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Thursday, March 26, 2015

On Moving to Korea

Today (March 24th) I spent about an hour and 40 minutes talking with my new coworker, John Bocskay.  He is doing research for a book about the experience of Americans who move to Korea, and asked some very insightful questions.  It occurred to me later that it would be worth my while to sit down with the same questions and compose some slightly more thought-out answers. A friend also been recommended that I should set goal lengths for my posts (Thanks, Kendra!). This time I tried for 1,000 words (Total=1,006. Feel free to ignore your choice of six words.)  The Roblog is not usually this goal-oriented (or obsessive compulsive), but I am trying to be more so (goal-oriented). As always, your comments are appreciated. Here we go!

I am an American living in Korea.*  It doesn't seem strange to me, because most of the people I work with, and go to church with, and hang out with** are also from other countries.  My friends and family back in The States haven't asked about this decision for a long time. I assume this is because I moved so long ago that they either know, have forgotten, or just assume that I've always been here. The truth is, that like any other object in a place, there is a story that put me in mine.

I do not come from a family of travelers. My parents and grandparents are all from the Midwest: Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma. You have to go back to my great-great-aunt Maxie, my Maxine's namesake's namesake to find a traveller. Grandma Euler took me to visit her when I was very young, probably not more than five years old. I only remember Aunt Maxie as a thin, frail woman, older than anyone I had ever seen, with wispy, snow-white hair and soft, liver-spotted hands, the bones clearly outlined. We would feed her ice cream because Grandma said it was her favorite. I remember her smiling a toothless yet cheerful grin, but not saying anything that I could understand. My generation has spread out a little, but I'm the only one who has ended up living in a foreign country.

It took me a long time to make the connection between the ancient woman in the nursing home and the young woman who lived in China back in the days when it took weeks to get there, and there was no Lonely Planet.*** By the mid 1990s going abroad was a matter of applying for a passport, getting a visa, and going. This idea had crossed my mind once or twice, but it hadn't really left tracks until the fall of 1992.

[I probably didn't make that connection because that woman was not my great-great-Aunt Maxie, she was my great-grandma, Becky Stewart.  Thanks Erin Sack, Bob Euler and Becky Duncan!]

As I look back from this vantage point, two days short of being 45 years old, the Rob Sack of 1992 seems like a different person. I remember him, I was him, but he and I are not the same.

He was going to graduate in the spring of 1993 with a degree in civil engineering that he thought he was incapable of using, but had pretty much paid for by virtue of being good at taking multiple choice tests (the SAT and PSAT). He didn't know what he wanted to do, and was not trying very hard to figure it out. But he was starting to realize that he was very fortunate to have been born where and when he was. Maybe it was the “Women in World Religions” class.**** Maybe it was just being on a college campus where people talked about such a wide variety of topics. Our home town, Leavenworth, was somewhat homogeneous, but Fort Leavenworth brought in a few people from around the country and world. Our college town, Lawrence, had an even larger and broader international flavor, with many students from all over the world. Maybe it seemed logical to experience international directly? Whatever the process of his thinking, he decided that it was a good idea to pass on some of those blessings and find out more about the world.

When you think of helping people who are less fortunate, and getting out to see the world, the Peace Corps should come to mind. It came to his, and he latched on to it.

Of course, I knew nothing. Absolutely nothing. Twenty-three year old me had tasted variety for the previous five years, and thought that it was time to plunge into some seriously new experiences. He was right, but for the wrong reasons. After all, a broken clock is right twice a day.

And so he filled in application for the toughest job you'll ever love. After that the story gets boring. But then it gets exciting and excruciating and exhilarating and way over 1000 words.

To be continued.

* The name of my home country is The United States of America, and I find it somewhat annoying that citizens of the USA are referred to as "Americans".  Other denizens of this fine continent must take exception to this.  However, I am loathe to type "U.S. Citizen" instead of "American", because I don't want anyone to stumble on this site and believe that it is a dot-gov.  It's even more awkward to refer to us as "Unitidians" or "Stations", and "Usians" sounds too much like a cross between Russians and Asians.  So I am an American, by virtue of linguistic momentum.

In a similar vein, I am now living in the Republic of Korea, a.k.a. South Korea, not to be confused with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, a.k.a. North Korea.  (Confused?  Just remember this handy rule: the longer the name of a country, the more repressive the government, but only when “Korea” is in the name.)  So when I refer to "Korea", it means the not crazy one.

** I hang out on average twice a year.  In a good year.

*** I don't have much on great-great-Aunt Maxie right now. Perhaps later.

**** He would have been uncomfortable in any conversation involving female genitalia, but adding the word “mutilation” took uncomfortable to new levels.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You are confusing your grandmother Stewart and Aunt Maxie.
GS was in the nursing home.
AM was still living at the apt house till her heart attack.
GS died around 1975 +/- AM 1980??
Uncle Bob

A Brief Introduction

Roblog is my writing lab. It is my goal to not let seven days pass without a new post. I welcome your criticism, as I cannot improve on my own.

Here is a link to my cung post, which remains the only word which I have ever invented, and which has not, as far as I know, caught on. Yet.