The past month has flown by. I can't believe that I've been back in the U.S. for over 4 weeks now. Things have really started to come together, and I'm making progress on projects I've started. All in all, I thought it was time for a full update.
When you move to a new country, you are most likely to experience some sort of "culture shock." This happens because you are immersed in a culture that you have never experienced. The food you eat, the people you meet, and the language you hear are all different from what you are used to. At times this can be exciting, but it can lead to a huge headache and frustration.
However, they say when you move back to your country of origin you will experience "reserve culture shock." Part of me was expecting to experience some culture shock coming back to the U.S. but in general I think this has passed. I am usually pretty good at adjusting to new surroundings. The past 5 years or so I had moved a lot and lived in a few different places, so maybe things are not as 'surprising' to me as some. Some of the things I've noticed that stand out to me are very simple: larger selections of foods in the grocery store, larger people in general, and less noise on the streets. Even though I'm living and working in a city, it's not nearly as big, dirty, or crowded as Seoul. I almost had forgotten what "fresh" air was like to breathe, and how nice it is to shower without the entire bathroom getting soaked with water. I definitely missed everyday conveniences that many wouldn't even think about until they didn't have them available- ovens, dryers, a car. Believe me, these are definitely things we take for granted, but I'm happy to have them again!
To get myself out there a bit, I've decided to start volunteering. I chose Big Brothers Big Sisters and I am excited for the opportunity to get a little brother who I can mentor for the next year. I go tomorrow to meet with the lady and finish up the process. I look forward to being able to have a positive effect on someones life. I'm starting to miss teaching and I miss the great feelings that sharing knowledge with kids gave me.
On Working too much and too hard...
Work is definitely.... work. Starting a new office is never easy and the first couple of weeks took time, patience, and a positive attitude. My company just relocated to Seattle and on day 1 we had a very empty office building. Furniture, computers, and desks slowly trickled in before the start of business on April 1st. I was excited to start work, as the office here is much nicer than the 15 story building I was working from in Seoul. The atmosphere is calm and soothing as the office sits directly on Lake Bellevue. I have views of the lake and on nice days we open the doors and get a breeze. It's refreshing and makes work seem just a tad bit more enjoyable. I'm still plugging away at my reading strategies project that was started back in February. As it is now the project should be finished and ready to go to the printers by June 18th. It'll be nice to finish it and see the final project in print. We have also conducted two teacher trainings here in the Seattle office which were both successful. It's comforting to be able to teach others what I already know and love about teaching. It's nice to share my experiences that I had in Seoul, while being able to serve as a mentor before they head out to start the process that I started 3 years ago. All in all, it seems like this job is going to work out just fine, but I'm excited to see where the future will take me.
On living in a new city...
Seattle and the Pacific Northwest are absolutely beautiful. This is definitely a haven for those who love nature, natural beauty, and the earth. Seattle has a little bit of everything: a city life, (for those who consider themselves "city boys") live music and local coffee shops, (for those who have held on to their hippie/urban retro years) mountains, oceans, lakes, and rivers, (for those who aren't afraid to get a little wet and dirty) and a business environment too. (for those who live, eat, and shit "work") There are plenty of day trips to take in and out of the city, plenty of hikes, and a chance to really take some amazing photographs.
Other observations are that the roads here REALLY need to be prepared. Their interstates (which are referred to as freeways) are in bad shape in places. They are rough on the tires and as bumpy as my face was pre-puberty. ha! Sometimes I feel like the freeway signs are misleading/backwards, and you can always expect traffic. In general, the weather here has been gray and misty at times, but let me put the rumor to rest- It does not rain every day here. I've actually seen the sun quite a bit the past month.
My apartment is coming together nicely, too. While my dad was here I was able to get almost everything I needed minus a few bigger purchases. A few weeks back I did get a dresser, and this weekend I will finally purchase a sofa. I'm planning to get some art and photography up on the walls. Once everything is a little more together I'll post some pictures of my new digs for everyone to see. I am very happy in my new place, but I do wish there was more storage. I really want to buy a bike (to get in better shape and just to be more active) however, there is no where to put it. Having a bike in the middle of your kitchen or living room would definitely be an eye sore. I doubt Martha Stewart Living or Pottery Barn Magazine would be too impressed with those tactics.
On adventures and things to look forward to...
Two weekends ago my friend Bruce and I took a quick car trip to Snoqulamie Falls. The waterfalls are higher than those at Niagara Falls, but not as wide. The view was absolutely beautiful. We hiked down to the bottom of the Falls and we were able to get some great pictures. It was also a beautiful day to be outside. I'm looking forward to doing some more outside activities with him this summer. I'll definitely continue to post pics as I take them.
Last weekend I drove 3 hours south to a town called Astoria, Oregon. My friend Susan (who I met while in Cambodia, became great friends with while living in Seoul, and traveled through Europe with) lives in Oregon. It's a quick trip down and I was quite excited to see her. Despite some rain on Saturday, we went for a hike and she took me to the coast. Oregon is quite lush and green and is definitely a place I'd like to explore more in the future. Thankfully the sun came out on Sunday, and we enjoyed a nice lunch and some more beach time before I headed back to Seattle on Sunday afternoon.
In May, I have a three day weekend and my adventurous side is really itching for a trip. After living abroad and traveling for three years, it's hard to just stay in one place for a long amount of time. Even though I just arrived and there is plenty to do and see here, I'm itching to see more. I've only ever been to the San Francisco airport (I believe on 3 different occasions) so I'm planning to take a trip to San Fran for Memorial Day. I might rent a car and drive up to the Redwood forest as well. Then again, this is all tentative, and I should wait to see how money plays out in the next few weeks.
In June, my sister is coming to visit for an entire week! I've been planning the things we're going to do. (but I want to keep them a secret) I have a bunch of neat stuff up my sleeves, but I want to surprise her when she gets here! It'll be nice to have her here and show her around. I also plan to show her around the University of Washington campus, and convince her to come here for University. We'll see how successful I am in my efforts.
Overall, I am excited to be where I am and I am looking forward to making some new friends and exploring all that Washington has to offer- from the vineyards, forests, food, music, ocean, etc. I want to see and do it all. I am hoping to start reconnecting with some of my friends that I lost touch with while I lived abroad, and I am looking forward to visitors here in Seattle.