It’s been two weeks and three days since I moved from Puerto Rico to South Korea. I wanted to write something before, but there was so much going on, I didn’t know what to write about. I do send long e-mails to my family and close friends, but I didn’t want to write such a long blog post. Then today a friend of mine asked me where he could read my blog, and when he found out I had not written anything yet, he said “Get to it, before the original impression fades away forever.” He was absolutely right.
So here it is; my impression of living and teaching in South Korea after my first two weeks. Many emotions have surfaced in this short time. I have felt happy, excited, and relaxed, but also confused, uncomfortable and frustrated.
Confused. As is to be expected, a different language can be quite confusing. Going shopping is not as simple as it is back home where you can read every single label in Spanish and English. Also, moving around, which has always been an issue for me because of my weak sense of direction and ADD (self-diagnosed), is even harder here where I can’t really read a store sign and remember it later or use it as a point of reference.
Uncomfortable. Being stared at is uncomfortable, but I think even more so is knowing that you are different and that it is hard for those around you not to notice. Some people notice you and glance at you for a second, but others stare for a long time. One time on the subway, an old lady was staring the whole time we were riding together. And it wasn’t a “normal” stare, it was an angry stare. When children do it it’s adorable, but grown men and women, not so much.
Frustrated. I’ve also felt frustrated at times when other foreigners complain about Korea or about their foreign friends/co-workers. And I feel kind of bad talking about this because these same foreigners have made EVERYTHING easier and better for me and have been one of the reasons, if not the major reason for my feeling happy here. So I am extremely grateful for all of them. And after listening to their stories I was able to understand why they had a hard time when they first got here. I guess because of the hardships they experienced they are now able and willing to help me out. But I have to admit at first it frustrated me.
Happy & Excited. I made the decision to move to South Korea simply because it was what I wanted to do. If I had made a decision influenced by someone else, I wouldn’t be here right now. There is something about doing what you really want to do that brings a new kind of happiness to your heart. That’s what I’m experiencing right now. Sometimes I catch myself smiling for no reason when I’m walking alone along the streets of Yongin. Those who know me know that I get excited about the little things, which I think makes me a happier person. Well here every little thing excites me; maybe because it’s new or unexpected, or maybe because everything is just so cute here. Not a pleasant thing, according to my male co-worker.
Also, teaching makes me happy. Teaching is what I do and what I love, and no matter where, if you are doing what you love, you are bound to be happy. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that almost all my students are cute, adorable, and for the most part well-behaved (except for one or two that I want to kick sometimes).
Relaxed. Something that contributes to my being happy here is the fact that I am so relaxed! For the past eight years I’ve been studying and working. The last three years specifically were annoying at times when I had to use my “free time” to study, come up with lesson plans, and correct students’ essays, journals, and quizzes. Now, I only think about work while at work. I don’t have to take work home, so all my free time is actually FREE for me to do whatever I want! Plus, so far, my school has taken care of everything I need. I have no major complaints.
I do miss my family and friends, specially their hugs. I miss having good conversations with my sister and my dad. I miss my niece Sofía and nephews Nathan and Elias. I miss Sofía’s sent (I absolutely do NOT miss my nephews’ “sent,” haha.) And this last one might seem strange: I miss speaking Spanish. But although I am missing a lot, and I’m sure they miss me too, I am making new memories here and will come back with stories and pictures that might make up for the time I’ve been absent.
Two weeks from now (12 days to be exact) I will be moving to South Korea. I am surprisingly calm, although I get a flush of emotions every now and then. It still feels surreal that I will be moving to the other side of the world in just a matter of days, and that I will stay there for a whole year. But like I said, I am surprised at myself because I am this calm. I’m usually very emotional, and since I am very close to my family and have many close and dear friends, I still can’t explain how I am managing to be so relaxed about this nearing big move.
I have noticed a new habit, though. I try to memorize all that I am seeing and experimenting. It’s more than just taking a “mental picture.” I try to burn the images and feelings in my brain. I try hard not to forget how warm it feels while outside and how green my surroundings are. I’ve even caught myself trying to record in my head how it feels to walk barefoot outside. It’s not smooth like indoors. The surface feels rocky and hot, and I want to remember because I might not experience that in Korea. I have recorded in my head my nephews’ laughter, and how my niece stares into my eyes and smiles. I know it’s imprinted in my brain because I can clearly picture it right now.
I could go on, but my eyes are filling with tears and it’s hard to see the computer screen; which reminds me of another thing I’ve noticed. Although I am calm and extremely happy, I always feel a tear ready to drop. If my family is together having a good time and laughing, I become so happy I could cry. When I hear my sister arrive to my dad’s house and see Sofia come in, I feel like I could cry. It’s strange because I haven’t cried yet, but it seems I’m always ready to.
To sum up, I’m experiencing many different emotions. Although I mostly feel overwhelming happiness, sometimes I become nervous and other times melancholic. But, there is no doubt in my mind that this is what I want to do next. I feel proud of myself for deciding to do what I want to do. It sounds easy, to do what one wants to do, but if you ask around you’ll learn that it is not and that many don’t.