The Weight of a Moment
You may be wondering where I have been over the past month or so. With good reason, things have been very quiet around here what with work and vacations and my other writing, it’s been difficult to find time. For that, I am very sorry.
Over the past few months, I have been stumbling over a very very tricky situation. In a desperate attempt to keep working within the public school system, I packed my bags and my dog and I moved to Bundang, a very affluent neighbourhood on the South East side of Seoul. Close to Gangnam, filled with workaholics and globetrotting kids that have probably been to more countries than me. My apartment choices were limited, but Dora and I went for size, picking a nice large studio apartment with a loft that looks out to a brick wall.
In hindsight now, I’ve realized this move was probably a bad idea. While Bundang is a fantastic city, it can be incredibly lonely there because many of the expats in the area are established, many in relationships, married, and some even have kids. As nice of people they are (All very wonderful people) I can’t help but feel very much like Bridget Jones while living here, being a late 20something singleton surrounded by smug marrieds. Conversations feel near impossible because they have lives and I go to k-pop concerts. My claim to fame is that Kevin and Eli know me by first name, while many of them have no idea what that means really and instead have important things to talk about like work and travel and children (oh lord, breeders…)
So, for the past six months, it’s been me and Dora, off on our own in the middle of an urban jungle called Bundang. Work had become a battle. I have never had so much trouble with work in my life, and I’ve struggled through it for six months. My health decreased, and everyone could see it. It went from me maybe needing a bit of makeup to cover up the shadows under my eyes to needing a full on facelift at this time just to look like I haven’t contracted a flesh-eating disease or am not currently in the middle of a stroke. (I exaggerate. A little.)
For the first time in my life, homesickness struck.
Now, you may stop and say, “Really Rebecca? You’ve been away for how long and you’ve never been homesick? I call bullshit.” But it is true. Of course I miss my family and friends and stuff, but I never found myself wanting to move home, because back home was just as bad, work wise and apartment wise and social circle wise. But I found myself at least wanting to be on equal footing at work so there was no excuse of language barriers and miscommunication. I wanted to be able to work in a way that would let me work on K-Soul and the website without the fear of a visa renewal being rejected. At the end of the day, I still wanted to live in Korea, I just wanted my work situation to be better. Or at least be married to a Korean so I could work part-time without losing everything. And really, when you’re contemplating wanting to marry someone just for the visa status, you know you’re not in the happiest place, mentally.
So I booked a ticket back home to Canada for two weeks. And since Dora is pretty much my entire life and social circle, she was going to come with me.
Getting all the research done for Dora to be able to travel with me was confusing and exhausting. However, with the help of my vet, we got all the paperwork to help bring her home with me and I thought I was set. It was a little pricy, but getting to spend two relaxing weeks with my family and my beloved dog seemed worth it.
The first week in Canada was really nice. We went to Niagara Falls and relaxed at my house. We went swimming and I could feel myself getting better. I could also feel my brain starting to re-establish my missing self-worth, which I didn’t even know I had lost after months and months of stress. On the second week home, I started to make sure I had everything ready, and that meant Dora’s paperwork as well. When we left Korea, there were so many hoops we jumped through, I was nervous about the trip home. So I called the Ottawa airport, but they had nothing in place. I called Pearson airport, but there was nothing special we needed to do. I took this as suspicious, since there was SO much to do going out of Incheon.
I had a bad feeling then. A very bad feeling.
I began looking up what the process was for getting Dora INTO Korea once we got to Korea. I was confused because many of the official sites didn’t match. The airport site had different information than the quarantine page site, and they both kept referring to the “country of export”. But Dora was a Korean dog, so what would she fall under.
A day before we were due to leave, I found out that since we’d been out of the country for over 10 days, she was now a Canadian export. Harsh, Korea. Harsh. This meant though that ALL of the paperwork had been worthless, and the one thing we did need was a rabies-neutralizing antibody test, aka a titer test. And naturally, these tests are done in labs. And can take 2-3 weeks to get the results.
24 hours before my flight. Dora needed a blood test that would take 2-3 weeks to get back into the country.
I had to make one of the worst decisions ever that day. Do I bring Dora with me and put her in quarantine? Do I leave her with my family and see if she can be shipped back? Or do I stay in Canada and completely abandon my work here?
Well, as much as I wish I could have taken the third option, my sense of what’s right quickly narrowed that one out. It came down to who was the one who needed to suffer a bit, me or my dog? If I brought Dora with me, she would at least be in Korea. I could check on her. But, quarantine costs 30,000 a day, and can take up to 4 weeks to get the results. If there was a spot for her in quarantine. That’s 840,000 won, just for the boarding. Then there would be the test, and the other health fees. Dora’s quarantine would cost me about a million won. The other option was leaving her with my parents, going back to Korea, and then making a few more big decisions. This option would also cost me about $1500 overall, but would give me the knowledge that my dog is in the best of hands with my parents.
I’m back in Korea now. Dora is with my parents.
As you can imagine, it was a pretty difficult decision, leaving her. But I did, now I’m faced with more decisions.
- Do I stay at my current job and last for the next six months?
- Do I look for new work to start ASAP?
- Do I even stay in Korea?
When I was back home, everything in me was telling me to stay in Canada. Despite everything else, I wanted to stay. So I came back with the intention of moving home soon. But now that I’m back here, and I see all the stuff I own and would have to pack, 30 days feels impossible. And expensive. But I don’t know if I can actually keep living like I have been now that I know I don’t have to.
One moment, one bad feeling, and suddenly I’ve got the weight of the world on my shoulders, and some serious decisions to make.