After Israel, I still had no idea what I wanted to do in terms of career. I liked teaching and after I got home to New York, I decided to embark on the arduous Teach For America application process. I made it to the final round but in the end wasn’t accepted to the program. Looking back now, I feel very thankful for that outcome.
Two friends I had made in Israel were planning to go off and teach English in Korea for six months. After I learned that I wouldn’t be doing TFA, I decided to join them. The perspective to be gained having that kind of experience was just too enticing to pass up – the growth in maturity too certain.
I lived in a small but modern apartment around the corner from the school I taught at in a small town on the southern coast of South Korea. My friend Sarah lived in an apartment below me, and we would walk to school together every morning. I can clearly remember statues of bulls and bears and tigers in the play yard and aquariums of fish in the outside hallways between classroom. It was an odd scene for a school, but that was cool. Lunch time was my favorite, with all the teachers eating together whatever the cooks served up. All the kids brushed their teeth after lunch which was cool. A Korean teacher at the school and I fell in love. She gave me a kind of unconditional affection that gave me some of the most pleasant feelings of my life. She was bright, and strong and beautiful. I can give reasons and tell stories, but in the end all I should need to say that it didn’t work out. Just because it didn’t, doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate and be thankful to have had that period of time in my life. It was brilliant.
A few days a week I’d walk to tutor a student at his house. The differences in the houses and streets I’m sure could be described beautifully by someone, but that someone isn’t going to be me in this moment. I’ll simply say they were different (if you want more, use your imagination or the internet). When I taught my student, we’d sit on the floor and I would drink some tea, juice or water served to me by his mother. I don’t know why I’m telling this aside from the fact that it stands out. Being in that house just felt like an experience of deep immersion which I feel fortunate to have had.
My schedule was heavy in the mornings, and I often finished early in the afternoon. That made room for lot’s of reading and also for the new experience of yoga. I had never done yoga before, but I was a huge fan almost immediately. Perhaps because I had a fantastic teacher, or perhaps because yoga is just so obviously a tremendously beneficial practice for the mind and body…I was drawn in and hooked.
On the weekends, a group of us would often take trips to the country or visit different cities The experience taught me that you don’t need a very large group in order to feel satisfied socially…just one car load. I loved that on those days of adventure, we would pool our money at the start of it, and one person would be in charge of handling it throughout. We made the decisions of what to do together and it just gave a feeling of being more connected to the unity of the group. Because at least half of us were Korean, we were really able to experience a genuine getting to know of the culture. Words of course are not up to the challenge of describing the pleasantness of those days. But they were indeed pleasant.