Welcome to my blog where I rave (and sometimes complain) about my experiences living in Colombia and South Korea, and hope it serves as a guide for others like me. Two very different cultures, yet similar in some respects. Both out of my comfort zone, which is why I decided I had to check them out, conquer them in a way.
“You’re moving to Colombia? Alone? A single woman? That’s a terrible idea!”were the words that I heard when I let my friends know I was leaving to teach in Colombia. “Why???”said everyone.
The resistance was exactly why I felt my decision was the right one.
Though it wasn’t always easy. Not in Colombia, and especially not in South Korea. When you’re in a country where you’re obviously a foreigner, there are little challenges that come up on a daily basis. If you’re adventurous, as I am quite a bit of the time, you’ll find these little challenges thrilling, opportunities for learning.
But then there are good days and bad. On the good days, every little bit of effort to get my point across to someone who doesn’t speak my language is rewarded when their face lights up in understanding. Every question I’m asked makes me feel like something of a celebrity. Every unknown street I take (In South Korea, not so much in Colombia) is exciting and could lead to some adventure and romance. Everyday tasks like choosing lunch from the pictures in a menu of a Seoul Chinese place is filled with novelty.
On the bad days, every bit of effort is exhausting. You long to hear someone speak a familiar language. You want to hide away from the curious stares and the questions. When I finally learned to stop wanting to snap on the bad days, and was able to deal gracefully, I knew I had learned a lot.
I hope that through these blogs, I can encourage others to take the final leap and move to either of the two countries for all their rewards. At the same time, I hope these posts will prepare them for the difficulties they are also, undoubtedly, going to face.
Why Colombia & South Korea?
My decision to live in these two countries so far apart on different continents from each other was partly impulsive. I saw a picture of Medellin once, the sun setting over high-rises and low roofs dotting a green hillside. It was labeled the City of Eternal Spring. That decided me. I hate cold and heat with equal venom.
And since with my job I didn’t have to be tied down to a place, -I thought, why not? So I packed up, rented out my home, left my car with a friend to drive. In return she took up my outstanding payments.
South Korea was decided in an equally whimsical way. I was interested in martial arts at the time. So I decided that my next stop would be the home of Taekwondo.
Not for one moment have I regretted my decisions. I went out of my comfort zone, to places with cultural differences from what I’ve been used to growing up. Colombia had its way of life, which is different from ours, and very different from that in South Korea. In a way, living in Colombia made me a better foreign traveler. In the sense that I was more sensitive to culture, more mindful of it when I landed in Korea.
Being an expat in any country is going to bring with it challenges. But when it is a country trying to recover from a violent past and another with completely unique cultural values, the challenges seem that much taller.
I’ve tried my best throughout this blog to be as objective as I can, while presenting my own views and opinions on things. So I hope readers understand that this is not the full picture, not even half the picture. This is just a blog of the experiences of one expat girl, and I hope you find something to learn from it.
I also want to share with you my interest in recording my foreign travels through travel sketches, collages, comics and illustrations. If you love journaling or want to get started, I hope my posts will help you enjoy this wonderful hobby!