It all feels a bit like a time warp: I’ve been here, in South Korea, for almost 11 months.
At a current count, I’ve endured approximately 308 days of teaching English, 2 different workplaces, three romantic relationships (consequently, three break-ups) and a countless revolving door of friends, students and visitors in and out of my bubble.
This weekend I’ve taken to ultimate hibernation mode. It was time to slow down and do nothing for a change. This is the first weekend in a while where parties have not been set from a Friday to a Sunday, yet I’m still moving at a sloth’s pace.
My body and mind, used to loud music and dance parties, are confused by my choice of rest and reflection.
The truth is, I needed a break. For the last few months, I have felt like every free moment has been spent on a train, at the bar or recovering from either of the two. Don’t get me wrong, nobody’s been blackmailing me into partying or traveling to see someone special. Upon my hibernation though, I realized that I was exhausted. Mentally, physically, emotionally.
My life here feels like a reality show; the drama is trivial, but blown out of proportion and exaggerated—there isn’t much else to talk about. It’s easy to dismiss my life in Korea as a sort of alternate universe. That which happens here is removed from my “real life,” so I can do whatever—or worse, not do all the things that are important to me.
Looking forward, I have about six more months left of teaching English. Some days that feels impossibly far, others, amazingly close. In some ways it’s a light at the end of the tunnel: teaching is not my true calling. It’s also a terrifying bridge into “real life.”
This is where excusing Korea as it’s own universe might not be such a good idea.
While I’ve been spouting bad Korean and trying to teach kids not to say “L” like “R,” the world hasn’t stopped. People back home are getting jobs, getting married, even getting arrested (okay, no one I know personally).
And I’m…here; teaching, going to “Thursday Party” and occasionally blogging about it all. It seems easier to excuse myself from setting goals, following through and moving forward.
The closer the end date of my contract gets, the more I start to think about what my next step will be. After a hiatus of over a year from my field of study, am I still fit to be a social worker? Is that even what I want to do? Honestly, I don’t know.
What I do know is that it might be time to stop acting like Korea isn’t part of the universe; in reality, it’s part of the rest of my life.
Before I left, I told myself teaching in Daegu would mean building my resume and skill set. Some days it doesn’t feel like that, even if I believe that every experience lived adds richness to one’s being. Maybe the actual teaching isn’t what’s most important about me being here, or what I am going to leave with.
Maybe it’s not only smiling through classes full of exhausted and uninspired students, but staying afloat amidst homesickness, missing my loved one’s milestones, dealing with the ever-mysterious male mind and learning to say hello and good-bye to people I might never see again.
Maybe the fact that I can stumble through a distant world—where at times, it seems no one speaks my language—and still be okay is what is important. Perhaps these are things that matter, this is what enriches my life, now and forever.
I think, this might be real life.
Sashah Rahemtulla is a young woman learning to flow in the ocean of life. She currently lives in South Korea, teaches English and is awaiting the next wave of change.
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