Saturday, August 19, 2006


That was the longest period of non-posting since I started this blog over a year and a half ago.

I'm home. I'm back in Toronto, Canada where the air is breezy, the vegetables fresh, and the English welcome.

The reason I haven't written is because I came home three days earlier than I told my family in order to get them with the always popular 'surprise return' that I had been plotting since about December. Imagining, if not plotting.

So here's a quick synopsis of the journey home.

I left Koh Pha Ngan (and Wendy) on Wednesday the 16th, taking a ferry to Koh Samui and then an airplane from Koh Samui to Bangkok. I arrived in Bangkok at about 10:30 after another lovely flight on Bangkok Airways (who ever heard of a meal on a one hour flight??) and checked into a hotel only a few minutes from the airport. My ol' Korea pal Dan happened to be in town so we hung out most of the night.

I didn't get any sleep at all that Wednesday night, mostly on purpose. When I came to Korea I hadn't been able to sleep at all the night before I left and then I found jetlag not such a problem. I thought I might be able to beat it early. Here I am writing this at 6am and I've been up for two hours cleaning, but I digress.

I caught a plane from Bangkok to Korea at 7am on Thursday. Halfway through the flight we stopped in Taipei and I had my very own celebrity sighting right there in the terminal. The Korean soccer team! Wahh! Girls were taking pictures and getting autographs but I didn't see blondie so I didn't bother. I did chat to a hot gyopo, however. The team was even sitting on my fright.

I arrived in Korea at 5pm Korean time (3pm Bangkok time), had three hours to kill in the airport, and got on my final flight home direct to Toronto at 8:00pm.

I must say here that sitting in Incheon airport after a month and a half of being away from Korea really drove home how much I care for this country and these people. So many teachers come here and hate it. They complain and complain about the food, the customs, the habits, the kids, and whatever else they can find to complain about. I, however, feel very connected and fond of Koreans (in fact I feel they're a lot friendlier than Southeast Asians generally speaking) and I felt more emotional than I expected as the plane pulled away from my home for the last year. I'd like to go back to Korea someday, and I'd like to hold onto the little Korean I have. Maybe I'll email that gyopo...

The flight was thirteen hours long in the air which sounds pretty bad, particularly after an eight hour flight just before it, but it went quickly. For the previous two or three days I was in a constant state of over-excitability and couldn't believe a person could feel so much excitement hour after hour. Finally somewhere around hour ten the excitability subsided a little bit.

Until Toronto approached. I looked at the land below me as we cruised down through the clouds. All of this well-organized farm land streched out with curly-roaded suburbs and large flat factories surrounding Pearson airport. There are no mountains in sight. I'll miss the mountains. There are no rice paddies or towering apartment buildings or strange bodies of water that welcome you into the city. I caught a glimpse of the city-city in the distance and the excitement returned.

Something that occupied D'Arcy and my thoughts near the end of our year was what kinds of reactions we'd have to life back in Canada upon our return; what kind of reverse culture shock might we experience. I couldn't picture what might strike me. As soon as I got on the plane it really felt strange to have white, English speaking stewardesses who spoke to each other in English. I heard one say to the other, "It's really bumpy today." What?!? Also, I was reading this Canadian Living magazine provided by Air Canada and was so aware of the page after page of advertisments and the magazine's focus on encouraging you to buy different things they highlight as in style or whatever. I took for granted my ability to ignore all forms of advertising in Korea thanks to lack of understanding. I didn't have to buy anything (except for that damn pomegranate juice with the 'sexy boy' and catchy jingle), I didn't care which brand of cleaning detergent I used, I was free from all of that. Don't tell me what to buy. Don't put ideas in my head. Don't make me aware of brands. I don't like that.

My flight was late but my friend Jordana was waiting for me which was really great. Thanks, friend. I called my brother on the way home to tell him I was coming and he was an exceptional actor, pretending I was his friend even though I acted silly on the phone and for sure would have made myself laugh had I been on the other end of the line. Way to go, brother. There was no particular plan for the moment of surprise. My mother would be surprised that day (Thursday night) and my dad the following because he was away on business - hence the delayed post.

When I got to my house (my house!!) Rick and Carina ushered me inside. "Quick," they whispered, "mom's in the bathroom!" I came in, made myself comfortable at the kitchen table, and when my mom came in she nearly died. She stopped in her tracks, a few seconds passed before her jaw dropped, then another few seconds and she screamed and hugged me, shaking like a leaf. It was priceless.

My dad's surprise wasn't nearly as good. He's not so excitable.

So, here I am back at home. It feels great, really it does. My shower was never particularly noteworthy but now it really feels like the greatest shower I've ever used. My bed is not hard as a rock and not soft like playdough. My duvet makes my heart swell. My dogs never looked so cute. My, my, my.

Here's an interesting development: As soon as I got into my room I looked around and saw something I hadn't seen before. Garbage. I have so much shit everywhere; clothes, books, dolls, knick knacks, soccer trophies, hats, shoes, pictures, junk. And I have an overwhelming need to get rid of it all. Today, though not even unpacked, I took out all the clothes from my closet and piled them up, ready to give it away to some organization or another. I think I have about thirty sweatshirts that probably all still fit but I need to just get them out. If I have two or three sweatshirts in my life that's likely too much.

I'm not sure if it was living in a shoebox sized apartment for a year, or traveling through countries where kids are lucky if they have shoes. I think probably the former. All I know is that I want to simplify everything, clean out everything, and have little stuff. Screw stuff.

This has been a long enough post for now. I'm going to be uploading pictures of my trip over the next couple of days so be sure to check in if you're interested. I'll also be noting any other reverse culture shock things down here. Might as well.


At August 19, 2006 7:21 a.m. , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Jess,

Glad to hear you made it back safe and sound! I got nearly the same reaction with my mom! However i did manage to get it on video tape muahahaha!<--Wow, way too many exclamation points!

I'm in Chiang Mai right now and i love it though i've hardly seen any of it (though the goshdarn mosquitos sure love me UGH). today i did the thai cooking course and it was really great. I thought it was pretty cool to make the food that i love to eat and have only seen in restaurants. Tonight i'm going to a Caberet with some girls from Spain and Argentina i met today. It should be lots of fun.

Anyways, I'll miss you lots out here and i'll do my best to keep in touch. When i said goodbye in Korea, i said that i'd probably never see you again and i was wrong. So who knows which direction the future will take me in. Good luck with school and take care.

'Til next we meet,


At August 19, 2006 2:33 p.m. , Blogger Kiran said...

cool...back in toronto...
i felt the whole getting rid of stuff
feeling too when i got home...but then you open all your boxes and they are full of treasures you haven't seen in years and then you want to keep them...

it was nice living in korea, with only enough stuff to fill a couple small boxes, but i was constantly saying...jees i wish had this or that from my apartment back home...

the engrish noverty fades away berry quickry...and you forget all the frustrating difficulties of life in a foreign country...

try to keep writing down all the things that amaze you now that you're home...

At August 19, 2006 10:39 p.m. , Blogger greyguitar said...

that was quite the post there! i'm glad you made it home safely. but most importantly, i'm glad you did something so cool like move to another country and teach right out of college. truly awesome.

and i like the 'f I have two or three sweatshirts in my life that's likely too much' line!

At August 20, 2006 9:08 a.m. , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Jess,
Nice to know that you've arrived and are in a place where you appreciate both Korea and Canada.
Do keep us updated about your reverse culture shock.
Annoyngi Kysseyo (you won't for get it, it will just go away until you need it again)

At August 20, 2006 2:09 p.m. , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see Korea is a bit like spicy food. It's initially hard to get used to but once you develop a taste for it, it *can* be kind of addictive.

At August 21, 2006 9:02 p.m. , Blogger Jessica said...

Hey Dan,

Hope you had fun/are having fun in Laos. When do you get back to work, if you can even call your cushy job work.

Kiran, what else amazed you, can you remember?

Thanks Rob, I appreciate the compliment. Now do I have to go back to school? Is it bad? Just tell me it's easy...

Hi Tara! I just looked at the KC website and saw little Alice's birthday party. Your kids are so incredibly small.. it's hard to believe.

Hello anonymous. You're right. Koreans and kimchi are one and the same.


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