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I just spent the last week or so trying to force myself to go through all the books, DVDs, and all the other stuff I’ve ‘nested’ with over the past five years and change that I’ve been in Korea.
I think it all began back on Ganghwa Island. When I found out I was living in a two street village next to a mountain with the closest native English speaker a 30 minute bus ride away and the closest urban center an hour plus away by bus I began picking up things that helped me cope with the isolation and stress of teaching and living in Korea.
One of the big stress relievers I used was watching movies and TV shows. I pretty much lined the walls of my room with bookshelves filled with DVDs. I remember reading an article while doing a research paper for an honours history course I took about the few women in the 1600s who knew how to read and that they lived in a kind of ‘book lined cell’–in some ways I kind of feel like I’ve been living in a book and DVD lined cell during my time in Korea.
Creating my own comfort zone, though, was necessary to coping with, and adapting to, life in Korea. I don’t know if I would have been able to manage living out on the island during my first year without the things I began to accumulate.
But then each progressive move from contract to contract, and new apartment to new apartment, began to take on a life of its own—a hideous monster made up of an amelgamation of STUFF kept growing and growing and GROWING . . .
Preparing for the move to China is forcing me to reassess all of the things I have in my life, and choose what I value most and want to take with me. It’s actualy been quite good for me in spite of also being insanely stressful.
I’d have to say my cameras and lenses are now one of my most valued possessions, followed by my literature and literary theory books, and then my ESL/EFL library of books. My DVDs were also included but I’ve had to divorce myself from them and let go nearly my entire collection. I pulled out my favorite movies and TV shows that I know I’ll watch again and again, and the rest . . . gone. (THE HORROR, THE HORROR! Lol . . . sigh.)
Julianne’s been very supportive as I go through this major transition and move from Korea to China. She is nowhere near the pack rat that I am, and doesn’t really have much to let go of. I’m very grateful for her calming presence every time I stood in the middle of my apartment looking at all the stuff and trying to decide what to let go of . . .
I’ve decided to donate a lot of the small electric appliances and dishes and flatware to my school so that each new native teacher over the coming years will arrive in Korea to an apartment that has a lot of what an average person would need. I had to make a very strong suggestion that an inventory list be made up, though, to the school admin office manager because he didn’t even remember what the school had bought me when I first arrived (which was only a bed and a TV, but still, those are valuable things).
This morning was the ‘final inspection’ of my apartment–if I can even call it that. In fact, I had to strongly encourage my co-teacher to tell the manager that he should visit and check the apartment on my last day. If I hadn’t done that he would probably have never even thought of it; in his defense, I am the school’s first native teacher so I get why he doesn’t know or understand the need for a final visit.
Last night, and again this morning, I spent about 4 hours scrubbing down my apartment. I know there is a tendency in Korea for people who move to just leave their apartment as it is, and let the person moving in (or the building manager) take care of cleaning it up . . . but I want to leave Korea knowing that the places I’ve been are a little better than when I arrived.
I even drew a map of the area around my apartment and pointed out good places to eat, where the hospital is, immigration office, bank, etc, and how to get to the school for the newbie that is arriving tomorrow. I’m kind of concerned about how the Korean co-teachers will deal with a real ‘newbie’ who has never been in Korea before and has never taught before . . . it should be interesting to hear from this new teacher as he settles in. I think I’m in for some highly amusing emails about some of the things I think he’ll encounter during his first month in Korea, and at the school, lol.
A few minutes before I sat down to write this post my co-teacher and I went to do make my formal ‘good-bye’ to the school principal. I think we caught him napping cause when my co-teacher knocked on the open door he got up pretty slowly, lol. He’s actually been one of the coolest principals I’ve ever had while teaching public school (one reason being he doesn’t micro-control everything and anything I do!), and I’ll actually miss the guy. He can’t speak a word of English, but he gives off a friendly vibe.
In about 30 minutes I’m supposed to go for a final lunch with about 7 of my co-teachers from the school. It should be interesting to see who comes as one or two of my co-teachers, I think, probably won’t want to go as we’ve had a few disagreements here and there during the speaking tests and other class-related issues . . . The sad thing about that is that in terms of personality we get along great–it’s just that when it comes to teaching and testing that some problems arose. I’ll probably write a post about the lunch later depending on how the day goes.
This afternoon I have to begin shipping my books to China. Julianne and I found out that you can ship a box that weighs 20kg for about 40,000 won. I’m a little nervous about them getting lost on the way there (some friends told me the mail system in China is not that great) but given the other option of not bring them with me is no good. I love my books, and want to bring them with me.
Also, all of the research I’ve done about China says that English books are insanely expensive there. It also says that the access is limited, and that in terms of ESL/EFL bookstores also very limited. Bringing my teaching library with me to China is a really good idea, I think, as I won’t know what resources I’m going to have at the university Julianne and I will be teaching at.
Well, that’s about all I have to write about for now. I’m so glad that I’ve been able to sort through nearly all of my stuff, and now know what I’m taking with me, and what I’m leaving behind . . . my head is definitely a lot clearer now.
Other friends who are leaving Korea have also been posting on facebook about how they’ve had a hard time sorting through the stuff they’d accumulated too. It seems like all native teachers who stay past the 2 year mark run into this issue. I don’t even know if it’s avoidable because nesting and creating a comfort zone is a critical part of adapting to living and teaching overseas.
I’m just going to have to find new ways of doing that in China cause there’s no way I want to go through dealing with the stuff-monster again!
Saw this today as I was surfing some of the China expat blogs I now have bookmarked (I’ll post a list of those later).
I highly recommend going and reading EVERYTHING at Understanding China, One Blog at a Time: An American in China. It’s funny, and insightful, and scary too, lol.