To Live In The Daehan Mingook Or ‘Murka?

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I’d be lying if my Korean wife and I didn’t talk about leaving this country for at least a few minutes every single day. The reasons for departure usually revolve around how both of us have gone about as far as we can with our careers here—as a university professor who also tutors rich kids I apparently make as much or more than the typical doctor, while I met A. as she was trying to learn enough English to work as a nurse in the West—in addition to the obvious fact, present everywhere you look, that this is not a good place to raise a kid. There’s a four-lane highway right outside our apartment, people daily refer to our son as a foreign baby (and none of them will ever accept him as one of their own), every child is completely preoccupied with memorizing random information for multiple-choice tests, and there is so little diversity I can’t help but think that when my son grows up he’ll imbibe a lot of the xenophobia, monochrome conformity, and arbitrariness, that seems inextricable from the Korean mindset. Not to mention the cost of living.

And yet…

Like, if I moved to America, I would actually have to work. It’s two in the afternoon on a beautiful Thursday here in Gyeongju, I’m done for the week, and I’m sitting in a chair watching a thunderstorm roll in, the wind in the trees—and if I lived in America every such Thursday afternoon would be devoted to the generation of lucre.

The fact that I live in such a foreign place is alternately exciting or frustrating, depending on my mood, but rarely boring or normal in any way. Everything I look at everywhere I go is notably different from what I grew up with. I also live in close proximity to a number of far more exotic nations, many of which I have never seen or only barely explored. Settling in America would put to rest my dreams of travel (which brought me to Korea in the first place) for at least two decades. The seeming fact that I can speak and understand a low-to-moderate amount of Korean—while also conversing at a level that far exceeds any English teacher I know—while also having the opportunity to learn other bizarre languages, like Chinese and Japanese, for only the cost of effort—these things are also exciting and interesting, and I’m fairly certain I would cease to bother with these languages if I put down roots in ‘Murka.

I keep telling myself that two years of university experience will open the door to Western Europe. A. is currently working on her B.A., and should probably finish it, as she’s going to college for free. The baby is also young, and hopefully not destined to grow up into a fully-fledged racist prick just yet. These are the reasons we choose to stick around, though we’re still probably going to see if we can go on some job interviews when we head back to ‘Murka to visit my parents in a few weeks.

And yet…

The food is so much better in America in every imaginable way. There are libraries full of books. I can drive without fearing for my life. My friends are within range. People won’t stare at me when I go outside, and not a single person will even think of my son as being foreign. There’s a line from Terence—something like, I’m a man, therefore nothing human is foreign to me—and this is far more true of America than Korea. I could get involved in politics. I was totally bummed that I couldn’t help Occupy Wall Street. I might even be able to find a job that doesn’t involve waiting tables, cooking food, washing dishes, or sighing in front of computer screens.

What do you think? Stick around, or boogie?


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