Monday, July 19, 2010

About the title.

"Loser back home" is a label affixed to an expatriate who was a loser in his home country and attempts to craft a new, more glamorous and interesting identity for himself in his new country of residence where no one knows him and the locals are unable to read the cultural signs which mark him as a loser. This often entails knavery, clumsy seductions of local women, public intoxication, and generally shameful behavior that tarnishes the reputations of all the LBH's fellow countrymen, causing them to be viewed forever after with suspicion and distaste.

I assure you, dear reader, I am not one of these precisely. I am a refined gentleman of no distinction whatever and I am a loser in my native land. Allow me to explain.

Firstly, I live in the sticks. Not just "the provinces" but the hinterland. A part of the nation sometimes called "flyover country" because important people only ever see it through airplane windows.  I'm a solid 100 miles away from the nearest interstate highway. If you look at my town from space, you will see a smallish assemblage of concrete and asphalt surrounded by untold thousands of acres of nothing. Sometimes there is wheat; other times, sugar beets.

The locals eat lots of meat, kill animals for fun, pretend to have relationships with an invisible man in the sky, and vote Republican. Social life here consists of sitting in dim rooms and getting bent, singing karaoke (a.k.a. "white trash opera") every now and again, and trying to avoid reflecting on the poor choices which resulted in one's entrapment in this revolting quagmire. This is not a place people go to but a place where they end up. To be fair, it isn't all bad: for about 6 weeks of the year the weather is decent.

My situation here is unenviable. I am thoughtful and passably well-read, and have cultivated a large body of knowledge and a set of esoteric skills.  I've discovered no remunerative use for my knowledge or skills, so I am underemployed at a dead-end moron job. I recently graduated from the local degree-granting institution, whose primary admission criterion is willingness to pay tuition, and was cast out into the worst job market in decades holding my worthless B.A. (history) in one hand and my empty resume in the other. Graduate school aside, I have no prospects in the fatherland.

Thus I was easily sold when I read about teaching opportunities in Korea. I'd spent a month in China a few summers ago and kind of liked it. I already had an interest in Korea and had read maybe two thousand pages in Korean history. Teaching in Korea would look good on my grad school application and is a rocket ship guaranteed to blast me clear of the rut I'm in now. I can't get much farther away from this vile podunk than Seoul. The pay is poor by American standards but considering the low cost of living in Korea, reimbursement for airfare, free housing, and the overall amusement value of being in Asia, it's better than I could get at any entry-level job in the States.

So I'm moving to Seoul in about 4 weeks. The point of this blog is to help me remember scenes from my life and to forestall tiresome questions from my acquaintances like "What are you doing over there?" and "What's Korea like?" and "Why don't you ever call me?"  I could accomplish the former with a journal but the latter requires something more public.  So here it is.  I invite you to watch in rapt horror as my wasted life descends ever further into failure and ignominy.  It's also possible I'll have a good time, but that isn't my expectation because I think it's a lot to ask of life.  Should I stumble into any joy, I certainly don't expect you to read about it and fully sympathize with your disgust.  Who wants to read about people having fun?

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