Sunday, August 18, 2013

Lessons Learned ~ a Visit Home

It's summer which only means one thing: summer break aka Stephanie goes on on vacation while her poor students only have to go to school until 5 ~~ seriously that's not a vacation, but more on that later.  This year instead of using my precious vacation time to jet off on another adventure through SE Asia I decided to spend some time with my loved ones.  I was lucky enough to find a cheap airline ticket and the dates worked out wonderfully for seeing lots of friends, so I figured why not.  Also, Milwaukee summer’s aren’t too terrible: baseball, lake Michigan, festivals, beer, outdoor dining, ice cream, need I say more?  

 21 hours of airports and airplanes, bring it. 

Luckily (or at least in my opinion) my friends have moved throughout the United States so I decided why not make the trip more my style and cram in as much as possible?  Before long I had a ticket to Washington DC and return to Minneapolis booked, enabling me to see even more of my friends. 

Before getting into the details of my trip I just want to take a minute to summarize what it was like being home, after having lived in Korea for a year and a half.  While here I’d say I’ve done a pretty good job of adapting to the culture and embracing it as my own, because of this many people told me I’d probably experience terrible reverse culture shock.  I also suspected this might happen, but in what sense I was not sure.  My friend Caitlin had just been home a few weeks prior and eluded to some of the difference I might experience but I didn’t really think it’d be a BIG change, and to be honest it wasn’t.  Sure there were things I noticed while home that were different or annoyed me, but after a few days I felt a bit like I had never left.  I was walking with my dad on maybe my second or third day home and told him I think I’m just a really adaptable person, like a chameleon (thanks to Margaret’s blog post for that comparison). People kept asking me “what do you want to do while you’re home, what do you want to eat, what do you miss???”  and almost every time I was stuck searching for an answer. 

Anyway, here’s some picture of my hometown, along with a few thoughts on being back in the good old U.S. of A.  - with, of course, lots of sarcasm sprinkled in. 

 Finding a moment of peace in the Tokyo airport
Culture shock #1  People looove to complain, especially about useless shit and believe that rules don't apply to them.  I actually noticed this within about 2 hours of being in the US while waiting for my final flight from San Diego to Chicago.  They had asked passengers with large luggage to gate check their bags as it was a full flight but as only a few passengers obliged, they then boarded "those with small carry on luggage" first.  Well, the two women behind me definitely had bags the size of me but decided they were special.  While waiting they laughed about how their bags weren't small but also found reason to complain "omg we're never going to get on this plane, this is crazy, I just want to be home, I don't even care if my bag get's there but if I don't get home today i'll go crazy".  Okay 1. They never said the flight was overbooked you will have no problem getting on the plane and  2. If you don't care about your stupid bag why the hell didn't you just gate check it?   **I realize many Koreas probably do the same thing but as I speak minimal Korea, i'm lucky enough not to have to hear the idiotic comments that may come out of their mouths. 

#2 US Domestic travel blows: I realize i've been spoiled after a year and a half of international travel but seriously, stepping foot into the airports and onto the airplanes in the US I felt like I went back in time to the mid 90's.  Where did my pretty, well dressed/put-together, polite flight attendants go? Wait, there's no meal on this plane? Where's my blanket? Oh yeah, I have to take my shoes off and be treated like a potential terrorists before I can is that a drug sniffing police dog greeting me at the gate? Dear American, United, Delta, Northwest, etc. please take some notes from the low budget airlines of SE Asia (Australia and Europe) and step it up a little. Please and thank you. 

Sky Mall: Highlight of domestic flights, hmm kind of sad
#3 Are there no mirrors in the United States?  I realize that people in Korea take it a bit too far - stopping to stare at themselves, fix their hair, or apply make-up in front of anything with a shiny surface, but I might prefer this to some of the disasters I saw within the first few hours of being home.  Also, I understand that fashion is doing a spiraling nose dive to hell right now (dear 90's who invited you back?) but why does that make people think they can look like absolute trash before walking out the door.  Note: the airport, grocery store, and restaurants are not your home; please take a minute to brush your hair and put on clothes that fit before emerging into this thing we call public. 

People watching at the airport, trying to take it all in
Once safely back in Wisconsin and after enjoying a McDonalds soft serve cone on my way home (seriously it's the only thing I eat from that place), it was as if I had never left *cue chameleon status* so enough with the complaints [for now] and let's see some of the fun I had! 

First meal in America, I waited almost two years for this - ultimate bloody mary
but of course I couldn't resist the double peace sign!
#4 This one actually took me a while to figure out...the first few times I drove around my hometown I thought things looked a little strange.  There were certain place I thought, for sure, they had cut some tall trees down, or maybe knocked down a building.  It wasn't until about a week later when I was driving with my mom and asked her what was missing - obviously she looked at me like I was crazy. Then I had my ah ha moment - there were no mountains!!! Honestly, anywhere you go in Korea the sky will be cut short by the beautiful mountains that blanket the country, but back in flat Wisconsin? Nope, none of that, the sky just goes on f.o.r.e.v.e.r. 

Seriously - forever!
Speaking of Wisconsin, I spent a few days being a tourist in my home town, walks through the village, lake front, and downtown. My excuse was that I wanted picture to share with my staff and students so they could better relate to where I'm from but also it was just something to do. 

I'm sorry Greendale, but who do you think you are
*obnoxiously large arch welcoming tourists to our lovely village*

Cute little downtown Greendale
#5 Choice overload - maybe this is just me? It's a pretty common conception that America is the land of 'choices' and opportunity but at the same time it's known for excess, overload and maybe even a bit of waste.  It'd be no surprise if I wrote about how portions sizes in the US are huge, 32 44 and 64oz sodas, is that really necessary? But what you may not have thought about is the excess present at grocery stores.  Is it really necessary to have 20+ orange juice varieties, potato chip styles, and don't even get me started on the cereal aisle, and people wonder why I struggle with indecision...

Okay back to my tour of home, breaking out of the small town and on to the city.
 Dear Milwaukee, I love you. sometimes.

Probably my favorite view of the city, from long pier
One of my Korea friends thought this was so cool
#6 "There's nothing to do", a phrase that came out of my mouth on many occasions during High School, underage and sometimes without a car, my friends and I often found ourselves sitting around watching TV or staring at the computer in hopes of entertainment.  My mom's "stop complaining" comments made me think we were just lazy/hard to please, but now I realize that's not the case.  Things shut down early in the US.  Unless you want to go to the bars and drink there really are not many options past 10 o'clock. There was more than one occasion on my trip home that I was being ushered out of a restaurant/store because it was closing time, and don't even argue that it's because I live in a small town because on one occasion it was the mall of america - the mall of freaking america, people! and it wasn't even 10 o'clock! In Korea there's restaurants, coffee shops, noraebangs, DVD bangs, and various other activities (which don't require alcohol) open into the wee hours of the morning, if not 24/7. 

So there you have it - my trip home summed up in a few pictures and six (wow only six) complaints about the place I call home.  I think this post is a fair representation of how adaptable I am though, the culture shock I experienced could hardly be classified as such. I didn't struggle with anything upon being home, just found annoyance with things that weren't done my way or maybe it's the Korea way? I'm not really sure, which to call it. 

Bye bye America ~~ see you again sometime.
Coming soon: more about what I actually did while visiting home. 

1 comment:

  1. Awesome reflections - I must agree with ALL of them. In fact, after having visited South Korea, My list of annoyances with America/Americans is way highers than yours.