Sunday, August 17, 2014

Living Abroad

Everything feels half-hearted, because I'm here with half my heart.

Roughly one year ago, my boyfriend and I began talking about the possibility of moving to another country to teach. We're both teachers, and we'd both reached a point of malaise in our careers that told us that if we didn't get out soon, we wouldn't be worth much as teachers.

So we started searching for a way out of teaching in the US. It didn't take much to find South Korea. Boasting a bustling economy and the third best school system in the world, we found a number of employment opportunities for English teachers in Seoul. We applied, and the short of it, we both got hired to teach in elementary schools within the city.

The only hitch, for me, is that I have to spend two months apart from my sixteen-year-old daughter as I get set up with training and an apartment here in Seoul.

Now, I've been a single mom for a long time -- fourteen years, just about -- and my daughter and I have a unique relationship. It takes an especially resilient and adventurous adolescent to follow her mother halfway across the world, giving up her circle of friends, tight-knit extended family, and traditional high school experience in the bargain. Part of me thinks this scheme is insane at best, to wrench my daughter from her roots and transplant her in a foreign country, but the rest of me thinks that this is the experience of a lifetime that will broaden her horizons in incalculable ways.

For her part, she goes back and forth. She's registered for online school through Texas Tech University Online. She's moved into my parents' house until she can join us in November, along with our cat, Dexter. She's been a tremendously flexible person through all of this, and I'm now here, in Seoul.

For the past week, we have explored this mash-up of a city, practicing our Hangeul and climbing more mountain trails than we ever did in Colorado. My boyfriend has been amazing. Though he's new to all of this travel business, he walks around this city like Anthony Bourdain. He knows where we're going. He has a plan for how to get there. He's been a comforting companion, and I've been overwhelmed. Everything feels surreal, like I'm only halfway here. Then I think, of course everything feels half-hearted. I'm here with half my heart.

When my daughter arrives in November, the real exploration will begin. In the meantime, I'm going to figure out the subways, the buses, the Wi-Fi, our phones. I'll be prepared. In the meantime, I'll miss her. I'll miss her very much.