Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Living Life in Two Countries

One of the hard parts of living a life in two different countries is how to reconcile both lives being so far apart.

No matter where you go or where you are at a given time, there is always the unfortunate part of having to say goodbyes to your friends and loved ones.  While the goodbyes might be temporary; the pain and uncomfortable feelings still exist regardless of the time spent away.

I arrived in Korea March 1, 2008, not really knowing what I was about to embark on.  I had left my family and friends at home in NC to start a new chapter in my life teaching English, and to hopefully have a great adventure doing it.

Little did I know that three years later I would still be happily teaching and living my life in Korea.  I had never imagined that I would spend more than a year in the Land of Morning Calm, but many factors contributed to my continue stay.

But even as I enjoyed my life in Korea, I still got the questions from friends and family that I'm sure many longtime expats have gotten:  When will you come back home?  When will you come visit?  Are you going to stay in Korea forever?  And in reply, I would tell them all that I didn't know.  In short, my life at home had become something akin to a far-away dream while I went about my day to day activities.  People at home did the same thing, albeit a little differently.  They graduated college, got new jobs, got engaged, moved, got married, had children, and so on.

I am happy for all of my friends and family in what they have accomplished in my absence.  At the same time, I'm a little sad that I missed some events because I was busy working in Korea.  But I don't regret the time that I have spent teaching here.  I have come to terms with the knowledge that it is difficult to live a two-continent life, because if you let it, it will pull you to pieces with regret.

I take comfort in the fact that I can keep in touch with family and friends through many channels:  email, Skype, Facebook, and AIM.  This allows me to keep up to date on what is going on at home, and to tell people how life is happening over here.  I can express my condolences and congratulations in rapid time, rather than having to wait for handwritten letters to fly their way across the Pacific.  I know many people at home read my blog for the latest news "from the future," as the joke goes.

Given the price of plane tickets these days, and the minimal vacation time offered, I didn't think I would have the time to visit home at any point soon.  But the opportunity presented itself recently that I would have 6 weeks in between jobs that I could travel, with reduced costs.  I decided then that going home for some American R&R would be the best option.  This news was well-received by people at home, of course!  Seeing my mom upon arriving at the airport was surreal to say the least.  And the look on my brother's face when I came to his apartment at university last weekend to surprise him was priceless.  He had definitely grown up since I saw him 3 years ago.  Sometimes I felt like I was looking at a whole other person--no longer a boy, but a grown adult man.  He will finish his degree this spring, after a rather tumultuous start to college pushed things back somewhat.

So many things about America and North Carolina perplex me, as I navigate the changes made in my absence.  The reverse culture shock and jet lag have definitely given me some pause.  (But that's a subject suited for elaboration in a later post.)  In some ways, I feel more foreign here than I do when I'm out and about in Gwangju!  I have replaced some comfortable things about Korea with other comfortable things about North Carolina, but I also realize what I miss about Korea.  It's interesting for me to see how the two places compare, and find myself commenting, "well, in Korea..."

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