Thursday, January 25, 2007

Culture Shock Recovery

A few days ago I passed the one year mark of my sojourn from the States and my arrival to South Korea. I wasn't quite sure if I was going to make it this far but I was pretty sure I could. What are my plans for this next year? I'll be damned (that's an expression, not a plan). Every time I come up with a definitive plan, something changes. Listed are my previous plans that have fallen in chronological order:

1. Stay with Avalon school for an extra month and then visit the states in March before returning to Korea.
2. Teach public school in March. Come home for a month in February.
3. ?
4. Stay at Avalon school until May, come home for two months during the summer and return to Korea in August.

As to date, that last plan stands, but we'll see. I've always said that I never know what I'm going to do until I do it, so I don't have the best planning skills in the world. I would say that I'm a free spirit that can't be chained down, but I think it's more fair to say that I'm terribly indecisive and unbelievably unorganized. You say ta-may-to, I say tom-ah-to.

I have been a little more homesick as of late. It hasn't been the homesick when you're crying on the phone to mom about how much you hate kimchi and can't wait to come back home. It's just been a yearning to see friends and family that has slowly become stronger and stronger. Below is other things I miss from the states other than friends and family.

1. The cat. I know he probably goes under both friends and family but he will be recognized here as well.
2. American food. Please send turkey, tacos, mash potatoes and gravy.
3. Sunflower Seeds. Mom and dad, my wintertime Christmas stash is almost gone. Please send more.
4. Bowling. They have bowling here but the alleys don't serve beer and you have to cheer for everyone who gets a strike. I'm not cheering unless there's beer.
5. Snowboarding. I know there's snowboarding here, but I'm a Salt Lake snob, who turns up his nose at the prospect of renting gear. I know I'll eventually cave on this one.
6. Frisbee Golf. Frisbees are kind of foreign here, let alone golfing with one.
7. My Car. The first thing I'm going to do when I get home is drive to the middle nowhere, hop out and spin around in circles marveling at the wide open spaces and the lack of smog.
8. American Bars. It's kind of nice to go out and play pool or darts or foosball, rather than just drink and stare at my friends (no offense friends).

However, I already know the things I'll miss when I leave here:
1. The food. Restaurants here are great for the following reasons: the food is hot and spicy, service is prompt and there's no tipping. I'll be a terrible customer when I get back to the states and get all indignant when I have to leave more money than the bill says I do.
2. Public Transportation. I get pissed when I have to wait for longer than 10 minutes for a bus here.
3. The Ease of my Job. If you think teaching is tough in Korea, try and teach in the states.
4. The Security of this Land. Crime is rare and very infrequent. I can't think of another huge city where people leave their cars running when they dash into convenience stores and children still wander around at 12 at night.
5. The Language. It's not like I'm an expert at Korean language, in fact the opposite is true, but it's kind of nice to walk around ignorant to what people are saying around me.
6. Convenience. Despite the language barrier and the traffic, Korea is very convenient. Case in point, there's a twenty-four hour convenience store in my apartment building.

There's more to these list but it would take too much writing and thinking to get it all down and I'm feeling tired and lazy. I'll leave you with one last story that I hope illustrates a point. When I was getting my TESOL Certification, the TESOL instructor was describing culture shock to us. She said, "Some symptoms are listlessness, loneliness, apathy, depression, social anxiety and a feeling of isolation." My one classmate looked at our instructor and said, "Oh hell, I've had culture shock for the last six years here in America." Here's to getting over culture shock where ever you may be.

Because I can't post without leaving some pictures, below are some stolen pics taken awhile ago.

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