“I want to see you excessively”

I’ve recently learned the common phrase for expressing basically “I really miss you.” Literally translates into “I want to see you excessively”, or rather “excessively see want to” if you’re picky about word order. I got a kick out of that. There’s lots of stuff like this in Korean. Even when you say hello, you’re not really saying “hello”. Annyeong means “peace” and haseyo means “to do”, but more correctly, it translates to something like “Are you with peace? Are you peaceful?” No matter how you say it, saying hi is always a question, to which people will always respond “Yes, are  you peaceful?”

Anyway, cute linguistic differences aside, I’m kind of in a bad mood. It was my first day back to work after my vacation. I was expecting an easy day with only two classes, and to get out at lunch time, free for the rest of the day to work at my own leisure. I immediately found out this was not the case. I was given one more class after lunch, which delayed my departing time until 2 PM. Not a huge deal, but still less than ideal. Nothing is ever scheduled here, and in the rare chance that something is scheduled, I can almost guarantee that the schedule will change day to day.

Also, Amy has apparently quit. Today. I had to teach the phonics class in the morning for two hours instead of one because Diane, Amy, and Mr. Lee were in a three way meeting. You try turning J, K, and L into a two hour lesson. I dare you. The last forty minutes or so was just watching cartoons and funny videos on YouTube.  This now makes five teachers in just under five months of me working here that have quit from under Mr. Lee. I can understand not liking a job and wanting to find something better, but they always seem to pick the exact worse time to quit. When things are finally settling into some semblance of a rhythm, they decide that day that it’s time to quit, with apparent no forward notice.

So, the rest of the day, pretty much, I stuck around to teach all of Diane’s classes, since she said she was busy with paperwork, because  of Amy’s quitting. It’s not like I hate the kids or anything. It’s just when you go into a day expecting to leave at noon and end up leaving at 4:30 PM, it’s really exasperating. Tomorrow, I’ll probably be doing the same thing, since it’s my turn to teach every class, despite the fact that I covered for Diane all day today.

On top of it all, I e-mailed Mr. Lee about some work I’m nearly finished with. His response was less than thrilling. Being 98% done with a month and a half or two of work, he suddenly decided that he wants to replace two stories in the curriculum with new material. While ordinarily, this would mean a modest amount of back tracking, the fact is that he wants to replace the two stories that I created entire 80 page textbooks for, which took about two and a half weeks total to create, essentially meaning it was all completely wasted time, and all of that work will be going in the waste bin. This also means I’ll have to start from scratch all over again and spend the next 2-3 weeks creating new textbooks, just so I have materials to make the tests and workbooks from, and on my own time to boot, rather than at my desk in the morning before classes. Ugh.

This is one of the rare things that I would use to caution people against coming to South Korea. Not that I’d say don’t come. It’s an awesome place to be, but today has just so happened to have been a pretty bad day, overall. I think being in a foreign country multiplies the shittiness of any day by several factors of ten. People have joked around saying that I’m “on vacation” here, and honestly sometimes it feels like I am. But it’s still something that you have to take really seriously. Things can get extremely hectic, and especially for new teachers getting used to a foreign country, it can cause a lot of stress.

On vacation, I met a couple in Sokcho. The guy was half-Korean and the girl was American. They had only been together two months before he asked her to come to Korea and teach with him, and she agreed. They’ve been in Korea almost two years and have been married a couple months. Still, when I asked her what her plans were, she seemed anxious to get back to America. When I asked her why, she said it was because she felt like she wasn’t in the “real world” in Korea. Like she was just on vacation, wasting time before she got started making a family and starting a career.

It reminded me of a conversation I had freshman year of college when an upperclassman told me she was lookingforward to graduating so she could go into the “real world”. Inwardly, I knew what she meant, but I disagreed mostly just to be argumentative and tried to justify college as being part of the “real world”, though it wasn’t long before I realized it wasn’t nearly anywhere near it.

I’m not sure how I feel about how this relates to Korea now. I want to say that what one gets out of Korea is mostly a manifestation of how one treats their time in Korea. If you treat it like a vacation, it will be. If you treat it like the life-changing experience it is, then I think you’ll feel the weight of consequences here a bit more appropriately. Still, I have this nagging feeling…

What does the “real world” even mean? In the American context, at least, I think the “real world” is just another word for “responsibility”, and perhaps more specifically “burden”. The “real world” is kids and a mortgage and a 40+ hour a week job and credit card debt. I’ve met three people who have been here for seven years are longer. Only one of them has gotten married and had a kid. The others are single people, perhaps slightly older than the average first year teacher, but still living much in the same manner. They make it through their work week, then party on the weekends, just like in college. Just like I’m doing now, pretty much. I can only speculate about their financial circumstances, but I’ve yet to meet anyone in Korea that was seriously struggling for want of money.

Still, what’s the rush about getting into the “real world”? Often, at least in media, it’s synonymous with unhappiness. Most people will admit kids are a good thing (for the most part), and I count myself among them, but they are undoubtedly a burden. Looking at the economic status of America, who has it worst? The lower and middle-class working families. They’re the people who have a hard time paying bills, a strained marriage, and seemingly unfulfilled lives.

I know I’m generalizing. I don’t mean to paint the lives of the middle-aged as entirely awful. I know there are plenty of successful and happy people with families and good jobs in the world. I can only hope and try my best to become one of them.

But what’s wrong with just enjoying as much of your time with as little responsibility as possible while you still can?

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One Response to ““I want to see you excessively””

  1. kyong ok hibbler Says:

    I don’t think there is no special or separate distinguishable “rea life”.
    Your every living breathing moments are the real life. I think your real life started the moment you were conceived. To me real life is taking each day at a time with ease.

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