Sunday, June 16, 2013

Quarter of a Century

This weekend I turned a quarter of a century. When it's put like that, it's a whole lot more panic-inducing that saying I'm turning 25. And don't get me started on the fact that here in Korea, I'm considered 26. 
photo courtesy of photography
When we decided to move abroad, one of the major pulls besides being able to travel, was to completely immerse ourselves in a different culture. And immerse we did. When we first came over, we didn't know a word of Korean, didn't know a soul here and had never even tasted Korean food before. While we had lessons in the expected areas like patience, understanding and a whole new appreciation of the world and people around us; we also learned a few other things we weren't quite expecting. So today, instead of going through what I've learned in these 25 years of being alive, I've decided to highlight some things that Korea has taught me in these past two years.

.stay out of the sun- Koreans are infamous for staying out of the sun, even carrying umbrellas around and wearing long sleeves in the summer time in order to keep a pale complexion. A vast difference from the land of suntanning oil and tanning beds (try explaining that to students who buy makeup with 'whiteners' in it). I can honestly say that my naturally pale skin doesn't bother me like it did back home and it's probably for the better.  
.don't work too hard- I teach students who come into work at 7am and sometimes don't leave until well past 10pm. They sacrifice personal time and time with family for work functions and deadlines. More than anything, I want to try and find a way to spend as much time with friends and family as possible and work to live, not the other way around. 

.I really can cook- Living in Korea, there is a more limited supply of ingredients compared to the states. It can be quite challenging to try to find something to cook when the majority of the recipes call for ingredients that I either can't find here or cost triple the price (many of my pinterest food pins are quickly passed up after reading the needed ingredients). I've learned different substitutes for these occasions but more than that I've been more adventurous in cooking. If I can't buy things that I want such as tortillas, cinnamon rolls, or fresh herb bread, I make it. I don't think I ever would have tried to make those things back home when it's so easy and affordable to go to the store and buy them. 

.always always bring extra toilet paper- Many public Korean rest rooms do not have toilet paper. I unfortunately had to learn this the hard way(unfortunately, subway maps aren't ideal in this situation but it's all I had) and always make sure I care tissue with me wherever I go; even when traveling to different countries where I once had to pay for tissue before I went it. 

.I can use chopsticks better than ever- It's odd but using chopsticks is surprisingly easy and normal compared to when we first arrived and I thought I would always be clumsy and continuously dropping my food (many times in restaurants when the waitress see foreigners, they bring out the forks from the back). I'm not quite to the 'karate kid catching flies' phase yet but let's just say I don't leave a restaurant hungry anymore.
I quickly found out their secret when I first came over. I wondered how they taught their kids to eat with chopsticks until I saw these trainer versions in the store. Yes, I will be stocking up on these before I leave. 
.squatty potties aren't all the bad- I know, I know. They're gross, they're hard to use, but once you get the hang of them? They're actually not that bad. But yes, I still prefer Western toilets.

.bigger is not always better-I've written about this one before but we've gotten use to a lot of things being smaller here in Asia. Smaller apartments, smaller portions, smaller cars. Now when we watch House Hunters, we always end up yelling at the screen asking what they would do with all that space and wonder why everyone complains that 'it's too small'. It's safe to say that when we move back, we'll be that odd couple with our small cars, in our small house, eating our small meals. 

.I actually am capable of working when I'm sick- I miss sick days. I miss being able to call in to work for a ‘personal health day’ (you know you do it too). Unfortunately, even though we technically have sick days, we are still expected to show up to work no matter what and show that we are ‘diligent’. That word will forever have a new meaning in my head. In the last two years my husband and I have only taken one sick day and worked through colds, loss of our voices, food poisoning and flus. All the while being thanked by our bosses for still showing up to work and being ‘diligent’. As annoying as it is sometimes to still have to work when you should be in bed, it makes you realize what all you can successfully work through. There are many times that I have thought ‘I wish I could call in’ but once I got to work, I found out that I could really work just fine. And even if this new work mentality doesn’t follow us back to the states, I will still have my almost perfect attendance to brag about.

Korea has definitely left it's mark on me and changed me a lot in the past two years. I can't wait for what new adventures come next!