Tuesday, September 01, 2009


I've been living in Korea for over 5 years now. I've had times when I've loved it and times when I've hated it. Obviously the good times have outweighed the bad or I wouldn't have stayed here this long. I met my wife here. I got married here. I've met great people and made great friends. When I think of how good I have it at my job, I find it hard to imagine any reason why I'd want to leave.

But I do. Finally, I do.

I hadn't had any strong desire to go back to the United States until fairly recently. I'm not sure when it came upon me, but it snuck up somewhere in the last year. I began to have an inkling when I started looking at universities for my PhD, but as many university websites as I looked at and as many emails as I sent, it all still felt very far away.

When I was actually back in the States this summer, I felt more comfortable there than I had on previous visits. I had missed the food, missed the people, and just missed speaking in English. It's odd to me that I had overlooked how much I missed these things before. The feeling was there, but it wasn't as present or instinctual as it felt on this trip. And when Hye Sook met up with me in Phoenix and came with me on to Pittsburgh, I knew that we'd be great in the United States. The feeling became clearer but still felt far away.

Really, the real momentum of going back didn't hit me until the last few days. Last Friday, I submitted the first round of paperwork for Hye Sook's residency visa (her green card). Tomorrow, the universities that I want to apply to begin taking applications. I've been preparing materials since I got back to Korea, and the thought of actually turning them in feels very good. It feels like there is movement in my life where previously there was none--like I'm moving toward something instead of just moving with something.

I'm scared too, certainly. I'm scared that my applications will get rejected. I'm scared that Hye Sook's visa won't go through. I'm scared about finding an apartment, a job, enough money to get by. I'm scared in a way that I haven't felt since I came to Korea, and that's exciting.

This is odd, but I'm also scared that I've forgotten some things. When I was back in the States, I found myself mentally asking myself, "Do Americans do this?" My own culture had become visible to me, and I had to view it, whereas in the past is was invisible. I've become so used to observing culture and trying to emulate it to fit in that I can't even turn it off when I'm in my own culture. I'll be able to turn it off again at some point, I'm sure, but it's an odd feeling to feel like a foreigner in your own home town.

I'm worried that I'm going to come back from Korea a jerk. Someone dropped something in front of me today, and I didn't stop to pick it up for him. It's simple, sure, but back home I know I would have done it. Here, I don't. It's something Korean culture has turned off in me (Koreans don't do it, and it's odd for them if I do). I've got to get used to holding doors open again. I have to relearn to say "excuse me" when I bump into people. I have to relearn to keep eye contact.

But I also have to unlearn bowing, leaving a silence after a question is asked to me, and the closer sense of personal space.

When I leave, I'll be leaving a lot of good things behind. Luckily, the best thing that I've found, Hye Sook, gets to come with me, and luckily, I'll get to keep the memories until my brain turns to mush, but there's still a feeling of lose--a feeling that I'll miss as a country I've grown to love really grows and changes into something greater than it is.

But, I suppose, that's also something I've been missing about the US for the last five years. It's time to go back.



At 11:50 PM, Blogger Just do it said...

Hey Ryan! Your blog is really serious.
It's cool to keep a blog like this if there's someone read how u feel about something and try to know you.
Anyway, there's one thing i wanna mention.
Koreans Do pick up things which other person has dropped. We often hold doors for the next person going out or coming in.
But, yeah it's true Koreans never say "Excuse me"
i donno why

At 6:51 AM, Blogger Korean Ryan said...

I disagree. Some Koreans might pick up things or hold doors, but it's far rarer than it is in the US. I observe it almost every day and very few people do those things.


At 8:57 AM, Blogger Korean Ryan said...

By the way, I don't mean to say that Koreans are rude or anything. I just mean that it's a cultural difference that Americans would notice.


At 3:08 AM, Blogger Kang Hae-Joong said...

I hope you have lots of good memories about Korea and remember them even though you go back to the U.S, Ryan. I believe it will make you smile from time to time, especially when you feel depressed. I'm never gonna forget your English conversation classes I took last year, which I really enjoyed and cherished. Time really flies. Have a nice weekend, Ryan! I'll see you on Tuesday:)

At 8:10 AM, Blogger Korean Ryan said...

Thanks, Hae-Joong. I'm sure you're right. I've made a lot of good memories here, and I've really loved my time in Korea (I wouldn't have stayed here this long if I didn't like it here). I don't think my wife will ever let me forget those memories either :)


At 12:38 AM, Blogger Kang Hae-Joong said...

Right,your wife is Korean! She'll keep reminding you about Korea, won't she? By the way, is she used to American life? Otherwise, she might push you hard to come back to Korea every single day, ha ha. I'm just kidding:P

At 6:30 AM, Blogger Korean Ryan said...

My wife lived in American for one year, so I think she'll be okay when we move. We'll see, though. She might make me come back :)



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