Back home in Montreal, my boyfriend is moving into a new apartment. He is hoping a change of scenery will enable him to break bad habits. He has a new grocery store, bookstore and gym. He wants to be more disciplined.
My apartment building
That's what lifestyle is; habits we've acquired, good ones and bad. I think many people move to a new country, hoping to escape routine and change themselves for the better. I do think moving, be it down the street or to a new country, makes it easier to change, but not easy. You don't escape the tendencies.
Before I moved to Korea, I found little information about Suwon, and the outdated photos led me to believe the city was dirty, industrial and almost rural in parts. I thought I could live a simple life here for 12 months.
I was surprised when faced with the pressures of Korea- the competition, the superficiality, the high tech obsessions (small TVs on Taxi dashboards).
I did that silly post about assimilation, but I have changed and assimilated in many ways.
You may say, "so what. There's a 7-Eleven on every corner," and yes- Korea is a developed Nation; I have cable TV, running water and a flush toilet, but the customs and lifestyle are different. On a map, it seems I traveled as far away from home as I could go.
I have kimchi and red pepper paste in my fridge, I send about 10 text messages every day, I keep a neat appearance, I hang my clothing to dry and speak a little bit of Korean.
When I was at Everland on Sunday, I noted how strange it was to see so many foreigners- that they stood out in a crowd. Kyle reminded me that I am a foreigner.
My neighborhood in Suwon has a small town feel. My neighbors, especially the older generation, were initially leery or perversely curious about me. They held back smiles, but I now feel accepted. No one stares. Instead they nod and say hello in Korean, like I'm one of them:
There's a traditional market with the same vendors selling slabs of beef, brown eggs and kimchi.
I'll miss the man who owns a wine bar next to my building. He sits on his veranda all day long, lets his wife do the work, and waves to passersby like me. He has photos of his travels on the wall; green pictures of Thailand and Vietnam that he is eager to discuss.
There's a convenient store clerk perpetually unpacking boxes of inventory. The family run kimbap Heaven restaurant leaves the TV on a Korean drama channel so patrons can watch. The server at Coobuck Coffee flips through an Elle or Vogue magazine, ready to serve a latte in her pressed apron.
Everything is familiar- even the unpleasant things, like a cat I saw for the first time yesterday, after hearing its cries of agony for a month. It has only 3 legs, and fur in patches.
I made the decision to only have Korean friends this year. Sometimes I get frustrated when I have to repeat myself continuously or simplify my English, but I've had a more "authentic" stay in Korea because of my relationships.
I was telling Josh last night, I have it in my mind that I'm leaving Korea in 5 or 6 months, and I may never return- even for a vacation, so I can't get too attached to the people here. I hate to think I'll have to wave goodbye forever.