Korean Surprise! (Or, I’m too overwhelmed to blog, but I finished my first day of teaching.)

Hey, hello. I know I said I’d be blogging every day. I am a liar. I lie. Get used to it.

I *have* been journaling every day, which is easier for me than blogging because I don’t have to worry about other people reading it. (Not that I edit my blog posts, that would be professional, and we all know I don’t strive for anything close to that…)

I’ve been in Korea for *checks calendar* 13 days now.

Wow. It seems both soooo much less than that (I told someone yesterday it was 7 days. Ahh, well. They probably didn’t understand me anyways.) and also seems like I’ve been here a long, long time.

The first day I got to Geumsan, the city I’m living and teaching in, I went and met some of the administrators, and my co-teacher. Then, my co-teacher helped me open a bank account, took me to the grocery store, and dropped me at my apartment, saying ‘ask your neighbors how to set up the wifi.’

I knocked on my neighbor’s door, but of course, she only spoke Korean. Cue me gesturing and miming ‘ethernet’ and ‘wireless’ while looking like I’m planning to either stab her or do a rain dance. It was unsuccessful. I went back to my apartment, looked around at the bare walls, the sheet-less bed, the uncomfortable couch…

And then, I had a nervous breakdown.

Ok, that’s not exactly true. I’ve had major emotional I’ve-lost-it-and-I-will-not-recover moments before, and this wasn’t exactly that. But there was a moment of pure, absurd, unadulterated panic so real and so deep to the core that I found myself sobbing and gasping on the (still sheet-less) bed, hating the decision to move here, the utter ridiculousness of my plans, the complete impossibility of me staying one more moment. When they dropped me off, my parents said “tell us if you’re ready to come home, and we’ll get you home, no matter what.” And in that moment, I wanted to call them and beg for a plane ticket, I would leave all of my belongings at this apartment and walk to the airport if I had to, I couldn’t stay here.

But here I am.

A lot of things kept me from bailing immediately. One, and probably the most influential, was the fact that my pride is fragile, and could not handle the hit that would come from ditching a country I’d just spent months talking about moving to. This was a plan, and goddammit it was a plan I was going to stick to, no matter what.

Another is that I found a PC Bong. This is not an internet-connected smoking device, (finding that would have gotten me thrown in a Korean prison…) it’s an internet cafe where, for 1,000 won an hour ($1/hr), you can soak up the wifi and game to your heart’s content. Or, if you’re me, you can take your macbook and get on Facebook and read about the news and iMessage your dad. Priorities, people. The gaming computers in a PC Bong are in Korean, and though I consider myself very computer-savvy, especially when it comes to MMORPGs, I have so far been able to avoid this particularly hobby due to the learning curve of logging on. Also, because the only people who regularly attend my local PC Bong are preteen boys, and I’m not looking to make a friend list full of those.

Having wifi was more helpful to my happiness than I could ever have thought possible. Call me an addict, but without the easy connection to the outside world I’ve been so used to, I felt so isolated I wouldn’t even entertain the possibility of staying. I didn’t want to explore, I didn’t want to immerse myself in the culture, I wanted to run away and go back to my super boring office job and my easy-to-understand road signs. As soon as I connected to wifi and said hello to my friends and family, things became 1000% times easier.

Fast forward a few days, and I got wifi in my apartment (this is cutting out some things that seemed big at the time, like how long a day is when you can’t waste it on the computer, and how the manager at the PC Bong let me use the wifi for free after the first day, provided I sit at a special table to the side and not take up a gaming station.)

With wifi in my apartment, my life seems almost normal. Well, despite the fact that I can’t understand anything that’s said around me, unless the person is speaking directly to me in English, and besides the fact that I take a bus to school that I just happened to find the stop to on accident. Besides the fact that I do not have any teaching experience whatsoever, but today I taught four classes with only the barest hint of a lesson plan. (Protip: First graders will play bingo for a full hour, if it means winning stickers.) Besides the fact that I still do not understand where the hell to buy garbage bags, (special garbage bags are essential to trash pickup here. As I gleaned from context clues, not from being told specifically.)

I am a little homesick, but not terribly. The food is amazing. (Even the cafeteria food is amazing. My English Coordinator, a guiding light of fluency in the sphere of non-speakers, laughed at me when I said this, but I don’t think he really understands that American cafeteria food is just squares of cardboard with melted cheese on top, plus tater tots.) My apartment is slowly but surely taking the shape of somewhere I like, though I have yet to do laundry. I don’t know. Sometimes I feel like I’m way, way out of my league. Like I’ve walked into the least helpful school in the least prepared district in the least connected network possible, like I have no idea what I’m doing and nobody to ask about it.

But today when I got home, I was in a great mood. I cooked myself a sweet potato (they’re yellow here. What? What is that about?) I’m eating boiled eggs as a dessert, and drinking soju, and thinking about writing lesson plans. I’m doing okay. And I think that’s okay, for now. I am proud of myself for not leaving (again, not that my pride would have allowed me to get on a plane.) I’m also proud of myself for scrapping together something that resembles a life out of a few suitcases, no experience, and just the barest hint of a plan. I’m sure I’ll be upset in the future, and things will go wrong, and I will be worried and confused and wishing the life I’d chosen was easier. But for now, I’m glad I chose the challenge. Because at least in the future I can look back and say, “remember when I did that? Good job me.”

Wow. I should be a motivational speaker, I swear.

I’ll try to blog more. This weekend will hopefully be fairly relaxed, I may go to Daejeon and see the sights (translation: try not to get lost on the bus to Daejeon.)

I have a few book tube videos I want to film, but I’ve been so busy after work that I haven’t done any of them! Tomorrow Tomorrow this is a promise Tomorrow!


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