I’m safe, sound, and a day ahead in Daejeon! (Hm… that sounds familiar).
My leaving wasn’t the grand Farewell Tour as it was in February (mostly because this was just a visit home) but I still managed to see some important friends, my family, my doggie, and a bunch of now unimportant people (that is another saga for another blog title altogether). I appreciate all the small kindnesses people have shown me during this summer, this past year really, and the unconditional support of those in my life. I find it amazing that people will reach in for you and I promise that I will start reaching back more and more, even if it is from a farther distance.
Also – I’ve decided it’s worth the $200 to fly KoreanAir. There was nothing wrong with Asiana, but the food, service, and 3 extra inches that KoreanAir provides REALLY makes a difference on a 11 hour flight. Plus, the movie selection was better on Korean; I actually watched only one movie on the flight this time, which made time go R E A L L Y S L O W. (BTW: Please watch “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” it was a great film!). I also started and finished “The Lover’s Dictionary” by David Levithan – HIGHLY RECOMMEND to anyone wanting an innovative, non-linear, modern-romance-end-of-the-affair fast read. I love the writing style.
Once I got to Daejeon, I had trouble finding my ride, but managed to ask a taekshi (taxi) driver if I could use his han-ponuh (hand phone = cell). One of the other foreign professors was able to find me in front of a police station and drive me back to our apartment building, called the “Global House” I think because it houses international faculty and some grad students. So far, I’ve managed to lock myself out twice in the rain by forgetting my little key card thingie that buzzes me in through the front door. I think I became spoiled at Inje that I never needed a key. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the door to my apartment uses only a keycode and no key/card. I’m sure to lock myself out again and I’ll have to figure out alternative ways to get into the building and/or find a way to put that key card thingie on a key chain.
My ah-pah-teu (apartment) is about twice the size of my Inje Dey dormitory. It hosts a twin size bed (NOT a bunkbed!… great, now I AM playing Death Cab for Cutie) a full wall window, a teeny kitchen, a desk, wardrobe, and wet room (the entire bathroom is tiled as a shower and there is a huge drain behind the sink. At least it’s a western style toilet – I am already not happy about the number of squatters I’ve had to use!) It feels like a dorm room still, but mostly because I need to acquire some homey stuff, like a chair and a small table, or maybe a teeny cafe table. We’ll see what I can pick up/find soon =)
I haven’t done much exploring yet, mostly because it’s been raining a lot, but I walked around the neighborhood yesterday and found the essentials: Paris Baguette, Etude House, InnisFree, Isaac Toast, a Daiso (dollar store), and about five 7-Elevens. This means if I never find anything else in Korea, I could probably survive just fine… As long as I remember that key card thingie to get back into my house….
Ever notice how some themes repeat? Life cycles through and sometimes we make the same mistakes again, have our hearts broken by the same person twice, fall down in the same place. And sometimes, we pack our suitcases for Korea way too soon and have to pack and repack them 5 times. Yup, I said it: FIVE EFFEN TIMES.
So, yesterday, it dawned on me that unlike the burn of The Desert, there are actually distinct seasons in Korea. After a little wikipedia/google searching, I realized that once I arrive in Korea, summer will almost be ready to expire in Daejeon. This means that packing five hundred sun dresses with little cardigans will most likely not suffice as appropriate wardrobing. Last night, I took out some stuff, then added in other stuff, then replaced that stuff, then repacked some stuff I had taken out. This morning I realized that the reason I had more space last time is that I stuffed my purse in my backpack and brought a laptop bag. Then I took stuff out of the suitcase, put other stuff in my backpack, threw some stuff away, and then replaced items in the suitcases.
Final Weigh-Ins: Super Huge Suitcase = 49.8 lbs; Semi-Large Suitcase = 46.5 lbs. YAY! Success.
Except I still have 3 days to overthink it. Aiyah.
Moving my entire life to Korea has been more about resolving to move forward than it has been about an opportunity I cannot resist. Somehow, my life here has been about repeating mistakes, languishing in expired affairs, and falling down without ever fully getting up again. I truly believe that a change of scene can change your life, and I was presented with an opportunity to change my scene in a tremendously difficult, challenging, beautiful, overwhelmingly drastic way. It’s a chance to be braver than I know I am, stronger than I think myself to be, and grow more than I might be able to if I stay in the box where I’ve always felt restless and safe.
Of course, leaving the safety of my box means I need to pack lots of stuff. So, the moral of the story is: changing my life means I am entitled to over-pack. At least a little…
So, either I am a really bad explainer, or virtually no one in my world listens when I talk… or both? Here is a list of the top questions/comments I’ve been hearing about my return to Korea, or my trip to Gimhae:
1. I’m teaching English. Yeah, NO. I’ve never taught English and am not planning to teach English. I volunteered at a Kindergarten classroom as student at Inje University, where I was taking culture classes with other Korean Adoptees.
2. I’m going to take intensive Korean classes. Yeah, NOPE. I’m not planning on doing any real language study while I’m in Korea, except I might do a social language exchange for fun and to meet people.
3. I’m going to live in Seoul. Actually, I’m not sure any Americans realize there are other places in Korea other than Seoul. But no, I was not living in Seoul before, I was in Gimhae/Busan, taking classes at Inje University. I am returning to teach collegiate level business classes at Hannam University in Daejeon.
4. “When we visit, we will stay with you!” Um, probably not. My apartment is about the size of your large walk-in closet and sports a twin-size bed and a wetroom. Unless you want to snuggle in the humidity in my twin-size bed (let’s NOT sing the Death Cab for Cutie song and just say we did), I’m pretty sure you’re going to want to find accommodations if you visit me. I’m more than happy to play tour guide and I really would love visitors, I just literally will have no space to host any couch-surfers. There is no room for a couch.
5. I’m working as a lawyer in Korea. Yeah, I wish! No, I will be working as a foreign faculty member. I will pursue legal opportunities in Korea, if they should arise.
6. I’m teaching… er, uhhh, ergh???!!!!??? For the record, I’m teaching business classes: business ethics, business negotiations, and international diplomacy. Yeah, I’m not exactly sure how I got those courses assigned either. But, I’m making the best of it and I’m a fast learner, so hopefully… I’ll stay a week ahead of my students =)
7. I’m a Korean citizen now/I have dual-citizenship. Um, NO. I’m an American citizen and have been for 30 years. Not to add to the raging immigration debate, but FYI: I’m an immigrant and was naturalized in 1982, so it does work for some of us. Kinda (more on the Korean-adoptee immigration issue in a different post). Anyhow, I obtained my F4 Visa so that I can work, live, and travel to/from Korea more easily. An F4 visa is a special visa for Korean Adoptees or others with strong familial ties to Korea (I think spouses of citizens, children of citizens, etc.). It is not the equivalent of citizenship. It is not legal dual citizenship. If my indefinite stay in Korea would begin to look permanent, I will evaluate the need for dual citizenship at that time.
8. I’m going to adopt a baby. Yeah, also a NO. I thank everyone who wants to legislate/advocate for how/when I will become a parent, but clearly, that choice is generally within the realm of my decision-making authority – at least I hope so =)
9. I’m going to do a birth search. Yes, at some point during my stay, I will do a birth search, but that is not the reason I am going to Korea. I also want to say at this time that facilitating a birth search is another hugely personal decision which is not along the same lines as “how was your day?” Many people ask this question as if it is a commonplace scenario without thousands of layers of emotion attached. There are many factors to consider that cannot me summarized in a short conversation. Please be sensitive when speaking with adoptees, especially if you are ignorant, ill-informed, or disinterested in the real answers.
10. Korea is just like Japan. I’m not sure there is anything more offensive to Koreans. Please remember that Korea was occupied forcefully by Japan for many decades, and there is still continuing cultural hostility between the nations. In addition, the cultures, languages, customs, are different and distinct. Sort of like how the United States is not the same as Mexico or Canada. Because they are separate nations.
SO, I’m hoping I will be better at updating this blog. For now, I am packing 8 million sundresses to live in a city that will soon have Fall. Hm. It might be time to rethink my packing choices…. AGAIN. Sigh.