Almost two weeks have passed since I’ve arrived in the ROK (Republic of Korea) and I think I’m adjusting pretty well. There have been a few moments where I think to myself “Where am I? What did I do??” but it’s been mostly fun and exciting. I’m stretching myself beyond my comfort zone and I’m proud of myself for not letting things bother me that may have in the past. Well, at least not too much, haha!
The one thing I’ve found since I’ve arrived is how self-conscious I feel being a minority. I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for people who are different, but it’s very strange being that person. I get stared at every single day, and sometimes not so discreetly. There have been countless times that I absolutely know I am being talked about. The natural human curiosity is a fascinating thing. The first week, I found myself walking with my head down, no eye contact and very nervous when I was on the street or on the subway. However, I realized that most of these stares and whispers are mostly because people are interested, not hostile. I’ve started to look people in the eye when they stare, and return it with a smile. Most of the time I get one back, sometimes I don’t. It’s an empowering, strange feeling. It’s making me feel more self-confident, but also humbling me at the same time. It’s hard to describe.
As an American living abroad, I want to make a good impression on behalf of my country. I worry so much about the stigma of a “rude, obnoxious Westerner” and I hope I break that stereotype for the people who expect it. I am well aware that I am a visitor in this country, and I want to respect the culture and traditions as much as I possibly can. There are times when I get frustrated though, and have that embarrassing 5 second thought of, “Well, they wouldn’t do things like this in America! This is so weird!” Case in point: I just arrived at school this afternoon and the power is shut off from 2-4pm, to “check it,” as our head teacher explained. I had the brief thought that it was a really inefficient way to run building maintenance – why didn’t they check it at 2am instead of 2pm? Then I realized that they probably have a good reason, and it was arrogant of me to assume. Maybe they didn’t even have a good reason, but who am I to question? It’s actually fun, because all of us teachers are sitting in a classroom, working together for the first period of the day. And I’m able to write a blog post since I can’t access my online planning tools! ;)
I’m excited about what this year has in store for me. I think it will teach me a lot about myself, and I hope to come home with a new appreciation for what I have and what opportunities I’ve been given. So far it’s been nothing but feelings of gratitude and wide-eyed curiosity. Not a bad way to live your life if you ask me …