Tag Archives: travel

Going home

If you want to know the absolute dirty truth, I’m so scared of coming back to the states. The states itself. After two years away, I’m really like this person who doesn’t really know much about home except that people get shot and robbed all of the time.

Abroad, you can generally trust people. In my experience, (with some exceptions of course) generally you can meet people and spend time with them and it’s all good. You can step into a new country and onto the metro with your luggage and trust that you’ll be OK in most places (probably mainly because I’ve been traveling in east and southeastAsia, which is just generally one of the safest regions in the world, Manila aside).

I land in New York in eight days and I’ll take the subway to Brooklyn and it’s going to be after dark. I am terrified. There are guns in America, and people use them. Plus did anyone see that episode of girls where Hannah fell asleep on the train and woke up and her bag was stolen off her sleeping body? Ugh. I don’t wanna die!!! Haha.

I left Korea march 2nd, but I haven’t made it home yet. Right now I’m hanging out in Dubai, sleeping in and contemplating going to the gym (as one does).  I’ve got a lot of free time on my hands and I’ve been thinking a lot, and there’s no running from the fact that I am simply scared to come home. I’m scared of it all…scared of the good times ending, scared of being robbed or shot, scared of coming home and being out of synch, scared of coming home and eating crappy American food and gaining weight/developing digestive issues. I miss kimchi and Galbi tang. This heavy Arabic food makes my tummy hurt.

I know it’s silly, and that coming home also has so many good aspects, mainly seeing all of the people I’ve loved and missed for two years. Meeting babies, actually attending weddings. Going to birthday parties, watching wedding videos, and just hugging everyone I haven’t seen in two years that much tighter.  I know it, and I absolutely cannot wait for those moments with the people I love.

But it’s a mixed bag, is all I’m saying. Fear of the unknown, and I guess after two years away even your home country can become a bit unknown.

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2015

I went to Hong Kong last week, and that’s where I rang in the new year. Oh, but it wasn’t glamorous. It was actually me being the fifth wheel, me crying a little, me rushing down 16 flights of stairs to catch the fireworks, me eating (authentic!) Chinese food, me drunkenly calling my aunt to whine.

It was great because it was honest.

You don’t always want to party and go nuts.

I rang in the new year feeling a little….prickly. A little uncomfortable, and a lotta bit in my head.

I’ve been traveling alone recently, but I went to HK with a friend, and I would definitely say that over the past year D has become a close friend, but still this trip taught me a lot about myself because it taught me how much I don’t want to show who I am.

I don’t have a problem with who I am, mind you. I’m me, and I’m a little morose, and I tend to overthink and I feel self conscious about my hair and I like to read a lot and I don’t always (or ever) want to talk, and that’s fine.

Things affect me. Things make me want to cry. Things make me want to hole up in my apartment for days, or at least for the rest of the night, and just sit alone in my own stuff and feel things through until I can face the world again with the face I’m comfortable showing.

But over the week of this trip I was so damned uncomfortable because I was with this girl for an entire week and over the course of that week I had to, inadvertently, unavoidably, honestly and truly show who I am.

I don’t mind being who I am.
And I don’t mind telling who I am–I’ve been doing that for five solid years with this blog.
But I do mind those moments when I’m stressed and overwhelmed and feeling ugly and feeling sad and feeling irrationally scared–I mind showing them. I mind when there’s nowhere for me to retreat, when I have to do the ugly work of knowing that it’s showing on my face, of knowing that there’s nowhere to run and how can I sort this out and will this person accept these feelings that I can’t help and don’t mean to hoist on them?

It all sounds way too intense, but that’s kind of the thing. For the past two years I’ve been playing at who I am, playing at a newer, lighter version of me: BryoneyLite, 2.0. Stay in my square, stay in my safe space. Funny how being in such a foreign environment, a place where everything external is generally uncomfortable, makes it so easy to stay inside my box internally.

I’ve been brave these past two years. I’ve traveled on my own, and I’ve faced down many fears. But inside I’ve stayed squarely in my box, stayed committed to the face I put on in public. BryoneyLite. Not prone to depressions or melancholia of any sort. Reader, “writerLite” (no actual writing done).

But that’s not me. I’m as cheery as I am morose; as motivated as I am depressed.

I want to be me again, and I want out of this square little box.

I think I did well in 2014. I’m drinking less, I’m eating more vegetables, I’m sleeping more. I go to the gym four times per week, I do face masks once or twice each week and I’ve saved a little money. I’ve even managed to get a couple things published that I’m really proud of, though I’m no closer to writing that novel (oh well).

But I’m going numb inside, and I’m losing connection. I’m losing my creativity, and I’m starting to really believe that there’s nothing about me that says my life shouldn’t be ordinary. More and more, I’m feeling like a face in the crowd.

So in 2015, what I really want, is just out of this box. I want to feel again. I want to feel intensely, like I did when I was 18 (but maybe not exactly like that because it was a bit much). I just want to feel. And i want to write. I want to write something for me, something that is beautiful, a story that is moving and touching, that I see through from start to finish. Something I can be proud of.

I want out of this box.

Friends

I think I have a knack for unhappiness, like how people have a knack for drowning unless they swim, float or tread water. For me to be happy, I must constantly tread the sea of “new” and “positive” experiences–if I stop for a second, or if the tide breaks, or if one tiny thing happens that interrupts this flow of outer-stimulated “happiness,” I begin to drown.

This past year has been different than the last. Last year I had a school that I hated (in some areas) with a boss who was mean to me. But I had a lot of friends, a huge apartment, enough money, and eventually a boyfriend (whom I still have at least. So one outta 4 ain’t bad I guess).

This year is different. I don’t hate my job (who could hate working part time?), but I have a small apartment and, I’m starting to realize, very few actual “friends” (at least in Korea).

I don’t know if spending so much time alone has made me too rigid, or if working in an office with constant gossiping and social politics has made me too self-conscious (I suspect both), but one thing I have felt, over and over this year, is that I mean very little to most of the “friends” I had last year.

In any case, this year is much different than last year, and I find myself spending much more time in my own company than in anyone else’s. This ought to be great–it’s kind of what I wanted, more time alone, more time to write. But I guess I wasn’t prepared to get it on the price of feeling rejected and blown off, and I mostly dread my own company and hate being alone.

Or maybe it’s all in my head. I’m about six months into my new year-long contract, and without constant new experiences as distractions–and I do mean constant, did I mention that I just came back from Bali Monday?–and a constant barrage of people telling me I’m wanted, I’m a good person, I’m loved and needed–and I do mean constant–the six-month blues is at hand, letting me know that I have to spend another half-year on the other side of the world from everything that’s comfortable.

I watched Eat Pray Love last night (because Bali) and there was a quote that was something to the effect of she believes that if a person is willing to leave their comfort zone, seek answers, and believe that everything along the way is working toward their good, they will be rewarded for it.

I guess the first time I watched that movie, I accepted that sentiment as gospel. This time, however, I just thought it was awfully “neat” that she left her hubs with no warning, took off, and got True Love and Enlightenment in a year flat.

My life has been much more messy than that, and I suppose it will continue to be. I suspect the lives of others are messier than that too, and I am increasingly upset by how dishonest things related to the universal human experience (things like heartbreak, loneliness, pain, joy, travel, budgeting, etc.) are portrayed in entertainment. Everything is too neat on TV, and even when it’s messy, it’s still too neat.

I mean, I get it in part. It hurts to read or watch something that portrays heartbreak honestly. Something that doesn’t glaze over it and make it syrupy and cute and funny. But that’s no excuse. Because heartbreak hurts, and it hurts for longer than two episodes. When you really love someone, or when you think you really love someone, does it ever go away?

How about when your friends find other friends and leave you behind? How does that feel? Is it ever even shown? And is your heart not allowed to break for the loss of these people whom you did love and did not think would reject you? And how about in your country, incidences of mass violence, or the economy, or feeling like you are a target, that you will never be allowed to have a good life? When does that stop hurting? In two episodes? Three? How much time before we move on because it’s boring and we need something slapstick to cover it?

This life is not easy and it’s not neat, but who will write this story now, in these days? I don’t think I can–it’ll take too long, and I’m too impatient, sadly. And I can’t get away from writing characters who are autobiographical, or essays, which are too direct, too unimaginative, and too damn boring.

Not my place

It’s no secret that you miss things while abroad. Not miss like emotionally miss (which you totally do as well), but miss like physically miss. No family reunions for this little expat. Cousins graduate from college, families celebrate birthdays, friends have weddings you can’t attend and have children you’ve never met. My little nephew is growing up before my eyes; my grandparents are getting older, and as long as I continue to live on this side of the world, there’s nothing I can do about that.

We all experience it, and when it gets bad enough and circumstances permit we go home for a visit.

I went to two high schools, and this past weekend was my 10-year reunion for the first one I attended (the one I didn’t graduate from). I watched a lot of TV growing up, so I’ve always had this fantasy about attending my 10-year high school reunion. The first high school is the experience I held on to. It was the one I attended in 9-10 grade, and it was the one where I felt like I blossomed and found my place. It is the one with friends that I hold dear to my heart, in the way you only can with people you loved deeply before you “grew up.” Although I didn’t graduate from there, that was the reunion I wanted to attend, because it was the one for the high school that I felt in my heart was “my” high school.

I signed up for emails and searched airplane prices. Back in February, I was seriously considering coming home in June anyway–contingent on whether things worked out for me here (worked out with the boyfriend, worked out with the school, worked out with the money….oh, and worked out with the boyfriend). 

Things are working out, and I don’t get vacation time until August (and only a week at that since I’m at Hagwon)–so that’s that; no reunion for me. It killed me to watch them plan the reunion (via frequent facebook posts about venue, food, pricing, etc.).It killed me to get the emails, and to see my “friends” from high school posting updates about being excited as the event drew nearer.

And then finally the day came, and it killed me to not be there. I’m not gonna lie; I straight-up creeped it on facebook. I read all the posts, looked at every photo, and watched every video. I wanted to know what it was like, if I couldn’t be there myself.

And then it was over, and something happened. Something clicked.

This isn’t my high school. 

I saw maybe one friend from my high school “notebook club” (that’s what we called ourselves, we passed a notebook around between four or five of us filled with all our stories of making out and hating teachers, boys stole it periodically, it was dramatic and fun). I saw maybe one friend from my “orchestra clique” (the girls of the notebook club + the boys from orchestra). P.S. it was the same friend. P.P.S. she and I fell out years ago.

It just hit me. No one noticed I wasn’t there. No one missed me.

Not in a self-pitying way, of course. That’s not to be all “no one loves me.” Just saying that I finally realized that I’ve been holding on to this high school experience that ended for me twelve years ago. I’ve been considering it my “real” high school experience. My “real” place. The “real” memories of what my high school days should have been. Could have been.

But they didn’t hold on to me because it’s not my place. It’s just not my place.

As far as high schools go, maybe I don’t have a place.

In a way, I’m happier to have been abroad and seen it go on without me than I would have been to make all of the effort to cross state lines only to attend a reunion that would have been just fine without me.

 

Cherry Blossoms

I’ve seen plenty of cherry blossoms,
In Korea, no less.
Dc has a cherry blossom festival too
(Although I hear theirs is covered in snow this year).
I haven’t made it to a cherry blossom fest yet–
Haven’t traveled to any beach or island or forest to see them on bloom
Instead, I watch the spring snowflakes drift from their branches on my morning walk,
A swirling white that lands on my shoulders and warms me with hope instead of freezing me with more winter.
I think about when I leave as I move through the cherry-lined street,
And I wonder if I will regret never having gone to a Cherry Blossom Fest

 

This is my last year in Korea, and already the cycle is in mid-swing, and I am missing out on things that I will maybe never have the chance to experience again.

Part of me is starting to wonder what’s the point—will it matter that I never went to this or that festival? Or will the experience trump everything, overall?

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Cool-ass Korean women

A lot of people out here say it can be difficult to get behind the veil of Korean culture–if you’re not “우리” (pronunced “oo-ri”, meaning us/our) then in general you just don’t get to see behind the public facade.

I’ve met a few Korean people (and quite a few non-Korean people) who have been pretty conservative, or who haven’t let their guards down.

But I’ve also met some mind-blowingly cool, honest, down-to-earth Korean women and this post is about two of them.

I didn’t really have an easy time of working in Korea my first year here, but there are two women who made my experience downright bearable. One is Mrs. L, the school nurse at my high school. There were days when I would walk into school nearly in tears from the anger/frustration/depression of being isolated (the only foreigner; the only non-Korean speaker; boss/person I share an office with generally refusing to acknowledge my presence) at that school. “Literally no one in this school cares about me,” I would think. I would hear teachers talking and laughing in the other rooms and see them sharing treats, and I would sit in my office cold and alone (I’m thinking about winter here because Christmastime abroad is particularly lonely).

But over the course of that year, Mrs. L and I developed a true friendship. She is about 40 or 45, and she married young, but she is a free spirit at heart and quite honest. During the course of our year-long teacher class, we talked about beauty, health, plastic surgery, women’s rights, bullying, and a range of other topics, and she always surprised me with her candor and thoughtfulness.

More than that, though, it was to her that I would turn when I dragged myself into the office feeling like shit. In Korea, you don’t call out, so I would come to school feeling terrible and longing for my home country, where people would rather you come home than bring your cold to the office. 

I would go into her office and she’d comfort me, give me medicine, and let me lay in one of the clinic beds. It meant the world to me to be taken care of–to be shown care toward.

And it was her who, once my contract was over, organized a goodbye luncheon for a few cool beyotches (my word) where they told me that they didn’t like my boss either; that she is a strange sort and quite difficult to work with–I was blown away first by being assured that I’m not crazy and second by the level of trust we established for a Korean to somewhat-badmouth another Korean to a foreigner.

The other cool-ass Korean woman I want to tell you all about is my belly-dancing teacher, Ms. K. 

I want to ask her about herself; how did she end up having a career in bellydancing? And she’s really good–she can shimmy, wiggle, drop, bounce, and sway with the best of them. Plus, her splits are to die for. I find this fascinating, but we have a serious language barrier we’re slowly bringing down (we’re about the same level in each others’ respective languages–which is more than we’d originally assumed, because it’s easy to be more than none, but we still can’t have in-depth conversations).

Although we can’t really talk about anything, she cemented herself in my mind as a cool-ass woman today when I showed up to class with a bandage under my ribs from a new tattoo. I thought she would kind of freak–tattoos are pretty rare/frowned upon here. But duh. She’s a bellydance teacher. Of course she’d be more liberal right?

She asked me if I was hurt and I told her it was from a tattoo, and she just told me she wanted to get a tattoo on the back of her shoulder. Then she asked me if I would be OK for dancing, and we got the hell on with things.

So cool, and I really think that over time we will end up being friends, even if we can’t talk to each other much.

Anyway that’s it–I just wanted to update about these two women who were on my mind.

 

The Boyfriend

Life in South Korea can really put you out of touch with “reality,” as it stands. Since I’ve been here, I’ve experienced so many highs, insane highs, highs like scuba diving in the philippines highs. I’ve also experienced lows, insane lows, lows like “I’m afraid to apply for jobs now because maybe it was me, maybe I’m just truly awful to work with and lazy and mean and that’s why my supervisor hates me.”

But what I hadn’t experienced in most of my time here is groundedness–that “down to earth” feeling that you experience when you’re cooking dinner at home and cleaning your apartment and managing your budget and pursuing activities and interests and thinking about your goals and future plans.

In the past month or two, however, I’ve  started to get glimpses of a more “down to earth” me peeking through. She’s kind of tired of getting wasted and overspending and traveling every weekend. She wants to look up muffin recipes, and she misses writing and editing.

Part of this is myself, definitely. It’s difficult…because all aspects of life are “real.” I’m really alive; I’m really breathing; I’m really typing on the computer at this moment. But at the same time, a life of partying and shopping and one-year contracts at a time…well it’s not in line with the sense of groundedness that we associate with an actual, “real” life.

So part of this is definitely myself disassociating myself from the waygooks who are either 24 and perfectly within their lane to blow a year or two before setting down, or the dreaded career waygooks who are in their very late 20s or 30s, who have been doing one-year contracts for many years, and who seem to suffer from a bit of a Peter Pan complex.

Part of this is myself, but as you may have guessed from a post titled “the boyfriend”…part of this is the boyfriend.

You guys.

It’s the weirdest thing. I have blogged, talked, tweeted, facebooked, skyped, and texted about previous paramours to no end, but when I start to talk/write about the current Boyfriend, words fail me.

But when I leave his company, I’m more motivated than before.

And Saturday night, we went out together and we danced. And we laughed. And we had so. much. fun.

I was not aware you could have actual fun with your boyfriend.

And when people tell me he’s crazy about me, I tell them right back that it’s definitely mutual; that I’m crazy about him too. And then they look at me in shock, that I would be so open with my feelings.

And when I wasn’t feeling well yesterday, he made me theraflu and came to lay down with me (until he realized that I was in need of actual REM sleep, then he got up and did his thing and let me sleep).

And sometimes I think about how I want to write poems on love and hand-written notes. And how often my friend replies with “that’s ideal” when I tell her about the times we spend together.

And how it’s easy. It’s actually easy. We liked each other and we decided to be together,

then we did.

We’re going night skiing tonight.

How exciting is that?