At the end of this week, I will have been in Korea exactly one year. The time has gone by very quickly. I’ve been contemplating my experiences and wanted to share some of my thoughts with you. This one might be a little long. It seems that “top five” lists are the thing to do, so here are 5 Things and thoughts about my time in Korea so far, in no particular order…
- Fried Chicken.
One thing that Korea does surprisingly well is Fried Chicken. In the States people from the South tend to claim fried chicken as their own. (I’ve even read blogs debating whether fried chicken made by black people or white people is better.) Well, I’m here to throw a wrench in the argument. The South has nothing on Korean Fried Chicken. And I would never have considered myself a fan or connoisseur of fried chicken before.
Seriously, you haven’t experienced fried chicken like you can get it in Korea. There are so many flavors and varieties. Flavors you probably never thought of before. I haven’t tasted anywhere near all of them, but none of what I have tried have been bad or terrible. Do yourself a favor. If you like fried chicken, find your nearest Korean restaurant. If they specialize in fired chicken, even better! (Or visit me and I’ll take you out for the good stuff!)
- My inner Nerd vs. The Free Spirit.
I’ve been thinking about Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover with this one. He teaches about ‘the nerd’ versus ‘the free spirit’ when it comes to the way couples make their financial decisions. For reference, the ‘nerd’ prefers to budget and plan, while the ‘free spirit’ may spend more spontaneously.
I have always considered myself a planner, with the knowledge that sometimes things, most things, don’t go according to plan. Recently, though, as in just the past few weeks, I’ve been considering the possibility that I’m not actually ‘the nerd.’ Not just in terms of finances but in life in general. Maybe I have been spending years trying to live as ‘the nerd’ and planner when in reality I am a free spirit. I mean, this isn’t the first time I’ve up and moved to a different country! The name of my website was inspired after a conversation with my mother in which she said “you’ve always been the adventurous one.”
- A moment for a deep thought.
Recently I saw a YouTube video in which the makers had set up a chalkboard in the middle of a city street. Maybe it was New York, and maybe you’ve seen it. On the chalkboard was written “What is your deepest regret?” People who passed by could write their answers on the board. Most people wrote about the things they didn’t do; the road not taken, so to speak. Some people were interviewed and talked about their responses. One lady said something that really resonated with me. “I did everything that was Plan B. I just never did it.”
Wow! Connected to #2…If it’s true that I’ve been living my life in a way where I haven’t really been true to myself, living in a way that makes it easier for other people to understand and live with my decisions, maybe it means that I haven’t fully perused the things that really make me feel like myself.
Which leads me to number 4.
- Making Time for the Important.
In some ways I’ve been struggling with complacency lately. I don’t particularly like complacency in myself. Who does, really? But if I’m going to invest my time into something, I want it to make a difference; to myself, but also to others. What I mean is, some things need to be done in the name of ‘self-care’ and ‘feeding your spirit’ and some things need to be done in the name of mankind. (p.s. politically correct be darned. I said mankind, and you know what it means.)
For example, I have really missed singing in a choir. I wanted to find one last year when I first arrived, but was unable to. I recently learned about an international community choir. In Seoul. It takes me about 1.5 hours to arrive in Seoul, and you can add about 30+ minutes to travel time to get across the city by subway, depending on where you are going.
A few weeks ago I went to the first rehearsal for the season/semester, and yesterday I went again. It takes me about 2.5 hours total to get there, and sometimes, well, things happen. Yesterday it unexpectedly took 3 hours. This means a total of 5 hours, at least, travel time there and back.
This past Sunday I used the KTX (Korea Train Express) for the first time to get there. Here are a few pictures.
Whether I will make it to rehearsal weekly remains to be seen. That’s a lot of money and time every week. But if I’m going to make more of an effort to make time for the things that are important to me, then I think it will be worth it. Thankfully, rehearsals are on Sunday afternoon-evenings. Once school starts we’ll see how things go when I have to get up earlier on Monday mornings. Let’s file it under “the things we do for love.”
- Rest and Relaxation.
While I absolutely want to take advantage of the opportunities to travel to some cool places in Asia while I’m on this side of the world, using my vacation time to take it easy and chill at home is also a good use of my time.
I pretty much despise the made-up-word “staycation,” so this is the only time you’ll see me use it. I think. There are so many neat little places to see in and around Gongju. I still haven’t experienced them all. I want to see and learn more about Korea, but I also want to see and learn my Korean “hometown.”
Basically, what I want to say is that you don’t have to have a stamp in your passport to see and do cool things. I know I missed out on a lot of inexpensive, local, cool things back in the U.S. Do yourself a favor and figure out what cool things there are to do right where you are.
It’s also okay to not fill your days up with things to do. I’m learning to be more okay with the unplanned and changing my mind at the last minute. (You sort of have to here, as things often change at the last minute.) Maybe I need to function more in the spontaneous and the ‘little thought through.’ It sure beats the anxiety I put myself through overthinking things.