Saturday, November 05, 2005

But why?

At the request of (one of) my friend(s) Amy, I will now post about how I came to this teaching-English-in-Korea thing in the first place.

I've had a few people, whose lives I've been dipping in and out of the last couple years, pose the "Why Korea?" question, and I basically say "Why not?" I shall try herein to give a better answer.

(So if you were wondering if this blog takes requests, the answer is a decided yes!)

This is actually three questions in one. Here we go:

Why leave the country?
It's actually not because of Dubya. I was plotting this move long before he got "re"elected. Among other reasons, I miss Los Angeles but have forbidden myself to move back there until I have lived abroad again for at least a year. This is to remind myself that not all of the world has life as wonderful as those in California can have it. I say this only half-jokingly. Obviously, I also love traveling and, well do you know if you know me at all, I love learning languages more than just about anything. I am trying to determine how I might spend my life galavanting about the world. Working abroad for one year seemed like a good start.

Why teach English?
Simply put, supply and demand. Throughout Asia, there is a demand for English teachers. The requirements are simple: be a native English speaker, have a college degree, and be willing. The first person I ever knew of who taught English in Asia was the sister of a freshman dorm friend (coincidentally also named Amy) who taught in Japan. Throughout my twenties I heard of people who did this, especially in China, and then about three or four years ago when I found myself working for the big B and completely flummoxed as to what I was doing with my life, I started looking at the financial realities of it. I discovered that it might really provide some cash flow (since they tend to cover your apartment cost) and help me to pay off my debts. And, since I love language and have always liked the nuances of English, from editing friends' papers to reading about grammar for enjoyment, I thought I might actually enjoy the teaching.

After moving to Boston, having fulfilled my self-imposed requirement of leaving Los Angeles, I realized I needed to impose a requirement to leave the country for a while (as opposed to just a week or two). My first attempt to take a job in Korea, in the spring of 2004, was thwarted when I did not have my actual USC diploma to present to obtain the work visa, the original diploma having been accidentally sacrificed to a Southern California landfill. By the time my replacement was procured (at no small cost) I had missed the deadline for that job, and I decided the whole debacle was a cosmic message from the universe that I was supposed to stay in Boston for a while. That may in fact have been true. This year, I put the wheels in motion again and it all worked out.

Why Korea?
Last spring I was of the mind that I would go to basically any country to teach English, wherever I found a job offer. (I was a bit worried about Japan, seeing as I break out in hives pretty much just by walking by a Japanese restaurant, and I feared I might starve to death in a year there.) I vascillated between a job in Taipei and a job in a suburb of Seoul. As my friend Greg put it, it could come down to a choice of who I'd rather have pointing nukes at me: China or North Korea.

Coincidentally, we had a Korean roommate move into our place (getting a chemical engineering degree at Tufts) and I thought maybe that was a cosmic sign as well. While she lived with us she and I tried to find time to talk about Korea and teach each other our respective languages, but you know how life gets too busy...but she always encouraged me to go to Korea and assured me I'd love it. Anyway, at that time Korea became a possibility just because jobs were so readily available, and so I started learning more about it, and then it became more intriguing, and so on. One big advantage of the Korean schools is they pay for your airfare over, as opposed to reimbursing you for it after you teach a certain number of months. I was all about getting out of the U.S. at very little cost. A get-out-of-jail-free card, if you will.

Now that I'm here, I find Korea fascinating. The Buddhist factor alone could keep me intellectually and emotionally stimulated for at least a year if not dozens of years. I can't believe how much history there is to learn about and actual remnants of it to see! Plus, the mountains are so beautiful. There are so many places to visit, and big, modern cities, and things to do and learn, and a challenging language to wrestle with, and it's all just wonderful!

My friend mused that she might have been skeptical of an illegitimate-seeming promise luring English-speakers to Asia...well, there are some shady outfits and recruiters, I'm told, but I kind of went with my vibe, plus the research I did and the things I'd heard from other friends who've done it (I've met more and more people in the last couple years who have done the year-in-Asia thing). "Leap, and the net will appear," right? (Artist's Way)

I hope that answers the question. I basically wanted a challenge, a new country, and a new job rolled into one. And here I am.

Prior to last year, everything I ever knew about Korea I learned from M*A*S*H episodes. M*A*S*H remains one of my top two television shows of all time, and I must say I am craving, absolutely CRAVING it, right now. I have a VCR but not a DVD player here, and I think I am going to have to get my hands on some tapes soon. I love being here and having periodic random reminders of that beloved show up close and personal.

Parting off-topic thought: there is a little cult of us forlorn souls with delicious blood that have always wondered why the bugs eat us more often than others. This week I found a few suggesstions on a web site: It asked "are YOU a mosquito magnet?" and offered the following as mosquito attractions: carbon dioxide, of which you produce more if you have high metabolism; lactic acid, released after working out or eating salty/high-potassium foods; estradiol, a female hormone; floral & fruity fragrances; body moisture; acetone, which is in larger amounts in diabetics and people who are starving; and sweat. Hmmm...unfortunately I now can't find the web site I copied and pasted that from! Ack! But I thought I'd share what I learned, and you may take it with a grain of salt. Which will possibly make you more attractive to mosquitoes.

No comments: