At the risk of boring everyone with a third blog post in less than 24 hours, I feel compelled to observe that today is the fourth anniversary of my arrival in Korea. On September 1st, 2007, I landed at Incheon and made my way to Ilsan, where I was met by my new employer, Danny, of the eventually-defunct Tomorrow School, to begin my new teaching career.
I have spent all of the last four years in Korea, with the exception of a three-month, unemployed hiatus back in the US in the fall of 2009, and several shorter vacation trips – two to Australia to visit my mother (with side-junkets to Hong Kong and New Zealand), and one to Japan to resolve a visa issue.
I like Korea. I'm not really a Koreanophile, though. Although my linguistico-aesthetic infatuation with the Korean language refuses to go away, I'm actually only lukewarm when it comes to Korean culture in more general terms. It has a lot of shortcomings, and I'm not always happy with it. But… I will attach two caveats to that statement: 1) I think the Korean polity is less dysfunctional that the US polity, and that's a notable achievement (the current state of the US polity is so depressing as to leave me feeling embarrassed to claim US citizenship); 2) I reached a level of alienated "comfort" with life in Korea that is at least equal to the perpetual alienation I have always felt within my own country and culture.
The consequence of these preceding observations is that, as things stand, I have no interest in (and no current plans for) returning to the US – except perhaps for brief visits. For better or for worse, for now, Korea is my home. If, for whatever reason in the future, my life in Korea has to end, I will seek to continue my expat life elsewhere.
I have changed a great deal in the last four years. I have acquired some confidence as a teacher; I have built some good habits; most notably, I have embraced a sort of meditative buddhist zen (선) atheism that works well for me. Although I'm hardly content – often lonely, often aimless in a philosophical or "spiritual" sense (as much as I dislike the concept of spirituality) – in fact I have found a kind of inner peace that my life prior to this most recent phase utterly lacked.
So, there you have it. And so begins a fifth year…
I took the picture below on a long hike in October 2007. It shows some scarecrows in a field of cut rice, across the highway from the former Camp Edwards, in Geumchon, Paju-si (about 7 km northwest of where I live), which incidentally is where I was stationed in 1991, during my time in the US Army as a mechanic and tow truck driver. Thus, you see, my "roots" in Northwest Gyeonggi Province go "way back."