So, obviously, this blog has been dead since I first arrived back in Korea, last March of 2012. This was largely due to a lack of free time with my busy work schedule, but even more so due to how much I have preferred the convenience and speed of tumblr/instagram.
I want to make another post here now, however, to reach a larger audience. I have news! This year, beginning in April of 2013, I will be teaching English in Ibaraki, Japan. This is a suburb of Osaka, a 20 minute train ride into town, and a 30 minute train ride from Kyoto.
This is pretty exciting. Some may be wondering about what I'm thinking and what the motivation is here. Good questions. Let me first say that I love Korea. My life here has been good, comfortable, and interesting. I will also say that it has been hard to live in Seoul. It is difficult to say what the greatest challenge was here, but I think a big part was how little time I had to devote to my own sanity and peace. I worked many more hours than in my first year in Korea, and had about an hour commute on top of that in each direction, leaving not much time for me to really explore, or even find my daily breath. With that and what energy it takes to really flesh out the challenges of a committed, live-in realtionship, I found myself stretched pretty thin. So, as my year began to wind down, I confronted the questions, "what's next?"
and "what do I need?"
Let's be honest: though I've loved this life of adventure, travel, and living abroad, I'm starting to feel ready to decide (somewhat) what my long term goals are, and develop a 5(ish)-year plan to work towards them. At the same time, I have some financial obligations, and some personal factors (my relationship, etc.) which lead me to want a little more time of this English teacher lifestyle. And, let's not omit, I have enjoyed teaching! It's not my ultimate career goal, but damned if it's not extremely rewarding and often pretty fun.
So, Japan's appeal, not in a particular order:
1. It's Japan. Come on. So cool. I had some experiences of Japanese culture as a child, through exchange students my family hosted, and just last year had the chance to visit for the first time. It's a fascinating, beautiful, inviting (at least to me) place.
2. This is maybe a similar thread, but I feel a great need in me for a restart--a new physical location, a new culture, a new everything to give rebirth to the parts of me that have felt stifled this year for numerous reasons. I know what I need to do, and I do believe that a person can work to meet their personal needs and goals in any setting, but I feel like a new physicality is so beneficial to kick-starting these things. It's kind of like how many people make new-year's resolutions. One can resolve to do something new any time, but that first of the year somehow helps one's mind to take a new approach. That, and I'm in love with discovering new (to me) cultures. It forces me to be challenged, uncomfortable, a little scared-in-a-good-way, and uncertain of almost everything from time to time. That, and it's so humbling! I feel it's so good for me!
3. Now that I'm only 2 months from paying off my student loans (YES!) I can spend a year saving for my future, so that I don't go right into debt again, should I return to school.
4. The proximity to Korea allows my partner and I to see each other fairly often, while we both pursue some separate goals, and have a little space to assess some things about ourselves as a unit, and as individuals.
5. My new job has a 4 hour day of teaching. Wow. Really. Such a step down from my current work schedule. It puts so much more life in the work-life balance. It's a 5 hour work day, including lesson planning, and a 6 day work week, but I think it's a fair trade-off. I have really learned the value of the time spent alone. It is so vital to mental health and fulfillment of personal goals. I feel like this year was almost a complete break from any attempt to achieve many of my personal goals due to this lack of time. I also felt pretty out of breath most of the time, just attempting to complete my work, keep track of friends, and foster a few (very few) personal relationships in Korea. I am a creature which thrives on community and human companionship, and the lack of time has not really allowed me to foster much of a community nor regular companionship in Seoul. This aspect is HUGE, and I can't state it's value enough.
6. Along these lines, the hours at this new job are in the afternoon-evening, which allows me to do a lot with my morning time. First of all, I can volunteer again. On a regular basis. I'll be so close to 2 major cities, and have already begun exploring ways to get involved. Also, these hours allow me to call friends and family back home almost any day of the week, much like my first year in Korea. This is pretty huge. I do love travel, and the benefits therein, but I definitely value my relationships at home, especially that of my family, and it has been hard this year only being able to call on weekends.
7. I get 6 weeks vacation, so that allows me a lot of freedom to explore the world
in other ways. A little more travel in Asia, a few hops back to Korea, maybe even a trip home for the holidays. We'll see. It sounds like I might have quite a few visitors next year, so going home might not need to be in the cards. It's only a year, and it sure goes fast! You've got to take advantage of the opportunities around you, while they last!
8. The job, of course! It looks great. A chance to teach all ages, be in charge of my own curriculum, work with a Japanese co-teacher, and guess what, live ALONE in a 3-bedroom HOUSE! Not an apartment. This wasn't a deal maker, but such great luck. There's also only one other foreign teacher at the school, he's been there one year already, and he's from Portland, Maine! Something of a sister culture to my little hometown, I'm told. We've already talked a bit on skype, and I think it's going to be a great year. This small school atmosphere, in a suburb in Japan, affords much more of a cultural immersion than this year in Seoul has been, with 14 foreign English teachers at my school. I must say, it has been a wonderful workplace, but weird that I haven't been able to meet any new Korean friends except through Hoopie's already established network. I certainly didn't come here to meet other westerners, though I value them as human beings and friends. I'm looking forward to "losing myself" or at least feeling like a bit of a stranger in a strange land again. It's kind of amazing, disorienting, and exciting. And I'm sure there will be lots of things I cannot begin to imagine, as every place has its own set of challenges, beauties, and unique cultural aspects.
There's so much more I could say, but I'm going to stop there. I don't know if I'll pick up this blog again, but it's possible. Also worth mentioning, I will be home in portland from March 4th to March 28th. I will be staying with my folks and spending some quality time with them in The Beav, but definititely seeking re-connections with friends while I'm there. And of course, spending some much needed time in my beloved Portland. I am still certain, Portland will remain my hometown, my base, and eventually the place where I hang my hat. Nowhere is quite like it.
Thanks for keeping up,