I cant believe I’m saying this but I have only 43 days left in Korea. I have no idea where the time went, or how I managed to get here with my sanity relatively in check. 2017 was a roller coaster year, with many difficulties, challenges, fun days, amazing opportunities, and new experiences. I think this past year I was forced to confront things about myself that I didn’t realize. I should have anticipated this I suppose. I was not entirely ready to deal with those things but living abroad for a year will do that to you. That’s part of the appeal I guess.
Anyway, I am finished with my teaching now. I keep hoping to see my students around town because I haven’t seen them in a week and I kinda miss them already. They’re just so hilarious and cool. At the same time I’m ready to go home and carry on with my life. I’ve been making plans and talking with my friends and family and its causing me some confusion. You know that feeling when you have mentally checked out of a place way before you have physically left? Part of me has already returned to the USA but the other half is still trying to enjoy my time here in Yeongwol, and savor the things I know I will miss in the future. Its incredible to me that Korea became such a home. I struggle to remember what its like living anywhere else. I can remember what its like living in the USA but it seems strange, not my life but maybe someone elses. In just a year I bended and folded to fit into this space that I inhabited. Like a contortionist or something. I saw an old photo of me from a few years ago and I was wearing shoes inside the house. It looked so wrong. Such bad form and soooooo 2016. The new Amalia takes her shoes off at the door.
There are many things that I am eager to get away from, such as my terrible shower. I came very close to ripping out my shower and defenestrating it from the balcony. But then I’d have no shower at all so I controlled my rage. In all seriousness, the last few months I’ve been mentally collecting things about Korea that I will definitely miss and I want to use this post to list them, so I don’t ever forget.
1. All the friends that I’ve made this year, and how they all helped me feel at home in this small town. Its so nice to walk to town and meet up with everyone. Movie nights, Game of Thrones, rooftop parties, Pizza parties, Piksa parties, bonfires, trips to Seoul, trips to Jecheon, Sokuri, writers workshops, Karaoke etc. It has made this year fun and has helped me get through some tough days.
2. Running into students outside of school is still so incredibly funny and weird. The students are so excited to see me and are usually very interested in what I’m doing, where I’m going and who I’m with. This can obviously have its disadvantages.
3. Korean fashion is so interesting and specific. I didn’t know much about it before I moved here, but their style is very prevalent throughout Asia. One of my favorite things about it are the strange English phrases printed on shirts and sweaters. My favorite is the hoodie I saw once that said ” FLUFFY BLANKET” in block letters on it. WHY?
4. The nice high school girl that works at the CU who is always so happy to see me so she can practice her English. ” HELLOOO!” ” Four thousand two hundred won!” and “Do you want a bag?”
5. My friendly neighbor with all the pretty plants and fishtanks. He gave me a box of juice once.
6. The music that plays in the bathroom at school. It plays automatically when someone walks in. You feel like you stepped into a happy forest with deer and rabbits and squirrels and chirping birds. Very pleasant.
7. The Ondol. Its the best. Its wonderful. Its a lifesaver. The pipes that run beneath the floor in my house that heat up the floor and make it nice and toasty for my feet. You can nap, sit, dry your clothes, heat your tea, fry an egg, whatever you want. I’m kidding about the egg.
8. The love for stationary, pencil cases, and writing utensils. The creativity and silliness in simple things like sharpeners or rulers is so ostentatious but it makes me happy. Why not have a ruler shaped like a giraffe?
9. All the snacks. No matter what the food is, if someone at work has something to share, they will share it. Even if you think its not shareable, they will find a way. I have been given persimmon, watermelon, chicken, pizza, dried squid, rice cake, fish cake, regular cake, tofu, coffee, hard boiled eggs, corn, potato etc. All as I sit at my desk in the Teachers office.
10. The mountains and hills around Yeongwol. The landscape continues to fascinate me, and it is easily distinguished as Korean. The mountains, fog and trees have worked their way into my drawings and I will continue to think about them when I return to Florida.
11. School lunches, and food in general have been amazing. Yes it has been hard to eat rice every day all year, but Korean food tastes so good. The soup is delicious, as are the sauces, spices, side dishes, and street food that you can find. I cant wait for tacos though. I miss them.
12. Kai-Bai-BO. One of my favorite things about Korea, and a topic of much discussion amongst the other foreign teachers here. Kai Bai Bo translates to Rock Scissor Paper. This game has taken a new life and is everything to Korean kids and many adults too. This is how everyone makes decisions here. I witness about 10 rounds of Kai Bai Bo in a day at school. Once when we were hiking, we noticed a group of twenty somethings trying to decide who was going to get the last drink of water in the bottle. To be fair, they settled the matter with Kai Bai Bo and no one argued over the result. Settled fair and square. There is a science to it too. I used to play with my students and always lose in the beginning, But I’ve gotten the hang of it now and my students cheer when I win.
Those are some small things that have made my days in Korea special and interesting.