Heart Mind & Seoul

Shine a light. Shine alive. Tumblring from Seoul, Korea.
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To prove I have been doing other things besides going to kpop concerts, and also to show why I havent been able to do anything but blog pictures of my morning coffee.

Now that I am getting closer to my departure date, my life has been a crazy mix of meeting people for the last time and running errands to get ready for the big move.

Last night I said goodbye to my favorite barista in a cafe run by nuns.

Tonight I will say goodbye to the girl I have been tutoring for over a year.

My emotions have been so up and down lately, I dont know what to do with myself. One minute I am filled with excitement to go back home, the next, sobbing into my hands at the thought of leaving.

Quit messing with me Korea.

I’ve been very mum on this blog for a while now, and that’s mostly because I’ve been trying to figure out my future plans and sadly, not because I’ve been living it up here in snowy, cold cold cold Seoul. You’ve probably heard that yesterday was the coldest day thus far (-16 C) this winter, but that wasn’t the main reason why I never left my apartment yesterday.

The countdown to the end of this amazing journey is 8 weeks. I’ve got to begin packing up stuff I can ship out early, catalogue the things I want to sell/give away, look for jobs either in San Diego or New York (preferably both) and then begin that heartbreaking task of saying goodbye to everyone I know and hold dear here in Korea.

On the one hand, I can’t wait for these 8 weeks to pass by so I can get back home, to what I’m now constantly referring to as my “real life”—whatever that means, and on the other hand, I feel like 8 weeks isn’t enough time for me to put Korea behind me—whatever that means.

For now, I’ve got a few more days of vacation before heading back to work for the last 6 week stretch. If jobs don’t pan out the way I want, then I’m off to Thailand and Cambodia after my contract ends, which isn’t a bad deal either :)

The end of the year brought the necessary nostalgia and account of both victories and defeats over the past year. I’d like to say that I accomplished the 4 resolutions I made at the beginning of 2012:

  1. Be better at Korean
  2. Be involved in the community
  3. Risk something at love
  4. Travel more

And to a certain degree I’ve both accomplished and failed at all of them. I am better at Korean than I was last year, but basically gave up studying during the last 6 months. I am involved in a volunteer organization & have raised money for lots of causes over the year, but I’ve not really volunteered a lot of my personal time or talents. I did risk at something—but to call it “love” is not something that I’m quite comfortable saying. I did travel a lot this past year, but only within Korea and not at all to other Asian/SE Asian countries the way I had hoped.

When I look at those 4 resolutions, I don’t feel quite the sense of victory as I had imagined I would if I accomplished them. But more than that, I think new years resolutions overshadows all the little short-term resolutions that I did accomplish this past year. Running 5 races this year. Getting back into writing. Translating in latin. Reading academically. Making new friends & solidifying old ones.

So, I’m not going to make any resolutions this year. Not that I don’t have long term goals, but I think putting pressure on them as resolutions never leaves them simply as the achieved goals they are.

That said, I do believe in having goals & looking ahead. My long-term goals are simple:

  1. Find a publishing internship
  2. Travel to Cambodia & Thailand & possibly Malaysia
  3. Move to New York by the end of the year

And that’s it! :) And just out of curiosity, did anyone fulfill all their resolutions from 2012? And what resolutions did you make, if any, for 2013?

I just slept 10 hours straight. oops.

I was supposed to come home, pick up some clothes to take to the dry cleaners, get my bangs trimmed, and eat dinner. THEN maybe call it an early night (I didn’t sleep at ALL on the plane, was too busy watching every single in-flight movie don’t you know).

I knocked out around 6pm, not even unpacked.

So now its an ungodly hour of the day, and I’m wide awake. I didn’t think I was at all jet-lagged, and I still think I wasn’t, but I was pretty much awake ALL weekend and if that’s not cause for a 10 hour coma, I don’t know what is.

Being in America was strange. I had a bit of reverse culture shock the first time I went back, with all the bowing I was doing and the two handed everything I was also doing, but this time it was more of a mental confusion.

For example, I flew in LA and was hanging out waiting for my connecting flight to take me to SD, when I see this little asian kid talking to his mom in English. My first reaction was “OMG! This little kid’s english is so good! I wonder why…” and then I stopped and mentally slapped myself. This is America and he’s probably been speaking English since he learned how to speak. I’m an idiot.

And I went insane with eating. I mean really, it was quite sad. On npr they said that recent immigrants to the US often gain weight because the indulgent foreign foods that they used to have every once in a while in their home countries as a treat became readily available once them immigrated, and that they would indulge in these foods often because of the mentality that they were “special” and hard to come by. Like eating on vacation.

It’s almost embarrassing how I took advantage of Starbucks just for pumpkin spiced lattes and eggnog lattes. How I would make 2am mexican food runs for california burritos. How I would bypass pizza and pasta in favor of stuffed fried squash blossoms with herb ricotta, purple basil pesto, and cured lemon aioli. In short, I ate. a lot.

And driving. I didn’t realize how much i miss driving. Traffic on the road sure as hell beats rush hour on line 1 or jungang subway lines.

But being in America was also amazing. I stepped off the plane and into the warm, slightly salty air that is my hometown, and everything was right and perfect in the world. It was bright and sunny and immediately time slowed down and I felt my body relax in the way that happens naturally in my hometown.

If I was at all still on the fence about whether or not I should go home next year, this short but sweet trip home tipped the scale. 3 months to home!

I’ve always known that I have a more than average penchant for shoes. That the particular delight and fascination I have with shoes is slightly more than what is considered “normal” (at least compared to those around me).

And I’ve always known that I tend to hold on to things—notes, clothes, relationships, leftovers, sales receipts—for longer than I should, but after cleaning out my closets in preparation for the flea market tomorrow, I am appalled with just how much I’ve hoarded this past year!

I threw out 7 pairs of shoes (going to try and sell 6 pairs & I still have a closet full >_<), and came away with a bag full of miscellaneous trash/junk that I’ve just accumulated over the last several months, holding on to them “just in case” of the apocalypse or something, apparently.

This flea market that I’m participating in tomorrow is giving me a great chance to declutter, organize, and evaluate my life. In the process of throwing out and piling up all my stuff, I’ve been finding some precious little gems of the life that I’ve lived here in korea and the effect is almost instantaneous. Memories of joy and fun, of awe and wonder, of peace or silliness wash over me and I’m rendered quiet and grateful.

In many ways (mainly mentally), I’m ready for the big move and the next chapter of my life, but it doesn’t mean its not still hard to leave this all behind, or that I will ever recover from the devastation that I’ll inevitably suffer because of it. I’m hoping that its these little things, these precious few things that I’ve stumbling upon in my mad dash at life, can and will make me quiet and grateful for the rest of my life.

& FYI:
Seoul Foreigners’ Flea Market
Sunday, November 18
Noon-6pm
Gwanghwamun Square (next to King Sejong)

I’m probably jumping the gun here, but it IS autumn and with winter fast approaching, it will soon be too cold to want to do much of anything. I’ll need to do as much as possible in the next few weeks before the only thing I will want to do is a bunch of nothing with a side of hot tea (yum!). Without further ado, my Korea bucket list:

  1. Visit the DMZ (I’ve put it off for too long)
  2. Temple stay
  3. Seoraksan
  4. Gyeongju
  5. Get a tattoo
  6. Sing a k-pop song fully in Korean
  7. YG Family concert/ 2013 Big Bang Big Show (come onnnn)

And that’s it! Surprisingly. Around this time last year I knew I couldn’t leave Korea yet because there was so much I still hadn’t done, so at the beginning of this year I made it a point to get out and explore a lot more of Korea. And so now I’m left with those 6 things.

This weekend, I’m planning on crossing one more off this list: a trip to Gyeongju to see the historic capitol of the Silla dynasty. and ride bikes :)

I met up with different groups of friends this weekend, who have been in Korea/Seoul for varying amounts of time, and I spoke with them about my whole do-I-stay-or-do-I-go dilemma.

It was really interesting to get their thoughts about my situation. I had asked to meet with these friends because I knew I could trust them to be unbiased about my staying or potential leaving (all my closest friends here naturally want me to stay & all my closest friends at home naturally want me to leave—can’t trust either group to give me perspective, the jerks).

And what it boils down to is my fear. Essentially, when my contract finishes up in a few months, my life pretty much drops off a cliff. There’s no safety net, nothing to fall back on. And if I’m honest with myself, that’s the biggest reason why I’m so torn about leaving. I mean, yes, the shopping is amazing here, and my job is good and secure, and my future husband TOP lives here, and I love my friends here, a good majority of whom are staying for another year(!!), but I know, just like I knew that coming to Seoul was the right decision for me (and just felt so, so right), that going home is the right decision for me.

The difference is, when I made the decision to actually come to Korea, I had a job waiting for me and a pretty sweet set-up in Seoul! How exciting! How refreshing! It was something I could look forward to and anticipate. Going back home, I actually have none of that. Instead of excitement, I have dread and fear and the bitter knowledge of the hardship that waits for me.

But removing that fear, the choice is just so clear to me. The rest of my life waits for me. It’s just not in Seoul.

Andddd cue the tears.

Any period of transition is bound to be rife with complications, turmoil, and heartache.

This period of transition is made all the more worse in a foreign country.

I have talked about all the problems and difficulty of moving. Just when I thought that I had made up my mind and actually settled on something, it came undone.

So I had to start all over again in the apartment search. Meanwhile, my bank account was getting dangerously low.

A week of eating ramyeon like a college student and hitting up my local 김밥천국 for the cheapest eats commenced.

I found a place a liked, is super close to my new school, and best of all… its furnished! The downside? It’s on line 1— the oldest, slowest, most infrequent, subway line.

I am in the process of memorizing the bus routes. I guess I couldn’t have it all in choosing a new place to live :(

If stress over moving and money wasn’t enough, life decided to throw a freaking curve ball at me:

my laptop died on me today.

Just pooped out on me. I felt panic and confusion. What am I, if I dont have access to the world wide web at all times? How do I survive without a word processor?

(I am ashamed at the importance I place on “being connected”)

Applecare call center did all they could to try to ressurect my laptop, but to no avail.

And, since I am in South Korea, of course there isn’t an Apple support servics center annnnnywhere.

(Damn you, Apple and Samsung rivalry)

My options are to either ship my computer back to the states to get fixed, or get it fixed here. If I get it fixed here in korea, I would be validating my apple care service and warranty…. stuck between a rock and a hard place, I am.

If theres ANYTHING good coming out of the insane amount of stress and problems I have been having lately, it is that I feel better equipped to handle these crises.

If I had to deal with all of this fresh off the plane, having never ever been to Seoul, much less Korea, theres no way I could handle it. I would probably break down into a messy puddle of tears, and book the next flight out of Korea— one way back to California.

But now? I can deal with the city, with all its complications, pitfalls, and beauty, far better than maybe even a few months ago.

(and I feel like my Korean is better than it has ever been!)

That being said, life, can you ease up a little? Girl has gotta breathe a bit!