Sunday, March 04, 2007


Moving Up Means Moving Out

What is the answer to the following question: “Is it darker at night than it is during the day?”

I ask this because, with 16 months of teaching under the leather clothing accessory which keeps my pants upright and matches the color of my dress shoes, I was recently contacted by our central office and informed of a new opportunity. This could be a possible summarization of the choice they offered me:

“Would you like to work from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. almost every day helping us develop our textbook system? Or, would you prefer making less money while teaching seven hours a day spread out between the crack of dawn and the point where it stops being evening and starts being the time when you really need to go to sleep?”

To me, the reply to that question seemed about as obvious as the response to the one in the first paragraph, and so I answered it the same way I’d answer that one: “Yes, except sometimes in Alaska.”

I was always told by my parents, the professors in my major, and others required by law to be optimistic about my future that I would “move up in the world” if I worked hard at every task I performed. I have tried to follow their advice fairly closely, believing that either I’d find success if they were right or a good rationale for grumpiness later in life if they weren’t.

These bountifully buoyant individuals may have warned me about the incoming job opportunities, but I now consider them rather negligent in informing me of how much actual “moving” it requires to progress in an upward fashion on this earth. You see, since I graduated college in December 2002, I have now switched residencies five times, making for an average one time per year.

First of those was the move from the sanctity and security of my college dormitory to my first apartment in the real world, surrounded on all sides by the callous, carnivorous canines of real world employment. The second move, which took place six months later, was a happier occasion because I was receiving my “break” in that I was hired to work in my hometown in Tennessee at The Paris Post-Intelligencer. This gave me a chance to gain real-world job experience in my field along with the added benefit of allowing me to temporarily live off my parents’ optimism, not to mention their food.

Two years later, when it proved that life in my hometown was far too narrow a sliver of the “real world” to have job experience in, I packed as much as the airplane weight limit would allow and went to Korea to teach English. I spent eight months in Suncheon before moving to Chuncheon. After eight months there I have now moved to Seoul, a city with 33 percent more population than New York City crammed into far less space.

Fortunately, I have a friend of the feminine persuasion among the locals in Chuncheon, someone who uses the English nickname of “Catherine” and volunteered to spend some of her free time this week helping me to pack my belongings into containment units suitable for transport. Having a girlfriend who can help with this was a very providential thing for me; while I am knowledgeable enough about certain things such as history, political science and English rhetoric, my abilities in regards to home maintenance and spatial arrangements are what many experts would classify as “quasi-retardation.”

“Is that how you’re going to fold your clothes?” she asked as I emptied my dressers of their contents.

“This would be easier if we lived in the Choseun Dynasty and all I had was a set of working clothes and a Korean traditional hanbok to carry,” I replied.

“Didn’t you call the internet company to disconnect your service?” Catherine asked me as I slipped my electronics into their carrying cases.

“You know, if I had the support of 51 senators and 170 congressmen I could make someone else do this for me,” I replied. “Maybe I should get it attached as a rider to something they’d never vote against, like a congressional pay raise.”

“How are you going to fit all those shoes into that box with all of those clothes?” she asked.

“‘How are you going to fit all of those shoes into that box along with all of those clothes’ would flow better as a sentence,” I said.

After about an hour of packing, I always start to think it will take a miracle as flamboyant as any the Almighty performed in the Old Testament to fit all of my belongings into the allotted number of boxes and suitcases. I’m happy to tell you that if this weekend is any indication, once again the sun has risen in the west and the US will lead the medal count at the next Winter Olympics.

In the midst of moving, I always hope that my next locale will be a bit more stable, and allow me to stay in place awhile longer. However, I guess that having to pack your things because you’re moving up is a bit like growing older, in that it beats the alternative.

After a year-and-a-half of teaching English in Korea, former Post-Intelligencer reporter Rob York now works in the textbook development office for the Seventh-day Adventist Language Institute in Seoul. You may contact him at or visit

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