I’m not an adventure junkie. I don’t scuba, sky-dive, bungee jump, or do any extreme sports. I don’t like to sweat. Mostly, I don’t like the outside, unless it involves a pool floatie or a beach. I’m deathly afraid of heights. Remember that LSA horse-riding thing? Yeah, it was probably the scariest thing I’d let myself do. It involved large animals, off the ground, outside, and sweat. That, and once my friend owned a restaurant, and he made me stand on a ladder to write out a menu on a chalkboard. SCARY. Truth be told, I’m risk-averse. I embrace it. My adventures are pretty cookie cutter. I’ve spent most of my life dreaming inside the box – even if begrudgingly.
What was that? What did you say? I abandoned my entire life and MOVED TO KOREA? Oh, yeah, that.
Most days, I find it difficult to believe I actually live in Korea. A year ago, if any person had told me I would relocate my entire life to ROK, I would have cynically and skeptically told them how wrong they were. While I have frequently changed life plans, none of my plans have involved international travel. Most haven’t involved out of state travel. None involved moving abroad. I couldn’t have dreamt of a choice more wrong for me.
But sometimes, wrong is right. My life, was simple, but stagnant. . The benefits and consequences of having a conventional life quickly began feeling mundane and repetitive; I was constantly restless, always seeking the next best thing ever. Life began knocking me off of my path of convention, slowly, in tiny ways – I lost a job, I lost a love, I took a different job, I lost a different love (yes, yes I know… the elevator). I was beginning to feel rootless – but more terrifying – I was also beginning to feel deflated. I wasn’t in love with anything in my life except the comfort of knowing what to expect. I wasn’t really invested in the life I had created for myself.
So, without knowing where I would land, or where the ground really was located, I jumped at the opportunity to move to Korea hoping to find a sense of gravity here. Every day I wake up in Korea, I start my day like a normal day, and at least once a day, I have to say “Oh yeah. I live in KOREA.” Something happens, which makes me realize, it will never be normal. Something happens, like an old ajusshi throwing a cell phone at my face, or having an ajumma give me a two-handed push in the street, or being told “if only you could learn to be more KOREAN…” Something happens, and I know, I’m not in the Desert anymore. I know: I LIVE IN KOREA.
Of course, it isn’t always when bad things happen. I also think, “Oh yeah, I LIVE IN KOREA,” every single time I eat soon doo boo jigae for 3000 won ($2.80). I think it when I see Korean men linking arms on the street leaving the norebang and Korean girls taking out a full size mirrors from tiny purses. I think it when I travel from Daejeon to Busan and watch the waves flow toward the skyscrapers at Haeundae Beach. I think it when I spend an entire afternoon in the underground bargaining, shopping, and buying purses. I think it when I see couples in head-to-toe matching outfits. I think it when I answer the phone and someone hangs up on me because the ONLY word I say in perfect Hangukuh is “yobuhsayo!” (hello!) And I think it when I hold the babies at the orphanage and remember how easily my life could have been truly Korean.
My birth may have been an accident, but I must stop living my life so haphazardly. Every year, I feel like a square peg, belonging no where and to no one. My adventures in Korea have only reinforced this reality. What I’m coming to accept is that as much as I have felt uncomfortable with convention, secretly I’ve probably hoped that the right unconventional choice will enable me to embrace a super conventional existence. I don’t think that’s how it works. It’s time for me to feel the edges of my box and understand that being square means I just have a larger platform to create change for myself, and ultimately – hopefully – for others. I want to begin dreaming bigger about the ways that I can be a catalyst for change, I must begin forcing myself to think on a grander scale about how I can marry my social worker heart, my legal training, and my analytic brain to be innovative. To feel satisfied, I have to feel useful, and lately, I’ve just been sorting through ideas of how that can happen. It’s time for me to remember what it means to make a master plan, except this time, I must make myself its mistress.
So, I’m back at start. AGAIN. Except, this time, I live in Korea*.
*OR, I will again after this PAID eight week visit to the USA… ^-^
Something shiny is over there!
Yup. I just now started doing 11 things at the same time, including: starting a PowerPoint for tomorrow’s AM class, outlining Thursday’s class, beginning a semester outline for tomorrow’s afternoon class, dialing to call my mom (the magicjack is not working), uploading pictures, starting a new blog on my writing site, grading papers, making tea, cleaning the bathroom, and writing this blog. WHEW. Now, none of them are finished, but I did manage (importantly) to change the profile pic on Facebook.
So, I decided I’m probably not gonna love where I am in Korea. This might be because I miss the beach, or because I miss the sunshine, or because I miss all the things that are bad for me at home (yeah, we all know who he is), or because for the most part, working according to someone else’s rules and opinions is not really that much fun. And I’m getting really tired of people telling me it can’t be that bad, because guess what? When I’m having a conversation with someone in America, only one of us is in Korea deciding that I don’t like it here in Korea. Wait, what? You are in America? Then it’s probably me who gets to decide if I’m not having fun in Korea.
However, sometimes my annoyingly well-intentioned, intelligent, reasonable friends have good meaningful points that seep into my self-righteous rightness from time to time. I don’t know how. What I do know is that I was once a terribly reasonable person, and I can reinstitute reason for a few months/years. To that end, here’s a list of things that are going well in Korea:
1. My hair is growing out. Yes, it’s because I got three bad haircuts in Korea last spring and I’m scared to get my hair cut. And it might also be because Not BF told me it would be IMPOSSIBLE for me to resist cutting it when I got back to Korea. Quote: “You’ll never make it. You will cut. You just keep cutting.” I think he knows reverse psychology does not work on me. But a CHALLENGE always does. I’m gonna win.
2. I got paid.
3. Wagger-Grace has not died of broken-heartedness in my absence. Shit. I hope that’s not why my dad was calling me yesterday. Dad, if you read this, just lie and say Wagger-Grace is alive and well and happily eating lots of people food. And, just to make me feel even more secure, also lie and say her dog ear is all better, she learned a new trick, and she has regained her sprightliness.
4. I have eaten so much ramyeon I may be completely made of msg and noodles. Ramyeon is delicious.
5. Etude House had a 30% off sale today.
6. My friend Lynne made me homemade soup because I felt sickly.
7. It is not 100 degrees outside.
8. I go to visit Inje Dey-hahk-gyo in two weeks and have a 5 day break from my 16 hour work week.
9. I have a 16 hour work week.
10. I finally finished The Girl Who Played with Fire (except now, I have run out of English books. I’ll have to read my textbooks for fun).
11. I do not have to read/hear/listen/see any campaign propaganda except on Facebook, where I just block people left and right. Pun intended.
It might not be much, but it’s a start… I know more challenges are to come as I begin the next goal in my Korean Adventure… With all my might, I regard myself as an observer in Korea. And it appears it will take all my might and resolve to remind others that that is my perspective, my philosophy about my current status, and my desire. Not all returning adoptees want to be “remade” or reintegrated or re-Koreanified. Right now, I’ve been kind about my stance. Soon, I will dig in. (All of my loved ones just sucked in their breath). But for now, I’ll just observe, breathe, and take a nap whenever I can…
OKAY, I must return to the 11 Things I started 15 minutes ago….
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…