You guys, I’m so, so sorry, but I absolutely love Korea.
Please remind me of this in 5 months when I’m homesick and lonely, craving Mequon Taco Bell and have gotten sick of rice.
About a month ago, I bought a one-way ticket and hopped on a plane, traveling over 30 hours to get here. I’d never been to Korea before, I don’t speak or read the language, and I knew a grand total of four people in a country of 50 million.
|Officially the last photograph of me in the USA.|
I haven’t had a chance to truly sit down and study the language yet, but I now know a handful of phrases and am able to (slowly) read and write. In the span of a week my circle of friends and family has expanded to eighteen. In Korean culture, friends are made by being “introduced” by a mutual friend. Striking up a casual conversation with a stranger is strange and uncomfortable, but with an introduction, people are quick to be friendly and keep in touch on KakaoTalk*. For example: my friend from college, CJ, introduced me to his friend D on Sunday. D brought along another friend, B, who I ended up grabbing lunch and hanging out with on Tuesday when my other friends were busy.
|The 노래방: Because your #1 accessory when drunk should always be a microphone.|
|I’ve made more girl friends in Korea in a month than all my grade school years combined.|
Maybe this friendliness is found predominantly amongst foreigners who are out of their element and Koreans who are looking to practice their English–when I made the comment that I thought Koreans were friendlier than Americans, I got surprised looks from my native friends–but there is definitely a level of caring, politeness, and respect here that isn’t found in American culture.
|I met some decent people at orientation too.|
|Clubbing in Seoul: not optional.|
The day B and I met for lunch, he tripped and fell rushing to meet me and got a scrape on his arm. Over udon and rice, the owner of the small shop we were eating in noticed him checking on it and immediately rushed over with Neosporin and a Band-Aid. She insisted he take care of it and helped him put some on. It was adorable and, along with a warm and fuzzy feeling, gave me a strange sort of comfort.
My school staff similarly looks out for me. I’ve had some pretty crazy moving situations since arriving (details and updates on that to come), but my staff has bent over backwards to make me comfortable. Despite not speaking much English (or, for some, none at all), they constantly ask how I’m doing and try to include me in any way possible. It’s by far one of the warmest welcomes I’ve ever been given. I play volleyball with my main school staff every Wednesday, and on Thursdays I play either volleyball or ping pong at my high school. It seemed a little strange at first, but it’s been a very easy (and fun!) way to bond with my coworkers in spite of the language barrier.
Along with school athletics, there is an abundance of hiking and traveling to be done here. The Korean landscape is absolutely stunning, filled with mountains and miles of green space. The public transportation system is sickeningly efficient. Since Korea is relatively small in size, they have transportation cards that can be used on all buses, subways, and even taxis nation-wide. This means I can hop on the subway in Seoul one day, catch a train to Busan and ride the local bus system there for the weekend, and head back to Boseong where I can pay for a taxi home–all with the same card.
Local Tip: For those of you who are really sneaky, you can see if you can talk your local bank into approving you for a debit card that functions the same way as the re-loadable cards. The only difference is this is linked directly to your back, so you’ll never have to top up a re-loadable card again!
Once you can get yourself everywhere, you can sample all the amazing food Korea has to offer. From street food to traditional dishes, pretty much everything I’ve tried here so far has been fantastic. Korean food has an amazing range of flavors, and I even find myself able to eat (gasp!) spicy food. My co-teachers are particularly impressed by this, haha. I’m eating more seafood than I ever tolerated at home, and have been finding I actually like a fair amount. Sorry Mom, still no shrimp though. I haven’t tried the live octopus yet, but don’t worry, it’s on my list. I’ll make sure to provide video evidence.
|TEA! ENDLESS TEA!
I love and miss you all, and maybe in a few weeks the hunger for Lucky Charms and good bread will slowly begin to drag me back home. But until then, keep an eye out here to see what I’m up to!