Thursday, May 16, 2013

What my Mom ['s Visit] Taught Me

I wouldn't be a good blogger if I just retold my stories and left it at that, or maybe I would because that's all you really care about.  Either way, I figure I should shed some more light on my life here in Korea - how's it going, aside from the crazy adventures, travel, sightseeing and amazing students. Like how is it really going? After having my mom here for a week to visit I truly got a whole new perspective on my life here, both the good and the bad. So here's a few things I learned about myself...thanks mom.

1. I've adapted..
I'm pretty sure I've lost track of the number of times someone has told me "I think you are really Korean", obviously despite the looks and language (although that is slowly improving), I've really come to love and grasp all aspects of life here.  The  most obvious is the food, there are really only two things I've found to dislike here (Bondeggi and sea cucumber), but can you blame me? Naturally, as you wound in any country, I have my preferences for food - 국수 and 낭면 aren't at the top of my list, but will I eat them, sure. What really gets my students and co-teachers is that my favorites are the spicy or truly Korean dishes, Kimchi anyone? Actually last week during lunch as my co-workers were commenting on how different my mom's and my taste are (she can't handle spice), I discovered that I can buy Kimchi from our cafeteria - hell yeah! Oh, and if I go more than two days without eating rice, something is seriously wrong. 

Okay, so aside from the food what else?  Well my selca taking ability has greatly improved since I've moved here and my cell phone is now a permanent attachment on my hand. Actually that's probably a universal thing but seriously Korean's love their smart phones. Not sure if I should be happy about that or not, but it's life. I no longer question things like why the bus driver plays games with the aircon on the bus, hot/cold, on/off - just deal with it. I use words like aircon and eye-shopping. I expect there to be corn on my pizza or served as a side dish when I go out for drinks. If I'm out for dinner I expect at least four side dishes, two of which should probably be different varieties of kimchi. I understand that it's completely acceptable to park wherever you please, make a right turn from the left hand lane, cut in front of buses, and play chicken with scooters on the side walk (because that's where they drive).  I've developed a strong love/hate relationship with soju and have a whole new understanding for epic hangovers. 

One of about 6 pictures caught on my phone.

2. I'm a good teacher
I generally consider myself to be a pretty humble person, I don't like to toot my own horn, and am often embarrassed when my mom brags about me.  I guess sometimes I don't give myself enough credit for the things that I do, so it helps to have people in my life to remind me of those things.  During the week my mom was here to visit I continually heard teachers, as well as students, praising me. "We really love Stephanie, she is such a good teacher"  - I guess I knew that my staff and students loved me, but it never hurts to hear it. The fact that they were bragging to my mom and not the other way around really made it that much more special. I know my family loves, values and admires me, but to hear it from all of these people, who were nearly strangers a year ago, well that made my day. 

3. I have some amazing people in my life
To piggy back on number two, hearing the appreciation and admiration from my co-workers and students made me realize how much I love them. Last year when everyone asked me "Why did you move to Korea" I sometimes had trouble finding the right answer - the desire to live abroad, experience the world and learn about new cultures were all there, but specifically Korea? To be honest, there were jobs available, I met the requirements, and the pay was pretty nice.  But now, after living here for a year I much prefer the question "Why did you stay in Korea?", this one is easy for me to answer - the people, more specifically my staff and students.  Not only did I choose to stay in Korea for an additional year, I chose to stay in Buksam a small town with Gumi as it's big brother - not quite the Seoul or Busan you read about. Sure making the decision to stay had a little to do with continuing this lifestyle; traveling, making good money, teaching, meeting new people, etc. But honestly, it was the thought of leaving that made me sign that paper - I was only beginning to build strong friendships, there was no way I was ready to leave.

My two moms <3
It's funny because as I told my mom about the various staff I work with I explained that 임동향 is like my mom here in Korea. Especially after traveling around Jeju together we have become a lot closer and I only recently got this feeling, but haven't really expressed it to her.  Surprisingly though, upon meeting my mom she introduced herself as "Stephanie's Korean mom".  I was so happy to hear she felt the same way and only then realized just how lucky I am - two moms, in two countries, can you say that? 

Aside from the staff and students that I get to see on a daily basis I have some other amazing friends in my life.  Making the choice to live abroad I wasn't really sure what kind of friendships I would make - sure i'd find people to travel with, go shopping, see movies and of course drinking, but would these really be people that would stay with me for the rest of my life - or only fill that gap while I was away? In one word, yes. I quickly realized that living abroad your friendships grow that much faster, you quickly find those people you both enjoy and trust - someone who can fill in as your family when they're not available.  As I tried to squeeze in many dinners, coffee dates and outings for my mom to meet everyone I quickly realized how many amazing people I have in my life. 

4. I'm strong 
Okay I guess this one kind of relates to the last one - funny how they all pile on. So despite the fact that I just ran a half marathon I still don't really see myself as a runner, crazy I know. It's weird though, for some reason when I see people out running - or posting on facebook about races they've completed I think, "Wow I wish I could do that".  Maybe I just blacked out during my race and forgot what I did? Same goes for my love of yoga, I'm not one of those people that can completely contort myself into a pretzle or gracefully pop up into a headstand, so I don't chalk it up to much. Thankfully my online yoga classes, blogs and various posts I follow often remind me that it's not a matter of how impressive your yoga looks but the fact that you're doing it that counts.  I guess the first time I noticed that I have some skill was when I was traveling in Taiwan with Grant and he told me how strong I was. After devoting myself to training for the half marathon I started to skimp a bit on the yoga, but now that i'm done with that maybe I can put a bit more focus back on my practice - hopefully I'll soon be posting those crazy pretzle and headstand pics. 

This is what 2:05 of running looks like
During my moms visit many of my staff, students and friends commented on how strong  I am, this time in a much less literal sense of the word.  Their comments centered more around my strong character which I once again have discounted myself on.  I guess they're right, not everyone can pack up their lives and move halfway around the world, much less to a country where they don't know a soul and don't speak the language.  Tack on another year which means more time away from friends and family and you may have a recipe for disaster.  But not here, despite the possible homesickness, trouble communicating and culture shock I've been just fine, I guess I've adapted - oh look at that, I've come full circle back to #1.

Until next time...

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful self-reflections, so happy that my visit helped you to realize how amazing you are. I now TOTALLY understand why you love Korea so much - I too fell in love with these wonderful people. When people travel to foreign lands, to often their focus is on the sights and the food, when really the grandest thing of all is the people. Not only have you grown as a person because of your decision but you have opened my eyes, and my heart, to a truly unforgettable experience of a lifetime. I could say, By safe, By Happy.... but I KNOW that you are!! I am so very proud of you. Love, Mom