Monday, April 25, 2016

Things We're Not Going to Miss

So, at this point in the year, with roughly six weeks left here in Korea, it's safe to say that emotions are running high. Kennedy had many, many breakdowns over the weekend--some more easily explained than others--and as Eric and I watched the calendar fill up, it got real for us, too. Suddenly, I feel like every conversation is more nostalgic than the last. Everything has a bit more of a "last" feeling than it did a month ago. One day it feels like six weeks will fly by in a blink, and the next day it feels like time is standing still. Of course, we all feel like this at some point, but this year it feels like it's on a grand scale. And so, it felt like it was time to put together a little post on some of the things from this life that we're not going to miss...(in no particular order)

1. Apartment life: there is no getting around it. We do not love apartment life. And to be honest, we've had it pretty good. We lived for four years on the first floor--praise God! Because the last year of living with upstairs and downstairs neighbors? It hasn't helped my graying hair any. Trying to keep the kids semi-quiet in the mornings is torture. Listening to construction, and couples fighting, and kids screaming at all hours from upstairs is miserable. Just as we make our downstairs neighbors miserable (minus the construction). The in-apartment announcements are more rare in this complex, thankfully, but they still wake Reece up every time they happen, and since I can't understand what's being said anyway, it's just annoying. Having to go up ten flights every time you need to get something out of the car can be infuriating. When you forget something minor, trust me, you just leave it.

2. Cars and driving: I could probably break this up into about four categories of their own, but instead I'll just make it one long one. I'm so sick of incredibly tiny parking spaces and not being able to open car doors. I go out of my way to find spots where we can open the doors on the driver's side (and therefore Reece's car seat is on that side, too), only to get out and discover that there's a post blocking Reece's door! Agh! Parking lots in general are annoying because whatever the floor is coated in, makes for extremely loud noises when cars are backing in to spaces (because that's what you do--always); it's just one of those noises that grates on your nerves. Secondly, The fact that streets are intended to be two way, but they are lined with parked cars on either side, leaving space for only one direction of traffic are infuriating! The way I weave in and out of parked cars is enough to make me carsick! And then there are the intersections with no rules. What would be a four way stop in the States is just an intersection with no stop signs. You just inch forward until there's space to make a break for it. And if you don't do it quickly enough? You'll get honked at, of course. Whatever you do--don't yield! Lastly, there are the motorcycles that use sidewalks as a street, and the cars parked on the sidewalks, so that there isn't room for any pedestrians at all, let alone those pushing a stroller!

3. Air quality: I gripe about this one all.the.time, so I won't go into it, but I'm really excited to live in a place where I don't have to check the air quality before sending the kids outside, opening a window, or figuring out our plans for the day. Sure, weather affects all of those things, but I'm pretty accepting of that. What I can't stand is when you have the perfect weather (for whatever activity you're hoping for--namely biking at this point), and have to alter your plans because it's not healthy to be doing any sort of athletic activity outside. Yuck.

4. The smells: I'm pretty sure this one pertains to any foreign place you visit; they're just not the smells you're used to. Here, it tends to smell like sewage from time to time (where I grew up, it smelled like manure quite often!), garbage is another regular smell (see #6), and another one of the perks of apartment life is smelling what everyone else is cooking. So I could be baking cookies, but the neighbor is caramelizing onions. There are several Indian families who live here, and if you're not already aware, Indian food has a strong smell! (Though I'll admit it comes from our place about once a month, too.) Koreans smell like kimchi, cigarette smoke, or perfume (which seems to always be flowery--not one of my favorites), and so the elevator often smells like one of those or all of them, combined with some food garbage. Lovely. (ps: Koreans think Americans smell like butter and cheese--and apparently that's a problem for them! Can you imagine?)

5. City noise: Another given. And also not exclusive to Korea, of course, but I am just so sick of living in the city and being overstimulated by noise noise noise all the time. Sirens, honking, traffic, singing, music, dogs barking, babies crying, noise in the hallways, the noise from the elevator/stairwell (though it's a million times better in this apartment!), neighbors arguing. Give me all the cows and chickens. I'm so done with city life!

6. Garbage: This is one of those things that we've gotten used to, but we definitely won't miss! All of the trash sorting, the special garbage bags, having a closet full of recycle (at least you can't see through the doors in this apartment)...we are not going to miss this! Give me a garbage can and a garage (of my own), please! The lack of garbage cans in public--so I feel like I'm always holding onto some piece of trash, or more likely, throwing it in the diaper bag. I won't miss that! In fact, it was one of the first things I wrote about when we got here. (Remember when my posts had no pictures? Sad.)

7. Messy closets: Okay. I'll admit this one is really stupid. But I'm so sick of Korean closets. There are no shelves (though again, our new apartment is vastly superior to the last in the area of closets!), and they're usually not built in. So, Kennedy has this huge wardrobe with one shelf. Our closets are a mess all the time! We've tried various ways to organize them (especially Kennedy's), but nothing works very well for long. I just can't wait for normal bedroom furniture!

8. Celebrity status: The good news is that as the kids have aged, this has become less and less of a problem. The bad news is we had another kid just as the big kids were outgrowing this. I will say that no one has handed Reece hard candy yet (knock on wood), and no one has taken their picture with him yet. Everyone still comments on how cute he is and they do like to touch him, but he's cute in any country, right?

9. Spitting, coughing, and chewing: I really probably shouldn't comment on this one. Actually, I probably shouldn't put it out there at all because it's a cultural thing, and it's their thing, and who am I to say there's something wrong with it? Yet, here I go. It just grosses me out. Koreans show their appreciation for and enjoyment of food by chewing it loudly, slurping it loudly, just plain eating loudly. It's such a part of their culture that you'll even see it on Korean dramas. It's just what they do. And it also translates to gum chewing--loud, smacky, bubbly. It gives me the chills just to think about it. I have (an older adult) friend who admitted that if her taxi driver is smacking his gum, she'll pay the 3,000 won (about 3 dollars) and get out of the cab and wait for another one because she hates it so much! And she's cheap! Spitting is also a constant among Korean men, and it's disgusting.

10. Grocery shopping: This is another one that we have just gotten used to over the course of the last five years, but I'm still not going to miss grocery shopping here. Whether it's Costco (still stressful!), E-Mart (just inconvenient), or the neighborhood store (that never has everything you need and always includes a walk uphill both ways), I'm just not going to miss it. There's always this mental battle--can I get everything I need and still be able to carry it all home? What are the rules for buying produce? What needs a sticker and what doesn't? What day/time is it? How packed is the store going to be? Do they have the international ingredients I need? Do they have the kinds of milk I need? Just this past Sunday, I drove to two different stores that were both closed before finding one that was open, but they didn't have everything I needed, and I had to park a ways away and juggle heavy bags. Nope. Not gonna miss it.

I don't really know whether or not writing out this kind of stuff is healthy at this point. As much as I have been reading about repatriation, I am confident that I'm not doing all of the prep work "right"; we're still going to have a mess of a family to put back together in the coming year. But, I know that this article cracked me up (as poorly as it was written...poor guy writing in a second language), and I know that there are going to be days when it seemed like life in Korea was easy--way easier than life in Texas is at the moment--and I'm going to need things like this to look back on. I'm going to need that validation that life was not always easy here, just as life will not always be easy there. Life just isn't easy. Anywhere. But, boy, the grass is always greener, isn't it?

(I thought these pictures of the beautiful sunset in Guam might calm me as I wrote all of this out, but it didn't really work. Or maybe it's the yelling and honking outside the window. Maybe they'll calm me when I look back on this six months from now!)

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