The Aimless Twenty-Something Life: A Postgrad’s Tale of Travel & Taking Control

In May 2011, I was sitting across from four editors in the startlingly modern private boardroom of the Chronicle Herald newspaper in west end Halifax, Nova Scotia. I’d prepared for this job interview all week. The Herald isn’t an especially well-regarded publication (it’s locally nicknamed “The Chronically Horrid”), but holds the distinction of being one of Canada’s oldest daily papers, and the largest of the nation’s few remaining independent ones. I would love to work there.

Beard trimmed and tie clip neatly in place, I played up my strengths and lied about my weaknesses for about 20 minutes. It was all very innocuous. Truth be told, I was happy enough just sitting there—as a 22-year-old journalism major on the cusp of graduation, a job straight out of school is considered the Holy Grail. J-schoolers are told often the tall tales of glorious predecessors who’ve moved on to full-time gigs at the Globe and Mail, Maclean’s, the CBC. This is what we believed we were working for. This was the goal.

As the interview wrapped up, one of my hypothetical employers brought up the topic of my other hypothetical futures. I replied candidly, but uncertainly: if I don’t get this job, actually, I might just move to South Korea and teach English.

The editor’s mouth twisted into an almost patronizing smile, and he wished me good luck.

Downstairs, I was showed to the door by the assistant newsroom editor, a hefty and serious man with a receding hairline and Italian name lifted from the cast of The Godfather. I asked him, out of curiosity, how he’d judge seeing “English Teacher in South Korea” on a resume. “It wouldn’t help,” he told me frankly, propping the door open. “But it wouldn’t hurt either. To be honest, you should probably just go. You’re young. Have fun.”

I inferred (correctly) from his parting words that the job wasn’t mine. The following week, for lack of any better autumn prospects, I emailed my teaching application.

Mt.-Seunghak

“Given the amount my generations complains, or at least gets flak for complaining, about how few jobs there are, I was, and still am, seriously astonished at how few recent university graduates decide to travel straight out of college.” 

Read the rest on BootsnAll — my first for one of the web’s biggest travel websites.

The Race for the Blue House

Despite all that’s been written about it so far, Korea’s presidential election really only just began. Shit got real once Ahn Cheol-soo, the independent left-leaning billionaire software mogul, dropped out of the race in late November. One week later, the official candidates (significantly, leftist Moon Jae-in and right-winger Park Geun-hye) registered to duke it out on December 19.

And so it began. For the next two weeks we, the people, will be subjected to ‘heartfelt’ political ads (scroll down), drive-by televised speeches and the constant battle cry of the ajumma, proudly row-dancing and clutching banners on the street.

MoonPark

Expect the usual Korean political fare and streets louder than usual. Park’s rejected Moon’s request for a live televised debate, which is actually pretty weird, on the grounds that her nationwide tour is too tight. (How else can Moon show off his lofty elitist intellectualism? How else can Park look like an aristocratic old-fashioned hag?)

Read the full thing on Busan Haps, for which I am now effectively a Korean political reporter.

Korean Bus Drivers Set to Strike

IF YOU’VE EVER had the thought, “Korean taxis are so cheap; why bother taking the bus?” then you might’ve been onto something. And that something has led to a bus strike on Thursday, November 22 and possibly not ending for a while.

A total of 48,000 buses will stop tomorrow, 2,511 of which run through Busan’s 132 daily routes. Seoul will be hit a bit harder, with some 7,500 buses running over 360 routes carrying approximately five million passengers.

“There has not been a single public hearing on this issue, though we’ve expressed our position to the parliament and parties. This is nothing but an impromptu populist measure ahead of the presidential election.

The reason behind the strike is a parliamentary bill, which puts Korea on the road to acknowledging taxis as public transportation. Already, a bill has been passed by a parliamentary committee (read: not everyone in parliament agreed yet) that would enable cabs to legally use bus lanes and get some cash compensation from the government. There’s a vote on Friday with the full parliament to see if the rest of the gang agrees.

When Korea’s 17 bus unions got wind of this, they flashed a red light of their own.

“There has not been a single public hearing on this issue, though we’ve expressed our position to the parliament and parties. This is nothing but an impromptu populist measure ahead of the presidential election,” a bus association official told Yonhap News.

“If the bill passes a floor vote on Friday, we will go on an indefinite strike.”

In an appropriate city response, expect to see way more taxis (and, consequently, way more traffic jams, car horns and impolite lane changes) as well as extended subway hours for Thursday.

Behold the full relevant article on Busan Haps! Timely and informative… almost as if it’s what the media’s there for.

We got yer back, public.