Letter from Korea, October 2013

Suwon, Korea
Ocotober, 2013

Dear Ireland,

It has been well over a month since myself, Herself, and +1 have been back in Korea, and what I expected would be my September letter got left by the wayside and is only being seen to now in October. You know you’ll get the usual excuses for not doing anything which isn’t vital to one’s survival, such as being busy with things which are vital to one’s own survival.

After two and a bit months in Ireland, returning to Korea for life, work, and more life, was less the shock we had thought it might be. A smaller home, no garden, no dog, less rain, and that view from all the way up at the top of our tower just seemed to be what was right at the time. There seems to be less culture shock the more we travel between Ireland and Korea.

The View from Outside


I’m an American living in South Korea. There are lots of us here: soldiers, businesspeople, teachers and others. Some of us call this place home, whether home for now, home for good, or home for lack of a better word. I’ve been out of the U.S. long enough that my family and friends long ago stopped asking me when I intend to “come home”, meaning, the place where I was born. South Korea is my home, for better or worse.

On restless Americans, living in a foreign country and settling down

If I had read this New York Times article before I had thought of teaching English in a foreign country (circa late 2007), I would have found the premise implausible at best. Americans voluntarily leaving their soil indefinitely? Americans don’t do that. Maybe they go off for a holiday in Australia, or they backpack their way across Europe. We get a little jealous of people taking a ‘working holiday’ It’s a rite of passage, or perhaps a way to postpone Master’s degrees and starting families. They always come back to the states however… don’t they?

From the aforementioned article:

Driving from central Pennsylvania to Massachusetts, for example, you see an American heartland slowly emptying of opportunity: roads and bridges crumbling even without the recent spending cuts, once-confident businesses shuttered, “now hiring” signs eerily absent.

Live like a nomad or stay in one country?

Author's note: the following was written as a guest post for Nomadic Chick, a fellow travel blogger currently making her way around the world.

As an expat of 2 1/2 years, I've found living in one country (South Korea) to be a wonderful adventure. Reading blogs like Nomadic Chick, Nomadic Matt, and Everything-Everywhere remind me that there are PLENTY of adventures to be had across the world. In fact, I've sometimes thought about the advantages and disadvantages of staying in one country for the mid-to-long term (say, 6 months or longer per country). When I read Nomadic Chick was looking for guest posters, I decided to get some thoughts down.

Mother-in-law Diaries March 2003

This month: The Dirty Diaries.


Sitting on a cold seat, in my cramped outhouse, staring at a wastebasket stuffed with stinky folded tissues reminds me of my first year in Korea. My housemates were an old single man rarely up before dinner and three college kids sharing a room. The bag of tissues next to the toilet never filled up. I‘d assumed my roomies changed it. I flushed mine.

One day the landlady came stomping at my door. On the floor of the bathroom, a massive pile of dirty wet tissues and a torn plastic bag. Someone had been dumping water in the waste bin to flatten out the tissues. She‘d assumed it was the foreigner that‘d never seen a bag of dirty tissues three months earlier.

Mother-in-law Diaries Jan 2003

The Beat January 2003


This Saturday I follow Alex as he makes the rounds through our neighborhood. All up and down our street, ajummas sit gossiping, shucking garlic or picking persimmons off trees. Alex greets each group but is intent on a specific place. We reach a courtyard entrance and he clicks the ringer. The gate swings open and an old man pops his head out of the front door to greet us. Alex bows, takes off his flip-flops before leading me into a bedroom where a high school girl sleeps off last night‘s study session. Alex proceeds to shake the poor girl, and when that doesn‘t work he pulls her blanket off and grabs her hair, saying, “get up” in Korean.

Sometimes when I walk down in our local market strange men and women yell to me, “Alex Papa!”


Original Mother-In-Law Diary

Sometimes I look at the other expats here, living the wild single-guy lifestyles we westerners imagine so unique, edgy, cool. Booze and broads and late-night drunken motor-scooter adventures in our Korean-Western micro-culture here in Busan. Then I wonder if my lot is rather dull. I am not one, as much as I have tried at times, to enjoy the Gonzo, too-cool lifestyle. I‘m married, with two kids, and live with my mother-in-law. I work a hellish schedule, hoping to one day afford economic opportunities for my wife and boys, and of course for me. It‘s dull. I get sick of the brats and mothers, and college class-skippers and crying babies, day in and day out, a seemingly never-ending cycle.

Korean Mother-In-Law Diaries Midwest America

Greetings Expats, Koreans, Korean-Americans, Korea-lovers, Linguistics Lovers, Mixed-Marriage couples and hapa 1.5ers from across the globe!

For those who’ve never read my Mother-In-Law Diaries, in former expat magazine The Beat, and also in Pusan’s www.koreabridges.com, welcome to the Diaries: The Rebirth!

However I am not in South Korea anymore. Hopefully soon. But not yet.

Right now I’m back in America.

And for those of you considering returning to America with your new Korean wife and kids, all I can advise is DON’T DO IT!

There is nothing here! No culture! No education! No Employment! No bilingual bliss! And no mother-in-law!

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