Well, it’s Sunday night, and tomorrow morning starts the first day of the Winter term at my Hagwon, i.e. a whole new schedule of classes and a whole new slew of young minds to prod/torture/mold. This seems like as good a time as any to take a moment and reflect on my first three and half months in Korea.
First of all, it seems a little strange to be writing those words- three and a half months. In some ways, my time here has seemed a lot shorter than that. I’ve gotten into a pretty regular schedule, and feel comfortable in my neighborhood and environment. People recognize me at the local bars and restaurants I frequent, even knowing what I’m going to order (perhaps that means I’m a bit too predictable). Even the angry old man who works as the janitor at my local pool has been smiling at me lately. Life is pretty normal.
At the same time, I still experience those “Wow, I’m in Korea, aren’t I?” moments on a fairly regular basis, whether it be while I struggle to explain to my building’s plumber that my toilet is broken, or have to repeat the name of a place four times to a cab driver before he knows where I want him to take me. I’ve enjoyed my time her so far, but that doesn’t mean I’m not missing the comforts and regularities of life in the States—a skype conversation with my family while they enjoyed thanksgiving dinner this week and tried to virtually feed me a forkful of pumpkin pie especially confirmed that feeling.
At school, I still feel like I haven’t quite gotten the hang of this whole teaching thing yet, but every day provides me with a little more experience. I’ll be teaching some upper-level TOEFL classes as well as some regular English classes this coming term, so I am optimistic that my schedule will treat me a little better emotionally and psychologically these next couple of months. The biggest lesson that I’m starting to realize from teaching for 13 weeks is something that my mom likes to tell me on a regular basis: don’t get stressed out about the things in life you can’t control, i.e. most of them. There are a lot of things about what I’m teaching and how my school is organized that has frustrated me at times, but in the end the only thing I can do is try and work around those irritations and do the best with the hand I’m dealt.
Overall, I think there are some pretty nice things that I can hang my proverbial hat on from the last few months. I ran a 10k and am confident that when my bum knee is back to 100% strength, I am capable of training for a marathon (something I never would have dreamed of doing 6 months ago). I’ve lost over 25 pounds since July and feel like I’m in the best physical shape of my young adult life, despite living amongst a crowd of foreigners where eating and drinking healthily is not a particularly high priority. I’ve learned to read and speak (a very little bit) a new language. And I’ve successfully survived as a financially independent person in a country almost 7,000 miles from home. Not too shabby, if I may say so myself.