Nearly 3 years ago before I left for Korea, I, like, so many expats, thought it would be exciting to keep a blog and inform my friends back home on what life is like on the other side of the world, and in a place where I’m one day ahead of everyone else. However, my blog writing turned into something more than just being an informative piece for the blogging/social network public. It became a reminder of the pre-conceptions I had about the world then vs. now. My blogging has since lay dormant in the last several months, not for the lack of desire to write, but because, I reached a point where I’ve been able to accept, and even embrace a lot of uncertainties or nuances that comes with being a traveler. With many of the blogs I’ve read, a lot of the expat bloggers in some way or another are still coping with those cultural differences. Not to say that I don’t have those moments of expat anxiety, but rather it’s become my own accepted way of this lifestyle, and just quickly moving on from each situation and on to the next.
As the leaves are turning its colors, I find myself ready to change colors. The colors of my leaves that were once so fresh when I came to Korea are getting older and ready to fall off. As each week is ending, the whispering reminders of my coming departure becomes louder and louder. It is the voice that I can’t easily ignore, but a reminder that my future will take on, it’s safe to say, a completely different direction.
As I’m starting to prepare the last few lesson plans I have left of the semester, I can’t help but feel incredibly sentimental. I’m ready to say goodbye to yet another graduating class, but this time, to a class that I’ve been with since Day 1. My relationship with that class is one of love and hate; I’ve been a witness to both their growing pains and their pains in the asses moment. I recently found myself watching many of my old videos from my 1st year, and amazed at how fast they have grown up from the cute, innocent, fresh-out-of elementary school phase to having bad cases of acne, apathy towards society, girl-loving, ready-to-start high school attitude. Having collected a library full of videos from that year, I was able to kindly share them with my students, much to their horror and chagrin, as they are being reminded of how cute and innocent they once were. As I have seen them grow through the turbulent transition of puberty, I have found, for lack of a better phrase, growing both professionally and personally in Korea.
I was already 25 years old when I left Korea, but never had the opportunity to be a “true adult” back home. I was already finished with college the year before, but was struggling with the job search, having to live at home, and not being able to obtain the much-needed independence and personal self-respect I was seeking. It wasn’t until being in Korea allowed me that opportunity to finally make the transition into a late-blooming adult. I can truly say that working with kids has kept me grounded, and pushed me to focus on other opportunities that I had otherwise never considered which would lead me to my next topic.
This year, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time doing volunteer work outside of school. Gone are the days of weekend partying, domestic traveling, and college-like immaturity, and replaced with spending more time visiting orphanages, and women shelters in Busan, raising money and other donations for them, and enlisting new volunteers and organizations that we can lend a helping hand to. In a nutshell, it’s been an eye-opening experience for me as this has made me more aware of the unlucky situation that many of these people in the shelters, and orphanages are in, and how the current political climate has hampered a lot of the goals that these organizations want to achieve for those that are in need. I’ve been fortunate to have a small group of dedicated volunteers who are using their energy and time into doing the kind of work that often gets overlooked for many of the new expats here. With Christmas coming up, I’ve been currently trying to start up a Toy Drive and Christmas party dinner for two of the orphanages in Busan.
As I’m still trying to articulate my feelings about the near end of my contract with my school, I am still struggling to find a way to send the proper goodbye send off to all of my students and faculty. There’s no doubt in my mind that I’m going to miss them tremendously, and all of the memories that I’ve accumulated from being around them. I asked several students from this year’s graduating class about where they think I’ll go next, and NO ONE mentioned me about leaving Korea, but instead, believe that I’ll stay in Korea whether it’s at the same school or somewhere else. It doesn’t make it any easier when I will finally tell them the news, but in all honesty, I will probably miss them much more than they would with me. As I’ve experienced from the last 2 graduating classes, I’ve seen several of my former students, a few I keep in touch with, but by that time, the emotional connection is already distant, and as the cliché goes, life keeps on going no matter how much you want to suspend it. It is that reality that I have made my peace with, knowing that the experience has been worthwhile, and that the stage has been set for newer moments.
Alas, I have a mere few months before I am gone, but the truth is, I’m starting to recognize, and perhaps not fully yet, of the impact that the Korean experience has done for me. Nearly 3 years, the only thing I’ve truly learned is how little I truly know, and how comforting that feeling is.