The Brit and the Yank do Murrica

I’m ba-ack! As per usual, this post is loooong overdue –  maybe the longest overdue ever. I’m back in Korea and loving my new town and school, but that is a post for another day. In the near future. I swear. Pinky swear, even. For now, I’m going to fill you in on all of the fun I had while home in the states. As you can imagine, the first thing I did when I got home was give my kitties some love, whether they liked it or not, followed shortly thereafter by the greatest pizza known to man: Papa Murphy’s Cowboy. Oh, and did I forget to mention that my crazy awesome parents picked me up at the airport wearing I ❤ MJ shirts? (On the off chance that someone who doesn’t know me personally is reading this, those are my initials.) I got back shortly before Thanksgiving, and have never been so excited to eat myself into a food coma. The turkey was majestic. The stuffing tasted like sunshine and rainbows. It was a glorious feast of food I can’t get in Korea. My taste buds were delighted, and they remained as such for the duration of my trip. December was filled with parties and sugar cookies. One might call it an obscene amount of sugar cookies. One has clearly never been to my house at Christmas. My sister also came home for the holidays, and for the first time in two years the whole fam bam was together. It was fun (read insane) having everyone under the same roof again.

My partner-in-crime, Joe, came to visit a few days after Christmas. For anyone not in the know, Joe is from England, he was my BFF last year in Jeonju, and is now my boyfriend. And obviously the luckiest guy ever.  We were supposed to leave Korea together and spend a few weeks in California and then he was going to head back to England before Christmas. But someone lost his passport. We won’t get into that. The pertinent information is that he had to go home first, and then come to the states and in doing so, he missed Thanksgiving. He was really disappointed, so my mom cooked a second Thanksgiving on New Year’s Day and invited the whole family over so they could meet this strange person from a foreign land. A good time was had by all, due largely in part to Cards Against Humanity. The greatest game you will ever play, as long as you’re as inappropriate as my family. Joe and I spent the next month tooling all over Northern California. Our base was Sacramento, my home town, where I took him to his first professional basketball game. Tragically, our team is the Kings, so we had to watch them blow it all in the last quarter. C’est la vie. I took him to his first drive-in movie. We also visited Old Town Sacramento and the always cool train museum. I introduced him to good Mexican food. They have Mexican food in England, but I felt it pretty safe to say that English Mexican food was nowhere near as good as Californian Mexican food. Joe confirmed those suspicions. We visited the zoo and Fairy Tale Town with my little cousin. We spent a couple of days in the snow in Soda Springs, with an afternoon in Truckee and Donner Pass. While there, I thought it was only fitting that I teach him how to play Oregon Trail. I’m happy to report, we made it all the way with only a few broken bones and some dysentery. We camped for a couple of nights at one of my favorite places on earth, Sunset Beach in Santa Cruz. It was a little chilly, but I got to teach him how to make a s’more. I know, right? What kind of person has never had a s’more? A deprived one. That’s who. I’m pretty sure I changed his life. On our way out of town, we stopped by Monterey for the afternoon. We wandered around Cannery Row and popped into another one of my favorite places – the Monterey Bay Aquarium. We caught the sunset at the pier next to Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, since the boardwalk itself was unfortunately closed. We spent a couple of days in San Francisco. Joe got to walk on the Golden Gate Bridge, and it was actually my first time doing that as well. And we went to Fisherman’s Wharf where he tried his very first bowl of clam chowder. I know, I know, I don’t know how they get by in England, either.

But he and I will both agree that the hands down, absolute best part of our trip was the time we spent in Humboldt County. And man, we were all over Humboldt County. Humboldt State is my alma mater and I lived there for six years, so I had a long list of places to visit. On the drive up, we hit up all of the little tourist traps along the way. I’d driven those roads a million times before, but never bothered to check out things like Confusion Hill or the One Log Cabin. I didn’t know when I was going to be able to come back again, so we spent approximately a million hours in the car and hit every little place we saw. Once we finally got there, we went to all of my favorite restaurants and I introduced him to another of my favorite foods – biscuits and gravy. As a Brit, biscuits for him means cookie. You can imagine the look on his face when I told him we would be eating them with gravy. But he was a quick convert. We visited Ferndale, the home of the theater from the movie The Majestic. We stopped by Lolita, home of the cheese factory that makes the most amazing garlic pepperjack. We took a stroll through the Redwood Forest. We attempted to eat dinner on Clam Beach, but it was way too freaking cold. We made the epic trek into Fern Canyon which, aside from being a gorgeous cavern drenched in greenery, was a filming location for both Jurrasic Park and Return of the Jedi. Joe was over the moon, as it combined two of his loves – movies and dinosaurs. We hung out at the bars of my youth,  where he fit in perfectly (he’s 25) and I felt very, very old (I’m…not 25). It was amazing being reminded of so many great memories, but a little bittersweet to know that my time there is long gone and a whole new group of students are memory making. We extended our trip an extra day, and still couldn’t manage to get in everything on my list. Next time, Humboldt, next time… It was so great visiting my old stomping grounds and seeing friends I hadn’t seen in way too long. It was hard to leave, but we had places to go and people to see.

As hard as it was to say goodbye to Humboldt, it was even harder saying goodbye to Joe. We parted knowing we wouldn’t be living in the same county for over a year, as he is teaching in Vietnam this year. I’m looking forward to being able to visit him in Vietnam, but we both know we’re in for a long year. After Joe left, my last two weeks in the states where a whirlwind of saying goodbye to friends, eating my favorite foods and packing. Although, once again, that was mostly left until the last day. So that is my trip home in a nutshell. It was a lot of fun and went by way too fast. I promise I’ll update you on my new situation soon.

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Mom’s Visit

Last month my mom came for a visit, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Okay, that’s not technically true. Not only did I have to work all week while she was here, I actually had to work one of the Saturdays she was here, too. But still. You know what I mean. She came at about the 7th month of my year(ish)  long stay, and I was starting to get homesick. I miss driving, American food, stars in the sky and being able to communicate freely (among other things). Going almost a year and a half without seeing my sister feels a little unbearable at times. Not to mention the sting of her not loving me enough to come to Korea to visit me. Maybe I don’t miss her that much after all…And it’s finally starting to get to me, all the things I’m missing while being here. Things like friends’ weddings. And one of my best friends got pregnant after I left, and I will never see her pregnant because she’ll have the baby before I get back. Sad face. Don’t get me wrong, I am still having an amazing time here, and am aware of what an amazing opportunity this is. But everything comes at a price. So a little momma love was much needed. Not only did she bring lots of love in the form of clothes (which are very difficult for me to find over here), my favorite toiletries (even harder to find than clothes), Easter candy and beef jerky, it was nice just to be able to hang out and chat with her. We did some obligatory sight seeing, but we also did a lot of chilling out doing not much at all, which was nice. The first weekend she was here, we visited the Hanok Village, which is the local traditional village. Children’s Day was the same day, so there was a big festival there and lots of cool things made out of hanji (Korean traditional paper). We even got Mom to try some magkeolli from the magkeolli man! We had to put her to bed early that night because she was a little jet lagged, but the next day we were out and about again at the zoo. There was also a festival there for Children’s Day, and a lot of people were out spending time with their kids for Children’s Day, but not too many that it detracted from our visit. We had a really nice time at the zoo (a little sandwich fiasco aside). Then we had some Korean food for dinner and saw The Avengers (which was totally great if you haven’t seen it already). The next day she spent the day at school with me, which I had been really looking forward to. I tell her so many great stories about my kids, and I was really excited for her to see them first hand. The best was when my 7-year-old love guru (who is constantly giving me advice on how to “make” a boyfriend) got really flustered because she kept asking him, “What should Megan do to get a boyfriend?” The next day he told me “Megan’s Project,” which is basically just his advice for me on how to get a boyfriend, was a secret because he didn’t want anyone else asking him about it. I let every class have a little Q & A with her, and almost every class asked if she had a boyfriend. They don’t seem to grasp the concept that she doesn’t have a boyfriend, she is, in fact, married to the man I call Dad. And my kindergarteners kept telling her she was beautiful because I have conditioned them to tell me I’m beautiful instead of telling me I’m fat. And because my mom looks damn good for a woman of 35! The rest of the week was pretty low key. I had to teach during the day, so mom was on her own to wander. And in the evenings we’d go out to dinner and explore a different neighborhood in town. The weekend before she left was quite the event, however! I had already booked a hotel and made plans for us to spend the weekend in Seoul when my school told me that we would be having Sports Day that Saturday. And it wouldn’t be starting until 2 o’clock. Thank goodness for my friend, Joe, who offered to take Mom up to Seoul earlier in the day, because I didn’t get there until around 8 p.m. So Joe and Mom headed up without me, only to discover that our hostel was not in Itaewon (the foreigner district near the heart of Seoul), as the website said, but in Incheon – an entirely different city that is almost an hour outside of Seoul! So they didn’t get much of a change to explore before I arrived. We decided to try and make the most of our brief time by heading to the Seoul Tower (which I’d been DYING to do). We took the cable car to the top, which was mildly terrifying for Mom and I. Joe kept saying things like, “Look how high we are! Wow, check out that view,” until he realized (or realised, rather. He’s British.) that we were NOT amused. It’s a blessing and a curse that the cable cars go so fast; it gets you there quicker, but makes the ride that much more fear inducing. At any rate, we were at the top in no time and it was beautiful. Not only were there lots of trees and nice places to picnic (had we been there during the day), but there was a really cool display being projected onto the side of the tower. Sometimes it was just shapes dancing to to the beat of the music, but sometimes it was actually a guy dancing. It was really entertaining to watch. Then it was time for our ascent to the top of the tower. When you get to the top you find that the fence all around is covered in locks. Like the kind your gym locker from high school had. Couples go up there to put locks on the fence as a symbol of their love. Then they toss the keys over the edge (even though it’s forbidden and kind of dangerous) to show that their love will last forever. I REALLY wanted to do that, but it’s just creepy if you do that with your mom. So I settled for taking a crapload of pictures of it, instead. Then we hung out of the observation deck for awhile, taking in the view of various parts of the city. We noticed a mailbox where you could send postcards to your loved ones from the top of Seoul Tower, so Joe and I each sent a couple home. Then we made the long trek back to the hostel because we were all quite tired by that point. The next day we headed out to Namdaemun Market, one of the really large markets in Seoul. We saw a dance crew dancing on the street when we got out of the subway station, which puts me thisclose to my dream of seeing breakdance fighting in real life. Unfortunately, many stores in the market were closed because it was Sunday and we never did find Mom the Korean fabric she wants. But we still saw lots of interesting things and we able to find some neat souvenirs (although I mostly just bought htings for me). One of my buddies from college, Xander, lives near Seoul, so he came and met up with us while we were shopping (lucky him!). Mom was pretty tired, so we parted ways in the early evening. I was sad to see her go, but was really glad to have my apartment back to myself. My apartment is WAY too tiny for two people to be sharing the space. Especially when one of those people is a neat freak.

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