Dispatch from Abroad

We did it, we heaved our massive capitalistic bulk into donation or trash, we got all shot up with inoculations (we’re still paying for, btw), and we transplanted ourselves in SE Asia! The TESOL certification course at IALF Bali was fantastic: we made some great friends and contacts, worked hard, studied hard, and now we’re qualified to teach English at prestigious schools and institutions all around the world. I look forward to taking advantage of that.

After two months touring five Indonesian islands, we flew to Thailand, which was a surprise and a thrill for me. The internationality of Bangkok was a sight all by itself: people from every nation dressed in office clothes, hustling along on the sky train to their jobs, citizens playing with the definitions of gender identity, and state-of-the-art infrastructure supporting it all! I could happily live in Bangkok, I think, though Thai eludes my tongue exactly the way Bahasa Indonesia did not. I found it quite easy to increase my Indonesian fluency, as it’s a very flexible vocabulary, but the tonal languages are of course a challenge.

We spent nearly two weeks in Chiang Mai, a little time in Pai, Chiang Rai, and Chiang Kong, and now we’re in Vientiane, Lao PDR. Most of ours time has been getting oriented in Luang Prabang, a lush and dynamic little city, the hub of many other wonders throughout the province. We spent a couple meaningful days in Nong Khiew, spelunking the caverns where the regional population conducted their financial transactions, in hiding from two million tons of cluster bombs the US military dumped throughout the countryside for nearly ten years, somehow keeping this secret from Congress.

This trip has been as wondrous as it has horrifying. I lack the faculty to cope with the information coming at me, the gross inequity of classes and populations, of being born into privilege and trekking through dirt farms and impoverished villages. What do I have to offer? The whole of SE Asia seems in dire need of a good editor, but this seems so trivial when placed in relation against abandoning all the trappings of my life and dedicating the whole of my being to teaching a single Hmong village reading/writing fluency in English. So little, so pathetic, yet so direly needed everywhere we go. Everyone wants to learn English; those who can speak it want to speak it better or learn to write it. I wish US citizens would consider this when they smirk at imperfectly written menus, t-shirts, and signage.

As for finding work, it seems almost insurmountable. We were overseas when we discovered a new field of hoops to leap through, in attaining jobs in South Korea. The websites we researched really need to update themselves with current information: notarized, apostilled copies of our graduate diplomas would be much, much easier to have obtained while in the US. And it looks like there will be no editing positions for me in South Korea: the only visas we qualify for will be teaching positions. I would have to be a naturalized citizen or have a Korean spouse to qualify for the profession I have designed myself for. (There’s word that I could gain such a job strictly under-the-table, that thousands of English-speakers work these “odd jobs” without health care, taxes, or government sanction.) Another expat indicated there’s already intense competition for editing positions: very clever, Korea, release a bunch of grammatically risible documentation and entice the best editors from around the world to fight for work, leaving you to sift among the creme-de-la-creme at your leisure. Well played.

My experiences are invaluable and I’m suffused with growing pains as my mind and soul grow in new dimensions. It is my earnest hope I can ply my talents to individuals, organizations, and businesses wherever I go. Given that we can’t really work in Korea until the school year starts in August, our grand adventure abroad relies on us finding temporary work to sustain us until that time. So much opportunity. I have to focus on the opportunity and not look at what I stand to lose. I really want this to work, and I see the need: why are these dots so hard to connect?

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