Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Little Reflection

It rained again after a couple of days of beautiful weather, and I think it made me feel a bit contemplative. I realized that most of our blogging thus far has been about the places we go and people we see, and that’s what the blog is really for, but I also wanted to share a little bit of my thoughts and feelings on moving to a foreign country and setting up house for a year. (This would also be your cue to stop reading if thoughts and feelings are of no interest to you… I will in no way be offended!)

I just really can’t believe that we have been here for 7 weeks already. We’ve been getting more and more settled in… getting our Alien Registration Cards, phones, paying bills, eventually getting internet, etc. But I think I’m starting to realize that I will probably not feel “settled” at any time over the next year. There are constant challenges. The part of me that spent most of my college career talking about things like race and gender and ethnocentricity is suddenly faced with actually being a minority in one of the most fiercely homogenous countries on earth, and it is a challenge. I am trying to be conscious of how this feels, not to just react, but to think through the way I feel like reacting and ask myself why I feel that way. Trying to ask myself honestly how I’ve acted when I’ve been on the other end of the interaction. It’s been humbling, eye opening, thought provoking and, truth be told, kind of exhausting at times.

The other day in class a student told me that he didn’t like America. When I asked him why he told me it was because of the new Korea Free Trade Agreement. I had no idea what he was talking about. The learning curve is huge… the language, wars of the past and possibly the future, current events here and at home. How did I end up in a country I knew so little about? What an adventure.

Lately, I have also been missing my family, and those who might as well be family, quite a lot. I miss being able to pick up the phone and call one of you (without having to find a pay phone, calculate a massive time difference, etc.) and be filled in on your daily life in matter of minutes. I miss family get-togethers and the funny/ridiculous things all of the kids (and adults!) say and do. I have also, though, come to realize that I am so richly blessed to have this kind of family to miss. To know that I am half a world away, but never totally alone in the world. Thanks for that. Having Sam here helps quite a bit, too!

There have been moments, too, where things have just felt right, somehow. Moments like getting off of the subway at our stop and realizing that I didn't have to pause and wonder which way to go for the entire trip, ordering a meal entirely in Korean and actually being understood, when I put the word "zoo" on the board and the entire class finally says zzzzoooo instead of "jew".

I do feel, though, like the dust is beginning to settle a little bit. We haven’t done that much exploring since we’ve been here, and I think both of us are feeling the urge to get out of our corner of the city and really see what Seoul has to offer. I have been going through the guidebooks again and making a pretty massive list of things I’d like to see while I’m here. Now, I just need to get out and see them. It’s amazing how easy it is to fall into a rut of “hang out, work, sleep” even when you’re in an exciting new place.

For me though, the rut has been kind of nice for awhile. It’s given me time to get used to the job, read some good books, and think through some things. I’ve been thinking a lot about life and the parts of my path that I’ve chosen and those that are still wide open. I’ve been talking to God a lot about how to have a life worth living. I recently read, I think on someone else’s blog, actually (sorry I don’t remember who you are!!) that if you are far enough away to see the “big picture” you’re not really in it, and that the big picture is made up of smaller steps, each of which you should try to thoroughly embrace and enjoy. So, I will, for the moment, stop worrying about what to do when we get home, and focus on this step that I’m on… focus on embracing it and enjoying it, with joy.

Sorry to get all introspective on you our… dozen(?) of readers. I promise my next entry will have lots of pictures of interesting things, or something, to make up for it :)


jessica said...

i love you, alison.

Anonymous said...

Love this post!

And love you. :)

We miss you guys TONS AND TONS. Get out there and explore. This is definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity.


A said...

I enjoyed reading your thoughts and feelings. I can only imagine how much of a reality check it is be the minority. People can talk and theorize about race/ethnicity and ethnocentrism in a classroom but I bet it's a lot more real with this kind of experience.

Definitely go see what there is to offer! You guys have been so brave just to go over there to live for a year.


Grandpa F said...

Enjoy your blog. Enjoy the pictures. Keep them coming!