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

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

THE KOREA KRONICLES, PART XV: Ups and Downs, Comings and Goings

IMG_0817Sooner or later, every adventure becomes mundane. I can’t pinpoint exactly when it happened for me, but that particular milestone has long since appeared from around the curve and zoomed past the car window undetected. It’s springtime in Korea and it’s been over fourteen months since I moved here, but I’m honestly not even counting up anymore. I’m counting down: ten months to go. That’s an odd feeling. Tabulating the time was for a long time an integral part of my life here. At first it was counting the days. Later, I started counting the weeks and, later still, the months. I counted the time that had passed since major milestones like teaching my first class, moving to an apartment in the city, or going to Seoul for the first time. I counted the time remaining until I had to make a decision about what I was going to do: leave after a year or stay for another? All of that is over, though. The important decisions have all been made and most of the meaningful milestones have been passed. All that’s left at this point is let this year run its course and begin making preparations for what will come next. Continue reading