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Friday, July 3, 2009

I wish I were homeward bound

This week has been an absolute whirlwind with the perfect mix of non-stop activity, plenty of time to relax in the sunshine and heaps of good food and great friends. 

And now I’m sitting in the airport getting ready to head back to Seoul. There's a huge mix of emotions – peace and happiness, a reluctance to return to Korea, and a tinge of homesickness at being somewhere that feels so familiar. 

I don’t hate Korea and hope it doesn’t come across that way here. But in terms of loving it the way I’ve loved living in Washington and London, Seoul can’t compare. It doesn’t even rank.

There’s no sense of “this is my home” in Seoul. Most people are nice and welcoming to foreigners but at the same time, I feel like an outsider every day. Even going to the grocery store or talking a walk around the neighborhood reminds me that I don’t fit in. Whereas in Sydney, after only a week, I can see myself living here and being happy.

It’s complicated. And obviously Sydney would feel more home-like – it’s an English-speaking, Western, heavily European-influenced city. It’s a former British colony, just like the US. The pieces all fit together.

Leaving is hard though. Although it's winter, the weather alternately feels like either spring or autumn. The past couple of days were spring-like – getting hot and sunburnt from hours spent walking in the sun and sleeping on the grass, watching adults avoid the chilly ocean water while kids plunge in head-first, sitting at outdoor cafes crammed with people enjoying the deep blue sky.

Yesterday was more autumnal – strong winds coupled with crisp, chilly air, the perfect temperature for a sweater, scarf and jeans, nothing more, nothing less. The ideal scenario for a steaming chai latte and a cozy place to people-watch. My friends and I tried to brave the cold to sit outside at Gloria Jean's last night but finally abandoned the patio to the warm indoors. 

So I'll make the most of my final three months in Korea, visit more of the country and enjoy spending time with fantastic friends. I'll probably never return so might as well enjoy it while I can. (Seoul, that is, not Sydney)

Australia: I'm not sure when I'll be back -- ideally in the next year or two -- but I definitely will. It's been such a joy visiting this country, even though I didn't have nearly enough time even to scratch the surface, and it definitely has earned a place near the top of my "favorite countries" list.