Just Living Life

So while we all wait for Jason to write about the rest of our trip to Japan (including New Years Eve) I have decided to write a little bit about what’s going on right now since it is Feb. 4th and it has been quite awhile since we have had a regular update.

Since returning to work after our holidays, we have fallen right back into the groove of things. I think the biggest difference this month has been the feeling of home Korea has brought. On our way home to Busan from Japan, I really couldn’t wait to get home and relax in our apartment. It really brought peace to my hectic mind that I would know where to go if the mood struck for Thai food and to not have to think really really hard about what subway to get on (Japan was a maze!

I personally have been feeling extremely comfortable in our surroundings these past few weeks. Some of you ask if I miss home and the answer is always yes. I miss so many people and things very much. Usually I try to deny myself too many thought about the subject because it can be overwhelming to think about how long it’s been since I have seen most of you:(  We just had a very interesting topic at philosophy club that touched on the subject of “why travel.” I think we have now moved more towards living end of things rather than officially “traveling” on our little spectrum of life. We do work 40 hours a week, go to the grocery store, gym, dinner with friends…. it’s really not very different from our lives back in the states. Yeah, except we are in Korea. I often go through an entire day without truly realizing that yes, I am 6000 miles away in some foreign land where I don’t speak the language (very much!). I think being in an all English speaking school helps with the mirage and keeps me sane. There are many things that also contribute to a sense of normalcy, my favorite being 1) my new oven 2) our new spin bike 3) SKYPE!!!!

Overall, I have to say that after living in a foreign place for an extended amount of time, living in Korea can be comparable to being in a relationship and the typical stages a couple might go through over time. And just because I am a super nerd, some of the stages also remind me of the levels groups go through as they learn to perform together (thanks recreation degree!).  Let me explain….

Stage 1-The Honeymoon Stage-

This stage can last anywhere from 1 week to 3 months in my opinion. Everything is awesome, Korea can do no wrong. Even if there are little things that bother a person, they are likely overlooked because it’s all new and you are still getting over the shock of being somewhere completely new. I love this stage (obviously). I can vividly remember thinking that everything new was the most unique thing ever. It was constant eye candy walking down the street. Every face, weird English shirt, fashion statement and plastic food display brought a smile to my face. Wow, I’m in Korea. I thought about it all the time. Finding vegetarian food was a challenge at this point, not a pain. The little things from home were not too missed at this point. I probably could have passed up some American style pancakes at this point and been ok. Life is an adventure and Korea was our newest conquest.

Stage 2-STORMING

Ahhh everyone hits this stage. We have joked about it and have determined the average storming period happen  around 4 months into teaching in Korea. All of a sudden, everything is weird, you can’t believe they do this, why do they do that, the food is so gross, what the hell is kimchi anyways and why do the Korean’s love it (nation dish that is fermented cabbage), the kids are driving you nuts at school, etc. etc. This is thankfully about the time we got a 10 day vacation which enabled us to refresh and miss the craziness. We hit this stage a little early in Korea because we had been traveling for 4 months before-hand. Being vegetarians also expedited this stage because we really started missing all the wonderful foods that we had gotten used to while we were in Hawaii. I think every Korean teacher/traveler hits this point where you realize how much you miss the comfortable life of home. Now the adventure is still there, but you crave the ease of just knowing things and being able to do things on auto-pilot. I think Jason hit this stage and needed about 10 banana muffins to make him calm down. It’s official, we miss home.

Stage 3-Norming

I feel we are in this stage right now. We are feeling very comfortable in our surroundings, including the food situation. It has really helped us to feel more at home by getting out there and finding people with similar interests to us. We were really lucky to meet Hyesook and Ryan our first week. We work with Hyesook and she is married to an American name Ryan. Well, Ryan has lived in Korea for 6 years and he is a vegetarian! As soon as Hyesook found out that we were veg heads, she offered to take us to their favorite veggie place, The Loving Hut. Well it was love at first bite. They showed us all the great places to eat and helped us figure out where to get our favorite veggie stuff. We really owe our first 3 months to them. They also were part of the philosophy club that we joined. Again, we can’t ever thank them enough for helping us out the first few months and for being such great friends.

 Thanks to Ryan and Hyesook, we  joined a philosophy club that meets every Sunday morning at Starbucks. Sometimes the topics are deep but mostly they are useful for fun conversation and brain exercise. The best part about philosophy club is that we have met the most amazing people (both Korean’s and foreigners). We usually go to to lunch together after we meet and also do other activities like game nights and Thanksgiving dinner. We also joined a climbing gym which is a great place to make Koren friends. Put that with Korean lessons each Saturday and all of a sudden our schedule is full and we are feeling the Korean love.

Last weekend was the first weekend where I felt completely at home. It was a really busy weekend, but it was great. We went out on Friday night with all the foreign and Korean teachers at our school to say goodbye to our manager Lynn. After dinner, we hit up the singing room until 2am! The next day we were up early for a Yoga open house at our yoga studio “Ashanti Yoga.” We have been taking private lessons from Shanti herself for about a month and we were eager to support her. Well, it was an amazing turn out with about 40 people coming to practice together. We felt really honored because Shanti asked us to demonstrate some of the series. If you took one of her classes, you would know that she is very picky about everything so even though I have been practicing yoga for a few years, I feel like a beginner with her! Anyway, that night we had 8 of our friends over for a game night. We played “Apples to Apples” , drank wine, and had a ton of snacks! The evening was a hit and I really enjoyed the company of our new friends in Korea. Part of the “norming” has been meeting the most amazing people here from all over the world. The next morning, we were off to philosophy club, lunch with the club, and then climbing with some club members. Just when I thought the day couldn’t get any better, we were invited to attend a quiz night at a bar from 8pm-12am! Needless to say, it was a busy weekend.

So what’s the point and big deal about last weekend? No, I’m not trying to brag, but it’s hard to put into words the feeling I got being around all of our friends here. We are at the point now where people really know us and feel comfortable around us. We aren’t in the awkward “getting to know you phase” that can sometimes last forever.  It is much easier to feel comfortable in a place with wonderful people who help to take your mind off of the wonderful people you miss back home.

Stage 4-Performing

We aren’t full there yet. I think the last few months will be total bliss, knowing that a few months in the states is on the horizon but we still will have the opportunity to enjoy the summer months in Busan. All I know is that I can’t wait. I really enjoy spending my days smiling at the present moment but having so much to look foward to.

Ash

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