Thursday, July 05, 2007

confessions of a traveling hermit

Wondering how I ended up teaching English in South Korea and owning a home in the Waycross, GA ghetto? Well, it’s definitely a bit of a long story. Some of you know have heard this tale already, but in the hopeful assumption that there are some of you out there reading this blog who *haven’t* heard it, here we go!

I’ve written before about my job working at the Department of Defense. If you missed that journey into my past, you can read about it here. But all you need to know about that job for the purposes of this story is the following:

I left that job because I disliked it intensely. Why? Well, the work was highly repetitive, and essentially simple. I often remarked that a group of blind monkeys could have done what I did, even though the work, in fact, was not all that simple. It was an incredibly high-stress job. I had tension headaches all the time, and spent a fortune on ThermaCare heat wraps for my tense neck and shoulders. I kept a bottle of Pepto-Bismol in the drink holder of my work car at all times. I would swill directly from said bottle several times per day. I held this job for twenty-seven months, during which time I developed my first wrinkles and my first ulcer. Of course, this job did have its pros: it paid well, and was on a set promotion-schedule (the longer you worked there, the more money you made), and I had health insurance and paid sick and vacation days. Those are some good pros, but...

One of my coworkers had worked at that job long enough to retire. He hated it; he was miserable. The month he retired, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Several of my coworkers were eligible to retire, yet they kept working. It certainly wasn't because they loved the job; they hated it and bitched about it constantly. Why didn't they retire? Because the longer they worked, the greater their retirement package would be. They wanted all the money they could get. Before I left, there were two heart attacks and one stroke (none of them fatal) among my eligible to retire coworkers... and yet they were all still working there when I left.

I left the Department of Defense because I didn't like my job. It was not personally satisfying in any way, and it was taking a high toll on me physically and mentally. I left the DOD to accept a position as an ESL teacher in Russia, where I received a salary of roughly $200/mo, and I never regretted my decision.

Why did I decide to move to Russia? Well, I double-majored in Russian and Political Science in college, during which time I spent nine (non-consecutive) months in Russia, and I loved every minute of my time there. I had accepted the position at the Department of Defense, thinking it was the sort of position that someone with a PolySci degree *should* accept, although while there, I constantly felt as though I were wasting my education, as I rarely put any facet of my degree to use. Additionally, I often felt as though my job was useless; if you read this post, you'll realize why. I thought that perhaps if I got a job with a non-profit organization, one that works to facilitate international relations between the US and Russia (and there are several), I would feel satisfaction from my work. I would also be both using my degree and accomplishing something.

But, there was a flaw in that plan. See, I graduated from college in 2001. Following graduation, I spent five months in South Korea, two months in Costa Rica, and twenty-seven months within walking distance of Mexico. At the point at which I began to consider changing fields, I hadn't spoken Russian in four years. My Russian skills had degenerated into something that I termed, "spanglorusskikonglish" - not really something to put on my resume. I decided that spending a year in Russia, teaching English and studying Russian, would allow me to rebuild my skills, and would look great on my resume. I had it all planned out: a year in Russia, and then I could apply for a job. I even had a specific employer in mind.

Then fate intervened. Some personal things happened to me while in Russia, which led me to reevaluate the course my life was taking. I'm not going to get into that here, as it's not really something I want to discuss in a public forum. I only bring that up to let you know that in the fall of 2005 I stepped back and looked at what I was doing with my life. I realized that I was in danger of making the same mistakes which landed me in the job at the DOD.

Like I mentioned above, the DOD job was the sort of job that a college grad with a high GPA and a PolySci major is expected to land. And yet there I was in Russia, trying to follow the expected path of a Russian major. While in theory, working for a non-profit that works in and/or with Russia sounds appealing, when I began to examine my job prospects, reality was quite a turn-off. Check out the following, an actual ad for a position at the sort of NGO that interested me. They were searching for someone with my qualifications to:

Assist in conducting research on price and quality comparison for necessary office supplies/equipment. Responsible for inventory of office supplies/equipment and ordering. Responsible for receiving and shipping mail for staff. Organize archives, media hits, vendor files and Staff Meeting Minutes. Update and maintain contact database for mailing. Assemble material for volunteer information and general inquires for mailings. Ensure cleanliness of office areas for visitors. Communicate with vendors for troubleshooting and service orders. Answer reception phone line during business hours. Handle referrals to appropriate staff members and questions from public. Assist Executive Director with administrative tasks. Prepare mailings for staff and distribute mail. Assist in researching items for program development. Assemble presentation materials for special events. Provide assistance in special projects. Update and maintain handouts for social services department, legal program and the reception areas. Responsible for paying monthly bills and vendors on a timely basis including mailing of payments. Ensure signature on checks. Track and reconcile credit card statements and time & attendance. Organize check requests, bank statements and deposits for Bookkeeper. Attend and record minutes for Staff Meetings. Ensure cleanliness of conference room. Provide refreshments for Board Meetings. Assist in preparing Board Packet mailings. Assist with staff and Board member accommodations. Assist with organizational events. Organize state and national organizations information, maintain equipment inventory in the Equipment Inventory Log. Coordinate / schedule technology visits. Maintain administrative office files. Other duties as identified and assigned.

Ahh, the job opportunities for someone with a BA in Russian. Not so appealing. Ensure cleanliness of office areas? Communicate with vendors? Research price and quality comparison for necessary office supplies/equipment? Would I really feel as though I were accomplishing *anything* with my life if those were my duties? True, not all job descriptions sounded quite that bad, but none of them made me feel as though I had found the niche that I was looking to fill. Not to mention that nearly all such positions are located in some of the most expensive cities in the United States, yet pay very little. (Now, I am not all that interested in making tons of money - as I explain further along in this post - but I don't want to run into debt either. I lived like a pauper in San Diego so I could pay off all my debts, and I'd like to remain largely debt-free as long as possible. But we'll talk more about money in a minute.)

Of course the opportunities in the nonprofit sector are slightly broader for someone with a Masters or a Doctorate, and as such, I briefly and seriously considered grad school. But (and I mean no offense to those of my good friends currently in grad school) the more grad school stories I heard (and continue to hear) from my friends, the less excited I became by the prospect of an advanced degree. Honestly, so much of grad school sounds like utter bullshit to me. For example, I know someone (a dear friend, highly intelligent, and whom I greatly respect) who earned his PhD by writing a dissertation on third person impersonal pronouns no longer used in the modern Russian language. What is the point?

Please bear in mind that I am in no way opposed to the pursuit of knowledge, and I truly hope that there never comes a day when I cease to learn new things. But so much of academia just seems so senseless to me, all this specialization to the point of incomprehension. Perhaps one day I will enter a Masters program for teaching ESL, but for now, I have decided that grad school is not the route for me.

So what is the route for me? I thought quite seriously about remaining in Russia for a second year. I loved my job there, my coworkers and my students... but financially, I simply couldn't. As I mentioned above, before moving to Russia, I paid off all of my debts (car, student loans, credit card), and I accrued enough savings to finance my year abroad at a salary of $200/mo without again going into debt, but I simply couldn't afford to do it for a second year. True, I had enough credit that I could have started charging expenses with the plan of paying off my debts when I returned to the US and got a "real job" - but that's one black hole I have no intention of falling down.

Instead, I thought about what it was about my life in Russia that was making me happy. I surprised myself with the answer: for me, the best thing about my situation in Russia was the lack of stress. True, occasionally I would fret about things like what to do about my students who were chronically failing their exams, or how to turn the lyrics of I am a Rock into a ninety minute discussion, but I never suffered a moment of the gut-wrenching stress that I put up with for twenty-seven months in San Diego. Back in 2000, following my seven-month stint in St. Petersburg, I'm sure my answer to what it was about Russia that made me happy would have been different. It would have involved the Russian people, or the Russian culture, or the amazing historical architecture, or even the Russian nightlife... not that I don't still love the Russian people, architecture and culture (I have found that I'm a bit too old for nightclubs), but I've changed. I enjoy spending time in Russia, but I no longer feel as tied to Russia as I once did. I guess that's an odd thing to say, coming from someone who has spent so much time there (and who is planning to return there at the end of August!), but it's true. The best thing about my life in Russia was the lack of stress.

Thus, I arrived at goal number one for my future: Remain in a low-stress situation. But other than low-stress, what else do I want out of life? I made a list of things that I enjoy doing:

• Reading (Self-explanatory, and if you've read any of my blog, you'll have noticed how it often becomes Jane's Book Review)
• Writing (Ever since I was a little kid, I've enjoyed writing, and I do it mostly for my own personal satisfaction. I've written one book. I’m working on another (although I’m going on a year plus of writer’s block). I love blogging; it’s addicting.)
• Taking photographs (again, self-explanatory – but feel free to check out my photos!)
• Traveling (Why am I writing explanations? Again, self-explanatory. I mean, I live in South Korea.)
• Web/Graphics design (There are many people who are far better at this than I am... I'm not really qualified to do this for a career or anything, but it is quite an absorbing hobby. I do all the work on janekeeler.com. It's nothing fancy, but it's definitely something I enjoy playing around with.)
• Playing with kitties. Not to try and compete with Linda or anything, but I am totally destined to become a crazy cat lady. (Speaking of, anyone want to adopt a kitten?)
• Spending time ALONE doing the above. (Yes, spending time alone is a very important component of my happiness. Perhaps the most important of all. Don't get me wrong; I enjoy the company of others. I love my friends and family, and I enjoy spending time with them. But not all the time. I enjoy spending substantial quality time alone doing the various things listed above.)
• Teaching ESL (I really enjoy teaching. I have fun in class. I enjoy getting to know my students, and - I know this is going to sound hokey - but it's incredibly rewarding to see my students learn and grow in their use of English. I don't want to teach English for the rest of my life, but I wouldn't mind doing it for the next few years.)

So there you have it: the list of things I like to do. After making my list, I decided to make said list my life goals. Simple as that. You've read the list, so now you know you know what I want to do with my life. But how?

Well first, you might notice that among my list of things that are important to me, I have no desire to accumulate a large amount of wealth, to own an expensive home or a fancy car. I rarely buy new things; I'm perfectly content with clothes and furniture from yardsales and thrift stores. I know how to live frugally. Granted, I can't live completely without funds, but the funds I need don't have to be big. In fact, they can be pretty meager.

The stereotypical "American Dream" that, as an American, one hears about from an early age, is that in America, if a person works hard enough, he can achieve anything. In America, anyone can become whatever he wants to become, so long as he puts his mind to it. In reality, this American dream is simply code for "if you work really hard, then you can make a lot of money." Well, that's great. But do I really want to work myself to death for money? We've already determined that I don't want a lot of money.

How can a person live cheaply? Well, for starters, live somewhere that's inexpensive. As I mentioned above, I lived in San Diego for 27 months. At the time, the average price for a home was $500,000. I was renting a tiny studio apartment for over $700/month, which was located directly under the flight line for the San Diego airport. That’s what kept my rent so cheap. (Sadly, that's true). Nearly all of the Southern Californians whom I met were resigned to the fact that they would *never* be able to pay off their homes. Houses in North Florida (where I grew up) are going for around $150,000 to $200,000 these days (although the housing bubble is bursting). This looks like quite an improvement over SoCal until you learn that my mom got her house in Waycross, GA for under $30,000. And goods (on average) are cheaper there too.

That was how I decided to relocate my base of operations to Waycross. In case you know nothing whatsoever about Waycross, don’t feel bad. It’s pretty tiny. Wikipedia has some stats on it here and you can see some of my photos of the place here. In March 2006, I purchased a house Waycross for $27,500. Granted it’s in the ghetto, but hey – I’ve never been all that into being neighborly. When people find out that I bought a house in Waycross, the general reaction seems to be, "But what will you *do* there?" and "Won't you be bored?" Look back at the list of things I like to do, people. Half of them I can do anywhere, and the other half, by definition, I can't do at home, no matter where "home" is.

I want to relax, to write, to grow some veggies and to sit around my house reading cheesy mysteries and fooling around on the internet.

But how will I pay for this house, you ask? As inexpensive it was, it still has to be paid for. Well, by teaching ESL of course. True, I have already mentioned that my ESL job in Russia, which I loved very much, paid very, very little, but in many places around the world, ESL teachers earn substantially more. I have been teaching English in South Korea since August 2006, and I am making enough to put a sizable dent in my mortgage – and to fund this boondoggle to Siberia and keep me in food and water for four or five months when I return to Waycross. Additionally, my mother agreed to be my lending agent for this venture, which has definitely smoothed the way somewhat (kind of tough to get a mortgage on an income of $200/mo!) My plan is simple: teach English for a year or so somewhere, then hermit for a while in Georgia. Then, when I start to run out of subsistence funds or become stir-crazy, I will teach ESL somewhere else in the world. There are so many countries I would love to visit. I’m actually leaning towards Kuwait as my next destination, although who knows! :-)

21 comments:

SuperBlogFan said...

I’ve given this a lot of thought Jane (almost three seconds worth), here is what you should do when you get back to Waycross (where in hell is that anyway?). Write a nasty, dirty, perverted novel about a sicko relationship between two guys named Nick and Glenn (not “the” Nick and Glenn of SuperBlog fame, but you can use them as inspiration). Hell, why not throw yourself in and make it a threesome story? O.K., make it a foursome, add someone named Laurie into the mix. These kids are your friends so they won’t mind. With your outstanding imagination you’ll come up with a blockbuster. Even if just a fraction of the SuperBlog fans buy it, the bank in Waycross (is there one?) won’t be big enough to hold all the money you’ll make. I can see opportunities for sequels by adding the other SuperBlogers to the story.

No need to give me credit or in anyway thank me for this idea.

Mag to the Defstar said...

I gotta hand it to you Jane, you've put a lot of thought into this, and it seems like you've got your shit pretty well figured out. I personally totally agree that money is not the most important thing, and is certainly not worth getting cancer over, but unfortunately I have become accustomed to a pretty high standard of living on my salary here in Japan (which is not incredible, but enough to live comfortably). Unfortunately I have been pretty bad at saving money since I've been out here, which seems like something you've gotten a pretty good handle on.

I think its great that you want to travel to so many differnt places. I would actually highly recommend Japan as a wonderful place to live and earn enough money to work towards paying off your morgtage. Its one of the highest paying countries for teaching English.

Actually I have come to the realization that by the time I die I want to be able to communicate with people (well) in a number of different languages, so it looks like pimpin my language might be a good way to achieve that goal.

Pretty much I jsut wanted to say thanks for your well thought out and beautifully written blog. Its one of those things that kinda made me go "hmmmmmmm."

Glenn said...

Superblogfan, I'm already working on the Nick/Glenn epic. It's not so much of a "novel" as a "scheme" that instead of "pages" or "plot" involves "rope" and "chloroform." But it's basically the same thing.

Also, I do want to clarify that even though I complain about a lot of grad school, it has been invaluable in improving my poetry and knowledge of poetry. Basically it's three years in which I can read and write in a nurturing environment without worrying about too much else.

Whenever I'm finished with all this school nonsense (in six years), I want to move to a small town somewhere and teach at a small liberal arts college. Luckily I'm the only MFA creative writing student who has that goal. Psyche. All 8000 of us a year have that goal.

jane said...

Martin -

We're definitely going to have to have a chat about Japan at some point. I know that ESL jobs pay well there, although I've heard that the cost of living is high and that most jobs make you pay for your own apartment (unlike in Korea). Do share details. Or better yet, write YOUR "why I do what I do" post! :-)

caitlin said...

That seems like a pretty good summary, Jane. You and I have had similar paths in a lot of ways and I think we're both really figuring out what's next, in a good way.

I, too, think grad school is not for me. I really wouldn't mind writing a thesis on some obscure linguistic topic, if that's all that was required. Unfortunately, grad school involves a bunch of courses and usually some kind of comprehensive or qualifying exam. It's that stuff I can't be bothered about!

Good luck figuring out what's next: ESL is a good gig if you have a positive work environment, as we both know. And travel ambitions are a great way to daydream yourself through tight spots.

(Incidentally, I just bought that book "A Thousand Places to See Before You Die." What a waste of money! Half of them are posh hotels.)

Sean said...

The most important thing I learned in grad school was that I liked teaching. Naturally, I haven't done anything to capitalize on that, but it's not too late. I hope. Do any of you ESL teachers know teachers at international schools?

As for the "American Dream", I guess if you're from the US it translates into consumption, but for most of the rest of the world it comes down to choice. Well, the perception of choice, at least. Even at its worst, the US gives people more options than almost anywhere else in the world.

On a semi-related note, it might be a good weekly topic for a worldly bunch like this to write about America. Not about what they dislike about it (should be obvious by this point) but what they like about it, having traveled to/lived in/interacted with people from other places. This week would've been ideal for the topic with the 4th and all, but as an outsider I'd still be interested in that.

Diana said...

Jane,

Yeah, ok. At the risk of being labelled your weird internet-stalker by your blog pals(I swear that's only a bit true 'cause I was selfishly looking for pics of the apartment...), I feel compelled to comment on this post.

I've read earlier drafts of it somewhere on your blog/website before, but I don't know that I've ever commented on it. The appealing quality in your writing--a voice that is honest and open, yet still positive and energetic about life (which is why I started reading your blog in the first place after you answered my questions about kitties in Korea) is best reflected in this piece. Few people achieve the introspective harmony of really finding answers for the question of what it is they want out of life that is unfettered by society's conventions (was it Rousseau who said something about man being born free and everywhere finds himself in chains?).

It takes a brave person to figure this out, and a braver one still to live by example. You are a pioneer of American life for the post-consumerist hedonistic era that defines our generation. Our current blueprints for how to live a good life are not sustainable. The environment, capitalistic job market, and societal institutions have changed too dramatically in the last 50 years. For someone, such as myself, looking for some other drummer's beat by which to measure her life than the college-job-marriage-house-kids-debt-divorce-more debt-retirement treadmill (or even the intellectual's alternate, which is no longer availible because of the way the university system is changing, being college-grad school-post doc-professor-(maybe) marriage-kids-house... etc.), you provide an alternative path: Figure out what really matters to you, figure out what you need to do to get it in a way that allows you to start living it now, and then do it. Revisit and revise plan as needed.

I've been in the process of figuring this one out for a few years, but I will say that my decision to move abroad is primarily motivated by my need to really figure out my own little plan for happiness. That, and I've always wanted to live and teach abroad.

You are an inspiration.

Oh yeah... all that and you're an awesome cool cat-loving writer who takes spiffy pictures. I'm glad I get to meet ya before you head off to Russia. I swear that I'm only a little bit crazy.

~Diana

Anonymous said...

Jane -- you appear to have a weird internet stalker!!! Just kidding! :)

BTW -- Can you please write the "Melissa Manifesto" or something similar?

Melissa

Anonymous said...

Jane,

I think that you would really get along with Claire who is an anarchist and does not believe in property ownership though does not mind selling things and property to peoples consumptive habbits and whims. She also loves to travel and do global art projects. I love people who know how to make their life projects work. By the way, how large is your ghetto house and how far is it from Valdosta? I will tell you why later next week if the occasion should arise. Hope that all is well.

Christopher

John from Daejeon said...

Great post Jane! It echoes many of my own personal sentiments. A female version of myself. I would never have though it possible.

I do like Sean's suggestion for your next round of blogging, especially since almost everyone tends to always focus on the negatives. We've become a nation, and slowly, a world, of spoiled brats who take too, too much for granted in our "relatively speaking" lives.

Thanks to modern technology (Electricity, Air Conditioning, Central Heating, Television, Refrigeration, the Light Bulb, Down Jackets and Coats, Cars, Elevators, Buses, Subways, Trains, Airplanes, clean water to bath and drink, etc.), most of us have become very vocal complainers about the slightest of life's inconveniences. Today, if the power is off for more than a minute, we are calling and screaming at the power company to do something about it because we are missing the latest news on Paris, some inconsequential sporting event (in the grand scheme of the world's problems), the latest Simpsons episode, or heaven forbid, we can't access the internet or even use our computers for a short time.

How did my grandparents and great grandparents survive without cell/hand/mobile/portable phones, computers, refrigeration, and instant transportation and communication? The average life span has increased dramatically thanks to these innovations and breakthroughs in modern medicine. In 1900, the average American lived to 45. Now, it is up to about 80. We are also no longer forced to work 100 hour work weeks in sweatshops, live in cramped tenements, and eat only gruel and water.

We also complain constantly about the government not doing enough to protect us and bail us out from acts of gods (hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, floods, impending meteor collisions, etc.). My predecessors weathered numerous tragedies without any renumeration from the government and gladly suffered to keep the United States free during the ongoing attacks by those wishing us harm over the years via rationing and the loss of children at Pearl Harbor and locations abroad.

Most Americans seem to have forgotten the pioneer spirit that has taken this nation so far in so few years. I just don't get it. We now have the attention span of hyperactive five-year-olds.

We need to step back, once and awhile, and be grateful at just how truly good we have it compared to those who came before us, and realize that we are actually living in a pretty remarkable and wonderful time. And, the United States, for all its faults, allows most people the opportunity to try and live a decent life with all the latest in modern conveniences.

John from Daejeon said...

Jane, here's an idea for a quick trip before you leave South Korea. I just don't know how the U.S. State Department or Homeland Security will look at one's passport afterwards.

http://www.adventurekorea.com/board/board.asp?id=notice&rowno=206

I hear all Koreans want to visit before within their lifetimes. Personally, I'll take the water and sun of Jeju.

jane said...

Caitlin - How funny; I would prefer to avoid the dissertation on the obscure topic and instead just take the classes. If only we were twins; between the two of us, we could score an advanced degree. Er, except we'd still need someone to comp for us. And what's with travel guides recommending posh hotels? Boo! There's only one posh hotel I'd recommend... except I'd recommend simply sneaking in and using their facilities.

Sean - Sadly, I don't know anyone at any of the international schools. And Glenn's the one you need to talk to about next week's topic.

Diana - there's nothing wrong with being a weird internet stalker! Or being a little bit crazy. Or a lot, like I am :-) Your comment made me sound so sane - sometimes I feel that way, and sometimes I feel like I'm a complete nutball wandering the planet looking for something undefined. Thank you for your kind words!

Melissa - You can just adopt my manifesto. You can even purchase the house (or houses) across the street. You could probably get them both for about 10k, as they need a lot of work. Not sure how you'd convince Alex to get on board though! (I'm already trying to convince Gwen and Samson to move to Waycross when they finally decide to move to the US)

Chris - I *do* believe in property ownership! I just think it's silly for people to shell out $600,000 for a house the size of mine. According to yahoo maps, Valdosta is 63 miles from my house. Are you going to be a Georgian too?

John - You are Awesome. Do you want to join the Ghetto Hermit Cult of Waycross? Also, while I'd love to visit North Korea, just to see what it's *really* like there... NK gov't approved tours aren't going to give anyone an accurate glimpse. I'm just going to have to wait until the regime falls and go visit soon thereafter.

Catherine said...

If you really wanted to try living in Japan but don't want to pay for an expensive city apartment, you could try living in the countryside like I do. Most places designated 'countryside' in Japan still have towns and cities with good services (despite what people from Tokyo etc. might think). My rent here is very cheap compared to city rent, the apartment is bigger than a city apartment, and my contracting organisation subsidises it too! Compared to how big my salary is, my rent really is negligible. Plus the view is great and I have easy access to some wonderful siteseeing areas. Today I went hiking in the forest on the lower slopes of the nearest volcano. I was drinking water I scooped out of pools with my hands.

OK, I'll stop pimping Tohoku now.

jane said...

Caherine - I'm definitely going to have to ask you more about your job and location once I start my next round of job hunting!

John from Daejeon said...

Well, Jane, I may one day join you in Waycross, or even the booming metropolis that is Brunswick (I spent about 6 months of my life in federal training there), but right now it looks like I will be extending my stay in the vastly overstated and oversold (judging by most ESL jobs boards) South Korea. Well, I guess there are hagwons on every other street corner, so you really shouldn't be walking for more than ten minutes, but how can every position be fabulous and with a beautiful apartment abutting beautiful mountains or beaches? Most days it's tough to see the next apartment across the alleyway.

I'm torn between my current position and that of a university job with less hours and a bit more money out in the boonies. I would love to actually teach people who want to learn, but I do like my boss, his family, and most of the students (my boss spent the night with me at the hospital when I had my emergency appendectomy). Everything is very convenient here (3 minutes to work and 8 to Costco), and I really know this town of nearly 2 million like the back of my hand. I travel everywhere by bicycle. My boss even agreed to give me a two week vacation at the end of August, and some of the more difficult students (who have gotten much better during my stay) are quite vocal in my staying.

I have a week to decide and talk to my boss about any upgrades to the contract I may require. I'm not in it for the money, so if he pays my trip back to the U.S. and provides a small raise, I'll stick around Daejeon.

The worst part of the hagwon system is that the kids come and go so frequently. Maybe about 35% are some of the same kids that I started with about 10 1/2 months ago. Luckily, other than a few bad apples, the job is actually quite easy with no testing or grading required on my part. However, encouraging participation is pretty tough in a couple of classes and was making me doubt my abilities in the classroom. I was worried that I really sucked when I first arrived as a couple of kids dropped out because I wasn't as fun, and talking in Korean like the previous teacher. Now, the owners want to take me on their family vacation this August.

Being needed, and appreciated, are truly great feelings, but having a child who was at first struggling, and uncaring, in class, and is now one of the better students feels even better. She, and her classmates, had me choked up because the they know my contract is almost up and they were begging me to stay and live in Korea with them at the end of class and after a difficult lesson to boot.

jane said...

John - Brunswick is nice... but too much hurricane potential there for my tastes.

Good luck with your job decision. It sounds like you're in a really great job as it is, so that can definitely be a tough choice!

Glenn said...

You know what MY thesis is? A manuscript of poems. You know what MY dissertation will be? A manuscript of poems.

Look, Jane, I don't want to be incendiary, but you and Caitlin both sound like Service Zone people when you say that the stories from graduate school justify your not wanting to go to graduate school.

I understand that it isn't for everybody, but I don't think that what I've been doing is a waste.

Sorry to be so defensive.

jane said...

Glenn -

You were actually not one of the people I was referencing when I wrote that. I was mainly referencing stories from people who went to grad school for things related to russian and/or political science - stuff I would be qualified to go for. One of my main beefs against grad school is this idea that I could end up with a very specialized degree in, some aspect of Russian culture or something... which would then help me do what with my life? I think that if you have a specific career in mind for which there is a specific grad school program - like poetry, or medicine - then it can be useful. As I mentioned above, I may get my Masters in ESL one day, if I decide to keep on with this track of my life.

Anonymous said...

Jane - I get sick of grad school and complain sometimes, but overall I've loved it (especially the first two years). It's just the great stuff doesn't make for such interesting conversation. For instance, today I got really excited when I realized a shocking similarity about polynomial regression and moderated multiple regression. Then when Alex asked me about my day and I told him about it with great excitment, but he didn't really care. Most of the complaints I've had in grad school have been political in nature, so I'd probably have those problems other places too. So, I hope that I haven't discouraged you from grad school. Though as exciting as my regression realization was today, it didn't really compare to volcano hiking, unfortunately!

Melissa

caitlin said...

Glenn:

It's not actually stories from other people that keep me from going in for an advanced degree. It is laziness: my own, and no one else's. I am proud of my friends who do go for their Master's or PhD. It is an admirable thing. I just don't think it's for everybody; more specifically, it's not for me.

The things I hated most about undergrad (pointless assignments, having to prove you've been listening to what's going on, etc.) seem like they would be a big part of going back to school. And then there's "the lifestyle" of being a student for several more years! I am just not interested in that. If I could do research, talk to profs, and work on writing up my findings without the trouble and expense of years of coursework, I would. It isn't even courses I don't like: I have only had two classes out of my undergrad that I thought were a waste of time. I just hate writing exams...and they are a part of every class, good or bad.

So it's not about what you (Glenn) are doing, what Christopher is doing, what Melissa is doing, what Sean has done, what Lydia is up to, or what Andrea is in for. It's about me being lazy. And cheap. And not really seeing the point of having my personal interest in any one field formalized with an advanced degree.

It's not like I am going to work in the field I like anyway.

Glenn said...

Well I understand that if you don't want to do it and it isn't for you then it's not something you should do. I'm not trying to say grad school is the way to go for everybody, nor should it be.

Maybe my degree is different since I don't have to write a thesis based on theory or something. Also, we have no exams in our classes. You basically just have one paper for each lit class and your grade is based on that and participation.

But other programs would probably be way different.