August 24th was the anniversary of my arrival in Korea (technically, August 23rd was the anniversary of my departure from America). I've been in Korea for over a year now, and I have to say I'm having a lot of mixed feelings about leaving it.
First of all, I love Korea. I really really do. I'm also weirdly defensive of it, like it's my annoying little brother or sister that I can complain about 100 different ways, but as soon as someone else says something negative about, I want to punch them in the face. I really love it.
I love the feeling I have here. Like an accepted outsider. I obviously don't belong, but I am comfortable enough with nearly every aspect of life here that no one really gives me a second look (unless, of course, they have a thing for blondes...) Basically, I don't garner that unwanted touristy kind of attention. I feel at home (to an extent). I also love NEVER comparing myself to a Korean girl (well, in certain ways), because how could I even do that? I am totally different than them, and that's 100% okay. I feel beautiful here, much more so than I think I have ever felt in America.
I love the food. I think my body has really gotten used to the food here. Case in point, Romeo and I went to a restaurant in Hongdae last night that boasted Tennessee style BBQ. We were so stoked to get a taste of (almost) home. And it was pretty good. (But with incredibly small portions, reminding us that we're definitely not in Texas enjoying this...) Anyway, this might be TMI on a publicly-accessed blog, but let me say that my stomach was NOT happy with me a few hours later. I felt horrible after eating it. I mean, I eat (plenty of) meat here, but I guess the style and fat and maybe even flavors, my body is not used to it! I eat so differently here, and I my body has gotten used to it. I still miss American comfort foods, but I am happy with my diet here!
I love the stream I live next to. Sure, that's specific for my location, but I don't know hardly anywhere in America that has what this stream has: trees lining both sides, public (clean) workout equipment every 1/2 mile or so, a cushioned path that makes running about 10x easier, easy access to a bike path that leads to the Han, a community swimming pool (not that I've ever used it...), and it just has a great atmosphere!
I love my students. Some of them drive me up a wall, but I really do love them. Working at my school would be hell without such awesome kids. For every rotten one, I've got 2 or 3 sweet angels. I will really miss them.
I love the community feeling here. Granted, I'm not really a part of that community, but I can see it and I think it permeates even my separated little world. Grandmas take care of the babies when moms need a break, families walk hand-in-hand down the road, groups of kids ride bikes around the neighborhoods, and it's just kind of wholesome. Sure, there are also loads of old men spitting right in front of me on the sidewalk, drunk middle-age men stumbling out of BBQ joints on Tuesdays at 9pm, and just a general cloud of cigarette smoke in the air, but otherwise, it's nice.
However, after being here for an ENTIRE year, there are definitely some things I can't wait to get back to...
I miss going shopping. Sure, I can go shopping here. But, it's a totally different experience. I can't exactly explain it, but I miss just jumping in the car, knowing exactly what store is going to have just what I need, and being able to go and pick it up without any hassle. Also, knowing that things will, in general, fit my body.
I miss baking. I have a tiny kitchen and baking, while technically possible with Romeo's toaster oven, is not the same experience as back home.
I miss driving a car. I mean, I don't miss the traffic, paying for gasoline, and swallowing road rage, but I miss that convenience. (Thank goodness for my bike, which is a decent substitute sometimes).
I miss SPORTS! I am not even a big sports person, but I miss going to sporting events. In America, it's a community event, especially high school or even college sports. There is a little bit of a community feeling even at the big games... I love going to games with my dad especially.
I miss knowing what everyone is saying. I LOVE being able to tune out nearly everyone around me, but communication is still a bit of an ordeal here. Guess I should have made more of an attempt to learn some Korean...
Above all, I MISS MY FAMILY. I can't even get into all the reasons but I sure do miss them. And I absolutely can't wait to spend time with them.
...On the other hand, I am totally freaked out at the idea that I might never come back to this place. I can't even fully process that thought right now. It has become my home, and I know that I will miss so much about it when I get home. I am scared of the culture shock that I know is coming when I step off the plane and see so many white people, many of whom will be double or more the size of every other person I've seen the past year. I know it will be hard, and I'll be sad, and maybe even a little depressed at not having a job, not having the things I've come to know and love and depend on in the past year (ramen, 24hr stores literally 2 minutes from my door, cheap taxis, cheaper than cheap alcohol, and more), and I'm sure many other "not"s...
But, that's a bridge I am going to cross in November, and in the mean time, I am going to enjoy my last month in Korea, doing as many Korean things as possible, and make the most of my 2 months (ish) in Europe with two of my best friends. See you soon, America! And Happy Anniversary, Korea. I love you both!