These past couple months in Korea have had such violent ups and downs that it was crazy enough to live through, never mind write about it. Here’s a brief rundown.
At the end of May, two of my few good friends in Korea were high-tailing it out the same week Ryan told me he could no longer come. The summer stretched before me like an endless heat wave of loneliness and my newfound determination flickered and went out. I gave my two months notice to the school. [ yes, two months].
The next week I lost my wallet at the movie theaters and my bike was stolen and somewhere there’s a Korean guy walking around listening to KPOP on my headphones.
The next week there was a MERS outbreak and general panic in Korea that closed schools for a week. Korea is a lot of people in a little space and I guess they’ve been hit hard by viruses in the past.
Not willing to pass up the time off, we bought masks for the subways and took advantage with a trip to the beautiful costal city that is Busan and wistfully imagined living there instead of Seoul. We made new friends at the hostel, visited a cultural village, ate lunch at a gigantic fish market and for once got to travel and experience Korea without worrying about a ten hour school day the next day.
When we returned we were told we’d be working on Saturdays to make up the days. Classic.
The days started heating up and fresh blood arrived to take the spots of the teachers that left, which meant new friendships were made.
Oh and I finally met Grace, the elevator girl! Again! This time for real. She ended up becoming one of closest friends in my short time left in Korea. I kicked myself for not trying to reach out and find her sooner.
Despite the terribly long work weeks I was doing more than ever in Korea and it turns out my crippling fear of a long, lonely summer in the city didn’t come to pass. The beautiful sunny days picked me up and helped shake off the dust. I was meeting more and more people, Koreans and foreigners alike. In fact it almost felt as if I were finally hitting my stride. Which makes it feel a little weird to be leaving.
But at this point I am just really relieved and thankful that I am leaving with a much more positive experience and outlook on Korea. I lived in this really unique place and culture for five months. I hiked peaks at five different national parks, cheered passionately at Korean baseball games and ate more than my fair share of Korean BBQ (seriously delicious). I sang at noraebang with friends and perfect strangers until four in the morning, losing my voice to drunk renditions of Red Hot Chili Pepper songs. My tolerance for spicy food increased ten-fold and I find myself craving ttokbokki on the reg. I visited historic Buddhist temples and witnessed the quiet contemplation and prayer of Korean families in the foothills of the mountains.
And in the end the kindness from everyone as I was leaving was overwhelming. I guess I didn’t realize quite how many connections I had made until I was saying goodbye. I’m so thankful for everyone who helped to lift me up and enjoy Korea for everything it’s worth. Gamsamnida.
P.S. I’m currently on my way home (with a brief stop-over in Prague to visit my girlfriend Amanda) and I’m excited about the next chapter. I’ll be starting a new job as a 5th grade teacher in MA this fall, which will be an adventure in and of itself. Then, who knows? Thank you to all my readers and supporters, who’ve cheered me on the whole way, and understood my lack of posts as just a girl trying to get her shit together. See you next time.