Monday, February 17, 2014

6 months.

It's official--I've been in Korea for 6 whole months.  I'm officially halfway through my contract.

6 months ago at this time I was overcome with nerves, excitement, and nearly paralyzing uncertainty about what I was doing or why exactly I was even doing it.

I can still recall my feelings from my last day at home in such a complete, vivid way.

I remember feeling sick to my stomach the whole day before I left.  I remember the absolute lack of appetite I had, forcing myself to eat even the smallest bites at the Mahrajan.  I remember having to wear sunglasses outside at night as I tried to eat that said food because every time I looked around I started to cry.  I remember stressing over attempting to pack my life into two lonesome suitcases.  I remember crying as I hugged my parents goodbye and the long car ride to the airport with my sister that I wanted to go faster--just to get it over with, yet didn't want to end because I knew that then I would have to get out and everything would be real. I would really have to leave.
Hard to believe it's been  6 months since I said these hard goodbyes. Don't be fooled by our smiles--there were plenty of tears behind those sunglasses. 
I remember thinking I had to be crazy.  I remember thinking I had made a huge mistake for deciding to leave such a great life behind.

But still, I got on the plane and moved to a country I had never even been to, not knowing what town I would be living in or what exactly I would be doing for work.

I remember all my thoughts and feelings from that time so clearly, but I couldn't feel more distant from the girl I was at that time. Six months later, I wouldn't have done a single thing differently.  These have been the best six months of my life.

Over the past six months, I have met people who have welcomed me and made me feel comfortable in a country that is on the other side of the world from my homeland.  I've had the privilege of teaching the best behaved students I've ever met (not that EVERY class is well-behaved, but some are hands down the best I've ever worked with).  I've traveled around Korea and spent weekends exploring cities I had previously only ever heard of, and sometimes never heard of.  I traveled to Thailand, pet tigers, rode elephants, and saw some of the most impressive man-made sights I've ever seen.  I've made friends with people from around the world, experienced strange and sometimes uncomfortable cultural differences, expanded my worldview, and overall, had my life impacted in millions of ways that have changed me in ways I'm not even sure of yet.

Over the past few years I've struggled with my tendency of living in the past. I spent a lot of time (especially during college) thinking about things that could have been.  There were relationships I wish had gone differently, and decisions I wish I would have handled in other ways. My tendency of staying stuck in the past was a terrible habit, and ultimately destructive to my happiness.

However, these days I don't find myself living in the past at all.  Yes, I'm still a person that spends a lot of time reflecting, but now I am thankful for everything that has led me to this point--everything that has led me here.  If there had been anything that had been different, who knows if I would have ended up here, having this experience that for some reason or another, I think I was always meant to have.

I love my life in Korea.  In many ways, this job feels like a break from reality.  When people tell me they admire me for doing what I'm doing here, I can't help but laugh. Yes, it's not always easy being so far away from home and sometimes I get sick of having a language barrier or feeling like an outsider. However,  having taught in the US before coming here, I know that life here is easy (ok, maybe I'm a little impacted by the fact that right now is vacation.  I may feel differently once school starts up again).  But I have so much free time both at home and at school that I've experienced minimal work-related stress. Seriously, there are so many times when I'm deskwarming and I have to stop and think "They're really paying me to just SIT here?"  Even when it's mind-numbingly boring, I know that I'll never again get paid so well to do so little.

But perhaps what has really made my time here so great is the people. The community in Jeomchon is exactly what I was hoping for but never imagined I'd actually get when I decided to come to Korea. And it certainly doesn't hurt that my friends all live in my neighborhood and we get to hang out all the time.  It's kind of like college, just better because instead of having to study all the time while being continually broke, we finish work at 5:00 and get a paycheck every month.  Of course, perhaps best of all, I get to travel around, often with these great people, and I make enough money so that I haven't had to stress about making ends meet. If that isn't living the easy life, I don't know what is.

These are all things I know I won't experience when I leave this life behind. It's something I'm poignantly aware of.  As much as I have thrown myself into my life here, with every amazing experience I have I am simultaneously aware of the fact that my time here is fleeting. It's a bittersweet awareness that eventually I'm going to have to say goodbye, whether I'll want to or not.

So cheers, Korea.  I have learned so much about Korean culture, done things I never could have imagined, and cultivated relationships that I hope will last a lifetime.Thanks for the best 6 months of my life.  I'm still waiting for that whole culture shock thing to happen to me, but even so, I can only hope that the next 6 will be just as amazing.

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