Finding Familiarity (by Baden)

31 Jul

During a mid-term exam session, I found myself stuck at my desk with very little interaction with students or teachers. One morning I took a little stroll to the nearby shop to buy a coke and snack. I know this routine well: I leave my office, room 212, on the second floor of the Languages and Mathematics’ building, I turn right into the corridor, walk a little bit and then left through the glass double doors onto the skywalk connecting the adjacent Sciences and Arts building. Through two more glass double doors, I turn left down the stairs, one flight. At the ground floor I make a hair pin right turn and out another set of glass double doors. Left onto a paved driveway, I walk toward the guard house of the school keeping the Science and Art building on my left. Then it’s right down the ramp and left out the gate, across the street, straight down the alley way between an avenue of small Korean residential homes and Yeongju Girl’s Middle School. I walk down the alley way for about 120 meters directly into Family Mart. My regular visits to this little shop and the daily comings and goings to and from school have made my once unfamiliar surroundings, now so familiar. Walking these routes for five months now, that particular time I felt a massive sense of certainty and familiarity. I knew where I was and I knew where I was going. For a brief moment I felt safe, comfortable and familiar with my surroundings. It was so nice. I walked into the shop, and was greeted by that same sound that I always hear when I walk into any shop, “anneiyo haseo”. And just like that I was reminded where I am, comfort dissipated, familiar turned to unfamiliar. I quickly picked up my guard and responded appropriately in the words I was taught in a Survive Korea language class.

It looks like I’m still settling in and finding that moment of familiarity felt great. Geographically I know exactly where I am, yet culturally and regarding the way things are done in this country, I know so little. I know where the watering hole is, where I must go to get fed, and where I must go to rest. And that’s what I learnt that day: we can get familiar with a place far easier than we can get familiar with the inhabitants of a place. Getting to know the folks of this land is going to need a bit more time.

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One Response to “Finding Familiarity (by Baden)”

  1. Ann Dowie August 1, 2012 at 6:41 pm #

    Beautifully written Baden. Your thoughts make me realise how small we are in this big, big world.

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