Wednesday, October 5, 2011

All About My New Homestay....including how I got there

So, it's been about three weeks since I've been living with the 한 Family in Garam Apartments in Dunsan-dong, Daejeon, South Korea. I switched to this host family exactly one month after moving into my first homestay.

The mother's name is Joo-Yeon and she is a home economics teacher at my high school... Although she doesn't teach what we Americans would expect out of home ec! She teaches about things like how to arrange a marriage, finding a suitable marriage partner, how to have children (literally; I think they learn about conception and pregnancy...), and how to raise a family. No cooking or sewing though. Very different. But I get a ride with her to school and back home everyday and so that's very nice. She's also an excellent cook, and very kind. She does not know much English, but if I speak easily and slowly enough, she gets the gist of it.

The father works away from home during the week. He supervises the construction of LG factories. Right now he's in Gumi. He comes home on Friday or Saturday afternoons and then leaves early Sunday morning. And this past weekend he did not come home. So I've only met him once. I literally saw him for less than 24 hours, but he is very charming and certainly intelligent. And even though the children don't seem to miss their dad (I actually asked them about it...I guess they just don't know any different), he certainly loves and misses them.

The eldest daughter is names Seo-Yeong. She is 12 and very smart, and because she spent a month in the Phillipines at an English camp (which happens often, it seems), she is my main English speaker in the house. She is very well behaved and very motivated to achieve. Just tonight I went to her piano recital! ...That video will be up soon...And she loves Girl's Generation, a sister band to my favorite Kpop stars. So I'm in very good company.

The youngest boy is named Yeong-Hwan. He is 9 years old, but completely different from my first host brother. He is intelligent and motivated too. In fact he speaks a good bit of English too...Often when his sister is at a loss for some English vocabulary, she'll turn to him and he'll spit it out. He LOVES baseball and we play catch in the house often. (Don't know how we haven't broke anything yet).

Both of the kids get themselves up and out in the morning on their own since me and the mom leave around 7am every morning. They attend hagwon (or special extra classes in a certain subject) a number of times every week, and they both do a fair amount of self-study at home too. Their temperament is completely different from my last host siblings. They are more respectful, lovable and disciplined. I don't know how much of it is just their temperament though...They are raised differently....And although I shouldn't pass judgement, in my opinion they are raised better.

Which brings me to why I left my old homestay...To be honest, I have no idea why my family did not want to host me anymore. When my coteacher suggested it the Wednesday after Chuseok (see my post a few below), it shocked me. Yes, the eldest son did not like me and our relationship needed work. But it was nothing that I thought time couldn't heal. But no, my host mom was too sensitive to the trivial things that bother people in a homestay.  (When the definition of a homestay is necessarily that you experience those uncomfortable cultural differences). At the same time however, she was uncomfortable and unwilling to tell me what it was that I was or was not doing so that I could fix the problem and make things better.

She was too afraid of losing face to tell me why they couldn't host me anymore. Saving face is a huge deal in Korean (and maybe all Asian) culture. Also, indirectness is integral. In other words, Koreans beat around the bush about EVERYTHING. We were told this in orientation, but I had no idea it was this serious. It makes sense if you thing about it in the communal context: to express a need or a want directly makes you seem independent and insensitive to the needs of the group. So in other words, my host mom would not tell me what was wrong because she is SUPER indirect (it's in her personality beyond just the culture) and feared losing face to me by expressing a need or problem she was experiencing because of me.

Now back to the boy...The last night I was with them, they all took me out for a samgyupsal dinner. At separate times when one spouse was taking the children to the bathroom, they both told me how much they liked me and how much they wish I would visit them often, and how sad they were over the situation....Which makes me think they gave in to the demands of their eldest son.

Of course I understand why he would be upset with me; not only did I take his room (which I found out right before I left ><), but I was taking the time and attention of his parents away from him. I also may have "gotten him in trouble" a few times in  his eyes. He would get angry when I wouldn't let him have his way with me while playing a game. He would lash out and pretend to or actually hit me, in which case his mother would most certainly step in. Finally, in one case she spanked him as she ought to. Afterwards I asked her if there was anyway I could improve the relationship between her son and I and she simply said, "It was his fault. I didn't like the way he behaved." Good. But then she said this: "But now I feel bad and feel heavy because I had to do that."

For finally and properly disciplining her child she felt bad. This is the current state of child rearing in many Korean homes it seems. Many other ETAs are living with it. You can even see it on the street in the whining and crocodile tears that sway parents to unthinkable parenting behavior in American eyes. I have to say I never realized how well I was raised or how important it is to me that my future children (and children in general) are raised lovingly but authoritatively. Spare the rod, spoil the child is a lost saying for young Korean parents it seems.

Anyway, I hate to sound judgy...but it really got under my skin. Either way, I'm glad I quickly moved into my new homestay. And I'm sure my old family is better off without me and the added stress I put on their family. I don't hold any grudges at all and I'm planning on reaching out to them in the next few weeks like the parents asked and getting together for a dinner. But those are just my thoughts on why I made a move in exactly one month. (Which is an annoyingly short amount of time). But there are few other ETAs that are also making switches soon - for different reasons though. I might be the only one (this year) who had to switch because the eldest son was unhappy.

Ah well. As I said, my new homestay is much better. And I'm much happier ans stress-free. Besides the fact that I'm in a bigger room, basically have my own bathroom, and am in a more central part of town, the children and mother are much more honest.Also, I'm trying hard to stave off any behaviors (although I don't know what I did before...) that may upset their Korean cultural sensibilities.

Tomorrow I will take and post a video walk-through of the new home since I don't have school because of midterms. So look forward to that! :)

((((PS- One more point that I just thought of: I am completely convinced that this homestay switch had ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the color of my skin. I guess I should do a post on how Koreans have received me thus far physicilly, but briefly...Let's just say I turn heads. In the good way. Often people don't know where I am from (I've gotten Filipino and Indian alternatively), but most of the time I just get "Oh, very pretty!" But I have no evidence that my ethnic orientation had anything to do with my move. Maybe my cultural orientation, but definitely not my race... Which is great! Go Korea on that front! ))))

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