It has been just over two months since Evan and I stepped foot on American soil… and has it been a whirlwind experience adjusting to life back home.
We managed to avoid major roadblocks during our trip home, but did have a small snag in our 24+ hour journey home. After spending a rainy, Fast and Furious-filled night (it was the only thing on) in a clean and inexpensive hotel near Incheon, we awoke with anticipation to begin our trip home. After a beautiful lunch at Bennigans in the airport, we headed through security en route to the international terminal, where I was stopped because my visa had expired.
Visa… expired. WHAT? A week prior to leaving, we learned about this snag at the pension office and our director assured us that she would take care of it, but lines must have gotten crossed with the immigration office. So of course Evan sailed through customs no problem, but I was stopped, tearfully dragged to two different immigration offices before being let go “with a warning.” My visa had expired a week before. I’m not trying to live illegally in Korea people! Anyway, after that the trip was smooth sailing — lounging in the Beijing airport during our long layover, and sleeping through most of the plane ride back to the states.
After an exhausting two days, we finally landed at LAX and were greeted by my happy, sign-bearing family on Monday evening.
Words cannot describe the elation I felt after a year of not seeing my family. We grabbed the west-coast staple In-N-Out for dinner, popped the cork on a pinot noir, and spent the rest of the evening battling in Mario Kart for Wii.
We have really been trying to take advantage of the time and money situation we currently find ourselves in, so we’ve been hopping around the golden coast, enjoying the fruits of spring and beginning of summer in the sunniest place on earth.
From cooking in Los Angeles…
to partying in Santa Barbara…
to wining and dining in San Diego…
and camping in Jalama Beach….
oh — and eating. A lot. Of everything.
Which naturally means I’ve been avoiding the scale. Whateva!
Coming home has made me feel like a library book being put back in its correct place after some serious adventures being loaned out. I fit. Despite that, there has been some serious adjustments made to assimilate nicely back into western culture. For the first few weeks, I felt almost bombarded by stimuli. After walking around a country where I didn’t know what anyone was saying or what most things said, it was sensory overload being in a place where I knew where everything was and what everyone was saying about it. At times I felt overwhelmed, but that was eventually overshadowed by being home with people I love and places I have missed.
As the weeks stretch on, Korea slips slowly from my mind but the things that I learned there — the things that changed me — I know will stay. Going East for a year broadened my horizons, gave me a great amount of patience and really humbled me. I know that I will always look fondly on the experience that helped shape me into the (mostly) competent and happy adult that I am today. I miss my friends, but have kept in contact with people that taught me a lot about living on the other side of the world.
There are days when I truly miss Jeonju — eating mouthwatering food, drinking games with good friends that stretch on through the night, lazy Sunday dinners from Pizza School, snuggling on the futon and watching hours of Criminal Minds, marveling at the cherry blossoms in the spring and soft snow in the winter, early morning dancing and high kick-offs at Radio Star, hugs from teeny tiny students, different sizes and colors of bills (how can I tell a 10 from a 5?), and everything in between.
Still, I find myself soaking in the natural beauty of California that I have never appreciated quite like I do now. The soft sand, gentle waves and scorching heat of the bay; the quiet, lazy mornings on the ranch, bursting with plant life; the peaceful serenity of the central coast. Taking it in — seeing everything in a new light — has made my heart happy.
As the clock ticks on toward the official nine-week mark of our return, I can feel the seeds of restlessness beginning to take hold. The lazy, warm, family-filled days of laughter and spending have been just what I needed these past two months, but as money goes out and job prospects remain in the air, I find myself frequently researching available housing and positions in the Bay Area, getting excited for the next period of my life.
So today, I say goodbye to my friends and readers as this chapter of my life (mostly) comes to an end. I hope for reunions with my friends from Korea in the future, and look forward to the amazing journey in San Francisco that awaits me and my better half later this summer. Until then… there are more golden coast adventures to be had!