Published: March 11th 2012March 11th 2012
In February, I finished my first year contract here, and I began a new one. This post won’t be so much about living in Korea, as about living in a country as a foreigner. This year has flown by, mostly because I had such fun experiences with new friends. I met all my Daegu best friends when I first arrived in Korea a year ago. Some of them, I met in the airport in Seoul my second day in this country. I of course was really apprehensive about moving to a new country, but I lucked out big time by meeting these women. I became closer to them than I ever expected.
Having foreign (American, English, Australian) friends was really helpful for me. We went through the same experiences— moving to a different continent without strong ties here, having difficult (or awesome) coteachers, occasionally being homesick, teaching for the first time. We shared our takes on Korean culture. We formed our own community, our own culture. These are people who cooked for each other, got each other a bit drunk, went on trips together, and spent evenings and weekends shopping, drinking tea, or learning to knit or speak Korean.
I had really been dreading the end of the contract year, because of all my besties, no one else was staying in Daegu. Three decided to move back home, and two decided to move to Seoul. Although I was dreading it, I had a pretty positive attitude and realized I have other groups of friends, and a lot of activities going on here. However, the leaving time caught me off-guard. I only got back from Hawaii 2 days before most people left, so everything was abrupt. As they left, I realized that my entire perception of this city is shaped by how I experienced it with them. I usually am the one leaving, and for the first time in a long time, I felt again how terrible it is to be the one left. Those who leave end up in new surroundings, and although they can look back at the good times they had with sadness, they have a new situation to focus on. For me, I’m daily confronted with the same old surroundings, but none of my favorite people.
More than that, their leaving awakened the realization that things will never be the same again. Our wonderful little group in a foreign land scattered to different parts of the world. Sure, we’ll email or Skype—stay in touch, but really, it’s quite different from in-person interactions and wanderings. Luckily, though, I have a bond with them for life. They understand, and will always understand, what it was like to live here, as foreigners, when we did, with the other people we knew. I talk to my friends and family about living here. I write blogs. But, I could talk about it for the rest of the year, and there would be things you all wouldn’t realize. That’s why it’s so crucial that I have them, even if they all left me. But, it’s a sad reality of living in a foreign place—in the end, most people, including you, leave.
To be honest, their leaving has been really difficult. I was pretty busy last week with different groups of people, but this week it hit me hard. This week was the first week of school. The other native English-speaking teacher, with whom I shared an office, a classroom, and coteacher horror stories, also left. I am now the only foreigner at my school. There have been hundreds of times already that I want to sit up from my desk and tell Brenton something—maybe to comment on how the Wednesday “Western” lunch wasn’t too Western, as usual; maybe it’s to ask him to fix the internet, maybe it’s to tell him some ridiculous thing our main co-teacher told me. But, no, my office is in the basement, empty except for me. And cold, now that they won’t turn the heat on down here, and I knocked over and broke the prohibited personal heater we were using.
If this post sounds depressed, that’s because I am. It’s hard not to be. It’s hard to say goodbye to people you care about. But don’t worry too much. Things will pick up. I’ve already met some people who came with the new intake. I have about 4-5 different groups of friends, each centered around different interests. It’s just a rough transition period. In the meantime, I’m getting caught up on Glee
, doing some yoga, hopefully studying Korean, and cooking more. Stay tuned for the next post, which should be something like, “Things I learned in the first year.”