Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Top Ten Reasons to Return to U.S.A.

I've been struggling ever since buying my (much too expensive) plane ticket back to D.C. last week (and booking the kitties to ride with me, of course) with the reality that I'm leaving Korea--my home for the last three years.

I know I'm making the right choice for myself and my family in returning, but I am going to miss so many things about my life here and am returning to so much uncertainty (no job, no apartment, no health care--ack!) in a poor economic climate (when I know that if I stayed one more year here I'd be grad school debt free) that I keep second guessing my decision. What's really annoying is that my brain decided to wait until AFTER I've done something pretty permanent, like buying a one-way plane ticket and a visa for my husband, to start questioning my decision. Perhaps my brain knew better than to question before, since I'm facing some pretty compelling reasons to stay here one more year--not the least of which is that I love LOVE my job and it's likely the job market for teachers in the DC area (which is a hot mess right now) will be much more favorable at this time next year.

I need to list the reasons why I want to return so that I can make it more appealing.

1. Professional development. Having completed my MA last year, I'm now at a career stand-still in my current job, even though I love it. My long term career goals require me to return to the states for at least three years and possibly pursue certification in a second or third area and I can't really do that here.
2. Family. Can't get into this on the blog, but I've been away too long. It's been a rough year for the family and while my return will initially burden them, I think after a few months and getting established, I can help them out a lot.
3. Min Gi getting to know my culture. I've lived in his for three years, and it really allows me to appreciate him in ways I don't know that I would if I hadn't lived here. I'm hoping living in America does the same for him with me.
4. Value to society. In Korea, I'm kind of a non-member of society. My contributions here, while difficult for me and important for the people I see daily, are rather insignificant and shallow compared with when I lived in the U.S.
5. Certain hobbies. I haven't been able to do theater, sew, sail, garden, bake, swim regularly, or go camping in Korea. I miss these activities immensely. (Of course, conversely... continuing TKD, skiing, and swing dance will all be much more expensive in the U.S.)
6. Going Vegan. Considering doing this. In America, it will be much easier.
7. Seeing Green. Korea is a concrete jungle. Now, yes, I know the suburban sprawl has many disadvantages, not the least of which is rendering a car an almost necessity, but there are so many pretty parks in residential areas. I love being outdoors in the U.S. It's harder to get that feeling in Korea, though I certainly have found some ways to achieve it.
8. Diversity of Food. There is just so much more choice in America. Although I plan to try to eat more locally than I did when I last lived in the U.S., I still love wandering through supermarkets in general wonder and glee. Any ingredients you need to make Korean foods are readily available in America. This is NOT true in reverse. (For that matter, diversity in other things is also a good thing about America).
9. Privacy/Space. People have a wide personal space bubble and respect it. You can have an evening drink in your own backyard--a personal piece of paradise. No one will dare touch your boobs, your hair, or your car (or if they do, you're allowed to shoot them... well... maybe not, but certainly within your rights to give them a nasty dressing-down).
10. Bathtubs. It's just not the same to take your novel to the local jjimjilbang.

Care to add yours? Please... inspire me to want to go back to the U.S. Please... I'm on the verge of cancelling my ticket and signing on for another year...


  1. Well, you know, you can always come *back* if things don't pan out or if they turn out really, really awful, can't you? Maybe? Korea will always be here!

    Good luck with everything!~

  2. Well, sure (although the job and apartment I have now might not be available and there are many moving-related expenses I'll be kicking myself about losing). And if we're miserable after one year or I can't find a job within 6-8 months, that's the plan. But... going through U.S. immigration is HELL, and we want Min Gi to get his citizenship so we never have to do it again.

  3. I totally agree about taking your book to a Jimjilbang. I find Jimjilbangs just too humid for books. I MISS long baths and a good book! (We don't have a bath tube in our apartment.) That is a good reason to go back. That and getting Mingi to LIVE in America for a bit so he can truly experience your culture.

  4. If you're interested in teaching ESL in DC, I may have a job lead for you in a public school there. I know a teacher who is leaving.

  5. I under estimated how much I would love walking into a WalMart (gasp!) or Target and finding exactly what I was looking for once I returned back home.

  6. Cheese, glorious cheese! Curd, Chèvre, and Jarlsberg! Cheese, cheese, cheese! I was just thinking that if you're going to become a vegan, then cheese isn't a very good reason - but google then told me about all sorts of vegetarian cheeses. I hesitate to even type these next four words because you might just get on a plane tomorrow, but: cranberry chèvre with cinnamon. Hell-OOO-ooo?!!?!

    For realz, though - I think you should do whatever it is that feels best. I wonder as well why your brain decided to act up once you'd already purchased the plane tickets - but if the feeling that you want to stay here continues or intensifies as time for you to go draws nearer then I vote for listening to your intuition. As Melissa above noted, Korea will always be here - and the same goes for America. I wonder what the list of 10 reasons to stay looks like.

    For the past five springs, I've had to face the impending conclusion of my year-to-year contract and I've always chosen to stay because it felt like I wasn't quite finished here yet. Unfortunately, four months after I re-signed for this: my final year - I felt like it was totally time to move along. I've been biding my time ever since and now I am more than ready to be done.

    Anyhow, I hope that you make the decision that's best for you and Min-Gi. I've meant to ask before - but is that "G" in your husband's name a hard or soft one?

    And thank you, Diana, for your ongoing kindness and supportive comments. I truly appreciate everything. I wish you lived next door to me.

  7. There's a Korean grocery store near the Glenmont Metro station. What were the reasons you originally decided this was the right time to return to the US? For some of your reasons (e.g. privacy/space) that you are currently tolerating but not easy with, it will be nice to leave before they can become annoyances. Here's another small reason: not having to worry about communication and cultural frustrations on a regular basis.

  8. Swing dancing is TOTALLY a reason to go back too. DC has some amazing and wonderful dancers and is one of the scenes on my list of places I want to go. And they always have wonderful music. OK, it might be more expensive, but trust me; compare swing dancing in Daegu to DC and DC will win. Not knocking the scene in Daegu, I love you guys, but it can only be a swing dancing plus.

  9. Wow.. everyone thank you so much.

    Sarah--Yeah. I was craving a bathtub so bad on Sunday I almost went and rented a love motel for a couple hours. Haha...

    Kelsey--Appreciate the offer but one of the reasons for returning to the U.S. is to go back to teaching English lit and writing and get out of ESL. Not that I don't like it... just I prefer working with more advanced English concepts--like motifs and allusions instead of articles and adverbs.

    Jelly-- It's 민기, so the G is like in k/gimchi or k/gimbap. He used to write it "Minki" which rhymes with an English word that's weird and it's spelled on his passport "Mingee" which is just wrong.

    Eli-- My reasons for deciding are the first four on this list, in approximately that order, though #1 and #2 are about equal. Yes, leaving while I still like it is good.

    Lisa-- We went one night on vacation and it was a lot of fun. I know that the scene is good, but we are really close with the people who dance in Daegu (one advantage of a small scene is that you really get to know everyone in it). When I get a job, the fees won't be too bad. But I won't be able to do swing until I am gainfully employed. :)

  10. Yes, true, but then it's not about the swing dancing so much as the scene. :)

    Anyway, I have some friends in DC, including an ex-Montrealer who used to teach at the same swing dance school as me. Maybe I can get her to introduce you around (once you get a job).

  11. In that case, according to said friend, "general" English is on their high demand list at the moment. However, she says that DC is a madhouse right now, and that jobs are just as available in NoVA, where the bureaucracy will be better.



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