Whatever Will Come Will Come

September 30, 2011

And we’ll meet it if it does. I’ve got exactly four teaching days left before my replacement arrives, all green from Dallas, and just under two weeks until my flight to San Francisco. I wish I could say I’m looking forward to returning “home”, but the truth is I’ve been very numb to both what I’m leaving behind and what I’m going back to. It’s difficult to explain to anyone who hasn’t lived in Asia. Things that were once amusing now only serve to frustrate me. It’s very much like what I discussed about the bitterness of lifers in Korea: some let the anger build until it inevitably explodes, others shrug it off or simply laugh.

Lately, I’m sorry to say I’ve been feeling the former, even towards situations and people completely undeserving of my wrath:

– I discovered a sign that stated the NH Mart would be closed until 2:00 and a man felt the need to go out of his way and explain this in broken English. Instead of being grateful at his desire to help convey useful information, I couldn’t control this feeling of being patronized: “You don’t think I can read??”

– When strangers walk up to me shouting “Hello!”, I don’t even bother to distinguish the ones genuinely interested in talking and those just showing off. I just ignore them. With my clock ticking down, I can only see the latter.

– It’s affected me in the classroom as well. I don’t know exactly when Koreans get the idea that the best response to foreigners writing or speaking the smallest, simplest amount of their language is to open their eyes as wide as they can and clap, but one of my seven-year-old students did it this week when I wrote the name of the new teacher. Usually, I just write off their behavior to childhood, but the fact that it was a mirror image of the response I had witnessed from adults set me off. I was beyond peeved. Like I said, learn to deal with it; things will never change when it comes to Asia and foreign residents.

Looking to the future, I just don’t know. I keep reading news stories about the horrid unemployment rate and it occurs to me I’d be living with my parents if I hadn’t taken the leap and worked abroad. The only thing I can say for certain is that if I find myself in that situation, I’d be more comfortable returning to Korea; I may forever be an outsider here, but at least I’d be independent and answerable to no one.

I’m just uncertain and conveying that uncertainty in my writing, of course. I’m resourceful and smart, so it’s unlikely I’ll find myself homeless or unemployed for too long… I hope. I do look forward to seeing the new Couchsurfing headquarters, meeting new people, and exploring the Bay Area. Every time I see an ad for a travel job, I’m tempted to send it my resume and try another country for a year. But in my heart, I know that time has passed. I want a refrigerator stocked with food I may never eat. I want a place to hang my hat. I thought I wanted the stereotypical American Dream. And as much as I’d like to believe I’ve convinced myself it’s better to be living the life of a vagabond, day-by-day, out of a backpack, I’ve discovered a good balance of each is called for. I want a place to call home and a house to return to after my travels, but I also don’t want to be suffocating in a 9-5 job without the flexibility to take a week off if I feel like driving to Yellowstone or spending time with a friend. So I guess I do strive for the impossible, but isn’t that part of being human?

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