As I sit here, my room is almost empty…
I finished a deep cleaning of my bathroom yesterday night and took out the kitchen today…
More than a week away from going back home for the first time in three years, but from the looks of this place, you’d think I’d be gone by tomorrow.
“Your mind must already be checked out” is something I have gotten about a dozen times this week, and quite frankly, they have every right to assume so given the evidence.
The only problem? I am hardly homesick at all!
Living abroad for the last four years has given me some perspective into what really matters to me (more on this soon). While I miss my friends and family as much as anyone else in my position, I am trying to understand the psyche of people who would give up their entire lives for the chance to live in the so called “land of the free.” No, I don’t miss ‘freedom’ or the ‘right to speak my mind.’ Contrary to popular belief, you have both of these in plenty of countries. Here is, however, a short list of things that I do miss about America, and more importantly, Southern California:
5) The Weather
If you moved to Korea from…oh, say… Maine, this is probably not something you miss. I have come to realize that we are spoiled brats when it comes to weather in Southern California. Nowhere else is 60 degrees considered too cold but 80 too hot. Even Florida has its issues with humidity and the yearly destructive hurricane.
South Korea likes to brag that it has 4 seasons, as if that is supposed to be cool. While it is true, one of them is called “scorching hot” and lasts 4 months while another one is “blistering-cold” which lasts about 5 months.
By contrast, LA has about 300 days of sunshine, no one owns an umbrella or a heavy coat, and snow is something we visit when we want to see it, and run away from when we are sick of it.
I recently visited Komodo National Park and had first hand experience with those legendary dragons. Add to that: Paracas in Peru, Kenting in Taiwan, most national parks in Korea, and the Sian Ka’an biosphere in Mexico and one comes to an inescapable truth – NO ONE does nature like the United States.
The National Park Service is probably my favorite government organization (US Postal Service a close second) for how beautiful they keep America’s greatest feature. If you ever find yourself visiting the US of A, skip the cities (yes, even NYC) and go straight for the nature.
One of my first orders of business when I get back is to see Yosemite National Park for the first time. It is a shame I have taken this long.
Okay, raise your hand if you complained about the traffic today! While I used to whine about that bumper to bumper on the 405 as much as anyone else, escaping the cities with a car is, well… truly an American experience.
It is really hard to tell someone who is not from the area what that five hour drive from LA to Vegas feels like with words. Stopping at the alien jerky place along the way is something you have to feel (and see (and TASTE)) for yourself. You are still about 20 minutes away, but you can see that beam of light shooting straight up from the Luxor’s black Pyramid… yup, definitely hitting up Vegas.
Anyways, where was I?
The great American road trip is one of the most exhilarating things about owning a car and you can bet that in less than a month, I’ll be hitting the road, and of course, blogging about it.
There is nothing like hanging out in a ballpark, having a hotdog and beer, and watching your favorite baseball team get a win. You can only experience that… oh about 200 times a year?! Equally so, catching the best NHL games live… wow… yeah… nothing quite as dull and mind numbing. Okay you got me! There is only one sport that matters to me and that is College (American) Football.
American Football is really only popular in the US, and when you add that I only like the college level of the game, living abroad definitely makes it tough. I can’t even purchase the games if I wanted to which has left me to leech off of my friends’ Slingbox or Watch ESPN accounts and hope that there are good games going on. While I admit that I am nowhere near as big a fan as my friends back home, this makes it so high on the list because of how difficult it has been to fill the void.
Sadly, I will be in the US during the off-season this year, so the dry-spell will have to continue.
Oh, and in case it wasn’t obvious with the picture, I’m a USC fan! Go Trojans!
1) American Food
The hardest question I ever get about the US is, “What exactly is American food.” Usually there is a pessimist nearby that jumps in and says, “There is no such thing as American food. America has no culture.” I reject that notion… kind of. You see, American food, is the combination of everything the world has to offer.
This is my very limited perspective from having grown up in Southern California, but I strongly believe that we have an incredible variety of foods from different countries all around the world. If I am back home, on any typical week, I could have Thai on Monday, Mexican on Tuesday, Japanese on Wednesday, Italian on Thursday, and Indian on Friday without ever thinking that it is strange. This has not been the case in Korea at all.
Eating a foreign dish in Korea, especially for Koreans, is not done nearly as often and is often far more expensive. I miss the ability to eat a different cuisine, whenever I want, without breaking the bank (although the US is expensive in general)
So, what is the first thing I am going to eat when I get back? You guessed it: In-N-Out!