Everything happens so much. Yes, I know @horse_ebooks is fake, but I don’t care. When I sat down in this random coffee shop in Burien, Washington, to start fleshing out my thoughts on the transpirations of the past few weeks, that was the first quote to slide across my mental marquee. For those just tuning in, I am no longer in Korea. My last day of work at Daegu-Gyeongbuk English Village (DGEV) was Friday, February 27, the day before my twenty-fifth birthday. There were times over the past six months or so when I thought that day would never come and now, quite ironically, it feels a bit like the distant past given everything that’s happened since. So, where to begin? Let’s start with my last day at work, shall we? I could barely concentrate on anything that Friday given that every other thought through my head was a variation of, “Wow, this is the last time I’ll ever…” Some examples: (1) “Wow, this is the last time I’ll ever splash dirty dishwater on myself throwing my breakfast utensils into the cafeteria wash bucket!,” or (2) “Wow, this is the last time I’ll ever wish for a deeper coffee mug because I finished the last drop at 10:30 a.m.!,” or (3) “Wow, this is the last time I’ll ever have to endure the blast furnace conditions on the shuttle bus because the driver can’t stand to be a little cold!” Don’t worry, though; I’m not entirely cynical. I also felt little twinges of sadness when I thought things like, “Wow, this is the last time I’ll ever eat a meal in the cafeteria with my fellow teachers where we toss around the current scuttlebutt or talk about how much we got ‘turnt’ last weekend,” or “Wow, this is the last time I’ll ever piss off Bailey making fun of how round and Canadian her o’s get when she’s agitated.” Don’t get me wrong, I was more than ready to go, but no matter how much I may have insisted otherwise, all goodbyes are at least a little bittersweet. That night, after I’d waved farewell to my final batch of kids and rode out of DGEV on the shuttle back into the city for the last time, I celebrated by stuffing my face at a fancy buffet and then hitting the clubs downtown. Midnight signaled the beginning of my twenty-fifth birthday and was marked by a complimentary shot of something the bartender lit on fire before I drank. For the record, things that are on fire when you drink them seem to make you forget most of what happens afterward. I’m allegedly hilarious when I’m dancing, but I wouldn’t know anything about that. I’m pretty sure I didn’t wake up the next day until 3 o’clock in the afternoon, at which point I crawled out of bed, sat down on a stool in the shower, and let hot water caress my head for a good half-hour before I whipped up some eggs and toast and spent the rest of the day lying in bed watching Season 4 of Game of Thrones. I left Daegu on Tuesday, March 3, on a cold and drizzly afternoon and traveled to Seoul, where I spent three nights in the central Jong-no District. In a bit of trivia that I picked up, Jong-no means “Bell Street,” and Daegu has a similarly named street that once served the same purpose. Jong-no was the central street in ancient Seoul and at it’s center was Jonggak (English translation: “the Belfry”). At the beginning of the day, a huge bell that hung in the tower was rung to signal to the people manning the city gates to open them and was rung again at night to announce the city was closing up shop. My last day in Korea was spent exploring Changdeokgung, one of the two main palaces in Seoul and easily the most beautiful. For one of the first times in my life, I allowed myself to get super touristy and not only paid to get inside, but joined a guided walk led by a Korean guide and got suckered into paying extra for a tour of the “Secret Garden;” a word to the wise, if you ever have a palace and want to sell tours, you can maximize your income if you wall off the back part of it, give it a special name that includes the word “secret,” and then sell separate tickets. To be fair though, it really was a nice garden.
It was surreal to take the airport train out of Seoul to Incheon the next morning, especially as the thought occurred to me that it really was the end of the Korean adventure. While I was only in the country for two years, there were days when it felt like living in Korea and working at DGEV was all I had ever known. The flight out of Incheon International Airport was aboard a brand-new, hot-off-the-assembly-line Boeing Dreamliner and I must say it was nice to have a flying experience that wasn’t shit-tastic for a change. Also, Air Canada gets rave reviews in my book, at least on its Seoul-to-Vancouver route: excellent service and state-of-the-art amenities. By the time I landed in Vancouver, I had watched almost all of the first two seasons of Breaking Bad and was seeing two of everything from lack of sleep. I’m pretty sure I fell asleep and snored in the waiting area for my flight to Seattle but I was too delirious to care much.
In any case, the past two weeks have shown me that the Pacific Northwest was made for me, in each and every possible way: the mountains, the trees, the beards, the beers, and wow I could just keep going and going. I was just not made for the humid continental insanity that is southeast Oklahoma. In fact, I’ve loved hanging out here so much that earlier this week I decided I would interview with some temp agencies to see if I could justify staying even longer. It was only late morning the day before yesterday that I was on my way out the door to go the first of these planned interviews when an email marked “Urgent!” flew into my inbox. Long story short, an elementary school in Douliu City, Yunlin County, Taiwan, was in need of a teacher immediately to fill a teaching post until the end of July this year. Just a little over 24 hours later, the temp interviews were canceled, teaching contracts were signed, and a flight to Taipei from Seattle was booked… for this Sunday. Yes, that’s right. By this time next week, I will have bid farewell to these United States yet again and will be embarking on another adventure on the other side of the globe. It’s certainly a whirlwind life I’m turning out to lead. For the time being, I intend to make the most of my last few nights in Seattle (read: stuff my face with lots of Chipotle) and do my best to prepare yet again to take a huge leap into the unknown. As of right now, the plan is to finish out this temporary posting in Douliu City and then make the move up to Taipei around the beginning of August. With any luck, I’ll be ringing in the New Year on December 31 from the base of Taipei 101. So, all I can say now is here we go again. Wish me luck, friends. Without further ado, I’m going to conclude this post with an admittedly trite and yet perfectly fitting quote from one Bilbo Baggins, who seemed to know a thing or two about this sort of thing…
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”