I woke up not quite in the best mood this morning and a little homesick (Ok, very homesick), so I thought blogging it out might help.
I still can't believe it's been six weeks since I arrived in Korea. Where has all that time gone? September came and went very much like a KTX train (Korea's high-speed rail system), leaving me breathless in its wake, grasping for meaning amongst the myriad images whirling around in my brain. Breathtaking mountains, strange and uninviting cuisine, Hangeul (the Korean alphabet system); these things permeated my existence, invaded my dreams, forced themselves upon my every thought, while I, at times willingly and at other times not-quite-so willingly, allowed them this insistent persistence, filling me to the brim with too many thoughts and too many questions. At times I wanted to cry, at times I wanted to laugh, at times I did both and at times I did neither, retreating to my room and reading, looking for an escape to far off lands much like the one I was living in. It was all right to read about them, but it is another thing entirely to live in one.
I have found that visiting another country, although I have only done so a few times, is much like learning to swim without a life preserver. You long for a gentle slope into the deep end, and this is at times possible, but eventually, some person, some food, some interaction with the unknowable nuances of another culture push you forcefully into the deep-end, leaving you struggling for breath and understanding, and finding none. It is an exhilarating experience, which explains why traveling is such a common pastime. When I visited France, I was enchanted by the foreignness of the food; bedazzled, not frustrated by the inability to communicate beyond ordering a croissant. When returning home to the safety of America, I relished these feelings, knowing that I had become more "worldly" out of the experience, whatever that was supposed to mean. Being somewhere for six weeks puts an entirely different spin on these feelings. The foreignness of the food becomes at times intolerable, the inability to communicate insufferably frustrating. I knew this would happen, but experiencing it in the flesh as opposed to abstractly thinking about it are very different.
Then there are the times when there is a spark of understanding, a pinprick of meaning shining through. So far it has not happened very often, but each time has been more insistent. It happens when my site placement supervisor says something to me, and it is translated, and I realize that I didn't need the translation. It happens when I'm eating dinner at my site, a spicy stew, and I realize that I'm not the only one who's red-faced and sweating. It happens when I think I want to go home, and then I realize that God would not send me here if God didn't know that I could handle it. And I can. Those pinpricks will eventually become hole punches, the moments of understanding will eventually become minutes. It's sink or swim, and right now I'm paddling to the surface.