I don't mean to, but I wake up early. Either the rush of nerves or a decision I've yet to make urges my eyes open. Mulling around the kitchen, I piece together breakfast. Toast. Eggs. A small piece of feta. Eventually, I bring myself to my laptop and stare at the ridiculous PowerPoint I'd made last week. It lists all the pros and cons between the two programs in Korea for which I've been interviewing. I need the same documents for both, so either way I begin piecing together papers. Apostilles and diploma copies, background checks and transcripts. When it's just turned light enough outside, I take a break and go for a bike ride by the water.
Eventually it's late afternoon and I've made a decision. I bring my folder of documents to a local FedEx shipping location. My over-dramatic English Major brain is already building up a short story of metaphors as I pass rows of houses with their neatly mowed lawns and children playing in gardens. From down the block I hear students being let out from my old Greek-American elementary school and I smell a mix of souvlaki with dukbokki and even crepes from at least three different restaurants.
Sometimes the world builds symbolism for you.
I walk into the FedEx office, thinking that at 8 years old--when I would have been the one racing out of school--I would have never imagined making this move. The man behind the counter waves me over since I'd just gotten off the phone with him, and he knows I need help.
"Korea?" he says when he looks over my documents then nods his head at all the posters written in Hangul along the walls. "I came about sixteen years ago."
"Have you gone back since then?"
"A summer here and there." He glances at the address I hand him. "What are you going for?"
"Teaching," I say. "I'm a little nervous, to be honest."
"Don't be. Everyone will want to feed you, though, so watch out."
I laugh. "At least my Greek grandma trained me for that."
The man finishes printing out the label in both Korean and English. "Greek!"
"Giassas? Ti kaneis?" he says.
Hello, how are you?
"Kala?" he asks.
Are you well?
Despite the nervous bubbles in my stomach, the nerves at seeing my documents placed on a tray marked for international express, I answer ''yes' in both Greek and Korean:
Compared to my usual EPIK Guide, today's post is a bit different. While the last two had been more focused on the pros and cons of each program as well as the details concerning EPIK's initial application, this is more of an....update, I guess.
So I made it to the interview, passed, and mailed everything to my coordinator. According to my FedEx tracking number, the package has been signed off and is currently in EPIK's offices. The only thing left for me is to wait for a placement, which can be nerve-wracking at best. I'm a bit of a control-freak (to absolutely no one's surprise), and waiting around to be told where exactly in Korea I'll be is a...challenge.
So let's talk about the interview then. It'll keep my mind off the thousand what-ifs I'd otherwise create just by sitting around.
Pre and Post EPIK Interview
Well like I said, I've sent my documents and am waiting on a placement. I'm in an early batch of applicants, so (if things go smoothly) I have a decent shot at an urban location. Though my perpetually pessimistic mind wants to assume something's gone wrong. Misplaced document, an apostille done wrong...It'll keep me on my toes. In this case, not getting an urban placement wouldn't be the worst. It'll just be an adventure, and by opting for EPIK I accepted that adventurous possibility.
But I'll talk more on that when I explain how to gather everything.
I guess when I title this little corner of my post "what's next?" I mean it in a way for you guys, for whoever's reading this, to have an answer to a question that I don't know how to phrase.
Because now it's happening. Moving abroad. Something I've been planning for over a year is now set into motion and it's surreal. I'd originally wanted to teach abroad in Chios to aide with refugee relief. Those plans were forced to change because of personal circumstances until, finally, I found EPIK. Those personal circumstances haven't necessarily disappeared, but they're in remission, so to speak. There's a quiet in my house I haven't recognized in a long while. I'm teaching in the early morning, studying Korean in the afternoons, revising my novel, spending time with the people I care most about in this New York City life of mine.
And it means a lot of dead-space to think...
I'd planned for yesterday to be a full five hours of Korean, just make a massive review resource for all the grammar I'd learned so far and keep making sentences with my daily vocabulary. Not to mention the desperate listening practice I need.
But I'd procrastinated instead. I looked up nonsense things like guest English teacher average studio sizes, packing lists, tax forms, and everything else I'll need. Somehow, this led me down the rabbit hole of EPIK YouTube vlogs, and, despite the constant EPIK advice of not coming in with expectations, I found myself daydreaming.
It's hard to keep from building expectations when you watch these social-media manufactured stories. Don't get me wrong, I have fun with those vlogs and am so thankful they exist. I guess it's hard to not build an expectation for something you've been planning for so long, for something you've been told is "putting real life on pause."
When they say that--the real life thing--I know they mean a job in the USA, dating with the hopes of marriage, and starting to save for down-payments on a house. I know they mean looking at rent in cities like Boston or San Fran, or moving from Queens to Brooklyn. Brunch with your best friends, tinder dates on a Tuesday, breweries on the weekends. Reaching your twenties itself had come with so many expectations. Everything from massive debt to destroying industries. From casual hook-ups to falling in love.
I know what to expect if I stay home. I don't if I go abroad, even if I waste my study-time building some perfect little YouTube inspired fantasy.
EPIK, you're about four months away. I know that's sooner than later, that I'm coming into this with maybe some silly ideas and some realistic. I know I have things to do and people to see in the meantime, that I'm filling my hours with picnics in Central Park and coffee shop writing days, with friends taking photos in the woods, with spontaneous trips to other states. I know that when I move to Korea I'm going to be happy and scared and sad and excited and all kinds of confused--not just for the first month but for maybe many months, for maybe one week in September and another in March. I know life'll seem to be "on pause" for me, but that life isn't ever really on pause for anyone, that I'll be considering my next move and whether that will be to stay longer, to pursue a PhD, to return to teach in the states. I know that I'm going to travel and learn and be lonely and be surrounded by strangers, by maybe friends too.
I guess, in all the cliche and symbolism of what I'm about to say, I know that like goddamn Socrates I don't know.
But then I think of that little interaction I had at FedEx, that little interaction that showed me everything I'd grown up surrounded by: My Korean-American/Greek-American neighborhood, my home with its Greek church across the street from a traditional Korean hanbok store and a whole bunch of accidental symbolism.
EPIK, you're about four months away and well...what's next?
Pedagogy and Reflection
We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience