If it weren't for my recent three month stay back home I would be celebrating my three year anniversary in Korea this month. Despite that I have to wait three more months to truly celebrate, I have already been doing the trips down memory lane in my head.
When I look back on those first few months, I experienced here in Korea, it really feels like I was a different person. At that time I wasn't too sure of myself and mostly really nervous to be in this new place. Everyone says you experience a "honeymoon" phase your first three months here, but mine was squandered by my work experience.
I quickly learned that calling in sick was a big no-no:
Today was a rotten day. It started with a sore throat and achy body and ended with tears. I didn't know if calling in sick works out here and found out that it doesn't. So my emotions ran high and a few words were exchanged like "I am weak when I sick..." and thus a meeting was held with my supervisor.
It seemed everything back then didn't make any sense. The work hours, the fact that the kids were "clients" and that the school was really a business. I didn't know that work life in Korea would be so tough on me mentally. I wasn't prepared for the cultural taboos of keeping face and staying "warm" in the face adversity. Really, when I look back I see a fragile person who made mistakes but also learned a lot.
Quitting the hagwon was hard, mostly because I felt like I was failing at my new life in Korea. But in the end I can see that this choice was inevitable, as I was on a sinking ship anyways.
From June 2008 to the end of that year, I was finding out what it meant to live and work in Korea. I craved a lot of familiar things from back home. In one post I adored my lamp, because it gave my house a warm feeling of home.
Homesickness still affects me from time-to-time, but that feeling of alienation in a strange country seems to have trickled away. Instead, daily life in Korea has become so ordinary that it seems the days come and guy quite quickly. Don't get me wrong though, one of my greatest pleasures living here is that everyday promises something different the moment I walk out the door.I think the secret to my survival so far in this place has been the use of a good lamp. Perhaps it could even be said that the secret to life is having a great and reliable lamp. Back in America I had a wonderful little lamp that I bought with my father at Kmart when I was in high school.
Back in those first few months, anything beyond the familiar neighborhood I walked around everyday seemed like this huge black map just waiting to explore. All those questions about where and how I would get things done seem to have been answered over the years.
Yet, I do believe the first few months in South Korea are precious. Anyone who has tried this "teach-abroad" thing will have a unique time when they first get here. Even though I didn't do the usual partying and bar-hopping my first three months, I think I still had a good time exploring with my ex-boyfriend and friends I have met along the way.
I know for sure I could never replicate that time, but I am happy I am still in Korea and can reflect back on my memories with all my new found wisdom.
Remember this cat photo?