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A Dutchman in Korea

  Richard 900px
[Would you trust this man with your children? No? Well, Koreans would. Deal w/ it nerd.]

You might've heard some things about me trying to get a job in South Korea as an English teacher and whatnot, so now that everything is pretty much taken care of, I thought I'd let you guys know what's going on. [Note: I wrote this on the way back to Brabant from Belgium and it turned out a bit melodramatic. It's pretty deep though, so bare with it.]

I've been a giant weeaboo since highschool, and it has always been my dream to actually go to Japan and experience what it's like first hand. So much even, that I decided to work for a year after finishing highschool so I could make enough money to travel there. I found an awesome job with great pay, but in the end I used that pay to buy all kinds of things I didn't need and didn't save jack shit, which meant there was no money to go to Japan. Before that, my plans had also been foiled (though not due to my own stupidity) when I was looking for volunteer work in Asia but was unable to find anything concrete.
Since then, I've spent 5 years at the University of Maastricht, with a constant feeling of uselessness on my mind. That wasn't just because of my previous inability to do things lots of other people had managed to do though; in general, I don't do anything I want. I never really take any risks and never do anything spontaneous, neither do I try new things to improve myself. Having such a relatively easy to achieve dream and still not being able to actually achieve it even though I had all opportunity to was just another drop in the pond.
Up until a few months ago, when I finally realized this might be my last chance to do something with my life. When I get a steady job, there's no way I'll be able to do anything like this again, so I had to do something after graduating or I would regret it forever. My SNSD obsession was (and is still) going strong, and through the Korean tv shows and movies I'd seen, I had gotten pretty interested in Korea, much like the weeaboo me was interested in Japan. My first idea, after reading up on things on the internet, was to get a paid fulltime job as an English teacher there. My English isn't perfect I was fairly confident it'd be better than that of the avarage Korean. I have to admit I was already even thinking of fun ways to teach things to my students, but after contacting several agencies that supplied foreign teachers to Korea, it became clear that it wasn't going to happen. I'd have to travel to the UK just to get an interview, I'd have to get a work visum, and the thing that really Koreaboolocked me was the fact that they'd only employ teachers from countries where the primary language was English. That meant no visum for Richard, even though my ENglish is without a doubt much better than that of someone from South friggin' Africa, where the official primary language does apparently include English. I then tried my luck in Japan, but they had the same requirements, so it looked like I wasn't gonna go to Asia once again.

I did, however, run into a Canadian website that offered international volunteer projects in IWO workcamps in several places in Asia, including Korea. The problem with volunteer work, of course, is that you need money to do it since not only the sending organization charges you for the mediation with the volunteer organization, the host organization also requires you to pay a contribution to their coffers so they can keep on doing their work, and nothing but a roof above your head and meals in your tummy are taken care of by the host. In the past, I would've given up here. I had no money (my new HD tv was looking mighty spiffy though) and no real plan for the future. Plus, I'd be paying €400 just to have the privilege of doing volunteer work. But by this time, I thought 'fuck it' and just applied at the Dutch organization I had found that worked with IWO. My parents, of course, assumed I was on one of my "Hurp durp I'm really going to do something for a change, guise, just u w8!!" trips and reminded me of how I didn't have any money, never would have any money, that they wouldn't lend me money, that I was a lazy fuck without a job and that I shouldn't send the last €200 I had in my savings account to some random website that said it had ties with IWO. There was truth in their words. I did have no money at all and I haven't had a job since I started University, but with the even more mindnumbing life of a recently graduated student of Dutch law looking for work pushing me in the back, I once again decided to 'fuck it and just do it'. I'd figure out how to do it later.

So I applied, writing up a resume and motivation letter that would show how bad I wanted this (but without all the melodrama that this post is made of) and sending it to SIW, the Dutch organization.
My first choice was a project in the Ganghwa province, very near Seoul in an urban area. I'd be teaching English to middle school children and teaching them about European culture and things like that.
It took a long time for SIW to respond after they asked me for a picture of myself, so I was kind of worried IWO had the same pre-existing opinion of long-haired bearded men that would undoubtedly ruin my chances in the job market as soon as I start looking for a serious job as well. Luckily, this wasn't the case. All the volunteers in Ganghwa would be sharing one big empty room to sleep in, and they had already accepted  a girl for the project. IWO workcamps are usually made up of 8-12 international volunteers and 4-5 Korean guides, so I found it a bit strange to imagine an all-girl volunteer group, but I guess that's how it is sometimes. SIW told me I was more than welcome at the project of my second choice, however: beautiful Wando island (be sure to read this introduction by the tourism board).

Wando is about a full 360 from Ganghwa. A 5 and a half hour bus trip from Seoul by bus, it's a rural, 'slow-city' island focussed on agriculture and fishing. I was a bit disappointed since I had already started imagining what it would be like to experience Korean city life, but Wando was my second choice for a reason. Because of the remote location, they don't get many tourists, so contact with foreigners is mostly new and exciting for them. I'd be helping out at a small grade school and youth camp, introducing the children there to a new language and new cultures. Moreover, this would be a great chance to see a side of Korea most tourists wouldn't even get to know. I also thought that one of my favorite Korean variety shows, Invincible Youth, was filmed at Wando island, but it turned out that was Juju.. Wando was however the set for a lot of Korean dramas, including the popular 'Emperor of the Sea' (check out this link for pictures of the sets). I kind of assume life on Wando will be similar to what was shown on Invincible Youth. Depending on whether the school is located in Wando city or outside of it, I expect I'll be doing a lot of work in the fields or helping out the older residents of the villages there next to my teaching; something that will no doubt give me a feeling of accomplishment, especially
compared to what I would otherwise be doing, which is begging for a soulsucking job here in my own country. I'm looking forward to getting to know the famed rural hospitality (and I hear they also hate Americans, so I'll fit right in) (no offense, Americans reading this, you are bros) and enjoying the beautiful landscape. Just look at this:

Sports Complex and War Memorial      SAM_2355 [I will get more fresh air there in a day than I get here in a year.]

I'm sure there will be enough time to go to Busan and Seoul for a weekend and to see the landmarks in the area. Living there for three months will be so much better than just taking a two week vacation, plus I'll get to make a difference in the lives of many people of a close community ^^
Really, the only real problem I see is the food. Korean food is pretty damn awesome, but the problem of living in a fishing village is that, you guessed it, they tend to eat a lot of fish. And I can't stand fish. It
literally makes me want to throw up. The last thing I want to be is the baka gaijin who can't deal with local life, but goddamn I hate fish. Korean meals are usually served with a gazillion side dishes though, so I guess I'll go vegetarian for a while.

Wando town from the harbour      Wondoeup18
[Ahw hell naww niggah get that shit away from me.]

So now that all this is taken care of , the only thing I need to worry about is finishing my thesis, getting a job after that, getting a passport, paying rent for a studio I'm not using, getting plane tickets, coming to an agreement with my doctor about my ADHD medicine, not getting arrested for possession of said medicine in Korea, deciding what to bring, trying to plan a short trip to Japan while I'm there and having enough money left to prevent starvation and get a roof over my head when I get back home.. Oh, and it would be nice if my family would at some point at least pretend to be interested in it.

But fuck it, I'm going to Korea!


8 comments on “A Dutchman in Korea

  1. Koen
    19 March 2011

    Leuk voor je Richi!!! Wanneer ga je? En voor hoeland? Een jaar?

  2. AoG
    19 March 2011


    I wish you lots of fun and it’ll all work out somehow. That was my motto back when I went to Japan and… it did. So rock it.

  3. Harry d. Busdriver
    20 March 2011

    Oh, I guess I should’ve put that into the post, Koen.
    I’m leaving at the beginning of September and will be getting back halfway through December ^^

    And thanks, Herman :3 I’ll do my best not to worry too much.

  4. Maudy
    25 March 2011

    Tis nog steeds awesome rich ^^ en je gaat echt wel een kickass vrijwilliger zijn daar, en zo. Straks heb je een epische fanclub aan Koreanen. En vis went :P erg gezond XD

  5. Zinzi
    14 April 2011

    Hmm ik wist het natuurlijk al lang maar toch leuk om dit nog te lezen. *trots is* Het gaat echt heel gaaf worden, hoe je het ook went of keert. En ik denk dat waar je heen gaat inderdaad een prima tweede keus is, het platteland is erg fijn, in general!

  6. Zinzi
    14 April 2011

    Oh en lol @ de bakstenen. XD

  7. yMoon
    25 March 2015

    I’ve seen many foreigners begin their journey in Korea in a metropolitan cities but Wando.. wow. I wonder if your view on Korea has changed after spending some time there :)

    • Anon Of Holland
      26 March 2015

      Actually, I’m sure it did.
      Honestly I had a better time in my 3 months in Wando than my 3 months in Seoul (and my 6 months in Daegu so far). It’s just a different way of living that really interests the ‘real’ Korean life and not this Westernized living like in the cities here. If I get the chance, I’d love to go back there again.


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This entry was posted on 19 March 2011 by in Diary, Miscellaneous.

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  • 25,084 Minds Expanded


From #temples to #churches.

#church #Korea #SouthKorea #Seoul #religion #Christian #Christianity #cross #Korean #spooky #spoopy #filter #woods #교회 #무서워 #서울 #기독교 I had a great time working with #SBS on their new program #내방안내서 in the beautiful #Mihwangsa #temple. I'm sure that @zazimusic has made @haemin_sunim proud with their song based on his book, #멈추면비로소보이는것들.
며칠동안 #미황사 에서 시간을 보내는 게 큰 인상을 주었고 만난 사람들 너무 친절하게 챙겨서 감사하는 말 밖에 못 한다.
다들 #수고했어.

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For people living in a big city like this, it's important to #slowdown and not get caught and lose yourself in the flow of things. Life in the #countryside and in a #temple is so different, so much more #empty, but so much more fulfilling.

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Another gorgeous #sunset at #Mihwangsa #temple.
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#nature #Korea #SouthKorea #sea #island #절라도 #절라남도 #바다 #섬 #자연 #일몰
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