1) DVD room... Skip, Katie and Krish
2) good bye dinner... stuffed after eating shabu shabu
3) Enjoying happy meals on the last day. Check out my shoe situation... I won't miss that. In finally be allowed to wear real shoes in my future classroom, not slippers.
4) The kiddies heading home on my last day.
5) Jen brought my these beautiful flowers to say thank you for being her teacher.. so sweet!
I left off in quite a fury. You will all be happy to know that I got all my money. It wasn't easy though, not like it should have been. I finally got my plane ticket on my second to last day of work. I took it to the pension office and filed for my 11 months of pension. I just hope it all goes through and that I receive my pension in the next six weeks. My last day of work was on a Thursday. I should have been feeling jubilant knowing that I will never have to go back but I wasn't. I still hadn't gotten paid… AHHH! I tried to be positive and just enjoy the last moments I had with my students. We had a good bye celebration filled with tears and all the fatty food and candy I promised. I went to the bank on Friday morning, when I finally got paid. God they are so slow and inconsiderate. They waited till after my last day of work… over two weeks late, to pay me for two months. Luckily I don't ever have to deal with shenanigans like that ever again. I attempted to go to the bank alone, get all my money and close my account. Again, it wasn't that easy. I could see the frustration in the eyes of the Korean woman helping me. I apologized over and over again and she just stared at me. When I realized our conversation was going no where, I called my liaison (he should have just come with me but like I mentioned previously, he has gotten really lazy and busy with all the bullshit at TNE). 30 minutes later, and passing the phone back and forth, I was out of there with quite a large wade of cash… they were actually able to give me dollars, how nice. For the next three days, until I made it back home, I made sure to keep that money on me.
I felt pretty jolly after collecting all my money on Friday afternoon. It made for a really fun time later that evening. All my friends met me downtown and we partied till the wee hours of the morning. It was the last time that we will share Korean night life together. I sure will miss Korean night life… bars not closing till six and eight am, taxis running at all hours, carrying drinks on the street from one bar to the next, being the minority in a sea of Asians… talking about any and everything and knowing that no one understands because most likely, they don't have a clue what your saying. I loved the foreign community in my town… I was sad to leave it. More so, I was sad to say good bye to… no, not my friends (oh course I'll miss them though), but…. my favorite Korean dish- shabu shabu, UGH! Man oh man will I miss Korean food. I know I will never be able to find food like it here in America. My town, Gwangju, is known for it's delicious food. I ate enough shabu shabu on my last night in Korea for at least three people. I left the restaurant in pain. Did I ever tell you about this meal… even if I did, I'm sure you want to hear all about it again. Okay so it starts off with a few side dishes- white, lightly pickled kimchi and red spiced, sesame, chopped cucumbers. While your enjoying these side dishes, your pot of soup is slowly cooking. The pot cooks on the table. A variety of tasty greens, mushrooms and onions blend with a delicious, red, spicy broth. After the soup is bubbling, you add the thinly sliced pieces of meat (beef). The eldest woman is always the one to cook and serve. As the meat cooks, you serve everyone a bowl full. You can use one or all of the different sauces that the restaurant offers. I like to mix them all… I've always loved condiments. I mix the spicy, sweet, zingy red sauce with a little soy and a big spoon full of wasabi. You know I'm not a afraid of a little spice! This combination is so incredible with the veggies and meat. You serve up the meat until it is gone then you add a bowl full of udon noodles to the soup mixture. The noodles cook until they are tender and saturated in the savory flavors of the soup. Okay… It's still not over and I'm already full just talking about it. Once the noodles are gone, the waitress pours the left over soup in a bowl and she brings back the soup pot. In the soup pot is a compacted mixture of fried rice, egg and minced veggies. Oh, it's so yummy. For every bite of rice, you drink a spoon full of soup. They really compliment each other. Okay, so is it obvious that I like this meal… or just food in general. I could probably write a book on Korean food alone.
After a delicious meal with friends, we enjoyed some coffee and a some time at a DVD room. I tried to stay awake because my bus left at 5:20 and I knew if I tried to wake up for that, I would be miserable so I just stayed up. My friends were so sweet… they all stayed up with me until it was just about time for me to go. They wanted to spend every last minute with me, what a great group of buddies! What the hell is a DVD room, right? Well, basically it's a place that you go with a small group. You pick out a dvd and go into your private, cozy room and watch. What's the real reason behind these rooms? They are really just another place where Koreans go to get away and do the dirty. The majority of all Koreans live with their parents until they are about 30 or so. When you live with your mom and dad… it makes it hard to have a relationship. A dvd room is a good place to go and have your relationship… hmm. I will assume that my friends and I were the only group that came in there and strictly watched a movie, haha. It was evident that these rooms are used for certain reasons because the couches in the rooms are like beds, the windows are blacked out and the bathrooms are supplied with showers, hair dryers, lotion, condoms, etc. Now that I think about it… I really should have laid down a tarp before I sat on that couch- eww!
5 am finally came around… it was dark and rainy and I had to say good bye and gather all my things. Skip took me to the bus station and wished me farewell… how sad! I slept the entire four hours on the bus and until I arrived at Incheon National Airport right outside of Seoul. I lugged my 60 pound bag, my 65 pound bag and my 30 pound book bag all over the airport until I could finally check in. Oh course, I had to pay a rather large fee for my year's supply of crap. The woman who I checked in with told me that I could have to check my bags back in for every air line… that meant I had to pick my bags up from baggage claim and check them three different times. Oh this journey home was such a hassle. I arrived at Narita Aiport in Tokyo, Japan around 4 pm that Sunday afternoon. My bags went missing for several hours and I sat in the baggage claim and waited, waited, waited. Once I got my bags, I searched for my shuttle bus and headed to my lovely hotel. What I should have done when I got there is, settle in then head for downtown Tokyo. I was just too worn out to do much of anything… NO MORE traveling. Instead, I got all dressed up and enjoyed a tasty king crab leg meal at the hotel. I sipped red wine and tried to just relax and prepare myself for Monday's journey. Monday came quickly and I was up early, eager to get home. The shuttle bus was a wonderful convenience. I didn't have to worry about anything. Everyone was really helpful, I was happy to not lift my giant bags into the bus and onto a cart several times. I checked my bags once again and I was off. I flew to Japan on Japan Air and also back to America. What a lovely airline. I had lots of room to move around in my seat. My legs were not squished at all, not like on my flight over here with Korean Air. The flight attendants were so kind, the food was delicious and the movie and game selection were awesome. I was so pleased with the airline. I was so anxious to be back in America, I could not sleep at all on the flight. Instead, I played tetras for hours at a time… it really calmed my nerves. The ten hour flight was not bad at all. I was so incredibly happy when I finally arrived in America (Monday morning)… I gained a whole day coming back to the USA. Being in the airport was so strange. It was so weird to be surrounded by so many English speakers. I could actually understand everyone's conversation, not that I was trying to ease drop. I felt like I knew 5 out of 10 people that I saw. I don't know why… for some reason, everyone just looked familiar. I left OHare National Airport in Chicago around 11:00 am and arrived in Raleigh Durham Airport around 1:30 pm. For the last time, I lugged my bags out of the baggage claim and patiently waited outside for my family. I thought I was going to pee my pants, I was so happy, nervous and anxious to see them. It was unreal when they finally pulled up. I hugged my mom and dad and cried with tears of joy. The most exciting part was when we got back home and I finally got to meet my new nephews. My whole family came in town for my homecoming, how wonderful of them. After almost 11 months, I finally got to see my mom, dad, two sisters and their husbands and for the first time, baby Liam and baby Jackson. It will be a long time before I leave the country again.
So, its been about a week and I'm slowly adjusting. Everything was so wonderful when I first got home. It was almost too easy… I felt like I hadn't even left. When I woke up the first morning in my bed, I felt completely at home. Things were almost too good to be true. Everyone kept telling me…" watch out, reverse culture shock will set in…". After about the third day, it did. I went out with friends in the downtown area that I live in. I sat there enjoying friend's company and a good old American beer. The weirdest thing was sitting there and be able to understand all the conversations around me. I was so overwhelmed. In Korea, every time I saw another foreigner, like myself, I would smile or say hello. There was only 4,000 foreigners in a town full of 400,000 plus. Well, where I live now… just about Everyone speaks English… at first, I smiled at every single person who walked by me. After exhausting my cheeks, I asked a friend…" should I smile at everyone, is that right???" She responded with, "no Em, that really isn't necessary, haha!" It's going to take a little time to get used to things but I am confident that I will adjust quickly. It's hard to jump back into your old life after a year. I found myself in the car driving around the other day, just lost. Surprisingly, I knew where I was going but I couldn't bring myself to go home because in my head, home is still Korea. I'm ready to begin the next chapter in my life. As I patiently await replies for teaching positions in my area, I will work on adjusting to my life here in America. I will say, I have a completely different perspective on America now. As much as I love it and missed it… damn, coming back to it, I'm realizing what an ignorant country it is. Maybe that makes me sound like a snob but I don't care. I can't get over the way the media portrays everything and more importantly, the way the media doesn't portray anything at all. Since I've been home, the top story in the news is about a woman named Casey Anthony who killed her child. The stories are really awful and sad but enough already. Can't we hear about the real issues… government, war, etc. ???? Traveling in another country for almost a full year really opened my eyes to so the world as a whole and the things that really matter. It has allowed me to appreciate the things I do have, feel lucky for the things that I get to experience and feel fortunate that I have so many wonderful friends and family members who love and support me.
Life is so short… do as much as you can… see as much as you can… live your life to the fullest and be real…. one year of my life spent in Korea changed me completely for the best. I can't wait to see what is next. Wish me luck in all my future endeavors.
It has truly been a pleasure writing for all you followers for the past 11 months. Thank you so much for your support.
All my love- Emilie :)