September 25, 2008

Lunch today

I just wanted to share this with you...

I just had lunch at school (the school just takes some money out of our paycheck every month). I usually eat with some combination of Ms. Park, Ms. Han, and Teacher Quak as well as other teachers who don't speak English as well and it is always interesting.

Anyway, I love the people I work with. I love Koreans. I have not met a single Korean I have a hard time getting along with. They're pretty easy-going people, especially since it is the height of bad manners to show bad feelings (for example when you spill water on a principal: see Sunday entry. He just smiled and waved it off when it happened). And they're very in tune with other people's emotions. I find it kind of amazing actually. They can always tell when I am feeling frustrated or angry or disappointed. When I worked at the English department at the UW, I would say something like, "If I seem out of it, I'm just having a bad day. Don't worry or take it personally or anything." And my coworkers would be like, "Oh, I didn't even notice." Whereas seriously the second I'm not feeling jubilant the Koreans are asking me if I'm okay. It's unbelievable.

Another example: On the way to the cafeteria I met up with Ms. Han and she asked me how my day was going today. I had just really enjoyed chatting with the class that's been giving me the most problems, so I responded with enthusiasm that my day was going well. Ms. Han was like, "Your teaching is getting better." I was like, "How could you know that?! Is that what people are saying?" She was like, "Your face. Your face is brighter." Amazing. In the last couple of days, I had really started to become comfortable with the fact that this is how my classes are going to go and I am doing everything I can. This is just how it is- and I am a better teacher for accepting that, I think. And Ms. Han picked up on it. All the Koreans pick up on stuff like this. I understand now why Asian traditions talk about different kinds of energies and why many of them repress emotions. Here, emotions aren't as intangible or as vague of concepts as they are in the West.

So at lunch it was me and Teacher Quak and Ms. Han and Mr. Park, a very nice man who sits across from me in the teacher's office. I finally asked Teacher Quak why Koreans generally don't drink anything when they eat and he had no problem answering that some do and that's normal and that there's no real reason why they don't. Then he asked if I had any other questions and all three of them were eager to answer. And they joke with me and stuff. I can't begin to express my gratitude for the effort they have taken to include me. They're just so nice and pleasant.

I miss the United States, but I will miss it here when I leave.


Liane said...

I loved your comment about missing the US but knowing that you will miss Korea when you leave. That is exactly true! I can remember when we first returned home from Germany, I'd be driving down the street, or walking somewhere, and suddenly I'd have this bizarre feeling that everything was wrong, that I was on a different planet or something. I'd be missing Germany so much that everything just look wrong because it wasn't Germany. Actually, the result (in the long run) is that I became more aware of what is wonderful and beautiful about the US, as well as what is wonderful and beautiful about all the other countries in the world. --More aware of the differences and more aware of the similarities in people and countries. There are more basic similarities than the superficial differences in culture lead us to believe. Gives one a different answer to the question of what makes us human.
Your experiences will probably light a fire in you to keep traveling and meeting new people. Changes your life!

Danny Shahar said...

Hey buddy! Care to elaborate more on why you think that being more aware of emotional states would lead people to repress their emotions? I would think it would be the opposite, no? But at the same time, I think it's likely true that Asian cultures are characterized by more repression; how are you making sense of it?

Liane said...

Hey, waiting for more fun information on your experiences! Write already!

Kristin said...

I finally sat down and read about your experience so!! I've never done the whole "blogging" thing but it's nice to know you are doing well and the pictures are great (I especially enjoyed the peanut butter tribute to your dad) Tyler and I will try to keep up with your latest entries and we look forward to you coming home!!
Love Kristin and Tyler

Sarah said...

Thank you Kristin!! Believe me, we look forward to us coming home, too.