Monday, February 28, 2011
After a two-month whirlwind tour of Cleveland, Chicago, and Toronto, Steve and I are officially back in The Land of the Morning Calm for another year of teaching English. It was exactly what we needed to recharge our batteries before plugging into one more year of kimchi, Konglish, and Korean life in general.
The trip back, or should I say forward, was much easier than returning to America. Korean Air, for the record, is incredibly gentle with dogs. As with last year, the minute we landed I felt that the world really isn’t that big. We both settled in immensely faster given that we know the city, have a great group of friends already in place, and have an excellent job waiting for us. Sometimes I feel as if I’d never left.
I am beyond excited about our new job. We will be teaching at a maritime university with marine students who are normal college-age kids. This means that, unlike the hagwon last year, I won’t be receiving (almost daily) suggestions from Korean mothers on how to better teach my classes. Imagine that! Don’t get me wrong, I loved what I did last year. But teaching in a private school here has its challenges. Could I do it for another year? Absolutely. But we would be idiots not to seize the opportunity to teach at a national university. Better hours, more vacation, and I think it’s pretty cool that our students come to class in uniform. I mean, I’m not going to ask them to salute me or anything, but still.
As soon as we arrived, I felt a certain gratitude for the things I’d missed. Granted, it wasn’t the overwhelming gratitude I felt in America for things like family, lifelong friends, and the comforts of sitting by the fireplace in the house I grew up in. But the little things, I did miss those…
-In Chicago, I had to ask a cabbie if he could break a fifty. Here, I pay for rides with pocket change.
-In America, practically every food is decadent, especially anything ready-made. Here, I can buy a healthy snack, even at the airport, for $1.
-Being the end of February, my family is still shoveling out from the most recent blizzard. But down in the south of Korea, springtime is upon us!
-And speaking freely. At home, you really have to watch what you say for fear of offending everyone. Even if you’re not about to say something remotely offensive, you’re careful anyway. Or you simply bite your tongue instead of having an honest conversation with someone. But when you live in a country where the majority of people simply don’t understand 99% of what comes out of your mouth, you can say whatever you please. No, I don’t mean running around calling everyone an effing douchebag, although you could if you wanted to. It’s just nice to be able to let your guard down. Foreigners here speak to each other with so much more candor, without the fear of offending each other. And even the times we do there’s a bit of, hey, so what. It’s just refreshing.
There’s much more than that to enjoy this year, but those were some of the first pieces to hit me. I’m looking forward to more adventures with my Korean friends, hiking and biking around with teachers we’ve met from all over the world, seeing even more countries in Asia, and documenting it all along the way.
I hope whoever has been reading this continues to follow. Don’t be a douchebag, check in every once in awhile. Oops, sorry if that offended anyone. My computer seems to have lost its filter over here too.