Just a quick update for you on this lovely Tuesday afternoon, August 9th, 2011.
At least I assume its lovely out. I’m actually sitting behind a desk in an empty classroom. The last student left this building close to 5 hours ago, and I’ve been sitting on facebook reading status updates about how nice it is at the beach ever since.
I’m not bitter though.
Anyway, even though this massive amount of deskwarming is a major bummer it can’t get me too far down because in less than 5 days I will be hiking along the Great Wall of China. That’s right – I’m going to freaking China!
Woah I definitely need to simmer down a bit. Anyway this week is jam packed with preparations for the trip. Still trying to nail down some last minute train ticket reservations, plan out my packing and get all my plane tickets and hostel reservations together. In fact the preparation for my trip to China reminds me of my preparation in Canada before I left for Korea. Actually I have been thinking about Canada a fair amount in the past few days, and the ways I’ve changed since I arrived here. When I talk about the ways I’ve changed since I came here I don’t want you to worry – I’m not going to talk about maturity levels or emotional growth or discovering who I am or any of that self-improvement bullshit. As a young man of 23 years I know that I’m already pretty much perfect and that any energy I could put towards self-betterment is better spent in pursuit of immediate gratification activities, the nature of which I will not elaborate upon here.
I do, however, plan on talking about about how I am beginning to behave, talk and even think in a more Korean fashion. As frequent readers know my friend Tyler came to visit me from Canada for just under two weeks. It was during his time here that I started to realize some of the ways I’ve ‘gone native’ so to speak. For example, the second night he was here we went out for some samgyupsal with a Korean friend of mine. She poured Tyler a glass of beer (In Korea, you never pour your own beer, or let a friend pour theirs), and when she stopped filling the glass at just over half full Tyler said, “Oh, a little more please.” Now in Canada, if you pour a beer you fill the glass all the way to the top – or get your ass kicked. In Korea, however, no glass (be it coffee, tea, juice, water or beer) is ever filled right to the top – it is always filled just a little over halfway, maybe 3/4. This isn’t a rule – there is no impolitness to filling a glass more than this – its just how it is done here. The difference in how much you pour when you fill a glass is so small – its just a tiny detail – but I had completely forgotten that thats how we do things in Canada. Tyler innocently asking to be topped up set me to thinking about how I’ve completely adapted to half-full glasses and did not even realize it.
I also realized that there are probably tons of other small differences in Korea that I have adopted sub-consciously, and since that samgyupsal restaurant I’ve been trying to keep my eyes open for them. Another Korean trait that I’ve adopted is the speed at which I drink alcohol. In Korea you pour a tiny glass, just over half-way and you make it last. Tiny sips are the name of the game. Not so in Canada. In Canada you drink that shit down – you don’t want it getting cold after all. During his visit I noticed Tyler would finish his drinks first – almost always first at the table, but didn’t think much of it at the time. Last night, however, I went out for dinner with some British friends, one of whom’s little brother is visiting from England. Over the course of the night I noticed the same thing – the newcomer to Korea was drinking faster than the rest of us.
Okay, so I’ve given two examples of how I’m slightly different than I was 6 months ago big friggin whoop right? Well let me relay the story of the greatest example of how Korea is changing me. This story is actually the motivation for this blog entry;
Yesterday I went out to lunch with my Co-teacher, Head Teacher, Vice-Principal and Principal. We went to an Italian restaurant, which I thought was cool. I love Italian food, and I miss pasta so much. So this was a fairly authentic Italian restaurant, so authentic in fact that there were no chopsticks, just plain old forks. ‘Great!’ says I, ‘I’m friggin awesome at forks!’ So we’re eating our meal, the Koreans are speaking Korean, I’m trying not to do anything offensive or stupid –> basically an average meal with my co-workers. But I find I’m having trouble with the fork. I’m unsure of when I should stab and when I should shovel. Bits of steak or pasta keep slipping off the damn thing as it nears my mouth.
You know when you think something, but just as the thought is forming you stop it and say ‘No! I will not think that !’ but you already kinda semi-thought it? Like, you know what you were going to think but still you say to yourself ‘Nope, I’m not going to think that!’. Well as I failed for the third time to keep a tiny piece of cucumber on my fork (one of those really small bastards that is too tiny to stab and you can’t quite get your fork under it to shovel it properly) I had one of those weird half thoughts. I was like ‘This friggin fork, so – WAIT! NO! I will not think that.’ But I already thought it. I knew I thought it. It knew I thought it. And I knew it knew I knew I thought it. Let me finish the thought for you. I thought to myself; “Friggin fork, so UNCIVILIZED”.
My word can you believe that? I wished I had chopsticks. I knew that that tiny piece of cucumber wouldn’t give me a second thought if I had chopsticks in my hand. Friggin forks. So this half formed thought is the basis of this blog, it made me realize that I am changing, that I am beginning to really except, and even prefer, certain parts of Korean culture. I guess what this really means is that I have entered the ‘Acceptance’ phase of culture shock.
So… watch out friends and family, you better start practicing chopsticks now because its gonna be a shit ton of Asian restaurants and half poured beers when I get home. Mark my words.
Well I guess I’ll conclude this entry here. Stay tuned because the next few entries will probably be written from hostel PCs in some area of China or another. I also have a guest entry from my friend Tyler coming down the pipe, which will go into some detail on some topic or another, I’m sure. I don’t really know what he is going to write about yet, so I’m trying to be a little vague about the contents, if you didn’t notice.
That’s all for now BNBers.