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authorSean Whitton <spwhitton@spwhitton.name>2015-11-18 10:09:12 -0700
committerSean Whitton <spwhitton@spwhitton.name>2015-11-18 10:09:12 -0700
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+[[!meta date="2015-01-27 09:10:00"]]
+[[!meta title="After a year in Korea"]]
+[[!tag imported_PyBlosxom writing diary]]
+
+I recently wrote a [series of blog
+posts](http://spw.sdf.org/blog/writing/thoughts/koreaafter1yr-intro.html)
+commenting on contemporary Korean society after a year living here, and
+I was disappointed by the way about half of them came out. Further, I
+didn't write down my current assessment of my year in Korea for my own
+self and life. I intend to do that briefly here.
+
+[[!more linktext="continue reading this entry" pages="!blog/entry/*" text="""
+I originally signed up to come to Korea for a year for two reasons. I
+had a great deal of curiosity about Korean contemporary culture and
+society, piqued by spending a month teaching English in a nursing
+college here in the summer of 2012. And I wanted to study philosophy at
+a post-graduate level, but I couldn't apply to start a graduate course
+immediately after my undergraduate because that would mean I would have
+to apply with my third year grades before I'd got my fourth year ones,
+which I knew would be much better as I dropped maths and did only
+philosophy in my fourth year. I'll frame my assessment of my time in
+Korea so far in terms of these two reasons, and then say a little about
+the remainder of my time here from now until some time between August
+and November.
+
+Firstly, studying graduate philosophy. It's easy to build past
+happenings that seemed undesirable at the time into a grand narrative of
+one's life in which they turn out to be beneficial, and our culture very
+much wants us to see them this way. I'm aware of this, so I don't take
+the following too seriously. That being said: I think that going into
+graduate study straight after undergraduate would have been dangerous
+emotionally and intellectually, because I had a bunch of dogmatic ideas
+about academic philosophy and its place in the intellectual and cultural
+landscapes that I might not have shaken off to the extent that I think I
+have. In contemporary self-help parlance, I've diversified my identity.
+
+Secondly, my attempts to understand and learn from the powerfully
+non-western elements of Korean culture. This has been much less
+successful than the above. When I arrived I really threw myself into it.
+I forced myself to eat spicy food, basically suffering through most of
+my mealtimes, I met a lot of different Koreans to see if I could forge
+some friendships, I used Korean products and Korean methods, even making
+up my bed in the style of my Korean friend from university. And of
+course I put quite a lot of hours into learning the language, though
+this was fairly inefficient because I haven't learnt a language so
+didn't know a lot that I know now about how to (and I'm very aware of
+how far I didn't really get).
+
+Now, I have a fascinating relationship with my Korean girlfriend which
+wouldn't have been come about had I not made the efforts just described.
+But really she is all I have come out with, aside from a bunch of useful
+perspectives and insights that result from contrasting English-speaking
+and Korean culture that I have floating around in my head. I've very
+much wound down my efforts with regard to language study and fitting in,
+not bothering with a lot of Korean food and not bothering with cultural
+activities and tourism, because I've found that I've come out with one
+close Korean friend aside from my girlfriend, one or two other Koreans
+who I might see once every few months, and a feeling that there's not
+actually that much to contemporary Korean culture after all.
+
+There's a lot of weird ways that people behave that I'd like to gain a
+better understanding of than was displayed in the series of blog posts I
+mentioned above, but you can't really talk to Koreans about these---and
+thus try to begin some kind of systematic engagement with the
+culture---because they quickly take offense. Koreans are strikingly
+similar in how they handle foreigners. It sounds crude and as though it
+couldn't possibly be anything other than a surface impression, but it
+really does seem that most Koreans would rather like you to just enjoy
+some food and complain that the rest is too spicy and then they can feel
+good for being in a cultural club that's capable of eating it, say that
+you think various places in Korea are pretty, and then let them know the
+start and end dates of your temporary sojourn.
+
+I haven't managed to break past these barriers to serious and rewarding
+engagement with contemporary Korea. I hope that there are answers, that
+I just didn't try hard enough or engaged in the wrong way, but those
+answers don't help me who did try as hard as he could and found himself
+getting very little out of the country. A huge part of this is language,
+and maybe it's just my lack of intellectual stimulation here. It's easy
+to blame that lack on the country but really, the heart of it is that
+what culture there might be is just straight-up inaccessible compared to
+what's available to me in an English-speaking country.
+
+With all this I need to say why I'm still here and plan to see out as
+much of the second contracted year of employment as I can before I might
+have to go back to the UK or even the US to go to university again. The
+reasons are that I have a good life here and I have my girlfriend. Our
+relationship is very interesting due to the cultural exchange and
+differences, and it's very loving. I don't know what else I might want
+to do and I don't want to think too hard about it until after this
+likely final round of university applications, so continuing my life
+here works very well for me. That doesn't mean I'm not disappointed that
+I don't have more than I do.
+"""]]