I'm going back to America soon, and my feelings are complicated.
I can remember how eager I was to leave my country, to get away from all of its rampant injustice and hopelessness. The endless political deadlock on TV, the oppressive weight of our defective economic and justice systems, and the media's clueless self-satisfaction are the sort of thing that really ought to be too much for a person to deal with. Yet, people deal with it every day, as if it's actually survivable. Maybe that is the worst part.
Now I'm happy to be going back. Why? It's not because I've learned to love America's racist hypocrisy or aggressive ignorance. It's just homesickness, soothed with the promise of security and familiar faces. Traveling long-term can be fun, but you really start to miss people. You miss talking to people for reasons other than "because they speak your language too". You forget about the big problems of society when you're all caught up in your own difficulties.
Going home to America doesn't really feel like going back to all the things I like least about it. Thanks to the magic of the internet, I never really left those things behind. When I started planning to go to Korea, the big story was the murder of Trayvon Martin. Now that I'm coming home, the big story is Michael Brown and the protests in Ferguson, Misouri. No matter how far I travel physically, it doesn't change what happens in America. My absence doesn't make everything better. And being a white man, I never even had to suffer the worst of it. I'm no refugee, just a bleeding heart.
Going home to America really just feels like going home. It's comforting to be around familiar things and right now, I could use some comfort. I'm not exactly leaving on my own terms, but I'm satisfied with what Korea, as a country, has given me in terms of life experience.
My only real regret right now is that Tara is not leaving at the same time as me, and that she'll be spending the holiday season in Oregon with her family before she comes down to rejoin me in California. Our successful partnership, living and traveling and working together, has been the absolute best part of our tragically abbreviated foreign sojourn. I can hardly stand the idea of being apart for four months. But in the end, we will be together again. I can live with that knowledge.
In the meantime, I have a host of smaller problems to deal with. Most of these involve moving my stuff. I have slightly more books now than when I came here last December. I have an XBox 360 that needs to be diaposed of (because I already have one at home) and a big bag of games that I still want to play. I bought this teapot that's really cute and asymmetrical and probably really fragile. I knew I'd acquire more material goods before I had to pack up for home, but in fairness to me I really didn't think I would have to deal with that until next March.
And I've got these coins. A big pile of coins, because from the moment I landed in South Korea I developed a strong preference for paying in cash, yet rarely bothered to carry exact change. Being bored and unoccupied the other day, I counted out the value of of all this spare change, plus the few coins I happened to have in my wallet: ₩38,080 (plus seventy three cents that somehow made the transpacific journey all those months ago).
The great little speaker system I bought in April got jostled a little while ago and now it makes a high pitched tone whenever it's turned on. I could fix it, or buy a new one for ₩38,080. But since I'm going home, I guess I don't have to! Instead, I'm using it to buy groceries. I'm turning into the kind of person who goes to the grocery store to buy one or two small items, and pays in dimes. It's fantastic.
My plane for Portland by way of Dallas (?) leaves on September 22nd around five o'clock. Due to time zone shenanigans, it will arrive on the same day, about two and a half hours later. Technology is truly a wonderful thing. As for now, I'm counting the days and tryingnto get myself ready for being home.