Sunday, November 30, 2008

approximately 40%

that is the (theoretical) pay-cut i have taken just be being here for 3 months*. theoretical, because they pay me in won and i live in korea, however i am the sort that needs to send money back to the US. this can potentially, and does, have very real implications for me.

1. i offered to fly my darling lady over, she charged the ticket on good faith, and then international finance happened. she was fantastic to me (in every way, but for the sake of this) financially when i was unemployed and running out of money, essentially keeping me feed for two months. unfortunately, her finances have changed just as rapidly as mine, and she is fucked since i can't get her the money. that is to say, what i thought was going to be my opportunity to (literally) repay her kindness has caused fiscal problems beyond our control^.
2. i have some debt that i planned on paying off while here, that has changed drastically.
3. i have to go to europe after my contract for a wedding, and some of the money (actually, all my money for europe) needs to be earned here

those are the biggies.

there is one large question that comes from all this, that is a lead-in to the really big question. first the smaller one that is easier to handle: what do i do after my contract is up?

it is only 3 months into the 12 i have signed, so who knows how the exchanged will look 3 months from now. that is the most obvious point, but why not speculate?

i really like my job. i enjoy teaching, but more than that, i like where i teach, where i live, and the life i am living here. this isnt to say it is 100% joy, but it beats the pants out of my life since 2006. is there a point where the exchange rate makes being here prohibitive? unsure. some experts say it can get up to 1800/1usd, but experts are often proved wrong. [side bar: the real shits'n'giggles aspect to this devaluation vs the dollar is that the people who are benefiting the most from this are the US armed-forces personnel stationed here, and they are the ones that, generally, koreans dislike the most.] as long as i have enough to keep paying my debts, perhaps the idea of saving some money stays a point that i cannot currently reach.

my goal is to re-sign for another year. i have given myself these two years to live abroad (part of what makes the lady so wonderful is working with me on this) and i plan on using them. what happens if i dont sign in korea? i need to then find a brand new country to go to, and walk away from what i have just stated is a life i enjoy. i mean, i can do it, sure--i didnt come to korea for a korean-centric purpose beyond being really excited to see all the paik nam june works, but i do love me some habit (that i can modify as need be), and i have found some (i have a local bar, have befriended many koreans, and, for the first time in my life, go to the gym 3 days a week, and volunteer once a week). plus, if i re-sign, i don't need to develop a brand-new curriculum, tho i am sure some of it could carry over to say, poland or viet nam.

the really big question is: what happens after these two years?

before i left dc, my friend threw a party for me and another guy who was leaving dc. at this party a friend of mine who is quite grown-up (is a partner in a marketing firm, has a house, married, with child) said, 'you know, when you come back, you need to settle.' i thought at the time, and still do to a certain extent, 'i'm not sure i need to be as middle-class as you', but there is still a very valid point to what he is saying. i have been pondering what will happen when i get back to the US and the only thing i know is i will be spending some time in buffalo with my family, then moving to where the marvelous woman is. (did i mention she will be here in less than one month!) but beyond that, it seems likely it will involve me heading back to school. this comes as a bit of a shocker. didn't think i would be doing that at what will be 32/33.

the idea of re-entering school at that age colors what i go back to school for. i still would love to take two years and get an mfa (so i can enter the factory;) but i have always thought an mfa is kind of an indulgent degree, at least i don't think i want to teach creative writing (not that it would be that bad to do, but...) so the only reason for me to get one would be to have full-time dedication to art production for two years, and since i am taking two years for myself now, that starts to add up. who knows, i will prolly end up getting an mfa and laughing at my current outlook.

the other possibilities that attract me are: getting certified as a teacher, social work, and community organization/activism. teaching makes sense. i could potentially start teaching when i got back and have my school pay for my degree (assuming i find employment). what level (elementary, middle, or high school) and what subject are open for debate. this in many ways is the most logical path, since i will have two years teaching experience, but as it is the most logical, it is the one i approach with the most skepticism as i am a smidge nuts.

social work seems like a good one. my biggest fear is burn-out (even more so than teaching--actually with all of these 'career minded' degrees i am terrified of burn out. it has been my practice since graduating college to not do the same job for employment for more than two to three years. the idea of having the same categorical job for 30 years or so worries me.) it turns out i want a job that will make a difference in the lives of other people, and while teaching offers that (and yes, it does 'help' people to be educated) social work seems like a much more concrete example of help.

community organization/activism. this one seems quite natural. while in buffalo i organized (with chris fritton) the buffalo small press book fair and worked with just buffalo in curating the small press poetry series. also, i think my public relations experience would be helpful in this field, tho i admittedly know the least about it.

a friend of mine thinks that i would make an excellent fact checker. that too has some attraction, but would require me to live in a large city with lots of publishing, i think. also, i wonder what the qualifications for such a position are.

when i signed my contract and came to korea, it was approximately 1040 won/1 usd. it is now about 1475/1. it has been higher (over 1500/1) and lower in the last two months.
fortunately, part of her super-awesome goodness is recognizing that these problems that have occurred all well beyond either of our control, and getting me to get closer to accepting that truth.


K. Lorraine Graham said...

Hi Kevin,

I really love reading your posts.

There's always Japan and Turkey--I'm not sure about the financial breakdown anymore and how much you'd be able to save, but I think it would be comparable to your contract in Korea. Worth looking into, perhaps.

I keep meaning to tell you that I've started posting some of the assignments I do in my classes to a blog with a very cheesy name: This helps me keep them in one place and makes doing web activities much easier. I know you mentioned once that you'd be up for trading activities. I'd love that--and if you're interested in posting any to the blog, let me know, and I'll make you a contributer.

I don't think you need to settle unless you are either forced to or want to, whichever comes first. I have friends and family who have never, ever settled in any normal sense of the word. No doubt you do, too. I guess I'm just saying the obvious, that making and carrying out plans doesn't have to mean settling.

Al Cohen said...

aw kevin

you're a natural settler
you friggin ancestors were on the mayflower

i can tell you that in my experiences as social worker and teacher, teacher has been the better role in terms of the net positive influence I've had.

A lot depends on where you're situated, of course.

I like the part of this post when you talk about 'settling for life in buffalo.' I think that'd be a great career move! We all miss Randy!

cf said...

The long-term plan. A symptom of simultaneously realizing we are going to live a while longer, but not forever. I think the most efficacious approach to a 'plan' is one you've hinted at - a series of microcosmic actions that culminate in a macrocosmic result. This is a great idea, because it balances a local and global view of your life, however, I think it can be really difficult to maintain. Often you abandon the end goal (intentionally or unintentionally) because of the course your day to day life takes. Or, you begin to subsume your daily activities into the larger telos. Either way, you struggle with giving each the autonomy it deserves. On one hand, you give the endgoal to much power over your daily activities. On the other, you lose sight of the endgoal because life began to drag you off course. You want to feel like you're making the choices that are right for you right now, but also feel like those choices are right for your future. How on earth can they not affect one another then? They do. They must. It's a highwire act.
I've started thinking a lot less about where I want to live and a lot more about what I want to be doing. No one we know has moved to a larger city and 'made it'. Except maybe Eric, but he didn't succeed in the arts. I think being able to do what you want to do and where you can do it is far more important than figuring out where you should be doing it.
More soon.

Pirooz M. Kalayeh said...

Hi Chris,

I enjoy reading your blog. Hopefully, we can meet soon at one of the readings or just one on one in Seoul. This Sunday a bunch of us will be having Italian together in Itaehwon. It might be fun. There will be other writers and people who may be able to offer advice on their adventures around the world. Hope you can make it.