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Published: June 28th 2011
Growing up in a town of about 9,000 people and going to a high school where if I wasn't friends with you, I knew everything about you gave me a fear and love of small towns. I fear them because they breed ignorance and a false sense of security. They are full of people who never leave them and don't understand that there is a world outside. I love them because of the feeling of community where everyone, in the end, cares for each other. People come together for farmer's markets, school plays, county fairs, art shows, and concerts to show support for their town and the people in it. It's a lovely, boring, happy, stagnant, comfortable thing. It wasn't what I wanted though and so I left. I came back to live there for 5 months in between graduating college and moving to Australia. I worked on an apple farm, made new friends, enjoyed my old haunts and old friends, and spent perhaps too much time with my family. It was nice, but that northern wind was blowing and I wanted out. That's how it has been the last 6 years of my life. I settle down. I enjoy it.
if i leave this woman, WHO will take care of her? besides the wine??
But, I know there are other places and people waiting. And so it goes.
I came to Korea for the sake of travel. It was good pay sure, but money is never a deciding factor in my life. Money should never be. I hadn't been to Asia and knew very little about it. When I heard I would be in a town called Geumsan, I rushed to Wikipedia. It had no info on its Wiki page. This concerned me. I imagined shacks high up in the mountains where I would carry baskets of rice down to the school children. I'm not sure what century I thought I was moving to. When I arrived I found the town to be startling. Everything seemed old and worn down. Was there anything to do? I didn't see many possibilities. During this past year, not so much has changed. Geumsan is still rather old looking and no, there isn't all that much to do. As with Placerville, it's the people that make the place. I've found some of my best friends in Korea here. Margo, my twin who works at the school next door to me. Almost everyday I visit her or we
cinco de mayo
crazy woman on strawberry margaritas.
meet outside in the sunshine if there is any. Jasmine, who lives less than 5 min from my apartment. She makes me tea when I am sick and dances in the rain with me if I show up unexpected at her door. Jess, who just adopted 4 kittens. She keeps our girls dinners in order, writes our haikus, and helps me think of ways to decorate my apartment. And newest is Angie, in her ajumma pants, a party legend and ready to explore the mountains around our town at any time. Those are my ladies, but we also have the new boys. Scott, who goes on runs with me and helped me find the best place to eat by my apartment, Jean, the drummer in my band and reverse rain dancing partner, and Jono, who plays guitar by the braai and laughs at our stupid little play. More and more, I've found Geumsan to be anything but boring.
But still, I wanted to leave. There are new people to meet and new experiences to be had! I was gung ho in wanting to live closer to Seoul for my second year in Korea. I loved my school here but
it didn't matter. I needed a fresh new start. A recruiter of mine told me a subway stop where I might be living. I went to look at it with Margo. It wasn't very exciting but I tried to make the best of it. "Well, there is a nice little park here. I can...run or something." Later on, I went for an interview in a school near Bundang. Right away, my heart was pounding. This wasn't what I wanted. There was hardly any trees. Just buildings and more buildings. Where were the mountains?? The school was massive and it crawled with students. The English room was state of the art. It even had a noreabong. But the bathroom was squat toilets. Again, fear. As I spoke to the teachers and the current English teacher all I could hear in my head was "this isn't what I want." Classrooms of 40 students as opposed to 20. Teaching math and science once a month. 3 week winter and summer camps and extra hours all around. Plus boys. LOTS of boy students. I left in a daze. It was a revelation of sorts. A wake up call that said maybe the grass isn't always greener on the other side. Well, it was one bad interview. I had to think beyond that. Perhaps my dream school was around the corner. But I thought about it hard. I called anyone who I trusted to give me good advice. But the things that Phuong and my dad said to me stuck in my mind. Phuong asked me what my motivation was for coming to Korea. Travel. And what do I need to travel? Money. Staying in Geumsan would give me 2 extra weeks of vacation and a good chunk of change. Plus living in a town with no clothing stores that interested me really helped with saving. My dad, a teacher himself, said it's wise to stay with a good school. I had to decide how important the city was to me. How important was being close to nightlife, good shopping, and a metropolitan lifestyle for me? Oddly enough, it wasn't. On the weekends, I am out of Geumsan enjoying the city or other places in Korea. I don't want for anything. I meet a fair amount of new people and I'm constantly doing crazy things and seeing wild places. I realized I had everything I wanted here. Good friends, a wonderful school and co-teacher, a big apartment, a running trail, and students who I wanted to get to know more. Being by Seoul wasn't worth giving up that.
It's always easier to leave than to stay. I know it for a fact. I love packing my bags and knowing that I am going somewhere that no one knows me. The slate is clean. I am born again. In my moments of revelation, I realized that when I travel I am always running from something or looking for it. It's time that I stay in one place and stop looking or running, but just BE. Besides, this is by no means the end of my wanderlust. After my year here, I'm off to Europe. After Europe? Who knows. Wherever that north wind wants to take me. But for now, I'll be in Geumsan and sure, it will probably get boring. But, with friends like these happiness is only a short jaunt away.
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