It’s the end of the day on Thursday, the last day of my “weekend” as I prepare to begin a new work week. It’s been a somewhat relaxing weekend filled with the many familiar rhythms I have become acquainted with in my time in South Korea – the 2220 bus that takes me from English Village directly to Seoul; shopping for friendly and familiar food at the foreign markets in Itaewon; riding the subway in Seoul while watching the sea of Korean faces mesmerized by their smart phones. These are some of the things that have become the simple landscape of my life here in Korea.
I was thinking today that, aside from a few trips home, I have not lived in the United States for more than three years now. That is amazing to me and it’s hard to believe it is true. The other day I Skyped home to chat with my family and had the pleasure of receiving questions about being in Korea from my four very engaged nephews. “What are the kids like in South Korea?” and “Why do they want to learn English?” were some of the sea of questions. It was fun for me that they were interested and I was grateful that I could share this with them.
When I started this journey just over three years ago, buying a ticket to Germany felt like buying a ticket to the moon. Even still, a few years later buying a ticket to Korea felt like I was preparing to… I don’t know… travel through time. While in earnest my international life has been quite modest, I am grateful for the “normalness” of it that has started to sink in over the years. Buying or considering buying a ticket to visit a new country, while still exciting and sometimes a bit scary for me, is also something that feels totally available and accessible to me. That is new. And for that, I am grateful.
Don’t get me wrong, I do still “wonder” when I will return to the States and sometimes wish to swim in more familiar waters. Occasionally I miss the accessibility I feel in the States simply because I can speak the language and read the street signs. But for now, I continue with my international journey.
My day today consisted of a quick trip to Seoul and some simple pleasures in the summer heat. A little grocery shopping in Itaewon and also a little shoe shopping. The shoe shopping part did not take long as the shoes I liked were not available for my size 8 American feet. Disheartening… but not unusual in Korea.
I also treated myself to a therapeutic massage… doing my best to ease and tend to the tension I tend to carry with great commitment. I went to a new place today called Create Wellness on the main strip in Itaewon. My American conditioning is still disheartened when I walk into an office on a balmy summer afternoon and there is no air conditioning. Even so, the staff was kind and friendly and the massage was excellent and my body heaved a sigh of relief as I exited the office. I then easily made my way back to Paju and English Village.
We have a hearty handful of new teachers arriving lately at English Village. As we haven’t hired in a while, most of the teachers here have been at English Village at least a year or longer. It is good to have some new faces and energy around. I see many of them observing with a timid or sceptic’s eye, adjusting to their new environment. In many ways, English Village is a strange slice of life and it can take some time to adapt to its ways.
Good night for now from the balmy (but not yet rainy) lands of Paju English Village. Thanks for reading and as you know, it’s always good to hear from you!