Saturday, 4 December 2010

Korea - The verdict

Hello everyone!

This blog isn't going to talk about something fresh or new that I have recently done. It's also a very difficult blog to write. I'm writing this on a plane flying to Singapore, getting rather tipsy whilst trying to find the right prose to express myself. There are a lot of scribbles on my paper. There would be a fair few beer cans as well, if the attractive Singaporean flight attendants weren't so efficient.

No, this is a reflective blog. It's impossible to sum up my experiences in Korea in one post, but I will give it my best shot. May need a couple more Tiger beers to do this properly.

So I did it - one year teaching English in Korea. How do I feel? Numb. It still hasn't sunk in fully. I feel as if I am going on a thoroughly undeserved vacation to Sinagpore and Malaysia. But that is it - a vacation. Part of me is still trying to deny the facts - Korea is no longer my home. I am once again unemployed, and once again a citizen of the world.

I say this, but at least a small chunk of me has accepted in the past week these facts as reality. Because of that, and knowing that I have my, how can put it...emotional moments - maybe I can coin a new phrase, 'emoments'? - I have been fighting against a barrage of tears. They were behind a dam of macho pride and face, bashing away, yearning to break the barrier and flood my eyes. I cracked on the final night just after I said my goodbyes to Kelly, who has become an extra sister and best friend to me over the past year. It was a strange one, as I know I will see her again.

For many it will be the final photo, the final beer, the final handshake and customary goodluck utterances. I move around. The world is a big place. I will meet new people, and in spite of my best efforts, numerous people I have come to know in Korea will become an increasingly faded memory. I've been through this before; in school, in America, in Europe, in university. I can't kid myself, and it's a horrible proposition.

On the other hand, for many of the very good friends I have made out here it will not be the final farewell - and I do have a good track record of making the effort to see people. The best friends will always find a way, and there are many people I have met in Korea who fall into that category.

This isn't something I want to think about now - the beer is flowing ever quicker as I scrawl away - so let's reflect elsewhere. It's clear from my blogs that I have truly loved my time in Korea. But what makes this such a special country to live in is the everyday occurrences, the little things that rarely make it into my pieces. The fact that an employee will always warmly say hello when you walk into a shop. The cute little boys and girls who gaze in wonder at you as you walk down the street. The students shouting 'HELLO TEACHER' whenever I walk past. The little things mean just as much as the big events that I wrote about throughout the year.

Could I have done more? Of course I could. I could have bungee jumped - though that failure was not from a lack of effort. I could have had live octopus (the picture is a dead one). I could have done a temple stay. I could have gone to Jeju island. I could have learnt more of the language. Shoulda, woulda, coulda. Beverly had it right - last words of a fool.

So let's instead look at my year from a positive perspective. Let's see that glass as half-full. I have seen more of Korea than I have of any other country - even my own. I have eaten a wider array of food than I - and many locals - knew even existed. I have made friends for life, both Korean and non-Korean. I have learnt countless knew skills - though some (riding a bike) were long overdue. I have been educated in and embraced a culture that initially seemed alien and scary to mine. I have had the pleasure of working in one of the best jobs I feel I could ever possibly have. I have lived away from home for one year, and genuinely never longed to be there instead of Korea.

Whilst I am as ambitious, as travel-whorish, and hungry as ever, it is a massive wrench to be leaving Korea. The decision to do so was by far the most torturous and stressful I have ever made. If a few things had been different, or happened earlier, I may have stayed.

But whilst remembering the past year, I also must look forward to the next, and embrace it with all the gusto that I attacked Korea with. Where will I be in the next 12 months? Honest answer - I don't know. And that, friends, is a wonderful thing. Glass half-full. Let's go!

Love you all


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