vacations are wonderful things

Particularly in the education field, I feel, but just generally speaking, who doesn’t need a vacation once in awhile? I think we don’t even realize how the daily wear and tear is affecting us sometimes, but coming back to work after a good vacation is so refreshing (provided you like your job at least a little bit, I guess).

I spent the last 2 weeks in America on a surprise visit. It was so fun to surprise family and friends, lovely to spend time with them after a year apart, and strange but nice to feel things clicking back into place almost as if I’d never left.*

*With a few exceptions, mostly related to social interactions.

– Weird: Within 5 minutes of stepping off the plane onto good old American soil airport floor, a random stranger made small talk with me about the crazy length of the customs line. I was weirded out. Why is this human I don’t know talking to me? Then I realized how handy it is that everyone speaks my language when I asked another random stranger a question about the customs computer check-in. Then I eavesdropped on 5 different conversations because I could actually understand them and felt weird again.

– Troubling: I was never pro at small talk or glib conversation, but after a year in a country where small talk is nonexistent and I get by speaking in fragmented sentences which nix all parts of speech but the most essential, simplified nouns and present-tense verbs, I find myself to be much more awkward and not-ready-with-natural-comebacks than usual.

– Encouraging: I noticed that I am no longer too timid to ask questions of doctors, hygienists, and store clerks (I was always the person who would rather search around for 20 minutes than ask where something is). I also no longer rehearse what I’m going to say before making a phone call, which is truly progress. Phone phobia is a real thing, people.

The problem with expat life, though, is that once you’ve established a home in a foreign country, you will forever be missing your other home no matter which country you’re in.

So, it was nice to arrive back in Korea yesterday. It felt like coming home – a completely different experience from arriving here a year ago, when I had no clue what I was getting into or where I was headed.

And today, the first day of February 2016, here I am back at my desk and back to blogging. This is an interim week between “winter break” (month of January) and “spring break” (month of February), so all the kids are back today. Apparently I don’t have to teach any classes, but the other teachers do. Friday is graduation day for the 3rd graders, who are moving on to high school in March.

This arrangement is beyond nice for me, since this week I can use the deskwarming time to start planning for next semester (if my productivity levels stay as high as I want them to), and then I get more vacation days for the Lunar New Year (Seollal) from Feb 8-10.

My only complaint this morning was that the school apparently maxed out our electricity limit or something, because every office and classroom was getting about 5 minutes of heat followed by 10-15 minutes of no heat whatsoever (on a rotating basis). Believe me, that 5 minutes of heat was not doing much good for my frozen fingers and toes.

But now, post-lunch, we seemingly have our act together and the heat is staying on. Woohoo!

To return to this post’s title, I have to say that this mundane Monday felt fresh for me because of my extended vacation away from school (and away from Korea!).

The greeting song that blares through the loudspeakers (like, you can hear it from the street…) every single morning at 8:15 a.m. filled me with nostalgia, recalling my first day of teaching and hearing this song that morning.

Here’s the song so you can also experience the EXTREME CHEERFULNESS!

Everything today is great – the school smell (my school has this smell that, if I pay attention, takes me directly back to my first day here – not unpleasant, not a specific odor from a food or something, just a smell which I can’t describe!), the other teachers, lunch in the cafeteria.

Lunch was that spicy yet bland soup that is just spiciness and bean sprouts, which is normally tiresome, but today I ain’t even mad.

image

For one thing, I haven’t had school lunch in like a month since the cafeteria was closed for winter break during January, even when I was at school to deskwarm. I missed the hot lunches.

Plus, forget about that spicy-bland sprout soup, we had potatoes with chicken. I love me some potatoes. Just give me potatoes with whatever the rest of the meal is and I’ll be happy. And rice! After eating rice on the daily for a year, 2 weeks without it starts to feel like a nutritional deficiency. Rice is da best.

Getting a little sidetracked here (when am I not?), but I’m really grateful that the school lunches force me to eat at least one healthy meal per day (meaning lots of vegetables, some protein, and little carbs or sugar). One major thing I did notice in America was that I had headaches every day and felt kind of sluggish and tired (and I don’t really get jet-lagged, so it wasn’t that). I’m pretty sure it was diet-related, either the high carbs or the excess dairy or sugar or something. I think it’s something you definitely have to get away from and return to in order to notice the difference that diet can have on your energy levels and general wellbeing.

Okay, signing out for today.

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