4 Months Gone: A Reflection

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I was on my way to Artbox to pick up some new headphones because I left mine in the pocket of my gym shorts, before throwing them into the hamper in the locker room.

As I passed the rows of ddeukbokki and ingappang vendors and stepped around displays of raw fish for sale with nary an ice cube in sight, hoping to find a vendor selling egg bread– my favorite street snack– it occurred to me that I am not the person I was when I got here.

No longer do I notice the sharp contrast between the sleek, glittery Lotte department store and the ramshackle food vendors that populate the plaza in front, selling everything from fish-shaped waffles filled with warm red bean sauce (DELICIOUS) to dried squid on a stick (less delicious).

 It doesn’t occur to me to be amused/repulsed at having to avoid the puddle of fish juices that accumulate in front of the guy who sells raw fish out of a box on the corner of my block.


I was on my way to Artbox to pick up some new headphones because I left mine in the pocket of my gym shorts, before throwing them into the hamper in the locker room.

As I passed the rows of ddeukbokki and ingappang vendors and stepped around displays of raw fish for sale with nary an ice cube in sight, hoping to find a vendor selling egg bread– my favorite street snack– it occurred to me that I am not the person I was when I got here.

No longer do I notice the sharp contrast between the sleek, glittery Lotte department store and the ramshackle food vendors that populate the plaza in front, selling everything from fish-shaped waffles filled with warm red bean sauce (DELICIOUS) to dried squid on a stick (less delicious).

 It doesn’t occur to me to be amused/repulsed at having to avoid the puddle of fish juices that accumulate in front of the guy who sells raw fish out of a box on the corner of my block.

It’s weird if I don’t eat rice at least once a day. When I make food at home (read: microwave ramen or frozen dumplings), I eat it with my own set of chopsticks.

Sometimes I crave kimchi.

It’s obvious that I’ve changed in a thousand tiny ways, but I think the big changes are ones that I can only notice if I look very carefully at myself.  They’re the ones that are more difficult to put into words.

I’m becoming more confident in myself. I mean this in the sense that I know that I’m capable of taking care of myself and figuring out how to navigate new environments.

I’m also becoming more confident in my ability to interact with people. I still don’t love talking to strangers (shudder), but I know that I can make friends with a diverse group of people and make a moderately decent impression on at least a few of them.

 I’m also learning the art of humility. This one has been tough, and is something I still struggle with.  I don’t like admitting that I am fallible and am capable of making mistakes. Spoiler alert: I’m kind of a huge control freak. I’m one of those people who plans important conversations with a flow chart to outline all possible outcomes. But I’m learning to acknowledge that I can’t always do everything all by myself and to admit when I screw up.

On a related note, I’m learning to relinquish some of the control I hold over my own life. I think I’m getting better at trusting that things will all work out, somehow.

Case in point: Next week I will be adding another country to my passport. I’m going to Bali on vacation for a week. Granted, Bali isn’t exactly a rough-n-tough, off-the-beaten-track destination, but the fact remains that I will be spending a week in a foreign country (Indonesia, for those of you who are not geographically inclined) where I don’t speak the language and have only a vague grasp of its cultural offerings. And yet, I don’t think I’ve ever planned less for a major trip. My friend and I have a rough outline of what town we plan to be in on what day, but that’s about it. We don’t even have a hostel booked for the last two days there. She and I are just trusting that we’ll decide what we want to do and will be able to deal with it  there.

I know I’m changing in other ways, ways that I can’t even detect right now. I probably won’t even notice them until I return home and have the mirror of the familiar to hold up against the “new” me.

Until then, all I can do is keep plugging away and living each day like the amazing opportunity it is.

(At least… I will definitely do that when it stops being a giant kimchi freezer here. I had the whole day off yesterday, and spent most of it curled up on the floor watching Community. We can’t carpe diem every day, ok? Sometimes it’s just too cold out.)



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