People have the their own problems to worry about. You don’t need to hear about mine.


That’s a very moody sounding title for a blog post, isn’t it?

I’ll try to be brief. It’s pushing four months since I returned to Ireland after the long jaunt in Korea. There’s probably a lot to say about it but I’ve felt kind of pent up and not comfortable saying to much lately. I’m going to blame my circumstances in private but pretend everything is rosy on the outside. Despite this things are kind of rosy, as it is good to be back in Ireland, and while some things could be better there are plenty of people in this country suffering a lot more than I.

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Maybe I’m just battling against the former cushy lifestyle that I had in Korea, and the familiarity of living in the same home for over three years – something myself and Herself hadn’t done since we left our family homes some years before. Living in Ireland is very different of course, and the costs are always one of the first places you feel this. Learning to adapt to deal with these costs is its own challenge.

 

 

All three photos taken looking east from Capel Street Bridge, Dublin

Before we lived off credit cards essentially, where they would function as bank cards most of the time, but now we live off hard cash. So if there’s no cash in the bank, or indeed the pocket, there is no longer the long finger to rely on. This is both an advantage and a disadvantage, but you’re likely to be an adult so you can work out the problems yourself. I can feel the restrictions but I’m kind of glad there we’re no longer juggling bank balances.

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One of the biggest differences is where we live. Of course you’ll be familiar with the view from the twentieth floor, that spot from where our apartment looked out over Suwon and caught the sun reclining over haze and high-rise on so many evenings. The apartment wasn’t tiny by Korean standards but it certainly wasn’t large.

Compare it to where we live now. Our kitchen is almost as big, and certainly longer than our apartment, there are three bedrooms which are all much bigger. We have a separate sitting room, and a dining room a family could be comfortable residing in. But the real coup de grace is the garden, which is not only equipped with mature growth, a green house, walnut and fig trees, but it’s also massive. Of course I can’t be entirely happy – maintaining this space is a full time job in itself, or so it feels.

New skyline view from the garden

I should add that we were very fortunate to have this situation. The house is definitely not mine, it was my grandfather’s and after he passed away last year the house became vacant. Part of the reason we came back to Ireland so hurriedly – I suppose – was because we knew that we had this place to move into. Myself and Herself are grateful for the support of both our family’s, without whom this move would have been impossible. It is still a work in progress but at least there is some progress being made somewhere.

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Some time back I decided to focus my career fully on education, or at least education related. This decision came after a lot of thought and frustration, but one penny that did drop told me that I had been working quite enjoyably in education since 2005, so why stop now? There are a number of reasons why I would stop, namely a lack of jobs and generally lower salaries, but a reason I’ll continue is that I’m kind of good at what I do I think, and I kind of love learning myself.

This focus has made the transition to Ireland easier I suppose, in that I don’t mind teaching English for a living and when we came back in the summer there was no shortage of quality teaching opportunities. This is less the case now, but if anything the lack of work is a strong impetuous to get me up of my arse and find a proper job. There’s plenty out there, but I suppose it’s just a question of finally connecting the hammer with the nail, a skill I have a tendency to lack I believe.

Regardless of that, having to work in the city centre has been something I’ve missed. I am espcecially fond of those pre-work walks across the river, through Temple Bar and from there beyond. There are tiny features and so many sounds that even if you listened you would miss the majority.There is bustle and a hush on seemingly always rain damp streets no more than a minute apart. I feel I almost recognise every face. Town is a remedy in itself where I can daydream my way through the streets and imagine something.

Dublin city streets of an early morning

All that being said, if you’d like to offer me a job I’m more than willing to hear you out.

I had planned this post to be one where I wouldn’t rant on about my circumstances. I had imagined a later post in my life that would divy out the entire insipid unemployment fueled rant, but it seems that a genuine desire just to write something has countered any major veins of negativity. I’ve tried here to at least be honest while at the same time not bore you with melodramatics of a new life in my home country, as it has certainly been far from that. We’ve been enjoying it here, but it’s not without it’s occasional speed-bump. But we knew this was going to be the case so it’s hardly news.

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I’m keen to get back blogging regularly. I miss the attention, the fun of finishing a draft, the nervous wait for the view count the rise, and the sudden vibration and tinkle on my phone as a comment or like comes through. But I’ve been a bit at a loss for things to say, which is a poor excuse for someone as loquacious as I.

If there’s anything you’d like to hear my waffle on about or if you’d like a topic analysed as only I can, or even photographs of a particular place or theme from Dublin please drop a comment in below.

From the top of Google HQ in Dublin

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The photographs in this post were all taken over the past couple of months in Dublin. These days I’ve ditched my old iPhone 4 and and am now touting a HTC One M8, which is very lovely indeed (maybe there’s an idea for a new blog post…)

Guest Post: All Foreigners Come Back


About two years ago Conor wrote a real nice piece about me as I had just left Korea. It’d been a pretty long journey for me as I’d been there for five years. As Conor wrote I was pretty excited to do some things I’d been saving and planning for a while, but beneath all that was some anxiety as my long term plans were still unclear.

It’s a long story but the short version is my first job out of college was teaching in the Midwestern United States. It was a tough place with a lot of challenges, and after two years I decided to leave. I had the idea in my head that I accomplished something, and thought I now deserved some fabulous life or something like that. Basically as soon as I left my life went downhill. Lots of different things went wrong, had some ugly experiences etc. One thing led to another and I ended up taking a job in Korea.

I was hesitant to go, but I was really upset and angry about how my life turned out. Looking back on the previous few years I felt I had nothing to show for myself. Suwon South Korea ended up being my new home, where I taught English at a public middle school.

Almost as soon as I arrived things turned around. The saying probably is true that there’s nothing like your first year in Korea. The kids were so excited to see me. Do you know what it is to walk into a room and have 40 kids cheering for you? One of them would write “Handsome James” on his tablet and hold it up like a sign. I couldn’t walk the hallways for a while because the kids would see me and get so excited.

Jim’s middle school in Suwon.

That first year I didn’t go out much, but I was happy because I pretty much had a good time at work every day. I made a few new friends, and eventually started getting out more, doing the whole Itaewon and Hon Dae thing, seeing bands etc. During breaks I also got to travel to a lot of places I always wanted to go. I went to Japan a few times, Australia, the Philippines, India, China, Thailand, and a bunch more.

Along the way I changed a lot, and one day when I was out playing basketball with my kids something really hit me. I should have kept that job in the Midwest. It took me almost ten years to figure it out.

I never thought I’d do five years in Korea. Especially those first three, I generally believed every year that “next year” I’d be going home. Cut to the end of 2010, it was almost 2011, I had some money saved up and had been in prayer about leaving at the right time. I was working on my birthday which is right before Christmas when I found the note on my desk. Due to budget cuts, once my current contract would run out on September 30th of 2011 I would not be renewed.

Several other foreigners would have the same fate. I’d heard rumors this was coming, so it wasn’t a total surprise, but still it really hit me. This is it, it really is over now. If this had happened a few years prior I’d have been more upset about it, but I just accepted that it was time to go.

So I soaked in every moment of those last nine months. It helped that the new batch of kids that came in were fantastic. That last year was probably my second best year in Korea as far as the job went.

Then that day came Conor wrote about that I hopped on that bus, and I was excited. In just a few weeks I’d go to the New York Comic Book Convention and meet the legendary Stan Lee. I’d do a cross country road trip; self-publish a few books and sell them at shows, and do all these things I’d been planning and saving towards, but then what?

Jim with his poetry book at the Poet’s House in New York City

Culture shock was something I’d never experienced, but coming back to my hometown that’s been getting worse and worse, seeing old friends go through hard times, not seeing people you expected to see, and just generally being back in western culture was a lot to deal with. Reverse culture shock hit me hard. When a westerner comes back from Korea their friends and family tell them they’re glad they’re back where it’s “safe.” They say this because they love us and they mean well, but they don’t understand that we were quite safe in Korea, maybe even more safe than at home. I’m eating pasta at a Pizza hut in Suwon when some high school boys I don’t know come in. They’re excited to talk to me and offer some of their pizza. I’m walking down the street and some Korean teenage boys walk the other way and it’s “Hi what’s your name where are you from? You are very handsome! Nice to meet you!” Now I’m not saying they’re perfect angels who never do anything wrong. I’ve heard “Fuck you James” a few times as well. But in my own hometown that summer I was back a 15 year old boy followed me and a friend down the street yelling and cursing at us acting like he wanted to fight us. That never happened to me in Asia.

Doing my cross country road trip was great. I’d seen a few old friends I hadn’t seen in 10+ years, went to a few places I’d never been to before, but some of it was really heavy for me too. I went back to my old school in the midwest and ran into a few old students. One of them even said to me “We told you not to leave and you fucking did anyway!” I was coming face to face with what I did wrong.

However there was another personal situation which I won’t get into which was clouding my judgment, and I kind of blew a chance to go back to my old school. Now I was in a situation where I needed to start working soon and didn’t’ know what to do. Times like this you go with what you know, and, Korea being Korea, I was quickly offered a job.

All foreigners go home, and a lot of foreigners end up coming back. Almost exactly a year after I’d left I was back in Korea. Even though the reverse culture shock was hard to deal with, I wasn’t happy to be back. It was for a lot of reasons, but in short I was only coming back for a job and didn’t like that being the only reason I was coming back. I was real pissed off for a bit, but luckily it wouldn’t last.

This time I was out in the country side, kind of like being out in the midwest. The kids were great. I got to see a few friends that were still in Korea, got to meet Conor’s +1, and made some new friends along the way.

Still I knew what needed to be done. Last summer at maybe 2 in the morning I made a phone call and got the news that I got my old job back. I did feel bad for having to break contract with the Korean school, but I figured I’d do the summer camp so I wouldn’t totally screw them over.

Jim’s new/old school in the US

I was ready to leave Korea this time, and that’s the thing. I wasn’t really ready to leave the first time. Coming back helped me realize that I shouldn’t stay in Korea forever, as much as it’s a good life and an easy life, I’m not meant to be a lifer.

So what’s the point of all this? I don’t know. Conor asked for guest posts and this came to mind. I guess I’d want fellow teachers to know that there is life after Korea. Reverse culture shock can be really hard to deal with, but maybe reading this will help someone out there.

Both times when I went to Korea I did so hesitantly, but both times that country gave me a lot of healing and got me straightened out inside. In some ways Korea really saved my life. I’ll be forever thankful for that.

Dae-Han-Min-guk!

This post is guest post. For more on guest posts and how to submit please follow this link.

 

smiley jim

James Murray currently teaches high school social studies in the mid-western United States after traveling the world a bit. He enjoys movies, old cartoons, and a tall glass of milk. When he has spare time he attempts to write. In 2012 he started Hard Coal Studios for his self published comic books, poems, and prose. His website can be found at www.hardcoalstudios.com and he blogs at jemurr.wordpress.com/