Thursday, August 21, 2008

Departure Date

It’s 2am and my flight leaves in twelve hours. I’ve been up all night wrapping up loose ends and my bags are still unpacked. I want to sleep for a bit, but the possibility of oversleeping scares me enough to keep me awake. My nerves are getting worse as the hour of departure approaches. All day I’ve felt hungry but at dinner I couldn’t finish half of my meal. I still wonder why I’m going. I’m leaving just as things were getting good in the Bay Area. Saying goodbye to my friends and family has only intensified the feeling.

A year from now when I return, I’ll have a new nephew, one niece will be talking and the other will be running around. I wonder if they’ll remember me. Will I remember them? Will I remember my friends? In my last conversation with Andy I asked how his relationship with Omer had changed after he went off to serve in the Israeli Army. What he said was smart but frightening. Andy said that when Omer was in town, their discussions were limited to the good times they had, and not about anything new. Their friendship became a friendship of history instead of one of activity. In leaving for Korea my relationships, by default, become relationships of history. I can still keep up through e-mails, but it’s not the same as participating in the adventure.

Things were just getting good with Jasmin, too.

Working as a storyboard artist wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. On some days I would have the sinking feeling that it was a dead end and that my cubicle was slowly suffocating me. On other days I felt great about the job and the things it could lead to. The trouble with going to Korea is that I have no idea where it’s going. Maybe if I was going for some kind of illustration gig, being commissioned to travel and create work, I would feel better about the whole trip. I’m concerned about the actual teaching part of this trip. Perhaps my work ethic and work quality will suffer because I know it’s not my real purpose here. Then again, I’m still not really sure why I’m going.

The laundry’s finished and it’s time to pack the last of my clothes. Still a million things to do before I go and it has yet to really sink in that I won’t see this place for another year.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

First Entry!

Hello, and welcome to the first post of my travel blog!

In March 2008 I applied for a year long English Teaching position in South Korea. When I broke the news to my friends, family and employers, the two most typical reactions were: “Why” and “You don’t mean… North Korea, do you”?

No, I’m not going to North Korea. But “why” is a good question and a suitable first entry for this blog. Hopefully in the writing process I’ll come up with an answer that’ll satisfy. It’s about time I sat down and recorded exactly why I’m going and what I hope to accomplish.

To be honest, at this very moment, I don’t really know. Things were going very well for me back home in the Bay Area. I had a decent job with benefits, a nice place to live, and lots of great friends. Now I’m actually here in Korea and I’m still asking myself, “why”?

In the search for an answer I wiki’d the subject on Teaching English in Korea. The article used the term “economic migrants” to describe the teachers. As unappealing as that sounds, I have the sneaking suspicion that that’s really why I'm here. I graduated with a BFA in Art, so why go overseas to teach English? Shouldn’t I be working on my career? Paying taxes? Leading society? Instead I’m overseas in a country I know nothing about, doing a job I wasn’t trained for and for a country with which I have no affiliation. Perhaps economic migrant is the best term to use.

Wow, suddenly I realize how old I sound. In reality, the above two paragraphs only describe my current mood, and currently I depressed about leaving home. However, in looking back a ways I think I can find a better answer.

The truth is, I’ve already been to Korea.

Two years ago a friend and I went to the Republic of Korea for a month to travel and teach at an English summer camp. In that month we taught English to kids, traveled the country, ate lots of kim-chi and got to hear about the experiences of other English teachers throughout Korea.

That was in August of 2006. The trip was short but left a lasting impression and gave birth to a small but unique idea. That September I would return to begin my final year of school at San Jose State University. After graduation I would have no obligations except to myself and my student loans. I thought that by teaching English, perhaps I could self-finance a multi-year trip through Asia, starting with Korea and ending in Australia.

I was a very young man and this idea sounded totally sweet. In the two years since I have graduated and had a small taste of the adult world. As a young man plus two years, this idea still sounds awesome. The effects of the working world were beginning to sink in, however. Hence the earlier pessimism and self-doubt. I felt that maybe this opportunity was too good to be true and that I should be suffering in a cubicle and paying taxes like everyone else. However, my friends and family have been very supportive, understanding and even encouraging. Almost all of them think I'm going to return home with a Korean wife. Maybe some kids, but definitely no wife.

So what do I hope to accomplish while here? Well, I am in artist by training and keeping a sketchbook has always been a part of my life, serving as a visual diary, journal and easy place to write to-do lists. What better place to keep a sketchbook than on an adventure through Asia? This blog will serve as the online component of that sketchbook. These written entries are condensed, revised and edited versions of my handwritten journal entries to update my friends, family and anyone else I can interest with this blog. Hopefully I can keep it entertaining enough to keep you all coming back. As such is the case, please comment on the writing as well as anything of which you would like to see more or less. Unfortunately I do not yet have a digital camera, but I’ll be getting one soon and I’ll post some pictures a.s.a.p. To all my friends who could care less about the writing and just want to see pictures of beautiful Korea women: sorry guys, you’ll just have to wait.

Thank you for reading and please come back!

August 20, 2008

-Ian Wing