Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Last year. This year.

This week is Chuseok, the Korean Thanksgiving. For Chuseok, most foreign English teachers have a (rare) long break from school, so a ton of people travel out of the country.

Last year, I went to Japan, so on that note...

Ah, nostalgia. 

A year ago, I was on my way to Japan for a crazy 4 days with one of my closest friends. That trip was an adventure. Summer was ending, the air was cool, fall was on its way. Can I go back please?  The weather is perfect this week - with the added bonus that there are no typhoons on the horizon this time!

Yesterday, I wore the skirt I bought on a whim in Japan. It's plaid, funky, it's grunge, it's not my typical style at all. Every time I wear it, people compliment it. Every time I wear it, I recall that afternoon shopping in Shijo Dori with Jennifer. I recall being stunned by the skirt in the window, admiring the green one, trying it on, deciding on the blue, hemming and hawing over the price... walking away... thinking about it for an hour... going back and buying it. I mean, how often do you go shopping in Japan? An impulse purchase on vacation isn't as critical as an impulse purchase where you live, right? (I love souveniers that I can wear. The memories that flow when you put it on again can't be beat. Like the time I was in London and found the most beautiful purple pashmina, or the time I was freezing and underdressed in Scotland (WHY is late June so COLD there? You can't call that summer) and bought an (overpriced) wool sweater out of necessity. I still have both. I wear them all the time.)

Yesterday, I wore the perfume I bought at Duty Free in the airport on that trip. I'd been wanting Acqua di Gioia by Giorgio Armani for months, so I finally splurged on it. It's been a year, but every time I take a spritz from that slim turquoise bottle, my nose takes me back to the first time I opened it in the hostel in Kyoto. I'm sitting on my sleeping mat with my giant backpack next to me, clothes strewn about, phone plugged in to the outlet strip in the middle of the room next to the small lamp. A girl we'd just met sits across from Jennifer and me, we're talking about going to a temple the next morning. She hurt her leg wwoofing in northern Japan and we'd seen her limping past the subway station the night before. What a coincidence that she'd end up in our room at the hostel down the road. The way scent triggers memories is astounding.

Now I want a chocolate marshmallow cookie from Starbucks in Japan ("make it hot?" they asked. "yes please!!"). And a crunchy caramel frappuccino. They're not on the menu in Korea or the USA. I hope they're on the menu next time I cross the sea toward the Land of the Rising Sun.

It was a great trip, even when things went wrong. Who doesn't want a story about being out of money in a foreign country and sleeping in the airport? Check that off my bucket list. Oh Japan. The endless red arches at Fushimi Inara. Kyoto. Gion. The Golden Pavilion. The typhoon. Jennifer's umbrella breaking. Nara deer. The bike rides.


And yet, as great as last year was, this year I get to experience a new kind of Chuseok. The Korean kind. Under my contract at Jeonju University, I'm not technically allowed to leave the country during the semester. Most of my friends in Jeonju also work for JJU, so they're staying around too. Yay! I've got buddies. We might go camping, we might just chill. Abby's coming down for the weekend. I'll call it a stay-cation!

Summer is ending, the air is cool, fall is on its way. Maybe Chuseok is the tipping point for fall the way Easter is the tipping point for spring. Doesn't it seem like the last cold snap hits right around Easter every year?

I'm going to make the most of this long weekend. I will say goodbye to summer, hello to autumn. I live in the most adorable city I've seen in Korea. We have our own Hanok Village. I'm sure we can find some cool Chuseok events going on if we try!

All my friends who are traveling this week? Stay safe. The roads are gonna be CRAZY.

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