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

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THE KOREA KRONICLES, PART XVII: How to Leave a Country in 10 Days

2014-05-01 07.16.44Today is February 25, 2015. That means it has been two years to the day since I first set foot on Korean soil. It also means that in exactly ten days, I will board a plane at Incheon International Airport and depart Korea for what will possibly be the last time. I wouldn’t dare say I’ll never return to this country because who the hell knows? If you had told me five years ago that I’d spend two years of my life in South Korea before I’d turned 25 years old, I’d have probably said you were crazy. Even so, it will be a noteworthy milestone–the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. In three days, I will have my last day at work and will say goodbye to students at the English camp for the last time. My apartment is currently full of furniture and items that I no longer own because I’ve sold them to other expats at work who will take possession of them when I leave Daegu next week. What is essentially my entire life is already packed into two rolling suitcases in preparation for my flight next week.

When I leave Korea, I will spend a month in Seattle in a period of rest and reflection. I’ve never been to Seattle but I’ve wanted to visit for the longest time and I can’t think of a better place to spend a few weeks charting my course for the future than a cool city where I am utterly free of any obligations aside from eating, sleeping, and breathing. And, believe me when I say that I desperately need it. The past six months in particular have not been easy, for a variety of reasons. Living and working in Korea has been a fun and enriching experience, but it’s been no cakewalk. I’ve enjoyed the past year or so on the whole, but it’s been a long time since I’ve been happy at or felt enriched by my job and that is one thing in particular that I will not miss about Korea. Not even a little bit.

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THE KOREA KRONICLES, PART XVI: 38 Days

2014-02-15 12.27.09-2Before you say anything, yes, I know it’s been a long time since I’ve written anything. Thank you, Captain Obvious. My last post was written the day before my twenty-fourth birthday (not counting the filler post I wrote in April of last year because I felt guilty about not having written anything for almost two months) and, since then, I’ve been in an interesting place mentally, spiritually, so I felt a long hiatus from putting my thoughts down in written form was in order, at least until they could be mustered into some sort of coherence anyway. Well, that time has come. I’m back, bitches.

As of this moment, I’m less than six weeks away from the end of my teaching contract and, ergo, will soon be turning the final page in this chapter of my life and putting the final period at the end of the Korea Kronicles. That’s right, I am leaving Korea. For now, anyway. Admittedly, I spent most of the past year operating under the assumption that I would simply find new employment in this country once my job at the English camp had run its course. However, when I was home in Oklahoma for Christmas and the New Year a few weeks ago, the realization dawned on me that I currently have no desire whatsoever to remain in Korea. Given my current attitude both toward Korea in general and the ESL industry here in particular, staying on for another stint would be profoundly unwise. Continue reading