5-10 August 2018
I’m not sure what images this place conjures for people. For some it might be the technicolor daydreams of Kpop, and for others it might be the tang and spice of kimchi. For other still it might be the gloom and doom of threat from the north, stalled in a frozen war.
For me, visiting South Korea was like having a date with destiny, one that I had been rain-checking for seven years.
It started as a means of escape. My ex and I were living just to get by in the expensive, soul-sucking metropolis of San Francisco. We started watching Kpop videos ironically, thinking they were completely ridiculous and over-the-top. Before too long, an obsession with Kpop had formed, and we were sliding down the rabbit hole, watching as many insane, dreamy, colorful videos as we could find. That lead to an exploration into Korean food and culture, and when we decided to get our TESOL certificates and leave the country to pursue new careers as English teachers, South Korea was our prime objective.
But longtime readers of this blog will know that we didn’t go to South Korea. My paramour was a political science major, obsessed with affairs in the Middle East, and so we wound up in Turkey, obtaining our CELTA certificates, and then teaching part-time and volunteering with Syrian refugees part-time (Ok, I admit it, I followed A GUY across oceans, but it changed my life and empowered me, so no regrets.)
The bullshit political coup d’etat of July 2016 accelerated both the expiration dates of my time in Turkey and the end of that relationship. I had anticipated working in Turkey for at least one year, but after only eight months, I was now scrambling to find a job. Oxford Seminars, the company that I did my TESOL with, had some contacts in Korea that I began applying for jobs through, and on a whim I applied with their contact in Japan as well.
I’m still not entirely sure why I went with Japan over Korea. I found the job description appealing and figured that being anywhere in Japan would be pretty great, whereas in Korea I would only want to be in one of the big cities. However, this meant that for the second time, while I had been close to moving to South Korea, I hadn’t done so.
I’ve been in Japan nearly two years now. Back in the spring, my friends and I went to dinner at a Korean restaurant here in Kanazawa. I relished in the familiar food and found myself humming along to the pop tunes that were playing. It was as if I was remembering a dream that had been forgotten upon waking.
“Korea is really close to Japan, right?” I asked my friends. “Maybe I should just go there and see what it’s like!”
Yes, Korea is really close to Japan. Later, I checked flights and found that Seoul is a mere two hour flight from my local airport.
And so, on August 5th, I took that flight, to final have that date with destiny and discover South Korea for myself.
Next time: Some first impressions of South Korea and comparisons to Japan.