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Later today I will be heading west to go east, very far-east. There are few places in the world that are further away from the States. I am certainly going to miss everyone. I’ve never been separated from my family and friends for this long so we’ll see how I adapt. Skype, Facebook and NBA League Pass are sure to help with the transition process. Cliché as it sounds I’m not very good at saying goodbye. I prefer to just bounce and check in later. Forgive me if I did not offer you a proper adieu.
This morning I woke up very early…Dave Katz early. We went for a relaxing run with our dogs Scout and Wags. Unfortunately Harley was unable to go because he’s currently on the injured reserve list with a nasty, infected right paw, the result of making a mad dash for a deer in a wooded area (you have to respect the endeavor). He is out indefinitely from participating in runs, fetch, or tug of war. The early morning workout with the old man was just what I needed to relax me for the trip. I came home to a freshly brewed pot of coffee courtesy of Marilyn. She skillfully concealed her disappointment as the St. Louis Cardinals failed to make the playoffs and said a warm goodbye before heading to work.
I will be living in Daegu, South Korea. Once I arrive I will give a detailed description of what it is like there. By doing a good amount of research it sounds like an interesting place. In a nut shell, the city is the warmest region in South Korea and is known for its subtropical climate, beautiful women, fashion industry, apples, manufacturing industry (Samsung was founded there). Did I mention beautiful women? I’m excited to frequent Daegu Stadium, the second largest sports complex in South Korea. Daegu will be hosting the 2011 World Championships in Athletics. I plan on attending. I want to see first-hand if Usain Bolt is actually a human. The country as whole is strongly influenced by Confucianism and especially this region. Not to self: no wheelchair high-jacking involving seniors.
People have asked me if I’m nervous about the trip and I can honestly say that I have never been nervous in my entire life … except when I was a finalist in a spelling bee in Mrs. Clayton’s second grade class and I said “y” instead of “w” while trying to spell whimsical… okay the word was white. This bitter defeat remains entrenched deep inside me because I wanted to win the Garfield pencil very badly which was captured by Amanda Dubyna who I don’t even think liked Garfield. I’m more excited than anything else. I think the biggest adjustment will be leading a life that does not involve very much cheese. Apparently, Korean dishes very seldom feature this amazing, delectable foodstuff… excuse me, I’m going to go gnaw on a block of Munster now.
I found out this morning (Monday) that I take off for South Korea on Wednesday, not Friday. My “Placement Consultant” Ms. Kim was nice enough to fill me in on this detail.
Ms. Kim came recommended by my friend Nicuation, who is now teaching English in Korea. I first contacted her in mid-August. In less than two weeks, she managed to get me a job offer in Daegu, the third largest city in South Korea. Ms. Kim has been impressively punctual in getting back to me, but she has provided me with as little detail as possible throughout each step of the process. Interestingly, all of our communication has been strictly email based. Throughout our month and a half electronic- relationship she has answered my questions and instructed me on what I needed to do using one line sentences (she does use a pleasant Calibri style font with a welcoming blue color). Ms. Kim has done a laudable job of keeping me on edge about things like my address when I’ll be there, my itinerary for the trip, if I need any kind of immunization shots, etc.
I have theorized that Ms. Kim
a) is a woman of few words
b) is very busy
c) doesn’t like me
d) is a spy from North Korea plotting to hold me hostage
I’m extremely excited for this year-long adventure across the globe. I have been reading several books about the history and culture of South Korea and I’m taking a crack at learning the language. The Two Koreas by Don Oberdorfer explains the volatile relationship between the North and South and how this country was essentially arbitrarily split by two world super-powers (The Soviet Union and the United States) after World War II and how this has led to fantastically different values, systems of government and cultures. I prefer South Korea.
Luckily, Ms. Kim put me into contact with a foreign teacher at the school where I will be working. Originally he signed a one year contract but has enjoyed himself so much that he is in his third year in South Korea. For confidentiality purposes I will call him Where the Wild Birds Sing. Where the Wild Birds Sing recently got engaged to a Korean woman (that’s right, we’re Facebook friends).
Here are some of the things I have learned from Where the Wild Birds Sing (taken verbatim from email conversations):
“Another good thing, about Korea in general, is that it’s cheap and easy to travel to different cities.”
“Daegu women are hot, just like all the other Korean women! Often, when you tell a Korean you live in Daegu, they’ll say something about the women being beautiful.”
“Bear in mind that it’s difficult to get big size clothes or shoes here. A few of my friends, who aren’t fat just bigger than the average Korean, struggle to find clothes and shoes to fit.”
“Language is definitely the biggest challenge. We’ve ordered what we thought was steak and gotten chicken feet, but as far as I’m concerned it’s all part of the experience and just makes it more memorable.”
“Koreans are fanatical about studying. Often they approach you and ask you to do conversation classes with them. This basically means chatting to them for an hour. You can get $30-50/hour, but it’s illegal so be very careful about it.”
“Yeah things are going great at the moment. Not sure how I feel about getting married in Korea though. If you ever get the chance to go to a Korean wedding do it! It’s insane, and you’ll know when you do exactly why I feel the way I do lol”
I look forward to meeting Where the Wild Birds Sing, hopefully he will invite me to his wedding. I also hope to get the opportunity to meet Ms. Kim … I think.