In five days I will be enjoying a nice Stars concert in Seoul. Six days from now I will be leaving Korea, probably forever. I have been living in Korea, on the island of Jeju for the past three years. As I sit in my nearly empty apartment surrounded by boxes to be shipped to Mongolia, I thought I’d write about my impressions of living on Jeju, some opinions, things I’ll miss about Korea, and personal growth that has taken place in my life.
1. I will miss the extremely efficient and cheap postal services. The people who work the Korean Post Service are probably super people. How can it be that the five huge boxes that I shipped on Thursday night for 30 dollars before a national holiday reach their destination near Seoul the next day?! Blows my mind.
2. Since I’ve gotten onto the topic of cheap, I’ll say that I will miss super cheap and abundant taxis. The drivers are crazy and sometimes drunk but they get you places on time and almost never for more than a 5 dollar price tag.
3. Korean society is a very isolated society. Jeju is even more so because it is a small island that is extremely proud to be its own separate culture. While the culture is indeed interesting, this isolation spawns things like staring, pointing, and strange comments such as: “Wow, you can use chopsticks very well!” And when you try to explain that you’ve actually tried Korean food in Canada you get more confusing/ed comments in return. Jeju is a monoculture, which means that it is very hard for some Jeju people to understand things that are not Korean. Some things come as cute surprises at times. For example, eating a sandwich with jam (instead of tomato sauce) on it, or pizza with squeeze cheese.
4. Korea is a very socially-conservative society. I find it a bit… stifling.
5. I do not like living in a beach culture. Beach places are great to visit and spend a vacation on but to live…is another story. Generally (and I do mean generally; not always) people who love beach culture are non-committal and kind of lazy. I don’t know if it’s my big-city upbringing or what, but I enjoy a little bit of hustle and bustle in life.
School and teaching:
1. It’s OK to sleep in class because students go to private academies for extra lessons anyway. My questions is: “Why go to school at all?” I first found it maddening, then just annoying. I still don’t understand how some teachers just take this phenomenon as something that goes on in a regular classroom. I always hear that Korean students work so hard and study so much. Well maybe if they didn’t sleep in class they wouldn’t have to spend all kinds of extra hours studying.
2. Unless you speak Korean your co-workers will most likely ignore you and leave you out of important meetings and gatherings. You will be informed about something you must do the day (or sometimes an hour) before you have to do it. Oh, and don’t expect any reason behind doing something; you won’t get it. Things just must be done, that’s all.
3. Even if they hate English, Korean students will love you. You will often hear things like: “Big eyes, small face, beautiful, teacher I love you!” and other forms of adoration.
1. This is the least glamorous of all the growths in my opinion. I’ve learned how to live without stuff. Jeju is very small, so choices for anything are very limited; be it clothing, food items, or entertainment. I’ve learned how to entertain myself, keep myself busy, continue developing my own hobbies, and generally how to be happy with less. I’ve learned that stuff is mostly there to occupy our minds and to fill space where something else is missing. I’ve learned that happiness doesn’t come from things but from within ourselves. I found that if I was learning, having new experiences, and discovering things, then I was happy. Even without things with which to fill my tiny apartment.
2. By filling my time with hobbies instead of things I’ve learned how to paint (a little bit), how to play the piano, how to cook, learned a lot about nutrition, took finance, environment and chemistry courses online, as well as delved deeper into yoga and meditation. Without Jeju I would not have had the experience of being in a freaking rock band!
3. That saying: “Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you about yourself.” (or something like it) is something that cemented in my head over the past three years. I feel that the friends I’ve made on Jeju chose me. It feels as though we all came to Jeju just to meet each other (and do other cool stuff.) The cool, talented people who have touched my heart on Jeju will forever stay in my mind. I am looking forward to seeing some of them in other parts of the world in the near (or far) future.
4. I have never wanted to have the ‘regular’ life with a house and white picket fence. I can confidently say that my journey has been anything but regular and I am happy with it for now. The tiniest irking to settle down and get a house with a yard is starting to show itself but it’s just a zygote right now. It’s not even multiplying. It’s really just an egg at this moment.
Well, I am off to stuff my face with as much vegan kimchi as I can handle for the next few days. Ta-ta.
I wish you love and light, always.