Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Seoul Searching

By Tisha Timbang

1st Speech (Ice Breaker)
For Butter N Toast (Toastmasters International)
Delivered on 27 July 2006

A home is where the heart is. But at thirty something and single, sometimes one’s soul becomes restless at home—probably in search for a lifetime partner, the greener pasture, a better life, and simply, a change.

When I turned 32 last year, I wished for a change of address. From Merville Subdivision in ParaƱaque—living in with my immediate family, I wanted to move abroad and live alone, independently. In my diary where I keep my wish list for the year, I wrote “go to Seoul and search my self, my soul.”

And fortunately I did. My wish was granted in November. I was invited by a mission organization and for three months, I would have to teach and train Korean teachers ages ranging from 18 to 60 years old, live with two single Korean ladies in a small house and help in our Christian church as a campus minister.

The autumn season gave me a perfect mood for soul searching. I could still imagine the falling yellow leaves on the park, the cold breeze, and birds that flit from one branch to another. I said, “How lovely, how romantic Seoul is.”

As I do my rounds in Seoul, I could feel the unstoppable energy of the city around me, the condo towers of Apjuyeong, the bustling markets in Dongdaemun, the pandemonium of night life in Sinchon, and the impressive cultural shows in Hong ik University made me want for a modernized place and a fast paced lifestyle. I said to myself, I wanted it here. I wanted to stay in Korea for good.

But realities of life are harsh. Living with foreigners wasn’t easy. In the house, there were days when I would just look at the ceiling and talk to myself. My Korean roommates, Mi-ae and Jin, although well-meaning and friendly, would choose to talk to each other than me. And I understand. I myself would choose to have a deep talk with my Pinoy friends. Talking English is tiring.

Ordering food in Korean language is such an ordeal. Sometimes, when I couldn’t remember the right pronunciation of the food I like, I would just have to order bibimbap and kimchi chigue.

Taking a bath with subzero temperature and squatting on the floor is also a torment. Even if there’s hot water available, the cool air freezes me to death after every pour of water on my body.

On my second month, I have resolved in my mind that I would persevere and adjust with the language and weather. If I really want to stay in Korea for long, I would have to endure these things.

The real test came when I tried my chances to get employed. I applied for a teaching job in a Hagwon or English Institute. Mr. Ahn, the old Korean employer, expressed interest in hiring me. In the past, he has had several Filipino-Korean teachers and they were outstanding. But my citizenship disqualified me for the job. Out of pity for myself, he offered me a wonderful proposal. On paper or visa, he would hire me as a service staff or janitress. But in reality, I would work as one of his English teachers.

Reality bites. Korean and English Institutes only hire native speakers such as Canadian, American, English, Australian, and New Zealander. Even if I am more proficient with English language compared to the native speakers, I am not qualified. I am a Filipino.

Although my spirit was crushed because of that incident, inwardly I have understood several things about myself. First, I want to be back home for good, I love my country, I love being a Filipino and finally, I have resolved not to marry a foreigner.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am happy to report to you that I have found my soul in Seoul.

1 comment:

3ms said...

Nice blog

I completely empathize with you. I am a second speaker of English and I currently live and work in the US. It took my coming here to realize how much I love my country. I recently gave my icebreaker speech and I am in the process of preparing for my second one.


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