The longer I live and work here--May 25th will mark one year and nine months in Korea--the more I come to enjoy the old, familiar people and places that have been apart of my life here ever since I first arrived. New things--unknown Korean vocabulary words, a strange food that I haven't managed to taste yet, a part of the country or a newly discovered back alley of one of my favorite neighborhoods--are beginning to occur less and less as I become something a little bit more than a guest in this country.
I knew that this would happen eventually, and on some days, I get restless. I consider all of the other places in the world I could be: back at home/teaching in Southeast Asia/getting my Master's in African Studies in South Africa/doing a working holiday in Australia/joining the Peace Corps/volunteering in India ect. I was recently offered a job in Indonesia, teaching English at a private institute in Jakarta, and for a two week period or so was seriously considering finally ending my Korean adventure. But.
Jakarta, the "Big Durian" of East Asian
The thing is--the moment I saw the job offer in my inbox--I knew I couldn't take it. Not yet. The strange thing is, for as unstable a situation as living in Seoul is--friends constantly coming and going, traveling, returning, ect.--I love that I am finally getting to know Korea, unlike any other place I've ever traveled in/lived in before. I could write a book about Korean sociology--I know so much more about Korean history/language/culture than I ever thought I would. Life isn't as challenging here anymore, in a good way--I can pick up the phone and order take out, I can shop online, I can tell taxi drivers exactly how to get to my house, and I can read bus station names, advertisements, and street sings. There is something wonderful about the normal routines of my life these days, and I feel like Korea is becoming something of a home as I get to understand not only the good things about Korea (food, national obsessions with convenience/service/education/activity) but also the things that are a tad more difficult to appreciate (Confucian values, especially). For someone who has spent their whole life moving around/has never lived in a single place for more than a few years at a time, I crave this feeling of contentment that comes with settling, while at the same time, constantly feeling as if I need to be seeing something more, that I'm not quite ready to settle forever.
Though I know I won't stay in Korea forever--and I'm not exactly sure where I'll end up when I do leave--I think I am going to resign my contract at my school in the next few weeks. Whether it is for another year or just six months, I haven't decided yet, but I am hoping the extra time will allow me to better come to grips with finally leaving this place, which has come to mean so much to me since I graduated from school in 2009...