Well it’s somehow gotten to the 1st of January, and therefore to my obligatory ‘end of year’ post.

Well it’s somehow gotten to the 1st of January, and therefore to my obligatory ‘end of year’ post.

You may have noticed that I’ve taken somewhat of a break from blogging recently, despite there having been a good few things happening that I would usually write about. Christmas, for instance, my brother’s visit and our trip to the DMZ, or the sorry tale of my worst walk to school ever. It’s not even that I’ve been too busy to write, in all honesty I’ve been less busy this last month than I have been all year. The truth is that the well of my creative juices appears to have frozen over in this cold Korean winter and I can’t bring myself to spend my evenings doing anything beyond huddling in my rocking chair with a hot water bottle and a book. The only reason I decided to put down my Kindle and get out of the rocking chair tonight is because I accidentally sat on the hot water bottle and now the chair has a sizable wet patch in the place usually occupied by my arse. Now I’m seated on a (deeply unsatisfactory) replacement perch, warming my fingers on a shoddy space heater between paragraphs. How I do suffer for my art.

So, as many of you will know, 2012 was the year that I upped and moved to Korea to teach English with EPIK. Now that I’m nearing the end of my contract (only five teaching weeks left, three of which are comprised of entirely half days) and I’m sure enough that I’ll make it through, I can safely say that it’s been…alright. Obviously some days have been better than others, but although I’d love to talk about how blessed I am to have worked with such brilliant, funny, attentive, curious students, for me that simply isn’t true. For every student that has brightened my day or made me smile there has been entire classes, days even, that I have begun to dread again the moment they have finished. The bottom line is that I was not placed in a school that has been overly pleasing to work in, and in large part I’ll be glad to see the back of it. Having said that, one or two of my colleagues have ended up as excellent (and hopefully lasting) friends and I learned enough about the Korean education system to scoff when it was voted best in the world, so it hasn’t been a total washout. Still, I often find myself daydreaming about how sweet my first glass of return journey plane-wine will be when it finally settles in that I made it through what seemed at first to be an impossible year.

School aside, it’s difficult to know exactly what I’m taking from 2012 and a year living as an obvious foreigner in an alien culture. I don’t really know what I wanted from it in the first place, although I think in my interview I spouted some rubbish about ‘finding myself’ and ‘growing as an individual’. In truth, I pretty much knew where I was and what I’m like, and I secretly hoped that I wouldn’t too much growing for fear of growing in a different direction to the people I left at home.

The most honest answer as to why I came is because I wanted a job that didn’t make me want to jump off something, and I needed the money. Happily, on the money front at least, Korea delivered as promised. With any luck I’ll be able to use my savings from here to learn to drive, buy a (cheap) car and set myself up in a new apartment when I get back to England, which is nice. I love it when a plan comes together, mission accomplished, yippee ki-yay motherfunker, etc.

So other than working in a shitty school and hoarding my salary, how else have I spent 2012? First and foremost I’ve been lucky enough to have three (soon to be four) visitors to show around and hang out with. Secondly I bought a Ukulele of terrible quality and pissed my Korean neighbours off royally whilst learning to play it. Thirdly I took up Zumba and became moderately more healthy. I think if these things had not happened I would have gone mad…even in my school where I’m required to work pretty hard, I have a lot of free time to kill. I would like to have spent more time writing my blogs and I wish I had read more, but whatevs, New Year’s Day shouldn’t be a time for regrets.

Finally, because my fingers are getting bloody cold, to the things I have learned this year. Not very much Korean, that’s for sure, after I realised that I already knew everything I would need for day to day survival. I deemed the ukulele a more useful skill so spent my free time on that instead. No offense, Korea. I also learned that I have an excellent capacity for spending time alone without going mad, which is fortunate because otherwise I might have gone utterly mental. I learned that I can eat a huge amount of raw beef without feeling sick, but that one piece of liver is enough to send me running for the bathroom. I learned that once you have been thrown into a classroom of 40 Korean teenage boys without experience or a plan of action, nothing will ever be terrifying again. I learned that Korea really and truly does have four clearly distinct seasons and that only one of them is pleasant. I learned that the things I miss most about England are my family, my friends, mild weather, afternoons in the pub and roast dinners. I learned that Korean teenagers bloody love Doctor Who, and that David Tennant’s unparalleled excellence is recognisable even when watching with subtitles. I learned that even in a city in South Korea with a minimal foreigner population, there are excellent people I’m proud to call my friends. Finally I learned something about myself, and I learned that sometimes you have to paraphrase quotes from your friend’s blog to properly articulate it:

“The one thing I really have learned from spending this year living and working on the other side of the world is that who you are doesn’t change. I haven’t changed. I’ve probably learned a lot (a smattering of Korean, how to swim rather than sink in a classroom of teenagers, to smile in the face of confusion, to drink through culture clashes, to correctly identify stealth tentacles at least 80% of the time) but I am not going to be fundamentally altered by a change of scenery.”

Amen to that.


 **Quote stolen from: http://fingerbruises.wordpress.com**

Leave a Comment