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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There’s No Place Like Home

So, I am currently writing this during my bajillion hour long layover in Beijing. I am, however, going to have to post it later as the Chinese clearly hate me and Facebook and WordPress because it won’t let me on either of those sites. Or any site that might amuse me/keep me from being bored out of my ever loving mind for the next 5 ½ hours. Suck it, China. If it were not for that gargantuan wall that I so desperately want to see, I would NOT being coming back. Despite the introduction, this post is not actually about how crappy my journey has been so far, or even about the further crappiness I expect to endure until the glorious moment when my plane touches down at SFO. As my year is up, I wanted to reflect on the good, the bad and the ugly that Korea has to offer and also what I’m most excited to return to in the good, ‘ol U.S. of A.

Despite my everlasting love for Korean food, my kids are what I’m going to miss the most. Especially my kinders. I can’t believe that I didn’t get up this morning and go shake my sillies out with them. Or that I’ll never pinch those adorable little cheeks of theirs or hear Angela call me “Beautiful Rainbow Princess Megan Teacher.” (That’s my official title now, in case you were wondering, and I expect you all to start using it post haste.) I wish that I could watch them grow and see the wonderful people they will become. That, I think, is reason numero uno that I’m not sure teaching is for me long term. As much as I love my job, I get so attached to those adorable little faces and it’s so hard to see them go. I’m not sure I could handle that year in and year out. I am also going to miss my amazing coworkers (both waygookin and Korean) who have helped me navigate the world that is being a foreign teacher in Korea. I have learned so much during the past year, and am excited to see what year two has to offer.

I will also miss the food horribly and terribly. I have been spoiled by the amazing cuisine in Jeonju and am worried that wherever I end up next won’t hold a candle to what I’m used to. Guess I’ll be making lots of trips to Jeonju next year! I will miss how friendly and helpful the Korean people are, on the whole. The taxi drivers that ask a million questions or the random stranger that comes up and starts talking to you because they are so eager to practice their English and want to know more about you. I will miss my ghetto apartment. It was my home for over a year and it holds so many great memories. I will miss how cheap everything is here. Like, SUPER cheap. And I’m cheap. So it works out pretty nicely. I will miss the “yogio button” at restaurants. Best. Idea. Ever. It’s a little button at your table that you press whenever you need something from your waiter. And other than that, he/she never bothers you. No, “Hi! I’m Kimmy! I’m going to be your server this evening and check on you every 15 seconds and annoy you so much that you regret leaving the house!” Or, conversely, “Hi. I’m Brad. I’m your server. You probably won’t see me again for, like, 20 minutes. Hope you’re not too hungry…” It makes the dining experience much more pleasant. I will miss hanging out in front of convenient stores having a few drinks with my friends. Seriously, that’s a thing here. A socially acceptable, not at all white trash thing. And it’s surprisingly fun. I will also miss all of the wonderful new friends I’ve made this past year. I hope to stay in contact with them all, but am sad to know that in reality, some of them I will probably never see again. Thank goodness for Facebook! (Except in China.)

I will not miss being gawked at. I will not miss being given the disapproving once over because of my weight. I will not miss being told I’m fat. Don’t get me wrong, I’m FULLY aware of what I look like. But it still sucks to hear, like, on a daily basis. And it makes it really difficult to feel good about the 35 lbs I’ve lost since I’ve been here. I will not miss the smog. I will not miss the grocery stores here. Unless you go right when they open or really late at night, they are insanely packed. And they have people yelling out specials all the time trying to get you to buy things and it’s super obnoxious. If I’m solo, I just put on my ipod and tune everyone out. I won’t miss the few Koreans who don’t like you because you’re a foreigner. On the whole, my experience has been really good. But the negative experiences seem to make a bigger impact than the positive ones, sadly. I will not miss my last class on MWF. Seriously, they were all jerks. Middle school teachers – I don’t know how you do it. You have my utmost respect because if I taught kids that age, I’d end up in jail. I will not miss the lunch lady. She was massively unpleasant. Even the Koreans didn’t like her, but they have to tolerate her because she’s older than they are. Homie don’t play that. Respect is a two way street. She was really nice to me on my last day and gave me an extra sandwich and I spent the entire day being worried that she’d tried to poison me. She’s that kind of awful. I will not miss my shower. Or my bathroom on the whole, really. I will not miss my college dorm room sized fridge. And I will not miss surprise tentacles in my food.

Of course, first and foremost, I am most excited to see my family when I get back (read cats). I especially can’t wait to see my sister. She won’t get home until almost Christmas, which will make almost a year and a half apart. Which is balls. She says she’s going to come visit me during year two, and if she doesn’t I might cut her. Because a year without your sister is just too long. Are you reading this, Kristin? If you don’t make a Korea trip happen, I WILL CUT YOU. And you’ve been warned, so I don’t even think I can get in trouble for it. Wait, maybe that’s not quite how the system works… Whatever. The point is, make the damned trip! I can’t wait to see my kitties and poopsies. Especially Abby. I have been waiting over a year to have some couch cuddle time with my favorite dog/sasquatch hybrid. I can’t wait to have good Mexican food. A year without Mexican food is also too long. I can’t wait to see the stars again. You can almost never see them in Korea, and that sucks. I can’t wait to drive (providing I get my license back, but that’s a whole other story) and sing in the car. I can’t wait to experience the holiday season properly. My mom is going to kill me by the time Christmas is over and probably wish I’d just stayed in Korea. I can’t wait to drink decent beer without having to offer up my first born to the bartender. I can’t wait to watch TV. I have kept up on a few of my shows, but I have not just sat in front of a TV and vegged since I got to Korea. And I super-dee-duper cannot wait to go shopping. It is very difficult to get my size clothing in Korea and the selection is pretty limited (read unattractive). Also, all of the bottoms I have saw fit to die two weeks before I left. I am currently sitting in the airport in my last pair of yoga pants that are slightly too big and in the last 24 hours have sprung a hole on the inner thigh. I just pray they make it until I get to San Francisco or things are going to get really awkward…

So, there you have it. The good, the bad and the ugly. Korea friends – I miss you already and can’t wait to see you again! Friends and family stateside – it’s been too long! I can’t wait to see you all and share my amazing adventure with you! Also, I’ve posted a few of my favorite photos from the last year for your viewing pleasure.

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