back to the main reason of this post: what was life in korea LIKE?? i sense you're dying to know and imma be honest with you...when i first got notified i got accepted into this this i was all, "Shit. What the fucking hell have i gotten myself into??" I can explain. See...i have some issues with a select few koreans and the language has plagued me since my youth (read here for a refresher on my early years). and when i got there..whoooo. it was like reliving the cliques from school and church and, yeah, i couldn't find myself fitting in with any particular group (well, i made friends the first day, but they ended up in different groups and i was long forgotten and i never really saw/talked to them again until the end of orientation in feb...even then,i didn't end up talking to most of them at all). i just wasn't into those kinda people i was so goddamn sick of seeing the same kinda drones, in the korean american sense, that haven't been the nicest of people in my experience.
that was a hard time for me since i was quite excited to meet people i'd enjoy hanging around and maybe visit throughout my time in korea. that might get discussed later.
hm, moving on. when i got to hamyang...it was all right. i really was expecting much, much more worse, like, totally out in the middle of nowhere and farms everywhere (ok, that last part wasn't an exaggeration). and, honestly, i felt out of place when i met some of the other teachers there. and, yeah, it got really, really, really awkward about a month in so...i kinda basically committed social suicide for yet again. at the beginning i couldn't stand how the older people walked in the middle of the sidewalk, creating a nearly impossible labyrinth to maneuver through to get anywhere. i can't even begin to describe the smells. it became apparent in the spring and escalated to atrociousness in the summer. it was madness (but not sparta).
my school life? how was that? yes, it was wonderful learning i'd have to teach at three different schools all within thirty minutes from where i lived.
i was expecting only one, but, gosh, i felt so honored knowing i had to sacrifice a strong relationship with my kids to teach english on alternating days (there were times when these students lashed out, mostly inappropriately, when they discovered the other schools i frequented). it was a WONDERFUL surprise to discover my korean scholar helper had quit on me so I was gonna have to teach and discipline (yeah..none of that really went on) alone. written sarcasm is wonderfully subtle, no? the point i'm trying to make--besides being bombed with the news of having to go to three different place, two once a week--is i never really got to know my students and ..i really wanted to; i thought that was one of the greater positive aspects of this program-which-shall-not-be-named-here. english learning is great and all, but i wanted to leave a nice impression on the kids--i swear i just learned the names of my fourth graders at my main school (well, some second graders, too). the times where i didn't have sufficient teaching materials...or arrived unprepared. oh, the improvisations i made! enough about work and school--hahahaha it's the same thing! i never would have imagined--other aspects of interest occurring in my six months away:
i met my other family i haven't seen in ages. i was barraged with the "do you have a boyfriend?" question and accused of being FAT. the latter was particularly nice to hear from a cousin i last saw as a baby. i kept my cool and took the opportunity to actually get to know them and at times feign an interest or reaction signifying i had learned something interesting/i had never heard before.so, i'll definitely be back to attend my older cousins' weddings, which i hope will happen soon to at least one of them...who's a girl.
to be fatally honest, i shed tears countless times. on the bus, at home, at other people's homes, on the train in seoul, in restrooms...basically everywhere. it wasn't just that i didn't like it there, realizing that all my speculations had come true; i gained a total awareness of the situation and MY LIFE. crazy. i couldn't believe it either at the time. acceptable catharsis time.
aside from all the events i've construed as awful about this overseas occupavation--occupation vacay!--(poignantly those occurring in april, june, and july) this was a good time for me to learn about korea, the not-so-scary-holier-than-thou-seeming side i'd been so accustomed to. seriously, i know nothing beyond k-pop (not even that much) and cute stationery (like japan rip-offs, but still cute nonetheless). i got crazy amounts of history and language and culture thrown at me, it's a shame my head didn't explode.
i remember way back in march, i'm sure it was then, when another english teacher in hamyang asked what i liked about korea. i replied, "I don't know" and went on a mini spiel about how i really didn't like most/any aspects of korea (how would you feel about it if you grew up going to flip parties and witnessing your only 이모 living in the u.s. stress all educational aspects on your once happy cousins). but. i can attest to a few things i found enjoyable during my time there. i grew to like bus rides, my absolute favorite route was on fridays 4:30 or 5:00 PM from Anui to Hamyang. it signified the beginning of the weekend where i could get out of town (i swear, i spent maybe two, three weekends tops, in hamyang and it wasn't great fun...i mostly slept). those were definitely the most relaxing rides. i also liked taking buses that ushered me out of hamyang, back to civilization i had been introduced to upon my arrival (it really wasn't as glamorous as i thought it might be, but what was i expecting anyway?). i also developed an adoration for all the greenery. forestry and mountains--everything reminded me of totoro. it was pleasant to witness that sort of nature.
the combination of bus rides & seeing all the green was splendiferous, i tried to relish it all before i reached my destination. those were the best times i had that i can share with you without revealing all the intimate, often unwantedly surprising, smut i succumbed to. not all of it was heinous. most of it was, but, like i said, i'm not getting into that stuff. not here at least.
and i believe cristal was a godsend. i never told her this, yet intended to in a heartfelt letter, but she was like an older sister to me. we had things in common and were a little similar and the greatest part was she could understand everything i said. i had someone to talk to at work, to bring up my problems and to discuss hers--it was a educational friendship match for the ages. when i return to korea, for that wedding, you know, i vow to visit her (gosh, in anui??). i miss our talks and simultaneous stares of bewilderment when we didn't quite understand the korean spoken at us. hahaha, that was fun..bearable times.
i guess i've vented a little. i want to finish this up. so. maybe you're thinking, "well, i really just wanted this girl to give one word to surmise her feeling, being back in l.a. and all." right. i'mma give it to you: relief. past tense if you know what's good for you.
here's some cream to further express my sentiments.
ok. so this program wasn't the best thing i ever done. i can't exactly call it out, but it's easy to tell which one it is. i'm not saying you shouldn't apply, not everyone grew up like me with vague knowledge of these things that make a harrowing impression. you might be a lucky one who actually has a good time all the time. i can't stress enough how much i felt so...