3.31.2010

Teacher forever Korea stay.

Right. I'm home from work for the afternoon. I'm really into dividing my posts up by subject these days, instead of mixing it all in together, because I'd like to try not to give you kind folks too many headaches. So we'll hit on two more things today. In this post, I'll finally get into everything that's going on at home, and what it means for my future here in the ROK (because I'm sure it's become obvious, at this point, that there's been some private waffling about whether or not I'll be able to finish this contract over the course of the last week), and in the next one, I thought it would be nice, after taking a few swings at Korean dating culture, to do a counter bit about what I enjoy more about Korean dating culture than Western dating culture. Just so you guys don't get the idea that I'm against inter-cultural/racial/national dating. Because I'm definitely not.

So. First up. What the hell have I been being so mysterious about this past week?

Here's the situation: Last week, after the stroke, they obviously started doing all kinds of scans and tests and whatnot, and what they found was not only something going on with the brain, but something on the adrinal gland and something in the lungs as well. We all pretty much knew what that meant, but had to wait until today(/yesterday in the States) to get confirmation. They did brain surgery to remove what was in the brain, and also did a biopsy on a bit of what is in the lungs. Of course, it came back as cancer.

While we were waiting for the results, I started to prepare myself for the possibility that I'd have to beg for mercy from my school, get my apartment packed up and make an untimely departure. Because there's no way in hell I'm letting my last few months with my grandfather pass by with me hearing about it on the fucking phone. And because there's no way I'm letting my grandmother face that down out in Alabama on her own. Part of the reason why I took this job in the first place was so that I wouldn't be so utterly trapped by my finances -- so that I would be able to be there for my family when they need me. And this would constitute one of those times. I have enough money in the bank to easily provide for myself for a year without having to work.

Now. Do I want to leave Korea? Hell no. Don't want to leave my job, my school or my students. Don't want to leave my friends or my apartment, my neighborhood, this culture, this language... this life. I don't want to. I really, really don't want to. But your family is your family. And Korea will always be here. I've made peace with that possibility already over the course of the last few days. And, as much as I love Korea, I don't know how much I would be able to go on enjoying it dealing with something like that from a distance, feeling like my heart was somewhere else entirely. I take my commitment to my school deathly seriously. But my commitment to my family will always outweigh any other commitment I have in life -- be that to a friend, a significant other, or a job. Or myself. My own interests or desires. Period, the end.

As of right now, that situation is not yet on the horizon. The diagnosis is fucking serious -- don't get me wrong. But it's not that serious, not just yet. I've spoken with my family at length today, and I've asked them to please honor the fact that I'm not there -- I can't see things for myself. I have to rely on them to pass on information and to keep me informed, so that I can make the best decisions possible. I've also told them that I need at least a month, whenever it's time, to tie things up here and assist my school as much as possible so that I'm not leaving them in dire straits. They understand that.

I get the feeling like my coworkers are all holding their breath. They've seen me come in to work everyday, and teach all of my classes, looking like hell, but being 100% present, but they also see how I come down from that after my classes are finished, and they know that something very serious is going on. I believe they are all aware of the possibilities at hand, and they've been very supportive in that. They know that I love Korea, that I love my job. But they also understand how serious family obligations are. They know I don't want to leave, but they know that I will if I have to.

I had a small heartbreaking moment in one of my C classes today. My students don't have any idea what's going on with me, so they can't be blamed for it. One of the examples in the book was, "I'm planning to go to the U.S." To explain, I told them, in October I am planning to go the U.S.

Teacher, why?

Because that is where I am from and that is where my family is.

Teacher... no. Teacher no go USA. Teacher stay Korea. Graduation! Three month graduation!

They had misunderstood -- they thought I was saying that, in October, I would return to the U.S. for good. They were trying to tell me that they'll graduate in March, and I should stay until then.

No, pretty babies. I don't mean for good. I will come back. Just two weeks.

Teacher come back Korea?! Good! Teacher forever Korea stay! Korea Teacher home!

For just a moment, my shell crumbled. What if I can't see them graduate? What if I can't keep this promise? Believe me, babies -- it means more to me than it does to you. And the fact that it means anything to you at all makes it that much harder.

As hard as things like these are, you have to step back momentarily and take it all in. There are two places in this world that hold my heart. There are people in two spots on this globe who will notice when I'm not there. There are two lives that I have waiting for me, two lives that I value and love. That makes me so fucking lucky. This situation blows. There's no doubt about that. But to be so deeply blessed.... to have realized, truly, what this life here in Korea means to me, by having to face walking away from it, even momentarily... that in and of itself is a blessing. I will appreciate every moment that I have here in Korea, every class that I get to spend with my students, every crazy, extraordinary daily mishap or shenanigan I get to face down as a result of living outside of my home culture, all the beautiful moments that come from being inside of this other culture, which I have come to love so much. Everything I would miss so much if I were to leave tomorrow.

6 comments:

Diana E.S. said...

I'm with you... I don't want to leave right now. I love my job, my school, my apartment, my life.

But Dad is sick... so back to America we go.

I hope everything goes better this week and that you get some clarity about whether you can finish the contract or not.

I'm no Picasso said...

Diana -- You just have to accept it for what it is, right? I mean, I didn't have any idea how much I was going to come to love Korea when I first set out to move here. So I have to keep telling myself I don't know what good things could be just around the corner if it comes down to having to move back to the States for a while.

Korea will always be here. Just keep repeating it. ;)

Sabrina said...

I came here by one of your comments in Diana´s blog and just read a couple of entries. Thanks a lot for sharing your thoughts and experiences with your readers, I really enjoy reading your blog! About the importance of family matters I agree with you 100 %.
I hope you will find the right decision and I wish your family and especially your grandfather well.

I'm no Picasso said...

Sabrina -- Thank you so much for the kind comments and wishes. They are greatly appreciated, now more than ever.

Anonymous said...

what a big dilemma...but first my anonymous prayers are with you and your family.

your situation is definitely tough. korea will always be here, but your current position at your school may not.

have you tried talking to your school? if you explain the situation, your school may try to hold your position open for you until you can come back. as you yourself say, ask, ask, ask.

I'm no Picasso said...

Anon -- Thanks for the anonymous love and support. It's most appreciated.

I dunno. I'm still trying to sort out exactly what I should do. I don't want to rattle the cage at work before I'm sure that's what I need to be doing. And my school has been very, very good to me, so I'd like to inconvenience them as little as possible, even if that means I lose out in the end.

If/when we get to that bridge, I'm thinking I might volunteer to find a replacement myself, possibly someone who's only looking for a short stint, six months or something, so that I might have the possibility of getting home and doing what I need to do, and coming back to the same school. It would be the easiest, I think, for all involved, if we could make it work out.