My last few days in Korea were crazy and hectic, between packing and mailing boxes home, donating everything else to my bishop and the missionaries, finishing travel arrangements for the next three and half weeks spent in four different Asian countries, and tying up loose ends at my school.
If I remember correctly, I don't think I was all that sad to be saying goodbye. If anything, it just felt a little strange to know I was seeing streets and stores and restaurants for possibly the last time...ever. But walking away from teaching? Am I a despicable human if I admit to having no tears there? And the bitter, icy wind? Wow, I couldn't wait to get to the 80°+ Philippine weather.
I met some pretty cool people in Korea. The mostly sweet, very persistent, Jehovah's witnesses took me to lunch on one of my last days. I requested dak galbi, of course. It's maybe the only Korean meal I will miss. (And, in exchange for lunch, I patiently sat through a little bit of the Jehovah's witnesses' ministering, complete with pamphlets and a book of scripture I agreed to not throw away... Huh, it's sad how many things get misplaced in the process of moving from one country to another...)
Mm...yeah, dak galbi is delicious.
Between some packing, I snapped a few more pictures of my everyday sights in Chuncheon:
From the second floor of my apartment building...
My mailbox...with all the delightful Korean mail that I couldn't decipher.
My basement, and the path I took to the laundry room. My camera flash makes it look like a nicely-lit space...well, it's not. I had to walk in the dark until just before I reached the laundry room (the doorway at the end on the right) and then, finally, an automatic light would flicker on--if I was lucky. Yeah...the creepiness got my blood pumping more than once...
Aww, my laundry room.
My gift to my apartment building: lovely sticky tabs translating the washing machine into English.
Aww...one of the last times I would walk out of my apartment building...
Oh, oops...I said I was going to try this little cafe across the street at least once before leaving Korea. I...never did. (Hey, it's scary walking into an unknown restaurant by yourself, not knowing what or how to order, and doing it all in front of a bunch of high-school boys! They would have laughed at me!)
Remember how I always wanted to go in this church that was behind my apartment building? Well, I finally did. As you can see, I only have pictures of the outside. Because the inside ended up being quite boring.
My Mini Stop! Aw, I bought so much soda and junk food here. :) And the young cashier who enjoyed saying "hello" (and all the other English words he knew, which came to a grand total of zero other words): I shall miss him.
One of my last times waiting at this crosswalk, attempting to blend in with all the other Koreans. Even after 6 months, I still got stares. *sigh*
The red arrow above is pointing to my bakery, where I faithfully bought a loaf of white bread every week or so. I got to where I would just count out my 이천오백 (ee-chun oh-peck--2500 won) halfway up the block and have it ready in my pocket. That way I could properly concentrate on my "kamsahamnida" and "annyeonghi kyeseyo."
My favorite store ever!! Three floors of pure Awesome.
Well, I couldn't leave Korea without stocking up on Korean beauty products, now, could I? I also made trips to Skinfood, Beyond, Nature Republic, and Missha...perhaps it was a little overboard...
Packing and snacking... (Aloe juice became one of my favorite beverages in Korea.)
Teaching was an experience, one I will never forget. I learned so much, one of the biggest things being how to let go and just let the kids be wild from time to time. Or every day. Pictured below in the red coat (and doing a fancy one-legged stand) is one of my favorite 1st graders, the one I'd have shouting matches down the hallway with: "Baby teacher!" "Baby student!" "Baby teacher!"
Aw. They're cuties. Especially now that my teaching responsibilities are over.
The note I left on my chalkboard before leaving for the last time.
Translation: Goodbye! I love you guys. Love: Uh-buh-ree
My last time at Noodle Tree Restaurant, the place that saved my life (nutritionally-speaking) in Chuncheon:
I thoroughly enjoyed it. And even gave the staff a thank-you card written in fluent English (yeah, they gave me weird looks, I don't care).
My bishop and his family took me out to dinner on my last night in Chuncheon. We had shabu-shabu, and it was delicious. (Hmm...funny how some of my favorite Korean foods were actually Japanese...)
After dinner, my bishop dropped me back off at my apartment and I loaded up their car with everything I had bought over the last 6 months and couldn't take with me--bedding, silverware, hangers, storage bins, art supplies--you name it. I even gave Sunny my little purse that I didn't want to take with me and a bottle of nail polish (unplanned, but I couldn't help it after seeing her admiring my makeup on my nightstand).
I'm telling you, there is so much joy in giving. :) :) :)
The next morning, I said my final goodbyes to my home:
It wasn't much, but it was all mine and I loved it.
Except for the bathroom that was also a shower. I didn't love that.
My street in the cold, dark morning:
Walking away from my apartment and to the train station for the last time was strange and bittersweet. And bitter, bitter cold. I was so very excited to get to the Philippines.
And that's it. That was my last picture in South Korea. 6 months of my life gone and a chapter closed.
The things I won't miss:
men (and women!) spitting in public
teaching English as a foreign language to wild children
octopus tentacles in my soup
hunting for Mtn. Dew
a 20-minute walk to church (am I lazy or what?!)
a 2-hour trip to an English-speaking ward
the threat of North Korea 20 miles to the north
not having toilet paper or soap or paper towels in public restrooms
stairs...so many stairs
forcing myself to eat all of my school lunch, mystery vegetables and all
raw beef in an otherwise-cooked meal
being the only one to celebrate Halloween and the only one to properly celebrate Christmas
having to lug heavy bags of groceries three blocks back to my apartment
getting the "fat" look when I order a large soda at the movies when I'm obviously alone
having to air dry every single piece of clothing
my co-teacher and his inexperience with teaching
my landlady controlling my floor heating
doing food prep on my floor
getting my butt slapped before getting a shot in my butt
drunk vice principals at school dinners
the language barrier
The things I will miss:
my little one-room studio apartment (surprisingly)
having random people come up and yell "hello" or tell me I'm pretty
my sweet 2nd grade girls jabbering at me in Korean, like I understand
aloe juice drink
the easy access to an awesome and gigantic city (Seoul)
ajummas and ahjussis (they're so cute, especially the ones that try to talk to you on the bus)
those teeny tiny mushrooms that are so yummy in soups and stuff
going to the movies by myself
being the only one to understand the American jokes at the movies
cheap open-air markets
the funny Engrish sayings on clothing
the Penis Park (juuust kidding)
cheap E.R. visits (I mean, if you must. And I did. Twice.)
badminton practice and tournaments with my school
Hershey's chocolate milk made with that amazing Maeil milk
the freshly-fried corn dogs in Chuncheon's Myeongdong
the opportunity to travel and do awesome things all. the. time.
Korea, overall, you've been a pretty awesome home away from home. Thank you so much for this incredible experience. Thank you for teaching me, embracing me, and giving me skills I will have for the rest of my life. Thank you for training me to handle stressful situations completely on my own (well, and with the help of Google Maps). Thank you for giving me confidence to go anywhere and do anything. I can't wait for my next opportunity to travel solo. I now know that I am tough enough to hack it. And that's an amazing feeling.