Today, we met the newest member of our school’s collective. Her arrival had been expected for a while now, and had been delayed several times due to struggles with the application process. Nevertheless, today, she arrived. Her presence signaled both a new chapter in our time at our first school and a wave of reminiscing to our early days in Korea.
This morning, I realised completely that we have passed the half-way point of our first contract in Korea. I had thought about it before, but only for brief moments. During our 15-minute walk to work, I considered the notion in more depth than I had done before. The thought filled me with not dread, not regret, but hope and surprise. A few months ago, we were wallowing in the depths of the three-month-slump – something that all teachers in Korea report experiencing. The combination of homesickness, confusion, and the thought of settling more deeply into Korea is a scary one, and Kris and I both felt down in the deepest of dumps. We wanted to go home. We wanted to go home every day. We were looking for flights during our afternoon preparation time. And yet, here we are, three months later, considering our options for next year. And all of the major ones lie in Korea.
At this point of enlightenment, our friendly new co-worker appeared, mostly bright-eyed and enthusiastic, but also overwhelmed and exhausted from her journey. She was eager to find out the day-to-day workings of the school, and we were all eager to share them with her. In her, I saw a lot of myself in my first few days in the country. Everything was new. Everything was a change, and one that needed to be made quickly in order to properly do my job. Thinking back to my earliest days built upon my already-significant feelings of pride at coming so far. A little over six months ago, I was unemployed, living in my parent’s house, and awaiting with fear and excitement for a new part of my life to start.
I am glad to say that the reasons for fear have reared their head only briefly in our time here, and every day brings new sources of excitement and joy. While Korea may not be the pure wonderland we initially thought it was, Kris and I have learned to appreciate the little sources of happiness in our day. Walking to and from work together. Eating our favourite Korean foods when we feel comfortable enough with our saving pattern for the month. Spending our evenings doing as much or as little as we want. Seeing our new friends. Our work may be mundane and unfulfilling, but the rest of Korea more than makes up for it. And I can only hope that our new colleague will have the same feeling in six months’ time.