Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Six Month Assessment

"Do you always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it? I always watch for the longest day in the year and then miss it." Daisy Buchanan, The Great Gatsby

For almost the entire month of July, I anxiously waited for the day in August when I could celebrate my sixth month mark in Korea. But then somehow in the first week of August, I completely forgot that I was going to write this grand soliloquy of a blog post (I suppose all blog posts are soliloquies though aren't they?) And so now I've been in Korea six months and two weeks this go around and here are some things I've learned.

1) I absolutely detest living alone. After living with roommates for the past five years at BYU, the idea of living alone was a dream. Don't get me wrong, there are perks; walking around in your underwear, peeing with the bathroom door open, doing dishes whenever you want (which in my case is usually right after I finish a meal, and believe it our not, that used to drive some roommates crazy). But none of these living alone perks outweigh the perks of companionship. I desperately miss the late night dance parties, the ice cream feasts, and the soul-searching conversations we all shared. I really miss living with my best friends. And as much as I try to drown it out with k-pop, or re-runs of the West Wing, there is nothing more deafening than the silence of living alone.

2) It's rough working nights. That's all.

3) It is hard being a foreigner. This experience has given me a whole new insight on what it means to be an immigrant. Something as simple as buying groceries can be completely overwhelming. Or there are those times when I have so much to say, but absolutely no way to communicate it. I feel like an idiot at least 65% of the time. Also the whole looking different is much harder than I expected it would be. When I was a missionary here, it didn't phase me. But back then, I always had a companion to soften the blow. Now, however, it's a totally different story. And with Korea being such an appearance driven society, my looks get commented on a lot. Usually they are nice comments, occasionally curious (like "why is your face SO RED?" "Becauseeeee it just is...."), rarely rude, and only one time cruel. But still looking so other takes it's toll. This new found empathy I've gained for immigrants to any country took me completely by surprise. But I'm so grateful for learning this empathy through experience. It's made me better.

4) Making friends is hard. I was pretty crippled by shyness in high school. But I overcame that at BYU. Unfortunately it's back again. But somewhere during May I decided to stop being so scared, and I really went out and tried to make friends. I think I have some pretty great ones now. Of course I have a million thoughts a day that I wish I had a best friend here to tell. But thank goodness for the internet which makes best friends in America seem like they're only a city away.

5) Do you want to meet the kindest people on the planet? Come to Korea. I try not to be the helpless American all the time; but sometimes it just can't be avoided. Thankfully there's always someone around to help a girl out when she needs it. But what sets Koreans apart from others, I think, is their willingness to give without being prompted. I went to lunch a few weeks ago with some friends, and they all set some food into my bowl before they even took their first bites. I didn't ask for any and I had a very large amount of food myself. I'm still not sure why they did it exactly. But this is what I do know, Koreans take care of people. It's just what they do. It's in their nature. And I love them for it.

It seems like there were a thousand other things I wanted to write about in this, my grand six month soliloquy. But this will have to suffice for now. Not every day is this exciting adventure that I think my Instagram makes my life seem like sometimes. Some days are hard. Some days the taxi driver is mean to you because you can't speak Korean, or you try on a shirt at a store (because there are dressing rooms), and you didn't know you weren't supposed to try on shirts and then the employee yells at you and you don't quite understand why, or you get lost on the subway, or train, or just walking. But then there are those days... Days when you hear your new favorite song playing on every street corner in the entire city. Days when people feed you the most delicious food you never even imagined existed. Days when you look across your city and you see hills and valleys so beautiful, and you wonder what kind of miracle it was that brought you to this crazy place. Those are the days that I'll cherish from the past six months, and those are the days I'll look forward to with great anticipation in the six months to come.

Unless I extend...

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