Called Korea Home

From: Sunday, 28 December 2008
To: Thursday, 10 October 2013
For 1748 days
Or 4 years, 9 months, 13 days
Or 249 weeks and 5 days

Friday, April 6, 2012

My current disillusionment with Korea

It feels like a relationship with a person you've loved for so long, but you know you need to let them go in order to grow. Not to say you can't be together eventually, but right now something is missing. Still you stay, because it's comfortable. That's how I feel about Korea right now. Korea has changed so much and yet changed so little since I moved here. And the same is true of me. It was only a matter of time before we grew apart.

First lets start with Korea. Ever so slowly opening up to foreigners. They have accepted that given the crisis of a declining population the rise of multicultural marriages (marriage between a Korean and Non-Korean) is inevitable. Everywhere I look I see these couples, and it's not just between a Korean female and foreign guy anymore. The reverse is also true. I think more people are aware of Korea, thanks to well, North Korea (sorry it's true) and K-pop culture (songs, dramas and TOP - OK that last one was for me I love him so much!). More foreigners are learning Korean and it is not so shocking to see foreigners fluent in Korean.

As for me, I've changed a lot. I don't find drinking as entertaining as I used to (I still do it more than most). I'm now intermediate in Korean, definitely not a beginner, but even more frustrating because I can listen to very advanced ideas and understand them, but I can't express myself fluently yet. The mid-level conundrum I call it. Still, I can talk about news, weather, politics, religion (some things) etc, and I can make myself understood on almost every subject (if the person with whom I am speaking is patient and or not retarded - yes, I don't insult Koreans often but the ones who specifically chose not to understand people who aren't Korean or respond in English even though it's obvious they suck at it and your Korean is better really piss me off). I'm really shy to speak Korean though. I only do it when I need to, and never with someone who is already fluent in English unless they give me permission to.

None of these changes are major enough to cause me this much distress though. A lot of things changed for me this year. I quit my job, I realized I didn't really fit anymore. Obviously I'll never be Korean, but I am different from the foreigners who come here and just live in little America. Those foreigners judge me all the time. As if wanting to understand the language of the country I live in makes me some kind of freak. Many Koreans are afraid of me, because that will always be a thing. So I am often frustrated, wondering why am I even trying?

Korean guys are interesting. I have been approached by and even dated some of them but never seriously. They are different from western guys for sure. They show their emotions and care so much more. The thing is that even by western standards I'm not a very girly girl, so in this society I often feel like I am the guy. I am not going to really express that I am into a guy until I have been seeing him continuously for more than 3 months. Korean guys try to hold my hand after one date. So there is that...
But there is always TOP (look at that swag). Let me get some of that. Seriously, Korean boys take note!

But the biggest thing I've realized is I don't like I HATE TEACHING ENGLISH! It is not my dream, and I never wanted to be a teacher, at least not in the way that Korea requires us to be - I feel like a puppet being controlled on a string, even if I want to have fun I must be boring and repetitive, memorize, memorize, memorize. Ugh. I've always had a scientific mind, I love research and discovery. As a child I read encyclopedias for hours. After I discovered the joys of the Internet well, I've once sat for 12 hours researching information. Because I love planning and research and making lists and schedules, my friends and families have always asked me to plan parties, trips etc. In fact my most recent job before Korea was as a research coordinator at HARVARD. I have a B.S in Neuroscience and a Masters in Epidemiology. I did all of this before I was 24, because I was always an overachiever. What the hell am I doing teaching English? If I want to do any work even close to any of my dreams though (a PhD in medical anthropology currently or a closely related field) in Korea, well, I don't know if I want to...

So I am stuck between a rock and a hard place. I do like this country. A lot. Genuinely. The people, the food, the language - not just the money like so many others. I met a guy who told me I could specialize in Eastern medical anthro and get funding here in Korea, but I admit since I moved to Korea I've gotten lazy and comfortable. I've lost my drive. I need to get it back

I have been spurred by a series of unfortunate events this year. I'm running out of money and I should find a new job but I am too lazy. I don't want to work full time any more. I have an expensive lifestyle (I used to earn over $4K a month). The point is I may be leaving Korea soon because I have to, even if I don't want to.

But, I want people to know the disillusionment stems from me. Korea, people give you a lot of flack, but you've come so far in the last 50 years it's impressive. You will always have a special place in my heart as the country where I found myself, and realized I do love being a nerd, but that I can have fun too.  I don't know where I am going, but I need to see another country, experience something new, try a new thing.

And relax, I'm not leaving anytime soon, but I think within the year I will be gone. Tear.But I do know I haven't put hundreds of hours into studying Korean at the best university here for nothing. So even if I leave, I'll be back ;)


travelbug said...

I just discovered your blog and appreciate the humor and intelligence of your perspective. So what you are saying here is that you are maturing in many ways including in the complexity of your relationship with the place you have lived for a few years now, but in a way your roles in the society are still very prescribed-an English teacher. I don't see this a you being lazy just that you are at a critical crossroads. Thanks for being so clear about an experience that many of us have lived through.

Karamel said...

I am horrible at blogging (that is about to change) but I just saw this. Thanks for the compliment^^

Larry Wiggs said...

WoW! You are so accomplished. Bless your heart.