Monday, November 23, 2009

Four months, finish-ed

So my four-month anniversary in Korea is today, the 23rd of November.

I'm one-third in, but I still have 66.66% of my contract left to finish. That's 240 days. Most of winter, spring, and summer. Christmas, New Year's (FOR WHICH MY PARENTS AND SISTER WILL BE HERE HOLY MOLEY AM I EXCITED) my birthday, Valentine's Day, Easter, Mother's Day, Father's Day, and the Summer Solstice. The graduations of my sister, Ali, Lauren, and Jamie. The weddings of McArgo and Jenna and Eric.

I missed Oktoberfest in Tulsa and TU's homecoming shenanigans. And Thanksgiving with the fam. A bunch of my friends met up and went camping without me. And I missed a Rogers Family Pseudo-Reunion thing back in July by just a couple of days. But overall, I feel like I've just figured out Korea/missed relatively little...I still have so much to learn and see here.

My grip on the language is getting a mite bit better. I can read Hangul now. I can say:

  • "Hello" (an-young ha-sey-yo):안녕하세요
  • "Goodbye," (an-young-he-gah-se-yo:안녕히 가세요
  • "Thank you," (kahm-sam-nee-dah):감사합니다
  • "Give me this, please," (ju-se-yo):이거,주세요
  • "Excuse me"(shel-lay-ham-nee-dah):실례합니다
  • "One beer, please," (mek-ju, hanna, juseyo): 맥주,하나,주세요
  • "Really!?" (see-cha!?)
  • "I don't know" (Wul-aye-oh)
  • "Hurry up" (bally-wah)
  • "I'm sorry" (jweh-song-ham-nee-dah)

and a host of more random things, like "pig" (dwe-che) and "knife" (cal).

I feel guilty that I've been slacking majorly on Korean for about a month now. I think if I decide to stay here another year (not sure what my next move is quite yet, I plan to have that sorted out in three months or so...more tribulation/whining about that to come in the near future) I need to start taking formal lessons. Something with grades and consequences, which hopefully would light a fire under my ass and force me to become a master Korean speaker.

That said, most Koreans that I've met are extremely kind and helpful to me and my non-Korean speaking 외국인 (we-guk-in, foreigners)friends.

I'm liking my job still. I take for granted frequently that if I were back home teaching, I would be writing Individualized Education Plans/attending two-hour long meetings after-school/working from 6am to 5 pm/feeling the heat of No Child Behind and ten billion standardized tests/trying to get a hold of AWOL parents. And getting paid only slightly more than I am now. And paying for rent.

I like where I live. Uijeongbu is close enough to Seoul that I can get there and back in four hours or so...but it's far away enough that I feel like I'm having an authentically "Korean" experience. I think if I lived in Seoul, my life would be a lot easier...there would be more stuff written in English, there would be more foreign people to hang out with, and there would be more Koreans who spoke English very well. I've had to figure out a lot more stuff on my own because of where I live, which has made me an expert mime...seriously, I could probably put "Professional Mime" on my resume now.

I've gotten to do some awesome stuff since I've been here. I've explored markets, museums, folk villages, aquariums, breweries, caves, amusement parks, and swimming pools. I've gotten naked at the Korean spa several times (with my Korean co-workers, to boot...wink). I've been mountain climbing. I've been dancing and drinking. I've tried so much amazing food(more Korean Culinary Carousal to come). I've been to the DMZ and a tiny bit of North Korea. I've been to Daejon and Andong and Juwangsan and Pocheon and Jeju. And I've met a host of interesting people--my awesome foreign and Korean co-workers, whom I'm becoming quite attached to, and an ever-expanding circle of Uijeongbu-ers, known affectionately as the "'Bu Crew". And within that circle, there's the core of "Minlak-dongers,"--representing the 'Bu's best 'burb...many of whom I can now confidently call my friends.

Needless to say, most days I am more than content with my life. There is some stuff that's really annoying, though:

  • No roommates = no one to make me brownies/do puzzles with me at one o' clock in the morning
  • Mean Korean airport shuttle drivers who shout at me "LEARN KOREAN" as I'm fumbling for cash
  • Korean pants that aren't made for Norse hips
  • profound loneliness after spending too much time by myself in my apartment
  • acid rain/noise/light pollution/smog/no visible stars at night
  • Korean towels, decidedly not plush
  • undrinkable tap water
  • KRAZEE Korean nationalism
  • my inability to decide on long-term Career Goals
  • no dryers for clothes
  • vicious mosquitoes
  • ridiculously tenacious Koreans who never stop working/think critically about their jobs/ask for more than two days off a month
  • ridiculously tenacious Korean students who study from 7am to 2am
  • my wavering morals regarding vegetarianism/environmental stewardship/sustainability
  • annoying amounts of food waste at meals
  • crazy Korean drivers/motor-scooter delivery people who have nearly killed me on several occasions
  • patriarchy/a general lack of pro-fem thinking
  • my really uncomfortable, brick-like mattress
  • lack of capital to establish a pantry of superfluous cooking supplies, or more than what is needed to make a really good curry

ANNNNNDDDDDD that's enough griping for now. I miss you, and I hope that you miss me :)


  1. Hey you were in 대전 and didn't call me?? How sad. :D Anyway... I know we gotta hang out asap. I don't know the next time that I'll be in Seoul, but I'll definitely call you... is your number on fb?

  2. Alas, I was in Daejon in August, a bit before you arrived :(

    My number is indeed on fb. Cop that and text me, let's hang out in Seoul or meet up and do something awesome

  3. i drink the tap water. i'm still alive too!

  4. awwe, hi friend! this is a thorough and impressive (and incredibly accurate) list of pros-and-cons. i wander through the same likes/dislikes myself, to be honest. and my korean sucks! so, there.

    happy four months! time's a-flyin'