South Korea

Cleaning House

There was a period where I was moving around quite a bit. In nine years, I had eight different addresses that spanned five cities on three continents. The logistics of all of that, of course, meant I couldn't possibly keep a mass of possessions. 

With each move, I would evaluate which things I needed to...

Postcards: So Korean

Postcards: So Korean

It's been over six years since I left Korea and moved back to Canada, and yet, somehow, I'm still sorting through my two years' worth of photos. 

These are a few of my favourite things from Korea. Looking back, these are the things that, when I see them, I think "that's so Korean."

Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments below!...

Returning Home After Two Years Away

Readjusting to life in Canada can only be described in one word: weird. Weird because I feel like a stranger in a place I lived for something like fifteen years. I can't remember anyone's phone number anymore.

Receiving directions, I can't remember where any of the roads are. (It probably doesn't help that directions in Korea never included road names—only landmarks—and I'm having to relearn the entire concept of street names.)

My first visit to Tim Horton's was embarrassing because I couldn't pay the $3.27—I forgot they didn't accept debit cards, didn't know they don't take Visa (only Mastercard, they said, and for $3.27, who wants to pay with credit cards anyway?), and am still carrying around Korean won instead of Canadian dollars.

I'm still living out of my suitcases because I don't have a bedroom yet.

And this morning I had to call my mom at work because I couldn't find the frying pan.

It's weird that I was more comfortable living in a city where I didn't speak the language very well than here right now. How long is this adjustment period going to last? Having been through this before doesn't make it any easier, but it does make it so I know I can get through it—which doesn't help me find missing frying pans, but hey, knowing it will pass is good too.

No One Knows What Tomorrow May Bring

On my flight home, I read this poem in my Korea Air in-flight magazine. As someone who knew it was time to leave Korea, even though my heart wanted me to stay, this poem really moved me.

When To Go
by Chung Dong-muk

The green so glorious
For two seasons,
Knows when to leave,
When it's time to go.
But you, old tree,
With your sturdy roots,
You know for sure,
You are in the right place,
And I in mine.
No one knows what tomorrow may bring.
Everyone in their place.

My Korean Adventure is "Finished"

In the days leading up to my last night in Korea, when people asked me if I was excited to go home, I had to be honest and say no. I wasn't excited. I don't know why. It's not like I wasn't happy to see my family or friends here, but I sure wasn't excited to be leaving Korea. I had an ever-expanding group of amazing friends, a wonderful job, a great apartmentwho would be excited to leave that? But I knew, somewhere deep in my gut, it was time to go. My heart said stay, but my gut, with its unknown reasons or unexplained logic, said it was time to move back to Canada and begin another adventure.

I was out for dinner with a couple of friends on my last night. Both Yonsei university students, I met them in Sinchon after their class was finished. Dinner was quiet; I had a lot going on in my head. Some last minute details were bothering me and I was trying to decide how to organize my time. We were trying to figure out our after-dinner plansI needed to drop some things off to a friend way over in Jamsil, he had planned to meet with another friend, she wanted to hang out with the both of usand I felt myself getting overwhelmed.  I didn't want to be doing this. I didn't want to be going through last-minute things. I didn't want to be making all the decisions.

They kept asking me what I wanted to do. "It's your last night," they said. "We'll do whatever you want." He said he didn't need to meet his friend today; they could meet another time, no problem. If I wanted him to, he said, he would even take care of some last minute things I was stressed about doing. She would hang out with me and do whatever I wanted to do. "It's you last night," they repeated. "It's up to you."

It's my last night. It's my last night.

I'm leaving and I'm not coming back.

I couldn't think anymore. All I could do was put my head down, cover my face, and try to hold my tears in. My friends let me have my minute. She rubbed my shoulder a little, and he asked if I wanted to talk about it. When I said no, they didn't say another word. We headed back to his apartmentthe apartment I was staying at since I had to move out of my apartment a couple weeks earlierand hung out. Another friend came to sleep over, too, and he talked to me about leaving Korea and beginning another adventure.

"You've got an adventurous spirit," he said. "You know you can't stay in one place too long because there's too many other places you want to go. It's time to move on to the next one."

At the airport, passing through the immigration counter, I handed over my alien registration card for the last time. He looked at the dates at the back of the card and looked up at me. "Is it finished?" he asked.

I nodded. Yes it isthis adventure is, anyway. But another one is just beginning.