Tuesday, August 24, 2010

See Ya later Asia

I can't believe it's been a year!

I'm sitting in my apartment this morning, overweight and unmanageable suitcases at my feet, and I have no idea if I should be happy or devastated. It's so hard to imagine that a year ago, I did not even know any of the wonderful people that are in my life. I had never been to Asia, taught children, used a squat toilet, had Korean bar-b-que (I was missing out!), or been to a third-world country. I had never used toilet paper as a primary source of napkins on a dinner table, cut my meat up with a fierce pair of scissors, or seen an amusing and nonsensical sign in Konglish. I had never eaten kimchi, kimbab, listened to KPop, or fallen in love with a Korean drama. I had never seen anyone seriously wear a face mask, sampled the yellow dust of spring, chugged poorly tasting instant coffee at social events, or taken soju shots with superiors. I did not understand the joys of the -bang, and now I've spent plenty merry hours singing in a noraebang, naked in a jimjilbang, or intensely competing in a Wiibang. I had never with any sincerety been shopping in a subway station or seen anyone attempting to go hiking or walk a beach in high heels. I did not know much about Korean history, the Korean War, and I most definitately could not read Hangul. I had never tasted any Korean side dishes which are now my favorite part of every meal. I had never seen a Buddhist temple or an IV attached hospital patient wandering the streets. I had never slept on the floor, used the floor as a primary source of heat, or braved frigid temperatures and millions of roman candles fired by drunks in the name of New Years Eve. I had never eaten live octopus, taken ramen as a serious food group, taken my shoes off to go inside, successfully used chopsticks, or been so undisturbed by lack of traffic rules and defiance of stoplights. I had never worn slippers in a professional setting, depended so heavily on convenience stores, eaten on the floor, heard of "fan death," or been so infatuated with a plethora of knock-off goods. I had never been serious about doing a peace sign (the skinny face!) sign in photos or lived on a street with toy vending machines on every corner. I'd never spent free time in a photo booth, put charms on my cellphone, or put emoticons in my text messages. I have seen so much this year, and I like to think I have grown so much from all my experiences.

This year has been, for lack of a better word, amazing. I've been crying off and on for the last several days as my friends have slowly departed to our next destinations. I've walked along the Han river at night, eaten all my favorite foods, and gone to Namsan tower twice to view the city. As is tradition (I realize only with couples, but whatever), I put my own lock on Namsan Tower to show my love for Seoul.

Namsan Tower!

My lock on Namsan Tower

Pabingsu! I ate plenty of this the last couple weeks...

I just looked at my first blog entry from July of last year. I made a list of goals and I like to think I did a fairly decent job (somewhat) fearlessly conquering all of them. To review:

Try anything once. I don't have to like it, but I must try it.
I tried live octopus, kimchi, rice cake, pabingsu, and a myriad of other Korean foods that were unidentifiable. Surprisingly, I liked most of it.
*See the Great Wall of China
*Go to a Cherry Blossom Festival
I went to Youido in Seoul for Cherry Blossom Festival in the spring. Unfortunately, only one tree was in bloom, BUT I tried.
*Visit Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Taiwan, China, Japan, and Singapore
I was so fortunate this year to be able to explore, Thailand, Korea, Japan, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Philippines, and China! I dove in to large plates of Thai food, toured a Vietnamese island via motorbike, jumped in a blue lagoon, biked to hot springs, explored caves, tubed down the river in Laos, brushed past brightly clad monks, took a boat ride through Ha Long Bay, celebrated Tet in Vietnam, took a bamboo train ride through Cambodia, got severe food poisoning, sunned in Boracay, and shopped in Japan. I could not have had a better year!
*Ride an elephant
Alas, I did not actually ride an elephant, but I have seen a lot of them!
*Make new and lifelong friends
Check, check, check, check, check-- I cannot imagine this year without my friends.
*Do not wallow
Okay, so maybe I wallowed some.
*Buy something really unnecessary from an interesting marketplace
From clothes, to paintings, to every food imaginable on a stick, I've got it.
*Constantly explore South Korea- do not sit inside. (Refer back to do not wallow)
I have fallen in love with not only Seoul, but the entire country. I saw Busan, Jeju Island, Sokcho and Seoraksan National Park, and Dokjeok Island, Incheon, and Gyeongju
*Learn to roll with things
I'm working on it.
*To take in as many new experiences that can possibly fit into one year
*Stay in touch with all my friends and family
*Learn about Korean culture and appreciate it
*Learn to be a teacher. A patient, dedicated teacher
I like to think I succeeded.

I'm on my way back to Atlanta tonight, and will be home for three weeks before starting my next adventure as an English teacher in Istanbul, Turkey. I will keep you updated!


1 comment:

  1. Andie, best of luck in your travels. Justin Kurrass, a guy from Georgia who lived in our neighborhood and taught in Korea for 3 years, just moved to Istanbul to teach English. He left maybe a week ago and is still getting all settled in, but you might want to get in touch with him. You two have a lot in common, haha.