Death of an English teacher

On April 19, Matthew Sellers, an English teacher in Seoul, was scheduled to fly home to Birmingham, Alabama. At 35, Mr. Sellers had been teaching in Korea for 10 years. He was, by many accounts, free-spirited, happy-go-lucky and fond of the young children he frequently taught. Though he seemed to relish Korea, on April 10 he bought a one-way ticket back to the United States, vowing not to return to the peninsula.
Mr. Sellers never made it home.

What really happened to this man will no doubt remain a mystery. If I were to hazard a guess, I’d venture (judging by what’s said in that report) that it sounds like he was deep in amphetamine psychosis – “… the officer gave Mr. Sellers a piece of paper so that he could write his name, which Mr. Sellers did in a quivering hand, and in fact, ended up writing an entire personal history” – but hell, who knows? He was disturbed, it’s clear, which is odd in someone who is claimed by everyone involved to have been level-headed. Regardless, how did he get to that point? It might be a story worth telling, if one could unravel it. One assumes that whatever else may have happened, though, he died as a result of bungling. And so it goes.
Of this I’m sure : every expat living here in Seoul who reads this sad and unsurprising story comes away with an entirely different picture of the realities of what happened to this guy than someone who has never lived here. Little tidbits like “Mr. Shin, who speaks English, at first glance took Mr. Sellers for a homeless man” ring so false as to be laughable. There aren’t any non-Korean ‘homeless men’ in Korea, as any policeman would know. Stories fly off from offhand sentences in the linked article like fleas from an electrocuted dog. Chasing them down would be more trouble than it’s worth, for me at least, but every second or third line in there rings a J Arthur Rank gong in my brain, and sets me to imagining in technicolor.
But it also makes me think about how difficult, how doomed from the outset is any attempt to tell anything like a true story, ever. How locked into the bone cages of our own skulls we are in the end, and how far from reality even the most carefully worded tale-telling leaves us.
And it makes me think about how many of us will probably die : anonymous, shoeless, babbling, gripped by rage and despair, surrounded by people who can’t understand what we are saying to them.
Which is as it should be, perhaps, and the sooner we come to terms with it, the sooner we can start having some goddamned fun.
Hopefully Matthew had a little fun before he died.
Edit : This thread at the ESLCafe Korea Forums, with posts from some of Sellers’ friends and family and a whole lot of speculation from everyone else, is worth reading, if you are interested.