In a point entirely related to the things I created this blog to blog about, I have returned to Korea, to the same city, to the same school I was teaching at before.
The feeling of “But why?” was strong before I left SA (again), and is strong among the people who are still here.
Well… in short:
Well that wraps that up.
Ugh. Fine. If you want to know more…
Work work, hurry hurry, work work, worry worry…
Money is the root of evil
Money is the fruit of sin
Money money money can drive you mad
End up in the looney bin
As I’ve written about before, one tends to be repeatedly told that money can’t buy happiness (!) by the kind of super optimistic, ultra cheerful people who actually have money (or who have a safety net if their money should run out).
While I will concede that the having of money does not prevent one from being sad, or lonely, or frustrated, or whatever else, the having of money does stop money itself from being a cause.
The reality of the situation was that, in South Africa, I couldn’t make nearly as much as I had made in Korea. In fact, I wasn’t even really making a living wage. This wound up (as before) consuming my thoughts day and night, and threatened (as before) to eat me alive.
All of it made me think fondly on the life I’d had in Korea. Sure, I hadn’t exactly been wealthy, but I was more financially comfortable than I had ever been in life before, and (it looked like) I ever would be again.
The teaching bug had bitten
Teaching is something that I found myself liking a lot more than I’d thought I would. In fact, I found that it was something I very much wanted to be doing with my life. My job in SA let me run a few workshops while I was there, and preparing and teaching those reminded me of just how much I missed teaching.
And also of the fact that I wasn’t entirely awful at it.
But why Korea again?
I did consider other countries, and a few were looking like good options. I found a few postings for jobs that seemed like they’d suit me
Then the school I’d taught at before was looking for two new teachers, and I decided to put feelers (via one of my coNETs) about whether or not they would be willing to have me back. Mostly, this was to satisfy my own curiosity, and I honestly wasn’t expecting a positive response. I thought I’d get:
Ah… well… you seemed like you were so unhappy here last time… so maybe it’s not a good idea?
Instead I was told that the response had been enthusiastic, and that my application was expected, and would be welcomed. Basically as soon as all my paperwork was in order, I could book my ticket.
And this is the time
Two other factors lead to this decision:
One is the fact that the Rand’s value has been dropping, while inflation is not. The ability to earn more money to squirrel away for a rainy day (of which I live in fear) was a major driving factor. Doing so from abroad, where I pay lower taxes, and have a lower cost of living in general, simply made a lot of financial sense.
The second is my age. I’m obviously not as young as I used to be (because no one is, so why do we even say this?), but I’m still young. If there is ever a time to work abroad, when you’re young is the time to do it.
“But I thought you were happy here…”
When it was announced that I’d be going back to Korea, a friend of mine said that he thought I had been happy being home.
And the truth is that, despite everything, I was indeed happy at home. I missed Korea, but not so much that I’d have gone back without other driving factors. I missed my students, but that is, in and of itself, part of the teaching profession.
Besides, there was something so brilliant about being a place where I felt that I belonged. South Africa – potholes and e-tolls and whatever else it is that people love to complain about – is still my home, and always will be. Knowing that I’m going to miss the jacarandas again makes me homesick already. I miss the sun (yes!) and the wide open skies, the greenery lining the city streets on my drive to work…
When I left last time (three years ago now), I felt conflicted, but I didn’t cry. This time, I sat in my home weeping while I waited for the shuttle to the airport.
But there’s a difference…
There’s a difference between the quiet ache in my heart that comes from missing home, and the wave of hopelessness and existential despair that I experienced when I was back there. While there were times that Korea drove (and will again) me to my wit’s end, I didn’t feel like it was about to crush me. I had hope – even when it was all but smothered, and I felt trapped and alone – that things could get better, and if not, I just had to wait until I could escape.
And perhaps (for me) the nature of the expat life plays into that. As an expat teacher, I live from 12-month contract to 12-month contract. I am secure for that time, and I know that I have enough time to consider what will come next. For 12 months at a time, I don’t have to live in fear of when some new horror of life will come crashing down on me and snatch my security away from me… again.
I’m back (for various reasons). Time to start being an expat blogger again.