Thursday, March 30, 2006
Our last day in Korea. It seemed both an eternity and only yesterday since we’d arrived. The President was unabashedly homesick. All she could think about was going home and couldn’t be happier. She has sworn never to leave Saipan again. She is not a traveler. For me travel is such a given. Who wouldn’t want to travel? But I’m learning there is this entire subset of the human race for whom travel is anathema. I call them the Mitford People, named after the slightly dull set of novels about a round-faced parson in the small town of Mitford. These novels romanticize the life where you live you’re whole life in a little town where everyone knows you and you never leave. It’s a life I can’t imagine finding fulfilling, but one for that many people holds a great deal of appeal. The President is one such person.
We spend the day in hurried shopping. We arrive back in Insa-dong at guess?
That’s right 12:15. We NEVER did ANYTHING on this entire trip before noon. Well except for church on Saturday. But that was 11:15. That’s one thing I really regret. I feel like we wasted half of our time in Korea puttering around our guesthouse. This is the first class trip I’ve ever chaperoned where we had no organized tours, and without those hard and fast departure times, we seemed to have real difficulty getting going in the morning.
After Insa-dong (where Babs purchased several original works of art for our home and left very happy with her purchases) it was back to Dongdaemun, and then back to our guesthouse where we loaded up the AMSC van. The chaplain, Pastor Fritz dropped us off at the bus station and we took the bus back to Incheon and our flight home.
On the bus ride back, I listened to U2’s “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb” and wrote my sister her birthday card. The memory I will keep is of listening to “Yahewah” and watching the Korean landscape bathed in golden, late afternoon sunlight roll by. I love those moments where your life feels like a movie, complete with a soundtrack playing in the background.
Memories of our Korean Adventure:
1. Steps. There are stairs everywhere in and out and throughout the subway stations, in and out of the under- and overpasses, in and out of our guesthouse on the third floor. No wander Koreans are so thin.
2. It seems like Korean women of a certain age all have short, curly hair. Is there a rule?
3. Selfishness. I”ve been officially labeled “selfish” by my wife and the girls. This stemmed from Monday at the Sandpresso coffee shop near Kyeongbokung Palace where we had lunch. It came to light that I don’t like to share my food. Which is true. I don’t. I admit it. So it became the running joke of the trip. At every meal someone would make a great show of offering to share their food. I also offered to share my food at every meal, but my sincerity was always questioned, and I was ultimately dismissed for trying to “hide” my selfishness by sharing.
4. OCD. The Vice President has a mild form of it. If someone touches her on the shoulder she has to touch herself on the other shoulder to “balance” it. I thought she was exaggerating until she said she felt compelled to count the multitude of stairs we climbed each day, and then proceeded to matter-of-factly stated that there were 89 steps on the overpass near our guesthouse. After that everyone wanted to claim that every little picky-ness and preference was evidence of their own latent OCD.
5. The weather changes in Korea. This was very disconcerting to us. Remember, Saipan is in the Guiness Book of World Records for having the least temperature variation in the world. So it was weird to find it cold in the morning and then only a few hours later go out and again and—what’ this? It’s warmer now? What’s up with that? Or more often. . . “Why is it so much colder now. Just a little bit ago it was warmer. What IS this?”
I really loved Korea. I liked the people, the language, the big-city life, the refined and classy culture. I feel like I could live there for a year or two. Maybe when we are ready to leave Saipan we’ll go teach English in Korea and make a bucket load of money before we go back to the Mainland. But who knows when that will be.