There’s been a lull since my last post and it’s not for lack of time or energy,
however I’ve found myself in a sea of apathy for the past few weeks.
You’d think I’d be enveloped by inspiration here and for the first month, I was. However, now that I’ve settled into a routine of sorts all the familiar feelings of dissatisfaction and questioning how I want to shape my purpose in the world are flooding back in.
Part of it, I believe, is due to the transience of living here. The friends you make come and go within weeks, months, if you are lucky, years, the businesses change on a weekly basis and getting attached to a restaurant is likely to leave you wandering around streets for an hour until you realize it is closed just like your last favorite restaurant and although I know change is inevitable, the pace at which it happens here feels faster. Because of that it is vulnerable to attach to anything. Of course part of you is strong and says “live in the present! Take the joy and run with it and don’t worry about when it will end”, but truth is, it it tiring to live that way. You can’t give yourself so freely all the time and I think I’ve reached my limit.
On top of that I’m getting tired of telling people “I’m here because I’m adopted.” It’s interesting to see the ways that it feels easier to get by in the states vs. in Korea. In the US, the number of people who ask “Why do you speak English even though you are Asian” is a lot smaller than the number of people here who ask “Why can’t you speak Korean when you are Korean?”
When I arrived here I was eager to facilitate the poetry workshops, give voice to the Korean adoptee narrative and I felt proud of my adoptee status. I can’t change it. It is part of my identity. I will not apologize. Nonetheless, more and more I’m feeling frustrated and restricted by it. Being caught between two cultures is like a permanent limbo and I find myself fighting for both my Korean and American background in ways that discriminate against the other without sound logic. An ex pat friend called my out on a past facebook status I had that said “listening to foreign men try pick up locals makes me want to vomit” and questioned exactly why I posted it.
I stuttered because I didn’t have a good reason. I wrote it to claim the Korean side of me and protect it. Yet, of course foreigners will try to pick up locals here — we are all looking for connection and in terms of pick up lines the truth is all pick up lines make me vomit in general. It doesn’t matter what ethnicity someone is when they use one.
The people I meet here try to define me all the time to. My head is full of “You’re not Korean. I can tell by the way you carry yourself that you’re American”, “Oh, look at you! You’re Korean, Korean now”, “I knew you were from Seattle (it was the plaid, tattoos and lucky strikes… that one’s fair), “You’re acting like a real Korean now”, “Girl, you and me will always be American, these people don’t get it” and on and on it goes…
and yes, I KNOW, I KNOW
that I’m a person. Bottom line.
However I can’t deny that the drive for me to visit here is because I wanted to learn more about myself and find out if I could belong.
Yet, thus far I’ve only learned that I don’t feel like I belong anywhere and though Seattle was where I grew up, after being in a world where I can blend in as the majority and not the minority, I feel more distant from it. I still have care for the city, of course, but feel even farther away from considering it a “home” than I did before.
Do I consider Seoul my home? No.
Yes, we create home in our friends and relationships and maybe I’m chasing after a pipe dream – but I want more than that.
Aside from that, I have started teaching English full time. My students are 4th-5th graders and one class of 1st and 2nd. It is what is currently keeping me sane at the moment. The kids are incredibly intelligent and absolutely adorable. I care deeply for them, especially when I take into account how hard they work. In Korea, if you grow up here you will spend 12-14 hours a day in school/studying until you are 18. The pressure to go to an elite college and get a good job is extremely high, so much so that the suicide rate in teens follows right behind. Luckily for me the first four hours of my day are teaching and afterwards, I get to end with playing games, watching a movie, doing yoga or drawing with the students. You have to be strict during class and kids must do well or their parents will complain. To counteract that with laughing and playing with them afterward always warms my heart.
On top of it, kids are so inspiring.
I LOVE that they are so honestly themselves — you know what they want, what they don’t, how to fix it etc. There aren’t any veneers of bullshit to crack through like when you deal with adults. We all build so many layers of defense around our feelings as we grow up. Kids are SO straightforward and it makes me tear up every time they trust me a little more, share about themselves, give me a high five or run up with a big smile to ask me to play with them.
I’m actually off to work now but I’ll write more soon.