It's My One Year Anniversary!
First things first, I must get the embarrassing part over with: it is surprising how little Korean I've picked up in a full year. Actually, my listening ability is gradually getting better, but that's about all.
There are three things I'm most proud of in my life: thinking critically about my former religion, obtaining my M.A. degree under severe distress, and, last, but not least, making the move here.
I love this country. It's safe, much safer than Canada. People are polite and orderly in their behavior, are friendly and often kind, and usually dress appropriately out of respect for others. At the visual level, almost all the women are beautiful, which is good if you are a guy! Few people are overweight here. Piercing isn't big (yet). Frankly, I think it's one of the few relatively "unfallen" societies left. Ethnic homogeneity, a high level of culture and personal discipline, and respect for family are the reasons for this "unfallenness."
Of course, the country isn't perfect; while the young people are more disciplined and studious than most of their Canadian counterparts, they are overworked, in fact. Group-think prevails, meaning that original ideas are few and far between (from a North American perspective). I think it's far easier to be a foreign teacher here than it is to be a native student! Sometimes also I find superstitions or misconceptions ("fan death" would be an example of both), or political attitudes that are annoying, but I have no need to dwell on those.
I'm most grateful for two things, in particular: the chance to gain paid teaching experience with both adults and children, and the freedom to look for a life partner. And I seem to have found her. As for teaching, I would like to improve, and I have had almost no theoretical training (which is a disadvantage), but the experience itself has been wonderful, in the main. As for looking for that significant other, I've been, frankly, blessed by the Korean attitude to this. In North America, patronizing married people, who married when they were young, always tell twenty and thirty-somethings to relax, stop trying to find that special person, etc. There's nothing more demeaning and frustrating that I can recall from my experience in Canada. In South Korea, on the other hand, it is expected that at some stage people will want to marry, and they begin searching in earnest. It might be a tad embarrassing to be single longer than one wants, but there's certainly no shame in looking intensively.
Living as an outsider has been fascinating, not least because of the opportunity to blog. I started this blog just before I left. Updating it, and reading other expat blogs has been an enriching experience. I enjoy the interaction with my readers, who are often more knowledgable about Korean history and culture than I. I've enjoyed always having something to do, something to see, something to write about. To see my pictures of and reflections on the historical sites I've been to, just click on "Best of HifromSeoul" to the right on the sidebar.
The two most significant people in my life here are my girlfriend, Chae Young, and my good friend, Ian. Chae Young and I love each other, and spend most of our time together. She has made me many delicious meals! We do have our share of conflicts, and she often drives me crazy, but we are drawing closer together through the resolving of those conflicts.
Ian has been steadfast in friendship, has listened to me talk, often endlessly, of everything from love difficulties to politics. Without Ian's friendship, my life here would have been much poorer. The other significant people here are my adult students from my first class, elementary teachers all. Wonderful people and dear friends, whom I often think of, and miss.
I should also mention Hee Jung, my language partner. She has been a good and selfless friend.
Finally, I'm grateful for the support and friendship of my friends at home, especially Brian in Montreal and Rob in Port Coquitlam, and cousin Jen and Lyle of Abbotsford, and for the support of my family, who supported my move here and have been very patient with the time elapsing between phone calls and emails. I do miss my friends and family at home, even as I am very happy here.
It's been a good year, and I have learned a lot about myself. And here's the news: I hope to be here, saying "hi" from Seoul, for many more years to come!