Friday, November 28, 2008

Reached a Point

Well, I think it has settled in now. What am I talking about? That would have to be homesickness. I think it is going beyond just missing my family and friends. I am starting to really be homesick for that which is familiar.

Things I try to search for:
  • English
  • Something cheesy done in the right way with the right cheese.
  • English TV programming on my TV.
  • Some corner of my neighborhood that feels cozy and like home.
Sometimes I am walking and know I want to find familiarity, but I immediately look around me and know I am far far away. At least the traffic signal with the sign of the walking-man on it is a universal image I can relate to.

Don't get me wrong here I am not trying to complain. Korea is still a wonderful and amazing place to be. But no matter what I have to accept the fact that I put myself in a place that feels like another universe.

It has been nearly 7 months since I first arrived here. Looking through that time I have been through so much.

At the hagwon I felt alienated despite the fact I was amongst 4 other foreigners and lived in Seoul. Back then my daily life was up and down, some days were stressful and full of angst, while other days were just fine. I was trying to understand Korea and its people but struggled to get down the basic relationship fundamentals with my Korean co teachers.

But I was strong and also brave enough to break my contract and resign. During this time I felt like I was heading towards salvation, but at the same time living a fragile life. I didn't know exactly my future and finances were growing thin.

However, I think because I kept confident and took chances that I was able to come out of that yucky situation and into a more defined and organized job.

Working and living in Sanbon has been pleasant. I work from 8:30 to 4:30 pm, and to me this feels like a regular schedule. We all know that I had a bit of an issue with at first living without a window but that got resolved.

So things have settled down here in Sanbon. But life keeps on chugging, and in my spare time I think of America and my family. I think about so many things and ask myself so many questions, that my thoughts seem to build up into a mountain.

The main questions I ask myself is what is my purpose here? Why did I come?

Actually, I know why I came here.

On New Year's Eve 2008 I made the new year resolution that I would go live and teach in Korea. It came to me clearly and didn't have any second thoughts. Through January to May I worked, planned and packed my way to Korea.

I came with so many ambitions:
  • Explore Korea and Asia.
  • Get to know the contemporary art scene.
  • Understand my Korean boyfriend's culture, family and language.
  • Grow into an adult.
Maybe it is too ambitious of me to think that I would conquer all these things just within my first 7 months here. Yet, I am positive that I have actually experienced some of these goals.

Coming back to my main point (homesickness) I am reminded of what keeps me from opening my heart and mind to Korea.

Lately I have become apprehensive to do my usual blog reading. I feel that what I see on other's blogs are not helping me love my surroundings. In some of the blogs I see out there people are constantly pointing out what Korean people are doing that is negative and alarming. Examples include crime, severe punishment, poor publicity...etc. It is as if I am getting a picture of Korea I didn't really want to see.

So in some cases I am kind of denial right now. I don't want to see or hear that Korea is this place of corruption and folly. Through my rose-colored glasses I want to see the cultural and artistic sides of Korea. I want to see that which is beautiful juxtaposed next to a society still coming out of its shell.

I guess what has me bothered the most, is that I don't really understand why us foreigners tend to pluck out certain aspects of Korean society and put a spotlight on it. As if the Korean people were subjects in some grand lab experiment.

... Okay...starting to get a little ranty...sorry.


Homesickness + Alienation + Expensive Cheese = loony bin.

I think what I need to do is wake up out of what I believe is the "perfect" experience to have while abroad.

In my dreams I sometimes find myself back in America, doing something with my family. And while I am there I look around and become very confused. I ask myself why am I not in Korea? How long have I been away? When will I go back? I wake up perplexed, wondering just which world I am in,

All in all I have to say that I feel like I have reached a point in my stay here, one that has me baffled and enraptured. My wish is that it all climbs upward and wanders into a place where I see more than what meets the eye.


  1. I guess what has me bothered the most, is that I don't really understand why us foreigners tend to pluck out certain aspects of Korean society and put a spotlight on it. As if the Korean people were subjects in some grand lab experiment.

    Koreans do the same thing to foreigners. It doesn't mean there's some "experiment."

  2. This is true. But I think the lens through which we examine Korea tends to turn the story into a spectacle.

  3. With all due respect, can you read Korean well enough to read how Korean news and Korean netizens talk about us?

  4. Some guys are indeed like frat boys who haven't grown up. It makes me wonder if I even graduated college or not. I know I'm not the most mature person but...gah...

    And E-mart...oh E-mart...I have been resisting it's pull but I'll probably go tomorrow, lol. WAIT! I'm lying I went there yesterday...heh

  5. Through my rose-colored glasses I want to see the cultural and artistic sides of Korea. I want to see that which is beautiful juxtaposed next to a society still coming out of its shell.

    No offense, but how much blogging do you do about the cultural and artistic sides of Korea?

    It feels like when I check in on your blog you're writing about a problem you're experiencing -- you didn't like working at your hagwon, you were offered a job in Sanbon but it was too far away for your liking, or that your apartment didn't have a window.

    My apologies if you spent a lot of time writing about festivals, cultural activities, and art exhibits in the period before I started visiting your blog (about 2 months ago), but they haven't shown up in your recent updates. I understand that people want to write about things that are troubling them - both as an emotional release and to solicit advice - but maybe writing about things related to the cultural and artistic sides of Korea will see you get more visitors who are also interested in those things. These visitors, in turn, can provide leads (and links) to interesting blogs on the same subject rather than those that focus on the less-appealing aspects of life in Korea.

    Having said that, writing about the bad stuff does seem to get one more attention. For what it's worth, I try to write about cultural observations (as an anthropologist I try to avoid value judgments), history, and events that I attend - which sound like the things you seem interested in as well. However, I don't make an effort to advertise myself within the Korean blogosphere. (Maybe I should start doing that. I did have a Belgian woman say that I'm the happiest-sounding expat that she's encountered in Korea. ^^)

    As for culture shock and seeking English speakers -- going to tourist-related activities is a good way to encounter other non-Koreans. I usually see white folks when I go to palaces or big festivals. (I didn't see any obvious foreigners at the Yangju Folk Art Festival, but it probably doesn't count as "big" festival.) The only foreigners I know in Uijeongbu are my gyopo co-worker and the patrons of a Mongolian restaurant in town; before coming to Korea most of my friends were non-native English speakers or had parents who immigrated to the USA, so not hearing English isn't a big deal for me. If you feel more comfortable in that sort of environment though I would certainly recommend "tourist-friendly" destinations and activities as a good way to meet more people.

    - Paul / samedi

  6. I regularly dream that I'm in the States. I don't think it's homesickness, just that much of the stuff I usually dream about is there, I suppose.

    Are there things I miss? Sure. When I was at home, there were things I missed about traveling. Kind of a Catch-22.

    You've been in Korea longer than I have, but I started out in a better situation school/flat-wise, so I have less looking back to do.

  7. OKay I admit this post was rather full of ignorance and ranting.

    I can read Korean but don't know what I am reading.

    Yes my recent blogs have been about my downfalls here..writing about my experience of changing schools.

    I use to blog about the fascinating things and yes I still want to. In other words I am still adjusting to what I see and experience. I am sorry it has been a bit of a drag lately.


  8. I haven't started my own blog yet, been actually thinking about doing it..... & haven't been too deep into the blogosphere yet either...however, what I'm starting to understand from yours Joy & the comments you receive & your responses & knowing you as no other can, is that maybe the "Dear Diary" like entries would be better placed in a diary or email rather than out here for all.

    The whole idea of your blog being a place for you to elaborate on your Korean cultural experiences sounds more right on. You'd still be personal, but not personal about personal things!

    I would think you'd be visiting more museums, art galleries, artist's studios & their hang outs (cafes, bars ,etc...) in your free time.
    Now that you're settled w/the job & apt.. hopefully you'll have the time & inclination to do stuff like that & really learn the language.
    Speaking & reading Korean will really allow your appreciation of the culture to take off!

    Of course you miss your home environment, etc.., I'd say there was something wrong if you weren't.
    Especially around the holidays.



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