Vagabonds at Last

27 Oct 2010
Posted by Jordan
Jordan's picture

Yesterday I walked around Sweet Home for the last time, as Gunsan Education Office employees removed the last of the government-supplied furniture. The place was much as we had found it two years ago, but somehow looked a little less pregnant, and a little more abandoned.  The wallpaper was new back then (though just as floral), some of the furniture was already in place, and of course we were arriving, instead of leaving: bringing through the door some hopes and expectations (would we have a tub to shower in, fingers crossed?), but mostly just energy and excitement, and a little bit of luggage.

A little bit of luggage that had expanded greatly with hardly any effort, as we discovered in the last few weeks of emptying our lives out. We wanted our house to feel like a home, so we invested in furniture and fish tanks, TVs and candle holders, bunny rabbits and picture frames. Neither Marisa nor I have lived anywhere for much longer than two years, so as far as we’re concerned it’s “get comfortable” in that amount of time, or don’t get comfortable at all.  So we made the place home, with a name coined by my first co-teacher, Mr. Song, who used to come and collect me at the end of the day and say with a clink of the keys that it was time to return to my “sweet home.” Then a drive through the rice fields, green or golden or gray, depending on the time of year.
Now our sweet home is empty and gone, and I am sitting on a bus on the way to the airport, watching the Korean countryside float by, as I have done many times before. But the difference this time around is that I have no place to return to—not in the immediate sense, and not in the long-term sense. Most people, when they travel, have some kind of base to go back to: a home, a family, a job, a city, a neighborhood, a country—a base that, however distance and loosely held, serves as a normal line on the horizon.  Sometimes people uproot themselves and sojourn to a foreign land to make a new base: their normal line lies not behind them, but in front of them in that new place, the home to be.
Marisa and I have neither of these things. Growing up with nomadic parents who left their homeland before I was born, my home was always wherever my family was living. Likewise, since being married to Marisa, our home has been wherever we’ve set it up: Carrboro, Minneapolis, Gunsan… the next place. But now, as we set out for a period of extended travel, that “next place” is gone as much as our current place is slipping away beneath bus tires. As I look out these large windows, past the emergency hammer that I think about using, there is no Sweet Home waiting in my future, no family or friends to go “back” to, no employment that I’m preparing for, not even a country that I can land in at some future point and feel that I’ve returned home, or at least found my destination. What do I have? A tent, a backpack, and some vague plan to make games about the things I see.
I’ve often felt like a vagabond, but never more than now. 

Sweet Home without us.

Posted by Marisa
Marisa's picture

 We're up bright and early this morning to say goodbye to Jim and Carol, whose apartment we've been staying in the last couple of days while we  moved out of our Sweet Home. 

Leaving Sweet Home

You can see the fantastic floral wallpaper that we've been sleeping with for the last two years. Life without it is kind of boring, and perhaps that is how the rest of the world will feel after we leave Korea. Probably not, but there will always be something special about Korea for us. And notice that this is also the only time in two years that we wore our shoes in the house. 

Delicious Lamb Roast from New Zealand

Jim and Carol, who are from New Zealand, were kind of enough to fix us a delicious lamb roast for one of our going away meals. 

Lake Eunpa Star of the Dream Hub

This is the amazing view from their 15th floor apartment. Our apartment is amongst the ones you see in the distance.  The best view of the Dream Hub I think. A great to one to to remember as our last view of our home for two years. 


22 Oct 2010
Posted by Marisa
Marisa's picture

The only thing I have had any forewarning for in the two years I've been in Korea is for the speech I had to give at yesterday's morning meeting. They gave me two whole days to think about it. I think I did a good job. I said my one word of Korean and everyone clapped. I said some more words in English, but they obviously weren't as good as the Korean one.


My students have been writing me goodbye notes, all of which have been wonderful, even the naughty boys have taken a time out to write about how they love me and will miss me. It's great leaving Korea because you can really embrace your inner corniness and say whatever you feel because the Koreans do exactly that times ten (or "x thousand" as my students write in their notes).


I got some going away presents yesterday. The best definitely being the couple-set underwear for me and Jordan from the ladies in my conversation class. They think that Jordan and I are the cutest because we love each other. I'm not sure why there are whales and crowns on Jordan's underwear.