these are the days

02Feb10

Just like anywhere else you’d call home, where life is molded by duty and sculpted by habit, life in Korea doesn’t vary a whole lot from day to day. There are the whirlwind weekends in Seoul, the trips out of town to visit friends, the holidays abroad to explore Asia. But more often than not, there is none of the above. There is just the regular workday. So, in this way, life as a foreigner in the Far East isn’t as foreign as you might imagine. In fact, in many ways, my life is probably a lot like yours.

Most days I follow the same general routine. I oversleep. I hurry to shower and dress. I skip breakfast. I go to work. I teach four morning classes and spend the afternoon lesson-planning, reading or writing. I leave work, have a quick workout at the gym and get ready for the night to begin. Usually it’s as simple as dinner or a movie with a friend. Sometimes it’s as mundane as grocery shopping or cleaning my apartment. And once in awhile, if I’m especially energetic, it’s a few drinks at Now Bar.

As creatures of habit, it’s all too easy to get caught up in the daily grind, without ever stopping to analyze what it is we’re really doing as we hurry from one time slot in our schedules to the next. Work. Home. Play. Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. Monday. Tuesday. Wednesday. And so it goes from one weekday to the next.

But, luckily for me, as a resident of a foreign country, it’s also easy enough to snap out of it. Because every so often something happens that opens my eyes, jars my senses and reminds me of how wonderfuly strange, exciting, fascinating and confusing life can be, especially life abroad.

The trigger can be quite ordinary. Most times it is. Maybe it’s as simple as eating something new, learning a new Korean fact, or realizing you know hardly anything at all. Maybe it’s as frustrating as losing your way on public transportation, as annoying as struggling to figure out how to get the Internet repaired in your apartment, as frightening as being trampled by a group of over-aggressive ajummas (Korean for old women) in the street, or as awkward as feeling like absolutely everyone is staring at you. Maybe it’s as inspiring as swapping travel tales with a new pal, as hilarious as watching a Korean talk show on TV, as touching as hearing a student of yours tell you she loves you, or as heartwarming as being showered with piles of complimentary food, placed proudly on your table by the local restaurant owner, simply because you said you like Korean cuisine.

And that’s when you remember. You remember that life in Korea is nothing short of incredible.

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