One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” –Henry Miller

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Letter to Mom

Hey Mom,

So you asked me what I miss the most about home the other day and I realize I hesitated... which is strange considering that there is so much that I miss about home. I guess I try not to think about it too much while I'm here. It's an interesting question so I took some time to think about it and answer. Here's the list that I came up with, in no particular order. These things come a far second to family/friends/and being able to speak in English anywhere I go. 

(1) Not needing to translate EVERYTHING. I still don't know Korean that well and I hate going to a restaurant or to the grocery story or wherever, really, and having no idea what it is that I'm looking at. I rode the elevator to every floor of the 9 floor building my laser clinic is in because I couldn't decipher the buildings layout map. Or oops.. ordering the kimbap (rice roll) with jalapeƱo peppers. That one was a surprise! Because no matter how much Korean I know or don't know (and you and I both know that I'm the later), it will never be my native language nor will I ever know every word. 
2. Tex-Mex
3. Frosting.  Koreans use whipping cream as their base for frosting and I've got to say I miss regular american, Betty Crocker, thick frosting
4. grilling out. There is no place to do this because it's not really part of Korean culture
5. Being able to play soccer. I've come to realize that girls don't play competitive soccer anywhere, really, but in the U.S.
6. Sweet tea, biscuits and gravy, and southern food in general.  I have to add southern culture to that too. I miss the courtesy, holding doors, smiling at strangers, and waving at people as you drive by.
7. Shoes in my size!! I can't buy shoes here :(  or very many clothes either
8. Reese's Cups
9. Mediterranean food
10. An oven. My toaster oven does not count if I can only fit 5 cookies in at a time. haha!
11. Bathtub .. or really just having a separate shower area instead of a shower head placed over my sink and a drain in the middle of my bathroom floor.
12. Green .. What i mean by that is grass, flowers like the ones in your garden, plants, the outdoors, the woods. I especially miss this about the mountains at home.
13. REAL cheese. They've got the fake plastic cheese here. You know the ones, the singles that are individually wrapped. I miss good sharp cheddar or Swiss or Havarti. 
14. Deli meats.  They don't have this at all
15. Anonymity. I miss not being stared at as a foreigner. Or hearing "waygooken" ("foreigner") as I pass.
16. Independence. You would think that living in a foreign country, I would have all the independence I possibly need; but surprisingly, I feel like a small child. I can't talk to my land lord or call the internet or phone company or go to the doctor without my co-teacher in hand. 
17. Greek yogurt. The yogurt here is drinkable. It's a little thicker than milk.  I miss thick, creamy yogurt
18. Being able to order "lite" options at the coffee shop. I would like to order a caramel cafe latte light
19. For the western items that I can find here, I miss being able to pay reasonable prices for them... peanut butter, sunscreen, more exotic fruits, some cheeses.. I can find them, but they cost quite a bit
20. Inexpensive "stuff".  sunglasses (I really can't find them here at all and I break mine all the time), inexpensive cosmetics. I've only found name brands and they're expensive.
21. Whole wheat, grainy, nutty, wholesome bread. You can get bread here, but I've only really found the whitest of white bread
22. Desserts like the ones from home : cheese cake, pie (key lime, blueberry, apple), cake, gooey cookies, brownies
23. Having a place to run outdoors. There are a few recreational paths by the rivers. They aren't near me though. I miss something like Deep Creek at home or the multitude of parks made for outdoor recreation or runner friendly sidewalks.
24. English reading material.. books, magazines, newspapers. There is a relatively good English bookstore, but it's in one neighborhood in Seoul, which is an hour train ride away. 

I'm laughing at myself because this started with a hesitation, and then as a short list, but the more I wrote, the more things spilled out like some uncontrollable reflex. Most of these are trivial. I'll probably blog about this. You've got the insider scoop ;)

k, love you!

*** Note: This was one of my emails to my mom and I thought to put it up because it was difficult at first for me to come up with material things that I missed about home.  I say all the time that I miss my friends and family, but what about everything else? On our last skype date with my mom we talked about how I've lived in Korea for 6 months now and I've now reached the midpoint of my contract.  It has marked the longest period that I've lived outside of the U.S. and so she wanted to know what it was that I missed the most. I don't know if the question took me by surprise or if if was that I had never really given it serious thought, but I couldn't give her an answer.  I think I told her Tex-Mex and being able to play soccer on a regular basis. I actually googled "things you miss about home; living abroad" before I could write this to her. You can see with 24 items it didn't take long for a pretty substantial list to materialize. After looking at it, I found it funny that most of these items involve food, which leads me to believe that either a) I'm a fatty (haha!) or b) so much of culture and comforts deal with the food we eat.  I think it is also funny that really trivial things like frosting and sweet tea came to mind before more weighty topics like the outdoors or anonymity or independence.  I want to note that this is not a rant about Korea.  I go through a normal amount of homesickness like anyone else, but I am actually pretty happy here. I found this more entertaining than anything and for that I thought I'd share it with you. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Violet Olive

I bet you've never seen a Violet Olive!

My new niece, Violet Olivia, was born February 22, seven pounds, one ounce, beautiful as ever. We were all ecstatic to see that she has red hair like her mommy.  <3

Violet Olivia. Some names are void of nickname potential. This name is not.  As sweet as her name stands alone, I'm afraid the challenge my sister will face is reigning in the onslaught of nicknames that will surely come.  Some are good, some are lacking.  I've heard whispers of: Vi, ViVi, Vive, Vie (as in "c'est la vie"), Violet Olive, Olive, Von (her initials), lightening bug (named so because she has to wear a light around her waist at night to help her liver eliminate the jaundice. Admittedly, the name is pretty fitting when you see her lit up.) Plum (a violet fruit, of course... During Carolyn's pregnancy we laughed that the doctor would compare Violet's development in terms of food.  "She's about the size of a...peanut.. prune.. plum... orange.. grapefruit.").

The one I cannot stand is "Red."  In my mind's eye that name elicits an image of a trucker who's real name is Toby, throwing back a beer or two at the local bar.  Surely nothing could be so ill suited.  My mom fought tooth and nail to keep people from calling Carolyn, "Red."  I'm afraid Carolyn has inherited the same task.

Already, I am totally in love with that little girl. I've seen pictures and I've watched Violet peep through half closed eyes. I've even spoken to her and my sister (thanks to skype); but I haven't been able to hold her.  There is nothing more difficult than looking at a screen, all the while knowing that the ones you love are literally half a world away.  It makes living here a little more difficult, but I suppose I have to be grateful for the things that challenge my heart to grow a little more and for the things that challenge me to be a little braver.