Few things are more sacred in Korea than chimek. The ritual so awesome it got a celebrity mashup name, chicken and mecju (beer) is known pretty much the moment Korean kids enter the world through the portal of cuteness and stickers from whence they come. It’s super social and frankly, super awesome to have fried chicken and beer as plentiful as Starbucks in Seattle.
However…it’s not something you usually do alone. And here I am, solo white female wayguk (foreigner) on her laptop watching Dr. Who, having ordered a $16 basket of chicken and 500ml beer on my own. If I’m being honest, I only know of like 5 restaurants in Chilgok, and most of them are social-oriented. I haven’t really found places for people desperately alone…or maybe I’m just not looking and MAYBE I JUST REALLY WANTED CHICKEN, Y’ALL.
I got off campus on the 2:20 bus thanks to the generosity of David Brown and 3/8 of my soul sold to the scheduling gods—hanging out with my friend Elins on the ride in as he tries to teach my brain how to not insult people in Korean—so I decided to hit up the CGV and see if there were any movies worth watching. After soothing my soul with the baby blue pools of peace that are Chris Pine’s eyes in “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” (sidebar: when have financial analysts ever been SO DANG HOT), I meandered over to one of my favorite Chilgok coffee haunts: Coffea Coffee.
I like it for the cement wall atmosphere, not for the fact that the bathrooms are OUTSIDE and you need a passcode to get in them. I put off peeing for 2 hours until I was ready to eat my own arm off (and also ready to go into kidney shock or whatever [insert Brianna medical term]) and went. Way in…good. Wait 4 minutes as employee having smoke break is chatting on the phone in the stall…painful. Way out…APPARENTLY I SET OFF SOME KIND OF ALARM AND SO I JUST RAN. Yeah. Reaaaaalllly classy way to represent all foreigners: setting off the bathroom alarm in downtown ‘burbia. At one point I pretended to talk on my phone in Spanish. THE SHAME.
Having run and following the whims of my stomach, I stumbled into Okkudok, gateway to chimek heaven and personal torment.
Me: “Hi! Aanyong haseyo!”
Dude: “Aanyong haseyo.”
Me: “Uh, one. Hanna. Hanbyeong.”
Dude: (weird look)
Me: “One person. Solo.”
Dude: (holds up one finger) “…hanmyeong?”
Me: “Yes! Neh! Just…solo. Hanmyeong.”
Just so you are aware: hanbyeong means “one bottle,” so God only knows how that sounded.
And then I walked over the bridge over Terabithia, into the Daiso, and bought DB a water bottle because I’m afraid his kids will all be mutated due to him reusing the same cheap, single-use plastic water bottle for the last 4 months and then sat my butt down at Starbucks, ordered a $5 tall vanilla latte and just planted. I’m about 10 minutes away from the bus, which comes in at 9:25 to go back to the commune.
I totally didn’t start this one as a “let’s do a play by play of the most exciting Tuesday EVER,” but there it is. I started it to talk about my feelings about being 8 months in and needing to make some serious decisions about the future. But in classic me mode, I’ve put it off with rambling about the mundane for 40 minutes.
So at DGEV, you need to make a decision about renewing when you are 8 months into your 12-month contract. Which for me is February 1, aka about 10 days from now. In November/October I was convinced I wanted to go to Chicago in June for 4 weeks of training at Second City Improv. And while that’s still something I want to pursue, I’m not 100% convinced it’s the right step for right now. I…kind of like Korea, you guys.
I’m sitting in a Starbucks and there’s…46 people that I can see in here and all of them are (or at least look) Korean. Not a single foreigner. And that doesn’t scare me. It’s…kind of normal. It’s kind of nice to sit and just listen to the static of not understanding other people’s conversations. And it’s not unlike that game on “Whose Line” where you can make up whole conversations that people are having based on their body language.
I like the people I work with: Koreans, foreigners, whomever and I finally feel in my stride at work—I’m co-chair of the Adult Program with DB, I’m part of the Social Committee, I have free room and board and gym and heat and water and a HUGE bathroom all fo’ no’ moneys. I can probably name about 100 Korean words or terms, and can slowly sound out words in Korean and write them myself. Most importantly I have about 3 insults I can use, which is gold in any foreign language.
I told one of my Korean friends that I was thinking about staying another year here and was really surprised when he said, “that is good…and bad.” I said, “Don’t you want me to stay?” “Yes…but you are sad.” GUYS. WHAT. I actually feel mostly happy and good (at least *decent*) at my job now and don’t curl up in a ball and weep missing you all most nights. But it’s totally taken me aback and I’ve been questioning it the last 9 hours. Which would probably freak him out knowing how much trauma that’s caused me. Am I sad? I don’t…think so? I don’t feel any more sad than I did living in Tulsa, or Little Rock. Sure, life is up and down and sometimes you’re in a relationship and it’s great or you’re in a relationship and you’re lonelier than when you’re single and you see couples everywhere and some days the job is magical and you teach an old person how to FaceTime their kid in Afghanistan and sometimes you’re screamed at because a rich, drunk 24-year old dropped his iPhone in the lake over the weekend and OF COURSE it’s your fault as the creator of the device itself and sometimes your students laugh and love you and sometimes they sleep and mumble about how you’re a fat waygookin and sometimes you fall asleep texting someone special and sometimes you fall asleep heart wrenchingly lonely, but that is the same anywhere, not just in Korea. So…what I’m trying to say is that I don’t feel exceptionally sad.
tl;dr that last paragraph: I *think* I’m not sad here.
I kind of feel like I’m at the point of excitement and joy about Korea, learning Korean, and exploring things and people that I should have been when I arrived…it’s only taken me 8 months to get here.
BUS BUS BUS
I love public transit here. Cheap, simple, reliable DEAR GOD WHY CAN’T I FOCUS WAS IT THE CHICKEN IT WAS THE CHICKEN, WASN’T IT.
OK, so, back to decision time. Let’s list it:
Pros vs. Cons
Pro: free room and board and gym and shuttle and wifi and utilities
Con: it’s kind of out in Egypt and is a real buzzkill on weekends to get into Daegu and meet non-work people
Pro: living overseas! Widening horizons!
Con: sometimes you’re not really in the mood to stretch and it’s really frustrating, also, language is really difficult.
Pro: new people!
Con: you miss old people (old being relative) a lot. A LOT. Technology is a shallow representation, but kind of better than nothing. Insert clip of “Lonely” by Akon.
Pro: Cash moneys
Con: is there a con? I don’t think it’s corrupted my soul yet…
Pro: build up a resume of international work
Con: have no home base
Pro: Koreans are almost always awesome and loving and kind and funny, especially if you’re willing to try their language.
Con: Koreans are sometimes mean and very blunt and straight up rude to foreigners.
Pro: re-signing another year means +$1000 bump in pay plus another round-trip airfare to anywhere. As well as a favorable look at my evaluation and potential annual bonus.
Con: brain dislikes the idea of another year adrift with all things in 3 different states and 2 countries, as well as heartstrings snapping as I spend another year away from relationships.
So…clearly I’m not any closer to making a decision, but here’s where my brain is currently at: