I’ve passed the six month point in my yearlong contract! How has living in Korea been this far? How can I even begin to describe the changes I’ve undergone, the strange (to me) things I’m slowly adapting to or the interesting situations I’ve found myself in? Let’s just say it’s been many things…amazing, terrible, beautiful, ugly…it’s been everything life normally is with the addition of the heightened senses you experience when you are wandering around a foreign land.
Teaching has certainly been an adventure. Teaching at five schools means I’ve gotten a varying array of experiences. It means I always know what day of the week it is based on my location (I haven’t messed up and taken the wrong bus yet!) Mondays through Wednesdays have me teaching middle school students–13-15 year olds. I’ve had some really good days with these kids–many of them are so sweet and I love when the kids come to practice English with me before or after class. I’ve also had many days where, looking out at my totally uncontrolled classroom, I’ve felt that I was a zookeeper rather than a teacher. Just this week I had my first day of “giving up…” basically I lost control of the class to the point where the girls were having a screaming contest, some boys were playing “baseball” with my foam dice and the rest of the boys were doing things that will not be mentioned here.
Anyway, sometimes middle school kids go a little crazy in English class but overall, the longer I stay, the more respected I feel (by the kids). And they have so much studying in their lives that I kind of get the “go crazy in English class with the foreign teacher” thing. Elementary school kids are just plain cute and it makes Thursdays and Fridays feel like a breeze carrying me into the weekend. If I could choose, I would just teach cute little 3rd graders all the time. Singing and playing and learning the ABCs and basic words with enthusiasm…. sigh. I love them.
Life in general has been good most days! Living in Korea is so fun. There’s always something going on and somewhere to go, and my city has everything I need for a chill weekend at home as well. The job here can be stressful, but the weekends and holidays make it all worthwhile. My friends here are really great; I know I’ve made some lifelong friends here. It’s cheap to eat and drink here, public transport is so convenient and easy, and I’ve been traveling all over the country and all the while saving a bunch of the money I’m making. It’s a great set-up overall. Soon, though, I need to decide whether to stay a second year or head out and move on. I don’t quite feel ready to commit to another year (seems like such a long time…) but I also feel a little terrified of the reverse culture shock and lack of life plan I’d have if I went back to the US. I miss family, but I don’t have any specific thing I want to do with myself in the US. I don’t know if I’m ready to live that life again.
I’m not going to say too much on this subject, but dating in Korea as a foreigner is….weird. Things I’ve learned so far: guys (and probably also ladies) can be idiots all over the world, but the cultural difference adds in an extra dimension of confusion to the chaos that is the dating world. Anyway, at this point I’m happily single, hanging out with my wonderful friends and meeting new ones, keeping an open mind but (the more people I meet) becoming ever more comfortable with the idea of being a crazy aunt to my little sister’s future babies and having a cat-child or two of my own.
Visitors! I’ve had visitors. Mary came to visit in the beginning of September and now my sister is here. We’re sitting at a cafe in Busan overlooking the ocean as I write this, actually! It’s been fun showing them around my adopted country and seeing Korea through fresh eyes again. It showed me how far I’ve come in terms of understanding what the hell is happening here, as well as how much Korean language I’ve picked up from studying and just living here. My speaking basically sucks, but I can read and often understand the gist of what people are saying. It feels like a huge accomplishment even if I am incredibly far from fluency.
I’ve been a bad blogger, but I have lots of posts up my sleeve! Stay tuned for my personal anthology of Korea’s themed cafes, a resource page for people interested in coming to work in Korea through the EPIK program and of course, more updates on my various experiences here. Love you all!