Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Is the cup half full?

I've been panicking a lot lately about my halfway point looming in the future. The way I see it, I can process this milestone in two different ways: I'm halfway finished, but I also have half my stay here in front of me. I'm not sure which one of those is the more optimistic view, but considering the fact that the former causes me to nearly have an anxiety attack, I've tended to cling more to the latter.

I can't even begin to quantify how much I've changed since I got here (well, I suppose I did in my last post), and it's entirely impossible to imagine how I'm going to change in the next six months. I was talking to my friend, Kimi, last night about this; a few years ago, we felt like we knew everything. I remember graduating from high school and thinking, "Now I'm an adult!" Then as I learned about life and the world in college, I graduated thinking, "Now I'm really an adult!" I'm coming up on three years out of college, and I've finally realized I know embarrassingly little about functioning in the world as the kind of adult I want to be. Sure, I can pay my bills and cook my own dinner, but I want my life to mean something, and that's feeling like an increasingly monumental task.


I promised last time that the next post I wrote would be about the things I'll miss about Korea when I leave. Most of my closest friends are packing up to leave the country in the next month or so, and that kind of makes me feel like I'm leaving too. Although I don't have to worry about losing any of the things on this list for another six months, I've compiled it nonetheless. You can come back and read it in August if you want (I know I will).

Things I know I'll miss when I leave Korea

Not being able to understand conversations around me. This one is going to be the hardest when I get back. For the more paranoid people out there, I'm sure not knowing what's going on around you feels more like a constant terrorist threat than peace, but I'm here to tell you that ignorance is most definitely bliss. I'm an incredibly distracted person, and having voices around me to eavesdrop upon keeps me from ever getting anything done. I'm going to sincerely miss being able to focus entirely on the person I'm with at a coffee shop instead of  being distracted by the girl on her cell phone behind us breaking up with her boyfriend.

Ethnic foods. At home, I considered Taco Bell a cultural experience, but here, I have access to nearly everything. Within a ten minute walk in either direction from my apartment, I can find Vietnamese, Thai, Indonesian, Mexican (crappy Mexican, but Mexican), Italian, and of course, a million Korean restaurants. Although I tend to stick with what's familiar, I'm seriously going to miss being able to pick up omurice at the Food 2900. I've already decided that my offspring will be the "weird kids" whose mom packs them kimbap in their lunches. And by weird, I mean cultural and unique (which translates to just "weird" in elementary school).

My intimate relationship with my iPod. In college, I used my iPod all the time, but when I graduated, I discovered the real world doesn't have constant background music. It was unacceptable to drive with my earbuds in, and I wasn't even allowed to keep myself entertained while I put books on shelves at the library. Here in Korea, however, my iPod and I are one. Basically everyone here has white cords hanging from their ears, and I have so many opportunities throughout the day to turn on tunes. Any time I'm waiting for the subway, riding on a bus, walking down the street, or even sitting at my desk, I've got music playing. Sometimes this is actually really unfortunate; there are a handful of songs that I simply must sing along to, but I get the sneaking suspicion that the rest of Seoul doesn't find Katy Perry as enchanting as I do.

Not paying for things. Korea pays for almost everything I need here. They provide health care (kick ass health care), and the public transportation system is stellar. My school pays for my apartment, and as long as I bring a big enough bag to school (and don't let anyone see me), I can have all the free milk and juice I need. I, um, borrow internet in my apartment, and my utility bills have yet to pass $60 in a single month. My phone is pay-as-you-go, but I only use it for texting, so 20 bucks lasts about two months. Granted, my week in Bali set me back quite bit, but overall, my life is pretty much free. I think this is the first time since high school graduation that my net worth isn't steadily decreasing.

People think I'm interesting. This is the most selfish thing on the list by far, but at least I'm honest. I like the attention I get living overseas. Obviously I don't get any special treatment from my friends here. Almost every person I hang out with regularly is a foreigner; thus, we all at some point in the last few years packed up our entire lives into two suitcases and moved overseas. I have friends from South Africa, Norway, England, Canada, and New Zealand, and I would consider every single one of them infinitely more interesting than I am. However, people back home think I'm some kind of rock star. Face it - you wouldn't be reading this blog if it didn't have Korea in the title, and I'm okay with that. I'm actually not very exciting when it comes down to it, but if you're learning a little about Korean culture/insanity by reading the things I write, then we're all better off in the end!

Having access to Asia. The thing I hate most about Korea is the fact that I have hardly any vacation time. I'm in Asia, for crying out loud, and I really don't have the time to explore it! It's like if you found out that you could win a million dollars if you complete a 5K, but then you realize you have no legs. Okay, so it's nothing like that. But it is incredibly frustrating.

Serviceeee. Korea likes to give you stuff for no reason. The last two boxes of cereal I bought came with a laundry basket and a documentary about woolly mammoths. When I (finally) broke down and bought perfume a few weeks ago, the lady in the shop gave me not one, not two, but three free travel bottles of various fragrances. I've gotten countless bottles of free pop at restaurants, and people have tossed extra snacks in my grocery bags a handful of times. The serviceeee that I enjoy the most, though, is when it's entirely unrelated to the product you're purchasing yet it feels so complete, like the snowman plates taped to my toothbrushes.

I'm discovering that the more I write to this list, the more I want to add. Apparently this place is all kinds of lovely! Here's to another six months, K-land!


  1. Your article at Relevant mag gave words to what I have been thinking and experiencing and as a pastor, it is tremendously reassuring to me! (And i'm commenting on this post because it reminds me of when I was little kid living there for a couple years.)


  2. @raddestnerd - thank you so much for your kind words! i'm flattered that a pastor appreciates the things i said. hope you enjoyed korea as much as i do!