As I try to look back on this past year in Korea and come to some sort of conclusion about things I’ve learned or ways I’ve changed, I can’t seem to come up with any clear answer.
I’ve learned a lot and certainly changed in a lot of ways, but Korea is not a complete story for me yet. This is still the beginning.
Who knows exactly how long I’ll be here, but I hope that there’s still a long while left before I officially put the book end on the other side of my Korean story.
So this is definitely not a “What I learned in Korea” post. There’s still tons left for me to learn. This is more of a “something I already knew to be true but learned in a more personal way in 2017 and hope to carry with me into 2018” kind of post. But that doesn’t make a good title.
My biggest take away from this year living and working in Korea is this; love speaks no language. A massive cliché if ever there was one, forgive me, but something I’ve thought about a lot nonetheless.
This is something that we all know on some level. I learned this first when I started teaching in America and got to meet, and come to love, my friends from all over the world despite varying degrees of “language barriers.” But this year I was able to see it even more clearly and personally because now I’m the one who doesn’t speak the language of the people and places around me.
I learned this from my students who I love fiercely despite not having the same native language. I’m proud of my ability to downshift my speaking to an understandable level, but even outside of that SO much of my love for them is communicated in laughs, smiles, and a patience as they search for the right words.
I also know that they love me, not always through their words, although “TEACHER I LOVE YOU!” shouted down the hallway does have a certain charm. I can see it in their eyes when they ambush me after class to see if I’ve heard the newest BTS song. I can hear it in their voices when they give an answer in class that they’re not 100% sure is correct. I can feel it when the little girls appear out of no where on sports day and surround me with hugs and vies for attention. Or when the older boys find me in a cafe after school one day and all come inside to see what I’m doing and say hello.
I love my coworkers, the ones who speak English and the ones who don’t alike. I love the ones who don’t for sitting through my bad Korean, and I love the ones who do for translating what I say much more eloquently then I ever could. I can feel that they love me when everyone’s decided it’s time to take a break and eat ramen together in the office and suddenly all eyes turn to me and say “Devon! Ramen!”
I learned that much fewer words than I realized are necessary to build a relationship. My lovely, eternally patient, language exchange partner (turned real friend) showed me this. I cannot express myself fully in Korean, but still she understands. My Korean is objectively not good, but we laugh together and talk about the same things any friends would. It just takes more time.
Words are not everything because, even though there are people back home who I am not really in contact with, I know that I am not entirely forgotten. When we finally get to talk, it’s like no time has passed.
I know that, here in this country that is not mine, in a language that is not mine, that I am loved. That’s really special and made the past year away from my friends and family a whole lot easier.
I’m excited to start our next school year less worried about exactly what I say to my kids, and confident in the fact that they are a million other ways to tell them that I love them.
Thanks for reading.
Sorry, as usual, for another overly sentimental rambling.
Happy new year!!