What time zone am I in again? Where’s the coffee? Am I really at the Moscow Airport (and am I seeing a TGIFridays in Terminal D with a mini statue of an American astronaut in front of said establishment, boldly busted in the middle of a Russian airport?).
As I sampled some of Japan, took a few days off from teaching, drank new coffees, teas and beers, I started to realize that I was leaving Asia. I wasn’t only moving on from Korea. I’m making my way to Europe. Plane tickets were bought. I kinda planned it. But that meant leaving Asia. I hadn’t realized that. Somewhere in the Gobi desert, when I was a little sick and slowing adjusting to wandering mode instead of full-time teacher mode, I realized that I only had a few weeks left in Asia. After Korea and Japan, it was Mongolia, then Kyrgyzstan, then a whole lot of I don’t know. What am I if I’m not trying to make a new life for myself in Asia?
In Thailand, China, and of course South Korea, I became a teacher. Those countries and that big continent have served as my salvation for years now. I always run to it and it’s always there for me. From when I was completely heartbroken and I had the big busy streets of Bangkok to distract me. From when I learned to travel well and independently on the big city blocks in Beijing and the Chinese countryside. From when I had to deal with so much culture shock and loneliness in Korea, and it all turned out okay. I had no idea what I was getting into each time I arrived. And within a few days, I’d had a new life, a new routine, and new challenges to overcome. I guess leaving Asia will be the exact same way.
As I spend this month traveling from country to country, reflecting on the times before I left, yet again, over two years ago; as I reflect on the last time I wandered around in the summer of 2014 and let that experience finally soak in, and as I try not to worry about the future-I’ve noticed a few things. The world is one big, beautiful mess. Things remain universal, like smiling at someone to show appreciation for their kindness, racing a little kid down the block, wanting a big coffee in the morning (except in Korea when cafés only open after 10. But things are usually a little different in the Land of the Morning Calm). It’s all the same. Just sometimes the air is different. My sinuses are still trying to adjust. It took me a week to learn how to say “thank you” properly in Mongolian. After another year and a half in Korea, I was becoming a master in Konglish (Korean English-it’s a thing. Check it out). Why do I leave these places? More importantly, why did I show up there in the first place?
Also, as I continue to live rather “freely”, the people I see in the hostels where I choose to stay seem to get younger and younger. I told this to Jean this morning, as I munched on some breakfast bread, spread with homemade hummus. Have I found my people? I think I’m still looking. But any day that starts with homemade hummus is never bad.
|Oh, the Shinto Temples|
|People’s Wishes. Meiji Shrine in Tokyo on a Saturday afternoon.|
|Buddhist Altar. Mongolia.|
|A Stupa before sunset. Ulaanbataar, Mongolia.|
|Pray time in the park. Bangkok.|