I have been in Korea for a little over 6 months now. I have finally figured out the bus schedule. I can mangle basic conversations with taxi drivers. I have developed a taste for kimchi, and yesterday I actually finished all of my rice at dinner. I have also figured out how very deeply not-Korean I really am.
In some ways, I would really like to blend in. People really stare here. I cannot go anywhere without kids pointing and saying “Mom, a foreigner! Mom, looooook!” or middle-school boys going “Hello! Hello! I love you!” or and this gets sort of annoying when you just want to buy a toothbrush or mail a postcard or be invisible. And sometimes I don’t like that what I do is a reflection on the country I am from, especially when I am having a bad day.
But in some ways, it’s awesome. I stopped by a bakery on the way home from the gym last week. I had just showered, my hair was wet, I had no makeup, and my clothes didn’t match. But I walk in, and a woman buying bread turns to me and solemnly says, “You. Verrrrrrrry beautiful,” and I am thinking, of any time that I might look okay, it is definitely not now. But thank you. It’s nice to be called pretty.
And living in a town where there aren’t a lot of foreigners means that I get to introduce a lot of stuff for the first time. On the last day of English Camp, 20 teenagers made Kraft macaroni and cheese for the first time. I taught my host sister how to play “Heart and Soul” on the piano and she loved it. Teaching about Halloween was some of the most fun I’ve had, and telling a group of girl in my office that you don’t put deodorant on your face, as they had thought when I first showed it to them, but rather under your arms was sort of priceless.
ps-- IDEA employee and former Willamette debater/English teacher in Korea, Alex, held a debate workshop at my school last weekend. Read about it here.