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.

Assuming nothing unexpected happens (which is a bit ridiculous when living in Korea), my tenure at the Village will end on February 28, 2015–my twenty-fifth birthday. There will be no extensions, nor will there be any renewals. I decided a while back that one year wasn’t enough, but I can assure everyone that two years will be more than enough. The village is, at best, an okay job. The money’s decent and the work is easy, but that’s about it; it’s neither professionally nor intellectually stimulating, it’s sometimes mind-numbingly repetitive, and it serves no meaningful purpose beyond being a public relations outreach and recruitment tool for the college that owns and operates it. So, in short, I’m fortunate to have found the job, but there would be nothing gained by my staying a third year, so I won’t. It’s somewhat odd knowing the life I’ve built in this city has an expiration date. For most people, it seems that change tends to come unexpectedly– they find new jobs, move to different cities, and begin new chapters of their lives without much warning. Not so for me. I know the exact date. Sunday, March 1, 2015, marks the beginning of a new chapter and I currently have no idea what’s written on the page.

Nevertheless, whatever fear of the unknown I may have once had is long gone. I know it’s a ridiculously trite expat-thing to say (and I hope no one calls me a basic bitch for it), but I really do believe I’ve found myself in Korea. I don’t mean there was something waiting for me here that I didn’t have before; no, I mean that here, in this place where I’ve been free of most of the socio-cultural strictures and expectations that before had been all I’d ever known, I’ve had the chance to discover who I am. Anyway, without further ado, it has been shamefully long time since my last entry into the Korea Kronicles and much has happened in the interim.

Saying Goodbye, Saying Hello

SunriseIn January, I wrote about a handsome boyfriend I had been seeing and how excited I was to be with him. I also wrote the truth and admitted that I had no idea where the relationship would lead or whether it would work out. For better or for worse, it did not. It was my decision to end it and it was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made. Even so, there were just too many things working against it: the fact that he is still in the closet, that he lives in a different city where I couldn’t visit him, that we both want very different things from life, that the language barrier between us, while not insurmountable, caused quite a few misunderstandings and miscommunications. By themselves, I feel like any of these problems could have been overcome; but, taken together, there just wasn’t enough that made us compatible. So, I ended it, but on good terms.

I also said goodbye last month to a friend who had been a comrade in arms at the Village for a year. Unlike me, he did not renew his contract and instead left the Village to seek greener pastures elsewhere. I envy him sometimes.

Nevertheless, amid all the goodbyes, there have been quite a few new friendships and relationships forged. The Village attracts it’s fair share of really cool people and there have been quite a few newbies of late. I’ve also begun seeing a tall, handsome Korean man who may get more airtime on my blog in the near future. Stay tuned.

The Sewol Tragedy

Two weeks ago, an almost unimaginable tragedy struck the Korean nation. While en route from Incheon to Jeju Island, a passenger and cargo ferry called the Sewol capsized and sank in the sea south of the South Korean mainland. The ferry was carrying almost 500 people, over 300 of them high school students from near Seoul on their way to a school retreat on the tourist island. The ship was turned too fast by its crew and tipped over. Then, because the captain delayed issuing an evacuation order until thirty minutes after the ship began sinking, hundreds of people became trapped in the interior of the ship as it sank, most of them students from the high school. So far, only 170 or so have been confirmed as survivors. In a country as small as South Korea, a tragedy like this is felt in all corners and by everyone.

The effects of the accident have spread all over Korea and have specifically affected us at the Village due to the Korean Ministry of Education’s cancellation of all school trips until June. This means that there are no students at the Village and there may be only small, sporadic enrollment until almost the beginning of summer.

Planning the Next Move

As I said, I have less than ten months before I have to find something else to do. So far, my planning has included the possibility of moving back to America (maybe to somewhere in the Pacific Northwest since that’s where I want to live eventually anyway) or taking some time off and starting a new job in Korea. I have to admit, this whole ESL teaching in Korea is a pretty good hustle; easy work for pretty sweet money. And, until my college loans are paid off, that sweet money is going to taste all the sweeter.

Anyway, that’s all for now. Until we meet again.




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