As the plane touched down, this place seemed unfamiliar. This place I knew as home for almost three decades no longer had the stranglehold on me it always had. Instead I was compelled by this sensation to stay on the plane and go back where I had come. For once I had felt out of place in this perfect space.
The buildings weren’t nearly tall enough. They were spaced much too far apart and seemed dark compared to the bright neon-adorned facades of Seoul.
The jet lag hit hard. Like some strange time warp I left Seoul on a Saturday morning, arrived in Minneapolis that same afternoon eventhough it was a 16 hour flight.
Miraculously, my body woke up just in time to get in the car with Joel and Kirby. The drive to Shakopee seemed long that day, so to pass the time I exchanged messages with Colin. If only it was somehow possible for my phone to suck me and in and put me in the room with him.
Like a zombie, I aimlessly wandered around the campgrounds listening to all the notes floating through the air with the smells of the earth on fire. The smell brought back memories of the buddhist monks and their herbs which recalled a succession of images: loose leaf tea, the mini sweet cookies called 화전 ‘hwajeon’, the slow drip coffee, bowing 100 times before the sunrise, and the mystic sight of the buddhist statues in the warm morning light.
I laid in the grass and dreamed about galbi, kimchi and mandu. About how maybe a handful of the hundreds of people gathered around me had ever experienced these things I now could not imagine living without tasting. That maybe none of these people had ever heard a word of 한글 ‘hangul’. Almost certainly none of them had built a tolerance for K-pop.
I wanted more and more. As the days went on, it was a struggle for me to keep my head off my desk and dream. The bustling streets full of people, the bars open until sunrise, the people from all over the US and Canada with whom you could almost make instant friends, the mountains mixed with tall buildings, and the amazing public transportation system. Before two days passed, I signed up for a TEFL course and was on my way back. It was only supposed to be a year; but that’s what we all say. I’ve been here almost four with a plan for at least a few more.