On Leaving Korea: Hands Off My Mayo, Punk

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The broccoli in Korea has vanished. I’m not sure where the hell it went, but it’s gone. For the past two weeks, the area of my grocery store that used to be home to the broccoli has vacated, as though the broccoli packed its things and headed West, in search of a new place to live where it won’t always have to play second fiddle to kimchi. It didn’t go alone, either. The broccoli apparently convinced the salsa and green olives to go with it. Everything in the grocery store seems to have disappeared. There’s no chicken and I can’t even find the brand of tuna I like. Sometimes I walk into the grocery store, throw my arms up in despair, and leave with the hope that the loss of my business will encourage the little Asian lady that works there to hire some private detectives to go get my broccoli back.

In about one week, I’ll be gone too. I thought about that as I scanned the shelves for mayonnaise. “Get the smallest container you can find,” I said to myself. In a few days, I’ll be out of my apartment and some new guy will be taking my place. He’ll teach my students and sleep in my bed, which I guess were only ‘mine’ for a limited time to begin with. “Don’t buy a big thing of mayo,” I continued. “Get something you can finish in a week. I’m not stocking this next fucker. He can go buy his own damn mayonnaise.”

I don’t know why I’m so against leaving things for the new guy, but I am. The ironing board and toaster oven I bought will be going to my girlfriend as slightly used presents. I look at the new toilet seat I recently installed and shake my head, “That lucky guy doesn’t know how good he’s got it.” The new toilet seat is amazing. It’s like a throne. It’s so good, sometimes I pee sitting down just for the luxury. And now it will be his, whereas, when I arrived, I was handed over something vastly inferior. I inherited a pink bed and a half-eaten cake in the freezer.

If you’re curious, I replaced the bedding and no, I didn’t finish the cake.

Leaving a place where you’ve lived for any amount of time can be a lot like breaking up. When I got to this apartment, I found it ridiculously small and shabby. A couple months later, I didn’t even want to be in this country anymore and I certainly didn’t have much fondness for my job. But now that I’m leaving, I’m only able to see all the good qualities in everything. I’m filled with regret. “I love this place,” I find myself thinking. “I love this apartment and I love Korea and I love all my students. Oh my God, what have I done? I’m leaving the best thing I ever had!”

It’s exactly like how, after a breakup, the girl quickly goes from intolerable to amazing, and suddenly I don’t want to part with anything. Get rid of the pictures of us together? You’re crazy, man! It’s almost the same way I won’t let go of the toaster oven. That shit is mine, and it’s going to my girlfriend’s apartment, so I can come back in six weeks and, I don’t know, make toast I guess. Lots and lots of toast…unless the chicken and the broccoli are back by then.

Similarly, just as the first person you date after a breakup doesn’t seem good enough, my next step – backpacking around Europe for a month and a half – seems tedious. I go through the Lonely Planet book, jotting things down, going, “Yeah, I guess I’ll go to Stonehenge…it’ll pass the time until I come back.” No one has ever been as melancholy about going to Europe as I have been. The Louvre? Oktoberfest? Nah, I just want to sit in my little apartment. On the toilet seat.

Maybe before I leave, I’ll write a short letter to my replacement. “You’re getting a tiny apartment,” it will say, “a job that will exhaust you, and a grocery store that doesn’t stock any food. Congratulations, you lucky son-of-a-bitch.”

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41 thoughts on “On Leaving Korea: Hands Off My Mayo, Punk

    • Sup Val! I’m being a baby – I’m only leaving for about 5 weeks or so and then coming back. It’s not like I’m moving back to the US or something.

      That said, the next couple months should be interesting. Hopefully a lot of unfortunate things will happen in Europe – always makes for decent blog posts. Take care Val! : )

      • Thank heavens, I thought you were going to move back to the States. 5 weeks, in Europe is fantastic, and probably will leave you wanting more. Have a great time; looking forward to the posts. :)

  1. Junbi

    Whoa! I made exactly the same breakup comparison in a reply to SUF when he did one of HIS “leaving Korea” posts. Great minds, or else were both just bitter lovers?

  2. I know the feeling topicless! I’ve been there. ;) The one who replaced me has a cupboard full of condiments. Magnum ice cream in the fridge and dried fish. However, as I was leaving and packing a few things for the last time, my friend who fetched me to send me to the airport sat down on the bed with my bedsheets still on. She watched me pack my things in my luggage while she’s making me promise to come back and find a new job and maybe trying her best not to cry. Then when she stood up…whoah! it’s like she peed red wine on my sheets. I just left the sheets for her to wash. I don’t want to make a bad impression on the person who will take over. He/she might wonder what that big stain of blood came from. Haha!

    • Jeps, that is the most disgusting story ever! Leaving menstration sheets would absolutely horrify the next person. Maybe I’ll do it! I mean, I won’t use real blood – but maybe water with red food coloring. It’ll be like a little prank. That’s good fun, right? I’m sure the guy would find it hysterical. Good idea, lady!

      Yeah, I have a nifty little Dell notebook that I’m taking with me, so should be able to post things…until some European steals it. : )

      • Oh! Don’t let them steal it…unless they have something more interesting or priceless to exchange with. Hehe…hhmmm…so that means no topicless for a month or so? I’ll be knocking on your topiclessbar door… *knock knock*

    • Yo Drew! Well…no. I will be jobless when I fly back. Trying not to stress about it, but obviously I wish I had something waiting here. I’ll have to come back on a travel visa and try to get a job then. But, you know, who worries about silly things like havin’ a job anyways (I do! I do!).

      Have a good one, man!

  3. hah! bumming off to Europe without even a decent job to come back to?!

    How so frickin irresponsible and LUCKY can you get! :D

    post pictures please plus photo bombs!!! Kinda like happy children running in the beach with a naked middle aged man behind them.. somethin like that hahahaha..

    • Hahaha – I’ll try running around naked at the Vatican. Or naked photobomb someone’s nice Eiffel Tower pic.

      Yeah, really, it’ll be fun. I’m going broke just thinking about it, but let’s not focus on that aspect. Thanks homie!

  4. So excited for you that you get to take a Euro vacation! But leaving old places behind is a drag. We were so antsy to leave Korea but once we got back to the US, we realized what a fantastic experience we had left behind. Sure, we hated paying $12 for a block of cheese and were sick of sitting on the floor in our apartment that had no chairs, but it’s always bittersweet to leave a place that you’ve called home for some time. Are you returning to Korea after your trip?

    • Yeah, Waiting, I knew you would relate a bit. There’s a lot to bitch about here, but really it’s a pretty good life. I’ve already got a return ticket booked, so yeah, coming back. Only problem (just a minor thing) is that I won’t have a job. That said, yeah, the plan is to make a triumphant hagwonnin return. : )

  5. This whole ‘break-up’ shindig makes for a lot of interesting analogies. I’ve used it many times myself. I’m so jealous BTW that you get to just pick your bags and take a Euro-trip! Can’t wait to read your chronicles :) Bon voyage!

    • Hey girl! Well… theoretically I’ve been saving up for this trip for awhile. We will see how things pan out. The one week I spent in Amsterdam three years ago was a complete disaster, so hopefully this will follow suit. haha

  6. Gwen

    I only read this once in awhile, so I am curious what are you doing now? I suppose if I would go read more I’d find out but… i have limited internet. I felt the same way. I still sometimes do when I think back. Still kinda miss korea

    • Well, I tend to concentrate on little anecdotes on the blog, so no, not a good source of info. : ) What the heck is limited Internet though? Do you get kicked offline after reading three blog posts and making two Facebook comments? I hate limitations!

      In a nutshell, and as long as things pan out, I’m backpacking around Europe until late October and then resuming normal Korean life. Seems like you’re back on your feet in the States. Right on Gwenster!

  7. Awwww so bittersweet!! :) :(
    I saw in one of the other comments that you will be returning to Korea though afterwards — think you will look for another teaching job?

  8. Ha Ha! That’s awesome! I totally do the same thing when I’m leaving someone or something. After it’s gone I think it was the best thing in the world! But really? Was the apartment and job that great…the answer is no. You’ll find something else. In the mean time, have a blast in Europe and please drink some wine or Guinness for me (or both)! Maybe there will be broccoli in season over there? ;)

    • Haha. Well, Suzanne, I have not had a Guinness or any wine yet, but will try and change that as soon as I can. More importantly, no broccoli either. Hmm, I think I’m doing things all wrong!

      Take care, RollWithIt! : )

  9. Ha, I can totally relate! I hated Korea for the last few months of my second year, then when I got back to the US, I just wanted to come running back. Sure, I was hideously ill and was asked to come back to work the day after surgery, but once the nostalgia kicks in after leaving, it’s easy to make unfavorable comparisons with wherever you happen to be next (especially when you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere Virginia). Now I’m in Indonesia and teaching 2-3 classes a day but I find myself chatting about those 14 hour work days like they were nothing but golden.

    This morning my boyfriend told me he was thinking about how amazing his Korean vacuum had been and had a (silly) flash of anger imagining the teacher who took over my old apartment use it .

    • Sup Alexa! You’re in Indonesia? How is that? That sounds cool. I gotta go check your blog. I’m so out of it. Where in Indonesia are you?

      Anyways, to address what you’re saying, yeah, Korea has a weird effect on a person. You sort of hate it but sort of love it at the same time. I go back in about two weeks, and am equally excited and dreading it. haha

      Always good to hear from you, lady! : D

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