Recently, I came (back) to America after completing a one-year teaching arrangement in Daegu, South Korea. I had a great time in the peninsula known for its spicy food, loud diners, and myriad singing rooms. There are many stories I plan on sharing now that I have some free time (yeah, I’m unemployed). I also spent a week in Japan, close to a month in India, and a whopping 18 hours in Egypt, so I will fill you in on some of those adventures as well.
A lot has changed since I last had American soil under my feet:
My Grandpop got remarried to his former high school football coach’s daughter. Well played.
Revolutions have occurred and persist in the Arab world…
…Hell, even Americans have joined in with the Occupy Movements. If I don’t land a job in the next month I might join the party … if only for the free food.
I now practice yoga.
Osama bin Laden no longer haunts the American psyche.
The NBA is not in business (dejected sigh).
My bro moved to New York City.
Another friend tied the knot. Congratulations BD and Cynthia.
Harley, the family German shepherd, is now hobbling around due to pain in his hind quarters. Eventually all of our biological clocks submit to the force of time. Poor guy.
And this is all just at the surface!
When I was in Korea I didn’t really get homesick at all except for the holidays. It was only the last month when the finish line was in sight did I really begin to yearn for chicken parmigiana. I thought about teaching for another year, not at the same hagwon (academy) but at a different school. I learned that work life can really improve after your first year of teaching because you know the lay of the land. You get a better idea of what academies are top drawer, what area is nicest and, of course, you are more comfortable with the culture. Plus, you establish a social network of people. I met some great people during my time in Korea.
About a month before I left Korea, I had a meeting with the manager of the academy where I worked. His English name is Kenny. His user login name at work is Brad Pitt. What Kenny lacks in mental stability he makes up for in emotional immaturity. In the one year that I knew Kenny I think I accumulated enough material to write an entire book series based on all of his idiosyncrasies.
First day back from summer vacation Kenny and a female foreign teacher have an exchange.
“Hey, how was vacation?”
“It was brilliant.”
[motioning to his face] “Did you get the plastic surgery?”
In the meeting, right off the bat, Kenny made it perfectly clear the reason why he wanted me to resign for another year.
“Daniel I can’t find a replacement for you.”
“Sorry to hear that, Kenny.”
“You know, I got to find a replacement because your leaving and [sucking his teeth] right now it’s not easy to find a teacher in a month.”
“Yeah, I can imagine.”
An uncomfortably long silence follows in which Kenny leans back in his chair and gazes at the ceiling.
“You’re not coming back to Korea, are you?”
“No. It’s not my plan.”
Another long uncomfortable silence ensues.
“So, what will you do?”
“I’m going to look for work in New York.”
“You know Daniel, I’m from New York.”
At every conceivable opportunity he slips in that he is from New York. Nobody is sure how many years he actually spent in NY because the number changes so frequently, but apparently he spent some time living in NYC. He is from South Korea.
“You’ve said that.”
“My dream is to go back and be a sushi chef (I have also heard this many times) …you know I understand American culture … I know Americans don’t like working hard.”
“That isn’t true.”
“You know, you’ve done a good job here.”
“So what do you think?”
“About what, extending my contract?”
“I told you, I’m going back to New York.”
This is more or less how the conversation ended. Even if I thought about extending my contract before the meeting the manner in which he asked me would have changed my mind. Not surprisingly I was forced to make a threat that I was going to file a complaint with the labor board in order to get paid on time before I left.
After leaving Korea I spent almost a month in India. It was quite the experience. A real jolt to your senses.
I’ve been back in the US for two weeks now catching up with family and friends and getting re-acclimated with American culture. Being separated from the life that I knew really has allowed me to appreciate everything I have, especially my family. Also, eating NY pizza again was a glorious moment.