This has been a difficult and confusing week, so much so that I don’t want to go into details immediately. Things will work themselves out, one way or another, but at this point it’s still hard to see exactly how.
I realize that many of you come to this website hoping for exciting details in the life of an American in South Korea, and here I am being abstract at a time when you might want to know more details than ever. I’m sorry, I’ve been/am being busy and lazy. You might be thinking that I could be writing about my life right now, instead of droning on about how I haven’t/am not, but I’m getting quite a bit of enjoyment out of this meaningless paragraph. Not so much that I’m unwilling to end it, though.
I’m thinking of going into business here as a perpetual English teaching job seeker. Thus far, I’ve been to two schools for interviews and I’ve earned 30,000 won — one school gave me 10,000, the other 20,000, both for “transportation costs.” If I can manage to line up eight interviews a day, five days a week, I could pull around 600,000 won per week (about $550).
Monique was here for Natasha’s birthday party last night, and it sounds as if things are going remarkably well for her over at ____’s. This is good news, although I was a bit saddened to hear that NONE of the students asked what happened to me. Perhaps they were told earlier, or perhaps I made no significant difference in their lives at all. In either case, it’s still a good thing that I left — I get the impression that Monique will be a better match for that school than I was. I find myself wondering what would have happened if I had done things otherwise, instead of essentially forcing Monique on Mr. ___ as I did, and I’ve decided that it’s an issue that is better left uncontemplated.
I bought a new notebook recently, the cover features a character named “Matoda.” Matoda has a tomato for a head, a heart tattoo on his shoulder, and he says “You die!!” At the bottom of the cover it reads: “Lovely gangster / Matoda fall from the heaven with mission / But this mission is so, so, difficult”.
I no longer work at ____’s Foreign Language Institute, and am currently staying at Joe & Mirella’s (and Natasha’s) apartment. Quite a change I’ve implemented here, but one that was inevitable and timely. Needless to say, I feel better — as if a weight has been lifted. I feel like a tourist again, albeit one who is job searching.
I found out earlier today that Monique — the woman I sent to the Institute in my place — apparently got the job. Good news. News that makes me feel better about what I did, as it seems to have worked out well for everyone involved, thus far.
I’m actually sitting in a Starbucks in Incheon right now, sipping a short coffee of the day (2200 won (about $2)), about to take the train to a job interview in Bucheon. Starbucks here are uncannily similar to their American counterpart, excepting the presence of Korean people everywhere. I’m a bit ashamed, in my anti-corporate-chain sort of way, to say that I find it a bit comforting to be sitting here reading my New Yorker .
The decision to flee came suddenly. Or maybe not. Maybe I had planned it all along, subconsciously waiting for the right moment.
–Hunter S. Thompson
After talking with many people and considering my options, I’ve decided to go. I packed a big bag and took it over to Joe and Mirella’s last night, and I’m going to pack the rest and be out of here by the end of today. I would really prefer not to leave my job like this, but after considering the circumstances I think this way is the best for me, and in this situation I need to think of myself first.
There’s a woman in Seoul who sent me her resume and told me she would be ready to start tomorrow, if necessary. She’s more than qualified for the position, but she’s black, and because of that I doubt Mr. ___ would consider hiring her under normal circumstances. However, I’m going to try and send her to school tomorrow morning in lieu of me, and have her tell Mr. ___ that I’m not coming back but that she can start teaching immediately. The decision will be his at that point, and I won’t have left him without a foreign teacher.
I still have no running water, and I’m not going to pretend that this water situation didn’t influence my decision. The water troubles just got the gears rolling faster than they would have rolled otherwise.
Still no running water to speak of. Still very angry.
I’m thinking very seriously about abandoning ship sooner rather than later. Joe and Mirella have offered to let me stay at their place for a bit — they have an empty bedroom — and I’ve had calls from several directors who seem very interested in hiring me. It would be a drastic step, but it’s one that is seeming less and less wrong and more and more necessary.
Ahh… now, it seems, I am entirely without running water — hot and cold. I had some of both for a while there, but now it’s all gone. I am very angry, and am feeling far less hesitant to just up and leave this apartment and job without telling Mr. ___. Frustrating, not having any running water. Annoying. A big pain-in-the-ass, if you will.
Moving to South Korea is a relatively crazy thing to do. It’s easy to lose sight of this fact from over here, where all the Westerners you meet have chosen the same path. From here, moving to South Korea has already been done — we’re already here — and now we have to get on with living in South Korea, which isn’t nearly as crazy as the initial move. The foreign teacher population over here is bigger than you might expect, and I find myself looking at my life here in comparison to them, which inevitably makes me feel relatively normal. It’s only when I speak to friends and family back home that I realize the strange path I’ve taken in comparison to most, and I once again feel the spark of this extraordinary life.
My hot water finally returned this afternoon, and my toilet is no longer clogged. Note to self: plungers are hard to find in South Korea — I must know why this is.
For more reasons than the absence of hot water in my apartment, today has been a bad day. I’m not going to go into details, as they are disturbing and unfortunate, just trust me on this one. But, just as things were at their very lowest, when I was about to lose my mind with frustration, the woman who lives in the apartment above me came by with a tray of food. Delicious Korean food, and I was very hungry. So, I feel better now, and I wish I could speak Korean so I could tell the woman upstairs how timely her gift was. I won’t forget, but she’ll never really know.
One of the things I keep reminding myself lately is that this experience, whether good or bad, is making me into a stronger person. I don’t feel any stronger, though… I feel weaker, more emotional, less able to overcome seemingly small obstacles. Maybe it won’t be until I am back in America that I’ll realize the changes brought about by this Korean experience. Or maybe I’ll never really notice any change, maybe I’ll be too preoccupied with the next chapter to consider how the last chapter has affected me. I hope not, but I also hope so.