on the other side of the world….
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I’m a Celebrity… Get me out of here!

Weigookin - Foreigner

“Weigookin” – Foreigner

Sometimes living in Korea as a foreigner and English teacher is a bit like being a celebrity.  Not so much that everyone wants your autograph or there are paparazzi everywhere, although those have both happened, more or less, but more that everyone who sees you is either overly eager to say hello or they’re terrified.  It’s never-ending.  Walking down the street a gaggle of middle school girls will pause when they see you, murmur to themselves, then all say in unison, “Hello!!”.  This is ALWAYS followed by uproarious laughter – never fails.  Occasionally we get some more advanced students who will throw questions at you like you’re a rag doll with a pull string.  “Where are you from?  Where are you going?  What’s your name?  How are you? etc…”

The other end of the spectrum comes when dealing with older people.  Anyone above the age of 55 is usually pretty confused when we walk into their place of business or walk by them on the street.  You’d think this was an over generalization but it’s mostly true.  Old men, “Ajishees”, typically just give you the long stare or, if they’ve been drinking, might try to spurt some incoherent Korean at you.  The old women, “Ajumas”, typically have the same stare but sometimes give you a smile of confusion or a look of death… either/or  :)

In the beginning this was all very interesting for us.  We didn’t mind being noticed everywhere we went and we just got used to it.  Now after almost 11 months of living here, I have to say it’s pretty annoying.  The anonymity of living in a culture like America sounds awfully appealing.  It’s been an interesting phenomenon to experience and one that neither of us will forget.    There aren’t too many other places on the planet where this kind of experience is possible.  Korea is one of the most homogeneous nations in the world.  They have been known for centuries as “The Hermit Kingdom”, and for good reason.  Even after years of foreign influence and cultural exchange comfort levels of average Koreans with foreigners are still very low.  We are, for many people we meet, the first foreigners they’ve ever known.

So with that, we look forward to 12 days from now when we board the plane back to our home country and the comfort of being one of many.  A much needed break.   Then we’ll come back here with our tanks refilled and do it again for 6 months.  Our trip home will probably bring a whole new set of interesting experiences.  The sudden shift from easily tuning out the Korean ramble on the bus or in restaurants to understand everyone around us perfectly will no doubt be very jarring.  If we act very distracted in public places this is probably why.  I’m not sure how pronounced that feeling will be but anytime we hear someone speaking in English around us here it immediately draws our attention.   I can’t imagine when it’s everywhere.

We’re excited to see the changes in America, good and bad, and then to return to Korea and see it with a fresh eye.  I hope the trip brings to light new appreciation for both cultures and countries.  We’ll see…

That’s my rant for the day…  We’ll be home soon!  We are soo excited.


ALSO:  Please check out the new design on my personal website!  www.chadjewsbury.com

July 14, 2009   12 Comments