13 days until I’m in New York at the YAV Orientation. 21 days until I set foot in Korea for the first time. For me, this is a huge transition. I’ve never been away from home for an entire year. I still need to pack up my room at home, and cancel my phone plan. I’m excited, but also sad. I hold in my mind two halves to the same story. To take a brave step into a adventure requires for me to say goodbye to the one I was on.
My departure from here actually ends a different chapter of my life that started in 2012, but this is a good end to a long difficult story. My thoughts now are on my family and on my friends I’m leaving behind. They have taught me a lot about how to love others whether they know it or not. I can’t help but feel a sad longing of how much I will miss them when I’m gone. My life is good because of them. I see the genuine care and love I’ve been blessed with and it makes me smile. I always feel it is only good to leave home when all your relationships are in order and there aren’t any loose ends to attend to. It feels good to have gotten to this point. I think my melancholy also means that I am ready to go.
It’s taken me some time to stop thinking of what I am leaving behind, and start looking forward to what I am going to. I am going to a new country with a new language and culture! In the past month I’ve been doing Korean lessons – learning Hangeul (Korean alphabet), and doing online lessons with Mango Languages. (It’s free through my public library, and a very good resource!). I’ve realized that even letters are ingrained in my mind. Korean letters don’t match English ones and vice versa. It’s like Korean letters have spliced some English letters, and combined a few others. It makes it very difficult to distinguish in my English-raised mind. To supplement that I watched my first Korean drama (My Love From Another Star). It was a fun peek into a small portion of Korean culture. I am now able to pick up simple phrases like “Excuse me,” and “Okay,” from the drama. And if I take my time I can say things as complex as “I am not a doctor, but I am a nurse.” It’s exciting to think that after 25 years of my life I might actually learn a new language. It’s fun to see my understanding of this language change from nothing to something over a relatively short amount of time.
It’s impossible to picture what life will actually be like when I get to Korea. I know logically that I’m staying in a house with other volunteers, but I don’t know what that will be like. I don’t know what my site placement will be like, and I don’t know what I will be doing. One of my close friends asked me two questions – what am I most afraid of, and what am I looking forward to the most? I want to take the time to write out my answer.
I think that I’m most afraid of not belonging anywhere. In a new culture and a new place, I’m worried about not fitting in with the other volunteers and not fitting in with the Korean people either. As an Asian American I worry that my problems and feelings will be invisible, neither fitting in with the typical white American experience of moving abroad nor the native experience. I also worry that I will be too prideful of how unique my experience will be that it will blind me to the ways that it is the same as those around me as well. I guess I worry most about connecting with people because that is the most important thing to me. Whatever way it turns out though, I’m sure I will learn a lot.
As far as what I am looking forward to, that is trekking into the unknown. This trip holds endless possibilities. I guess part of the glory of it is not knowing what is coming. It’s like Schrodinger’s box. Before I depart this trip can be anything and everything and I’m ready to be there to soak it in. I’m looking forward to the good, the bad, and the ugly. This is not a specific answer, but that’s exactly the point. There is a little ball of tangled energy in my gut that grows bigger by the day. I can’t wait to step into the next chapter of my life and see what is in store.
I am still in need of funds for my trip. Will you help me?