Aesop's Fables began as life lessons for adults and later turned to stories for children, but somehow one of them has turned into a reflection of my life. Similar to The Boy Who Cried Wolf, I've found myself repeating the same story, over and over again. Six years ago I promised my family that I'd be moving to Korea for "Only one year" which became two. I was confident I was done with Korea after that, but returned again in October of 2015 (and the few visits during my travels). My year in Andong wasn't an easy one, including heartbreak, injuries and issues at work, so when I left a year later it felt like a final goodbye. But, low and behold I was wrong again, I stopped by for a wedding last April and then was pulled back for the whole summer. Long story short, I met a boy, remembered how much I love teaching here, and still wanted to learn the language. 16 entry stamps later, I'm back again, and this time there's no expiration date on my stay.
When asked by friends and family, both in the US and Korea, what I'd be doing, where I'd be living and if I was teaching, when I came back, most were surprised by my answer. I had no job lined up, in fact I had no desire to jump into a contract. Instead, I was throwing all caution to the wind and moving in with my boyfriend, settling down for a few cold months in Daejeon (I city I never thought I'd live), ultimately taking a chance. My one plan was to apply for the Korean language program at Geumgang University (which I was accepted to and will be starting in March), so I wasn't completely without a plan.
I've now been back for about a month and a half, and while I'm struggling to make it through winter, a season I despise, I am happy about where I am. Living halfway around the world from friends and family isn't easy, there are moments of guilt for missing special events or not being there when loved ones are hurting, but it is an adventure. I've had to go through the whole adjustment phase again, new city, new people and an entirely new living arrangement, but it's been worth it.
Anyone with a full time job knows what it's like to daydream about having an extended period of time off, all of the things you would do with that "free time". I remember feeling this way too, wishing for a vacation when students were driving me up the wall, but I take it back. I'm not good with loads of free time, despite having a 'to-do' or rather could do list a mile long, I feel that a majority of that time goes to waste. Winter causes me to drag, I take longer to get out of bed in the morning and leaving the house is a mission. While my mind is telling me to write or study Korean, I often opt for long yoga classes and walks outside (desperate to get any sun I can soak up). The busier I am the more productive I become, which is why I filled many of my weeks with substitute teaching.
It's easy to read blogs or comments on reddit about different teaching experiences, but it's so much more beneficial to be able to live through them yourself. I often wondered, after a rough year teaching at a Hagwon in Andong, if I would ever go back to that lifestyle. I loved the kids, but trying to please students, your director, other teachers and parents can be a nightmare. Over the last few weeks though, I've experienced some drastic difference in Hagwon life, and am open to trying it again. Also, I spent a few days teaching Kindergarten, something I thought I would despise, but it turns out that too, isn't so bad.
This post has no concise reason or story, nothing other than to get me back into writing, something I've been trying to find motivation to do for weeks, if not months. While winter in Daejon was never on the top of the list of where I thought I'd be right now, it has given me a place to pause and regroup, while considering what lies ahead. One of the questions everyone here loves to ask is, "How long do you plan to stay in Korea?". I have no answer for that, and sometimes feel that my heart is ripped in two, there's the half that wants to stay: for love, career and imagined future opportunities, but there's also the half that imagines what life I could build back home, closer to family and old friends. As always though, life is unpredictable and the only real answer is to take it all one step at a time.