Time is a funny thing. I think the Doctor said it best when he described time as wibbly wobbly. I've lived in Korea for a few months now but it doesn't feel like I've been gone for so long. One thing is for certain though; I have been here long enough to realize that I am most definitely NOT in Florida anymore. It was inevitable really. The misunderstandings, unaware faux pas. Disconnect between traditions or viewpoints. I have successfully managed to cover the entire spectrum of embarrassing encounters and lived to laugh about it. (or cringe in horror as the case may be.) I have done everything from accidentally high fiving coworkers to completely misreading a mans intent. It has been a very humbling experience to go from having an intellectual understanding that a culture is different to having a full body realization that I am the one that is strange here. On the other hand there is a small level of comfort in knowing that some things are universal. I think this story best illustrates my point.
Last Friday I arrived at my school and was told that we were going on a field trip. I love field trips. This particular field trip was a cooking expedition. Now I'm doubly excited. (free food is the best food.) About an hour into the experience students are dicing up mushrooms and pretending to hit each other with frying pans. Business as usual for middle school students. One of the other teachers approached me and invited me for a walk. Yea ok, it gets a little boring watching others have fun; let's walk around the facilities. I walk outside to see that it's not just a couple teachers taking a quick lap around the building. No it's every single teacher going for a hike up the mountain. This absolutely blew my blonde little brain. Nowhere in America would the staff get away with straight up leaving their middle school students behind with just the staff of wherever you were. That would never happen. Clearly our children were expected to behave because the other teachers had no problems with this. Alright, alright, I can roll with this. So we take a nice leisurely stroll up the mountain and come across an adorable little cottage. Can you imagine my panic when one of the teachers strolled up to the door and basically right into the house? The next thing I know I'm sitting cross legged in a little old ladies house munching on persimmons and drinking coffee. These are the moments in my life when I wonder "how on earth did I end up here?" While this was a surreal moment for me (sitting in a strangers house drinking coffee while my students are down the mountain eating shrooms.) There was one element that was extremely familiar to me. As I sat there listening to this grandmother chatter away I didn't understand 90% of her words but I knew exactly what she was talking about. We got her entire life's story in 45 minutes. An 84 year old woman who lived through the Japanese occupation and the Korean war sits alone in a cottage in a mountain village. While delivering flowers I have heard so many variations of this same story. That familiarity just added to the surrealness of the day. It's funny how so many things are different but at the end of the day we are all the same at our core.
I know that I'm sitting on the other side of the world from my family and country but most days it doesn't feel like that. I stalk my loved ones on Facebook all the time so it doesn't feel like I'm missing out on much. Anyone I want to talk to is readily available. On other days though I'm shocked by how distance affects my life. This week was Thanksgiving. I didn't even realize it was approaching until last Sunday when someone asked if I had any plans. In the back of my head I knew it was at the end of November and I had thought that it was funny that Christmas music and trees started popping up at the end of Halloween. I wasn't aware that I had unwittingly adopted the Korean holiday timeline. The full realization that I was missing a family holiday had not occurred to me. (To be fair this isn't the first time I've spent Thanksgiving away from home and it probably won't be the last.) I didn't weep buckets of tears over this though. I guess the best way to describe my emotions over quasi forgetting Thanksgiving is bemusement. I wasn't at home stuffing my face full of turkey but my family made it a point to connect with me and let me know that they love me. This Saturday I'll be celebrating Thanksgiving with a new group of friends. So even though I'm on the other side I'm on the other side of the world I haven't lost anything but rather I've gained appreciation, perspective, and new experiences. That's not a bad thing at all. People often ask me if I miss home (family). No. I don't. Sometimes I wonder if that makes me strange. probably. I don't miss home because I bring home with me. Time and distance is irrelevant. I won't stress about the past and I look forward to the future while enjoying my present.
When I started this post I thought it was going to be an amusing show and tell of all my blunders since landing here. Instead it morphed into the not so earth shattering realization that life is what you make of it. That's what I enjoy about blogging; being able to reflect on my experiences. By trying to convey my life to my readers I gain insight into my own thoughts.
P.S. It's been snowing all freaking day. I kid you not my first class of the day walked in and asked........................DO YOU WANT TO BUILD A SNOWMAN?!!?!?!?!
P.P.S. I now know how to build a snowman. I can also officially claim that I had to walk a mile in the snow uphill both directions to get to school.
My name is Arielle. (Not actually named after the mermaid, but a character from Thundar the Barbarian) I am an English teacher in South Korea.