“While everyone’s lost, the battle is won with all these things that I’ve done.” -The Killers, “All These Things That I’ve Done”
Today marks three months since I arrived in South Korea. In a way, it’s actually kind of unbelievable. It really feels like it’s been so much longer. So much – good, bad, and somewhere in between – has happened in only three months.
I suppose I’ll start with the ways that I have already changed. I’ve become open to so much more than even I thought was possible. I mean this in every sense of the word. I’ve learned to expect the unexpected. I’ve had more “Korean surprises” than I can count. Some were good, many not so good. There are a lot of things I’m still struggling with and will continue to struggle with, but I’m learning every day.
I’ve grown accustomed to certain things in Korea. Things that felt awkward at first are now becoming second nature. I fully expect that whenever I do return to the US or wherever I go next, I will be bowing to everyone I see, just because it’s so natural now. There are still some Korean things I can’t get used to and probably never will (bathroom and hygiene habits, for example), but I just look at most of them as different, not “bad.” I’ve basically learned to ignore them.
That’s the boring stuff no one wants to hear about, though. How else have I changed? What else have I done? I feel like the answers to these questions could each be a whole blog themselves. In a nutshell, a lot has changed. I’ve become less shy. I am and always will be an introvert, but I am much more adventurous than I ever was. I’ve met up with people I’d never met in person and gained a lot of new friends that way. I have met so many interesting people. There’s not a lot to do or a lot of people to meet in my little town, so I travel as much as I can, while still allowing at least one weekend a month to be the hermit my sanity needs me to be. I’ve done things and eaten foods I never thought I would, like octopus and silk worm larvae. I now can say with certainty that I don’t like them and don’t need to try them ever again. Still, it’s pretty bold for a vegetarian, especially one who never liked seafood.
In addition to trying new foods, I’ve opened up and taken chances I never thought I’d take. Some didn’t pan out the way I hoped, but they’re all part of the experience. I’m trying to be positive and hope some good comes out of them. I’ve been lost and found, literally and metaphorically, and I’ve learned to look at it as an adventure. I’ve made some amazing friends that I hope to have for life. I’m really living it and taking it all in right now.
So what hasn’t changed? I escape my small town as much as I can because it gets lonely/boring after a while. I still turn to the same thing I have for my entire life: music. I have always been passionate about music, but with so little to do, I feel like it’s even more of a constant in my life. I’ve been discovering all kinds of new music. I’m not pretending everything here is all rainbows and butterflies (especially as the culture shock sets in), but music, as always, helps me get through those hard times and makes the good times even better. Sometimes it’s nice to just tune out the world and forget everything. I should probably stop there because we all know this is a subject I can talk about for hours, and this is already getting long.
In the three months that I’ve been here, I’ve also managed to check a few things off my bucket list, such as the Holi Hai Festival, which I wrote a blog about a couple months ago. Another item on the list was to go to a lantern festival. (Thanks, Tangled!) I went to the Lotus Lantern Festival a couple days ago in Seoul. It was so beautiful and worth the wait. I can’t even begin to describe the peace and awe I felt at the temple. There’s still a lot left on my list, but I have many plans for more this summer.
“What’s next?” I’ve had many people ask me this question. The truth is that I really don’t know. I was thinking that I would try to transfer to Busan next year or find a job in a hagwon there because I really love the city. (I’m actually not as much of a fan of Seoul.) However, a transfer is very difficult, and I’d have to go through the whole application process again with no guarantees. I’ve also thought about going back to the US, but I’m not sure what I would do or where I would go there because I don’t want to do the same thing I was doing. Thoughts of teaching in Europe have also crossed my mind, but that probably won’t happen yet. As of now, the only thing I know for sure is that I don’t want to stay where I am. If I’m being honest, I don’t like my town, and I really don’t like teaching middle school. My province has a different curriculum than others, and I’m struggling with it. While I don’t know what I want to do, I do know what I don’t want. (Just call me the modern day, female Lloyd Dobler. “I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career…”) For now, I’ll just take everything as it comes and whatever time I have left here.