Leaving Home: Oh Crap, Goodbye Canada

Medieval Times

There are the obvious things I’ll miss: family, friends, my home. Canadian foods, drenched as they are in cheeses, gravies, and sugars. Abundant English signage and speakers. My neighbourhood, where I know the streets automatically, and can walk around with my brain mostly shut off.  My labyrinthine knowledge of public transit, long embedded into my head through university. I’ve been trying to adjust to the idea of leaving these things behind, while I’m also realizing the other ridiculous, more subtle things I just doubt I’ll find in Korea.

Earlier in the week, I went to Medieval Times with a friend on some cheap tickets. I’m sure Koreans have some sense of irony and camp, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to appreciate it if it’s all in Hangul. Here, in Canada, I have a finely tuned sense of ironic enjoyment cultured by years of Canadian society and several years of young-adult disaffectation, so Medieval Times is right up my alley. More than that: it reminded me of my childhood. The smell of horses indoors, the abundant cheese, the merchandising. You still drink tomato bisque out of a big pewter-looking bowl with a handle, and the waitresses still have to address you as “milord” or “milady” (prompting me to wonder about their suicide rate). All of it brought my childhood joy at the place tumbling back, and I screamed like a fool for every predictable plot development (oh, Green Knight, will you ever have your day in the sun?).

On a similar note, young adulthood has allowed me to develop fairly freakish degrees of pop-culture knowledge, all of which will be academic in Korea. It will be helpful in order to inform and interest curious Koreans, but that’s against the point. Being young and pop literate is supposed to be a useless skill, the process of cultural osmosis and too much internet and television. I’ll have internet, and I will find ways to watch shows that I like, but it will be from a distance, without being embedded in the culture from which it springs. In the Han Guk, I’ll be instead embedded in a sea of K-pop and Starcraft.

The smells. Sense memory is powerful, and just like Medieval Times brought on a rush of childhood, certain smells here remind me of home, or at least of vague patriotism. Maple. Bread. Forest. Heavy snow fall smell. These aromas travel directly through my nostrils into the comfort zone of my brain and remind me of where I am. In preparation for Korea, I’ve been trying to do a little bit of sensory overload, walking into seas of neon where I see them, and hanging out in China town to absorb the overpowering odour of a fish market.

Another, more materialistic thing, I’ll yearn for: my bedroom. Everything is in a just so that I’ve designed and built over the years, namely: cluttered and ludicrously packed with various collections. Here, I have my library, my music, my DVDs. I like to think that I could one day be an unencumbered person, someone who can roam the wilds with nary but a backpack and a can-do spirit, but if I’m truly honest, I like having a big pile of books in alphabetical order and semi-idiosyncratic Dewey Decimal waiting for me next to my soft, familiar bed.

The end of summer always brings on this feeling: when your life has been, and seemingly always will, be defined by the Canadian school year, the calendar reaching the end of August means you start to cling to things. Everything will change soon, just like it does at the end of every summer, so I look to how things were and coat them in a nostalgia-friendly sepia. This last year was particularly cling-worthy as I met so many people and began doing something I really loved, but that was designed to only last a year anyways.

As the flight approaches, I’ve begun thinking in lasts. Some tumult has kept me from really considering the real fact of moving to Korea, but the notion is unavoidable in these last days, and I realize it’s the last of certain people, places, and things I’ll be seeing for a while. The next time I eat pho in a downtown area, it will probably be authentic and actually in Vietnam, rather than with teacher’s college buddies on Bloor street. When I visit a friend, it will be in their bachelor, not in their house off the Humber river. The next time I see someone from Canada, it will be through lens and wire and the magic of Skype.

People ask me if I’m already packed, and I laugh it off. Packed? With four days to go? Are you crazy? Hahaha, I chortle to myself. And then I am wracked with doubt: should I be packed already? Should I be making lists? Are all of these people right? How will I have time to say goodbye to everyone, to pick up the last things that I need? How will I choose through the mounting piles of garbage I feel like I’ll want over there? Moving to your first apartment via a couple of suitcases and a transpacific flight is an anxiety-maker.

I make it sound as though I’m not also incredibly excited about moving, about being ass-over-tea-kettle out of my element. But internet, sometimes you just blog in a wistful mood, and you whine about all the things you won’t have, rather than all the incredibly cool things you certainly will.

One final big last I’ve been considering: beer. Korea is not, apparently, a haven for the beer-lover, which Canada certainly is. Most bars carry at least two beers I like here, and when I’m feeling picky, there are specialist bars and the LCBO for me to whet my finicky tastes. Korean beers are… apparently, not stupendous. They are a soju country. If I can adjust to the drinking differences, I can probably adjust to anything.


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