Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Another Post about the Food

Sorry, but I have to rhapsodize some more. Mealtimes have become my favorite part of each day. Each one brings new gustatory delights that I have never come across before in my life.

Yesterday night my director took me to a restaurant for pork. I like pork sometimes in the States, but this pork had my mouth watering. It was cooked over hot coals in the middle of our table, then dipped in the yummiest sweet and sour sauce ever. Not the nasty sugary thick red glop in cheap Chinese buffets in the USA, either. This sauce was thin, brown, and had a much more vivid flavor, with just a touch of vinegar to it. There was also a rice soup and a spicy soup made from soybeans, tofu, and veggies. Everything was to my liking.

For breakfast today I tried a rice porridge and roasted seaweed. Still not sure I'm a big fan of seaweed, but I think I may be able to get used to it.

For lunch today I had the best thing yet: dumplings. These were the fattest, fullest ones I have ever seen, jam-packed with flavorful fillings. good! With that I had a seaweed and noodle soup, which was okay, and my first taste of gimchi. The gimchi was...interesting. I didn't hate it, as I had expected to, but I'm not really sure if I liked it either. It was very spicy, and the texture was a bit odd. I think I'll have to eat it a few more times before I can make up my mind about it.

On of the classes got a snack party today as a reward for doing well on their test, so I had the opportunity to sample some more Korean snacks. The spicy rice cakes were pretty good, as were some odd chip-like thingies. The candy was splendid. There was one thing that I ate though, that is still making me cringe. My mother will probably never believe that I let people talk me into trying it. It was (drumroll please)...pork blood and rice. Uhhh. It was congealed, I guess, so there was nothing liquid about it. It was rubbery, and very hard for me to swallow. It was even harder to keep down. My stomach is still not terribly thrilled over it. So yes, not all Korean food is awesome. But the vast majority is.

Old Meets New

I think one of the things that amazes me most about Korea so far is how they are very old-fashioned in some respects, and then very advanced in others. For example, in a class discussion today, every one of the kindergarteners had a computer in their home, but two of them have families that still sleep on the floor, as opposed to having beds. The lack of beds is not a matter of wealth or poverty; some Koreans just choose not to "upgrade" from floor to bed. They have heated floors that are very clean, so I guess sleeping there probably isn't too bad, but it still is a bit mind-boggling for a Westerner.

In another instance, Koreans still use about 1,000 Chinese characters, even though they have their own excellent alphabet (Hangol) and many use English letters now. I think it's fascinating how they can cling to both old and new, and do so well with both.

Many Americans (including several that I know personally) have a faulty view of Koreans, seeing them as backward and third-world people. I guess it's because they look different from us. In actuality, these are very intelligent, capable people who could kick American butts in IQ tests! I met a kindergartener today who is smarter than the average American fourth or fifth grader. She's not an under-socialized little misfit either; she's a friendly, loveable little girl who gets along well with others.

I am learning so much already, and I haven't even been here a week. Korea is amazing!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Korean Kids Feed Me Well

The kids here at English World are so cute and sweet. They really love feeding us teachers! Yesterday they gave me gum, and today I've been given oreos, yummy Korean peanut candy, and even yummier Korean cookies. These kids are absolute dolls!

This is day two (well, full day two) in Korea and I really like it. Gyeongju is a very neat city, the food is awesome, and the other teachers are all very friendly and easy to get along with. The students keep me in stitches. They all keep staring at me and giggling because I'm a foreigner. They are simply fascinated by the Miguki (American) teacher!

I really can't get over how good the food is. I never thought I would willingly eat anything that involved eggs and seaweed together, but it was yummy! The soup I had for lunch today was a very spicy version of Ramen noodles that included seaweed and egg, and it was great. Not only did it taste good, it also completely cleared my sinuses! Bonus! I also got to try a sushi made with seaweed, veggies, rice, and whitefish, which, much to my surprise, was also delicious. And as for radish pickles, where have they been all my life?! I am going to miss this food so much when I go home in a year!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Times and Dates

Just in case anyone was wondering, I just reset my time and date on the blog to reflect South Korea's time zone. It wound up changing the date and time on all my past entries. For those I left behind in Michigan, you are fourteen hours behind me, in case you were curious.

In Korea at Last!

I am finally safely here in Gyeongju. This comes as quite a nice surprise to me, as the trip over here was crammed with bad luck.

When I checked in at O'Hare, I was informed that my first flight had been cancelled. So, I was switched from American Airlines to United. I was so worried and stressed that I wound up crying all the way through security. Security brought more trouble, by the way. I was selected for a random search (of course!) during which the woman managed to break the buckle off my shoe, thus wrecking my favorite pair of shoes. I only had about five minutes to get breakfast before my flight started boarding, so I grabbed a chocolate muffin, a mocha, and a bottle of water from a little stand. The coffee promptly spilled on my nice new yellow sweater as I dashed to my gate.

The first flight was uneventful. The service was surprisingly good and there were two in-flight movies, Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium and Dan in Real Life. Then they played one episode from The Office, and we arrived in San Francisco.

In San Francisco, I had to check in with Korean Air, which took forever. My bags had already been routed to Seoul, although I was skeptical over whether or not they would actually make it. I had not had a chance to flat iron my hair that morning, so it was looking pretty bad. I managed to find an electrical outlet to the side of one of the payphones (the bathroom had none), so I did my hair there. When I got ready to board the plane, I was informed that security had neglected to mark my ticket, so I had to wait at the gate and then be thoroughly re-searched by security. What fun!

Korean Air turned out to be the best airline I have ever flown on. Every seat had a personal LCD monitor, on which we could play games, watch as many movies as we wanted (there were 57 to choose from, mostly new releases), and even track our plane on an interactive map, which also told the remaining time and distance to Seoul/Incheon airport. The service was excellent. They brought us drinks and roasted peanuts early on, then brought juice and water at least once an hour. We were given huge towelettes to wash our hands with early on as well. Later in the flight, they brought out hot washcloths to "refresh ourselves" with.

There were two in-flight meals, both of which were good. This was my first exposure to Korean food. My lunch consisted of bibimbap, which is rice, cooked vegetables, and meat with a very spicy red pepper sauce. There were also some odd chunks of something brown and squishy, which I assume was some sort of sea creature. I ate that too, and was relieved that it was not totally disgusting, just really weird. There were fresh melon and pickles with the meal, which were also good. I was unable to eat more than three bites of the seaweed soup, though. It was too fishy tasting. Dinner was a pasta and shrimp dish with vinegary vegetables and some odd pink dessert that tasted yummy.

The only downfall on that flight was that I got sick. I got the worst vertigo of my life, my face broke out in a sweat, my ears rang loudly, and my vision got so clouded that I couldn't see anything. It got so bad that I actually thought I was dying. Three flight attendants came and assisted me. They gave me cold water to drink and moved me back to their seats for a while, where there was more room and more air. Later, back in my seat, it started again, so I put my head down on my tray table and kept it there for over an hour. By the end of the flight, I felt better.

Seoul/Incheon airport was huge! Ginormous! Bigger than O'Hare, I'm certain. It took forever to find my way around after I got through with immigration and customs. My Busan flight was crammed with American military, all of whom were very friendly and talkative. In Busan, I was delighted to learn that my luggage, oddly enough, was also in Busan. Unfortunatly, one of my suitcases had been murdered by the airlines. The top of it is ripped beyond repair.

Cate (my director) and her husband met me at the airport. They are super nice. Cate offered to either put me up in a hotel for my first week here or have me stay with her. I chose the latter, so I am currently at Cate's apartment. She informed me, much to my relief, that I do not have to teach today. I got to sleep in, and I will be going over to the school at noon to meet the other teachers and some of the students.

So far, I think Korea is gorgeous. The weather is warmer than at home, about 35-40 degrees, there is no snow, and it is very sunny right now. Most of the Koreans I have met so far have been very friendly. I am pretty certain I'm going to like it here. I really miss my parents and dogs, but I think I'll be okay. No matter where I go, I'm always missing somebody. That's the downside and the upside of moving around so much.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Last Day in Michigan

Tomorrow morning my parents and I leave for Chicago. We'll pick up my paperwork and passport from the Korean embassy, then head over to the Mariott, where we'll swim, play cards, and enjoy our last day together. Then, in the dark wee hours of Saturday, my parents will drop me off at O'Hare airport, where the adventure will begin at last.

I have managed to complete everything I needed to complete. My room and car are clean, my bags are packed, and I've said all the important goodbyes. I am about as ready as I can possibly be to depart the country.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Butterflies in My Stomach Are Doing Backflips

I can't believe how fast the time is flying. Only three more days left here in Michigan, and only four more days until I finally leave for Korea. By this time next week, I'll have completed my second day of teaching. Oh please, God, let me be good at this!

I am really getting nervous now. Not bad nervous, just an "oh my gosh, my life is changing so vastly" type of nervousness. It's a workable nervousness, similar to the type I got in college before one of Dr. Saxon's exams, albeit much more intense.

On top of the nervousness, I am really stressed. I still have so much to do, and not nearly enough time to do everything well. People keep making requests and demands of me, wanting me to go hither and thither with them. They all seem oblivious to the fact that, as much as I want to spend time with everyone I'm leaving behind, there just isn't much time to spare. I really need 40 hours in a day!

A Short, Much-Needed Rant

Here's a question for you: What is a four-letter word for an institution that takes your money and then apparently exists for the sole purpose of being as inconvenient as possible for its customers? Answer: a bank. I am astounded at how much work banks put into making things harder than they need to be (particularly my current bank).

Today I had an obscene amount of things to accomplish. I needed to repack both suitcases (I am still really concerned about the weight issue), cash two checks, get travelers' checks, buy new shoes, clean, and finish copying all my favorite CDs to my MP3 player (with 23+ hours of travel, good music is essential to my sanity). When I pulled up to the bank, it said "open." Once I parked, I learned that only the ATMs were open, as the bank had decided to close for Presidents' Day.

Okay, what the heck is that all about?! Presidents' Day?! Schools are still in session, businesses are still open, and colleges have classes, so why does the bank feel they have the right to close? They already have hours that are completely inconvenient for most working individuals. They close early two days a week and all day on Sunday. They take off every major holiday. They let you get overdrawn without saying a word until you rack up sizeable fees (okay, so I didn't keep a very accurate balance a few years ago). They call at annoying times to offer services no one wants. And then they take off a pointless holiday that almost no one observes (except for stores that want a silly excuse for a sale).

It also annoys me that my bank always claims to be open, enticing me to risk my neck getting into their parking lot while discourteous (and dangerous) drivers try to hit my car, only for me to find out that, once again, only the ATMs are open. The least they could do is admit to being closed.

Sorry to rant on such a minute subject, but I'm stressed, and the bank just put me over the edge today.

Monday, February 18, 2008

So Eager to Go, I May Not Need the Plane!

I just can't wait to leave! I keep looking at the pictures of where I'm going to be living for the next year, and reading over the final advice from Marilyn, and it makes me giddy with anticipation. I'm so excited that I feel like I could fly over there without the plane!

I am especially eager to meet my director. She has been beyond wonderful through this whole confusing, frustrating process. I think the two of us are going to get along famously. She's even offered to take me hiking when I get there. I've worked well under every employer I've had owing to a good work ethic, but I find jobs so much more enjoyable when I'm privileged to have a good boss. I just hope I can exceed her expectations.

My biggest worry right now, besides general fears concerning delayed flights and lost luggage, is that I won't be a good enough teacher. I adore kids, but I have limited experience in teaching them, and zero experience in teaching children who don't speak the same language as me. I want more than anything to be the sort of teacher who not only instructs, but inspires. I want these kids to enjoy being in my class and to enjoy the English language. It has its quirks and faults, but overall it is a very vivid, descriptive, and fun language. I just hope I can keep things fresh and interesting for my students so that they, too, can relish the delights of the English language.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Relief Be Mine!

Today Dad and I drove down to Chicago for my interview at the Korean embassy. We left the house at about 7:30 AM and managed to arrive at the NBC Tower a little before 10:00 AM (Chicago time, which is an hour behind us). By the time we made it up to the 27th floor, where the Korean embassy is located, it was 10:00 and I was fifteen minutes early for my appointment. Victory!

The trip to Chicago was interesting, as is usually the case when my dad drives. He has an odd quirk: he never listens to whomever is navigating (in this case, me). So we got to take the "scenic tour" and go through Chinatown on our way to the embassy.

The NBC Tower is a huge, gorgeous building with a very intelligent layout. We had no trouble finding the embassy, which is also quite attractive. I had some paperwork to fill out, then I waited to be escorted to the interviewing room. The man who interviewed me was very friendly and kind, which soon made me relax. Up until then I was a nervous wreck! My stomach was tied up in knots and my legs were actually shaking, as I was convinced that I would either be told I was missing some crucial paperwork or would just be rejected for a random reason. Fortunately, none of that happened. I had more documents than I needed (when was the last time that happened?!) and my interview went swimmingly. I am now completely approved to leave for Korea on the 23rd (only 8 days away!).

My documents will be ready on Wednesday, so I made the very wise decision not the trust the postal service to get them to me in time. Instead, I made arrangements to pick them up on Friday when Mom and Dad drive me down to Chicago. We're going down a day early, and we'll spend the night at the Marriott there. That way we don't have to get up at 2:00 AM on Saturday to make it to the airport in time.

I feel so much more relaxed now. Everything is completed, so all I have left to do is a little bit of shopping, the repacking of one suitcase, and the packing of my second carry-on. I am so excited about leaving that I feel like I'll burst!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Only Ten Days to Go...

...and I'm still sick. Argh! I'm still worn out from flu (aka plague) and I now have a nasty little sinus infection. Will I never get well?!

Today is a cleaning day. I'm attempting to leave both my bedroom and my car in immaculate condition so that I won't have to hear my parents complain about my sloppiness at every family reunion for the next twenty years. I'm donating most of the clothes that I'm leaving behind to the Red Cross. I figure it'll be good karma if I help the needy by my leaving.

I have made one very important decision finally: When my year in Korea ends, even if I don't stay overseas, I am not moving back to Michigan. I thought about putting off the decision, but then I realized that I was just prolonging the inevitable. The economy here is lousy, I miss having mountains around me, and I have no opportunity to use my history degree here. I have a great group of friends, my family, and my church here, but I can't put my life on hold any more.

I have decided that when I get through living overseas, however long that may take, I am either going back to Virginia or to Tennessee. I wouldn't even mind living in Boston or Washington, DC. I loved living in Lynchburg, VA more than any other place, so I'm hoping that by the time I get back Liberty will have their history MA up and running. It would be fantastic to go back and get my MA at Liberty.

Well, break's over. Time to put on my Idina Menzel CD and get back to sorting through the stuff I'm leaving behind. I have high hopes of getting rid of lots of it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Who Laughs at a Funeral?!

I don't know what it is about my family, but we're such a bunch o' nuts that we always seem to laugh and joke at inappropriate times. Like at funerals, for instance.

Today was my Uncle Vern's funeral. It was a blast! I think Uncle Vern would have loved to see how much fun we had. It may seem wrong to some people, but Uncle Vern was a man always up to mischief, and he loved a good joke, so I'm sure this is how he would have wanted his funeral to go.

It started out solemnly enough, with all of us gathered together, listening to Uncle Vern's favorite Hank Williams song. Then my cousin Scott gave a short, touching eulogy, ending with the heart-wrenching words "Goodbye Daddy." Uncle Clyde spoke next, remembering a humorous story from when he and Uncle Vern were boys, followed by a few fishing stories. I sat next to my second cousin Loretta, with whom I'm close, and the two of us behaved very well through all of that. We were asked to write down memories of Uncle Vern, which I did. Then the good behavior ended.

The main speaker was a pastor who had never known Uncle Vern. His nearly-half-hour speech had Loretta and I laughing our heads off, as well as my sister Jennifer, my cousin Laurie, my parents, and a few other relatives. We honestly couldn't help it. The guy was doing such a terrible job!

He told us almost his entire life story, occasionally giving space to short remarks about Uncle Vern. He got Uncle Vern's occupation wrong, gave a short speech on the importance of the American military (Uncle Vern was a veteren who served in the Korean conflict), quoted the most random scriptures possible, and spoke at length on the flood of 1937 (which had nothing to do with Uncle Vern). He also gave us a discourse on the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan, reminded us repeatedly of our own mortality and the possibility that we could all die at any minute (my sister loved that part), and even told us about his three recent trips to the hospital (his, not Uncle Vern's). It was the most confusing, hilarious speech I have ever sat through at a funeral!

Naturally, several of us spent most of the speech laughing as quietly as we were able to laugh. We also felt the need to share various insights with one another throughout the speech, resulting in even more laughter. Oddly enough, I think our laughter and jokes were more appropriate than tears would have been. Uncle Vern would have loved to see us enjoying ourselves. That man loved a good laugh!

Following the funeral we got together for dinner and shared even more laughs. It seems that no one can remember Uncle Vern without at some point smiling and/or laughing. I think that says more about my uncle than any eulogy ever could.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Packing (aka Mission Impossible)

You never realize just how much stuff you have until you try to cram 100 pounds of it into two suitcases!

I spent yesterday and today doing my packing for Korea. I've been accumulating things I thought I'd want to bring, but have put off the actual shoving into suitcases. Dad decided to help inspire me to complete my packing by threatening to throw everything into the snow if I didn't finish the job. So, I rolled up my sleeves and got it done.

Having to limit myself to 100 pounds really made me stop and assess every item in a new way. It's amazing how many "essentials" suddenly seemed frivolous and found themselves in the "staying in Michigan" pile. I found myself musing on how beneficial it would be if emotional baggage, worries, and even memories could be sorted through and discarded in the same manner. If only my mind had a weight limit for how much it could carry each day. I think I'd waste a lot less time and energy on the foolish concerns that often preoccupy me.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Rest in Peace, Uncle Vern

My Uncle Vern died yesterday. He had Alzheimer's and pneumonia, so his death wasn't much of a surprise. Still, I guess it never really hits that you're about to lose someone until they're actually gone.

Uncle Vern was my oldest living uncle. When I was a little girl, he was loads of fun to be around. He was always smiling and full to the brim with jokes and funny stories. I fondly remember the way he used to pop out his teeth and tell me never to take up smoking or I'd lose my teeth, too. He was a warm, loving man and an all-around good uncle.

It was heartbreaking to watch Alzheimer's steal Uncle Vern's memory, turning his entire family into strangers. The past few times I saw him, he was as sweet as ever, but he had no idea who I was. I didn't visit him in the nursing home, as I didn't want to make him feel bad about not knowing me. Alzheimer's is one of the cruelist diseases.

The next family reunion will feel somewhat lonlier without Uncle Vern. An empty chair will remind us all of the smiling man whom we'll only be able to visit in memories from now on. We'll all miss him, I'm sure.

Rest in peace, Uncle Vern.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Dread of Anticipation

Don't get me wrong; I'm still excited beyond belief about moving to Korea. The trip over there is a different matter.

Thanks to the embassy screwing things up, I am now leaving for Korea on the 23rd of February. My flights have all changed as well. I'm still leaving from Chicago, but I now leave two hours earlier. In addition, I am changing airlines in San Francisco instead of Seattle, which is quite a bummer. I really like the airport in Seattle, but I am not fond of San Francisco's airport. If I recall correctly, my last experience there was an unhappy one involving lots of walking while dragging heavy luggage, a desperate search for my gate, and some rather rude airport employees.

The worst part of the change in plans is the travel time. While before I was only to have twenty-one hours of air travel, I now have twenty-three and a half hours to look forward to. I'll be getting into Busan at about 9:00 PM local time, then have about an hour of travel time getting to Gyeongju. Since I start teaching the very next day (jet lag and all), I am anticipating being one very tired, miserable girl for the first few days in Korea. I only hope my students don't suffer from any exhaustion-induced stupidity on my part.

Through this whole ordeal, I at least have the comforting knowledge that I will be working for a very kind, considerate director. In addition, I can also remind myself that this hassle is well worth the opportunity I am being offered. Finally, when I look in the mirror, the reflection of a failure will no longer taunt me. Instead I'll see someone brave enough to travel over 8,000 miles in order to pursue a dream. I can't wait to be that person.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Embassy = Migraine

My plans suffered a traumatic blow again today. Dad and I had the train tickets purchased and were all set to go to Chicago tomorrow for my fifteen minute interview at the Korean embassy. Thwack! Those plans got shot out of the ballpark!

The lady at the embassy informed me that there are no interview times available until Friday the 15th and the paperwork will take two days to process. I will not be allowed to set foot on the plane until that paperwork is complete. So, guess who isn't leaving on the 16th, even though her ticket has already been purchased!

The more I pleaded and begged, the more obstinate the woman became. There is NOTHING that the chicago office is willing to do to help. It's ridiculous, but there's nothing I can do about it. That's the frustrating part. I keep doing everything right, and other people keep messing me up. It is really hard not to get depressed, furious, or both.

I e-mailed Marilyn and Cate (the director of my school) immediately, and heard back from both of them in a matter of hours (both women are excedingly nice and very prompt at responding--I really appreciate that). Cate is now going to move my ticket up another week, having me leave on the 23rd. I hate the idea of having to wait an extra week, and even more I hate having to further inconvenience my poor director, but this is apparently my only option. I am going to work so hard being the best teacher possible to make all this up to Cate!

Tips to anyone considering employment in Korea: Be prepared for your plans to frequently shift around, and learn the language of diplomacy. Also, be like me and pick a school with a REALLY sweet, understanding director. I also strongly recommend World English Service. Marilyn Innes is one of the nicest, most helpful people I have ever come across.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Houdini and the New Luggage

I went to Shipshewana, Indiana (Amish country, USA) with my parents yesterday and what a blast it was! We had dinner at the Blue Gate Inn with my aunt, uncle, three cousins, one cousin's wife, and one cousin's fiance. While we were down there, I was able to get new luggage:

They are actually both the same size, but I zipped one down so you can see how small I can make them for strorage. They're Route 66 themed, which is about as American as you can get, so I'm figuring people will think they're pretty cool in Korea. Best of all, they were cheap and they are light. Also, I figure they'll be a piece of cake to spot in a luggage claim!

I had really nice luggage a few years ago that I got for Christmas, but the airlines managed to murder both pieces on a trip to Hawaii. I bought really cute new luggage in Hawaii that was blue with flowers on it and was easy to spot and easy to drag, but an airline managed to rip the big one to shreds on my last trip to Mexico. So, I thought originally that for Korea I would use my remaining Hawaiian suitcase and take my HUGE blue duffel, but then I discovered the duffel was ten inches too big (which explains why I haven't used it before). Hence the desperate need for cheap new luggage!

I also picked up a new friend in Shipshewana. I have been looking for a puppet as a teaching tool, and I finally found a great one. My cousin Mike thought I should get the military puppet, but it seemed in rather poor taste! So instead, I got Houdini:

Isn't he adorable? I think the little kids will just love him!

Only thirteen days left until I leave, and I can't wait!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Person I'll Miss the Most

I am really going to miss my mother. She drives me crazy sometimes, but the truth is, she's my best friend. She's been there for me my whole life as a guide, a companion, a cheering fan, and especially as an inspiration.

Back in the sixties, when most women became nothing more than wives and mothers, my mother went to college. She spent her childhood dreaming of becoming a nurse and when she grew up, she did it. She has saved countless lives through her work, and made even more lives better just because she was there. She's in charge of several services now at Bronson, and she has served as president of her chapter of AORN. The woman's accomplishments could wallpaper a room.

When my mother was pregnant with me, she was also working full time, raising an eleven-year-old and a husband, helping to open a new surgical center, helping to maintain a farm, and carrying sixteen credit hours at Western Michigan University. I'd love to see any man attempt all that! And she not only did all that, she did it well. That's what astounds me even more about her.

My mother is an intelligent, hilarious woman who is artistic, loving, and creative. She can do so much! She not only knows a ton about everything nursing-related; she also gardens, sews, decorates, cooks (well, has the ability to anyway), and keeps the house in order. She also used to be an exellent shot with a gun, as I recall from the days when we lived in the country! She's amazing!

As an independant young Christian woman of the twenty-first century, I've seen so many other girls battling for identity, wondering exactly what we as women are capable of. Most of these girls have been hindered and limited by their mothers' perceptions of a Christian woman's place in society. I, however, have been liberated by the wonderful example set by my own mother and her vast understanding and intuition. I don't have to flounder about in lost confusion, or settle for an unfulfilling life as a man's doormat. My mother has kept me from that.

Every time I've lived on my own, I've found it an adventure. Great things and even some horrid things have happened to me. Through it all I've grown, matured, and become a better person. But each time, I've had to face the same pain: leaving Mom. I carry her with me in my heart, my mind, and even the way I greet each challenge, but I still miss her every time. I know that in Korea, I'll have the time of my life. But I also know I'll miss my mom every day, and that even with time, missing her won't cease.

Missing Mom is just a part of living. Loving her is, too.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Departure Date

Now that I have officially announced my departure date to my family and closest friends, I feel right about posting it here on my blog:

I am leaving the USA on Saturday, February 16, 2008.

Only fifteen days left until I move to Korea!

Friday, February 1, 2008

I Have a Date!

A travel date, that is. At last, I know when I am leaving for Korea. And the really good news is, I get a little extra time to recover from this flu before I leave the country. Oh, and my visa number has just been issued, too, so as soon as I'm well enough I can hop on down to Chicago and have my interview with the Korean consulate (another adventure!). :)

My itinerary is quite reasonable. I'll be flying out of Chicago O'Hare airport, which I'm quite familiar with. My first layover is in Seattle, which is great since I love that airport (it is REALLY cool--I was there three times when I visited my friend Brittany). It is also very fitting that I get to be in the birthplace of Starbucks one last time before leaving the country! From Seattle, I'll be taking Korean Air to Seoul, and then to Busan. Someone will pick me up from that airport and drive me to Gyeongju. Exhausting, but not too bad.

I am really happy about getting to fly Korean Air. I was on their website the other night and their airline looks great. The in-flight meals have won Mercury awards for being the best in the world and the seats in economy have just been enlarged. Plus, each seat gets its own LCD monitor. If I have to spend many, MANY hours on a plane, I prefer to do it in as much comfort as possible. I'm glad for the layovers, too. It'll give me a chance to walk around a bit and stretch my legs (well, as much as I can with the two heavy carry-ons I'll be lugging).

It is such a tremendous relief to finally know exactly when I'm leaving!
"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"