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

DIRTY LITTLE FREAKS: Story Arcs of 2013, Part Un

Edited Student Image “If you do not stop talking, I will turn off the air conditioning, open the windows, and make you all sit on the floor,” I said, thoroughly exasperated. “Do you understand?”

Their affirmations of “yes, teacher” were of course accompanied by seismic eye-rolls and I had little confidence in their intention to heed my warning. In fact, I think we barely made it another minute and half before I simply stopped trying to talk over them, walked to the back of the room and turned off the thermostat, then methodically unlatched and slid open each window in the classroom. With the windows open, there was nothing to hold back the hot, sticky, Korean summer air from steamrolling through and turning the classroom into something just short of a sauna, which it did, and in barely any time at all. Continue reading

THE KOREA KRONICLES, PART XIII: There’ll Be a Great Homecoming

Happy ThanksgivingNine months. I can hardly believe it, but it’s true: I have now lived in Korea for nine months and it’s mind-boggling to consider just how much I’ve changed and grown in that short amount of time. Just two days ago, the faculty and staff of the English camp celebrated a wonderful Thanksgiving Dinner together at a fancy buffet restaurant in Daegu and I can hardly believe I just typed this sentence. THANKSGIVING?!?! Where the hell did 2013 go? By the way, the photo at right shows English camp’s ORU presence in a moment of revelry at said dinner. As it is now approaching the end of the year, I don’t intend to say too much in this post as I am already working on the next installment in my Story Arcs series. In just a quick teaser of that post (or, as is likely to be the case, those posts), which I will publish somewhere around the end of the present year, I can assure you that the transformation I’ve experienced over the past three-quarters of a year is quite a story and I look forward to sharing it with you all. Continue reading

THE KOREA KRONICLES, PART XII: Greetings from Bokhyeon-dong, and Other Good Tidings of Great Joy

Bokhyeon-dongIt’s been a while since I’ve posted anything in the Korea Kronicles. I say that while indulging in the slight vanity of thinking that someone might have noticed and, perhaps while noticing, cared, if only a little. That dearth of news specifically concerning my life and work in the Land of the Morning Calm has been primarily a result of there having been little to report. Since my last writing, my life in Korea has quickly settled into a very enjoyable if predictable routine, the heat and craziness of summer is becoming a comfortably distant memory, and, quite simply, things have stopped being new enough for me to care enough to write about them. My kids still say crazily, cutely, and outlandishly funny things from time to time and I’m still learning how to navigate this somewhat strange and definitely foreign culture; you know, same old same-old. As of this posting, I’ve been in Korea seven months and counting and now, at last, I have something new to report. Actually, quite a lot of somethings, so hold on to your butts. Continue reading

PERSONAL FILE: When We’re All Where We Belong

IIMG_0052 sometimes forget I’m living abroad. You’re probably thinking, How is that possible? And it’s a perfectly logical question. I understand little to nothing that anyone says and I stand out–with my white skin, green eyes, brown hair, beard, and frequent flamboyance–sort of like a red prom dress would in a funeral procession. Nevertheless, now that comparatively little about Korea or Korean culture is unfamiliar to me anymore, I do sometimes forget, if only for a few moments or so at a time, that I haven’t always been here. Maybe that seems odd to you, and that seeming oddness might make sense if you’re the sort who’s always felt an integral part of something. I haven’t, though. This is a tired old confession, which it seems that everyone makes (honestly or just in a moment of depression) at some point in their lives, but, in fact, I’ve never felt as if I truly fit in anywhere. A fairly large part of that is due to the fact that I’ve spent all but the past six months of my life in the closet, but that’s only one reason among a vast multitude, the host of which I don’t intend to share with you simply because I’d like to maintain your interest in what I have to say.

Continue reading