10 things I take for granted in Korea
- Never needing an alarm: I still use one occasionally for when I want to get up extra early to, say, meet with a friend or watch a sunrise or whatever. Other than that, never. I don’t need to be at work until 2:00 PM (I can show up later if I want), and I don’t even go to church in the morning (most of the time, I catch the afternoon service).
- Finding someone to speak a foreign language: I don’t take advantage of this as much as I could because I quit learning Korean. But if I wanted, I could walk out the door and immediately find someone to practice a new phrase on. When you live in your home country, that opportunity for instant feedback just isn’t there.
- Eating Korean food everywhere: I’m a big fan of Korean food. It’s not my favorite in the world, but grabbing something exotic on any corner is pretty cool. Also – and I almost made this a separate point – street food, nothing like it.
- Skype and Facebook and Email: I can contact my family anytime, almost instantly, for free. Sure, I pay for the Internet access and my computer cost something, but it’s ridiculously amazing how connected I can be even halfway around the world.
- Google translate (etc.): When I need to cram a word for a particular situation, I just google it. When I need to figure out how to pay a bill or run my washing machine, I google it, which leads me to a YouTube video stepping me through the process exactly. When I need to figure out where something is, which bus to take, where to transfer on the subway, it’s all at my fingertips.
- English speakers: When I first arrived, I didn’t know anyone. Now, I feel like I have a pretty well developed circle of friends. Most of them speak English fluently, and many of them speak both English and Korean. These guys go a long way in helping me find my way around and keeping me social.
- Disposable income: I’m not paying rent. I’m not paying a car payment. I’m not even paying for phone service. I basically spend my money on food and. . . well, that’s it. The rest I can spend on whatever I want, like travel. I don’t make much (by American standards), but when food is the biggest expense, it’s pretty easy to feel rich.
- Clean water: Before I got here, I heard the horror stories about water in foreign countries. I knew I’d stick to bottled water once I got here, since most Koreans are afraid of the tap water even though the government says it’s okay. After cooking with it, though, I’m pretty sure I could live on it if I needed to, though I still prefer bottled at home or filtered at work.
- My job and the security that comes with it: I think most people take their job for granted, if they have one. It applies especially to me, though, since it’s tough to convince a foreigner to come to a school on the other side of the world, get him legal through Immigration, and teach him how the school runs. Sure, they could fire me, but it’s pretty unlikely. From another perspective too, I take it for granted because many teachers have unreasonable bosses here or don’t get paid on time. Mine are pretty cool to me.
- Location and access to subway lines: The other side of the river might be nicer, but there’s something pretty sweet about living a five-minute’s walk from Wangsimni Station. Other places might be nicer, but for someone who had no clue about where to live before arriving, it’s turned out pretty well.
And these are just things related to where I’m at specifically. I’m truly blessed.