thorough.

In any case, here it is, the last Philippines post, a gallery of images from our final day on Siquijor, which included a minor motorcycle accident, of which the photographic evidence of my wrist wound seems to have disappeared from the files…but never mind.  You’d probably rather stick to perusing butterfly wings and coconut-shell sculptures of birds and water cascading over rocks while Filipino boys dangle off rope swings and palms frame the sky’s blue in a gorgeous window of paradise…right?

ps. Did I mention I leave Korea forever in NINE days?  That I’m flying to Delhi with Joe on March 1st, and embarking on a 15-week journey through India, Indonesia, and Cambodia?  It’s true.  Which means there are approximately three posts only left to be written on Coco Busan.  I hope you’ll follow to the end, the full storyline, which will pivot back to Korea, touch on my two-year experience here, include some parting thoughts, and introduce you to my BRAND-NEW blog documenting our upcoming journey.

See you soon…

xo ~Coco

(Click on an image to view the album in a photo carousel–much better that way. * means photo by Joe.)

Island of Fire and a Secret Beach

Called “Island of Fire” by the Spaniards who docked on its shores in 1565, Siquijor is known for mystical healers, relaxed villages, quiet beaches, and–hence its Spanish nickname–fireflies.  Though government-posted signs declare that, despite a prominent folklore presence, witchcraft-practicing healers don’t exist on Siquijor, one friendly born-and-raised local man we met outside a bakery in Lazi (a town on Siquijor’s south coast) claimed you just have to ride to the top of the Mount Bandilaan in the island’s interior; there the mangkukulam (healers) can indeed be found.

Not destined for the mountain this trip, we’ll never know…

But, witchcraft or not, with its winding coastal road (sometimes paved, sometimes not), kids waving and shouting hello from dilapidated wooden porches, hunched one-horse farmers plowing their land in the late heat, gardens blooming with recycled plastic bottles lined up along metal fences–rendered beautiful as planters for the local flora–ancient, red-roofed churches, and everywhere, palm trees, climbing up into the warm blue air and coaxing your senses to expand, release, receive, relax—this island heals.

Our Siquijor home, Islanders Paradise Beach Resort, is located on the island’s northern tip, Sandugan Point.  After a lazy first day that started with omelettes, proceeded to a slow beach walk, carried on with an afternoon beverage and massage at the next-door Kiwi Dive Resort, and ended with a sunset, hammock, and sleep to the waves, we decided that day two would consist of exploring more of the island.

By motorbike, of course…

With a well-worn tourist map one of the Islanders’ staff rummaged out of a pile of books, a couple ill-fitting helmets, and our cameras, we took off, following the coastal road south through tiny villages with tidy, run-down homes and cows and pigs the size of cows and gas stations selling diesel out of coke bottles and chickens strolling along the concrete, through Larena and on to the island’s capital, named–no surprise–Siquijor.

Five towns are scattered along the perimeter of the island: Larena, Siquijor, San Juan, Lazi, and Maria.  Most populated is Siquijor, where we stopped for a bike break and a wander through the main streets.


As in the rest of the country, tricycles dominated the roads…


And the town’s church took center stage…




Along with its bell tower.


From Siquijor town we rode on, stopping for lunch (coconut rice and steamed veggies for me–fresh fish for Joe) and a beach stroll at Villa Marmarine


and then to a tiny, secret beach we discovered next to the more popular Paliton Beach, in the middle of the east coast, where we floated in the clear, warm water, seaweed brushing our feet, and after, from the shore, watched a small crew of local fisherman carry their canoes into the sea…

and take off on the green waters.

I think this beach was the most idyllic place we found in the Philippines.

Sky, sand, palms, water, sun, quiet, and some sort of mango-like fruit the fishermen gave us…

confirmed my belief that islands–small and sometimes poor, but plentiful in trees, air, water, sand and pure, genuine joy–can heal. They heal us from schedules. They heal us from cell phones and laptop screens and sidewalks and car exhaust.  They dispel pressure and worry, sore throats and congested minds.  I want an island in my soul, to keep with me, to ride a mental motorcycle to on days when the city/future/past/to-do list/compression of time is tying knots in the tops of my shoulders.  An island to ride to before I sleep and maybe, every now and then, when I wake.  Or maybe I’ll just look back at these words and photos and remember.

(*** means photo by Joe)

Next Up: Butterflies and Waterfalls…