During my first month in South Korea I had been searching for the perfect pair of chopsticks. I wanted my first pair of chopsticks to last me a lifetime and be a symbol that I have finally immersed myself into a culture unlike my own…a symbol of a new beginning.
While in Seoul, I spent some time in Insadong to do some shopping. As I was shopping I found a pair of chopsticks I liked, so I bought them! My first pair! Later that night, I made my way back home to Daejeon. It was a long night and I was tired, but as soon as I got home I regained my energy. Why? I became extremely excited because on my table was a note with a pair of chopsticks! My friend, whom had stayed with me for a few weeks, had left this thank you gift on my table before we left for Seoul! What a great surprise!
These chopsticks are, truly, my my first pair! The best thing about these chopsticks is that they were a gift from a dear friend of mine. These chopsticks will stay with me forever and always be cherished.
Thank you, David, for being a part of this new chapter in my life.
Saturday night, my friend and I decided to take a trip to Daejeon Station which is an area that has a decent shopping selection. We ended up spending a few hours there walking up and down the streets where people sold seafood, knick-knacks, food, and pets! Afterwards we made our way to a college area and went to a bar, Santa Claus. This bar gives English speakers a taste of home because it is an English bar that is open and is filled with English music, a foosball table, and a pool table!
Additionally, my friend met a very friendly couple who latched onto him quickly. They ended their long night of conversing by walking down the street embracing their new friendship through some lovely hand holding. 🙂
So this concept initially blew my mind. I have been in Daejeon for two weeks now and since it is currently the rainy season, the river is starting to flood. While on my morning run, I came across this same dam, but you can no longer see the stepping stones and the river is flowing so quickly that there are rapids engulfing the whole dam. What makes it worse, is that there was a grown man still attempting to cross the dam! The rapids were crashing into his thighs and he was still pushing through! What the heck, Korean Citizen?!
As I approached the windows my eyes became fixated on the endless, illuminating lights of the city. These lights paved the roads, enhanced the beauty of the city’s architecture, and illuminated the life below. It was at that moment, standing on the 96th floor of the Hancock Tower, 1,000 feet above the city of Chicago, when I realized that there was more to see in life. Through traveling I come to understand life by exposing myself to new cultures. The most efficient way to experience new cultures is to develop relationships with individuals around the world, and I may do so by utilizing my passion for teaching.
Prior to my departure and following my arrival to South Korea, people would ask why. Friends and family members continue to ask me where my desire to teach and live overseas derive from. My answer is quite clear and after living in South Korea for two weeks, my surroundings and experiences support my claim and desire to leave the United States.
According to Dr. James P. Comer, founder and chairman of the School Development Program at Yale University, “no significant learning can occur without a significant relationship.” A great aspect about building these relationships is that it can be done while learning. Students and new friends are able to disclose information about their lives, beliefs, and interests. Individuals are able to build relationships when they disclose mutual or different experiences about their lives. Through deliberation, learning is not a linear process; instead everyone learns from one another, which is the foundation for my passion for teaching.
I was raised in rural Nebraska with a low population of Caucasian farmers. As a result, I experienced little diversity and only knew one way of life. As a teenager, I wanted to leave Nebraska and see the world. I desired to experience a new way of life, customs, and scripts of a new group of people. It is not until one fully immerses him or herself into another individual’s “raw” culture that he or she can truly understand, empathize, and appreciate another person’s way of life. The most intriguing part of a culture is to understand how it was developed and understand the mannerisms of its people. By doing so, one needs to understand the culture’s history. Korea has a much richer and broader culture because it has a much longer history compared to the fledging United States.
Korea offers ample opportunities for me to learn and experience a new culture. It is my aspiration to experience the South Korean culture through my passion for teaching. My philosophy of teaching through deliberation will assist with my desire to learn more about the culture. As stated, through deliberation individuals, including the teacher, share interests, values, and experiences about their way of life with one another. If I am immersed in the South Korean culture, not only will I have the opportunity to make a difference in South Korea, but South Korea can make a difference in my life by helping me grow and become more culturally competent.
Since my new life in South Korea began, I have had the opportunity to complete my first mountain hike. My day at Gyeryongsan National Park was spent hiking 9.8 kilometers (6.1 miles) up two peaks. The first peak, Gwaneumbong Peak, was 816 meters (2,677 feet) above sea level. After my first summit, I made it to the second peak, Sambulbong, at 775 meters (2,543 feet). While descending the mountain I came across a Buddhist temple that filled the mountain side with soothing music. This hike reassured me that my decision to leave the United States is what I need for this new chapter in my life. After reaching the first summit, I sat on the precipice of the mountain, 2,677 feet above Daejeon City…my new home. As the valleys and mountains intersected one another, I experienced the same emotion that the view from the Hancock Tower elicited. I am exactly where I am meant to be. Observing how the mountains fade off in the distance, I admired this enticing sight. This is only the outer layer of South Korea. Its “cover” has captured attention. I am now ready to turn the pages and penetrate deeper into what makes this culture beautiful.
To truly understand life, one cannot simply expose him or herself to the outer beauty of a culture. Instead, it is necessary for one to delve deeper into the culture’s history and mannerisms. As I stood on the 96th floor of the Hancock Tower, I had never been exposed to so much beauty. I found this entrancing and life changing not because of the view, but because everything around me was new. My new view in Korea has drastically changed from illuminating lights to a city surrounded by rolling mountains. I am now being exposed to a new way of life…a new culture.