Thursday, January 10, 2008

Ups & Downs...

I began this post a couple days ago, but thought you wouldn't really want to hear my whining in such a public forum. So I whined privately to a few friends and my mom who encouraged me to share it with you in the interest of helping you understand the emotional roller coaster that is an expat's life. Here's the post from before (you've already been warned it's kind of negative):

I've been really bipolar in my feelings about Korea lately. One minute I'm super excited about living here, am thrilled about the experiences I'm having and things I'm learning, and definitely want to do a second contract after visiting home for a bit in between, the next I'm really homesick for longevity, roots, continuity, and depth of connection with a place that I feel in Maryland.

There is some irony in my feelings. In Korea, my life is very exciting and I'm doing something very different, and I get a lot of stimulation. I love how much I smile here, how often I laugh, how quickly I meet really interesting and fun people, and how new and different life is all the time. I'm a lot bolder here because I know how much I'm gonna screw up and look stupid, and I've just accepted it. It's a part of life in an unfamiliar country. I want to keep these parts of me alive for the rest of my life no matter where I am or what I do in life.

However, sometimes everything feels shallow and cursory. I'm kind of a transient and most people treat me that way. I am so grateful to those who don't--like the Kwons, Sa Beom Nim, and my better friends here--because it helps establish normalcy in my chaotic life. I don't speak the language or understand the culture enough to help others, really. I feel somewhat useful to other expats when I do stuff like organize the book exchange, but that's also a necessity for me because I don't like going to bars as my only social activity. As much as it quickly can get stressful, I like feeling useful. I miss reaching kids who really needed me and talking to people in crisis on the hotline. I like feeling connected to the place where I live, which is hard to do in foreign countries in general and Korea in particular for reasons I don't entirely understand yet.

Maybe it's the winter lack of light getting to me or culture shock setting in, but I don't like being this dramatically torn every few minutes... It's not healthy.

I think, after talking to Amanda, I decided that I am having culture shock (it's about the right time for the downswing (around 3-6 months), but that I didn't think it was because it wasn't what I expected. I don't hate Korea, and I'm not depressed. But I am over-reacting to things that probably wouldn't get to me so much back home, like being single. Boy was I ever ANGRY last night. I mean, for the first time in my life I've figured out how awesome I am, and I was mad that the world has not yet presented an awesome guy who realizes this. In fact, most men seem pretty oblivious to my awesomeness and this struck me as outrageously unfair and cruel. I was angrier than I've been since my senior year of high school.

That's not a normal reaction.

Sure, back home I'd be bummed I don't have someone special once in awhile, but lacking the depth of connection here makes the lack of romance just that much harder to take. And I realized how stupid I was to be angry about something like this. But it didn't make me less angry.

It's ok, though. I think I'm allowed to be irrationally angry at all men for their failure to notice my awesome. I'm allowed to cry in a church on Christmas day. Or dance in the streets like a crazy woman to the Timbaland that only I can hear after being stared at like I'm already doing it anyhow. Sometimes life abroad is tough and you gotta be a tough broad to take it. Just as long as it doesn't become my defining characteristic, letting go like that can feel great now and then.

I soothed myself by doing what I always do when I get down, I made a five year plan. And this one's the most fantastic one yet! If you know me well, then you know by now it's likely to change dramatically in the next few months so I won't post the details here just yet, but it feels really good to have a direction for the next few years. It involves becoming proficient-to-fluent in three languages, living on four different continents for various lengths of time, writing a ton, helping to save the world, and joining the Peace Corps!

I love studying Korean (as a friend joked, perhaps the lack of irregular verbs soothes me), but I've decided that January and February are too busy (and I'm a little too broke) for Korean class, so I'm just going to get a tutor and continue my language exchanges and start up at the YMCA again in March. (I still have the info though, if you want it. And I'm always willing to show a newbie how to get around downtown. Like I mentioned above, I enjoy helping others.)


  1. Hang in there. Living abroad can be tough, living as a Westerner in an Eastern country can be really tough. Dating here...yeah.

    I DO think you're going through one of the stages of culture shock. Go with it.

    Avoid Dave's. ^^

  2. Bananas supposedly help with seasonal affective disorder. (Although why they thought we needed to know that in Guinea, I'm not sure.) Being sick a lot can also make you over-react (or more likely to react), in my experience. How does your current phone plan work?

  3. Moo moo moo. I loves you my diana monkey. You are very brave and awesome, and honestly sometimes it's a real help to see someone doing as well as you are with the stuff you've gone through before. I stand by you in amazonian awesomeness! :D

  4. Amanda, Thanks for all your support and everything. You're so right--living here is just darned HARD sometimes. And Dave's has served its purpose for me, and I've long since stopped having much interest in watching negative people be jackasses to each other over the Internet...

    Eli, My phone plan rocks. You can call my old cell number anytime. I have unlimited minutes. I'll call you back if I don't pick up. I love bananas... Maybe I should eat more again...

    Rosemoo, Thanks, darling. I miss you tons. Your words bring me such joy... you know me well.



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