The word was necklace. It was a word I had introduced to my junior high students the previous week as we used a dialogue about a woman’s lost wedding ring to practice our speaking and pronunciation skills. The boy reached into the bucket of Pictionary words I’d created specially for this review game and pulled out the piece of jewelry one wears about the neck. I asked him if he remembered the word and he assured me he did. His teammates watched anxiously as I started the 1-minute countdown in which he’d have to draw a picture that they could then interpret correctly to give me the word. I yelled, “Ready, set, GO!” and watched his teammates for a raised hand. Then, after a few seconds, the entire class erupted in laughter. I turned to see what was so funny and discovered the boy, in a hurried attempt to draw a necklace with a small pendant had instead drawn what more closely resembled a penis with urethral opening. My wide eyes must have told him he needed to try again, which he did. Seconds later, more laughter–this time, he’d done a rather fine rendition of a vagina. Thankfully, his teammates were able to guess the word, and he was able to sit down without suffering any more embarrassment. In short, welcome to my life, friends. Continue reading
Somewhere along the way, I must have made the right decision. In light of how things have turned out for me over the past few years, I really can’t help but believe that I’ve played my cards well. When I was a kid, I would often wish I lived or was from somewhere else, anywhere else. Well, not quite anywhere—a place where things happened would have been nice. Unless people have lived under the soul-crushingly oppressive boredom that looms over backwater hinterlands like southeast Oklahoma, they can never truly understand it. Seriously, I wouldn’t be surprised if “Hillbilly Deluxe” by Brooks and Dunn, which glorifies this drudgery, was written about my hometown. In fact, the only way to survive in such a place is to somehow inoculate oneself against boredom, or learn to partake in the the things which people in these areas do to occupy their time—things like shooting animals, satellite television, and driving back and forth up and down Main Street on Saturday nights. Obviously, I never quite succeeded. Continue reading
Coming to the end of an adventure, no matter how short, always seems to provoke a period of introspection in me. The length of the period of self-reflection seems to increase in duration corresponding to the length of the journey. Basically my entire final semester of college consisted of pre-dawn mornings spent drinking coffee in my dorm room staring out the window and wondering what in God’s name I was going to do next. I spent the last two months of my time in Korea after returning from celebrating Christmas with my family in America counting the “lasts:” the selling of my possessions, the last times I would visit my favorite hang-outs, the last time I would say goodbye to kids at the English village. Just two weeks ago, the curtains closed on my most recent adventure, in rural Yunlin County, Taiwan. It was only about four months long, but it felt far longer. Continue reading
Today 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.
Sooner 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