I knew this would happen... Mom comes and I live on cloud 9 for a week. And now, she is gone, and I'm back to living in reality. And reality is only a few hundred square feet of living space, a 20 minute walk to work in freezing temperatures, and hundreds of screaming Korean children. *Sigh...*
I need to fill you guys in on what's been happening at work recently. It's a mess but it will make my current state of depression more understandable...
Well, about a month and a half ago, some other foreign teachers at my school started talking about how we are supposed to be paid for our vacation, but we haven't been. We all looked at our contracts, and it sure enough does say that we have 2 weeks "paid vacation" in the year, but none of the teachers who have been here for almost their whole year have been paid this money.
A couple of the teachers decided to bring it up and basically ask for our money. After a few weeks of back and forth with our supervisor, Jackie, they requested a meeting with the school director. It was after work one day. We had dinner the next night and basically, the story goes: the teachers (2 who shall remain nameless for their protection) reasonably showed him the contract where it explicitly states the terms of paid vacation, and requested that we be paid for it.
The director proceeds to throw a tantrum in Korean (translated by Jackie) and tell them that they are ridiculous, that's not how it works, this is Korean culture and they don't get paid vacations, and we should be grateful he pays us on time and for our apartments and that we get pension and severance after our year, etc etc. Basically: "Be grateful I fulfill the basic requirements of employment." Finally, after about 2 hours of talking in circles, the foreign teachers suggest we ask the Labour Board. He agrees and the meeting is done.
A few days go by, all of the foreign teachers informally discuss our options and decide that, while we would certainly have a case in America, in Korea we think that the governing body would side with the director because of Korean-camaraderie. We basically decide to give it up.
A week or two goes by, and one of the teachers is taken aside and said that she is no longer going to be paid for being Head Teacher. She got demoted. The director blamed it on the "economy" but it was very obviously revenge for confronting him about the contract. She is obviously and understandably shocked by such childish behavior from a businessman, but tactfully continues performing her job to a level that I myself would have a hard time performing under such blatant disrespect.
Well, a few days ago, the same girl who got demoted got an email from an incoming teacher. The new teacher was requesting some info on what she should bring, etc. The usual stuff. But the girl mentioned she would arrive in early January. Red flag: no one's contract ends at the beginning of January. The teacher wrote back and inquired as to which area she would be working in and what the exact start date was (wording this in a way as to seem helpful rather than nosey).
We find out that the new teacher's contract starts January 7 and she will be working in the afternoon. BIG red flag! The teacher asks Jackie about it - are we expanding? am I getting fired? what is going on?
Jackie then inquires with the director after work on Tuesday. Apparently, the director yelled at her and told her "This is none of your business! Don't ask questions about things that do not concern you!" Jackie comes back to the teacher nearly in tears, and has no real answers for her.
We can conclude that the director has a master-plan not being shared with any of the Korean teachers, and presumably is getting ready to fire her. We have Speaking Contest this Saturday and also Open Class in December (both events where the director NEEDS to impress parents to continue to get business). We assume he is waiting to fire her until we are done with those two things.
If you have followed this convoluted story, I'm sure you can imagine the outrage and injustice of the situation. Beyond the ridiculousness of it all, it puts all the foreign teachers on high alert. We are all being watched during classes now, and we are all paranoid and there is palpable tension in the office.
Well, yesterday after learning all of this, I start to thinking. And if you know me, when I start to think, I really really think. Like: overthink. So, what's going through my mind, all at the same time, in about the space of 10 seconds:
This is absolutely ridiculous; I hate this greedy pompous selfish director; I miss America; I don't want my mom to leave me; I hate this kid; I don't have any motivation to do my job well; Am I going to be fired next?; How unstable is this director that he would go to such extremes and risk a lawsuit (which will surely follow if he goes through with the dismissal) just to exact his revenge?; What am I going to unknowingly do that will get me fired?; I am so lonely!; I want to go home; I could just leave if I wanted; I can't just break my contract; Yes, I can; No, I can't; CRY!
So, thankfully my mom is still here as this all hits me at the exact same moment, and I literally break down. I have been lonely here, to be sure, but having had my mom here has thrown into sharp relief exactly how miserable I can get here all alone in this tiny apartment day after day. I begin to just bawl... I can't contain it. My misery and depression all sink in on me at once. It's wave after wave of hopelessness.
I think of going home. Breaking my contract and just doing a midnight run. Since mom came, it's crossed my mind a few times, but this exact moment (at about 10:40pm last night) I almost just bought a ticket. I had true and painful conflict in my heart; I want to go home so bad. I want familiarity, I want hospitality, I want to be normal and not a freak walking down the road, I want to be close to people who really love me, I want mexican food, I want a normal life. But, there is a piece of me that says I can't go. This is mostly the part of me that remembers how I was raised: never give up if you can possibly keep going; don't quit just because it gets hard; follow through on your commitments. Dang it, parents!!! Why did you raise me so well!?!?
After about 20 minutes of this horrible gut-wrenching indecision and desperation, Mom puts a pill in my hand and some water, and I take it. I literally tell myself to calm down, and in about 20 more minutes I am relatively calm. Apparently my mom gave me some Xanax, just to calm me down. It seems this was an anxiety attack. I should have known since I have had them before, but it has been a while.
I start to admit that I am well and truly depressed here. I try to stay upbeat when I blog or when I talk to my friends back home because, who wants to admit that making such a life changing decision as to move across the world might have been a bad move? Certainly not this girl!
I do know that there is a reason I am here, and that I can do it, but it's really really hard to get over the mental road block of: I could leave here, I could leave all this behind, if I really wanted to. Just introducing the option of going home has made me even more depressed. It should cheer me up! But, no, I can't let myself leave *sigh*.
Mom promised that if I feel that I want to leave and I can't do it anymore, that they will help me get home. That was reassuring, but also extremely tempting to accept on the spot. I'm not really sure why I didn't... I guess it just felt wrong to do. And the possibility is still there, but at this moment I am going to stay.
I'm sure everyone goes through times where they are just sick of it and want to leave. I'm sure there are hard times. But, with this horrible situation at work, my time has been even more stressful and depressing.
I decided to put my national healthcare to good use and go see a doctor about the depression. I can't live like this: feeling like no matter what I do, there is no hope of happiness. I mean, just writing it I feel like a loser! But, that's how it gets sometimes... I am completely alone here. My one real friend lives about an hour away and has her own life, too. Having mom here has just made me realize it even more...
Well, so, then, today mom well and truly left. It was horrible to say goodbye. Worse than saying goodbye at the airport in Houston. And at this point, I don't have anything to look forward to (such as a visitor). I went to work and when I got home, all I could think about was how empty the apartment was. And how I have to go back to my "normal" routine now. I have to cook every meal and clean after myself and make my bed everyday and pick up my own mess. It was bliss to have someone look after me for a few days. I am tearing up even now just thinking about how good my mom was to me.
All in all, her visit was amazing. We were very busy, and probably should have had a little more down time, but we had some really funny moments (Yeti-outfit) and bonding conversations (mostly on the subway). My mom is my best friend, and her leaving feels like a big chunk of my heart got pulled out. I just hope that it got packed away in her suitcase :)
Besides the decision to seek out some Cymbalta, I made another decision that I hope will positively affect my experience here. I am not going to share what that decision is just yet, because I think it needs a blog of its own.
For now, I am going to take some Advil PM and watch Elf and eat my Baskin Robbins pint. If you're a sister or brother in Christ, I could use some prayers. I think it will get better... I hope! In the mean time, I need to find a big wall calendar to mark off each day until I get to go home. Only 278 days to go...