Last night I had dinner with a high school classmate who graduated in my class. Him and I were aware of each other during high school, but were never close friends. I guess during those days we each were approaching our years there in different ways. A few years ago, I first saw postings of his on Facebook about life in China, and for 3 years now, off and on, I’ve followed his pictures and postings with interest. Over dinner last night, i was telling my friend that I always found his pictures and stories fascinating, but I never imagined I’d be sharing my own stories from East Asia someday. I guess the thought never occurred to me until last year that I could relocate to that region of the world.
Anyway, this dinner was the first time he and I had ever spoken at length. While I was in Korea, I’d reached out to him, after realizing our paths were similar. I have a girlfriend in Korea, a teaching job starting in February, and earlier this year I was able to travel in Korea and Japan for 4 months. My friend has recently married a chinese girl, spent 3 years traveling to and from China, and taught english. Granted to say, we had plenty to talk about over local beer and his mom’s chile. I’m always a bit nervous catching up with people from my past, but last night was a blast. 3 hours went by in no time…as it was refreshing for me to have someone to discuss my experiences in Korea with…and likewise, to hear about China. We both related about feeling at loss for someone to share our experiences with. Coming home to Vermont, after doing some substantial traveling for the first time in my life, I realized I grew up in a bubble. When I first got off the plane in August, I remember breathing deeply the super clean air and enjoying the refreshing quiet. I also recall feeling how maintained and sterilized and safe the environment felt. I do love Vermont, but having experienced life in Korea, it became apparent to me how small a worldview I’d carried with me growing up and spending most of my time in this state.
Scott and I related on this, and shared stories about our experiences in China and Korea. I’m pretty ignorant about Chinese culture, my knowledge being limited to the political/economic understanding I have of the culture, martial arts movies, my college studies of chinese philosophy, and my narrow understanding of chinese cuisine. Before meeting Scott I had so many questions for him in my mind, not just about Chinese culture but his experience as an expat, his experiences dating and now marrying cross culturally and just his impressions on living abroad. I guess now that I’ve gotten a taste of living in Korea, I’m very curious to share experiences with other expats.
I learned that in China arcades are equally as popular as in Korea, a sorghum based liquor called Baiju (alcohol percentage of 60%) is a common choice for alcohol, compared to the more expensive import of Soju (the most popular form of alcohol in Korea, a 19% Sweet potato/rice vodka), and getting a teaching position there is much more relaxed, amongst other things. It seems Korea and China share a bunch in common, but in other ways, are remarkably different. If my experience transitioning from Japan to Korea is any indication, I expect China to be profoundly unique in comparison to Korea.
To wrap things up, I got a lot from my conversation last night with Scott. Sharing my experiences with him, and listening to his experiences, got me enthusiastic again about continuing to document and share my views and thoughts about my life, particularly my thoughts in regards to Korea and my new relationship with the country and its culture. I’ve decided, with some encouragement from Scott, to continue writing, even while here in the states, as there’s plenty still on my mind. I have this “grass is greener” attitude towards my writing, where I keep saying “once I get to Korea, I’ll have inspiration again”…this is true, but I also have unrecognized inspiration now, leading up to my second trip to Seoul. So, for now, I’m rei-inviting myself to begin again with my writing and blog life 🙂