Letters from Beyond the Black Hole

An open letter to all friends and family of ESL teachers in Korea.

Dear World,

It’s us. All of us. The sons and daughters of English speaking nations across the globe. We may have left you a few days ago, a few weeks ago, or even years past. And we wanted to apologize. We also wanted to let you know that we are still alive. We are more than alive, we are thriving. But Korea is somewhat of a black hole.

You see, even though you might not get many letters, photos or phone calls, we’re still here and we’re still thinking about all of you every day. Our lack of communication is not due to negligence, or spite. It’s not that we’re lazy, or uninterested in life back home. Quite the opposite. It’s just that nothing can escape the gravity of this strange and fascinating nation.

What you must understand is that there is a shift in the time-space continuum. Yes, that old science-fiction trope again. To illustrate my point, I have prepared a visual aid:

Figure A

Figure A

As you can plainly see by the above image, there is a horizontal graphic representation of the normal grid of space-time. This is where most of you currently reside. Our homes. Around the small blue representation of the Earth you will notice a bending of the usual proportions of the grid. At the apex of this grid you can clearly deduce that there is an anomaly in which normal progressions of time , and typical dimensions of space, are no longer uniform. At the focal point of this apex is Korea.

Yes, this means that when an entire month passes you by, it has, in fact, been only a few days in Korea. This is why when you speak to us on Skype and start the conversation with a witty “Long time no see…” comment, we furrow our eyebrows, glance at the calendar on the wall and say, “Really? Has it been that long?”

Somewhat interesting to note, however, is the existence of a scientific quagmire known as Johnstone’s Paradox. The conundrum is explained as such:

1. Communication time in one’s home country passes quickly in relation to the amount of time that has passed in your new country.

2. This time disparity can be explained in the simple equation (1)DA=(3)DHC whereas DA represents “Days Abroad” and DHC is represents “Days in Home Country”.


If the subject (traveller) experiences one calendar day: 1 x 1 = 1
The traveller appears to have experienced time on a normal scale.

And yet:

1 x 3 = 3
The traveller’s loved one have experienced 3 days without communication with the subject. This is complicated as the amount of time passed has increased.

1 x 7 (days) = 7 days
The amount of time that has passed for the subject.

3 x 7 = 21 days
The amount of time that has passed for the travellers family.

Thus the amount of time passed in one’s home country exponentially increases with the passage of time while remaining the same for the subject.

3. Despite the long passages of time (relating to communication only) in one’s home country, one would reach the conclusion that not much would be accomplished by the subject in such a short period of time (relative only to the subject). On the contrary, the subject will have experienced an entire lifetime in a disproportionately short period of time. This typically causes the subject to return to their country with an endless supply of anecdotal stories and tales of their travels, likely more than one’s family would care to hear.

4. Thus, despite a slow pace of communications between the subject and the subject’s family and friends, and the seemingly quick period of time that the subject experiences in relation to communications, time moves both quickly for communication purposes, and yet incredibly slow for time experienced. This contradiction is known as Johnstone’s Paradox.

So you see, dear friends and family, we miss you terribly but are tragically unable to keep in touch as well as we would like. Our days are filled with wiping boogers, distributing snacks, pounding out grammar and exploring the strange new world of an alien culture.

We love you all, and can’t wait to see you again soon. Or, in what seems to be a long time. For you, not us. Or…well, never mind. We love you.


The ESL teachers of South Korea

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