Work in Progress

“In the best travel, disconnection is a necessity. Concentrate on where you are; do no back-home business; take no assignments; remain incommunicado; be scarce. It is a good thing that people don’t know where you are or how to find you. Keep in mind the country you are in. That’s the theory.”
–Paul Theroux

A human who loves the world, finds beauty in the unknown, and can't keep her feet on the ground. I like finding unique (and cheap) ways of making my way around the globe. Interacting with people while living, learning, and loving the culture I'm surrounded by.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Wrap up

Alex// Sunrise @ Daewangam Park

I'm starting this blog three months prior to actually leaving Korea, in anticipation of having difficulty reflecting on my time here during the madness of my last few months.

Two years. Two years this has been my home. I've been thinking back to my first few months here, when I was in my nesting mode. Exploring my neighborhood, transforming my apartment into a place that I looked forward to returning to at the end of the day, catching up (or slowing down) to the pace of life. The life I created for myself here has been on one hell of a roller coaster. What I was doing during my first few months looks a lot different compared to what I am doing now. Ramen and gimbap are no longer a staple of my diet. My focus has drifted from accumulating objects to figuring out how to get rid of all my possessions. Wine and art nights have now just become art nights. Instead of rushing home after work, I rush to the gym.

When I walk down my street, I do so with a sense of pre-nostalgia. I'm viewing present moments with future feelings of loss. Soon, I will be overwhelmed with "lasts". The last time walking to work. My last class. The last time eating at my favorite gimbap restaurant. The last time purchasing flowers from the sweet lady on the corner. The list of ends is endless.

But what do endings bring, if not beginnings? It's hard trying to balance my appreciation for all that I am leaving behind and everything I have coming. One day I am asking myself if I am really ready to end this chapter, and the other I am begging time to move faster so I can get on with my plans. I've experienced this transitional phase a few times in the course of my life. I don't think it has gotten any easier to stay present when the "now" and the "future" are playing a competitive game of tug-o-war with my thoughts.

Things I'm gonna miss
-Ajummas speaking to me and having no idea what they are saying. Watching them laugh as a wave of confusion washes over my face, followed by us both giggling and shrugging our shoulders in defeat.

-Feeling really confident asking a question in Korean, only to realize I have no idea how to translate their response.

-My students, even the ones that make me want to pull my hair out.

-My apartment, and living near the sea. This is the first place I have been able to call entirely my own. Living alone and creating my own space has been such a treat.

View from my apartment
-Food. All of it.

-The families that I have been lucky enough to become a part of. I've had the chance to watch the kids I babysit for grow up, the boys into curious pre-schoolers and the girls into fun toddlers that never fail to brighten my day. Their moms have become like sisters to me, and I'm lucky enough to have the chance to take solace in the comfort of "family" when mine is so far away. 

- Jimjilbangs, and being completely comfortable walking around butt naked. Hopping between the scorching hot and ice cold baths, mixed in with a few sessions in the saunas. I wish I would have taken advantage of these magical places more often... but I refused to visit the one near my house in fear of seeing one of my students. THAT I would not be comfortable with.

- The incredible people that I teach with, and get to see nearly everyday. I am so lucky to work with people that I genuinely enjoy being around. My Korean coworkers have been so dang helpful since the beginning. I never hesitate to ask them for help, which they are always happy to give me.
-Cheap taxis, which sometimes double as the entertainment for the evening.

-Norebangs, and their unbeatable collection of old, cheesy English songs.

Things I am not going to miss

-Being a part of an educational system that I disagree with. I often have a heavy heart at work, knowing that most of my students are stressed and tired. Some of them haven't eaten dinner, and won't have a chance to before they go to their next academy. Some of them study for 12 hours a day. They study when they are on vacation at school. They study on the weekends. Their little lives are focused on passing tests and memorizing useless facts. I have constantly wished there was something more that I could do. Something more than trying to shift the focus of our classes from "studying" to "talking". I hope I was able to help my students relax and take a breath.

- The frequency that I see dead animals for sale. Don't get me wrong, I find it completely fascinating. Roaming around markets is one of my favorite past times, and they are always presenting me with something new. I've never really been exposed to markets like this growing up, so they are one of the things that makes me realize where I am. However, seeing and smelling it every day isn't pleasant. And the condition that they keep some of those fishies in makes me uncomfortable as well.

I've probably said it a million times, but I am so grateful that I've been given the opportunity to experience Korea on such a deep, captivating level. I tried to be as present and aware as I could. I think this helped me come to somewhat of an understanding of what, and who Korea is. In the process of learning about another country, I've learned more about myself. I've gone through cycles, in and out of good habits. One thing I can say for sure, is that I'll be leaving Korea as the best version of me to date. It took a few downs to really catapult me into a deeper sense of self, and of this beautiful world around me. 

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