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  • Writer's pictureKendall Grady

A Return to Jeju

My return to Jeju was both easy and complex. Although I had missing the convinces of America, which were made simply because I was American and had access to cars, stores, take-out, familiar medications, and clothing, I missed Korea. I missed the hardworking and manners of the people, the quietly forming lines and following of orders, the calmness and quiet ability to think. It was unlike the Wild West of America with the States' dusty sweat... but as much as I've wanted to fit into the Korean culture and customs by learning the language and meeting the people, the stark reality of returning was that I was welcomed but as a foreigner. Of course I understand and don't feel this is any ill will, but it's a hard change when you realize you no longer understand what's going on around you, wether to wait or ask for assistance at a counter, if you're following the societal rules or being viewed as an odd outside spectacle, and whether it's ok to eat alone at a restaurant or if you're taking up space for families.

No matter how many languages I learn or traditions I try to adhere to, being an international artist teaching. at an international school may always make you feel slightly as a transitory traveler rather than someone making a home abroad. As much as I love traveling, living in a foreign country, Korea specifically, it also makes you question everything: how good of a family member or friend am I if I'm away, why do I need so many things yet don't have the items that make a place feel like a home, how can you build a life or career or future as someone who bases the entire world as their home and lifestyle?

America is a melting pot filled with families who have made their home by moving there from another country, yet an American abroad finds their home in the international transitory nature of travel. How ironic.

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