Compared to many of the other ETAs I’m relatively isolated, or at the very least it feels that way. I’m definitely not as isolated as Megan up in North Korea (just kidding parents, she’s just relatively close), nor as isolated as some of the ETAs that are further south, but relatively speaking I’m isolated. I’m the only F*lbrighter in my county, there’s Joelle who is one county over and 20 minutes away by bus but after that it’s Sam who’s 40 minutes, Katie who’s… something, I’m not sure (she’s more rural than I am and her bus system’s a little wonky – haven’t attempted that trip yet) and everyone else is an hour away or more. I try to keep it in perspective by reasoning that for many of the city ETAs who are technically near each other it can take up to an hour for them to meet because they’re on opposite ends of the city. However the city ETAs seem to have a “crew” if you will, and seem hang out together rather frequently, or at least once during the week. Maybe it’s because I’m in a rural location but we here in Chungnam don’t seem to a crew. Even though I’m only an hour from Cheonan, which again is about the same amount of time it takes many city ETAs to meet, we don’t have weekly Cheonan meetings. I’m not bringing this up to complain, just to state a fact that during the week I don’t see people. Joelle and I are trying to change that and make a once a week coffee sanity date, but thus far it hasn’t worked too well. I do end up seeing people on the weekends a fair amount because I travel, but it’s these long weekdays that are difficult. I’m really lucky in that I really like everyone that’s placed close to me, however they’re a little difficult to get to. When I have a really rough day at school due to either students misbehaving, or a cultural misunderstanding, it’s sometimes difficult coming back to my apartment and knowing that I don’t really have a “crew” that knows what I’m dealing with in terms of students, or understands my American perspective, that I can call to meet up and decompress. I just have to either be content with videochat/email/gchat etc, theoretically (I haven’t done this yet – too long of a trip to make on impulse) check and see if Joelle or Sam are free and navigate the rural bus system (i.e. sometimes the buses don’t. freaking. come. I hate the 7:20 Yesan-Hongseong bus. Also buses don’t run very late… I’d have to leave Sam’s place at 9 at the latest, and Joelle’s at just after 10) or just suck it up. I’ve never been good at isolation, I’ve always been a people-person, so this is a very good experience for me. A difficult one, but a good one.
What this does mean is that I value my time with people more, and I see people I probably wouldn’t otherwise. If I had a crew I’d probably stick with them at least a little bit (it’s easier to stay within your city than to go to another one, right)? As practically everyone is an hour away from me that means that it’s almost as easy to go meet people across the country as it is to go to Cheonan (the largest city near me).
So what am I doing this Friday night? I’m going to celebrate Guy Fawkes Night with Joelle the rural way – Instead of partying under big city lights, or meeting up with my crew, I made chocolate chip cookies and we’re going to pop “V for Vendetta” into Joelle’s laptop and chill. And honestly? I’m really, really excited.