I alluded to some of the reasons that I'm leaving Korea early (before the end of Matthew's current teaching contract) in "ten signs it's time to leave korea." What it boils down to is that we've decided it's better for Liam to be back in the United States.
From the first moment Liam stepped foot in Korea, he's been a local celebrity of sorts, since he's the only blond-haired, blue-eyed child in Sokcho (or was, before the arrival of his baby brother). Everywhere we go, people stare, want to touch him, take his picture, etc. He's become more aware and affected by this as he's gotten older. When it comes to adults, sometimes he freaks out when people even say hello to him, anticipating them trying to grab him. With kids, it's been a constant struggle to socialize him in some way resembling normalcy.
When we returned from a trip home between contract years, we enrolled him part-time in a small neighborhood daycare, which he seemed to enjoy for the most part, but he was sick way too much. After having been sick only twice in his first 12 months in Korea, he was sick four times in the six weeks he attended and shared several of those illnesses with the rest of us, including the flu and a virus that gave Rowan and I very nasty sinus/ear infections. It just wasn't worth it.
Korea is such a homogeneous culture, children here aren't used to dealing with anyone different. Other children's reactions at the playground and other public areas range from curiosity (staring, trying to take pictures) to fear (running away, even bursting into tears when he tries to play). Older kids tend to treat him like a mascot (petting his head, wanting to carry him around), but a few are actually mean to him. Constantly running interference for him, interpreting, protecting, advocating, left me exhausted and feeling like we had more bad days than good.
Finally, after hearing story after story and witnessing some of it first-hand, Matthew asked me if I wanted to move home with the boys. We discussed the pros and cons, finally deciding this would be best for Liam & I. Initially, Matthew was going to stay to finish out his contract, but seven months apart would have been too long, especially for the boys. Instead, Matthew will be coming home at the end of the year, just three months after the rest of us. Since making this decision, there's been even more craziness on the playground that confirmed my decision and led me to avoid the playgrounds after about 2 p.m. when the elementary schools let out in the afternoon.
I don't want to make it sound like Korean people are horrible in any way. The older people are overbearing and abrupt, but they generally mean well. The younger adults (those currently raising children and younger) are mostly understanding and kind. The children just don't seem to know better. What it really comes down to is that we don't belong here. This is not our home. Maybe if we'd stuck to our original plan to live closer to Seoul (and other ex-pat families), we could have made it work longer, but we liked Sokcho and the people we had worked for during our first stay. I'm not leaving with any hard feelings towards the country or the people, I just feel that it's time for us to leave. I've met a lot of amazing people here, both Koreans and ex-pats, and had many wonderful experiences.
Learning Something New
8 months ago