Friday, 12 October 2012

Thank you for the kindness, the words you're speaking, thanks for all the encouragement you're giving.

So, imagine you are sitting at a busy subway station in Seoul. You and a friend are sitting beside each and are waiting for another friend to join you. You've been chatting for a while, but you both decide to use a quick moment to take advantage of the WiFi. Suddenly, you feel someone hovering over you and you look up expecting the friend you are waiting on. Instead, you see a stranger and as you register this a sharp pain radiates throughout your leg. "What the feck?" you think. And as the stranger moves back you see her extended foot curl back to the floor and it hits you: You've been kicked in the shin. On purpose. By a random stranger. In the subway station. In Seoul. As this all passes through your head in the space of a second, your reaction is swift, loud and pissed off. "Owwww, what was that about!" However, the lady has moved off and you can't find her. Your friend sitting beside you is in shock and as you sit back down, you realise that you are as well.

The above is a true story and it is something that still shocks me when I think of it.  I was kicked in the shin for doing absolutely nothing. I wasn't being unkind to anyone, I wasn't being loud or rude. I was sitting down, quietly, minding my own business. Once the initial shock wore off, I realised that I was glad that this occurrence happened when it did. Why? Well, if this had happened during my first couple of weeks after arriving in Korea, think how I could have reacted? Instead I three months into what so far had been an amazing, wonderful experience. Until that point I had not experienced any negativity in Korea or any obstacles to my enjoyment of Korea...weirdness, yes, negativity, no.

My sister has written a blog where she talks about the kindness of strangers. I, too, can testify to the amazing kindness of strangers. For example, on Tuesday and Friday, I work at a different school and it is quite a bit out - in fact, I've to take two buses. These two ladies noticed that the bus driver keeps charging me the wrong amount 1900KRW instead of 1150KRW - not a huge amount,  but that extra 800 KRW each time equals more than a bus ride home!  So, these incredible strangers now drag me on the bus with them and make sure the driver charges me the right amount. I have met a man outside the bus stop one day who took me and a friend aside and had a grand old chat about his life. He'd been in the Korean war, had traveled to America and all this with very little English. Sadly, I had to decline drinking a beer with wasn't even 8am and it was a school day. These people's generosity in their time,gestures and stories makes for an incredible journey but I am happy to say that it isn't just strangers who have extended kindness to me.

Until that moment when the lady kicked me on the shin, I had (and have) only ever experienced the kind words, thoughts and actions of strangers, acquaintances, friends and family, whether here or abroad. From the minute, I arrived in Korea I have been overwhelmed by kindness - my brother gave me an amazing welcome, my co-teacher is friendly and helpful, my friends and acquaintances have made my life joyful, fun and given me a purpose outside of teaching.  I have amazing students and just as amazing homeroom teachers who frequently make me laugh,and constantly feed me.

Yes, I have an amazing support system here in Korea - whether it is a random stranger offering me beer at 7.50am or my brother making sure my settling into Korea goes smoothly. Thankfully, the support doesn't just end here. My family and friends from home and abroad keep me grounded and send words of encouragement often. Due to their support I am able to reconfirm to myself on a daily basis that I have made the right choice in living here. Furthermore, this incident reminded me that overall, my life is pretty legend(wait for it)dary. I have always been blessed by amazing friends and family, and for some reason, compared to other stories that I have heard, I really have had a pretty sweet life. Whether in Ireland or America, the people in my life now and years ago have shaped me to who I am today. So thank you for the kindness, the friendship, the words you have spoken to help me grow. Thank you for the encouragement and love because I couldn't live without it, in all honesty. I would not be where I am today. I salute you all.

So, you might think I'm mad to not really care that the crazy lady kicked me. It shocks me that it happened but I am glad that it did because it reminds me of how she is an anomaly in my life and that not everything in life is pleasant. Korea is a wonderful place, but like anywhere it has it's own share of crazy,weird and downright mean people. I just happened to meet one person who encompassed all those traits!

Dinner my co-teacher made for me and my cousin

Peppermint sweet from a student
as we walked to school
Persimmon from  a co-teacher

PS this post was inspired by Abba's "Thank you for the music" and all the wonderful people constantly give me support, encouragement kindness whether they are stranger or friend.
PPS - examples of generosity from those I've met in Korea. 

1 comment:

  1. I live this blog! You took a negative experience and turned it into so ethi g far more revealing! You make me remember that it is not the small negative things that happen in life, but the overall great experiences we all have! Thank you Mags for not allowing this random act of negativity distort you view on your experiences both past and present! This blog has been a necessary reminder for myself, as well! I miss you and I can't wait to see each bother again someday! Until then I will continue to take part on your journey by reading your blogs!


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