Over the past two and a half years I have detailed a lot of my feelings about Korea on this blog. I am, by nature, an overly sentimental person and so looking back on my posts from when I first arrived in Korea they read as such. Overly sentimental.
But the truth is that they were always my honest feelings. This space has always been a way for me to try to, by writing things down, immortalize them in my memory. Always done in a desperate attempt to hang on to the feelings I was having at the moment because I recognized them as something special, new, and important.
But the way I experience Korea now is very different.
I still have a lot of feelings about Korea but the ‘newness’ and ‘excitement’ have faded to give way to very profound contentment.
So that’s why I haven’t been posting as much. Not because I’ve fall off the earth, or I’m going through anything. Quite the opposite. I’m just super content.
Korea to me now is so much more than “5 types of classes you’ll have an EPIK teacher.” or “what to expect from your first 6 months in Korea.”
Korea is my home. Daejeon is my second hometown that I will ardently defend from anyone who dares to call it boring. It will forever be the place that I entered the workforce and started my adult life.
It’s my people here, not a single one of whom probably can grasp the true depth of what their friendship has meant to me. It’s the help they did not have to give me, but offered without a second thought. It’s the conversations in which we have both learned something new.
Korea is the thing in my life that I am the most proud of, that I could make a home and a life here 7,000 miles away from everyone I’ve ever known. In a culture and a language that isn’t mine. It’s my Korean, incredibly broken though it may be, spoken in an an attempt to understand the people I meet here with their words, not mine.
Korea is my desk in the 3rd grade office where my kids come to tell me little stories that I cherish in deepest parts of my heart. It’s the silly boys showing off their new dance moves, it’s my buddy girls sitting on the floor next to my desk worrying about their music test next period, and a precious face I’ve watched grow up over the last three years trying not to cry telling me that she lost her essay for English class.
It’s the sofa next to my desk where two of my former students sat for 45 minutes Friday afternoon telling me about the past two years of high school and how fast time seems to go. That feeling of having come full circle talking to these students who were mine when I didn’t know how to teach or how to speak Korean. But being able to say to them, in their own language now, that, “I am proud of you. I loved being your teacher. Keep working hard, you are doing so well.”
Korea is my tiny apartment littered with representations of memories of my time here that I know I will not have the heart to let go of when it’s time for me to leave. A small bundle of flowers from teacher’s day, letters written by my kids, bus tickets to Seoul, my winter coat bunched up in a corner, leftover worksheets from my grade 1 lesson last week.
It’s my teammates at volleyball where I am not just a foreigner. I’m the mistakes I make and the points the score just like everyone else. I am a teammate. I am “데본아” and “데본이.” Someone they can tease and complain to and gossip with.
Korea is my co-teachers both past and present. The ones who have taken care of me, were understanding when I was sick, and who stood up for me when doctors tried to dismiss my problems. The ones who respected me as a colleague even when I was learning everything for the first time. Who marched into battle with me for classes we’d consider a success if a fist fight didn’t break out.
And as the only two people in the entire world who know what it’s like to be in a classroom together with these particular kids in our particular situation on that particular day, the jokes, the memories, the observations, the joy, the and concerns are all the more meaningful.
It is also the ones who have left me to fend for myself, who I look up to find have disappeared in the middle of a class that could very well eat me alive. The ones whose disengagement teaches the kids they can disengage as well. They have equally shaped my experience here. And for the good moments and the bad moments I am proud of myself.
Korea isn’t this thing that I’m looking at from the outside. It’s just my life. It’s my home.
And that’s why I don’t have as much to write here anymore.
I am just happy. I am so happy here.
I don’t write on here as much, not because I don’t have anything to say, but because my life here no longer feels like this role that I’m playing. Something I that I can comment on as an outside observer. I just feels like my life. Like something incredibly personal.
“A Korean friend of mine” doesn’t seem like the right way to refer to someone through whom I have been given insight into understanding of a country and culture so incredibly different from my own.
The word “co-teacher” doesn’t contain the incredibly wide range of roles that my co’s have played in my life.
And “some of my girls who graduated last year” could never convey how incredibly fulfilled and proud I felt sitting across from them in a cafe while they chattered away about their new high school lives.
Like showing pictures of your pets and nieces to other people, it’s just one of those things that you know no one else will appreciate the quite way that you do. And as far as I’m concerned that’s way more special.
Things are good. I’m good. And I hope you are too!
Thanks for reading 🙂