As I write this, I’ve got 40 more days of work left. The time is winding down so quickly. It seems like not long ago that I was waiting for my six monthiversary. I never thought I’d get to nine months, much less eleven. But here I am, fewer than six weeks away from the end of my contract. Erin commented today that it feels like the past few weeks have just dragged on, and I agree. Perhaps now that summer camp is ending, the days will fly by.

I’ve started to do the hardest thing–say goodbye to friends who are leaving. Most of the close friends I’ve made arrived the same time as I did, and they’ve either left already or are in the final stages of packing up. There are some friends who live near New York or who I’ll see while I’m backpacking, but there are others who live on the other side of the world. I’m nowhere near ready to say goodbye to them yet.

That’s not to say I’m not ready to say goodbye to Seoul, though. I remember the night I left Prague a few years ago. Before heading back to my flat to get my bags, I walked around the main parts of the city and the places that had meaning to me. Wandering through the Christmas markets with my arms weighed down by the results of some last-minute shopping, my eyes welled with tears as a few flurries began to fall. A few hours later, I took a taxi from the Kolej to the airport and cried a little more. Leaving Prague was one of the hardest things I’ve done–even harder than leaving my family and friends for a year to come here.

Leaving Prague felt like a break-up of the worst kind, and I know that when I leave Korea, while I’ll be incredibly sad, I won’t have those same feelings. As wonderful as Seoul has been to me, I’ve never felt anything close to the love I had for Prague. The hardest thing about living here is knowing that no matter how hard I try, I will always, always be an outsider. There is no blending into the culture. Sure, I could learn the language and marry a Korean man, but even then, I’d just be that Westerner who is really into Asian culture. In Prague, I could pout my way through the city and easily blend into the crowd of unsmiling Czechs. But here in Seoul, I’m constantly greeted with stares, curious looks and flat-out gapes. A few weeks ago, I was walking around Suyu with a friend. An older Korean man passed us, but not before dropping dead in his tracks, staring at my chest and letting his jaw drop to the ground. I can’t tell you how often I feel like I’m in a zoo or trapped inside some sort of one-way glass box. People on buses will stare and discuss amongst themselves the waegooks, or foreigners, in their presence. Even after making eye contact and sometimes staring them down, they’ll continue to shoot glances my way.

I’m ready to go back to a place where I can go about my daily life without being stared at for being Caucasian and female. Where that place will be, I have no idea. But I’m ready for a big change. And when the time comes, I’ll be ready to say goodbye to Seoul.

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