Sequoia, outbound to Korea

I wrote this on May 1st
262 days and I finally manage to write a journal. Sitting in bed at 2:30am after two weeks of being away from home and I'm overcome with a sense of longing. I'm longing to see my home in Florida, yet I'm already longing to come back to Korea.

My host dad and I had a nice conversation earlier tonight. We talked about how we never see each other because he's so busy, because Koreans are always so busy. He told me him and my host mom and sister don't go on vacation because they're always working or studying, but then he told me that one day they'll come to my house in Florida.

He asked me if I like Korea and I said yes and he said why, the U.S. is good, Korea isn't. All the while he was making funny sound effects and had gestures to show how the U.S. is good and Korea isn't. He told me to stop studying and go play more. That I should do what I want and have fun. To not hurt because everyone is so busy and we don't see each other because I'm at my school dorm all week and on the weekend he's working. He felt really bad about how busy they are, but that's just Korean life, everyone is always busy...faster, faster, faster...that's a word I've now hear more than any other in my life because Koreans have so much work and so little time that they need to do everything in a split second.

It's good to be efficient, but to push yourself to such extremes as so many Korean high school students do is unhealthy. Not all of the stress is self inflicted, it's a combination of pressure from the teachers, parents, and themselves. The smartest classes are worked to the bone, starting school at 08:10, lunch break from 12:30-13:30, class again from 13:30 until an hour break for dinner at 17:30 and then having to either go back to school for night study from 18:30 until 24:30 or go to an academy to study.
I may not realize all of the things that have changed about my character and personality, but I know I'm not entirely the same person that left the United States 8 months ago. I don't really know what version of myself is here right now, but I feel it's one of the better ones.

I've lost 4 kilos, lost my tan (I can see my veins! It's weird), lost my way, taken a city bus to another city. I repeatedly skimp on the bus fare because I'm a broke exchange student, I got a free taxi because this drunk dude was going to the same apartment as me and he just paid the taxi and left...I don't think he even knew I was in the back seat, traveled more on my own than I ever had. I've become a native English speaker who uses some of the wrongest grammar ever. I speak Korean and I feel a little anxious, but I feel happy. I feel happy when I can communicate with my friends at school and they understand me, even though my accent is American and I will never be mistaken as a native. In a country as homogeneous as Korea I stand out as a white, light haired, chestnut eyed American. I stand out so much. People stare all the time whether I'm just walking down the street, ordering food, or taking the bus. They especially stare if I'm wearing my school uniform. When I'm not in uniform most people think I'm either an English teacher or a college student.

There's this one first year at school who, whenever I see him, has this enormous smile on his face, his eyes smile too, and he waves enthusiastically with both hands and says hi, and tries his best to speak in English. Whenever I see him in the lunch room he always says "Have a good lunch!" and I reply "맛있게먹어!" He's been getting some of his friends to wave too, but they're so shy. Most of the first years think we're intimidating.

Age is a HUGE deal in Korea. If a person is older than you the whole dynamic of your relationship is changed before it even begins. This is of course a generalization, and there are people who really great friends even if they're different ages, but the norm is for people of the same age and grade to become friends, stay together, and be scared of the older grades, because they're oppa (older brother for a girl), noona (older sister for a guy), hyung (older brother for a guy), unni (older si ster for a guy), and sunbae (people you respect who have more experience).

We don't really prescribe to this hierarchy as much as the Koreans do. Of course we still respect our elders, but if there are people in the age range of say...15-25 we don't really make the people younger than us use polite form (unless they want to) and we don't really use polite form with those older than us, unless they're complete strangers that we aren't friends with, that we're supposed to respect. basically, if they're our friends we speak in the casual form, and if they're older, strangers or important people we speak to them in formal form.
This was a really random journal but I figured, what the heck I just need to write something, and this is what came. I will write again! Soon!

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