Korea: Q&A

Korea?? But why? When? What? Huh?? So, I’ve been asked a lot of questions by a lot of people and I wanted to answer some here and hopefully give you a tiny glimpse into my whirling brain at the moment as I prepare to leave the country for a whole new adventure.

Why Korea? Honestly, I felt peace the moment I first thought about it. It was totally a God inspired thing. And here’s some other great reasons to go to Korea: delicious food, epic language with a whole new and exciting alphabet, you get to live in a lovely mountain-filled, ocean-surrounded country with perfect internet. Not to mention they have the freakin coolest festivals ever (check my bucket list out if you want an idea of where I’m hoping to go)! And I’ll get to teach English which I love to do while meeting amazing new people and getting to share an amazing new adventure with old friends! I could actually answer this question all day but you get the point.

But I mean, why study abroad in the first place? I’ll be honest, I didn’t entirely understand the question at first. Why would you not want to get paid to travel? I don’t see the dilemma… Of course, now that I’m actually doing it and thinking about all the struggles I am going to face, I am starting to understand the question. Moving to a whole new country and embracing a whole new culture is going to be painful at points. Still, I’m counting on that. I’m not planning on constant vacation, I’m planning on being challenged and growing as a human being.

Aren’t you going to miss your family? Yes. A lot. And all my friends. I used to be the girl who was traumatized by moving when I was little, always afraid of saying goodbye, even if it was just for a second. I’ve cried for hours over people leaving. How the heck is this girl planning on making it on her own for an entire year? The crazy thing is, I know I can do it, as painful as it will be. I can promise every single person I love, I will always love you no matter where I am, how you/I change, how long its been since we’ve talked… you are, quite simply, stuck in my heart. I am no longer afraid of space or distance because I’ve met the right friends, friends who understand you instantly again even after years apart. Even more impressive, I’ve had some beautiful relationships with people who I get closer to even when we haven’t talked for years. And that is only because I know some pretty amazing people who I am so incredibly grateful for. And while nothing can take away the pain of a goodbye, I have met people who have taught me never to be afraid of a goodbye. Besides, I’m pretty excited to share this dream with you. Unlike the shaky uncertainty of technological communication in Rome, Korea has internet and I plan on playing around a lot on social media. I hope you all realize I’m taking you all with me in my heart and on my phone.

Girrrlll, you got guts. Really? I mean half the people I know do crazier things so moving half way round the world to a country I’ve never been to before doesn’t sound like the most gutsy thing I could do. Yes, I know it’s not going to all cherry blossoms and beaches either. It’s going to force me to reach new level of independence. It’s going to force me to reach out to people and look past myself. There are going to days of linguistic humiliation or cross-cultural fails. Students are great but every teacher knows that they are going to test my patience probably at least once. I’ll have to stick up for myself since I won’t have a hoard of people doing it for me. I’ll have to make decisions and actually say no to things ( this may sound like stupid little things to learn but decision making is not my natural forte and I’m still learning that I can say no to things and not be a horrible human being). And there are so many unknown variables right now like what city I will live in and what age I will teach… Ok, this whole thing is completely terrifying, let’s be real. And I can’t wait!! I’m going on an adventure!! From what I hear adventures are supposed to be a little scary and a little hard or its just a vacation.

Sounds like fun but don’t they have different beauty standards? They are pretty obsessed with appearance and have a very specific idea of what it means to be beautiful. Turns out, so does America and I don’t perfectly fit either country’s ideal perfectly. Sure I’m going to play with makeup and fashion while I’m there, that just sounds like fun, but I’m not going to sacrifice my confidence for anything. I am really grateful for the friends that gave me a heads up that this country can take it too the extreme. They can really care a lot about looks and that combined with brutal honesty about what they think of you can be kind of searing. I have no idea of this is something that is just some people’s experiences or if it has changed but if not I’m in for some trial by fire. I’m going to say right now if it ever starts getting to me I’m going to ask for a couple words of affirmation from y’all to get me focused and remember what it is that really matters about a person.

You are going to try their make-up? Don’t they have bleach? Well… their products don’t exactly have bleach in them, usually. However, they often have sunscreen in their creams and melanin inhibiting chemicals. I plan on trying to avoid both of those if possible. I happen to love the sunshine and my tan. And if I get a little paler, let’s be real, I feel pretty ghost-like after a winter in Minnesota when the sun decides to take a nine month vacation. The solution is quite simple: get some fresh air and sunshine again. It’s not irreversible.

Ok, when do you leave? If my visa paperwork goes through, I’m going August 15th. That means I have to do everything. Right. Now. Why is there so much paperwork? And so little space in a correctly sized suitcase?

So there you have it. To all my family and friends- I love you and I can’t wait to share all my new adventures with you! God willing, when I see you again in person I will be that much better of a human being and we will be that much closer. Onto new and wonderful adventures! 🙂


In Europe’s Shadow

Why this Book?

I’m going to tell you a secret… I know very little about the Cold War but that wasn’t the reason I picked up this smudgy thick white history book off the library shelf. I’m kind of obsessed with Sebastian Stan at the moment. When I found out that he is from Romania, I went to check out a book on it (don’t judge) and ended up learning all kinds of things and enjoyed the book for its own sake and loving Romanian culture for its own sake.

Here’s the thing about this book: I am not really sure if the author and I would get along. I find Kaplan old and cynical, especially when I first picked up the book. I was, however, very intrigued by his totally honest and foreign voice, and I was delighted by how well he knew the country and people of East Europe. This author is like one of those professors who you like to listen to because they are so smart and bitingly honest but you hate to take tests from because they are always so mean about it. (Thank God I don’t have to take a test from this guy!) I loved reading the book because I feel like (while I didn’t learn as much as I should) I learned a lot.

What is the book like? 

With Kaplan’s voice in mind I must tell you he paints a vivid picture of Romania from World War II to the present. Names and dates often blurred in my mind, he knew them all so well but for me it was like meeting too many people at a party. What I can remember is the clearly depicted travel scenes he gave from his own journey and the personalities and culture of the people he met. (And my hope is that next time I meet these people in books I am able to remember them because now I have a reference point.)

The experience of looking at the desolate communist tortured country through his eyes helped make history real. He describes a people worn down from hardship with a culture all but washed out by communism. However, even as he washes out the colors of culture and paints a cold bleak black and white picture of the the pain Romania has been through, he loves to reminisce about the beauty of the past and hint at the possibility of better times. “The communists destroyed the landscape, but deep down they destroyed nothing. It is only a matter of recovering the tradition. Tradition and modernity cannot exist one without the other. You can only rebuild the past.” While he seems to think the newer Romanian culture is a bit fake and forced its not all negative. The vibrant picture he paints of the Latin West merging into the Oriental Byzantine East in Romania fascinated me. He compares it to the Italian city of Ravenna which made me want to visit. “Romania is a fusion of Roman Latinity and Greek Orthodox Christianity, so that ancient Rome and Greece live on, however vaguely and indirectly inside the Romanian soul.”

A Couple of More Quotes that Intrigued Me…

“How distinct the colors were! We think of the past in Black-and-White because of the state of photography at the time. But the past before the ages of smokestacks economies was even richer in primary colors than the world today.”

“The ultimate purpose of human existence is to appreciate beauty, and beauty requires a spiritual element-an imitation of another world.”