Friday, March 28, 2008

Six Months in Seoul

**Originally posted to personal blog

Next week will mark my six month "anniversary" in Korea. At times I can't believe it's already been half a year, but then I think back to my perceptions of the country when I first arrived, how much I didn't know, all the things I've learned in six months and it seems like an eternity since I stepped off the plane at Incheon International Airport. For the first several months every day brought a new adventure, an interesting discovery, or an awkward moment. While I'm sure I'll never cease to experience awkward moments in a place where I don't speak the official language and am still working to grasp the intricacies of the culture, I continue to consider such episodes the highlights of my week. Loyal readers will remember my befuddling moment in a taxi a few weeks ago when I realized the driver was relieving himself in the front seat. That story has served me well over cups of coffee and glasses of wine with many a friend and I actually feel privileged to have the tale in my personal repertoire. After I described the incident to my friend and co-worker, Matt, who is currently writing a book about his experiences in Korea, he said, "I need that stuff for my book! Why is your life perfect?!"

About three weeks ago I realized I was at a turning point in my Korean adventure. A noticeable side effect of this developing change is the lower frequency of posts to this blog. I experienced my epiphany as I was heading home from work after what had been a busy day in radio world. I was half way home on the same bus I take every evening around 6:00. I was flipping through a Time Magazine, catching up on the latest in the charade of American politics, but my mind was wandering to my plan to workout when I got home, maybe cook some chicken breasts after that, and the fact that I should soon mail my next car payment to the U.S. I wasn't paying attention to the bus radio blaring the boisterous ramblings of Korean DJs. I wasn't staring wide-eyed at all the bright lights and signboards with their humorous Konglish creations. Even the funky smell on the bus--the origin of which could be anything ranging from kimchi breath, to body odor, to an unidentifiable city stench--was flying under the radar of my normally overactive olfactory function. It was at this moment that I realized this isn't really an adventure anymore. It's just my life. It's not a strange place where simple jaunts to the grocery store are exhausting cultural exchanges that transcend language barriers. At KBS, I take initiative and do my job just like I would in the States; just another colleague, no longer a novelty with blue eyes and a journalism degree. When the work day is over, I socialize with friends or go home to exercise, cook, clean, or watch movies.

So, as the bus PA system announced the next stop in Korean, I didn't wait to hear the English translation chime in afterwards. These days, of all the things that occur to me in every 24-hour period, more of them seem "normal" than seem different, weird, or confusing. So, maybe Seoul hasn't quite recovered from the onslaught of Hurricane Abby--maybe it never will--but I've certainly adapted well to my home away from home.

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