James Batcho, PhD | Leaving Korea
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Leaving Korea

BUSAN. After six and a half years in Korea, I’m packing up and moving on. To put a long story into a single sentence: My department folded at Kyungsung and rather than shift into a new department I took it as an opportunity to go. Since I had attained what is somewhat losely regarded here as tenure, I could have fought for a new contract in a new department. I could have tried to maintain my life in Korea through another teaching position. But I did neither. When I came here in 2007, I came for this job at thisuniversity, teaching the subjects I signed up to teach. That has all dissolved. So now it’s time to see what else is out there.

My plan for the immediate future goes something like this: I leave for Seoul July 14 and for Europe two days after that. I’ll spend a couple weeks reading in Poland and Berlin, and then head to Switzerland for doctoral classes. At the end of August I’ll be ABD and will have two years to complete my dissertation. The end of August is also when my contract ends. So I will come back to Busan on the 27th, close up shop at Kyungsung, and leave the country around September 5.

All of that is already sorted. The next step is less known, but the likely landing place is Chiang Mai. I need a place that is cheap, quiet, devoid of distractions, and not the United States, somewhere I can research and write. I had a feeling last winter that I might end up there, since my cousin Cody, who was living there, told me so much about it. I visited him this past February partially as a reconnaissance mission and loved it. I know the place where I will stay and what the lifestyle is. But I won’t know for sure if that happens until I buy a flight, which I’ll probably do within the next few weeks. I don’t know how long I’ll be there. Probably through the end of the year. But I also know that anything could happen and I might wind up somewhere else before then or stay there indefinitely. It’s more likely, however, that I’ll return to California in time for Christmas. I want to spend time with my family and then think about what comes next. As my buddy Gino put it recently “Money is time”—when the first runs dry the second disappears with it. I’m going to cast a wide net. Being unattached to person, place or thing, I have the world as an option.

With that in mind, I should add that I’m also posting this as an open letter of sorts to seek out opportunities from you all. If you know of a situation where I might find a home and a job, I’d love to hear about it. As of now, September until the end of time is undefined. This all excites me, and freaks me out. Being without a steady paycheck is not the most comforting feeling, and I fear eventual repatriation without direction if that does indeed happen.

Leaving Busan will break my heart. Those who have spent time with me here know exactly why. It will hurt to leave so many great friends behind and such an incredible community of people. But I know without question that those who matter most to me here will remain in my life. I also know that this is the time. I don’t believe in stars aligning or things meant to be or any of that bullshit. I’ve been alive too long and experienced too much to think there’s any “reason” behind anything that happens, other than each of us following what feels right. Right now, this feels right.