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Friday, September 04, 2009

The Price of Travel, part 1

Quite a long time ago, I think in July, I wrote that I would make a post regarding both the cost of travel and maybe some reflections on the experience as a whole. Then I got caught up preparing for the move to Korea, and I didn't get around to it. Here it is.

I left Korea on December 1st and did my bumming until February 9, at which point I started the CELTA course. The cost of those 9ish weeks was $2863.98. That's about $318 a week, or $45 a day. (That's a lot more than I remember spending, actually, but I think about 5% of it was bank fees: $5 every time I withdrew at an ATM or used the card to buy a plane ticket or something). I didn't realize I spent that much, but included in that amount are a flight from mainland Malaysia to Borneo (no boats during the monsoon season), some flights around Borneo to caving sites (accessible only by plane), a flight back to the mainland, a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Siem Reap/Angkor Wat, Cambodia (Thai visa wasn't ready), visas for Cambodia and Laos, innumerable bus tickets, and of course breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, drinks, and acommodation. It does not include the tickets from Seoul to Taipei, Taipei to Singapore, or Bangkok back to Seoul, which I bought in advance for about 1 million won, or $750 at that time.

After the CELTA course, another week and a half in Chiang Mai and Bangkok, and 10 days or so in Korea, I headed back to the states. The bosses were obligated to pay for my ticket, which they did. Between 28 March and 13 July (let's call it 14 weeks), I spent approximately $3312, or $236 a week, or $33 a day. This included bus tickets in California and Nevada, one massive Amtrak ride from Reno to Boston, and flights from Boston to Virginia and Virginia back to Wisconsin. Plus a rental car for one week. It only half-included food (since I spent a good amount of time with family) and included less that $100 worth of hotel/hostel fees (incurred during the Zehornide holy matrimony).

So, if you are wondering what it costs to be unemployed for 8ish months, there you go. About $6000, in my case. This doesn't take into account, of course, the "opportunity cost," i.e. amount of money I could have made during that time had I been working. Then again, to be fair, when you're working, your paycheck doens't reflect the opportunity cost of all those experiences you missed by doing the same crud in the same place day in and day out.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

A Modicum of Progress

With reference to the previous post, I have ruled out option number 1 (staying in Korea). As is standard with contracts here, schools are supposed to provide the teachers with apartments, so when I visited 영진 (the school I agreed to work for), I got a tour of my future apartment, and it was pretty sweet. Unfortuntely, I can't start living there until February, though I even asked if I could just pay rent to stay in the meantime, since it's going to be empty. The answer was no. Thus: No place to stay, plenty of places to go.

I also had a few other opportunities to work here, but it occurred to me that I've been teaching English in Korea for just over 2 years now and will be doing it again in 5 or 6 months, and there's nothing other than inertia compelling me to do it in the interim as well. Time to do something. Something that fulfills the following Criterions:

1) Must take place in an exotic/exotified foreign land.
2) Must not cost too much money.
3a) Must be more fulfilling than last winter in Southeast Asia. (see future post with another DFW quotation for elaboration and elucidation, perhaps with a counter-post from my temporary host Chris, a "fellow traveler" over on the left there, unless you're reading this upside-down, in which case I guess he's on the right).
3b) Must do somebody, or the environment/everybody, some good.
4) Must somehow contribute to "my development," not that I know what that means.
5) Must be conducive to vegetarianism.

What magic contraption can do all of these things while still being enjoyable? One answer, it appears, is WWOOFing, which stands for WorldWide Opportunity on Organic Farms. It's an organization that facilities communication between fauxbauxs like myself (I suppose realbauxs are also eligible, or perhaps WWOOFing is itself one path to realbauxhood) and hosts, who generally provide accomodation and sustenance in exchange for 4-6 hours of labor each day, either on a farm or some other kind of project.

Over the past few years, thanks to authors like Michael Pollan and Peter Singer and recently betrothed friends like Justin and Anna Horn-Zeide or Zeide-Horn or Zehornide or Hozeidern or whatever surname they have finally settled on, I've become a lot more interested in the processes by which we produce and obtain food nowadays. This probably also has something to do with the widening of my culinary horizon forced upon me by my impromptu move to Korea way back in '06 [3 years in December! Indubitable yet incomprehensible!}. I always used to be a little freaked out that I knew how to use a TV but really had no idea about how iti worked. And even when I started learning to play around with computers in middle and high school, it eventually dawned on me that though I was capable of reinstalling operating systems and installing new hardware, I really knew very little about how stuff worked at more basic levels.

It wasn't until a little more recently, though, that I realized that I face a similar sort of bewilderment about most, if not all, the food I eat. I have no idea where it came from, who caught it or grew it, how they did so, how long they've been doing so, whos' subsidizing them, what they think about what they produce and how they produce it, what they think about their customers, what their goals are, etc. Not to mention conditions on meat farms/CAFOs. I'm sure most people would be equally perplexed if they were in the habit of trying to think thoroughly about their food.

So, at this point, heading to a farm somewhere - maybe even one with solar-powered water heaters and human waste composting toilets - to plant trees and dig ditches and pick fruit and build huts and eat vegan (not vegans) seems like a good way to spend the winter. I don't think I'm particularly compelled by concepts like living in harmony with mother nature or treating the world with respect, but I'm defiinitely interested in trying something a little simpler, a little more self-sufficient, and also, hopefully, delicious.