Sunday, November 27, 2005

November 2005: back in Seoul, Korea

So back in March, when I made plans to live in BC with
my folks for as long as it too Mom to live out her
cancer, I had no idea it would take all of seven
months for her to do so, no idea that it wouldn't be
until late October that I'd finally finished all my
visiting and taken the trip to Seoul.

So I'm back now. Back in the land of palaces and
gingko trees, easy public transit and lots of rice and
pickled vegetable side dishes. In fact, I've been her
for a month (tomorrow).

Out here in Korea, it's been an interesting go. I
spent about a week recovering from jet-lag and getting
re-acquainted with Korea in general -- revisiting my
favourite areas, taking long walks, writing in my
diary -- and found myself incredibly bored, so I
headed out to find a job, quite a bit sooner than I'd
expected to. The plan, originally, was to take things
really slow, to see Matt and my friends, to travel,
maybe see the countryside, and make sure I'd given
myself enough time to grieve my Mom here in Korea
before I jumped into working and going back to the
grind of things. Being in Korea is interesting,
insofar as I'm finally on my own -- there are no roles
here for me to play, except for Rob. I'm not "Rudy's
Boy", or "Dan's Brother" or anything but Rob, and
finally (in that way) being on my own, gives me the
chance to start sorting out my own closet, after
spending most of September with the family, in BC, and
then in Ontario with Dad.

Being in Canada was good. Satisfying. Appropriate.
I'm glad to have had the chance to take that time and
be there with my mom and dad. I'm lucky that I was in
a situation where that was possible. Now, it really
feels good to have my life back in motion again.

Unfortunately, being back in Korea was boring, with
Exgirfriendoseyo studying as much as she could, and with Matt
working, and with only so many books, and so many
hours I could walk around without getting sore feet
and smog headaches, so I looked for a job. I went to
the director of my first school, to ask him for a
reference letter, and instead he offered me a job.
His preschool supervisor was leaving at the end of the
month, so he'd bring me in as a supervisor. I said,
essentially, "why not?" -- I love the area, it has
great access to Seoul and two nearby parks, and good
restaurants, there are good restaurants nearby, and
the foreign teachers working there right now are
really good people -- I like them a lot, and they have
some good, close friendships. It's nice to be
connected to that network, even after only one month.
Plus, my boss absolutely adores me, and I should be
able to work that to my advantage, and, if nothing
else, he's a known quantity, so I know what I'm
getting from him and from this school.

The drawbacks are these:
1. a roommate -- and female at that. I gave Exgirfriendoseyo
the chance to veto the job, and she said she was OK
with it, so we'll see how it works out. (Though it's
nice having a friend nearby -- sometimes my apartment
last year was WAAAY too quiet.)

2. the director remains the same guy he was before --
he means well (usually), but he's also a bit of a
wildcard, and often asks you to do things without
enough advance notice.

3. the first month in a supervisor position is a lot
of work. if the workload decreases after I've got the
hang of things, then I'm set, and I'll have a really
great schedule down the line, but for now, I've been
working long hours (on my own perogative, however,
which is a nice change from being iron-clad-required
to do so. I figure that, like with ice skating, if I
do a strong push at first, it'll be easier to coast
later.) But. . . 3.1. I was very clear with Mr. Kim
that if the supervisor thing didn't work out for me,
I'd be stepping down -- that was one of the terms of
me coming on at all. So if the workload's ridiculous,
he knows that I'll approach him, and we'll work
something out involving either a pay increase or a
responsibility decrease.

Fair enough. We'll see how it works out. I'm trying
to be supportive for Exgirfriendoseyo -- her huge
middle-school-teacher qualification test is coming up
in two weeks, and she's been getting more and more
stressed about it, and I've been seeing her less and
less. That's a bit frustrating, but, as Matt keeps
saying, "Patience patience patience" -- that patience
will pay off in time. Meanwhile, it's been good to
pour myself into work for a while. It gives me
something to think about other than Mom, and it's been
a while since I've had enough going on in my life to
be able to say "I'll just set that aside and think
about it when I have time". That's good, after a
certain amount of time. As much as I love Mom and Dad
and the siblings, I needed (in a bad way) to get back
to my own life.

So that's where I am now. The church here remains, as
always, awesome. They actually postponed their church
picnic for a few weeks so that they'd have it after
I'd returned. That kind of love is hard to come by.
Matt, too, has been a stellar support: compassionate
and understanding, with a good sense of when to talk
about it, and when to help get your mind off it.
Exgirfriendoseyo and I are doing our best to be there for each
other, between her studies and my new job, both of our
schedules are heavily taxed right now, but hard times
prove the measure of a relationship, and this story
isn't over yet. I like my coworkers more and more.
One of them (his name is Caleb. . . Overstreet? . . .
is an MK whose father worked with my friend Cheryl
(Mellis) Zeke's father in Amsterdam. I said the name
"Cheryl Mellis" and he said "Oh. Colin's sister." It
was cool. I made spaghetti for those folks last
Wednesday, and it went over really well, despite the
difficulty of finding the right spices here. (If
you're into care packages, send sage, seasoning salt
(the regular orange kind) and italian seasoning. . .
and Colgate total, which I forgot to stockpile before
I came here). My students call me "rocks teacher"
sometimes, but they're already warming up to me.
They're younger than anyone I've taught before, and
that's challenging, but it's interesting. Plus, being
a supervisor is using a bunch of abilities and
faculties I possess, but haven't used in quite a long
time. It's interesting tapping some of those aspects
of personal interaction again. I even learned how to
make a spreadsheet!

My next update will contain less matter-of-fact and
more colour, I hope. But right now, I have to send
this one out and head down to Dr. Lee's house, for the
American thanksgiving celebration potluck he's holding
at his house.

Take care of yourselves.