Yet again, my capacity to take photos has outpaced my ability to seriously reflect upon and write about my experiences across this Southeast Asian adventure. However, I finally have time to sit down and talk about a major milestone that I just passed in my Korean journey that includes both my completion of orientation and my recent move to the city of Sejong. Let’s get into it!
So, you all have probably already viewed the smiling faces in the photos above. These were each taken on the final day of orientation – placement day. This day comprised of waking up early, cleaning out our dorm rooms, dressing in business professional wear, gathering our luggage across two different rooms on two different forms, listening to the words of our supervisors (OCT’s, Laura and Director Shim), reading/signing our contracts, taking photos together and saying goodbyes.
Goodbye’s were difficult, yet hugs and photos were peaceful and filled with heartfelt sentiments.
Personally, I chose to write and deliver notes to everyone who had left an especially notable mark on my experience during the 6-week, landlocked, jam-packed, restricting orientation period that served as the preface to my current school and city placement. The notes helped me with grieving and coming to terms with the fact that I was soon not going to be surrounded by, mostly-friendly, native English speakers with whom I shared variably common culture with.
Notes prefaced hugs, and hugs were followed by photos. The photos will mark the memories for later, but they cannot replace the warmth nor reproduce the peculiar feelings of connection, grievance, anger, happiness, confusion, and friendship that I shared with each of the individuals above. It’s a little grim, or at least existential, but I believe that with each good bye I gain perspective on the eventuality of my own mortality. This is a common thought that I have, and it definitely challenges me to really think about what it is I am doing with the year of life I am spending in South Korea and what it will mean to the legacy I both want and will achieve in the greater, longer, story that is my life.
Definitely been thinking a lot about both mortality and goodbyes amidst the recent passing of my grandmother and recent departure from the group I spent numerous arduous hours of programming and Korean classes with.
However, no sooner than I was finished saying goodbye, I was quickly met with several “Hello’s” from my new co-teachers (one of which is in the final photo of this post!), students, host family and new neighbors/ community members.
Moving forward after moving to Sejong.
So, I have just laid down roots in a new Korean city, and it is the current political/administrative capital of South Korea. Within this picturesque metropolis – which has every block purposefully planned to a Tee, I find myself struggling to find my own rhythm and not simply getting swept into the status quo and rather robotic, stressful and patriarchal day-to-day culture of the city.
It’s funny how I came to South Korea as an expression of my own freedom, only to land a full-time job that will also leave me as a guest in another families’ home.
Life’s funny like that.^&^
Nevertheless, rest assured that I am forging my own path forward in this journey. I found a spot to dance, I am taking time and initiative to travel, I am making nice and connections with my new host family, new co-workers, and members of the community.
I am enacting all of my willpower and leftover strength/time toward advancing myself as an individual, intellectual, and African-American. My progression is currently being directed in a manner which will allow me to find inner peace, reach for my own goals, better navigate and operate within my current community, and plot the path for transitioning into my next phase of life – which will likely be the pursuit of a Master’s degree at Portland State University in Urban Planning. From there, I hope to begin a professional career of helping improve the transportation, sanitation and communal networks of cities across the world in sustainable and community-inclusive ways.
This post grew kind of preachy toward the end, but I write these words to keep my goals in context, because it has been a recurring theme of previous Fulbright and English teachers in Korea to get “comfortable” with the systems, communities and living circumstances of this country – because it is relatively safe, advanced, and offers a plethora of opportunities and privileges that are at once, attractive, and upon examination in-context of immigration law/sentiments, internal classism, educational stresses (particularly on high school students), ongoing gender stereotypes (wives do A LOT of work here) and other peculiar social norms, the advances can be alarming because of a recurring sentiment of being weary of critical self-reflection upon a national-level.
It would seem that negligence and ignorance of lower classes is the cost of progressive nationalism, but this is an opinion written by a foreigner and should be taken with a grain of salt.
Nonetheless, I have 11 months to go and a lot more to learn and experience while here.
Please wish me luck going forward!
I will continue to share my experiences!
Thanks for Reading!