Thursday, May 6, 2010

One semester to go

I finished my last two final exams for the semester today, and now I just have to write ~20 pages for a history of medicine class by Friday. If you were wondering why I haven't posted for months, school is the main reason. Also, I am not in Korea, so I have seen and talked to my friends and family a lot more; and, America is not as interesting to me as Korea is.

This semester has been by far the most complicated one. I suppose I couldn't expect less considering I signed up for five classes and planned to support myself and my fiance for three months while trying to spend as much time together as possible before he had to return to Korea. Visa laws are evil.

In case you're curious about the kinds of classes I take for my International Studies major and Psychology cognate, I'll tell you what I took this semester: cultural anthropology, introduction to international relations, history of international relations, history of medicine, and biology and psychology of sex and sexuality. This was the first semester since middle school when I respected most of my teachers. I tend to have a disdain for the educational system, and am a strong believer in "those who can't do, teach." Also "those who can't do or teach, manage." That is why I don't bother applying for part-time jobs anymore. So where does my income come from? Private English as a second language tutoring. I've been doing it for three years and have an ESL (TESOL) teaching certification. Considering the fact that I have personally studied 3 foreign languages, I can relate to ESL students and understand what they are trying to say because I'm usually familiar with the grammar of their language. So for me, it's basically talking to friends whom other people can't understand, and trying to help them improve so other people can understand them.

While my fiance was here I had five students: two from South Korea and three from Saudi Arabia. I met them an average of 3 hours per week per student, not including travel time, so I was working about 15 hours a week. That doesn't sound like much now that I think about it, but it felt like a lot.

Kyu Won couldn't go to school or work in America (visa laws are evil), so he and my brother's cat, Polly, hung around the house all day while I went to school and work. Sometimes he went out and explored. Every Tuesday and Thursday I had an hour and a half between the end of classes and meeting my first student, so Kyu Won spent those days cooking at home (he's a chef) and brought dinner to me on campus. We ate together and talked, then he studied cooking and/or English while I tutored, and then we went home together. On Mondays and Wednesdays he would cook dinner at home around 9 or 10 so it would be ready when I got home, and we would eat together and talk or watch TV. I really miss that. My apartment is about a 10 minute walk from the nearest bus stop, and it's in a residential neighborhood , so it gets really dark and creepy at night. It was always nice to have him there with me or knowing that he was waiting for me at home. Fridays I didn't have class, so he came with me to campus and studied or explored while I tutored, and then we had time to ourselves.

It was very stressful for both of us living under those circumstances. For Kyu Won, he wanted to work and support me while I went to school, but all he could do was be the equivalent of a housewife. Psychological studies have shown that men whose wives earn more than they do have higher levels of stress, and that the higher the ratio of woman:man household income, the shorter the man lives. Those studies may or may not be complete bogus, but I think there's truth in those results. Also, the language barrier was very stressful in daily life for him. In Korea, when I speak a little Korean, people are amazed and think I'm a genius. In America, if a foreigner speaks a little English, Americans think he or she is an idiot and not worth talking to. All of my students dread the typical American "what????" and this was especially difficult with my friends. Most of my friends are really kind, understanding, and patient. But not all of them. It's very humiliating to need someone to translate from your broken English to American English. On top of all that, there was culture shock. Kyu Won had never been on an airplane before, and the only country he'd ever visited was Japan. I kind of know that feeling.....

For me, having him here was extremely stressful, but having him gone is equally stressful. While he was here, I felt guilty because I couldn't take him traveling or buy him all the American things I wanted to buy him or help him make friends or even spend enough time with him. He was so lonely waiting for me at home all day, and then when I finally got home I was exhausted and only half there. I felt like I dragged him to this country just to imprison him for 90 days. It was a paradox: I felt like I needed to earn more money, and I felt like I needed to spend more time with him. I couldn't have both. Another paradox: he had all the time in the world and couldn't earn money, and I didn't have enough time in the day to earn enough money. I took out some $5000 in student loans just to get through this semester, and needed every penny even though I worked and earned money, too.

The stress of not having enough time or money was intense, but I didn't have to do laundry or wash the dishes or cook or anything. No matter how hard the day was, I had a loving pair of arms to come home to. Another psychological study shows that married people are happier than single people. This could be for a variety of reasons, both emotional and physical (I mean like chemicals in the brain and bloodstream, for those of you with dirty minds). When I was sick, he took care of me. When I was sad, he hugged me and did sweet little things to make me happy. When I was happy, he made me happier. When I was hungry, he fed me.

Now I only have to support myself, but I have a negative balance on my credit card that is slowly creeping back to zero. But, there's nobody at home. Just me. And the cat, who sometimes drives me crazy and requires more attention that I care to giver her. I'm depressed and empty, like a shark bit a hole out of my abdomen and nobody came to the hospital to condole me. I have friends and family, but it's not the same. It's been over a month since he left. He got on a plane early in the morning on my 22nd birthday, March 25th. Ironic... last year I got on a plane to Korea on the 26th. I haven't had a birthday party for two years. All of the feelings I had that drove me to sell everything and run away to Korea are still here in East Lansing, but now there's the added one of being lonelier than a single person. I know he's out there, I know I love him, but I can't remember him clearly and he can't be here to remind me. I finally quit tutoring about two weeks ago. I asked my mom to support me until I graduate in July. For the first time since I was 16, I admitted that I can't take care of myself.

Every day I have to tell myself that I only have to be here a little longer. Now it's just two months more. I'll be living in a single room in a dormitory on campus. I don't want a roommate unless it's him or my best friend, and they will both be in Korea (my best friend is Korean, and she goes home during the summers). Also, I won't have to worry about housework, and there is a piano so I can compose songs and work on a Korean pop song I want to play and sing for my fiance when I return to Korea.

I apologize for the depressing nature of this and the last post. I was thinking of telling a cheerful story, but that would be mostly a lie. I didn't enjoy my life here before I went to Korea, and I especially don't enjoy it now that I was forced to come back because my adviser didn't take my situation seriously and advise me not to go because I couldn't graduate in Korea. No, he said I could graduate without returning to America before I bought the plane ticket. I'm bitter about that. Anyway I decided to keep in the spirit of honestly blogging my life and my thoughts about it. I'll start blogging more now that the semester is over, so there will be ups and downs again, and the quirky insights you all tell me you love. Stay tuned!


  1. Skype is a wonderful thing if you can manage the time difference :). All you need is two decent webcams, which are fairly cheap.

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