Thursday, December 11, 2008

Month 2 summed like a true Psych Major

Well. Here I sit at my desk at Suncheon Girls High School, rolling a werthers original around on my tongue (I found some at a Mini-stop, woo hoo!), killing time until 5:00 because it's final exam week so I don't have classes. I'm realizing it's been over two months now since I've arrived in Korea. It's hard to believe that time has passed so quickly, that it continues to pass by so quickly. I still haven't put my christmas cards in the mail yet!

I'd like to compare my time in Korea to the stages of life:
Week 1 - New Born Baby - you can't speak, read, comprehend anything. You can barely feed yourself. You cling desperately to adults more competent than you are. The world is a frightening, unfamiliar place and you desire a hand to hold.
Week 2 - Toddler - you start taking a few steps on your own. You are overcome with a sense of accomplishment when completing menial tasks by yourself (like giving a cab driver correct directions or figuring out how to work the washing machine). You feel perplexed that people aren't as impressed with your new talents as you are. You know what you want, but not how to get it. Adult supervision is still required.
Week 3 & 4 - Early Childhood - Basic abilities develop and you gain confidence in your own ability to do things without supervision. You start speaking a few basic words or phrases and can begin to communicate with others through language (rather than wild hand gestures). Your comfort zone expands to the nearby stores you have been taken to by other more competent people. You are still illiterate and need others to make any big decisions.
Month 2 - Late Childhood - Language ability continues to develop (albeit, very slowly). You are slowly learning to read the gibberish of written language, but you are painfully slow at it. You meet others who are "younger" than you and actually look up to you because you "know so much". You can handle day to day activities on your own (like buying fruit from an agima in the market), but still need help with any complex task (like paying bills at kiosk at the bank). Your sense of self-efficacy increases!

I'm looking forward to "growing up", though I hope I can skip puberty this time, haha. Korea continues to be challenging and exciting while already becoming mundane, ordinary and routine. It would be easy enough to stop my development here. I could stay in my routine and not need to learn another word of Korean and could get by eating at the restaurants I know that I like, if I wanted to. From what I've heard from others, this does happen with some foreigners. In a city like Suncheon, where there is a large community of foreigners, it would be easy to stay out of the Korean culture altogether; to go from your office to your apartment, order some pizza and watch CNN at night. But I think that's a surefire recipe for disenchantment. And I hope to have many months like November. Months of travelling (To Gwangju for a teachers meeting, and Seoul to see an old roommate from University and Cirque du Soliel!), eating at new restaurants and meeting new people. I've been here long enough to hear from alot of people about their experiences in South Korea. Newbies like me, or veterans, it really seems that so much of the experience is your attitude going in, and then how you handle the times when things don't go smoothly. There are real cultural challenges for westerners here and coupled with the language barrier, its easy to understand how some people find themselves miserably counting down the days until they can go home. Who knows, you may find me blogging about feeling that way in a couple of months! But I hope not. No place on earth is perfect, and Korea offers alot of opportunities (and perks) that I just wouldn't get in Canada.

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