1. Skype. I really can't stress this enough. My family is so important to me and I can't imagine not being able to speak with them whenever I have exciting news. Or lame news. Or no news. I also love that I can see my chubby little nephew Derek, who looks so much like my dad it's scary. And my brother, who looks healthier and happier than I've ever seen him. And my dogs. (And calling their names from the computer, only to watch their confused reactions, never ceases to be funny. I'm going to hell for that one...)
2. Walking to work. This could change in a few months when the weather is cold and snowy and blustery, but right now I'm totally enjoying it. Especially when the pollution clears and I can see the mountains past Acro Tower. Those are real good days.
3. The screaming cicadas. Yes, it's a scream. And it's constant. I hear them in the morning while I read in the park, I hear them when I walk to work in the afternoon, I hear them through my window at night. I suppose a little slice of nature in the city is never a bad thang.
4. Korean food. Little by little it's taking hold... But I draw the line at boshintang soup and sannakji.
5. My old friends. Buying an insanely expensive plane ticket to come visit me in a country you're not even remotely interested in visiting is, well, awesome. I'll do my best to show you all a great time!
6. My new friends. There's nothing quite like throwing a bunch of college grads together who have too many options/interests in life and too little money to pursue them all. Toss in a LOT of alcohol and sarcasm and maybe a little sexual innuendo and you've got the makings for true friendship. They really do make living here so much easier.
7. Korean bar food. I'm sorry America, but Korea is kicking your ass in this arena. You really need to step up your game here. After all, you are THE world's superpower -- why would you totally forfeit this game? I expect thangs to be much improved when I return...
8. Facebook. Okay, this is really a love/hate relationship. On the one hand, I get to keep in touch with friends at home. On the other (evil) hand I find myself spending copious amounts of time "researching" new friends. In another era this would be referred to as stalking.
9. Soju. This is also a love/REALLY HATE relationship. It's cheap (about $2 for 500 ml) and it's the ultimate mixer. Fanta and soju? Check. Pocari and soju? Check. Beer and soju? Check. Add fresh watermelon, apple, orange, kiwi, pineapple and yogurt to that list. However, soju tastes like really bad vodka and makes you feel like a teenager when you shoot it. And it's an excruciating hangover.
10. Getting paid on time. Won't ever take this for granted again.
11. The importance of family in Korean culture. Including their kids in their everyday lives is not a chore for Korean parents, it's a privilege, the norm. I can't even imagine how things would change if this were the norm in the States....
12. The wit and humor of my students. They are so funny, sometimes I have to leave the room.
13. Watching grown men play "paper, rock, scissors" while walking to work.
14. Mr. Pizza. I have seen their commercials for months and avoided them simply because their slogan is "made for women." I don't need no wussy woman pizza. I'm a pizza snob, a pizza whore. I need a man's pizza. So anyway, I actually ate this pizza for women last weekend and it was amazing. If yer ever in Korea, might I suggest the Secret Garden and the Neo Crunch, although the Shrimp Nude sounds fun too.
15. Korea's obsession with "well-being." I think this is how they justify putting some truly atrocious things into their mouths. After months of studying and observing, I have determined that pizza, beer, soju, hot chicken soup on an equally hot day, green tea and SALT toothpaste, kimchi, coffee, dog soup, and a host of other things are to be consumed to promote your well-being. And I gotta say, after I brushed with said toothpaste, I felt like I'd just had a meal.
Whew! If you got through that, then I am thankful for that too.