Friday, October 3, 2008

So, How Do You Like It, Here?

I hate that question when I am relatively new to a place because I hate transition (but I love change after it has happened). Someone asked me today at an office picnic.

The day to day life here is fine. I don't love it. I don't hate it. I am pretty happy with my family. Just wish Curt worked fewer hours. But as far as the things I like about Korea, I like the food. That is really it for the moment. And, because of pregnancy and US government guidance my food indulgences are restricted. I am not usually as strict as the Embassy suggests, but during pregnancy I am extra cautious.

The incident with Ian locking me in the laundry room and no Koreans, not even the building security helping has really disturbed me. What if there were a medical emergency? What would I do? Would the base ambulance come? How would they know how to get to my apartment building? No one seems to know where it is. I said that to the guy who asked the question and he said he saw a street vendor getting electrocuted in Itaewon and all the Koreans just stood there watching. No one helped until this guy (an American) grabbed a 2 x 4 and broke the connection of the faulty wire and stopped the guy from getting totally fried. Yikes.

I need to find out about that. What to do in case of emergency.

We are going to try to do some MWR trips in November. Curt will be gone most of October and then we leave in December, so we need to go do some things. Public transportation with a toddler is not convenient. Driving and parking without a good map is not convenient. I just have to accept that, especially with a family, you can't wander around Korea like you can wander around Europe. Going on some tours will give us some more experiences and help us figure out where things are and hopefully how to get back. Some of this is just me. I don't like to be in the position of cluelessness. Some people are a lot more go with the flow in this area and therefore have an easier transition.

When I think back to getting used to Cairo, two things helped: learning to read Arabic and making friends. I need to learn to read Korean but just don't have the energy right now. I have a few friends so that area is getting better as well, but it is still hard.

The common factor between my experiences in Cairo and Seoul is that we do not have a very supportive organization. It makes a big difference. There is no one to ask for the policies written down as to what we are supposed to get. People are just not that helpful. Mainly because, they don't need help. In both Cairo and Seoul, most of the people in the organization have been here for many years and are either first generation Americans with roots to Egypt or another Arabic speaking country or in the case or Seoul, the roots are Korean or they are married to a native speaker. They don't need to know what we need to know and they aren't very good (or interested) in helping us. That is hard. The military and State Department are much better organized to support families because people move a lot more frequently. So I stumble around (and I hate stumbling) and grow even more resentful because other organizations are so much more supportive of their people and they don't stumble quite as much.

Thinking about our housing situation, our lease ends when I am in the States having a baby. The complex is nice but the community is non-existent, the building management is not helpful and no one knows where it is. Staying would be easier, but I think we should move to a more convenient location that is better dealing with foreigners.

Ugh. I want to positive. I do not like to be negative, but I like to have more control than I have right now.


Connie said...

Sometimes, admitting your negative feelings is the first step to figuring out how deal with the things that make you feel this way. Ignoring reality doesn't help you cope with it at all. It's a BIG DEAL to move to a foreign location and try to learn to live in a culture that is very similar, and yet totally different.

Sarah said...

I think what you're doing is really difficult, which is adapting to another society while trying to raise a family. Most people come here and have more time and freedom to get used to things, but you have a lot more responsibility. But I have to say that you're doing an amazing job.

Keep in mind also that Seoul isn't Korea. Seoul is a big crazy city like many others... Hopefully you'll get some opportunities to see some areas outside of Seoul, because it's really quite different and refreshing. I just got back from a lovely weekend in Gangwon-do and feel great. Seoul is tough sometimes. Even after being here 6+ years, I sometimes need a reminder of all the things I like about Korea, and it usually takes getting out of this city to do that.

Mama Seoul said...

Good point. A smaller town would be more manageable. We just drove to Kunsan today to see an air show. Turns out it wasn't at the base, but that was just as well because it was too loud for Ian, but we went to the base and saw the planes take off for the show. It was nice to get out of the city, but traffic was rough.