As a college senior I looked askance at working 9-5. Knowing I had a lifetime awaiting me to put in long hours and build a career, I applied to the Peace Corps before my graduation from Boston University. On my 22nd birthday I received a letter special delivery from Washington, DC informing me that I was heading to South Korea as a university instructor of English.
Korea, with its rich 5,000 year-history, was a struggling country in 1973. The largely deforested country was still feeling the ravages of the Korean War. There was no potable water to be found. Rice was rationed by national policy. These challenges notwithstanding, the Korean people opened their homes and hearts to the American volunteers.
Even as a 22 year-old I was afforded a great deal of respect because of the Confucian Ethic which stipulates that all Koreans must demonstrate honor for the Emperor, the father and the teacher--in this case, a young university instructor of English. From Buddhist temples, to kimchee, to mornings of enchanting calm--true to the country’s nickname “Land of the Morning Calm,” living in Korea was an amazing experience. Reciprocating that respect, I tried to help Korean students with their English and provide the linguistic tools to prepare young Koreans to become citizens for the global economic giant their country was soon to become.
My experience in Korea left me with an insatiable appetite for traveling and exploration. My career as a consultant, human resource manager and educator has taken me to over 50 countries. Turning 60 rekindled my thirst for an adventure. Now, more than three decades and a lifetime later, I am returning to Korea; a matching bookend to a magical journey taken decades ago.