I am NEVER going to be fully ready to leave this country. Ever.
As the last two months have been consumed with teaching applications, lesson planning, interview preparations, studying for teaching exams, and future planning, I actually had thought that I was absolutely 100% ready to close this chapter and begin the next. I was wrong. I hate it when that happens.
This evening, as with all evenings of the past year and a half, I stopped by my favorite restaurant to pick up dinner for my boys. I walked in and sat with my friend, the owner, and we had coffee and chatted about our day. Both of us have very limited grasp of the other’s language, but we always enjoy one another’s company. He is soon planning to take a month vacation backpacking in another country. That’s cool, I tell him. He asked me to run one morning by the river with him. It’s cold out there. and snowy. and ice covered everything. Fat chance of that happening. But I appreciated the offer.
After coffee, he asked if I like 떡볶이. I do, but it’s quite spicy for my taste. (Note: My spicy tolerance has grown immensely in this country but it’s still somewhat stunted in comparison to normal people.) He walked me to the back of the restaurant where the other employees, who speak even less English, were eating their dinner. As I’ve been stopping by here every night for nearly two years, they know me well but this is the first time that I’ve joined them for dinner. They quickly pulled up a chair and dished out a plate for me. They also assured me that it wasn’t too spicy for my foreign taste. I love this place.
One woman, who just two years ago was greatly annoyed by any foreign customers, has grown to be such an endearing woman to me. As we sit beside each other enjoying a late dinner and clinking together plastic cups of Coca-Cola, we bond. Her only English consists of “thank you very much!” and an enthusiastic “I like Amy!” My Korean this evening consisted mostly of, “감사합니다,” “맛있다” and “괜찮아요”, which mean “thank you”, “delicious,” and “I’m okay, no more,” respectively.
As we finished up dinner, they gave me a tangerine and ensured that I had Charlie’s dinner with me as I headed out the door. I love this place.
When does this ever happen anywhere else? When is the last time a restaurant owner invited you in to eat dinner with his staff? I recognize that my experience in Korea is very different than many other people’s, but my experience is all I have to write about. This country has been amazing to me in so many ways.
I am so very ready to head home and enjoy a spectacularly long vacation of family, friends, traveling, interviewing, and farm time, but I’m never going to be ready to leave here. I love it here.