I've been tired recently, tired of feeling like half of my friends could care less if I come or go. I've made friends in Korea, had relationships, boyfriends, too. Sometimes though I wonder how much the term friend means to my counterparts. I realized this on my first stint in the country, actually deciding to stay for a second year partially because I saw my relationships just beginning to blossom and wanted to give them more time to cultivate. I've maintained most of those friendships, people I met through various connections, old co-workers and even students, but sometimes it's hard.
I've had a snap back to reality over the past few weeks. I had been getting comfortable in Korea, imagining a life here, longer than one year contracts and temporary housing. I considered it, I dove head first into my language books, prepared for the long haul, but ultimately this isn't where I'll end up.
I'm quickly noticing a trend in the students that I write about here. There's one class in particular who continues to bring fresh ideas to the table, causing me to take a pause and listen to what their small minds have crafted. Again my students have impressed and entertained me with some of their thoughts, what's even more exciting is that these writings were delivered during my first class on a Monday afternoon. Typically students struggle to get their acts together after a weekend away from the books (or classroom at least), but these kids avoided the Monday blues and shared their ideas with enthusiasm and laughs - even if they all did claim "Teacher my writing is very strange". This week the writing prompt was "What do you hope your generation can accomplish, and do you think it will be possible?"
I'm continuously impressed or entertained by some of the work my students complete and finally realized I should be sharing some of it. One of my classes recently had the writing topic 'What is most important' and as you'll see, their answers were pretty stellar.
For more reasons than one this past week has been a struggle. Coming into the summer months I thought things would just cruise along, but apparently life just can't always be that easy. I set myself up for a long week by visiting a friend in Mokpo last weekend, it wasn't the visit that was a problem, just the effort it takes in getting there. Wanting to maximize our time I decided to stay until Monday, and thanks to traffic that meant arriving back in Andong at 2:30 before my class at 4:00pm, not ideal. This week also marked the beginning of reading classes, a nice shift from the 45 minute vocabulary sessions I previously was in charge of, but I can see it's going to be a challenge for some students. My real issue came on Tuesday when Sam sprang a new schedule on me, adding another minion class to my current late start days, and stealing a few of my favorite students.
First I want to congratulate myself for staying in such a [relatively] positive mood after getting hit by a car and dealing with it all in a foreign country. The accident, dealing with insurance, multiple doctors visits and a remaining scar on my face were not thing I had planned for the month of May, but I dealt with it. Today though I reached my breaking point, in fact I actually almost came to tears, the only time throughout all of this, but it wasn't because of the pain, discomfort or scar. These tears were due to the frustration I felt with the people around me, the receptionists, dental hygienist and dentist himself who treated me this morning. This morning, on my second visit to "Mr. Woo's Dental Clinic" I felt like a complete outsider, the fact that I was the 위국인 or 'foreign white girl' was clearly evident, and I was not amused. I get that I stand out in Korea, Andong especially, but I'm generally a pretty good sport about it. I don't when kids point, stare or do a double take, I even take pictures with random strangers when they ask, but today my visit to the dentist office left a bad taste in my mouth.
For as high as my spirits were on Monday, I woke Tuesday with a heart and head full of "this.sucks." Waking up stiff from head to toe with new aches and pains as I rose from bed set the tone for the day, but I tried to beat it. I was up early so gave it some time before texting Sam to see if we'd be able to go get my bandages changed. He responded that we'd first meet the insurance man at my place around 11 and could go take care of my face after. Like I said before, my mind was anywhere but on the legalities of the accident, but I'd soon have to deal with that too, once again so glad I had Sam.
The two of them were at my door shortly after 11 and after they talked for a while Sam explained "my choices". Apparently the police were arguing that the accident was in fact my fault, actually this blog post does a good job of describing the details involved with bikes in Korea. The officer said there was no bicycle lane on the sidewalk so I should have been riding on the road, although the sidewalk was divided half red/half white, which in my understanding represents a bicycle lane, but I digress. Thankfully, like I said before, the man that hit me was not an asshole, took responsibility for the incident and was willing to pay for the damages. Sam explained because of the laws the payout may be less (me taking partial fault) and that I had two choices: 1. A lump sum payment up front or 2. Submission of all medical costs to his insurance with possible additional payments after. I've still yet to make the decision on this, but either way I feel like things will be okay. I had a few moments of "what the hell" thoughts as we sat and discussed, but as the meeting came to a close I was feeling better.
It's been a while since my last post, but I'm guessing this one will draw a little attention. Last weekend, I ventured up to Seoul to meet an old High School friend, Anna. Coincidently we met each other only two weeks ago, when I traveled to Thailand and was able to see Anna in Bangkok, where she's currently living and teaching. This time around though it way my turn to play tour guide, and I can proudly say I did a fine job of it. I spent yet another weekend falling deeper in love with this country. Saturday night we accomplished a full night out in Gangnam, thanks in part to our awesome Couchsurfing host, full of Korean BBQ, Soju, Beer, Chicken Butt, and of course Noraebang (Karaoke). Sunday followed suit, despite a creeping headache, with more delicious food, a visit to both the Bukcheon Hanok village and Ihwa Mural village, a stop for coffee near The Blue House, quick breeze through Gwangjang Market and ending it all back in Gangnam. Needless to say we were in bed early and before long Monday morning came and it was time to say goodbye, with me heading back to Andong. Thoughts of "I don't want to work today" were swimming through my mind as I arrived, and as luck would have it I got the day off, but not under the best of circumstances. I got to spend the afternoon at Andong Hospital, after a car decided it'd be fun to knock me off my bike...
I recently had to remind myself that I was 'doing it', fulfilling the dreams of my 16 year old self, and while doing so I had another realization. On my recent trip through Europe I was able to revisit friends I had previously met on the road, some from my time in Korea, a few backpackers from SE Asia and even a few high school friends. It was shortly after this trip that I remembered my desires to make such friends when I was studying abroad in Australia. I remember thinking how cool it would be to befriend people from different countries so that I could one day go and visit them at home, having that local knowledge of where to go, what to eat and what to do, with the added bonus of that person being someone I wanted to spend time with. Umm hello, this is reality, and so freaking cool
In today's modern world it's the person who doesn't have a smart phone or tablet readily available as their fifth limb. We're now in a place where technology rules our lives, we've become dependent on apps to teach us how to cook, when to work out, and most importantly how to build, nurture and grow our relationships. While the advances in technology may have greatly enhanced certain aspects of our lives, I can't help but feel they're slowly destroying others.
I may be able to credit my love/hate relationship with this technological world to my age. Born at the tail end of Generation X and the cusp of the Millennials, I'm somewhere in between. As this article states, those of us lucky enough to be born in this gap find ourselves with a "unique perspective that's half analog old school and half digital new school". We've evolved with this technology and thus know how to navigates the ins and outs of it with ease, but we can also recall a time before it all and sometimes, are still able to unplug.