I began this letter during my 14-hour flight from Atlanta to Seoul. While driving to the airport earlier today, I felt a mix of sadness and anticipation of the unknown very similar to my emotions upon leaving one year ago.

This time around, I have a nice apartment to look forward to and a clear sense of what is expected of me in the classroom. I’m fairly well acquainted with where to shop and hang out and have several friends returning to teach this year. While the year will inevitably be filled with surprises, I am very much in the position of a sophomore returning to a year at college.

I bring with me, in addition to overweight checked baggage, a stronger appreciation for home and the uniqueness of America’s cultural and political makeup. The Hampton Roads area of Virginia where I grew up is beautifully diverse with interracial families of every blend a growing norm. I appreciate the existence of 50 enormous states, (well, maybe 40 big ones), and the diverse geography and endless opportunity because of it. I’m not particularly fond of “state’s rights” mostly because of how ridiculously different laws—and eventually culture—become from state to state and keep places like Louisiana and Connecticut seeming like they’re in entirely different countries. Still, the strength of regionalism gives the US much of its cultural ‘flavor.’

In contrast, I have a better understanding of life in a small country and the limits such a situation impose. With regards to economic strength and general safety (crime rates), Korea is one of the top countries in the world and yet, there’s still a very palpable sense of limitation (some of it voluntary) in contrast to the showy excess of the middle class back home.

I hadn’t realized until this vacation home how fond Americans are of multiples and not just Jon & Kate Plus Eight. :) I can’t remember the last time I was bombarded with so many numerical signs imploring the logic of multiple purchases of the same thing: 5 for $15. 2 for $20. Buy one, get one free. Buy one, second one ½ off. I would be lying if I implied I were anything less than committed to the cult of multiples. (Naturally, the multi cult can be found in Korea as well but it tends to manifest itself in “sets” which are worth their own paragraph…some other time.) And stuff? This article gives a tiny bit of historical information on Americans’ love affair with storing stuff…just one more mindset I’m glad to say my Korea experience has helped me curb.

On an unrelated note: I am desperately envious of Korea’s bathroom stalls. Is there any legitimate reason to make eye contact with a perfect stranger while squatting over a public toilet? I think not. Yet this scenario is repeated 1000 times a minute all over America because bathroom stalls always have gaps in between their connecting pieces. The situation is so common, I neglect to take notice anymore. In fact, I’d be down right shocked to find a toilet stall in America that offers complete privacy as I most was when I first arrived in Korea. (A few of you may remember my momentous toilet photo from my first trip to Incheon airport. Not only did the door shut all the way, there was a platform to store personal items and a “courtesy bell” for those given to impolitely loud toilet usage. That’s what’s up!

My three weeks in the States went by WAY too fast. It took three days to get my mind back in American mode and even without trips to Connecticut or California, I felt I didn’t have enough time just to sit with people. I still regret how little time I spent in Nashville. There were a few folks I didn’t see at all. (And a few places I didn’t eat. lol) It’s hard to realize how many little roots you put down in a place until you up and leave it.

As I finish this letter, I’ve been back in Seoul for two weeks. The first was a “quarantine” week lest any of us foreign peoples bring Swine Flu back from our foreign homelands. I was SUPER stoked to have a week to set up my new apartment! I didn’t actually stay in my apartment but I mostly stayed in my new neighborhood. ;) As it turned out, I needed the week more than I would have liked…I came down with a nasty case of pink eye again. Unfortunately, this time around I had the light sensitivity of a vampire…not cool! I am thankful to say I’ve fully recovered and am back to my contacts-wearing self.

At some point, I’ll send out the “film festival booklet version” of the final four months of last year but I can’t promise too much since there’s a few interesting things on the horizon for the upcoming months already. :)

I’m praying that this year will be even better than last. I’m also praying for strategies to get through the winter season without the depression too much cold and too many hours of darkness so easily bring. I feel 80% sure that this will be my last year in Korea so I really want to spend my time wisely. I’m looking forward to what in the world else this experience will bring.

Love & Hugs,

-t.

2 comments:

Paul A. Kroll said...

Wow, year two!?!? I was just reading old blog posts of mine when I saw your comment saying, "I plan to teach in Seoul beginning this August". I can't believe I've been away for that long, but I'm happy to hear that you've enjoyed it enough to go back for a second run. I'm nicely jealous, and nostalgic of my time there when I read your posts. Hope all is well, and that you make the most of it all because I still think about my time in Seoul everyday ;-)

Why am I here??? said...

It's funny how fast time flies. Do everything you possibly can in Korea and enjoy it all! Life is too short to miss out!

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