Today is Saturday.  Saturday night, to be exact.  And today was the first day I didn’t have any plans since living alone.  So I came across this question: How do you tell if you are successfully living alone? 

I woke up needing to do laundry.  Really badly. In the year I’ve spent in Korea, I haven’t heard anyone speak of a dryer, but pretty much everyone has a washer- even me in my one room apartment.  I haven’t done laundry in a while because my air conditioner has been broken, and during the summer when the humidity is really high, it’s difficult to get your clothes dry.  So difficult that they will stay damp for a few days, and by then your clothes are all mildewy and smelly.  Therefore, in the interest of not smelling like mold, I waited until my air con was fixed to do my laundry, so my clothes could dry properly.  So I held my laundry off until last night.  I sorted my clothes by priority of when I would want to wear them (who does whites and colors anymore in this day and age?) and popped the highest priority load (nice clothes for work and shorts for the heat) in the washer last night, hanging my clothes up to dry while I slept.  I had already put the second-priority load (t-shirts, pants, and athletic shorts) into the washer so I could start it first thing this morning.  I turned on the washer, and thought to myself, “why stop there?”, I got out my broom and swept my floor.  It’s amazing I have any hair left on my head with all the hair I got off my floor!  Sheesh.  And I washed my kitchen which took me all of 1 minute because my counter is so small.  All the while, I was thinking about why I was cleaning.  I mean, I’m the only person who lives here, and I run a pretty tight ship anyway.  Besides the hair, it was already clean!  But is it successful to live alone in a clean house?  More so than living alone in a messy house, even if no one ever sees it?  I folded last night’s laundry just in time to hang up today’s. 

I decided I had to buy groceries today unless I wanted to live on string cheese and cucumber… which I could have, believe me.  But a little nagging voice in my head said I should go to the grocery story because that is what successful living-aloners do.  They keep enough food in their house so they can be healthy and eat a balanced diet.  

I was also thinking of how I would occupy myself all day.  I’ve been reading this book all week, and I’d really like to finish it but I’m only halfway through.  It’s a pretty thick book.  I probably couldn’t have finished it today if I tried.  But do people who live alone stay home all day and read on their days off, even when a lot of what they do during the week if they’re not working is read?  It seemed like my day off shouldn’t be like any other day. 

And where do I start with the lights and air con and shower?  I’ve been taking cold showers anyway because it’s so hot in my apartment and it feels good.  But I’m not one to feel relaxed in a cold shower, so when I’m shampooing or soaping, I turn the water off, and just use the cold water to rinse.  I started wondering, will I continue to take cold showers when my apartment is cold?  Will I continue this past the point of comfort because it’s cheap?  Will that water saving technique be successful?  Or unsuccessful because I’m sacrificing comfort?  What about when I should have turned the light on to read, but sat struggling to read in the dark because the lights cost money?  And what about the air con that I could be using more often to make my apartment cooler and more comfy, but all I see is my money draining away?  Is it successful to sit in the dark and save money?  No one will ever know that you are reading your book in the dark… Where do you draw lines between saving money, using the environment’s resources wisely, and being comfortable?  When you live alone, do you take it to the one extreme that you care most about?    

I wanted so badly to be good at living alone.  But then I realized that I live alone, so the only definition of success that matters is my own (all selfishness aside).  All the pressure to be successful was coming from me.  And I have been successful already. 

Yes, maybe I ate the first few meals in my new home with my fingers.  

Yes, maybe I should have bought toilet paper when I was moving in.

Yes, maybe I still don’t have a garbage can, but that trash bag is working quite well. 

I have food, and I’ve been cooking.

I have read ½ a book. 

I have written down some great stories about school.

I have a clean house and clean clothes. 

And I’m comfortable, proudly saving myself money and conserving water all at the same time.  

My key to success when living alone is to get my needs sorted out while doing what I want. And when something comes up, I’ll just compromise.  After all, it’s just me!  When I’m at home, the only person I have to please is myself.  With the correct priorities and attention to responsibility, everything will get done at the right time, just like my laundry. 


New Hagwon Job!

I’ve lived in Korea for more than a year already.  I’ll be honest, there are some things I hate about Korea.  But there are some things I love too.  My relationship with Korea is one of those that everyone on the outside thinks is destined for collapse.   However, the people in the relationship know a secret- the differences are what has kept them together so far.  In this case, one person and a whole country.

Seeing as how I first came to Korea 15 months ago, I guess it’s about time I started keeping one of those public records of experience people call “blogs”.  I follow several people who regularly write about Korea and it’s culture, and it’s very interesting, not to mention life savingly helpful.  So maybe I feel a little guilty for all the “taking” I’ve done and no “giving.”  If only I believed in Karma…

I’m afraid I’m not an expert on Korean culture though.  Yes, I know 100% more than someone who has never been here, but I am by no means one of those committed expats who has built their whole life here. I can only give my perspective, share my emotions, and show my thought processes.  Penny for your thoughts if you disagree- I’m always up to learn- but I’m sharing my life, not a factual guidebook of Korea.  I welcome you along for the ride, not the proofreading.

Monday of last week was my first day teaching in a Korean academy (hagwon, 학원).  An academy is an afterschool school, where kids go to study something extra.  Maybe they want to be a scientist when they grow up, so they go to a science academy.  Maybe they want to be a engineer when they grow up so they go to a mathematics academy.  Maybe they want to be a businessperson, so they go to an… English academy.  Or maybe their parent’s just don’t want them to be the dumbest kid in school.  University entrance exams are really difficult in Korea, so high school kids don’t have lives.  They only study. Developing good studying habits starts at an early age.

I’m going to refer to my academy by it’s Korean name, hagwon (학원), since I’m not sure academy is the best English translation.  As far as I know, no English speaking country has such a thing.  At my hagwon, the kids start at a ripe old International Age of 6.

On my first day, I was greeted by a little boy yelling “NEW TEACHER, NEW TEACHER!” at the door of the teacher’s room.  I was christened with a nickname, which sounds like Caroro (I’ve looked, thinking this was a Korean word, but no luck… anyone?) and I had a student singing the Imperial March from Star Wars under his breath while he did his class work.

These kids are going to be a blast to teach this year.  If only I didn’t have to deal with a few catastrophic problems concerning my job and new home.