Because of the quirks of multi-city airline reservations, I ended up with a 6 am flight this morning out of LaGuardia back to Chicago. This meant that my poor hostess Julie and I woke up at 3:45 am to make sure I got to the airport on time. For all that, I made it back on my eleventh flight of this trip and am now happily parked in my Pilsen living room typing this post. I am taking a few days in Chicago to chill out and catch up.
What was the first thing I did after coming home? Well, I confess...I went to my local neighborhood supermercado, partly because I needed food and partly because I have a special relationship with my grocery store (you know, as the source of STUFF) and I *needed* to hear a little mariachi music piped in over the pinatas while buying some things for lunch.
I also realized, at the grocery, what a mishmash of cultural exposure I've been going through for the last month. What is today, the 23rd? I left for Seoul almost a month ago on September 27. Here is a list of random memorable moments from this past month:
...standing (appalled) before the New York Stock Exchange and Wall Street
...figuring out Korean bargain systems
...seeing the canals outside Shanghai and flying over Siberia
...the many women who came to community meetings (and thank you to EVERY ONE)
...getting bitten by mosquitos in my Seoul hotel room
...using a Japanese toilet for the first time EVER (thank goodness for camping practice!) courtesy of Narita Airport
...smelling pine trees in Montana
...shopping with Sarah for Frida stuff in Austin
...passing out for a nap in Peg Nosek's living room
...learning about Choi Ok Ran
...noticing that my NYC friend Julie wore her FRIDA shirt two days in a row
...hunting down videophones in DC and NY (we need videophones EVERYWHERE.)
...comparing 811 subsidized apartments (some of my hosts live in 811s)
...visiting shelters, such as Barrier Free in New York City and the Korean Sexual Violence Relief Center (of which I will blog more about later)
...visiting Olympic Park in Seoul
...missing my friends and making a lot of new ones
...reading maps EVERY DAY. EVERY DAY. EVERY DAY.
...and of course eating, eating, eating: bulgogi with Bogjoo, Sunghee and Bridget; Red Mango with Mirah; Tex Mex with Sarah, Bob K, Stephanie and Jen; borscht and "Montana food" with Marsha and Bob L; "hippie food" with Marsha and Rosemary; tostadas with Peg and Perla; Belgian in DC with Jeewon and Hedieh; Thai in Maryland with Mariya, Scot and Sasha; New York City diner food with Julie and Akemi.
At mid-trip, I'm pretty tired and need some down time. My right eye muscles have been twitching all morning. I am still processing all that I've been shown, but I know that the weave of what I have seen is significant...and only a starting point. And it's funny but going places so quickly can show you what is constant about yourself, what is important to you and how you feel it is important to be, and that feels good.