Thursday, December 16, 2010

Why? I write to remind myself.

So why would I start blogging about Korea when we are still here in Canada and our plans to move to South Korea are more than seven months away?

One reason is because traveling, nay, relocating to the other ends of the earth, is (insert appropriate adjective plus exclamatory punctuation here) enough when done alone or as a couple, but it is a different game entirely when preparing to move as a familial unit: dad, mom, son (age 7 at departure time), and daughter (three and a half at DT). There are all the regular preparations to be done when moving overseas (immunizations, passports, visas, insurance, other assorted important documents, etc., not to mention the luggage), but it is now X4. Blogging on this topic is a good way keep a record of our family's preparations for our big adventure.

This leads to another question: why are we going to Korea, anyway? South Korea's a crazy place, with even crazier neighbours. The air is bad. Sometimes, people's habits and behaviours or beliefs range from bewildering to absolutely infuriating and unjust. Our family and friends are all here in town with us, for the most part. We live in a good neighborhood, generally safe, close to conveniences. I have a pretty decent job that I quite like; I never dread going to work, I like the people I work with, I like my actual work (teaching English for Academic Prep at a university), with a good pension and benefits plan. The air is clean. We don't have a lot of money, but we're able to afford not having to pay for daycare so that Matthew can stay at home with the kids, namely just Roo, since Bo is in school all day. (The benefits of being able to afford having a stay at home parent with kids when they're young is invaluable... a topic I'll cover at a later date). We have a Subaru station wagon (white, not too flashy, especially in this neighborhood!), and we live in a cul-de-sac with little traffic. We rent in a neighborhood where we could never even begin to imagine being able to afford to buy a home, a quieter area with winding, unnecessary roads.

Yet, as the years pass, we realize we're settling, albeit uncomfortably so, into a life that neither one of us had dreamed was for us. We're realizing that our grand dreams of travel, of exploration and adventure, of education for our children, are going to pass if we continue to just settle for our present life. We continue to feel itchy and restless because we've seemed to have done exactly that, settled into the suburbs, and into a life that neither of us dreamed for ourselves.

Life seems good. It is good! But perhaps the biggest reason we want to leave this life is because we live among people from a culture with values and beliefs, in many cases, in opposition to our own. The vast majority of the upper-middle class who surround us, and, it seems, our entire culture, value money or the evidence of that money by way of a variety of possessions, instead of time with their children. Actual time spent with their children, as opposed to the time spent working in order to provide iPods, or other devices for distracting their kids' attention from the real world. Time spent teaching their children how to be disciplined and hard-working, positive and well-behaved people who know how to interact with others in the world. To impart upon their children an appreciation for the things they appreciate by spending time doing these things with them... cooking, music, art, sports, gardening, etc.

I am referring to the people who work so desperately hard to fit an image in order to garner the respect and admiration of others around them (by flaunting an existence of wealth by owning a certain amount of property, owning more than one car, outfitting their kids with the proper accountrements of a "Jersey Shore"-obsessed youth - just watch South Park's "It's a Jersey Thing" for their own unmistakable commentary - and so on and on and on...), instead of the respect and admiration of their husband/wife and children.

It would be naive, if not downright stupid, to think that "moving up the ladder" is not present in Korea. In fact, "keeping up with the Kims" is fiercer than the North American "Joneses." So why move us all to Korea? Because the fact remains that we are not Korean, and we will never fit there. We have no desire nor expectation of fitting into Korean society and keeping up with it. We do, on the other hand, feel intense pressure to fit in and keep up with the society and larger culture to which we belong now. And it really doesn't sit well with us.

If we don't prepare now, we will probably never go. We might stay in the suburbs where life is good enough, and we'll settle into becoming the type of people we swore we never would when we first decided upon spending the rest of our lives together.

There are other reasons why we've chosen Korea, such as being able to get quite a good job, and being able to save money, and being able to live overseas with our children, but the biggest is to live our dreams and make them come true. The first step is Korea, and then who knows where?! Possibly living in Israel, or learning how to do organic farming, or studying French in Montreal. And, or course, settling, when we are ready (in maybe 4-5 years, when Bo would be about eleven and Roo eight), into a house in a place (likely in Canada) that we can afford, where we can work at something we love, and where we are surrounded by a community with whom we feel a sense of belonging and solidarity. We might very well have chickens. We would need to have a large garden.

So to answer the original question - why blog? - I write in order to remind myself of keeping to our dreams and not settling, and to maintain an account of the process.


Anonymous said...

Korea's like crack. You know it's bad for you. You know you'll have to give it up at some point. And you know it's always there.

Hanna said...

...sweet, delicious, stomach-rotting spicy crack!

Maria said...


I recently compiled a list of the Top 50 Blogs for those interested in teaching abroad, and I just
wanted to let you know that you made the list! We are promoting the list to college students looking to
learn more about teaching or living in a foreign culture. The list is published online at

Thanks so much, and if you think your audience would find useful
information in the list or on the site, please feel free to share the
link. You can also use the button we've created for the
list, which I can e-mail you. We always appreciate a link
back as we're trying to increase readership.

Thanks again, and have a great day!


Nathan B. said...

Hanna, I really enjoyed reading your first few posts, especially this one. Your family sound in many ways similar to my own: I and my wife have lived in Korea (from 2004 to 2007; our son was born there), and I also teach (when student numbers permit) in a western Canadian university. I also find that I am often dissatisfied with certain aspects of life in Canada (though not with others), and I miss Korea and "Kimbab Cheonguk" quite often. I've even been to Israel, though I am not actually Jewish (I'm an ex-Christian). Anyway, good luck to you and Matthew, and I hope you'll both keep blogging.

Hanna said...

Thanks, Nathan! And thanks for the detailed information regarding common pronunciation problems for Koreans learning English.