our springtime has been a whirlwind, with the ups-and-downs that we’ve grown accustomed to in this korean life we’re living. at the forefront of april and may was the looming decision we needed to make – would we sign another contract? we spent our school afternoons fighting many battles negotiating our vacation time, with the hopes that if we got the vacation time frame we wanted, we would consider staying in korea longer. in the end i think we came out on top, with a solid 3 plus weeks to go home and visit family. that being said, we have decided to sign another contract and stay in korea next semester.
this decision may have personally been one of the hardest i’ve ever made. korean life isn’t easy. far, far from it. i have missed my family, my city, and my friends more than i ever thought possible. i miss good, dairy-based foods and deep conversations and coworkers that are also my good friends. i miss driving on long stretches of open iowa highway with nothing but green cornfields and blue sky in all directions. i miss the stars. i miss a good cup of drip-brew caribou coffee with a healthy splash of cream. i miss being able to talk to kids. i miss running around gray’s lake or biking behind the art center in the heat of summer. i miss every single member of my family and i miss lazy holidays where a dozen or more of us watch pixar movies and fall asleep in grandpa & grandma’s living room. oh, and i miss crab rangoons. and english. and diversity. and live music. and church. and guacamole. and farmer’s markets. even writing this is almost bringing me to tears, so i better stop.
i dream almost nightly of being home. being back in the place of comfort, familiarity, and acceptance. but life is not supposed to be easy. our end-goal isn’t to simply be comfortable. and so, here are some of the reasons why we will stay:
1. once in a lifetime: we will never live in korea again. we will never visit korea again. i can say that with some confidence. so, this moment is temporary. it’s a great opportunity, so why not make the most? why not explore a little more, be the outsider a little longer, be stretched a little further?
2. travel: the longer we stay, the more places we can explore. australia was awesome, but now we’re craving a little more rugged southeast asian experience. thailand? cambodia? vietnam? maybe all three?
3. financial security: while we are here, we can save. once we go home, we’ll both be searching for new jobs, and we’re not sure how long that will take. neither david nor i have ever oriented our lives around money, and we never want to be the people who live unhappy lives just to be a little richer. but we do want to be responsible, and we want to be prepared for the next stages of life. we think working here a little longer will get us a step or two ahead once we settle back home.
4. simplicity. living here, life is blissfully simple. i live for a good meal or a good night with friends. here, i am already so strange and different, that i don’t worry about “fitting in.” i don’t worry about my clothes, or the latest cool, expensive styles. i don’t need or want more stuff, because we don’t have the space for it anyway. all our friends live in tiny little apartments like us. no one has a car or any cool toys. we’re all on a pretty even playing field; it’s almost like being in college again. i don’t waste time longing for stylish furniture or cool home decor. we get excited if we find a decent chair in the trash. there’s no comparing games, no envy, or feelings of inferiority. for me, this is huge.
5. perspective: we are the minority. we are stared at and laughed at. people don’t sit by us on the bus, people glare if i show too much shoulder, people yell at me in korean and race me on the track. this is the stuff that is the hardest to swallow, but i feel within me that this constant friction is the truest test and refinement of my character, and it is developing in me a viewpoint and understanding that couldn’t have come about in any other way. it’s jaw-dropping, maddening, and heartbreaking sometimes. it’s racist and sexist and ignorant sometimes (i’ve been seriously asked by a coteacher if all foreigners are left handed… wha??). but when i get home, i think this will open my heart and eyes to the refugees, the strange, the different, the cast-aside, the immigrants among us. and if nothing else, it’s stirred within me a greater pride and respect for our nation, and how far we have come, knowing we still have a long ways to go.
6. the foreigner community: we love our friends here. we love helping them move, making meals together, watching TV together, going out together, spending holidays together. no one else can relate like they can, to this weird life we are living. we also love the opportunities here. we get to try out our hobbies and stretch our wings in new ways. i get to write. with some actual direction. i love that. and david’s videography skills are through the roof!
so there’s a little list of reasons. i hope they make sense. there are days when we are still not thrilled about the decision to stay, but we think it’s what will be best for us in the end.
that being said, we’ll be HOME august 8th through the 30th. get in touch with us, because if you’re reading this and you miss us (even just a teensy bit), then we’d love to see you!