THE KOREA KRONICLES, PART XVIII: On Interesting Life Choices, Like ESL Teaching in Korea

IMG_0157Unless I return to the Land of the Morning Calm at some point in the future, this will likely be the final chapter I write in The Korea Kronicles. As I finished typing these words, I was hanging out at a cafe in Taipei, the city where I plan to move in just a few weeks. This post is intended to be the final take on my experience working within Korea’s competitive, cutthroat, and ruthless education-industrial complex—phraseology I use almost entirely unironically—and a resource that will prepare other individuals who either are considering or have already decided to make the move to Korea.

Mostly, I want people to realize up front that while teaching in Korea can be an altogether amazing and enriching experience, it is almost just as likely be deeply dark and intensely negative. The reality is that, like most human experiences, it will often tend to be some cocktail of the two. While my own time tended more toward the former than the latter, I need people to be aware that it really is mostly the luck of the draw as to whether they will end up loving or hating Korea. So, if you, the reader, are the sort of person who’s contemplating a move to this country because you’ve convinced yourself it will be perfect and easy and amazing the whole time, then you need to stir in a little rationality with all that sunshine in your coffee. I’m reminded of the line from the song “Such Great Heights” by the Postal Service: “Everything looks perfect from far away.” Korea is no different, and, as a place inhabited by human beings, it comes complete with all the normal—and quite a few unique—human problems and frustrations. Continue reading

TYPE B in TAIPEI, PART I: Unintentional Swearing, and Other Side Effects of Allergies

The coral beach at Liuciu Island.

The coral beach at Liuciu Island.

I have accidentally said “fuck” to elementary students in two languages in two different countries, both within two weeks of arriving in those countries. Can you say the same? Probably not, I’m guessing, but no worries. It’s an extraordinarily simple thing to do. For example, in Korean, the word for “eighteen” is ship-pal and the word for “fuck” is sshib-bal (the only real difference is that the entry “s” sound is strongly aspirated for “fuck”). Therefore, you can probably understand how I once said, “I left home when I was fuck [in Korean].” Now, in the Taiwanese dialect of Chinese, the word for fuck is gahn, but the “n” sound is almost silent (on the mainland, this verb merely means “to do”). The main elementary school where I now work in Douliu City has a small English village and I’ve been assigned to teach the Airport class on Tuesdays and Fridays. On my first day, while attempting to say, “ A gun is very dangerous. You can’t take a gun on the airplane,” my voice wasn’t its normal self due to my allergies being particularly bad that day. So, with the help of nasal congestion, what I actually said was, “A fuck [in Chinese] is very dangerous. You can’t take a fuck on the airplane.” This leads me to a new personal goal I’ve established: whatever country I move to next, I want to make it at least a month before I accidentally swear at students in whatever language they speak.

Continue reading

PERSONAL FILE: Back and There Again; It’s Sorta Like a Hobbit’s Tale, Right?

Jong-no District, Seoul

Jong-no District, Seoul

Everything happens so much. Yes, I know @horse_ebooks is fake, but I don’t care. When I sat down in this random coffee shop in Burien, Washington, to start fleshing out my thoughts on the transpirations of the past few weeks, that was the first quote to slide across my mental marquee. For those just tuning in, I am no longer in Korea. My last day of work at the English camp was Friday, February 27, the day before my twenty-fifth birthday. There were times over the past six months or so when I thought that day would never come and now, quite ironically, it feels a bit like the distant past given everything that’s happened since. Continue reading