Since we’ve been here in Gwangju I feel like I’ve been living in this state of excitement and feeling out-of-place. It is so exciting to be in a new culture and experience the differences in life that a new country brings. For instance, BreeAnn and I were in Home Plus yesterday when a song started and one of the employees, an older woman, started dancing. Mainly they were just some hand actions, but she was still fun to watch. BreeAnn tried to act like nothing out-of-the-ordinary was happening, and she continued shopping, but I had no problem staring and smiling. Then my eye caught another employee down the aisle, doing the same dance. And another. And another. There is no telling exactly how many employees were dancing because it is three floors and filled with aisles, but I tried to run to an open area to catch as many as I could. Earlier that day I had discovered my phone was missing (a big bummer) but I couldn’t help but smile at all the people dancing in unison. It felt like we were caught in the middle of a flash mob.
Later that night we met up with some of the other EPIK teachers downtown. We had heard rumor of a cafe where you can pet dogs and cats while you sip your coffee. After walking up a flight of stairs we entered the cafe and were greeted by almost a dozen animals sniffing and wagging. Many of them with dyed ears, paws, pinned back hair, and wearing miniature outfits. BreeAnn and I really love animals, and since we can’t have one quite yet, it was a nice way to get our puppy/kitty fix… even if the sanitation of such establishments is questionable at best. Next up on our list, Coffee and Cats. Yes, you read that correctly.
There is also this overwhelming feeling that I don’t fit in. As much as I want to eat at a restaurant or order a coffee with cream, I can’t communicate. In so many ways I am like a child here that can only make sounds and motions of things that I need or want. I think about my nephew Elliot who tries so hard to communicate (and usually Sarah knows what he wants) but just doesn’t have the vocabulary to tell us. The thing is that Korean people have been so kind and patient with us. And if we were somewhere else that didn’t accept us, this transition would be even harder. Instead we have neighbors who help us change our code on our door, a land lord who helped us fix our hot water, and co-teachers that support us.