This past Friday, I celebrated seven months of living in Korea. And oh, if I could write a book.
My first seven months’ time has been eventful, and some would even say borderline insane. This post is long overdue, and will not suffice in any way.
Here’s the gist: I started working at the hagwon and for various reasons, immediately hated it. Through friends at church, I found a middle school English position at a small Christian international school, and turned in my letter of resignation at the hagwon. This is a very precarious and delicate issue in Korea. My resignation was not well-received by my hiring director, but somehow, after explaining to my hagwon owners my unhappiness at the school, and the hiring director’s clear unhappiness, they agreed to give me a letter of release which would release me from my visa sponsorship with them. However, it came with numerous provisions. I needed to give them 45 working days, return my airfare fee, return my recruiter’s fee (which I later found out is illegal for them to require per my contract), continue to “do a good job” and complete a Kindergarten Open House with my kindy class.
I did all of that. They withheld my last monthly paycheck to cover my returned monies, even though we agreed to divide up the payments. My hiring director became vindictive and passive aggressive at one point, criticizing every little thing that would not have been criticized a week prior, claiming I wasn’t doing a “good job,” in an effort to tally against giving me a letter of release, making me powerless in the scenario. In the end, it was the hagwon owner who gave me the letter. It was never her call to make, fortunately.
I moved one cool November morning after saying my goodbyes to my students and fellow colleagues. A friend of mine came to help out, and my international school sent a driver with a school bus to help me move. He was a good-faced Korean avuncular type, with a stubbly greying beard, black rimmed glasses and a tweed driving cap. He knew a little English, and insisted on carrying everything. I liked him immediately. When we finished packing up, as we drove away into Seoul, I felt lighter. Friends came and greeted me at my new place and helped me move in. Internet was installed. Furniture arrived. It was a good day. This was all the week before Thanksgiving.
And then I started work. The school I moved to was going through a divorce of sorts. There was some funny money handling from the Korean owners, and it was causing disruption with the school location. This of course, effected the teachers and the students. The parents stepped in, and began making plans to start a new school that would begin in January. All this was underway when I came on (finally) in November.
There’s more to this story that I’m not at liberty to discuss in a public forum, but there have been many tears. There have been many cries out to God about what I’m doing here. But in past couple of weeks, I really am beginning to feel like I’ve turned a corner. I’m settling into my neighborhood well, making more friends, learning how to use Korea’s version of Amazon. I joined my church, I bought a coffee grinder, and am working on getting my third party mailer finalized. The pharmacist I use and her husband look out for me; they’re always happy when I come in, even if just for vitamins or allergy medicine, and they were worried about me when I came down with bronchitis. They wave at me from the window when I walk by. I wave back and smile.
It’s safe to say Korea is starting to grow on me. I honestly cannot remember a time when I was ever this happy. I never could put into words to everyone why I was moving to Korea other than I just knew it was what God had for me. I feel like for the first time in my life, I’m really living, and I think that’s something God wants for us all. That alone is reason enough to sell all your belongings and move halfway around the world.