Today is my fourth anniversary: I've lived in Asia for four years now.
2001 was a rather turbulent year for me. I had been working for Shasta, a swimming pool company, since late 1999, but felt that my job and career as an accountant had completely stagnated. I had reverted to Islam in June of the previous year, and while I felt comfortable living my new life as a Muslim I found it somewhat difficult (at the time) to find a Muslim woman to marry. So I turned to the Internet, and began a correspondence with a Moroccan woman living in Switzerland. I thought we had a chance to develop a serious relationship, and so I began to divest myself from my life in America - I wrapped up my affairs and traveled to Geneva in June...
Only to be rejected by her almost as soon as we met at the airport. I spent two weeks there, my first trip to Europe. We did spend some time together, testing to see if the relationship could be re-started, but I left Europe with bitterness (at having been spurned after all the emotional and financial capital had been invested) and relief (talking to a friend after I returned to the US, I told her that being with this woman would ultimately give me an ulcer; my friend said, "Are you kidding? She'd have given you a heart attack!"). And so I returned to the U.S., only to find that I was unemployed. I stayed with a relative for a while, but she kicked me out after not being able to pay rent (I had gone completely broke). For three days, I found myself homeless, rejected by family and friends, but welcomed in by Muslim brothers who were otherwise complete strangers. (May Allah (swt) bless these men for the kindness they showed me in my darkest hours.) Eventually my relative asked me to return, in part (ironically) because her dog missed me and would wait at the door every evening for me to come home. (May Allah (swt) bless "Pete" too.)
And while I couldn't find a permanent, full-time job, I was able to go back to Shasta for a few months as a part-time employee. I paid my relative her rent, and began looking for other work. The thought crossed my mind that I had a brand new passport; was there any work I might find overseas that would allow me to travel? Eventually, I came across an Internet advertisement for a job teaching English in Korea. On a lark, I submitted my resume, and an employment agency contacted me very quickly, saying they'd be more than happy to help me find a job. Thus began a dance between the agency, myself, and three schools who were interested in hiring me (the third school ultimately did). The funny thing was that I was very much torn as to the whole idea of moving to Korea. I knew virtually nothing about the country, and I wasn't quite sure if I really wanted to leave the U.S. One week I would say, "I'm definitely moving to Korea," and the next week it would be, "There's absolutely no way I'm going to Korea." It wasn't until I talked to my dad over the phone, when I asked him what I should do, that I made my final decision. "Go!" he said, and I did, and it was the best decision.
So I packed everything up one final time…and then waited. September 11th happened. (I was originally supposed to leave on the 14th, I believe.) Of course, I had to rearrange all my travel plans and get a new ticket. After a 14-hour flight from LAX, I finally got to Incheon International Airport late at night on September 22, 2001, where some woman (an employee of the agency) quickly got me off my Asiana flight and onto another plane bound for Busan (I was the last passenger to board; the plane for Busan had been waiting for me).
So I lived for a year in Korea, falling in love with that country and still missing it even today. Since then, I’ve lived in Singapore, where I started another life here with my wife. I’ve had the opportunity to visit a few other countries out here: Malaysia a few times, Japan for a day (to get my Korean work visa), and a few hours at the Bangkok International Airport – if you want to count that. There are lots of places I’d love to visit around here in time: China, Japan (again, but much more thoroughly), Cambodia (to see Angkor Wat), Vietnam, Brunei (to visit one of my wife’s relatives, who frequently asks us to come over) and, of course, Korea once more.
It’s been a wild ride. Lots of fun, happiness, pain, and sorrow. Real life, just like anywhere else. My dad was ultimately right. Coming to Asia was one of the best decisions I ever made. I’m glad I’m here.
This post first appeared on Ang Moh In SG, please read the originial post: here