About a week ago, a friend from home asked me whether or not Korea was treating me better this time around. I didn’t give a particularly good answer, but I did promise to blog about it when I’d had some time to think.
While it’s difficult to determine offhand whether it’s worse or better, I have found that there are some key differences between how my life is now, compared to how it was here before.
I think the two years I lived in Korea were the first (and perhaps only) time in my life when I felt financially secure. In the two years between my father’s death, and my departure for Korea, I needed to help support my family. We lived paycheck to paycheck, and I have never tried to pretend that money was not a part of my decision to apply to EPIK and be an EFL teacher.
The out of money experience
During those two years, money was a constant worry and source of stress. It plagued me during my waking hours and kept me out of sleep at night. I would like awake, going over my expenses and the money in my account again and again, trying to find ways to make it stretch just a day or two more, hoping that nothing unexpected would come up, because we couldn’t afford it.
I love to sing. I sang in choir when I was in high school.
But I didn’t like being in my school’s choir. It was a rather notorious organisation – infamous for the fact that once one joined, one was unable to leave. It wasn’t until my final year at school that we were allowed – expected – to leave. For a long while, the thought “I don’t have to go back to choir!” made me unrealistically happy. No matter how shitty it was being in matric, I wasn’t in the choir anymore.
Part of me wanted the choir to tank when that the people who had been forced to stay had finally been allowed to leave. Another part of me – a more magnanimous part – hoped that it would do well and that the new members would be happier there than I had been.
Sometimes, I missed singing in the choir.
I railed so long against something, I couldn’t wait to leave, and leaving made me so happy, but sometimes I still missed it.
People don’t ask this as often as they tell me that I’ve changed, but if I’m honest, I think this is a much more valuable and interesting question. It requires insight, and perspective that I might not have this early into my return home.
It’s also a question I’ve been considering since I decided to renew my contract (over a year ago), and doubly so since I signed the form stating that I wouldn’t be staying in Korea for another year.
So… was it worth it? The answer is, as always, much more complex than the question I’ve been asked.
First, a note on post-apocalyptic fiction. I love it. I love it so much. But this love is in spite of one major, glaring issue – they all tend to focus on one part of world. No points for guessing which part of the world is usually the focus…
World War Z – both book and film – share a quality that I love. The entire human race is threatened, and the threat is shown from all over the world. Yes, there is still a strong focus on America, but major incidents and significant parts of the story happen elsewhere in the world. All I have to say about this fucking finally.