Friday, February 11, 2011

Where did this come from?

 I was out to dinner and coffee with one of my good friends tonight.  Sarah Willey and I have known each other for years.  We met while attending Pacific Lutheran University and she's been a close friend ever since.  She actually moved to Korea (Pohang, no less) only 3 months after the boy and I did. 

Tonight at coffee we were talking about all of our plans after Korea.  As you know, the boy and I have a big expedition planned that'll hopefully take us around the world and back.  Sarah is actually planning her own trip around the world with intermittent teaching stints in Thailand and Vietnam.  We were both so excited about all of our plans and were discussing all of the amazing things that we'll be able to see and experience when all of a sudden, it hit me.  I was overwhelmed with sadness and maybe even a little grief.  I'm going to be leaving Korea... and relatively soon.

Korea has been our home for almost two years.  It's no longer foreign to us.  Our first 12 months living in Korea I would often have to stop and remind myself that I was living here.  Living in KOREA!  I would revel in the fact that we're living in this exotic land that we knew so little about before we came.  The smells were new and I still hadn't found myself craving any of the local Korean dishes. 

Now I feel like I know Korea like the back of my hand.  I know that I'll see exactly four red crosses beaming from the tops of churches on my way home from work.  I know that chamchi kimbap costs exactly 2,300 won at our local kimbap restaurant.  I know that the 109 bus from our little village will take you to two opposite locations if you're not paying attention.  I've learned that Korean grocery stores sell their vegetables fresh out of the ground and to not be alarmed when a mass of dirt still clings to them after their initial washings.  I know to accept things with two hands as to not offend anyone and to strive to wear matching socks as you'll be shoeless more often than you'd think. 

It's not only what I know now, it's also what our friends and neighbors have discovered about us.  The local shabu shabu owner knows that we like extra pineapples and two ciders with our meal.  They always accompany our meal now, whether we ask for them or not.  Our Hapkido master knows that we absolutely adore taking hapkido but are not too good about keeping our uniforms clean.  My students at school know that I have a love affair with cheese and when little Leon caught me eating a banana in the teacher's room the other day he pointed at me accusingly and said, "Tawny teacher loves cheese but is eating a banana!". 

I have fallen in love with Korea.  Sure we've had our ups and downs but to be completely honest, it's going to be a little heartbreaking to leave this place.  I don't want to leave our hapkido master and his brand new baby girl.  I don't want to give up my weekly trips to our favorite Fish and Grill restaurant.  I like being able to ride our motorcycle wherever we want and that public transportation is a cinch.   I'll definitely miss the food.  Kimchi, samgyupsal, kimbap, mandu, ramyeon, galbi, samgyetang.... I'm already drooling!

I know that it's time to move on.  I'm aware that we have one hell of a trip planned for us.  It's just that.... damn.  I love Korea.

And now I'm going to take this little pity party and shove it back into the kimchi pot from whence it came. 


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