I could be described by many negative words, honestly, but I don’t think ‘lazy’ is one of them.  Sometimes I may come off as lazy, but I think that’s just my prioritization kicking in.  If I’m not invested in one thing, I’m using my energy to be fully invested in another.

Why is this website called ‘hyperfocus?’  I have an imbalance of focus.  Something either has my full attention (hyperfocus,) or it has none of my attention.  My level of focus for things depends on my natural attraction to them.  Unfortunately, in today’s world, you have to balance your focus on a day-to-day basis, so hyperfocus has its perks and pitfalls.  A perk is that I have a sensitivity for passion; a pitfall is that getting anything else done is like biting nails.

There’s a lot of things in day-to-day life that feels like biting nails, like cooking and grading papers, but I’m passionate about being the best person I can be at all times, so I do them, and I try to do them to the best of my ability.  When doing these things, 1-minute can feel like 30-minutes.  On the flip side, when I do things like blogging, photography, traveling, reading, and etc., 30-minutes can feel like 1-minute.  It’s easy to lose track of time doing these things and slack on everything else.  That’s when I think I can appear as lazy.

It’s a beautiful thing to find things that you’re passionate about, and then fill more of your time with those things.  I’ve been doing a lot more of that lately.  And I’ve been really happy, probably the happiest I’ve ever been.  But like I said, our world today requires balanced focus, and I think I’ve been slacking in some areas of importance.  I feel like there’s never enough time to do those nail-biting (but still important) things while fully investing in a passionate life.

So I haven’t been sleeping much, to be honest.  Well, at least in my own bed instead of on a bus or in a hostel.  There isn’t enough time, and I’m too focused on what I need to get done when I’m home to realize that it’s way past a decent time to call it quits for the day.  I take advantage of the focus and energy that I have.

Sometimes a lack of energy due to limited sleep or an overly active day just hits me.  I just need to put my head down for a good 10-20 minutes to recharge, and then I’m set for awhile.  In and out.  This is how I was in college, too.  I worked really hard, and sometimes during class, I literally needed to nod off for 10-minutes to be able to go forward with the day, but that just isn’t acceptable in American culture.  So, my productivity would hit zero after that point.

In Korea, when you need a nap, you take a nap.  People understand that you’re sleeping because the lifestyle in Korea is incredibly fast-paced and hard to keep up with; they know you’re working really hard, before and after the nap.  I love it.  This is my lifestyle… work hard, crash, work hard.  Every now and then, during office hours, I’ll look over at one of my co-teachers and notice that they’ve closed their eyes or have laid down for a bit; then, just as unexpected as the nap was, they’re back at it working again.

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Why is the appearance of napping in Korea different from the appearance of napping in the USA?  The answer lays in a difference of cultural values.  The cultural value of ‘face’ is placed higher in Korea than in the USA.  As defined by Wikipedia, the sociological concept of ‘face’ “describes the lengths that an individual may go to in order to preserve their established position in society.”  Put simply, Koreans value what people think of them a lot more than Americans do (generally, of course.)

Education equates directly to status in Korea.  Students face a lot of pressure by their parents to succeed educationally due to this link.  They don’t really have an option not to succeed.  Since educational value has been engrained into this culture, I think many Koreans naturally do have more of a desire to learn than many other cultures, though.  Knowing all of this, as an EPIK teacher, when I see students napping, I know it’s usually for 1 of the following 3 reasons:

  1. My class is low on their very extensive priority list.  I don’t blame them.
  2. I need to change my teaching methods so that they’re more effective for them.
  3. Something unusually serious is withholding them from trying.

In regards to number 3, I mentioned in one of my previous blog posts that most learning disabilities aren’t acknowledged in Korea, and I want to clarify that here.  It’s a cultural thing (problem) that persists by choice.  When someone admits that they have a learning disability, they automatically lower themselves on the social hierarchy; it gives them an unfair disadvantage, and it’s avoidable by simply not admitting it.  Again, face and education are high-status values in the sociological construct of Korea.

I know you’re probably still thinking the whole ‘modern medicine proved these problems to be real’ argument, but let me put the situation into perspective sociologically in my next paragraph.

I’m still amazed by Korean dental hygiene.  Students and teachers are always brushing their teeth at school!  I feel like I’m dirty or being judged by not brushing my teeth at least once at each school each day.  It’s an easy fix to just carry around my toothbrush to each school and brush my teeth all the time, although it’s probably unnecessary.  I do it to fit in, as immature as that sounds… it’s a natural human need to ‘fit in.’  If you don’t already know from your own experiences, feeling like an outsider to a group of people is one of the worst feelings ever.  People will typically do whatever they can to avoid anything that makes them feel like an outsider, especially in regards to things that hold high importance to their social setting; that’s understandable.

Another few things that I have to get used to so that I can assimilate into the Korean culture is food-sharing and gift-giving.  That sounds all fine and dandy, but in reality, it can be really awkward for foreigners.  I didn’t know how to appropriately act when Mr. Lee started the habit of exchanging food from our trays at lunch each day.  Was I expected to give him some of my food every day?  Would I do it before we started eating with our utensils or after?  The school lunches are bomb AF, so TBCH, I only want to give him my food when it’s expected of me.  Right now I just bank on the habit of giving him my kimchi, which I don’t like anyway, right after we sit down every day.

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For gift-giving, teachers walk around the lounges pretty much every day with chocolate, candy, fruit, and other random little sweets to hand out and share.  Yesterday, there was some pens and vitamin C tablets on my desk from Mr. Lee.  The vitamin C tablets that were for “protection” made me giggle, so a picture below is necessary, HA.

Anyways, it’s awkward because I’m expected to gift-give, as well.  It’s not typical in American culture to routinely buy a bag of chocolates to walk around with and share with the whole office.  When you bring a snack to the office in America, you eat it because you’re hungry; to my dismay, that’s considered rude in Korea.  On top of that, what if I bring something nobody likes, but they feel obligated to take what I offer them because that’s custom?  My Korean co-workers are incredibly observant and always offer me things that I’m excited about, so I’d feel awful if I gave Mr. Lee or any of them something that they didn’t like because it would reflect my level of care/observance.  Although gift-giving is nice, I’d rather just have one less stressor and expectation to worry about.

On the note of sweets and goodies, there is sugar in almost everything here.  Things you wouldn’t think of or want sugar in can definitely hit the sweet tooth.  Everything cheesy or garlicky, like garlic bread or cheesy potato chips or soup, is usually also very sugary.

Speaking of food, Travis, Courtney, Tori and I discovered a sandwich shop on the same block as us yesterday.  We couldn’t believe it; the owner grills up your breakfast sandwich right in front of you, and it’s only 1,500-3,400 WON (about $1.50-$3.40).  Perks of a small town – all of the food here is generally homemade, fresh, healthy and cheap!  There is also no tipping in Korea, which makes it even more budget-friendly to eat out all the time.  Instead, you get satisfactory customer service because servers and staff do their best to honor the ‘face’ of the establishment.

One common appetizer I don’t enjoy, however, is silk worms……….

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Surprisingly, I really like living in a small, rural town.  After living in large cities all of my life up until now, I thought I’d hate living far away from the hustle and bustle.  It’s nice here, though.  I see my students around town, and the bus drivers honk and wave to me.  My bus driver on Fridays has made it routine to talk to me through Google translate over the intercom, LOL.

It never ceases to make my day when an elderly person takes it upon themselves to protect me and get me to where I’m going.  On Friday, I was waiting at the bus stop when an elderly man came up to me and sparked up a one-way conversation in Korean; I had no idea what he was trying to communicate to me, but he started making grandiose gestures and speaking louder, which made it seem important.  After a few minutes of my cluelessness, he motioned for me to come with him across the street.  I followed him until he led me into the police station, continuing with his gestures and raised voice.

The police officer smiled and thought to himself for a few moments.  He walked up to me and said calmly, “Do you know where you’re going?”

I replied, “Yes, I’m going home, to Sunchang.  I teach English at Yeudeng on Fridays.”

The police officer walked back to the elderly man and said a few things in Korean, and we walked back to the bus stop in silence.  When we got on, the elderly man went through the motions with me of getting on the bus for the first time, and he pointed to my seat at the front in the elderly/pregnant section.  He proceeded to gesture that I had a pretty face, but a big nose, which a few Koreans have said to me, LOL.  I’m not even offended by the big nose comments because I appreciate the authenticity of their remarks.

Another perk of a small town?  Mom, this one’s for you.  It is very peaceful, and we would not be the first place that North Korea would attack.  Haha.  But seriously, no need to freak out about my safety.  Every now and then, there are intercom announcements throughout the town; at first, I freaked out each time because I thought to myself, ‘What if they’re announcing war or something?  I would never know because I don’t understand Korean!’

Then, I got in the habit of reminding myself that the announcements are more likely church-related or event-related, and I can’t jump to extravagant conclusions based on biased fears.  If more people relied on a broad spectrum of legitimate information rather than just news headlines, I think they’d realize that it’s just not logical to live on the edge with fear of North Korea in the south.  Due to the low crime and seemingly non-existent theft rates in South Korea, I actually feel even safer where I am now than back in Minneapolis.  Someone actually chased me down in the subway in Seoul to return to me the money that had I dropped.  Also, as my last note on this topic, I think the US news is making the political unrest in South Korea seem a lot more extreme than it actually is; the election will be over in less than a month, and all of the protests are peaceful.

I might be crazy I guess, but I just have an intuition that I have nothing to worry about in regards to safety, and I trust that.  I trust it as much as I trust that I’m exactly where I should be right now, and the augmenting strength of my passions continues to make me sure of that.  I’m not going to go off on a tangent about this right now, but I’ve been utilizing some of my free time to study physics in hopes of understanding life a little better so that I can use the knowledge to my advantage, hence the frequency of Albert Einstein quotes in some of my recent posts, and how I’m going to leave this post.

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant.  We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift. – Albert Einstein

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