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The Hurt Locker Analogy

December 19, 2011

So… I dunno if you’ve seen The Hurt Locker, but… here we go.

<Warning, the following post contains spoilers rigged to explode inside small children>

(oooh callback to the previous blog!) It’s a good movie, sure. My favorite part was the last 10 minutes or so, when Jeremy Renner’s character returns home and discovers that he can no longer engage with normal human life. I wish those scenes were longer, but I guess that would have meant less time for awesome bomb defusing sequences.

This next part is the bit where I compare Jeremy Renner’s portrayal of a heroic soldier who defuses bombs in Iraq to privileged white teachers in South Korea, so pay attention carefully.

When I first arrived here, I spent a little extra time asking each of the departing teachers what they had planned for when they returned home. I was kind of shocked to discover that most of them didn’t have a plan and kind of hated the question, which in turn hurt me a bit because it reminded me of my own thought processes when it comes to planning such things. Not a single one had a coherent idea for what they were going to do once their Korean adventure year ended.

Then I pictured them standing in a super market like Jeremy Renner, looking at all the endless choices of white person cereal, with everything in nice clean understandable English and comforting caucasians all around. I imagined horror on their faces as they shook and twitched, thinking “this just doesn’t make sense to me anymore!”. Smash cut to them walking off a plane in Korea again, starting another tour of duty. Roll credits. Win academy award.

Now OBVIOUSLY this is a goofy comparison and I don’t want to make English teachers sound like they’re particularly badass or anything. The thing is, I’m not completely off target here. I’ve also met “career ESL teachers”, who have traveled all over, or stayed in Korea for upwards of five years. I wonder how much of it is a legitimately wholehearted love for their job and how much of it is a fear of going home, or the inability to go home.

I can see how it’s a very enticing lifestyle. I make good money, with very low expenses. The work can be quite fun, and isn’t overly gruelling or stressful as long as you can “just go with it“. You’re constantly meeting new and exciting people and always slightly estranged from the world itself.

Life is on pause.

Things can be pretty carefree. You don’t need to follow the news, or even watch Facebook. All of your emails take at least a day for a response, if not more, due to the time difference, so even the fast paced internet world is slower. Socially, there are very few obligations. You’re not going to need to come up with ways to weasel out of weddings you’d rather not attend. You’re not even going to have to pay bills yourself, and you don’t pay rent! You can coast along… and your time is truly your time to spend in your own head.

I’ve been thinking about this precisely because I’m about to go home and unpause my life for a week or so. I wonder how exactly it will feel. I can definitely see the temptation of staying on pause for years more, but I can stand back far enough to see why one shouldn’t do it.

Still, this will be a topic that I will revisit in the future for sure, especially when I go home and towards the end of my contract.

This was swans a-swimming. See you tomorrow for some maids a-milking!


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