Lucky Number 3?

Remember this post?  Well, scratch that.

Here’s a sentence I never envisioned myself uttering during those tear-fest drives to LAX on August 16, 2011 and January 25, 2013: “Year 3 in Korea is happening.”

Yep. I have renewed for one more year, and the 3 letters W-T-F are still swimming thru my brain.

I knew by going home in January I’d ramp up my anxiety a bit about the future.  I live a rather anxiety-free life, especially in Korea, except when money or big changes are happening, which I think is fairly normal.  However, when it kicks in, it kicks into full blown I’m-not-slowing-down-to-even-let-you-sleep mode.  The past 1.5 years in Korea have been completely void of this feeling, which is the most wonderful thing ever.  That is, until recently. Dun dun dun.

Up until 2, maybe 2.5 weeks ago, I was completely 110% set on the fact that I would be leaving Korea by September 2013 at the very latest.  I had started thinking I’d go to another country in Asia (maybe Hong Kong, Taiwan or China) for a new experience after traveling India and going home for a bit.  Then shit started getting more real.  There’s only 4 months of our current contract left, and I realized I’m almost 30 and need to have a more stable plan in order for that return home, and then the jumping off point after to go off without a hitch. I know myself, and if I were to go home with just the money I’d leave Korea with (which would be a pretty penny after 2 years!) I’d sit and stew at home about my next move, blow that cash in the process, and my anxiety would be left even worse.

So, in the long run, a year is only a year, and for my own sanity it’ll be easier for me to get my ducks in a row this year abroad than it would be to do the same thing at home in the crazy Schaeff abode. Not to mention, I’ll basically be doubling the money that I’m going to be leaving Korea with.  I never thought I’d be here for 3 years, and I thought I’d have my shit together, but turns out that even though this year has been awesome, I feel like I didn’t do anything remotely proactive to make that happen.  So big girl pants must be worn this year.  And I plan to write a lot in the process.

I know my mom is not happy about it, per our 10 minute phone call resulting in a swift click of End Call, and Sista wants me home for her and the pups.  But, after talking to some pretty unbiased close friends who have their heads tightly screwed on straight, my dad, and lots of introspective Seoul searching, accompanied by a very trusty dusty Pros/Cons list, I feel that I’ve made the adult, mature, responsible decision.  Even though my heart is running rampant and can’t flutter straight, my head is the only thing that feels remotely clear, so I’m ultimately happy with my decision, albeit the massive pit in my stomach.  Plus, that means more travel adventures para mi, and there ain’t NOTHIN wrong with that! 🙂

Oh, and I will also be looking into finding a new apartamento in a more central locale, because home girl can’t hang in the boonies of North Korea (not really) for one more year.  And word on the street is that a good handful of my loves will still be around, so that is easing me just a skotch.

So folks, you’ve got 16 more months to find a way to make me even more popular than I already have been in the visitor department. August 2014 will be my OFFICIAL OFFICIAL departure date from South Korea.  You’ve got my word 🙂

And one last OH! I’m going to look into flights home for August.  I know, twice in one year…CRAY! But, this is in order to make Mama Schaeff and Sista a little happier, and to ease my probably forthcoming anxiety if I were to come home in January.  I may try to come to NYC as well, so I will keep all you fine lovelies abreast 🙂

An Awkward Date & Signing Away My Life

A couple awkward things happened in the past couple days.  Won’t you let me tell you about them?

1. There is a little maintenance man who works at my school, and who also happens to live in Danggogae up in North Korea where I live.  About a month or so ago he sold me my pretty purple bike with a basket.  Ever since then he has been so nice to me and literally every time he sees me starts rambling mumbo jumbo that I don’t understand, throws his hands up in excitement and then brings me some kind of treat.  First it was a peanut butter sandwich that he probably got from Family Mart down the street, then it was a Capri Sun, then it was a ginger drink, then an energy Bacchus drink, ice cream and a cup of ice water, then it was 2 pieces of caramel candy. THEN he wanted to get 피자 (“peecha”…or pizza) with me in our hood. After asking me (thru Jin) a couple times, I obliged. So we met this past Sunday at 3pm in the Dontgogay. This is the story of how I was courted by a tiny little ajussi (old Korean man).

First we ate Nangmyeon (냉면) which is delish.  It’s buckwheat noodles in an icey cold broth with a hard boiled egg, julienned cucumber and pears and then you put vinegar and dijon mustard in to taste. Tis the perfect summer meal! Anyways, we went and ate that first.  He talked to me, I didn’t understand, he slurped uncontrollably, I tried to remain unnerved by it.

Next he bought me an iced latte from the 17th Street coffee shop that I sometimes go to.  I drank, he smoked a cigarette and tried to talk with me some more.  He basically said Itaewon (the foreigner area) over and over again because he knows I went there one of many weekends.

THEN after motioning to me if I wanted any home supplies (I didn’t), we went over to the THE school.  Pizza School that is.  He motioned for me to pick out any pizza I wanted, so I chose cheese pizza.  This is him sitting and waiting for it to finish cooking.  That’s his jazzy bike in the foreground.

And to conclude our “date,” he put my pizza on the back of his bike, walked me in a circle through some janky Danggogae alley way, back to the station and to the hill before I turn off to go to my apartment.  Gladly he did not walk me further so he doesn’t know where I live. Then he told me “bali bali” (kinda like hurry hurry, go go), handed me my pizza and I was off on my way.

It was slightly awkward, but it’s interactions like this that make me so happy I’m living abroad.  It’s so interesting to me how two people literally can not effectively communicate because of a thing called language. So simple yet so complex.  Good sociology project I reckon.

2. For those who are out of the loop, I renewed my contract and signed my life away to Korea for one more year.  The first step in the renewal process is to get a medical check.  You know, to make sure I don’t have AIDS and to see if the crack is all out of my system.  The whole check consists of peeing in a cup, giving blood, getting a chest x-ray, getting my blood pressure, vision, hearing, height and weight checked, and being “interviewed” (if you can even call it that) by a doctor.  All he was concerned about was if I had any cocaine or other narcotics exposure and if I had the AIDS. Thank God I’m not a dirty waygook!

Anyways, my male co-teacher, Mr. Jang, took me and it was slightly awkward, but whatever in the grand scheme of things.  The part that really gave me a good giggle was when he directed me to the room I was supposed to go change into the x-ray gown in.  He points and whispers to me “now you must go in and take off your clothes.”  Normal co-teacher chatter. Afterwards, he continued to stand behind me through each process.  He honestly could have just sat in the waiting room while I handled it. I’m a big girl.  He almost walked me right into the women’s restroom stall until I put a hand up and said “I got it.”  He got the message.

So yea, next on the list of renewal to-dos is to renew my visa at immigration.  Now all you people who have not come to visit me have a whole year longer to figure out how to get to the far east.  Make it happen.