After months of ample applications, rigorous (and costly!) paperwork, intense interviews, and one longggg 25 hour flight process, I am here. I made it to South Korea!
I know it’s been a long while since I last posted. What about France? And Thailand? Well….that’s for another day. I’m trying this whole “be in the moment” thing.
And so far the moment is pretty sweet.
But I won’t lie, when I first arrived in Korea I missed Thailand. Places felt familiar and yet so vastly different. I missed the gritty, chaotic, colorful assault on all senses that was Thailand. Korea in comparison seemed too western, too grey, too industrialized. As I passed familiar trees, concrete buildings, and smoky factories, I couldn’t help but feel strangely uninspired. My heart longed for Thailand. Where were the fruit vendors pushing past heavy buzzing power lines and big palm trees folding out under the sun? Or the bright tuk tuks zooming by, and the smiley scooters full of families weaving through the congestion of cars? I missed the gut wrenching feeling of being challenged on a daily basis; of being on my own in a place that made me think in ways I had not. I started to wonder, “Is there something wrong with me? Do I need to feel scared to feel challenged? How will I find ways to challenge myself here? A year is a long time to feel complacent….”
It didn’t help that I lacked proper knowledge of Korea before arriving in the country. I usually find it necessary to strike a healthy balance between being informed, while still leaving blank pages for new stories and experiences. This time I left too many blank pages, and thus too much room for comparisons of what was.
Then came a shift as the longggg EPIK orientation days filled with language lessons, lectures, cultural excursions, and off campus outings with new friends shaped my mind. Highlights of the orientation include:
- Adult icebreakers aimed for children- always a blast.
- An interesting back and forth of being treated as grown ass professionals making their way in the world, while also simultaneously limited as big babies who needed constant supervising.
- Forming new Noribang (Korean karaoke) bonds.
- Visiting a traditional Korean village (Hanok) and eating Bibimbap.
- More soju.
- Delirium induced Korean 101 bonding and sympathizing on how frustrated new language learners feel. My new friend and I reverted to elementary status as we giggled our way through attempts to master Hangul.
- Learning how incredibly thought out and ‘for the people’ Hangul is. (I could write a whole blog post on the Korean cultural lecture but in the mean time, check here).
- Taking over a bar in song and dance and a mob of EPIK foreigners.
- Graduating with my new friends and feeling like we were about to embark upon a great new adventure.
Since then it has been a whirlwind of over 700 students and 26 classes, struggling to read Korean and navigate around my little industrialized coastal city, earthquakes-too many earthquakes, adventures to other towns with fellow foreign friends, sleep deprivation, stares, stress, laughter, soju, exhaustion, pizza, and more bumbling through the language.
I’m already in love with my principal at my main school. He is kind and wise and relaxed and genuine. He doesn’t speak a word of English but somehow I know this. He serves me tea (even though we are in a vertical society) and tells me how to get around the bus routes. My co-teacher, Mrs. Moon, fits her name perfectly as she is my glowing light in the darkness of my first month. She helps me with so many aspects of adjustment, but even better she laughs with me. My schedule is crazy, but I’m slowly getting to know my students and I’m slowly getting into the groove of every day life here. There are days when I live for the weekends and days I can’t believe I’m living in South Korea.
There is so much more to say, but for now I’m happy to be here.