TYPE B in TAIPEI, PART II: Seasons Come and Seasons Go

20150525_121755It’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

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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

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.

Continue reading