Friends and family have been asking me why I haven’t started my long-promised Korea blog yet. In short, my two months here have flown by (helped by the fact that I was sick for 3.5 weeks) as I’ve been working, travelling, meeting new people and adjusting to an entirely new culture and language. Moments of free time have been eaten up by the need to do laundry and other basic chores, get out and talk to other English speakers, or just relax with some time to myself. But November is National Novel Writing Month, so I have motivation to write as many words as I can, and what better time to get this blog started?

I want to dedicate my first post to what Korea feels like to me.

I feel like a hormonal teenager, dealing with a crazy amount of emotions I can’t quite explain. Apparently, that’s a normal symptom of culture shock. Will have to read about that more, because I definitely have a serious case of it.
My job teaching English feels pretty much exactly like a game of Pin the Tail on the Donkey: Someone’s blindfolded me, put a sharp object in my hand, spun me around a few times for good effect, then given me a generous push forward in vaguely the right direction. I’m stumbling around trying to figure out where the wall and the picture of the donkey is, and the people watching are shouting out general but decidedly unhelpful directions — “A little to the left! No, I mean right! Yes, that’s right! No, wait, go more to the left…I mean right.”

This job is a great antidote for the perfectionist. It’s difficult to plan ahead when everything keeps changing. Like you put in hours of your own time planning and preparing for Adult Class, and then it gets cancelled. And you find out last-minute from one of your students, not your co-workers. My goal this week is to let go more, and be okay with just doing an adequate job.
My good friend, who came to Korea 6 months before I did, described being in Korea like this: “I really don’t know where to begin, or how to describe it. It’s the sort of thing you can really only convey to someone who’s already been there, or someone who’s there with you. Imagine the most difficult situation you’ve ever been in – now imagine doing that while you’re on a car travelling at 120 kph. Now imagine that the car is on fire, there are people shooting at you from helicopters, ninjas are chasing you, and the highway is going over a cliff.” Perhaps a little dramatic, but I think it describes the emotional upheaval well.

Time goes by so quickly here. Work is long and confusing and stressful, and the evenings and weekends are dedicated to travelling and getting to know people, or just trying to set up a routine and homespace. Finding moments to connect with people back home has been hard. I love you and miss you. You all really are in my thoughts, each and every day. I’ve said before that I don’t miss home, but I do miss the people, my awesome friends and family. I hope this helps to explain why I’m not the best at keeping in touch at the moment. I feel that November is my transition month, though. I think I’ll feel a lot more settled and balanced by the end of it.


Originally published on WordPress on Nov. 7, 2011