Update – Two months have gone by…really?
I find myself thinking deeply about the life that I lead in South Korea and wanted to share an update with you. It’s been about two months and I am loving every minute. It was tough to leave a place like Coppell (blogged about it here) and if you know me, I struggle internally with major transition. On the flip side, I also recognize the importance of transition in the growth and development process; and I thrive on that challenge.
The Republic of Korea is a gem. Lush green mountains surround one of the largest cities in the world. Seoul, with 25 million humans in one area, offers a variety of unique opportunities and experiences. The culture runs deep: I find myself bowing more than I probably should; humility remains to be the thread that holds this country in such strength; I am slowly becoming a chopstick expert; Koreans are kind & gentle people, despite the lack of smiling faces; and kimchi is a really big deal (although my taste buds wish it weren’t). Little by little, I am finding my Korean kindled spirit as each day passes.
My first week, I headed straight to my comfort zone: Spanish. Shame? Absolutely not! I joined a MeetUp group of Spanish speakers and had a blast connecting with Koreans and other expats that share my first love. From that starting point, I developed an insatiable desire to explore the city as often as possible. Language is a challenge (I order chicken and get fish—multiple times— and, unfortunately I hate seafood) and the cultural learning curve is steep; however the more I explore, the more I learn about my new city, and consequently, the more “Korean” I become. 🙂 I am excited about these next few weeks, extending myself outside of my comfort zone, finding a church home, and gathering my go-to list of great places and great things to do for my future visitors (shameless plug/invite).
My Work Family.
Moving thousands of miles away from home to a country where you know no-one is daunting. The great thing about international education is that we are all in the same boat and instantly inherit a new set of friends. I am blessed to work with a thoughtful and inspired group of teachers and administrators from all over the world (mostly US, Canada, & Australia). I am constantly awed by their passion to do things differently and push students to higher levels of achievement; it’s really impressive. And the students…they are so dedicated to their learning and their development. They are fun and motivated with a good spirit about life. The biggest struggle is helping them find a centered balance in life; I need them to enter post secondary life knowing it’s not all about school, grades, etc. (challenge accepted; a definite uphill battle).
Home away from Home.
I live in the burbs of Seoul about 20 minutes by train from Gangnam (I hope Psy’s voice just entered your head – for the clueless folks, see this video). I will be here for a while and it’s important that my place become a home. If you know me, peace and zen in my apartment are non-neogotiables. Slowly replacing the school-provided furniture with things that best represent who I am is paving a path to this desired result. I do not have pictures yet and hope by the next update I can share solid progress.
A Language Man’s Struggles.
One day, when I was walking down the street, I realized that I had no idea how to say excuse me (along with countless other things) to be able to move around a group of people. Instincts kicked in and I mumbled a few random things together to get their attention and was able to move ahead. Success? No, quite the opposite. As a language guy, my pride was hurt. I know that I have only been here for a short time, however, I feel responsible for/guilty about not knowing Korean. With less talk and more action, I am pleased to announce that I am in my third week of Korean lessons. These kind people deserve more than a few mumbled words thrown together.
A few funnies that I wanted to leave you with- Funnies of the ROK. (Is funnies a word?)
- I can cancel my floor selection on any elevator. No more big finger mistakes.
- The train apps calculates to the minute, even telling you which train car to exit from for supreme efficiency.
- Google maps has saved my life on multiple occasions. Ironically Google is under antitrust scrutiny from Korea.
- Korea is known to have the world’s fastest internet and LTE is faster than wifi. It’s glorious.
- On the train, no-one talks. Everyone is on their smartphone. Every. Single. Person…usually streaming video or playing games.
Lastly, here are a few pictures to tell a thousand words…