We're moving to Gunpo come February. It's south of Seoul but still on the subway line. Our new jobs are at a university and if you're an ESL teacher in Korea you know what that means. VACATION! I mean...a chance to teach at an institute of higher learning, a chance to do some research, a chance to interact with a group of more mature students, and three months of paid vacation. Woo hoo! I'm truly excited and feel very fortunate to have found such a great opportunity. I'll be able to get my master's degree since I'll be working far fewer hours, I'll get experience working at a university, and I'll have an opportunity to visit my family and travel around Asia. I feel truly blessed to have landed this job.
Although I'm estatic to be seeing my family again, I am feeling a little trepidacious about going back to the states. I think this must be due to reverse culture shock - I can't think of any other reason. I remember when I returned from traveling through Mexico and Central America after college... walking through the airport and seeing the automatic sliding doors tripped me out - they seemed so futuristic. Of course I'd been dealing with them my whole life but three months of living in third world countries had reset my buttons. I also remember going to a restaurant in southern Arizona. I went to the bathroom and it was huge! I came out and said to Jason, "You have to see the size of the bathrooms here. I could live in them". But eventually I became used to the States again and I took all of the modern conveniences and space for granted.
So I think I might be a bit worried about this kind of stuff happening again. Of course Korea is a first world country but it has only been so for a short time. When you realize the Korean War was only 50 years ago and that the country was thrown into abject poverty, their current status is amazing. Yet while traveling around here you realize there are some places where the 21st century has not yet arrived. Plus, I've been living as an alien in this land for some time.
I've gotten used to being in my own little world. People are so conscious of me here that I've had to develop a thick skin in order to not notice how I'm gawked at and paid attention to so severly. I'm afraid this has given me some stange habbits. For example, I sing all the time. Not loudly or anything but in a small voice. Jason and I'll be shopping at the grocery store and I'll just start singing, "Meet me in the morning...56th and Wabasha, ba ban ban baoum...." I know this kind of behavior is unacceptable in the states, but I'm so insulated here. No matter what I do I'm stared at so I've come to view my myself as living in my own little world. Other people are almost paper dolls that are set into my landscape. They don't speak my language, they don't understand me, and they think whatever I do is strange and/or interesting anyway. I'll have to watch myself over the next few months while I'm in the states.
Since I've started to analyze what things might throw me off when I return to the states, I thought I'd post some pics that show how different Korea is. (I'd have said weird but that might be viewed as culturally insensitive.)
Koreans are very into fitness. They have hiking trails everywhere. Usually along the hiking trails there are also outdoor gyms. I love the giant hula hoops. I'm teaching Jason how to work them.
He's more at home with the weight benches.