I quit my job. I did nothing. I moved home. I quit spending. I enrolled in grad school. I got a shitty tattoo. I grew my hair out.
After that first sour taste of the traditional route, I yanked the wheel left.
I applied to teach English. I said goodbye. I boarded a plane. I traversed the globe.
But, as I sit here at my three walled desk, slouched over my keyboard in this support absent chair, only further aggravating an achy back, with my vice principal glaring directly over my shoulder, in between sips of tongue smackingly chalky instant coffee that only seems to deepen this monotony induced mental drone, I'm writing to say that I've once again found routine, or maybe it's found me.
For a while it was fun. Like a week or two. There were those neon lights, in that alley by my apartment. Oh, and all the many cafes. There was the smell of the streets, and the excitement of the bustle, the mystery of the job, and the intrigue of the weekends. But, with the days of toxic "yellow dust", the neon lights have dimmed, the cafes have become an afterthought, the hordes of people a nuisance, the weekends pure dread, the job a routine, and the smells that of shit, no seriously, like raw human feces...
Okay okay, I know, I need to chill. I'm being harsh, and probably undeservedly so. I mean, I'm the outsider here. I insisted on coming, it's true. And honestly, I should have known better. No actually, I did.
When I first came across the English Program in Korea better known as EPIK, I knew it was a bad fit, but I pursued it anyway. Why, you ask? Well, in the midst of my ninth month stint home, like home home, in my childhood bedroom home, I sat there one week in silence, but screaming inside. All over Instagram my old friends and classmates were living, and there I was, wasting precious breathes of my youth. I needed an out, and I needed one fast.
Yet still determined to avoid the path of conformity, I searched abroad. Sure, I'd heard of others teaching English before, like that friend of a friend's cousin who once went to Thailand, or that great uncle who I'd never actually met, but it had only ever seemed like something that other people did. It wasn't that I was opposed to it, quite the contrary, but I didn't have the slightest clue where to begin. There was that, what's it called, a TEFALL? "Oh, and don't you need a bunch of shots and stuff?" "Wait, how the hell do you find housing?"
Overwhelmed by the process, I'd spent several afternoons over the course of my home stint before ever breaching any surface. Then, finally, I decided that I wanted to teach English in Chile. Yep, the "California of South America". With a seemingly infinite coastline, rugged Andes peaks, snowboarding, surfing, spicy food, and even spicier culture, home to Patagonia, and its vast unknown, and an incredibly interesting dialect of Spanish. From the moment I began researching Chile, I fell in love. But after two weeks of Rosetta Stone, and countless emails to EFL recruiters, with only a handful of vague replies, I once again typed "best countries to teach English" into my search bar.
A stark contrast from the disorganized Chile postings, the EPIK program provided an extremely structured path toward international indenturement, I mean experience. With an unbeatable salary, housing provided, healthcare, and paid vacation, EPIK made way more sense. But that, that right there is where I fucked up. After a year of running from conformity, of vowing to pursue intrinsic motivation, I caved.
One hell of an application process later, that included several hundred dollars of document expenses, a TEFL certificate, and numerous delays (one of them 6 months), I boarded that 787 to Seoul. Fifteen hours later my plane touched down on Korean soil, as the eastern sun sank through a thick layer of what I romanticized as ocean mist (more likely toxic dust) and into the Yellow Sea. And today, exactly two months later, I find my spirits sinking all the same.
I shouldn't have written this, and I definitely shouldn't have published it, but then again, sometimes I prefer to be irrational, to fly off the cuff, to quit pretending that all these rules matter, and to just follow my gut. From what I've seen in my short time here, Korea is a land of plentiful natural beauty, and rich history. Just two months in, I’m sure I’ve barely scratched the surface of, but this structured Monday-Friday lifestyle just isn't for me. Not here, not anywhere.
In one last effort to clear things up, I feel obligated to say that the EPIK program has not been in the least bit misleading, as they've upheld every aspect of the promised agreement, and just about every interaction from orientation to placement has been pleasant. For those thinking of teaching abroad, this program offers unbeatable benefits, an incredibly smooth transition, and nearly all the comforts of home, plus kimbap from CU. It's me, not you, I promise. Peace.