Oct 14, 2012

The Slump

The Dark Place. The second phase of culture shock. The Adventure Hangover. Whatever you want to call it, it is very real, and can strike with a vengeance.

I'm heading into my third month in Korea. When I got here, everything was new and exciting. Everything was a fun challenge. Can I order coffee in Korean? Delivery? Can I figure out where I'm going without getting lost? It was a time of discovery. Look at this! Why didn't WE think of this? Haha, thing X (grocery shopping, ordering food, buying shoes) is exactly the same, only in Korean! 

Now, that novelty has turned sour. Ugh, grocery shopping is the exact same, just in Korean, so why is this so hard? All I want is some f***ing vanilla extract. Everything is still a challenge, only it has ceased to be a challenge in the sense that challenges are fun and stimulating. Now, a better way to describe it would be that everything is an effort. Things that are supposed to make your life easier are an effort. My local 'mart' delivers your groceries to your house for free, but that involves telling the cashier that you want them delivered, then explaining where you live. Even though this would save me enormous effort when lugging home my 6 pack of 2-liter water bottles (no drinking the tap water here), the thought of having to have yet another "conversation" with someone who thinks (correctly) that I am a stupid foreigner who can barely function in society is more mental strain than I usually want to deal with. I'll just carry my water, thanks.

Traditional medicine-- like acupuncture-- is covered by health insurance here, and I have been having back problems from...just...life, I guess. I would love to go get acupuncture at the clinic in the building next door, but you have to call and make an appointment. If there's one thing that I hate more than having to explain myself (in broken Korean) in person, it's having to do it over the phone. In person, I can lean on my well-developed and finely-honed charades skills (Seriously: Never go up against a TEFL teacher in charades. We will smack you down like the hand of God). Over the phone? I'm hopeless. I'll take the back pain. That's what my Costco-sized bottle of Advil from  home is for.

The Slump also often sparks mini existential crises, seemingly at random. On the subway, in the middle of 2nd grade, at home on a Sunday night downloading the latest SNL. They sometimes come in the form of "The Head and The Heart" lyrics. God, what are we doing? Can't live this way forever.  I find myself wondering what I've gotten myself into, and whether I've made the right decisions along the way. I wonder if I'm doing everything I can to be the best teacher I can be, the best person I can be. I worry about losing touch with the life I left behind, and clinging too desperately to it.

It's Monday morning, and according to my rigorous planning schedule (see below), I should be in the middle of planning fifth grade lesson 2. I'm writing this instead. I sort of have an excuse. Waygook.org, my saving grace and lifeline, is in the middle of its usual Monday morning server overload.

Time to forge ahead.

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