Behind me, many leagues down a long and forlorn road lay the ruins of a city. Years have passed since a raucous mob burst through gates once thought impenetrable and pulled down walls once thought insurmountable. In the interceding years, rains have washed the fire-blackened soot from the streets. Ravens and swallows have built nests in the partially exposed timbers of burned-out houses. Rabbits have built warrens beneath the stones of the empty square and squirrels scamper along upper ledges, gracefully bounding across the void when they encounter a collapsed facade. No people reside here anymore: they all died in a futile attempt to defend the doomed polis as torches set it ablaze, fled in terror at the destruction, or else departed in its wake to seek greener pastures elsewhere. With that description, it would certainly be easy to look upon this scene in sadness and remorse, but not so for me. Were I to travel back along that rutted road to the place I left long ago, I would not see the remains of a place once happy and vibrant, but one that was full of oppression, confusion, and heartache. I would feel neither regret nor loss, but something akin to a soaring contentment, perhaps not unlike to the sort of feeling a freeman might experience were he able to look from a place of safety upon the decrepit estate of his deposed former master. This city is not a real place, as you may have guessed by now. It is instead a metaphor for something that once existed within and held great power over me but does no longer. That thing would be my faith. Continue reading
It’s been two months since I’ve arrived in Taiwan, and now the rainy season has begun. And, when I say “rainy,” I mean rainy. I mean buckets-full of big, fat raindrops almost whistling as they fall like carpet bombs for hours on end. I mean walking outside with an umbrella and still preparing to be soaked from the neck up after five minutes. But, let’s back up a bit… two months?! I’ve already been here over two months? Cheese and rice.
It’s almost impossible to believe but I’ve pinched myself and dumped a bucket of ice water over my head and nothing’s changed so I guess it must be true. Just a hair over sixty days ago, I hopped on a plane and started a new life in a new country. Again. Now that new life is starting not to feel so new, but is approaching something approximating predictability and routine. The ironic thing is that this leg of the journey is almost over. Go figure. Continue reading
Unless 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