1. I miss jjimjilbangs
The jjimjilbang is a place of magic, where you can sit in a sauna, soak in hot baths, sleep overnight, and have a facial and a full body scrub down all for less than 30,000 won. After living in Korea for 4 years, I've really embraced the culture of daily exfoliation and scrubbing. I have the exfoliating cloths that they use in my own shower, and enjoy doing it myself, but I usually shell out 18,000 won a month to have the amazing ladies scrub me down. Now that I'm travelling, I don't have access to the amazing scrubbing women, nor to the saunas of Korea. I've tried going to spas to find similar treatments, but everything is far too expensive, and just not the same as Korea. Sigh, my skin needs a good scrub.
[Sidenote: My Korean friends often laugh at me when I say "jjimjilbangs", because I have added the plural "s" to a Korean word. Most Koreans have never heard this word used in English, and laugh hard when they hear it with an "s" at the end. So I implore you to make them laugh, and use the word "jjimjilbangs" next time it comes up.]
2. I miss weddings
My good friends Evan and Rachel just tied the knot in Seoul this weekend. My other friend Himchan (in the above image) married his sweetheart in June. The longer I live in Korea, the deeper my friendships become, and the closer we get to the perfect marrying age. When I first moved to Korea, I was missing my friends' weddings from home, but now that I am away from Korea, I am missing my Korean friends' weddings too. And there's just something about the performance and efficiency of Korean weddings that makes me really love them.
3. I miss my job
I was very lucky in Korea, as I was hired by Jinju National University of Education as one of their conversation instructors in 2010. As soon as I arrived on campus, I was greeted by bright smiles of the students and staff of this small university. Not long after, I felt like I was a part of the small community, and saw a few students and staff become truly close friends of mine. I worked there for 2 years, watching freshman grow into responsible sophomores, watching seniors take on their first teaching jobs, and watching my friendships with co-workers blossom into friendships for life. Upon finishing my contract, I had farewell dinners with students where tears were shed, tears of joy for being grateful to have met, but also tears of having to say goodbye. I am still in contact with a few students, and can't wait for the day when I can visit them again on campus and see how much they have grown.
4. I miss Asia
5. I miss sidedishes
When you eat in a restaurant in Korea, even when eating fast food, your meal is served with sidedishes. Sidedishes usually include kimchi, seaweed, mushrooms, cabbage, fish cakes, and other surprises. When you finish a sidedish you like, it will be refilled free of charge. I love this culture of generosity and sharing, and I long for Korean sidedishes everytime I eat a meal here in South America.
5. I miss the Youtube Community
It's no secret that Youtube is a big part of my life. As a big part of my Youtube life exists in Korea, a lot of my good friends are fellow vloggers. When in Korea, I love collaborating with other vloggers, and featuring them in my videos. I also am a co-organizer of the Seoultube community get togethers, and I am sad to say that I won't be in Korea for the upcoming Seoultube annual gathering in October.
6. I miss taxis
As I am travelling now, taxis are a very common mode of transportation for me. We take them from the bus stations to hostels, and sometimes take them to and from destinations in the city when we don't know the way. However, South America is known for its dodgy taxis and for scamming tourists, and so taking taxis can be a challenge. In Peru, I asked my local friends how to find a safe taxi, and was advised that the locals just look at the driver and try to choose taxi drivers with kind faces. Alone at 9pm as a female in Lima, it's hard to find a taxi driver with a nice looking face. When I stand on the street, gazing into the distance for a taxi, I miss the safety of Korean taxis, and how cheap they are. If only I could bring Korean taxi drivers and prices to Bolivia...
7. I miss set prices
In South America, and in particular in Peru, it seems that prices are nearly always double or more for tourists than they are for locals. Consider Machu Picchu: entrance for foreigners is 128 soles, nearly 8 times the price that Peruvians pay. My Peruvian friends also told me that many shopkeepers will simply double the real price when I ask, simply because of the way I look. Another example is the price of the taxi that I took to meet my Peruvian friends: I paid 20 soles on my way there (a price which I agreed to), and my Peruvian friends negotiated a taxi for just 8 soles for the same route back home. I don't mind paying a bit more as a tourist, though, since I am a guest and I don't speak enough Spanish to negotiate prices. Though price changes happen in Korea sometimes too, I still miss being in a place where I know the approximate price and value of things, and also in a place where many prices are fixed.
Korea may not win on the clean air scale, and might not be tops on the personal space scale either, but it has a lot of great things going for it. The above are just a few of the many things which make my life in Korea very comfortable and enjoyable.
All of the photos in this post come from Expatkerri's Instagram.