Friday, November 19, 2010

Contradictions!!!! Fan vs. Science. Round 1.

Once one has lived here for a while, it can be seen that S. Korea is a one big contractiction. Its amazing how such an economically and technologically advanced country can be so downright backwards in so many ways. There are so many contradictions I will just start at my favorite.
The number one contradiction: Science vs. Fan. There is a belief in Korea called Fan Death, where if you sleep in a closed room with a fan blowing, you will probably die. Now this death can be diverted if you remember to open the window in the room before you fall asleep. It's only a death-threat if the windows are all closed.
Now when I first heard of this "fan death" I thought it was an old wives tale. I was sure that upon asking my Korean Co Workers they would say that people used to believe it and they obviously don't now due to scientific evidence. After all, this is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world. Home to many well known companies such as Dae Woo, LG, ect. There are toilets that clean themselves and laundry machines that have a million different settings and sing a little song when they are finished.
My friends and I started to ask a broad range of Koreans, young and old, what their thoughts were on fan death. To our shock and surprise, all of them believed it! Now these were not loaded questions. We were not trying to sway evidence in our favor at all. Upon asked, "What do you think would happen if you fell asleep with the fan on and all the windows closed?" all of the Koreans we asked actually responded somewhere along the lines of, "You might die..."
So there in lies my first contradiction, science vs. the fan. They have all the scientific materials and know how to set up a long study to prove or disprove fan death. They could just infer that their Korean-made Dae-Woo fans were of a high quality and weren't going to fly apart and kill someone. They could even go as far to invent some kind of safety fan made of styrofoam or someother soft material. But no, instead they believe in fan death. Even the curriculum that I am supposed to teach to my pre-schoolers at school instructs me to teach them about fan death. Do they just want to believe?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Should I stay or should I go?

So here I am, still in South Korea. I can't believe how fast 8 months have already flown by. Sure enough I have bonded with these crazy little Korean six year olds and will miss them more than I would like to admit. I won't miss the tantrums and whining but I will miss the joking and satisfaction gained from actually teaching them to a point where they can actually have a real conversation with me.
I'm not sure why I came here. I was in such a haze at the time theres not telling what I was thinking. I just made a gamble that this would be a good experience and that one day I would have some sort of epiphany about my future. I know it sounds ridiculous, but in a way both things did happen. Of course its not as extreme as I had once imagined an epiphany would be. Virgin Mary didnt appear to me in my window and I didn't have any hallucinations of my great grandfather on a mountain top. But there was one moment of clarity in which I suddenly realized what I wanted to do. Now the only question is can I do it?
I think everyone my age, whether here or back at home is in this same horrible position. The dreams we once had are not longer attainable. Most of us are forced to scrounge around for any kind of job. Some are settling into bullshit corporate jobs that work you to the bones and pay you pennies. I went down that route for a couple years and will never go back. It just left me bitter, chubby and tired. Like most corporate office workers (no offense you do work hard). Another option for someone of my age, and a graduate of a four year university is to move back in with their parents and work a part time job while saving up for graduate school. This is a great option for those who get a long well with their parents. Unfortunately for me, my parents literally live out in the middle of nowhere in a broccoli field. My days would be spent picking cabbage and convincing red necks not to drive drunkenly through town. Another con to this option is the very high possibility that after you dump all your money into your graduate education and there will still be no viable options for you when you get out!
The reason why people are getting stuck here for so long is that in the short term sense, staying here is a much better option. You get a free flat and payed enough to travel all over Asia and buy whatever you want. Compared to going home and working at McDonalds this is a much better option. And wait...I probably can't even work at a fast food chain because since I am college educated I am way too over qualified for 90 percent of part time jobs. I can't even get a part time job even if I wanted to make money and try to go back to school. So my only option for trying to go back to school is to live on my parents couch or win the lottery.
So by now you must be wondering why I don't just stop bitching and stay here. The reason why I can't is because there are not that many opportunities for upward movement. People that stay here, while they are comfortable in their living situation are also stuck in one place. They are not struggling but they are also not building any kind of career..unless they want to stay here and be an english teacher forever. I actually do want to be successful. I do want a career. I am willing to work hard at something that I know will actually pay off in the end.
I read a lot of articles about older people complaining about the "laziness" of my generation. Constantly complaining about how we are not successful because we are unwilling to work. I would like to say that I think we are completely misunderstood. We are not unemployed because we are lazy, but because there are no jobs. Simple as that. I guess the obvious response would be, "there are jobs you just need to get off your keister and put in some elbo grease and you'll eventually be successful...."(said in an old man voice). The problem with this mentality is that the "American Dream" is dead. The ideals of the Protestant Work ethic no longer apply to the situation that we are now in. Chances are most of us are not going to make more than our parents. Most of us will probably have to live with room mates and in apartments a lot longer than we want to. Most of us will have to fight tooth and nail to get entry level jobs that were once stacked in heaping piles upon the desk of any average college graduate. Most of us will have to change jobs multiple times in our lifetime. Most of us will not have social security money to retire on when we are in our mid 50s and will probably have to work as a high school janitor well into our 80's.
That said I don't blame my fellow 20 something year olds for going abroad to work or doing whatever we are doing to drag our feet. With such a bleek profesional future ahead of us, why would we be in such a hurry to start it? So I came to Korea in search of inspiration...and I actually got it. The way things are back home though, is it really worth going back and pursuing it? Should I stay or should I go?

To be continued....