Wednesday, July 20, 2011

In Transit: Too Much Down Time

It's officially summer vacation and time to begin my brutal three flight journey home. Unable to sleep last night, I wake up this morning after sleeping just 3 or 4 hours. The tired feeling lasts for about half a minute until my foggy brain remembers what lays ahead. After finishing up my morning packing, you know the stuff that can't be done until you are ready for the day, I head downstairs to track down a taxi. Before I leave the building, my doorman, with a worried look, makes sure I am not leaving for good.

It must be my lucky day because there is then a taxi sitting right outside my building. The driver stuffs my heavy suitcase in his trunk. He also asks if I am returning. When I convey a positive response (our conversation was mainly made up of hand motions), he shakes my hand with endearing gratitude. It was quite sweet, actually.

If these two encounters weren't enough, I get out of the taxi at the bus station to find a co-worker of mine. She is dropping some friends off for a trip to Europe, whom which she will join in just a week. Before we part, she hands each of her friends a coffee and then one to if it were planned. I know it was for her, though, and so the gesture was just so special.

The bus ride to the airport takes about an hour since traffic is a bit slow. I don't mind because it gives me plenty of time to think and peacefully watch my surroundings. At one point, I find myself listening to Joe Purdy's "Blue Sky" from one of my many travel mixes and looking up at the white fluffy clouds hanging in front of the bright sky, then a nearby subway train passing, and finally the green bushes swaying in the wind. It seems like a dream and makes me feel very lucky to be living this life that sometimes feels like a fantasy. During the last stretch of the ride, which covers the Han River, Steve Miller Band's "Wide River" come on. It seems almost creepy.

Now I am at the Incheon Airport and it is here that I am currently waiting inside my gate and watching planes pass by. The extra time led to large quantities of Korean chocolate being purchased. So, if I see you during my trip home, be prepared for a major sugar high. :)

The plane I will be boarding is headed for Osaka. From there, I time travel backward to San Fransisco and finally up to good ol' Portland. I foresee a lot of airport downtime, so I'll keep updating this entry.

Now wish me luck because I have major airplane anxiety!


IN JAPAN! I see an adorable barefoot two year old boy running around the large open space that is our gate. Before that, I tried filling my water bottle with the bathroom tap and an older lady began speaking non-stop Japanese to me. She was clearly a sweetheart and guided me to a drinking fountain instead. Nine point five hour flight ahead of me and I'm very nervous. Bought a carry on beer to help calm my nerves. Battery on my laptop is dieing and my cord is suited for Asian outlets only. Hope I find a converter in SF!


Finally home! So effing jet lagged and seriously hating the San Francisco airport for being horrible disorganized/stressful. I thought I would love hearing English all around me, but it turns out I was wrong...everyone seems so whiny, but this could also just be my lack of sleep.

My cats remember me and I met the new family dog, Tilly. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the fresh air. My lungs are very appreciative right now.

I don't know if I'd go as far to say I'm experiencing reverse culture shock, but its something along the same lines. All the people around me look familiar, like I've met them before/they all kind of look the same. It's one of the strangest feelings I've ever experienced. Everything also seems as though it's in slow motion because of how past paced everything in Korea is. Also, when waiting for my last flight, there was a group of people from Korea. I chatted with them and felt more of a connection with their group than anyone else around me. Kind of ironic since I'm constantly feeling out of place in Korea.

Super excited to see my friends and family, which will most likely start before rest. :D :D :D

Monday, July 18, 2011

A giant update: plans and places.

Gosh, I've been a horrible blogger lately. After changing my mind countless times, I've finally decided to extend my stay in Korea for one more year with my current school. There was about a month period that I confused just about every person close to me, telling them of my certainty for either staying or going and then changing my mind literally days later. My pros and cons lists were enormous, but what it ultimately came down to was one thing- Is this settled, safe feeling something to be embraced or is it a sign of just that, settling? I tend to avoid commitment and safety and prefer a life full of changes, generally on a yearly basis. For good or for worse, it keeps things exciting. On the other hand, it prevents the deepest and most meaningful of experiences, relationships, feelings, etc. from emerging above that surface that I often linger upon. So let it be said, I'll be here another year with plenty more to explore. It was finalized with a kiss on the hand from my vice principle and one in return after a brutally long meeting. Now I'd say that's pretty official.

In other news, I am soon heading home very for a much needed summer vacation. The scheduled visit home has helped a lot in confirming my decision to stay another year. Before it was planned, I was beginning to feel somewhat trapped and anxious in a way other expats I've talked to can relate. Once Portland-bound plane tickets were purchased, though, I suddenly felt a giant weight had been lifted. Although the departure date has been taking it's sweet time in approaching, I've been able to enjoy all things Korean-esk just knowing I'll soon be in the presence of my own culture, and dearly missed friends, family, and animals.
Now for an update on my recent whereabouts:

Demilitarized Zone, 2nd Tunnel- A 3.5km long tunnel created by North Korea in 1975. South Koreans discovered it after hearing explosions from within. We walked until bars blocked us from entering the North. It was pretty surreal to think is had been built just 36 years ago for the purpose of an attack! No photos were allowed inside. 

Demilitarized Zone, Cheorwan Peace Observatory- When I thought of the DMZ, the most heavily militarized border in the world, no where in my mind did I picture a place as beautiful as that surrounding the Cheorwan Peace Observatory. Lots of trees and lots of green and I think I only had to see about 5 or 6 guns.

Rafting Sundam Valley, Hantangang- Sunny days during Korea's monsoon season have been a rarity, but on this day we lucked out.

Nabiya Cat Shelter- Recently my  dearest cat Richie passed away. It was extremely difficult to deal with as it's my second animal to pass since being away from home. I'm not going to go into detail about it, but what was really ironic was where I was the day of- volunteering for the first time at this cat shelter in Itaewon. Strange, ay? The shelter is a wonderful place. It houses about 30 cats and not a single human in a 3 bedroom apartment. It's operated by volunteers and funded by donations.

Dobongsan, Seoul- It was my second time up Dobosong, the first being during the dead of winter. Instead of rocks being icy, water from the previous days of rain trickled down freely. We didn't quite make it to the top because it was too foggy, but it was still a great hike.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

When I was a young girl...

I spent every minute of my free time in the forests, waters, canyons, and fields surrounding me. Then, at some point, I lost touch with nature. Blame school, jobs, life, whatever. I could be submersed, but that connected feeling just wasn't there. The bond has now been restored in my life and a great portion of the process has happened here in Korea. It sounds simple, but it's quite complex and has made an enormous difference in my life.

Hwanggeumsan and the Yellow Sea

So the mountain wasn't exactly very tall...

It's summer, but the rainy portion. Seeking refuge under the tent!

You never know with him.

BBQ #1

Not warm...not one bit. Post-swimming.

The water was amazing and the best view came from swimming amongst the rocks in the pouring rain.


Last hike of a good friend. I think the guys are a teensy bit sad too. :)

BBQ #2/Owned by Soju Man.

Friday, July 1, 2011

This is how I find peace. This is a ride to the Han River.

The ride to the Han River is just long enough to feel I'm going somewhere, but short enough to do after a days work. I can't quite pinpoint the reason, but whenever I'm on the trail, I feel as though I'm part of a special community separate from those within the limits of the surrounding cities.

Here, I can think, I can remind myself of priorities, and I can feel free of all obligations.

The Han River itself reminds me of Portland's Willamette River. It's not clean to say the least, but still has a magical quality about it that makes you want to stare forever. Its numerous giant bridges each have their own unique qualities, but still relate in possessing the ability to make all underneath feel like tiny little ants.