Friday, November 30, 2012

Guest Post Series: Matthew Marx

So this is my friend Matt.  He's from Wisconsin, but I met him while he was completely out of his element in Korean class in Seoul.  Our friendship adventures include going to Seoul SantaCon 2011 and me skipping out on a coffee date with him and our teacher.  Despite my poor platonic relationship skills here, Matt agreed to write about Home here, and I'm so glad he did.  There are few blogs that make me smile and laugh as much as Matt's.  (In fact, the only other blog I consider on this level is Ally Brosh.)  I know the topic of Home can be taken in all sorts of directions, but, Matt stays true to form.

"Home Is Where the Mart Is " 
by Matthew Marx 

I'm very grateful Lindsay, The Blogging Metronome, gave me this opportunity.  This idea has been on my mind lately.  I've been in Korea more than 14 months—apt time to begin considering it that cliché “home away from home.”  But what does that mean?   
Disclaimer:  I was a philosophy major, so I of course feel entitled to wax philosophical (enter collective reader groan).  Come on, who doesn't like a pretentious alum thinking they know everything?  What's that?  Absolutely no one, and an idiot exposed to undergrad philosophy is everyone's least favorite person in the world?  Phew, it's a good thing I'm not an idiot or you wouldn't still be reading... 
Wait wait wait, come back!  Those Internet cat pictures will still be there after you read this! 
And you've already seen those outtakes of The Office, season 4. I promise to be good. 
I've lived in the same city these 14 months.  Perhaps the best route to discover what home means to me is to examine why I have an affinity for my city.  An unraveling of my feelings toward this area of Korea could shed light on what home means. Because...well, my city is regarded as kind of a craphole. 
That's a little extreme.  But the truth is Siheung, South Korea is a pretty nondescript suburban city of Seoul. It won't be garnering any laurels as the most interesting place in Korea.  It doesn't boast great beauty, play host to important festivals, or have many unique features.  It's a factory city, and it's basically a copy/paste of many other mid-size Korean cities. It's got the same convenience stores, pc rooms, norebangs, and awkward encounters with that one student that shouts a nonsensical “Matthew-nice-to-meet-you-I'm-fine-and-you?!” 

But I like it. It's home. Because for me, home is a collection of memories. Home means how those past memories guide your present self. It's a place that nurtures, and also a place that challenges.  It's a string of memories that reveal identity—a relatively static place that contrasts with personal growth. 
For example, my city is a bank of memories. It has places where I've made a foreigner ass of myself, and also places were I've triumphed with language use or navigation. I can remember how this city looked to me when I first stepped off the plane—an alien world of neon lights and curious eyes. Now, with these memories in mind, my city is the measuring stick of who I've become.  It's home, and I can contrast the past and present to see how I've changed.  It offers snapshots of my thinking at different points in time—a physical anchor for my mental content. 
This is perhaps why we become so possessive of our homes. Sure, I can go most places in Korea and see the same places—the same Family Marts or Korean diners on every corner.  But while identical, they are just not the same.  The idea of home imbues a strange kind of ownership.  Those other Family Marts are not MY Family Marts—they are some foreign arrangement of banana milk and Choco pies to which I'm unfamiliar, and it just seems wrong.  The feeling of connection to home can't be fought. It's comfort.  It's the feeling like you are privy to all the answers—a good stepping stone for exploring other areas. 
And yet, while this city has become home to me, it's not my genuine Home.  Basically, it's because this isn't reality in the strictest sense—I've been recognized no less than four times sitting in this cafe by former and current students, with at least 20 other sightings through the window.  I've stumbled into some alternate reality where I'm sort of famous, and I damn well shouldn't be.  And yet, even this cafe is a part of this story.  It's part of home, and I can compare my first trips here with my current mindset.  Before I was furtive and filled with unease.  Now, I'm comfortable filling the role of the foreigner here, and my biggest concern is how to finagle a piece of that cake my students are currently eating. 
Of course, my real home in the U.S. functions in a similar manner—to an even higher degree.  It's the place where I have the most memories attached, and where I can make even deeper judgments about personal change. It's the ultimate place where the comforts of the familiar reveal new insights into who I've become and where I want to go.  These unchanging memories--my family's love, our two dinky apple trees in the back yard, the cows in the pasture across the road—will show who has come back from Korea. I think I've changed—not drastically, but enough. 
Thanks for reading. Now continue on to your cat photos.

Matt shares great stories about the life of a public school teacher in Korea.  (If you think you know what it's like because you read my blog, you're wrong.)  I highly recommend taking a break for smiles and laughs.  He blogs at  Korea: Matt-Chu Teacher.  Feel free to ask him about his nickname.  :)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for sharing your thoughts! If there is something you want me to respond to specifically, feel free to send me an email; I'd love to chat.