Monday, December 29, 2008
Taking a relationship abroad
... You have to be a little bit crazy (or just crazy in love?)
When Aaron and I started talking about going to Korea together, the plan was to get separate jobs and separate apartments. Most employers offer a free apartment with a contract, so it seemed like the logical choice. Aaron had worked in a smaller town in Korea a few years back, so he knew the culture pretty well, and he was excited to show it to me.
However, we found this great contract (the pay was good, the vacation days amazing- we just had no idea they'd have us live in a cardboard box)- but it was a couple job, meaning we'd have to live AND work together. I remember panicking and saying no right away, it sounded like a bit much. At that moment we had only been together for a year, so it was... crazy. I gave it more thought when Aaron mentioned how big Seoul is (third biggest city in the world), and how difficult it might be for me to be alone, and probably far from him. Besides, it could be fun to work together and play tricks on each other at school and share the whole cultural experience.
After almost a year here, I'm happy to say we've survived it (and I don't know how we did sometimes!). Our experiences in Korea were different, too: being my first time in Korea, I went through the whole culture shock while he had been there already a few years ago. Living with a boyfriend is one thing, but working with him is another one. AND seeing him 24-7. And being far away from home, isolated from everyone else. And playing different roles: being his best friend, his family, his co-worker, his girlfriend. We had to support each other through bouts of homesickness, and be there for each other whenever something bad happened at school or back home, and cheer each other up whenever needed. And hear each other whine and complain about the food (that would be me).
We also did amazing things together, such as scuba diving in Thailand, encountering Geishas in dark alleys in Kyoto, partying at an art gallery in Tokyo, hiking the beautiful mountains of the Korean countryside, having our own little Christmas, and travelling across the country in the slowest train ever- yet while still having fun. We also teamed up together when things got out of hand with our employer... and when a burglar visited. Aaron was always very protective of me, so I never felt threatened. We definitely saw the best and worst of each other. Being together so far makes you see other sides of a person, sides you'd not necessarily see in a familiar environment. It also brought us much, much closer.
I must admit we felt like killing each other at times- being together so much is probably not the healthiest thing for a relationship. And I missed missing him. We also had to put up with difficult living and working conditions, which never made anything easier. We did goof around a lot in the teacher's room, and Aaron would sometimes come sit in one of my classes and participate with the students.
But other times we'd get on each other's nerves, especially at work where I'm rather bubbly and he's more quiet. You can imagine. We definitely had our separate lives and friends outside of work, which helped a lot. Yet, I think we chose to be together most of the time, as it's quite an amazing thing to discover a new culture together and share all that excitement.
It's one of the most difficult things I've done in my life, but also the most exciting.