Monday, December 6, 2010

The Final Week

So this is it...the last days. A week from now, my title will effectively move to the past tense: South Korea, There I was.

How do you feel? A question I keep getting that I fear I'm answering more poorly each time. This has been such a great year made possible by irreplaceable friends, unfamiliar terrains and quirky students. I have a great life where I'm very well taken care of and comfortable. In my backwards approach to looming changes, I haven't given much thought to leaving and only recently have I thought it all to be too dramatic.

There was a time when I looked forward to this week. I have a distinct memory of a January afternoon in the midst of the dark and unforgiving Korean winter when I was hopelessly sick, frustrated and unsure of myself. I counted the weeks to my departure, it was a number in the high 40's. I remember feeling momentary despair.

This was a disproportionately negative blip in what was very positive, upbeat year. It was just one of many stages I went through. By spring, when the weather started to break, I was settled, comfortable, and happy. I cast my calendars aside and tried to just live here and now. It was the best thing I could have done and I'm disappointed in the person that counted the weeks.

Life in Korea is great, but I'm happy to go home. What is difficult about Korea is that you build these awesome friendships with people from all over that have been all over and you explore and have fun, but over time, they leave. With everyone on year-long contracts that end at a different point in the year, slowly but surely, the original cast of people you thought would shape the whole of your Korea experience three months in gradually dwindles until, towards the end, you feel like the only one left.

Knowing that other friends have moved on makes me feel more ready to leave. I envisioned this as a year-long stint, and I'm thrilled to be going home just in time for Christmas. There isn't a better time of year for family, friends, food, and all the things I feel fortunate to return to. I'm coming home.


November cruised along. While CNN or Fox may claim that we face bombings by the hour from North Korea, things have been peaceful in Daegu. I did have a 15-minute stretch when I first learned about the attack on Yeong Pyong Island from a group of 11-year old boys (who cannot speak in sentences) that had me believing that not only had the north bombed us, but actual war and a full-scale invasion was underway. You can understand when I say I had trouble focusing on my lousy lesson about food.

Once I got the real story, I felt much better, though Koreans still ask me: "are you afraid?" And I'm just thinking: "F***, I don't know, should I be?" I didn't mention it in my overly sentimental introduction to this post, but the threat of war is surely a reason to be happy to get the hell out.

Thinking it wise to get closer to the northern border, we took a trip to Seoul where I visited the National War Museum and disregarded signs telling us not to go up:
Bring it on Kim Jong Il!
A monument to reunification. Brothers from separate sides meet on the battlefield. Take a guess which one is the North Korean...

I also returned to Gyeong Buk Palace for the first time since Emma was in town.
Not a temple, Gyeong Buk Gung is an enormous complex used by royalty to ball out the only way Koreans know how...
The last Seoul weekend crew at a soju-hof joint: Harry, Dean, Katie, Robbie, and Caitlin.

Before I got the KTX back, I found some knockoff Dunkin' Donuts: London Donuts! Really, who's falling for this?
Another recent happening: it's already ski season again!
Rocking my Santa hat and Christmas jams down the mountain really put me in the spirit.
Tamlyn clips in for our best run of the weekend, a night ski right after the reopened the run with freshly groomed snow. Like carving through butter...
Night skiing is a surreal experience, especially when you're practically by yourself. There's nothing more quiet...
A window into our condo for the weekend. I slept on the floor. For those looking to get the bed, it was a sharing experience and be prepared to share with the SOJU. One beverage I'm not sad to leave...

A few months ago, I decided to give nicknames to everyone in one of my classes. One of the students, Clive, kept mixing up "king" and "queen" so I started calling him Queen Clive. I could have explained about how Queen is cool and shown him pictures of Freddy Mercury, but I don't know if it would have made sense to a 9-year-old Korean boy. His classmates were Candy Kim, Duck Tom, and Banana James.

I noticed that in pictionary, Clive liked to draw sea animals, so I decided to add octopus to his name, thus "Queen Clive Octopus." I then made up a little ballad called "Have You Ever Seen A Queen Clive Octopus?" And would begin each class singing: "Have you, have you, have you eva seeeeen..."

I have way too much time on my hands, I must be moving on...

COMING SOON: Things I'll miss, things I won't