Thursday, November 24, 2011

Home is Where I Want to Be on Thanksgiving

It's Thursday morning and I wake up, not to an alarm clock, but to the meows of the one cat and four kittens living with me in my studio apartment. It's not just any Thursday, but it's the fourth Thursday of November, which means it's Thanksgiving Day. Sure it's not yet Thanksgiving in the states, but I'm used to considering Korea time my reality and USA time a concept only important for determining when I can contact those I love from back home.

I'm running late, so on my way out, I rush to grab all things that look warm: A sweatshirt to wear under my jacket, some gloves and a hat. I haul my bike down nine stories on the elevator and out the door. WHAM, I'm stricken with a giant gust a freezing air. Yup, it's officially winter and in Korea, it gets really cold. My muscles tighten as I pedal my bike as fast as I can. I'm torn because pedaling faster means getting to school earlier, but also means more intense winds that bring tears to my eyes and a pins and needles feeling to my hands. A man riding on the back of a truck hauling cabbages shouts "hello" as we cross paths. The trees are bare and the remains of the crunchy, dry leaves flutter across the sidewalk. The neighborhood is quiet except for an occasional driver holding down their horn for a reason surely not to be solved by the awful ear piercing sound occurring much too early in the day. 

I guess you could say it's an ordianry day, but I can't help but feel a sense of emptiness. This is how the holidays go when living away from the place you truly consider home. There are occurrences throughout the day that evoke an array of emotions. Happiness when my students basically maul me in the halls just to get a chance to say hello. Sadness when I think about something I need to do but have been procrastinating. Confusion when a student writes a word in Korean on the classroom white board, which I'm pretty sure is inappropriate. Anger when a co-teacher shows up 30 minutes late for class. Excitement when I check my e-mail and find a message from my dearest Amy. But the overall undertone is a feeling of things not being quite right and that just can't be changed...that is unless I could snap my fingers and be in Oregon. I don't  usually even care much for Thanksgiving, but when I'm gone, the tables are turned.

In the evening, I have a spaghetti dinner with a Korean family. Not just any spaghetti, but it's cooked with fresh shrimp, 12 different vegetables, and within a loving home. And this weekend, I'll share a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with Shannon, Jeff and some of their friends down in Daegu, so it's definitely not a matter of food. I guess it's just that so many of the people and things I am thankful for are back home and to not be in their presence on a day dedicated to giving thanks feels strange. If I can't be home, thought, being with Shannon is the next best thing. She is the company that makes me feel most at home. 

The highs, the lows, the crowded subway, the yearning or the west, the emotional roller coaster.

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