Travels to South Korea

Sometimes I think my life would have been easier if I had my son in my late 20s instead of mid 30s. (Although I didn’t meet my partner until my early 30s so it wouldn’t have happened either way.) However, I know that if I had chosen a different path, I would have missed out on so much! I’m glad I was able to wait, and still get my chance to be Anthony’s mom.

I’ve already written about my experience with Katimavik, but I plan to talk about that one again a little later in the month. It should be the first one I talk about because it was my very first time travelling without family. I need to edit the story I was writing before I write about it again here. I will talk about Korea.

When I was 24, I had finished university. I was working in the deli in a grocery store, and although I had an Arts degree, I wasn’t having a lot of luck with finding job. I don’t know how hard I was trying, but I really had no idea at that age what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I had been in a relationship for five years, and had been living with him for about four of those years, I think.

I was feeling stuck. I didn’t want to be where I was. I wasn’t ready to settle down, and I wasn’t really happy where I was. A part of me was worried, I’d get married, have kids, and work at the grocery store with my degree. I had a cousin in South Korea, and this sparked my interest. I decided to look into teaching English there. As it turns out, from that point on, I had a tendency to move when I was bored or feeling too settled. This was my biggest move.

I left for Seoul, South Korea. I said goodbye to my boyfriend and my family, and got onto a plane in tears. The plane landed in Vancouver, and I had a long wait before getting onto the new flight. I phoned my boyfriend, and was already to turn around and come home. That’s the thing with being stuck. It’s easy to become settled and not be willing to try new things. Living with my boyfriend was my comfort level, and I didn’t realise how important it was to be out of my comfort zone.

It took me a couple of weeks once I arrived in South Korea to finally decide I could do it, and want to stay. I’m so glad I did. As I’ve said before, I am terrible at quitting, but I’m happy I embraced the adventure.

I also broke up with my boyfriend from across the world. It took me longer than it should have, but I knew it was over. To this day, I don’t regret the decision, but I do wish it was not done over the phone. I wish I had been brave enough to do it before I left. I was holding on tight to him though. We stayed friends while I was there, but don’t have much contact now. It’s friendly when we see one another though.

It didn’t take me long to embrace the single woman lifestyle. I drank too much, and I kissed too many boys, and I’m okay with both of those things. I was a little lost, but I still had fun. I tried to live with no regrets.

As I did in Katimavik, I missed my family. I was really sad over Christmas, but I phoned them as much as I could, and had as much fun as I could to make up for it.

Although my cousin was there, we probably only hung out between 5-8 times. We both worked in Seoul, but we weren’t really near each other. Seoul is huge. The subway system helps with getting places, but was huge. I figured it out after a while though.

The subway map. Luckily they had an English one. (Thank you Olympics)

I had a year in a brand new country watching an entirely different culture and being invited to try new things. We spent the weekend with monks, went to a famous island in South Korea (Jeju), went to a Mud Festival, and explored Seoul. We did a lot. We also spent a lot of time out at bars. (As far as I could tell, the bars didn’t close.) We had fun nights at our places as well. Honestly, it was a fantastic year. I went paragliding, and attempted to bungee jump before discovering bungee jumping is not my thing. We went to singing rooms and sang karaoke. We celebrated weddings of our co-workers. AND… we taught English to kids.

I worked at a private English school. The kids were in school all day, and then came to classes after they were done regular school. Some of them cared about learning, and others did not. There were four English speaking teachers, and a few more from Korea that were the Korean English teachers. I can see why it’s a good idea to have both. They HAD to learn English with us because most of us couldn’t speak Korean, but the Korean teachers were able to explain things to them.

I enjoyed teaching. I lost my patience at times, and really learned that being a teacher isn’t for me. It’s a great experience though. I loved a lot of the kids, and I learned a few tricks to get the kids to listen. They all had English names, and sometimes when we had a new student, we could name them ourselves. If there was a double name, we would call them James 1 and James 2. I used James as an example because James was an English teacher, and I’m pretty sure he named a few kids after himself. I might be wrong though.

I met some wonderful friends. Experiences like this make me happy for Facebook. It wasn’t around when I was in Korea. (My Space was). I joined a year or two after I got home. It’s good because I could stay connected to my pals I met in South Korea.

I’m able to watch my friend, Sus, live an awesome life in New Zealand with her family, and I can plan to one day visit her. She and I laughed all the time. We worked together, and lived in the same building.

I get to actually see my friend Sarah every once on a while when I’m visiting Ontario. (Although, she is always invited this direction as well.) She worked at a different school, but in the same area. We met her in a bank, and she came right over to introduce herself. I invited her out to my birthday that weekend, and the poor girl was stuck holding me up after I drank too much Soju. (Happy 25 to me. This was also the birthday I got a ride back to my apartment in a police car.) We stayed friends ever since.

My friend, Hannah, is in Canada now, but moved here from Korea (she is Korean). She’s now living in Alberta with her family, and I have met up with her once. She lived in the same building with her boyfriend (who was Canadian), and we became good friends. She showed me the great places to shop, and the delicious places to eat.

And, the dude I tell practically everything to (although my life is a lot more boring lately), my best friend through email. He lives in South Africa, and we have kept in contact since I left South Korea. It’s actually quite funny because the last thing he said to me before I left was, “I’d say keep in touch, but people don’t really do that.” But we did. We’ve cheered each other on through major life changes, and we’ve been there for one another through all of the tough moments. We tell each other the truth.

While I was going to university, I didn’t really make very many new friends. I was in a relationship with somebody who wasn’t going to university. We spent a lot of time together, and because of this I didn’t get my typical university life of drinking too much, or meeting new friends. I was friends with co-workers from the grocery store though.

I got this experience in South Korea, and I am so happy I met these people. My life is better because of all the people I met there. I am not still in contact with all of them, but they all left impressions on me. South Korea was an adventure that I was able to love. I wish I had been like that when I was younger.

I’m not adding a lot of photos. I don’t have a lot of them on my computer anymore. This was 2004 and 2005 so all my students are adults now. All our lives have changed.

When my year was up in Korea, they asked me if I wanted to stay longer. I said no. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had stayed. I was craving more adventure so I decided to teach in Taiwan for a year. I’ll be talking about Taiwan tomorrow. That adventure changed when I got there.

Thanks for reading. I hope you have a great adventure today. Big or small. (Our personal adventure was switching my son from a toddler bed to a bigger bed. Adventures change from big to small, and sometimes back again.)

©ErinLeahMcCrea All photos I share on my blogs are my own, please Ask Me For Permission Before Using Them.

2 thoughts on “Travels to South Korea

  1. I actually tried not to name kids after myself as there were already too many James’ in the class. I named plenty of kids after my sister and mum, and a few after my best friends. Eventually, I just let them choose their own names from a list on the board.

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