Friday afternoon, there was a meeting for Daegu's EPIK teachers who planned to renew for 2009-2010 to review the terms of our new contracts and allow us to sign for next year. They called it the "Resigning Meeting." A wonder no one caught the irony.
I actually really like the new contract--it's well-designed. The government has decided to replace airfare (and airfare reimbursement) with a set amount of money (1,300,000 won for a one-way and 2,000,000 for a round trip). Also, you don't have to use it for airfare, you can use it for whatever you want. This is wonderful for people like me who don't mind shopping around a little for a good airfare bargain. Heck if this contract had been my current contract my ticket AND most of Min Gi's for the trip to America (less than four weeks away!!!!) would be paid for. As it stands, I'll get reimbursed for my ticket--still not a terrible deal.
We're also getting more vacation days (10 in winter and 8 in summer), which is super, a raise of 100,000 won/month (not nearly enough to take the edge off the flailing won value, but still nice), and they're changing the end date of the contract to August 25 (which is great for me 'cause next year I'll be looking for U.S. jobs and will have to leave as early in August as I can).
Although I ran into a few lovely people who also work in the Daegu Public Schools as native speaker English teachers who I rarely see, but enjoy talking with, there were enough loud, rude, obnoxious, and thick people to make me cringe, thinking, And this is what some Koreans think Americans (Canadians, Australians, Kiwis, South Africans, Brits, Irish) are like?
I've said before that since Korea is so homogeneous, I often feel like a defacto ambassador for all of western culture. I'm often the only or one of a few foreigners my friends, acquaintances, and random strangers on the street have regular, personal interactions with. Not that it's right, but I do feel like the impression I leave might be how that person judges all Americans, white people, westerners, or western women. It can be a lot of pressure.
Apparently some of my "colleagues" (oh lord do I cringe calling some of those people that--I'm a professional educator and very few other foreign teachers in Korea, even good teachers, are that, though some do BECOME it while they are here) do not feel such self-imposed responsibility.
So I'll be here for one more year. And I feel a little strange. I know for a fact that were it not for Min Gi and our plans to get married in January (January 9, everybody, this is your official "save the date"), I would be elsewhere at the end of this contract.
You see, I love Korea. Even without my relationship, I would probably consider coming back here again. The lifestyle of an expat is quite comfortable and fun. However, I want to try some other countries before I settle down anywhere for a long time. I've gotten bit with the expat living bug, but I think I'd enjoy expat life in many different places. With my credentials and experience, I could easily hop on the international school circuit and spend the rest of my professional life country hopping every 2-3 years. I'd be thrilled with this.
However, there are two obstacles to this plan now. One: Min Gi and I would like to have children together one day. That means it would be in their best interest to stay in one country for long periods of time. However, he has agreed (and is excited about) living with me in at least one more country before we settle down anywhere. This makes him AWESOME. So in the short term, this actually is no obstacle at all.
Two: With Dad's health issues, I want to spend some time with my family while we're still all relatively healthy. I don't really have a desire to live in the U.S. again long term (I think it would be boring and I'd feel like I was stagnating, though there are DEFINITELY some things I miss). Missing family and friends is the hardest thing about living abroad, and right now, with what's going on back home, I think it's very important that I make this a priority for at least a year. The bonus to this is that I've learned so much about Korea while living here, that it helps me understand and appreciate Min Gi more (especially in the ways he's managed to overcome his cultural limitations--impressive in a person who has not traveled much). I'm hoping that spending a year or two in America does the same for him.
This will be my last year in Korea for at least another 3 or 4--wow. It'll be much harder to write about this at this time next year when I'm really leaving.
For now, I'm excited about hopping on the plane July 25 for three and half weeks of American fun! Now, if I could just find someone who would watch my cats for me during that time...