Tag: Personal

The Differentness of Things: Korea Round 2

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.

Continue reading “The Differentness of Things: Korea Round 2”

Hold On


My brother shared this song with me on Facebook last week. I was confused, to the say the least, as I wouldn’t say I’m a fan of Jack Parow. But, as my brother felt the need to share this with me, I decided to listen. Maybe it would be good for a laugh, at least.

That was Friday. It’s Wednesday now. I’ve been listening to it on repeat on and off. I think it’s because I keep coming back to this line: days too long, nights too short you just went to sleep, then you’re back at work


I’m standing at the kitchen door in our old house, keys in hand, bag slung over my shoulder, trying to will myself to open the door. If I open the door, I have to go to my car. If I go to my car, I have to get in and drive to work. If I drive to work, I have to get out of my car, go to my office, and do my job.

And I’m standing at the door, eyes closed, taking deep breaths, reminding myself that it isn’t that hard. I can do this. I can go to work and do my job.

Just… do it.

Open your eyes.

Push open the door.

Drive to work and do your job.

For a few moments, I’m completely paralysed. Leaving for work has become an act for which I must first brace myself and find the will to carry on.


I’ve once wrote about hating my previous job. I wrote it before I ever came to Korea, but was contemplating how my previous experience would help me. It’s one of the most read posts on my blog to date. A disheartening number of people seem to be searching “I hate my job” and “How do I stop hating my job?”, and that’s how they find me.

I had my doubts about leaving Korea, despite what I’ve written before. A huge part of that is job security. EPIK is certainly not as secure as it was – not by a long shot – but somehow still seemed less frightening that going out and job hunting and hoping for the best. While I’d committed to going back home, I hadn’t fully convinced myself that it wasn’t something I’d regret doing. I’ve had just enough of a taste of unemployment that the thought fucking terrifies me. I was about cave, say I’d stay just one more year… and then I found myself standing at my door one Saturday morning, just standing there, about to leave, but paralysed, trying to convince myself that I could do it – I could open the door, I could catch the bus, I could go to work.

I’ve found myself able to relate to songs like this before, but never more than now, when my days are too long, and my nights are too short. Work, sleep, work, sleep, work…

This song is telling me to do the only thing I can do: bambezela – hold on.


On the bus from Seoul to Incheon

I love driving.

I especially love driving at night on empty, well-lit roads. In those moments, it’s like the world belongs to me. I can speed up, and hasten the arrival of that wonderful moment where the roads start to look like home, or I can slow down a little and see the city lights recreating my world, step by step.

Here in my car, I feel safest of all. My car, my lights, my streets, my world.

And at night, it’s the best. Millions of houses and millions of lights shine onto the streets. Lonely cars and trucks drive down the road – they may not see home until daylight. There are times when I look out of the window at the long line of street lights curving away in the dark, and I forget where I am. I forget that I’m in a bus. I’m moving in the dark and all those lights are taking me home. For a very long moment, it no longer matters where home is. It no longer matters that this isn’t the N1 and that these aren’t my lights on my streets in my city. I see headlights and street lights and white lines on the tar, and I’m going home.

I want a word for the almost-home.

That point where the highway’s monotony becomes familiar
That subway stop whose name will always wake you from day’s-end dozing
That first glimpse of the skyline
That you never loved until you left it behind.

What do you call the exit sign you see even in your dreams?
Is there a name for the airport terminal you come back to,
Comfortably exhausted?

I need a word for rounding your corner onto your street,
For seeing your city on the horizon,
For flying homewards down your highway.

Give me a word for the boundary
Between the world you went to see
And the small one you call your own.

I want a word for the moment you know
You’re almost home.


Whiny Expat Bloggers

I did it, didn’t I?

I can’t even make metaphorical eye contact

I became one of those people who keeps one of those blogs that makes people nervous about coming to Korea. It became a place where I whine about how hard my life is, how difficult it is to live in Korea and how much I miss home. Continue reading “Whiny Expat Bloggers”


So. As a person who keeps a blog, I’m supposed to do a wrap up post about 2013. That’s how it works, isn’t it? Or… I’m supposed to write about my resolutions, right?

But I don’t make resolutions. Frankly, I admire people who do. I’ve never been able to wrap my head around the idea.

And it’s tough to work out what exactly I can say about 2013. Too much has happened. Too much has changed. How do I write about all the doubt and fear I had about leaving? All of the uncertainty I’ve had in my job? By the same token, how I do I write about those moments when I was – inexplicably – completely and totally happy? How do I encapsulate all those moments when I walked back to my place from the subway, feeling lighter than air? How do I explain the feeling of having my students like me, like being in my class, and saying that they hope I’ll teach them next year?

And there are all the feelings in between, that are so mixed. I love living alone, but I miss my family. I love my job here, but I’m often very homesick. I’ve met some extraordinary people here, but there are days when all I want is to see the people I left behind to come here.

(How do I explain the fact that I never expected homesickness to hit me as hard as it did? Not just missing my family, and my friends, as I expected to do, but also missing the city I was born in, the roads I used to drive, and the way I so seldom felt out of place there.)

How do I explain all the things I’ve learnt about myself, about my job, and about others? Do I start with all the things I expected to change, or the things I thought would never change? All the things that did? Or all the things that didn’t?

All the high points (so very, very high) and the low points (so very, very low), and how they compare everything that comes before… how do I write about those?

Where do I start?

I tried and failed to write this post in a way that would make that clear. And I think I know why: this marks a big division in my life. From the moment I turned away from my family toward the airport gate, my life changed. From now on, there will always be before Korea, and after. The highs will be different, and so will the lows. From now until forever.

I cannot give an overall rating to a year, like to a film or a book (and I’m so terrible at doing that anyway). It’s not in me to give a period of time one basic analysis. In truth, 2013 had been better to me than any year before it. Compared to the two years before it, it has been made of solid gold.

But without everything that came before, how could I be what I am now? How would I know how good this year has been if I didn’t know just how bad a year could be?

In truth, there can be no scale to rate it on. I have nothing to compare it to.