the date is july 3, 2006. in less than a month i will be home. it's really a mix of emotions for me. there are so many things i'm looking forward to, and so many things that i will miss. this has been an incredible year. part of me is ready to go, and part of me would sign another year in a heartbeat... but that wouldn't happen because i think i'm ready for the next part of my life. what am i going to do? i thought i would be living in nyc with some friends, but i decided against that and instead am going to take a year to live at home (that's right, make your jokes now) and save up some more money, maybe work a cafe job, and apply to grad school. grad school. never thought i'd end up there, but i'm really excited about it. i'm thinking definitely a suny school, with buffalo at the top of my list.
i want to break this blog down a little bit. i want to share with you the things i can think of that i CAN'T WAIT to return to. in about two weeks, i'll make another list of all of the things i'm going to miss terribly here. i think over the past year people who have read this have gotten a pretty good idea of who i am and what life is like here, but i'd like to add another dimension and really compare the differences between life here and life home. we're talking culture, customs, behavior, foods, geography, everything. i love korea, i really do, and although some of these things may sound like i have a negative attitude about living here, i still wouldn't change anything about my past year and i realize most of these things, although seemingly everywhere i go, are the exception to the rule of how most koreans act.
i know most things in life are contradictory. i am no exception to this, nor is my country. i've actually grown to have a loving relationship with these things which i call "irksome." i wouldn't change anything that happened in the past year for the world. after all, these are the things that really teach you about who you are and help you to appreciate your own background.
and here it is, why i can't wait to return home:
-grocery stores. no screamers and shouters announcing that a special selection of dried squid is on sale. no obnoxious pricing system of fruits and vegetables where if you forget to put a sticker on the bag and then try to pay for it, they simply won't send someone for a price check and won't allow you to buy it.
-burritos, tacos, fajitas, sour cream, guacamole, tortillas, and all that fresh latin goodness that makes a fiesta for my taste buds
-health food! aisles and aisles of "well-being" glory- hummus, tabouli, whole wheat EVERYTHING, every flavor of salsa you can imagine, natural grain cereals, great soy milks, organic yogurt, veggie burgers, fake meat, and organic teas
-ben and jerrys... cherry garcia, you will be mine. oh yes, you will be mine.
-my mom's veggie chili and flax seed bread
-fresh, gourmet sandwiches with REAL BREAD (see: health food)
-salads, sushi, and sandwiches without strange sweet "koreanized" ingredients like thousand island, kiwi dressing, or sweet pickles
-fresh fruit that doesn't look like it's been sitting out for weeks
-being able to ask for substitutions at restaurants or to add something to a dish without the waiter looking at you like you have lobsters crawling out of your ears and receiving a prompt "ani-o!"
-being able to TALK to anyone you need to- walking into the convenience store and being able to make small talk, ordering food the WAY I WANT IT, being able to ask for (and give) simple directions, being able to read EVERYTHING on signs, etc.
-no more "hwwakkkk" spit going on everywhere around me whenever i'm out walking
-no more "hello! nice to meet you! i'm fine how about you? i love you ::giggle giggle::" from people who think it's funny to spit out every sentence of english they've ever learned to their friends as they're passing by
-no more ajummas or ajosshis poking me, walking right up to stare at me, or taking up the whole elevator
-no more people who think because i'm foreign i'm obviously not standing in line and, therefore, they can cut right in front of me
-no more STARING
-no more embarrassed giggling from store clerks or waiters who are too afraid or embarrassed to talk to us in both english AND korean
-no more "sending out the one person who speaks english" to deal with me before even giving me a chance to see if we can work together in korean in any public place
-no more crowded elevators
-no more fear of getting run over by a motorbike on the sidewalk
-no more fearing for my life in a taxi
-no more "special" trash bags that i just toss out into the street
-the freedom to run to the local convenience store with no shame that you look like you just woke up and "forgot" to put on your favorite fancy stilettos
-no more negative connotation to the simple question "russian?"
-no more ajumma butt slaps
-no more marriage proposals from taxi drivers
-no need for taxis of any sort!
-going back to that marriage thing... after deciding i'd never be able to date a korean guy who is actually from korea, i think i'll be going home with a whole new outlook on availability. a country with walking-talking real boys. if you speak my language, i don't care who you're hitched to. you're available if i say so.
-driving through country and farmland
-shoes everywhere in my size!
-being in a culture that sees the humor in staring at yourself in the elevator mirror or taking pictures of yourself on your camera phone out of sheer boredom
-being in a culture where it's impolite to smack food or chew with your mouth open
-no more people telling me how to eat my food- i'll eat it however i damn well please!
-hot water, soap, and western toilets in every public bathroom
-having a microwave again
-interesting people. after a full year of asking a "foreigner" what he or she does, knowing "i'm a teacher" will be the response, i can safely say it gets tiring.
-individuality- no more "confucianism" and "we do this because it was always this way. period."
-returning to a society where having tattoos, facial piercings, and short hair for women is quite common!
-the smell of fresh cut grass
-small town traffic
-nothing beats that "colonial new england" feel. though we're not technically in it, i consider most of the northeast to be new england. i've spent enough vacations in cape cod, done enough antique shopping in vermont, and picked enough apples on a cool upstate new york autumn day to know that no matter where i may travel, i'll always be a new england girl at heart.