Tuesday, February 12, 2013

안녕히 계세요 - Goodbye ㅠㅠ

How did I get here so quickly? On the way to school today I was just taking in the scenery, thinking - damn, it's actually here...my last day of teaching in Korea. Although I've been ready to leave for a while now, the fact that it's time to go has tugged on my heart strings much harder than I ever expected. I've addressed my schools and said goodbye, had many letters passed and awkward goodbye exchanges. It's here. It's time to go home.

I don't even know how I'm going to convey everything I want to in this last post. This year in Korea has been life changing. I am going back a changed, matured, stronger woman. I think differently, I want different things. I can never quite explain what living here has done for me - you'll just have to see it I guess. My very good friend, Su, also leaves this weekend and we've both been struck by how emotional we are (okay her more than me, we all knew I was the cheesy one but Su's surprising herself a bit too ㅋㅋㅋ). I have learned so much this year. I've learned what it means to be different, to be the outsider. I've learned what it means to put yourself in others shoes and accept that your way of seeing things is not the only one and is sometimes very wrong. I've learned to be patient - goodness knows my kids have tested that. I have realised more and more here how this is the time of my life to be a little selfish, to really live and take chances because it's not worth looking back and thinking "I should have"...fear cannot hold me back from spreading my wings. I've learned above all to suck it up. No one cares about your bad days, your homesickness and your tears. I don't mean this in a 'Koreans are so cold and heartless way', not at all. It's just different here and I had to accept that. It's made me stronger, it's taught me to rely on myself more. I had a job to do, I had to forget about all the other stuff going on. I feel like I know who I am now more than I did before I came. I know this is common for people going into the work place after college but I will always credit Korea for helping mold the person I am today. I learned how to teach - my kids and teachers have given me so much without even knowing it. Saying goodbye to them has been a challenge. These kids are the hardest working ones I know and I just want them to be happy. It breaks my heart to see and hear how many Koreans, old and young, are not satisfied with their lives.

Korea is the most incredible country. It's had to build itself up from a pretty dark past and has worked as hard as possible to get to where it is today. The people are determined - even if that determination comes in the form of an aggro ajjuma who feels your existence is merely there to annoy her. It is a county full of contradictions: you cannot blow your nose in public but can spit the most disgusting balls on the floor at any time, and fart and burp like it's nothing; Westerners are seen as being too 'out there' and dress too provocatively but K-pop encourages young kids to dance and dress like they're 35 year old private dancers and it's seen as okay; you have to recycle and heaven forbid if you don't but finding a public trash can is close to impossible; they celebrate traditions and things as old as patriarchy and yet have some of the most modern facets of society that I've ever seen. Bullet trains and bicycles. I don't know if I'll ever come back here to visit (teaching here again will always be an option should other things not work out) but I am so happy I got to experience this culture first hand. The people are interesting and I really wish I could have gotten to know more of them on a personal basis. I'm no longer satisfied with simply seeing places, ticking off countries on a map. I want to learn more and become fully immersed in different cultures, including my own back home - it's eye opening. Everyday has been an adventure here! Some good, some bad, but an adventure nonetheless. Oh Korea, we say with a smile. I will never forget you.

I had the most wonderful weekend this past one, spending time with the Jecheonians, friends who I've made over the year who up until now, I never really thought of saying goodbye to. I've said it before; the friendships you make while living abroad are like nothing you have at home. Friends here become your support base, your sounding board, your family away from home and for me, often the only source of conversation. We share our lives, our good days and our bad days. They understand what you're going through because chances are, they're going through it too. These bonds created are strong enough to stretch out over the time and space that is bound to come at some point. And saying goodbye sucks. It sucks because we're sprinkled all over the world and chances are high we'll never see each other again. I don't want to let go just yet. And so thank you, everyone, for being there for me when I needed you most. For the laughs, the advice, the tears and the nights spent drinking and talking about nothing and everything at the same time. Thank you for supporting me and my blog, my teaching struggles, my homesickness. I will miss each and every one of you.

Su: Thank you for everything, always. All the happiness in the world for your next adventure - I have no doubt that you will have the most amazing time traveling and every student who gets you as a teacher will be very lucky indeed ^^

My friends and family back home have also been a huge source of support and I could not have done it without them. I don't want to get too 'shout out-y' but I've been amazed at how much I have gained from my relationships back home, even from across the miles that separate us. Coming home is that much sweeter when you know people are excited to see you again. I will always feel like by living in two places, a piece of me belongs to both. Once home, I know I will never feel completely whole again because a part of me will continue to see Korea as home, as part of who I am. A friend who has recently returned home remarked that she felt more homesick once in SA than she ever did in Korea - I expect I'll have those days too. It's scary to be walking into the unknown...for those who are wondering, I really don't have a solid plan for this year. Travel. Study. Rest. Work. I don't know what lies ahead but I know my adventure is not over yet; I refuse to let it end here.

I have some videos and things I might try to upload in the next few days and I'd like to do a post or 2 once home, but this is kind of the end of this blog too. I have so enjoyed keeping it, and getting feedback on my posts. It's been a record of the year and I have been overwhelmed by all the people supporting it! Thank you for caring about what I have to say ;). I hope I can start another blog if I find I have interesting things to talk about!

And so this is it. Almost time to enjoy my last meal at school, and get my apartment packed up and ready to go. I don't think I could ever find the words to properly say goodbye, so for now I'll just say see you later. It's sure been real :)

1 comment:

  1. Great post Bron! It's a tough place to leave even if you've had a tough time while here.