One year in Korea does not a Korean make.
To inaugurate my little brother's entrance into the MTC (FINALLY!) I thought I would update everyone on the progress of my mission. I'm at the one year mark with one more to go and things are moving right along. This has been a really challenging year for me, but not in the way that I thought it would be. When I loaded up my life and put my dreams in the hands of asia, I had a few rational fears: Will I have any friends? Will anyone be able to feel me? Would I be bland, unknowable, unrecognizable because I can not communicate with words? Will I get lost? Will I be safe? Will I love Korea? Will I love myself in Korea?
The answer is of course, Yes, Yes, Yes!!!! and NO NONONONONONONONONONO!
In the last week, I have had lesson after lesson that has reaffirmed the dichotomy of my life in Korea. I got lost/found. I choked/and recovered. I spoke/with my hands. I wrote/and I listened. I cooked/bought. I fell/got up. I sweated/and chose lazy. I sang/ I danced/ I loved/ I missed it/ I misunderstood/ and I finally got it.
I discovered that the 5500 bus goes to Suji, NOT bundang (a freshman mistake) BUT I also discovered that I am resourceful enough to figure out a way to get to work when I am lost in a strange city with no wallet and a dead cell phone. I am brave and functional in Korea.
I had a conversation on the telephone with a mom at school in Korean and we understood one another. I can communicate in Korea.
I almost suffocated on a triangle tortilla chip that was lodged in my esophagus sending home the message that WESTERN FOOD KILLS and that chewing your food before you consume it is a fine, fine idea. I am still myself in Korea.
I am creating masterpieces again in the kitchen and on the guitar. I MADE tteokbokki! HOMEMADE TTEOKBOKKI! and it was delicious and I made it. And a song is gestating almost ready to pop. Just in case you think this is a small thing, more than anything food and music are the hallmarks of my family culture and I will bring home something more valuable from Korea than some refrigerator magnets and hanbok. I can create in korea!!! I can make beautiful things inspired by this place. I am still an artist in Korea.
Ilsun, my cell phone patron and sister-in-law to one of my dearest friends, lost her father suddenly in a car accident. My friend called me to share her grief. I was touched and honored. Somehow, she knows me and trusts me. Somehow I am family to her and she is family to me though we operate under different cultural mores and expectations. I am known in Korea and I love in Korea.
And the first week of school is over and over and over. I still don't fully understand the differences between asian school culture and western school culture. I don't get it and I don't really like it. I'm bridging the gaps though. And somehow, I'm more moderate in all of my hard work. I can let the kids be kids. I can touch and giggle and let a lesson go if it isn't really working. I can stop and realize that this is about them and not about me. I can love them even when they don't listen and I can see all the complexity of a 5 year old's world. I can change in korea.
So that's the report. I realize this was more for myself than anyone, but I think it's important for me to write it down; to look for the clues to see it and see it how it really is.