Month: May 2017

Seoul Searching

Seoul Searching

If you are wondering how I ended up in Korea, you’re in good company! I didn’t fully believe I was coming here until a day before I left. Life can be fun(?) like that sometimes I guess. So, how did I get here?

After the federal hiring freeze put the job with USAID on hold in January, I decided I better look at some options to fill the time. One of those options was teaching in Korea. I didn’t really think I would end up in Korea, but applied, interviewed, and started sending in whatever paperwork they asked for. The hope was still to have USAID call prior to me needing to make any decisions about Korea, or what to do next. But weeks turned to months and still they didn’t call…and I decided I needed to do something. So I got a ticket booked back to the USA and thought I would head to DC to find work and start figuring out life there; still hoping USAID would call, I figured the Korea thing may be an option somewhere down the road. I got an update on USAID in May; nothing is moving there until next year’s budget is approved. Not great news. I also heard from Korea in May. They wanted me to start training May 22nd.

Decisions had to be made, and fast. For various reasons I decided to go for the Korea option; but then ran into issues with obtaining the necessary visa. It was looking like I would not make the May 22nd training, which was fine, as I still had the ticket booked for DC and would figure stuff out there. But as you now know, I never made that DC flight. This is because the Korean embassy decided they would issue my visa…on May 18th, the day before I would need to fly. So it happened. I packed my bags, put one foot in front of the other, got on the plane and decided why the hell not – let’s go teach in Korea.

Teaching…about that. I hope I am good at it? I have about the same feelings teaching English as I do for giving talks on breast feeding. I’ve done it once or twice before, wondered how I got myself into the situation as I was doing it, and prayed it would all be over soon. So yeah…these poor kids! 😉 But in all seriousness, I think this is the biggest concern I have at the moment. Apparently the company that hired me thinks I can do it, so I guess I’ll rely on their confidence until I get my own. Training starts this week, and hopefully I will feel better about this whole idea once it’s done. Although I don’t have a lot of teaching experience, what I am looking forward to is interacting with the kids. This was one of my favorite parts during my Peace Corps service. I believe supporting and encouraging kids has long lasting impacts far beyond the short time they spend with you. So the students in my classes may not have a teacher that knows all the ins and outs of teaching English, but I’ll do everything I can to ensure they leave knowing someone believes in them. Then, if needed, they’ll at least have the confidence to learn what they need to from another, you know, actual teacher! 🙂

As I pictured arriving in Korea, the only reference to something like this I had was my initial arrival in Guyana through Peace Corps. There were the good parts of that experience and there were the difficult parts; the ones that made my stomach tense up thinking about going through it all again. As it turns out, however, the arrival in Korea has been nothing like the arrival in Guyana. I didn’t have a group of other teachers on the same flight as me to navigate the airports and travel with. There wasn’t staff at the gate in Korea, welcoming me with banners and hugs. There is no one here to hold my hand through the process. My arrival to Korea was something I needed to get through on my own, and that was ok. I actually haven’t really been on my own since I left Peace Corps. The independence, the responsibility, the uncertainty, it all felt good. As I exited the plane on the other side of the world, I had no idea what I was about to walk into.

Yet, this kind of seems to be the theme for me lately. I’m an experience junkie. To be honest, trying to figure out where all these varied experiences are taking me is a tough one. I had, and maybe still have, concerns about adding yet another branch to my already unique tree of experience. Society tells us we generally should pick a career path and stick with it, get good at one thing, plan for retirement, etc. But I can’t identify what path I’m on, or where the work I am doing, and have done, is leading me. As I am getting older, this is a little stressful; how are all these random dots going to connect? I recently read Steve Jobs had said “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” That rings true for me. I definitely can’t see how some of my dots are connecting now, so I try to remind myself the picture isn’t completed yet. Sometimes the dots aren’t ready to be connected, but perhaps they will all make sense looking back when the work is done. That’s my hope anyway.

If things going right are a sign you are making the right dots, then I can’t help but feel I am in the right place now. Everything really did fall into place for me to be here (albeit quite last minute). From eleventh hour approvals, to free exit row upgrades on long flights, to a great apartment during training in an amazing area of town, to perfect weather and the innate sense of peace I have – for the first time since I had the idea of coming here, I can say Korea feels right. Seoul has given me an incredible first impression. I am excited to make this dot as impactful and memorable as possible; to do some “Seoul” searching, and in due time, marvel at everything that has connected to it from here.  

Training starts tomorrow.  Wish me luck!

My first morning in Seoul – walking in Namsan park to the iconic N. Seoul Tower
Namsan Park: near my apartment! Filled with running paths and nature trails
Seoul at night with iconic N. Seoul tower lit up