I’m caught somewhere between time and space. It is February 27th at 11pm EST or February 28th at 1pm Korean time. I always think of traveling as a sort of time travel experience. (To friends and family at home, I’m in the future now and you are living in the past.)
This time difference is necessary and a physical reminder that I am in a completely different place. The first time I ever came here was in 2007 and either I went blindly or wisely. It is always a strange feeling to get off the plane, familiar and comfortable with my English surroundings and then suddenly in a new place with a new feel. There is a different pace and feel to which I have not adjusted in my first two visits. It is the cramped feeling of New York city living with the pace of what we imagine China’s streets to be like. It is crowded and full of unfamiliar faces and smells. It is like waking up in a new place that I don’t know. But the only difference with this trip is that it isn’t entirely new. I’ve been here before. Before getting off the plane, I anticipate that it will feel like a strong case of deja-vous. Already, sitting on the plane I can understand the translations from English to Korean. It is exciting, like when you are exhausted from working that you forget the pain you went through, and when you wake up the work is done. It is that kind of feeling. I forget the process that I have been through, and suddenly have woken up to understand what is being said around me. This is quite exciting but I don’t know what my competence is. Though, it doesn’t really matter. The shift from textbook learning to real-world knowledge is the most important. Already I understood the flight attendant explaining the food choices, which was really useful since I didn’t really understand the vague description of airline chicken cattiatore or chinese-like wonton that the crew mentioned earlier in English.
Back to my point, I forgot the process of what it was like to learn and fail and relearn. It is constant. I guess it is like faith, and knowing yourself. While the process to better ourselves never ends (I will be a harder worker, I will be kinder, I will lose weight, I will be more loving), the process is quickly forgotten. Once you live a certain way, it is hard to remember that process. Moreover, it is hard to see what is happening and keep track of what is helping you get through everything while in the process. I was happy to see my family and friends’ support and love. I don’t think I was entirely aware of this before I ever started this process. I thought that success is just based off of my own hard work, and that what I did mattered only for me. This journey is a bit different this time.
The 11,175.57 km (or 6,943 mi) trip isn’t as exciting as before. It is cramped and uncomfortable. We are crammed in 3x4x3 rows, eating unknown so-called gourmet dishes with strange packaging. We were served ramen that was thrown at us, and I am still wondering if that was considered our second meal of the trip or just a snack. I am holding my bladder and it is hot in here. My battery is dying and there are a million things that I dislike about flying and traveling. But I can’t believe that I am time traveling and getting this opportunity to be overseas. I think that most people feel it will be different. Yes, it is different in another place. But I think the best thing I learn while abroad is that I get a perspective on how I live, what matters to me, what I need to survive and my outlook on life. Everyday is a challenge and I am both dreading and anxiously awaiting what the next few months will bring.