Teaching in South Korea was never meant to be permanent. The plan was to come for 1 - 2 years, save money, travel and figure life out. I guess 2 out of 3 isn't too bad. Working and living in South Korea certainly has afforded us the ability to travel and save money, but after 18 months I am not much closer to figuring my life out.
Working abroad has helped me understand that I am strong. Living away from everything you know, understand, and find comfortable has a way of testing your character. I came to South Korea knowing no more than a few key phrases and leave with a better understanding of a culture that was previously unknown to me. I now know that I can completely uproot my life and within a matter of week have myself sorted, relatively, and be on my way to making new friends and having an great new adventure.
I have come to love the expat lifestyle. Meeting people from different countries, forming friendships with people I may not have at home forged because of the lack of familiarity that surrounds us. I enjoy my foreignness, the ability to communicate using a few choice words and exaggerated gestures - this is my life. I have become comfortable with questions I once found impertenant, such as 'Are you married?', 'How old are you?' and the forwardness that comes with strangers approaching me merely to practice their English. I now see these moments for what they are, innocent exchanges in curiosity.
But now, my time in South Korea has come to an end. Soon I will be leaving and I fear that this foreignness that I have come to find comforting with be absent. I will no longer be visually different from the homogeneous society I reside within. If I struggle with language, directions, ordering, or heavens forbid life in general, no one will be any the wiser. I will look no different to those around me and therefore could not possibly consider myself to be different, or could I?
We may even speak the same language, though my mannerisms and countenance are much changed in my time living in Asia. I bow, now, when taking and offering something, I have forgotten how to make eye contact with waitstaff in order to get service because here it is not necessary. In time these things will come back to me, I hope I will become an interesting mix of the eastern habits I have absorbed and the western customs that are familiar to me.
Fear not! I have a plan. A plan of gradual acclimatisation. First a little soiree to Japan, a 2 week sojourn around the sights we missed on our first trip there. Jumping across the Atlantic, our first time doing so, we will be tackling Peru and Ecuador. Something we have both wanted to do for a very, very long time. Of course that also means hiking one of the worlds most popular trails, Machu Picchu. A couple of months there and we will move onto the European continent where I will begin a new job for 3 months teaching English in Italy.
This has been a work in progress for a couple of years now but I feel confident that even though I may not be any closer to figuring out what I want to be when I grow up, I am happy with who I am now. To new adventures!