Very often in life, like - you know- everyday, I feel that I got on the wrong train going in the right direction. Whenever I bother to glance out the window, although we bought the same tickets, it feels like I'm watching my compatriots flowing by on a different track.
Living in Korea has been no exception. When living here first became my future I hadn't actually given a lot of thought to the expat community, I was moving to Korea to live in Korea and play by their rules. Learning the language and acquiescing to prevailing cultural expectations was my priority. It was my opinion that to live in Korea successfully I would need to live by their rules to find peace and happiness.
This mentality has lead me down paths I know most foreigners would not have appreciated. Twice I have been sent, with little notice, to different schools so I would "be more comfortable". Without a doubt, accepting these changes without conflict was terrifying. Especially because they happened before I could more easily understand and express myself in Korean.
However, each time they were the right decisions. My employers did know what was best for me and they did place me in schools for which my life was better suited. Now, only a year and a half into my time here, I find myself in my dream job. The school is stable, my boss kind and smart, my students are wildly fun, my apartment is beautiful and new, the community is friendly and everything else I could really want is in my life.
Without a doubt, I've felt respected and cared for by my community here in Korea. One employer was kind enough to express that "I'm a Korean Teacher and a Foreigner Teacher at the same time", my current boss said she felt "we were of the same mind" and many kind students have expressed that I am, in fact, Korean now. These things warm my heart and encourage me when I struggle to learn the new language and cultural expectations.
However, I know that my experience is not that of many foreigners teaching here. I read their blogs, or talk to them in passing and I hear about a Korea I don't know and have not met. It is distant to me, one of those trains passing in a different direction.
For better or worse, I draw the curtain on these ghost cars and focus the smiles in the world around me. It seems unfair to cast judgment on my community based on the experiences of others. Until my train jumps tracks or crashes into the sea, I'm going to keep feeling loved, appreciated, respected and accepted no matter what the last blog or bitter ex-pat says.
I'm quite certain many folk who catch my train as it trundles by think, "My god, that woman is so naive, that train isn't headed where she thinks it is!" but that's ok.
I'm not looking to be cool or right.