So it has been what? Two years? Wow. So I thought this blog was dead, but like everything in my life, what I think is deceased, buried, ready to immortalize themselves in the caches of life, becomes revived, renewed and ready for the challenges ahead.
It sounds cliche but I have been thinking about you more than you know. Countless times, laying in bed, this blog has crept its way into the tranquility of the abyss of peaceful rest and disrupted it. How did I leave you? On September 28th 2016. No explanation. Just up and out of the blue, I was gone. The last story about a cookie joint in Gyeongridan. So what happened? Let’s answer this question as quickly as possible.
What the hell happened to you?
The plan was not to move to Boston Massachusetts, but alas there we were on Christmas Eve 2016 sitting in my in-laws’ living room. I was unpacking my suitcase, still feeling the warm embrace of my kids whom I haven’t seen in three weeks, looking around our temporary refuge thinking that for the next couple of decades this would be my life. But, it wasn’t meant to be.
Rewind to September 2016. My blog was doing amazing. My life was doing amazing! We were almost at 10k views per month. My wife had just received a promotion from her school. I was offered a job at her school as a social media / communications coordinator and part-time substitute teacher with good pay and lots of vacation so I could keep working on my writing, and also living in an energetic city with so much to write about, that you could dedicate your life to it and it would still not cover everything.
Then we hit the dreaded visa snag. In order to get an E7 visa at my wife’s school, I essentially had to start over; this with an expiring passport provided to be quite difficult. That process, combined with my old schools unwillingness to write a letter of release forced me go without any type of pay for almost six months. By the time Christmas rolled around, and I still hadn’t received my visa (or paycheck) from my new employer, we basically said “FUCK IT!” and broke contract and moved to the United States. Breaking that contract was the hardest thing professionally for my wife and I to do. We had worked so hard at finding a place to work together at. All of our friends were in Korea. Our entire social network, including this blog, were based in Korea. In my 37 years on this planet, leaving Korea for the United States was the hardest thing I had ever had to do. But, in the end, you need to do what’s best for your family. So on December 10th I left for Canada, and then to Boston.
Life in the United States and Suburbia
In one word: expensive. In three words: expensive and boring. Don’t get me wrong, I have no beef with the United States and with Massachusetts. Overall, it was a learning experience, and for that, I will always be appreciative. But once you live abroad, in our case for almost a decade, home is no longer home. The friends you had are there, but are faded images of who they were. Family is there, kind of, but on their own paths heading in directions that you can’t even comprehend. The boredom of suburbia. The constant pressure to buy shit we don’t need in order to fill some voiding gap in our lives. The never-ending battle of schedules and playdates. It was fucking draining. On top of that, the savings account was slowly draining away. Healthcare costs, food, car, insurance, gas, student debt, and rent. Teachers in the US don’t make shit. My wife, with three Masters degrees, was working at an inner-city Charter school in Lawrence Massachusetts where they couldn’t even afford to run air conditioning in the summer, for a peltry 3000USD a month. I was working part-time at the YMCA teaching ESL to new immigrants in America, which was a fantastic job and wonderfully rewarding, but part-time doesn’t pay the bills. So why not full time? Well, with two kids needing childcare it would have run us about 1800$ per month and that was the cheapest option. An apartment in the Boston area? At least 2000$ per month. You can do the math from here.
The Turning Point
It was at my sister-in-law’s wedding. Jill and I had a little time to ourselves. We weren’t happy. We each wrote down a list of things that made us happy. We didn’t share it until after we had written it down. The first thing on the list? Traveling. The second thing? Teaching abroad. The third? Experiencing different cultures. Owning a house? Nope. Buying things? Fuck that noise. We looked at each other and said, literally simultaneously, “We need to go back.” Fast forward to November, we signed contracts for a school in Gwangju South Korea. Fast forward one year later. We are getting off the plane at Incheon. That photo up there? That’s me and the family, after a long 20 hour flight, but we couldn’t be happier.
Where am I going?
The US was incredibly difficult for us financially so the big trips are going to have to wait. My photographer and I have some really big plans for this blog and other projects. But for the next year, the focus will be on Korea, hiking, restaurants (of course) and family friendly spots with the kids. Maybe the occasional interview and profile. It feels good to be back. It felt great leaving the airport and walking out into the Hyatt in Incheon. It felt like home. I am looking forward to the future, for the first time in a long time, please, continue to come along for the journey.
Glad you guys are back. Come say high in Jeju soon.
We will! Jeju is definitely on the list!
welcome back Derek!
Thanks Andy! Good to see you again!
Great to see the blog has been resurrected! Good luck with your return to SK. Just remember: You don’t have to become a Tigers fan just because you live in Gwangju. 😉
Lotte Giants forever! I got some shade wearing my jersey last weekend.