Saying Goodbye March 4, 2010Posted by jorkat in Seoul.
Back on New Year’s Eve 2007, Katie and I stood in a friends kitchen a few minutes before the stroke of midnight. As the clock turned to 2008 I told Katie that we should go for it. We should uproot our lives, sell everything and live abroad for all of 2009. After Katie finished accusing me of being drunk and slurring nonsense, I managed to convince her that I was serious and agreed to revist the topic in the morning (read: afternoon). From that moment on, we started planning for this journey and made good on our goal to move our lives overseas.
Katie had actually been wanting to do this for years. Ever since we started living vicariously through the Mulloskey blog and discussing their adventures almost nightly over dinner. After months of internal debate, I started to give it serious thought and decided this was the best time in our lives to do this.
Back in December 2007 a few days before my fateful proclamation on NYE, I had gone for lunch and beers with a close friend. We both acknowledged that we were comfortable with the direction our lives were headed, but that we wanted more. We both wanted to see more of the world and were prepared to make major changes to make it happen. We had different motivations and knew that sacrifices would have to be made, but the calling to do some different and drastic was too strong. I will never forget that day, but mostly because it’s the same day that I bought a sick Tom Brady jersey at a boxing day sale.
From my perspective, I wanted to do this for a number of reasons. As I mentioned in the inaugural post on this blog almost of year ago to this day, I wanted to embark on this journey as a tribute to my brother who always wanted to travel the world in search of knowledge and enlightenment. I also wanted the ultimate bonding experience with my wife. If we can handle living and traveling in a foreign land, after everything we’ve overcome in our personal lives, our marriage would be stronger than ever. We were both young enough to still be bold, adventurous and in my case, somewhat reckless. But we were also old enough to appreciate how lucky we are to have this opportunity to travel together. To realize what a gift something as simple as the English language can be and the places it can take you. To experience and appreciate the freedom of not being tied down by a mortgage or lease payments, or children. To live frugally and not even have a cell phone. Holy $hit I miss my blackberry.
Saying goodbye to our kids and Korea has been easier than expected. Mostly because we’re now on vacation for the next 3 months and we’ll be visiting 15 different countries across Asia and Europe. But also because we were able to establish contact with some of the parents and will hopefully be able to maintain communication as our kids grow older. I’ve already exchanged emails with one of my favorite students’ mother and had a nice conversation with her father on the last day of class. He was grateful for the impact I’ve had on her life and would make best efforts to remain in touch through the years. I hope one day we can visit Korea again, or even better, they visit Canada and I can see what kind of person Jessica has become.
Here’s a picture taken from the first day of class…
…and one from our last day of class together.
Another aspect of Korea we will miss and have been meaning to write about since our arrival is something called “Matchy-matchy”. Korean couples love to buy matching outfits and wear them in public as a display of their devotion to one another. It’s not just matching shirts either. Just like everything else, when Koreans do something, they go balls out. We’re talking hats, socks, underwear, pants, jackets. You name the item and I’m pretty sure you can buy a “couple-set”.
Add matchy-matchy to the list of things I will miss about Korea. While we’re here, why don’t we take a quick look at some of the other things we’ll miss about Korea and looking forward to when we get home.
Things I will miss: No sales tax. No tipping. Drinking anywhere. No last call. Cheap baseball. Everything always being open. $5 haircuts in complete silence. $2 beers. Waking up at 8:40am and arriving at work by 9:20am. Airports and public transport in Asia. Being a minor celebrity and stared at in public. $25 dinners for two. Yelling at waiters and not being considered rude or ringing a bell to get their attention. Sour cream. Mart drinking. Having food on your table as soon as sit down in a restaurant. Not having a cell phone.
Things I’m looking forward to back home: Filet mignon on the BBQ. Hearing people call it a BBQ instead of a grill. The cottage. Cheap golf. Our bed. Family and friends. HNIC on Saturday night instead of Sunday morning. Not being stared at in public. Football all day Sunday instead of 7am on Monday. A dryer. Fresh towels from the dryer. Larger napkins. Urinals that flush when I’m done. Driving a car. Golfing. Playing hockey. My blackberry. Being back in the country with the most gold medals and best hockey players in the world.
Speaking of the Olympics, I’ve been thinking about these games and who would be on the hockey team since it was announced that Vancouver would be getting the games back in 2003. I made a pact with my friend Josh that we would attend the Gold Medal game no matter what, but with him in Europe and us in Asia, it wasn’t meant to be. Maybe we can push back the pact for the Gold Medal game to Sochi 2014. When weighing the pros and cons of coming to live in Asia, not going to Vancouver for the Olympics was a major con. In retrospect I don’t regret the decision whatsoever as we now have our own unique story of where we were when Crosby scored the golden goal.
Here is some video from inside Canada Hockey Place by a friend of mine who intentionally scheduled a stop over in Vancouver, en route to Montreal from Hong Kong in case Canada made the final. When everything fell into place he was also fortunate enough to have a client with an extra ticket for him. I hate him.
This first one is from the pre-game when Canada first comes on to the ice.
This one is from shortly after the first goal by Toews to make it 1-0 Canada.
It was also pretty cool being in a foreign country when the Olympics are being held, not to mention when they’re in your native land. Anytime we tell someone that we’re from Canada now, their immediate response is “Vancouver?” For anyone who paid close attention to the games, Korea actually fared quite nicely. They finished 7th in overall medals and 5th in gold medals awarded. They are a short track juggernaut, but they also garnered some attention on the world stage thanks to their new national hero – Kim, Yu-Na.
I haven’t been this into figure skating in my life, nor will I likely ever be again, but the entire country shut down for her short program and free skates and she didn’t disappoint. She makes more money from endorsements than any other Korean in history and that number is likely to increase from the rumored $8 million per year she was making prior to the Olympics. Her face is everywhere and rightfully so. She skated perfectly in both programs with the weight of a very proud country on her shoulders. You could tell that the moment that her record-setting performance was over, the sense of relief that overcame her. Not bad for a 19-year old.
Every hockey game that Canada played was by far my highlight of the Olympics. But Kim, Yu-Na and Joannie Rochette’s performances weren’t as far behind as you would think.
I’ll leave everyone with one final video that was taken just a couple weeks ago. I think it’s a fitting way to say goodbye to Korea and acknowledge how much fun we had here. This exhibit was set-up as a promotion for Korea’s bid for Seoul to host the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. We ran right into it on our way to dinner and Mullin and I didn’t think twice about stopping to give it a whirl.
The sound of the goalie almost being decapitated attracted quite a crowd. They told me not to shoot so hard or raise the puck. Mullin never got a chance to try as they immediately shut down the exhibit.
Thanks for the memories Korea. This isn’t goodbye, it’s see you later.