8,534 meters (approximately 28,000 feet) above the Pacific, 4:41PM (CST)—I feel like I can finally take a deep breath. Somehow in a matter of two weeks I was able to get to this point. On Asiana Airlines flight OZ 213 with nonstop service to Incheon International Airport (Seoul). Of course I didn’t accomplish all tasks I set out to do beforehand. I never do. But, it’s actually happening. This is real! I’m going to be in South Korea the next time I step on land. It feels right.
I needed a year in Chicago for this next adventure to fall in place. I learned so much at the Peace Corps Regional Office, Park 52, Urban Village, Corazón a Corazón and Bowers House. I made amazing friends and great connections, got to explore love and experience heartbreak. Running all over the Midwest/Canada and New York for leisure and freelance was fun as well. But, it was time to go. It just felt right. It felt good. This feels right.
An obvious transition took place as I entered gate A3 at San Francisco’s International Airport (SFO). Suddenly everything was more appropriately Asian. The first language spoken was no longer English. I became a minority. And the customer service I’ve already received shortly after takeoff can only mean I’m not on a domestic flight. It's actually good!
Why does it seem like all other airlines offer better service than U.S. carriers? No offense to my friends in the domestic aviation business, but this has always been my international experience. I’m getting pampered with takeaway toiletries, hot towels, slippers, snacks and drinks. My first Korean meal of bibimbap even came with instructions on how to enjoy it. Best part is everything has been offered with a genuine smile. How refreshing!
Go figure I’m already falling in love with Korean culture, and I haven’t even arrived. From what I’ve been able to research, gather and observe, I know this is going to be an enriching, life-enhancing experience. I’m in good hands. One of the flight attendants just offered me a second meal after I inhaled the first. It already seems like a perfect fit.
I’m most looking forward to jumping right in with cross-cultural integration, and can hardly wait to make mistakes along the way. As one of over 1,000 native English-speaking teachers arriving for orientation with EPIK (English Program in Korea), I’m grateful for the opportunity to represent not only my country, but also the South Korean government.
Not all those who wander are lost.* There has always been purpose to my madness. I belong to no one. I belong to no place. The world is my culture, and it has so much more for me to learn. As I get older and more travelled, my desire to fully live and work abroad is taking shape. This time I don’t know when I’ll be back. My stint in South Korea is indefinite. It feels right.
*J. R. R. Tolkien