Monday, March 9, 2015

18 Month Interlude

Shortly after that trip to Gyeongju, my time in Korea and my life in general underwent some notable changes. Alex was around another ten days or so. He did some travel on his own while I worked during the week, and we took a daytrip down to Suncheon the next weekend. Then he went home, and a few days later I extended my teaching contract an extra few months, until the winter. About a week after that, I met a lovely woman who has had a huge impact on me that greatly expanded the scope of my experiences in Korea. At the same time, I became reluctant to blog about those experiences because I wanted to keep them private, at least for the time being. She's a great photographer, so I started taking far fewer pictures and enjoyed looking at the many terrific images she captured. We took many interesting and enjoyable trips and ate countless fantastic Korean meals, including many that she prepared herself (and a few I managed to learn from her).

In October of 2013 I took a couple of weeks off work to return home for the first time since I'd left in the summer of 2012. In fact, it was exactly 444 days between my original departure and my return to the states. I was home for my grandpa's birthday and the wedding of one of my closest friends, and then it was back to Korea for my last two-and-a-half months of teaching. However, I realized during that time that I wasn't ready to leave Korea behind for good, and I extended my contract to finish out the last eight months of a second year after taking the month of December off.

That month gave me the chance to do some travel abroad in Hong Kong and Malaysia (where Alex joined me again), with brief stops in Shanghai, Bangkok, and Abu Dhabi. I was thrilled to get to spend Christmas at home with all my immediate family, the first time we'd all been together in nearly two years. And then, on New Year's Eve, I was on a plane back to Korea. I actually didn't have a midnight that New Year's Eve. I just jumped from 2013-2014 by crossing the Date Line. I landed in Korea the night of January 1 and was back at work the next morning.

I didn't do much travel during the final months of my contract. I ended up taking a Korean language class at Cheonnam National University in Gwangju in the mornings for a couple of months in the spring, which inspired me to continue studying the language. After completing my teaching contract at the end of August 2014, I transferred to a D-10 work-seeking visa, which allowed me to stay in Korea for up to 6 months between work contracts. I took an intensive Korean language class at the university, studying for four hours every weekday for 10 weeks. It was a fantastic experience. I was sorry the class had to end, but by December of 2014 I was ready to get back home and see my family again for the first time in almost a year.

My family was all together again for Christmas, just like the year before. I had a terrific time getting to be around my brothers for a couple of weeks before they started dispersing again. I was able to do some traveling with two of them to the Southeast for about a week. Then I was home for about six weeks immersing myself in job-searching. I enjoyed being home again after having been away for so much longer than I expected when I first came to Korea in 2012.

Yet I missed Korea as well. I missed my girlfriend, I missed the conveniences of living in Gwangju, the ability to hop on a bus or train and explore the city and country. I worried my Korean language skills would quickly atrophy without the everyday use they get while living in Korea. I worried that once I found a good job in the states it would be a long time before I would return to Korea.

I kept sending out cover letters and resumes for the jobs I was aiming for in the states, and one day I added an email to Dan, who had been my original recruiter at Teach ESL Korea. And Dan helped connect me with a great opportunity right back here in Gwangju, just in time for me to return to Korea before my D-10 visa expired.

So now I'm back in Gwangju, on the other side of town from last time around. It's only been a week, and I feel homesick from time to time, but I'm loving being back. I'm busier than ever, and I really should be in bed by now, but I want to get this blog started again, and what better time than now (other than the morning, which I might have seen if I'd gone to bed a couple of hours ago).

In the coming months I'll likely double back to cover some of the memorable moments from my eighteen months of blog silence, in addition to the adventures I fully expect to have this spring and summer here in Gwangju and possibly elsewhere in Korea. For example:

Sprite with a hint of mint -
Do we have this in the states? I never noticed it before.

No comments:

Post a Comment