These days I’m almost loving it here in Korea: the old men have pulled out their seersucker jackets and look really dapper, the sun (I just realized I’ve been living over 2 years without daylight savings time!) greets me at around 5:30 a.m and the evenings are a joy to experience. Though I dread the onset of summer, I’m really enjoying this little sliver of temperature that’s actually comfortable and moderate.
You know, you’d think it was summer already, what with the number of girls in shorts. I was told by my tutor when I first got here, when I thought I was going to die from the heat & humidity when it was in the high 80’s and complaining about having to have my shoulders covered, that I have to wear some layers during this weather simply for relativity, as when it’s in the mid 90’s and above, there won’t be anything left to remove! But that only applies for the upper half. The lower half is already as exposed as it can be, though there is the weird phenomenon of girls wearing their shorts in cool weather with nylons underneath. Nylons + tennis shoes just always strikes me as weird…
I was mentioning to an adoptee the other day how much Korea’s changed in the past two years since I’ve been here, and he agreed. The dress standard has relaxed quite a few notches. It’s now only the older salarymen wearing the suits and the younger professional men seem to be subverting the suits quite a bit. And the professional women don’t look as stuffy…and the younger college-aged kids are looking more casual and less high fashion.
Now that I’m not with TRACK I’m actually kind of enjoying my stay here in Korea. It’s nice not to be pressured by impossible tasks or to be in a relationship that takes more than it gives. It’s also nice to talk with other adoptees who also question the efficacy of what TRACK does in its local context, what’s behind Jane/TRACK’s public image machine, and why TRACK alienates so many in the adoptee community here. I’ll not go into why I believe this is so, but I will say it’s nice not to be alone with my doubts. I’m really glad I quit. I only wish it had been last year, when I first started having doubts. High on my list of self-improvement is being more mindful and listening to myself more.
Didn’t pass my BEGINNER 1 level test in Korean. So bad it’s not funny! Well, actually it IS a little funny! The grammar is so easy to me, but again – I. just. can’t. memorize. words. Far too many words for my old brain to process. They’re just marks on paper to me if not used meaningfully. Like I don’t want to learn the word for nurse! That’s not a relationship starter…I want to learn to say, “Hey I really like your shirt. You have a nice smile. Can I get your phone number?” But it’s also not like I stress about this class either: if it enriches my stay a little, okay. But that’s all it is. It’s interesting in that it’s a foreign language, and those are always interesting. But I’ve no real interest in killing myself over it and I’ve no real delusions that it’s going to bring me closer to being Korean. I am a twinkie. You know, that debate-ably may or may not be an appropriate derogatory characterization of someone who has Korean parents, but when you’ve got white parents, it’s just how it is.
But my failures in Korean pay off in the English classroom. I definitely take the obstacles I run across and create lessons that are more personally accessible for my students. Because being taught a language in Korean way gives me some exposure to what my students are going through. So that helps. And I guess I might be more like my students than other foreigners taking these classes, as I’ve really not much motivation, but am interested if it’s relevant to ME. So that’s the direction my classes are taking and I think my co-teacher’s really happy with me this year.
Oh, and just as an aside, (taken for granted now, but just f.y.i.) did you know Korean students never raise their hand to speak? They just address the teacher and blurt whatever they want to say out loud, interrupting. The Korean classrooms are these strange places. At times they seem very severe, where the students just silently have to take in data being thrown at them. And at other times it is this seemingly obnoxious dynamic of the teacher trying to project a lesson and being interrupted all the time.
I’m a little frustrated in that the art groove I briefly had has been interrupted by my politicking for records access and my recent obsession with finding a pet kitten I can live with. I’m also exhausted from strange things happening to my body: I slept 20 hours straight the other day, in what seemed to be a fevered sweat. Only no chills. Then, I got dizzy on the MARBLE stairs (marble everywhere in Korea) and fell down. Sexy bruises, but could have been much worse, since fortunately this happened only 3 steps from the bottom…I think it’s the onset of menopause…I vacillate from thinking, “Nooo!!!! I’m too young!” to “Bring it on…” I suppose I should go in for a check-up, but I’ve no idea how I’d fit it into my schedule and am fearful. Ha! I’ll probably die here in Korea, but I was like this in America as well.
So the cat thing isn’t a scam, and an amazing opportunity – I’m just not sure I should go for it or not…so much money…when I could get a domestic kitten for free…but I want a cat that thinks it’s a dog but looks like a leopard, damn it! And getting a domesticated leopard cat would take all my savings. But then I want lasek surgery so I can see to paint, damn it! But I don’t know that I’ll be able to save that much anyway. If I were smart, I would stay here one more year, save more money, and do more work on records access. But I have this fear of permanency here: my family’s in the states and I didn’t know how much I enjoyed interacting in my own language and culture until I went back home winter break, and I want to get foundation art courses…
That’s the weird thing about being an expat: everything you do is qualified by it’s relationship to your eminent departure, and everything that puts off departure can bring anxiety. And the longer you live in this space, the more it becomes viable, and that too causes anxiety! If I were younger, I’d be one of those who test this lifestyle in many countries and cultures. But these days, I want to lay down some roots and test commitment and diplomacy and sustained relationships with people and places. Because that’s so much harder and more interesting, and because I’m finally getting to a place where I can recognize my own failings and care for myself and express myself, which makes interacting with society much more manageable. Now, if I can just squeeze a few more years out of this body, then I’ll be able to die saying I’ve actually lived well.