10 years ago I was settling into my new home and life in South Korea, 10 years! I was confident I would only be gone for one year, that's what I promised my family. I wanted to explore the art of teaching (knowing I had pursued the wrong degree) and experience life in a different country. That year quickly turned into two, thanks mostly in part to the amazing students, coworkers and friends I met at school and in my community, the same people I call best friends to this day. I guess I knew years ago that Korea will always be home, but I continually found opportunities and reasons to leave: traveling SE Asia, Americorps and completing my masters to name a few, but I always found my way home...
One week ago I was sitting at my desk correcting essays and assigning homework for the day. I was still keeping up with the news via morning podcasts, both back home in the USA and locally here in Korea, however headlines of the Coronavirus [COVID-19] had fallen to the back burner. Instead, the US was focused mainly on the democratic debates, discussing Bloomberg's appearance back on the stage and who is best suited to take on Trump. Meanwhile, Korean news talked about negotiations with the USA regarding troops on the Peninsula and the never-ending issues with the North. The number of Coronavirus cases in Korea had reached the 30's, manageable and of little worry to the majority of the population. Then on Tuesday, it was announced that a 61-year old woman had been diagnosed in Daegu, after apparently visiting church, a wedding buffet and medicine clinic while exhibiting symptoms. One week later and here I am, wondering how my home has become national news; NPR, The Guardian, New York Times, BBC, we're everywhere. It's interesting though, living in the place where the news is happening, to see first hand how quickly stories get twisted and fake news can spread.
I've been on and off living in Korea for nearly four of the last six years, which according to many of my friends means, "My Korean must be so good". While I would love for this to be true, it's not. I could list all of the excuses, coming and going, having waves of motivation to study, losing interest and then coming back again, but ultimately it's up to me. The number of times I've cracked open my books, only to close them again is growing too high. I found an awesome Korean Language Scholarship program a year in and a half ago, an answer to my problems. Finally, after all of the "should, next time, soon" talk, I took the plunge and here I am, first week of classes at Geumgang University.
Being thrown in head first and learning to teach is a bit rough - but no one said there was no reward. Last Wednesday the principal, 지경진 Ji gyeong gin asked what my favorite Korean food was and if I would like to go to dinner. I of course had no plans so yes, i'd love to go. The Chinese character teacher, 임동향 Im dong hyang and biology teacher 강병권 jang byeong gwon joined us for Galbi (korean bbq - again cooked at your table over hot coals) various side dishes, rice, and of course some Soju.
I could not be happier to be free from the dorm living and cafeteria food. Although I made some great friends at orientation and am now miles away from them I am confident that I will keep in touch and see those that mean something to me. The last few days of orientation were more of the same, lectures about how to be a good teacher and survive in this country and more bland, not too authentic Korean food. The last lecture my class had was a short Taekwondo class and it was probably one of my favorites. The instructors were awesome and you could tell they really appreciated us being here to teach. I really underestimated how grateful a majority of the country is that we are coming here to teach. I hadn't thought about it as being a big deal but the more I realize this the happier I am that I'm here.