“So… what made you pick Korea?”
“South Korea, right?”
“I hope you like kimchi.”
Overall, my loved ones did not quite match my excitement about accepting a job to teach English in South Korea. And I can’t say that I blamed them. Korea hardly calls to mind ideas that put Americans at ease–the DMZ, Kim Jong-un, nuclear missiles hovering just miles above our heads. Not to mention raccoon cafes! (You know, coffee shops where you can play with raccoons?) Once my loved ones adjusted to the idea of me hopping on a 13 hour flight that took me THAT MUCH CLOSER TO ISIS and rabies, they got excited, too.
Fast-forward four months to July 5, one month before I’m scheduled to leave, and my visa falls through. In an amazing display of the stereotypical rigidity I had secretly associated with Korea, Korean immigration rejected it: no exceptions, no grandfathering in. Nothing I could do.
Brace yourself for whiplash, because one week later, I accepted a position teaching English at a small private school on Oahu.
Of course, I went straight back to my loved ones and told them the news about Hawaii, practically foaming at the mouth as I did it. This time, my excitement found its match:
“HAWAII! I’m visiting!”
“I’m looking at flights right now!”
“That’s my favorite place in the world! I can’t wait to visit!”
My sister, who feels uneasy about traveling on airplanes and flat out told me there was no way she would make the flight to Korea, responded to the news with, “Hey, I’ll come visit you there!” When I called my State Farm agent to ask what I should do with my car insurance, she practically bought a surf board and invited herself to come stay with me. Even my doctor chimed in positively on the change in plans: “Korea would be interesting, but Hawaii… I think that’ll be better,” he remarked as he removed the stitches from my butt cheek.
Wow. So even my doctor was harboring secret doubts about Korea. GOOD TO KNOW!
Not a single person asked me what made me pick Hawaii. It’s pretty obvious. Beaches? Sun? No polar vortex? Mountains? Tropical paradise? While South Korea calls to mind images of crowded cities and high rises, the word “Hawaii” itself blooms with images of a yellow Jeep sailing and winding on a coastal highway, taking its time to reach the perfect surf point at sunset. Frankly, if a person had asked “what made you pick Hawaii?” I would have grabbed them and high-tailed it to the nearest therapist.
All this to say, I felt excited for Korea. Throughout the months, I learned about the culture, and found out that while crowded skylines were no anomaly, neither were beaches and warm people. It would have been a big adventure, the biggest of my life. Maybe it will still happen some day. But Hawaii is an adventure, too. I can’t wait to have so many visitors.