I’ve been in Korea for over a week now, and things are still really new and exciting, but also slightly terrifying. I am so lucky to be with my fiance, and we are still setting up the apartment like we want it, and we are still waiting for furniture to arrive, but it’s been really comfortable living in a shiny new place.
My books are all unpacked on on their shelves, which were brought in a few days ago. I am so excited to start setting up my reading nook for Fall. It will be cozy reading weather soon!
Our apartment is really hi-tech. For example, we have a button near the front door to turn off all the lights in the house in case we forgot to before putting on our shoes to walk out the door. When we come back inside, we can press the button again to have all our lights come back on in one go. Then we have a camera at the front door and the front entrance, and both require a pass code instead of a key. If someone wants to come in, they will press a button that will turn on the screen in the living room, showing us who it is. If I want to let them in, all I have to do is press another button.
We have a lot of terrace space, and we want to start putting out plants and outdoor furniture. Our music studio is finished, and we have two keyboards, an external microphone, and recording software. I feel like I could become a Kpop star, but I really need to practice piano and violin first.
Now that I know how everything in the house works, I am enjoying my days off before I start working. The first few days were the hardest, not knowing where everything was, not having a place to put my books or clear out my suitcases. I didn’t even have stuff to make myself a sandwich for a while, and it took about three consecutive nights of grocery shopping before we really had everything I needed. Every night for the first week, we were both exhausted after a full day of running around, unpacking, shopping, cleaning, etc.
However, the hardest part for me is the loss of independence. Sure, I studied Korean and it’s at a decent level, but I am still in the stage where I can understand someone (i.e. a store clerk) when they ask me a question (sometimes – it’s about 50/50) but I can rarely answer back. The other day, we went out for pizza and ice cream with Junkyu’s family, and he walked off to talk to his sister, and the clerk asked me how many spoons we needed. I understood her question but had no idea a) what to answer or b) how to answer… It was embarrassing having to run over to get him to talk to her for me.
He is really encouraging and wants me to talk to everyone I meet, but I really need to sit down and study more vocabulary and grammar before I will feel totally at ease here. When I was in Japan, I was pretty much always able to speak more Japanese than the other foreigners I was with, and they always told me how impressive it was that I could talk to store clerks, etc. I didn’t think it was a big deal, but now I’m seeing how tough it must have been for them. I’m glad for my experiences in Japan, but now that I’m in a new country, it’s been really eye-opening as I go through the process of learning a new culture all over again.
Korea and Japan are very different, and so far I’m loving it here. Most of the Korean people I’ve met seem more relaxed and open, and I don’t feel this huge pressure to be perfect or be on my best behavior. In Japan, I was okay with being quiet on the trains and being polite with salesmen, but here I definitely laugh more in public and I don’t feel constantly scrutinized. Of course, everyone has a different experience wherever they go, but as I process everything, I can tell I’m already less stressed than when I was in Japan. No more moving, changing jobs, dealing with being the only foreigner in my workplace. I am optimistic about my new job and my new life here.
The other day, we went to the beach. We met up with our friends for dinner and they decided to go to a fish market, where you can buy a live fish, pay for it downstairs, and someone will carry it up to a restaurant for you, where they will slice it up raw and serve it to you with veggies and spicy sauce. I’m not a seafood eater, so I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to eat raw fish. Even in Japan, land of sushi, I never ate raw fish. The texture is what usually gets me, along with the smell. My gag reflex usually stops me from being able to swallow it.
However, they were about done eating and there were a few slices of fish left, but no one was eating anymore. I decided I would try it, so my fiance smothered a small slice in spicy sauce, and I actually liked it! The fish didn’t have a taste really, but the sauce made it tasty and the texture was firm rather than squishy. I was really proud of myself for doing that. In general, I think I like Korean food more than Japanese food, but I’ll have to get used to eating spicy food every day.
Yesterday, after we got back from the beach, we took a walk around our neighborhood. I had been feeling pretty useless and helpless sitting at home not knowing how to get around if I had to, but he showed me where the bus stop was, and on the weekend we went to Seoul, so I learned how to take the subway in our city as well. We have two new bakeries opening soon, and a lot of cafes and restaurants near our home. In Japan, my small city barely had anything to eat, and all of it was too far for me to get to, especially when I was tired from working.
We also walked around the huge university campus that sits right across the intersection near where we live. They have tons of artwork, statues, greenery, flowers, and walking paths, as well as tons of buildings. We went inside the library and the international student center and language building. My goal is to eventually work at a university, once I’m finished with my Master’s program, so how great would it be to walk to work every day?
We went to Seoul on the weekend and went to the Seoul Museum of Art, where Big Bang’s leader G-Dragon’s art exhibit was being displayed. There were lots of other international fans like me, and being in Seoul was a fun adventure because neither of us knew the area very well.
The museum was close to Seoul City Hall and the public library, where Junkyu proposed, but this time we were able to go inside the library and look around. I had a blast looking at books on language and culture, and he looked for DIY ideas we can use in our apartment. I joked with him that he never got down on one knee to propose, so once we were out on the knoll outside the library, he bent down and said, “Will you marry m- OUCH!” Ah well, we don’t need tradition. We’re both people who break away from the “norm” anyway.