I wish I could say that the trip home was uneventful, but dude, I EARNED my visit to Maryland. I boarded the plane, found my seat, and settled in. Uh, lets just say that I will never fly a non-Asian carrier home again. Asian carriers (Korean Air, All Nippon, Asiana, etc) blow the American carriers out of the water in terms of technology. On my original flight over we had seat back screens with personal controllers that allowed you to access over 40 movies and a bunch of different games. You could start and stop your movies whenever you wanted them and it was basically magical. The United flight back to the states was...less magical, haha. There weren't even seat back screens! We all had to watch TV-sized shared screens on the wall that was in front of our section of seats. And you, obviously, had to watch the same thing as everyone else did, at the same time. It wasn't great. Anyway, we were about to take off, having already taxied to the runway, and the captain came over the intercom and told us that we had to go back because the cargo in the bottom of the plane was unbalanced. Uhhh, ok. Glad they caught that BEFORE we took off! It took them about 45 minutes to move stuff around and get us back out onto the runway, which set into motion the following chain of events....
I was supposed to have a nearly two hour layover in the San Francisco airport, putting me back in DC (Dulles) around 9:00pm. Since we landed in San Fran almost an hour late, I knew I would be cutting it close. We deplaned and I went to stand in the (long) immigration line. Some other (very PG) women from my flight made some noise to the immigration officers, so they nicely opened a separate line just for the 10-15 of us that were heading into DC in hopes that we could get processed quickly and be on our way. I breezed through immigration and went out to wait for my luggage. And wait. And wait. I am not exaggerating when I say that my luggage was in the absolute LAST group to be unloaded from the plane. At this point, I know there is little hope, but I rush down to Customs. As I get there, Customs Officer A is checking passports, forms, etc. Customs Officer B walks up just as I get there and C.O. A points to me and says "How about this one?" C.O. B informs me that I've been chosen to complete a "random customs survey" and pulls me aside. I tell him I'd be glad to do it but that I am trying to make a plane. I didn't realize at this point that "survey" is code for "search of all your bags." He promised to be quick and then went through all three of my bags, taking stuff out, asking me questions, etc. Apparently I look like a smuggler. After proclaiming that this is the quickest survey he's done in a while, he sends me on my way. I get outside only to find out that I am definitely too late and I have to stand in a line to be rescheduled. That line moved at a GLACIAL pace, but eventually I made it through and they put me on a flight about four hours later. I checked my bags and headed towards the gate where my next flight would depart. On the way I had to go through security and the underwire in my bra set off the metal detector, causing them to make me walk through the detector about 8 times and then forcing them to do a full body pat down, etc. Are you freaking kidding me? It was not my day. I got into DC around 12:45am and I was met by my parents and my brother. It was great to see them, and really nice that Mike came down from NYC for the weekend just to get me. We drove home and I crashed.
My brother and I spent the day together Sunday and we went down to the Holocaust Museum in DC. We had been together once before, but not since I was in high school. It was nice just to be back in DC. We did the museum thing and then went home where I fell asleep around 8:00pm, just as my brother was leaving for the train station to go back to NYC. Monday I went to the dentist, where he was able to fix my busted filling and even squeeze in a tooth cleaning since someone cancelled. Ah the joys of dental insurance! That night I went over to Gaebe's house and hung out with him, Carl, Greg and Liz. I'm so glad I got to see Gaebe while he was home. I love those kids. Even mundane things like unwrapping a new refrigerator are fun with them.
Tuesday began my meals with groups of people I wanted to see while I was home. My mom, two of her close friends (Bonnie and Lauren), Bonnie's son (Russ) and I went out to dinner at one of my favorite restaurants: Lemongrass, Too in Annapolis. Soooooo good. It was wonderful just to chat with people, share stories, and catch up. Even if Jenni, the third child of the group, was too cool to come to dinner. Wednesday night Debbie, Gaebe and Greg came over to have some drinks and hang out on the new porch. It was really chill.
I finally got to meet Rusty, our new dog. Monochromatic much?
Don't let his small size fool you, he is a vicious beast. He felled that giraffe all by himself.
My Belle. Man I miss my dogs.
Thursday morning my mom and I left to drive up to Pennsylvania. We spent the evening with my grandparents in Allentown and had some delicious cheese steaks. Mmmm, so good. Friday morning I woke up and drove the all too familiar route up to Scranton in my mom's van. I went directly to Marywood and stopped in to get my transcripts ordered before heading down to McGowan to see if Sr. Fran, Dr. Arter and Dr. Fedrick were around. Sr. Fran and Dr. Arter weren't there, so I went downstairs and I was happy to see that Dean Fedrick was there. We spent almost an hour talking and catching up before I had to jet over to Sanderson Place for my hair appointment with the wonderful Heidi. I got some bangs, better shape for my curls, and highlights. Quite happy with the whole thing. Once I was done there I called up Mileski and she met me at Marywood where we happened to catch Sr. Fran on her way out of the building. We talked to her for a while and then went to Meghan's house so I could drop off my car. Meg then took me up to Maiolatesi's, a winery in Jessup for a wine tasting that was AWESOME. They have a white cayuga watermelon wine that is to DIE for (evidenced by the fact that I bought two bottles, haha). After the winery we had just enough time to go home and change before driving up to Clarks Summit to meet everyone at State Street Grill for dinner. Holy crap, that was one of the best dinners ever, and not because of the food (that was good, if slow), but rather because of the people who were there! It was a near perfect reunion of some of the most important people to my Marywood experience. Shannon came down from Binghamton and James and Meredith came out from Jersey JUST for the meal. I am so spoiled by awesome friends. Amanda came down for the night from Jersey, and Julia and Andrea both came out to dinner, even though Julia is VERY pregnant. God, it was so nice good food, wonderful friends, hilarious stories and gossip...a girl couldn't ask for more. That night Amanda and I slept at Meghan's.
Meghan and I at the winery.
Andrea and Julia! Best student life staff a university could ask for.
Shannon!! All grown up and married...so crazy.
The wonderful and amazing Cozzarellis: James and Meredith.
Saturday morning we woke up and walked (Amanda and I) and ran (Meghan) a charity 5K. You know how I do. It was nice to get a little 1:1 time with Mandarin as we walked together. Once we went home, showered and changed, it was time to go over to the Banshee where I was meeting a few girls from the sorority for lunch. It turned out that the only Zetas who could come were Jo Anna (all the way from DE!) and Vanessa, but it was a good time. And, I mean, you can NEVER go wrong with Woodchuck on tap. After lunch I drove back down to Allentown and hung out with my grandparents again. Sunday was a pretty relaxing day and a bunch of family came over in the evening to a little shindig that my grandparents organized. I love picnic food and adorable little family members. Monday turned into an adventure when my mom decided we should run down some genealogy leads in New Jersey with some visits to graveyards. My mom, grandparents and I piled into the van and drove out to Morris County, NJ where we slogged through wet grass and played find the gravestone. Thankfully we had pictures that someone else had loaded on ancestry.com and I am a MASTER at finding things based on landmarks in pictures, so it wasn't too bad. One of the graves we found belonged to my great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather. Pretty sweet. Tuesday morning I said my goodbyes to my grandparents and my mom and I headed back down to the Old Line State. On the way we stopped at my aunt/uncle/cousins' house in Virginia where I got to see Ty and Michae and hang out with them for a bit, which was really nice. Good god they are getting old fast.
Lookin' good for the 5k!
Zetas Vanessa and Jo Anna
Love these two sky big. Mileski and Mandarin.
Wednesday afternoon my mom and I went down to the Kennedy Center to see Mary Poppins. It was good, of course, but I don't think I'd go see it again. It was really long, especially for the MANY kids in teh audience. It was pretty sweet to have Mary fly over the audience in the Opera Hall, though. Wednesday night I met up with the old roomies: Debbie, Christina and Sammie. We started the evening at Menchie's a new fro-yo place in Annapolis Towne Center. HOLY CRAP it is so good. They have like 14 flavors on tap and then a billion toppings you can put in/on. You weigh the finished product at the end and it was surprisingly reasonably priced. I went twice during my stay in MD, the first time I got Irish Mint fro-yo with Andes mint pieces, chocolate chips, and brownie pieces. The second time I got Peanut Butter fro-yo with chocolate chips, brownie pieces, chopped up Reese's, and tiny peanut butter cups. Just thinking about it now makes my stomach growl. We took our concoctions and headed over to Annapolis Mall where we donned our 3-D glasses and saw Step Up 3-D. We each squealed every time our boys from SYTYCD were on (Twitch! Joshua! Etc!) and overall the movie was alright. I mean the plot was predictably...predictable. The 3-D was interesting...sometimes it really detracted from what you were watching. I got a little dizzy at points, esp when watching the dancing, but I lived.
Mom and I at the Kennedy Center.
Thursday my mom and I had lunch with two women from our DAR chapter. I was inducted into the Daughters of the American Revolution after I left, so I have never met any of the other women. I have heard a lot about them and vice versa so it was nice to put some faces with names. That night I went over to the house in Crownsville and met up with the rest of Hilltop's Team T-Word. Man, let me tell you, those ladies are the only ones who kept me sane while teaching in Maryland! As soon as you put all of us (me, Debbie, Charlita, Kara, Robin, and Tracey) in a room together we go right back to laughing and gossiping like I was never gone. It was great to get some more stories about new crazy kids and...well...old crazy kids, haha. It was a wonderful happy hour.
Lunch with the DAR Ladies. Mary Digges Lee Chapter represent!
Team T-Word...my favorites. Debbie and I on top row. Tracey, Charlita and Kara on the bottom row. (Robin not pictured, but there in spirit.)
Friday I spent the day with Erin (who came up from NC) and Liz. We started the day by driving up through (the ghettos of) Baltimore to get to the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum. I have honestly wanted to go there forever, so I was psyched. It was...interesting. Most of the wax figures were not what I think of as super realistic wax figures, and the ones that were were all grouped together. The basement did, definitely, have some graphic displays with slave ships and lynching trees, but overall it was interesting. Sadly we had to cut the trip short because I unintentionally locked my mom out of the house and had to meet her halfway to B-more to give her the key. Oops. After exchanging the key in Glen Burnie, we Googled a list of the best crab cakes in the Baltimore area and ended up at the Olive Grove restaurant in Linthicum. I basically ODed on crab. We had amazing lump crab dip, followed by these CRAZY, softball sized crab cakes. Thank god the woman forgot to bring out my cream of crab soup, because I think I might have died. After lunch it was back to Baltimore to the American Visionary Arts Museum, which is without question one of my favorite museums in the entire world. So amazing. We spent a while there, taking pictures, enjoying the art etc, before heading back to Bowie.
When we got back to my house I threw together a bag full of stuff for the evening and we headed to Crownsville, stopping at Safeway for supplies we needed to make our various potluck foods. Anna, Greg, Carl, Liz, Erin, Debbie and I had a wonderful potluck followed by some frustrating board gaming, haha. Damn you, Articulate! I ended up spending the night at the house and the next morning I packed up a bunch of stuff that was still there so we could take it to the storage unit. My mom came over and we loaded up her van to take stuff over to my storage place in Laurel. After dropping that all off, we came back to Bowie where I cleaned up some and prepped for movie night! (One of the only downsides to my trip home was that somehow, somewhere, at some point between AVAM and my house the next day, I lost my camera. So I had to buy a new one, spending yet more money. Wonk wonk.)
I love movie nights so hard. I predicted this one was going to be great because 1. It was movie night. 2. We had a quality group of people attending. 3. We were going to watch Human Centipede, a very graphic and disturbing movie I had heard a lot about. Prediction: Correct. The guest list was as follows: Me, Carl, Liz, Erin, Anna, Greg, Kat
Kaaaaat! Love bites to the max.
Movie nighters. L to R: Me, Liz, Anna, Erin, Debbie, Greg, Kate, Jo Anna, Luke, and Carl in the front.
Sunday morning I got up and drove up to Delaware (through some of the worst rains I've ever driven in!) to visit Jo Anna's new house. Katie, one of the other girls in our sorority, drove out from law school in Harrisburg to meet us, too! I also got to see her (current and former) roomies Stephanie and Ming, and their menagerie of pets. We drove from Newark out to Old Newcastle where we had a fanTASTIC lunch at a colonial pub and walked around for a bit down by the water. All too quickly it was time for me to get on the road home, in an effort to avoid the beach traffic coming back over the Bay Bridge. Thankfully it wasn't too bad...I most definitely benefited from the fact that it rained all day, as I think many of the beach-goers cleared out earlier than usual. I got home and crashed fairly early as I had the dreaded GRE the next day. Dun dun DUN.
Delaware lovelies: Jo Anna, Stephanie, me, Katie, Ming
I miss living near water.
Sunset while waiting to get on the bay bridge.
The day of my test arrived and I collected all my materials: nicely sharpened #2 pencils, a scientific calculator borrowed from Debbie, a bottle of water, etc. I rolled up to the testing center where the woman politely informed me that I couldn't bring anything into the testing room. But...my pencils and calculator? Nope. They provide pencils and I am not allowed to use a calculator.
Somehow, during all of this studying, it had somehow escaped me that YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO USE A CALCULATOR. I stepped out of the testing area lobby and called my mom, freaking out. I thought for sure there was no way I could do the test and perform decently without a calculator, but there was nothing I could do about it. I sat for the test and just stared at some of the math problems. Simply doing the basic computations took me forever as I checked and rechecked everything. It was absolutely terrible. For at least 5 of the questions I blindly guessed because there was no time. I was so upset. The writing section was okay, and the verbal section was alright, even though with all the thousands of words I studied there were a few on the test I swear I hadn't ever seen.
At the end of the test, before you see your score, you are given 5 minutes to decide if you want to report your test results to ETS or not. If you cancel your score, you don't get to see how you did. If you report your score to ETS, it is then on your permanent record, which schools can see even if you re-test. Thankfully you put in the school codes after seeing the score, so that is some solace. I literally sat there for 4 of the 5 minutes going back and forth about cancelling the score. I was positive I had performed only ok on the verbal section and horribly on the math section. Finally my curiosity won out and I clicked the button to report/reveal my scores. "Are you sure you want to report your scores?" asks the condescending pop up window. Yes.
When the next screen came up, I could not freaking believe it. At first I was like "Wait, that must be what it is out of..." but then I remembered that it was not, as each section was out of 800. I sat there confused for a few minutes before pushing the button to advance to the next section and filling out the information about the schools I wished to have the scores sent to (GW, UMD, Harvard and UPenn). When I left the testing room the woman asked if I wanted a post-it to write down my score and I asked her incredulously if that had actually been my score that I was shown. She looked at me like I was crazy and said yes. In a bizarre twist of fate and skilled guessing, I scored a 700 on the math section. According to the Barron's book that apparently means that I got 24 out of the 28 questions correct, a feat I cannot imagine was possible. Like, that is absolutely ridiculous. Top 71st percentile in math? Sure. I also got a 600 on the verbal section, which must be harder because that score puts me in the 86th percentile. Schweet! I was just totally stunned (still am) and pretty blissed out since I was really just hoping for a 1000. Success!
That night I had a little reunion dinner with some of my favorite Girl Scouts and their Moms. Even though Morgan couldn't make it, Jenni, Christina and I had an excellent time doing the requisite sharing of information gleaned from Facebook stalking and discussions about our lives. It was so good to catch up with them; I'm so sad I won't be around for Jenni's wedding in March! I'll be there in spirit for sure.
Girl Scouts in the house. Jenni and Christina.
The moms: Lauren, Karen and Nina.
Whole group...it was lovely to catch up!
Tuesday was spent running around doing last minute errands and shopping. (Yeah, I just realized I never mentioned how much shopping I did at home...So much. The first week I was back happened to be the annual Maryland Tax Free week, so I played that one to the hilt. As I spent excessive amounts of money I kept reminding myself that the entire rest of the year I NEVER buy shoes or clothes, so I was allowed to splurge a little. That was all fine and good until stuff BARELY fit in my bags on the way back to Korea!) That evening I packed up all my stuff and went to sleep. Wednesday morning my mom drove me back over to Dulles where I checked in without a hitch, snacked on a Cinnabon, and got all choked up as I said goodbye to my mom for the next 10 months or so. I am sure the time is going to fly, and I know I have less time in front of me than has already passed here, so that is some solace. I flew 14 hours to Tokyo and then had a quick layover before a 2.5 hour flight to Seoul. It was uneventful. I dragged all my crap onto the airport bus and made it all the way back to Gildong where I promptly unpacked my computer, let my mom know I had arrived safely, and crashed.
My view for 14 hours.
Since arriving home last Thursday night I've been fighting jet lag. It sneaks up on me and knocks me down at the most inopportune times. I had to come in to work on Friday from around 10:00am-3:00pm. Then I headed home with the plan to lay down for a bit before going out to celebrate Laura's birthday in Hongdae. I fell asleep around 6:00pm and didn't wake up until the next morning. Oops. On Saturday I met Shannon at HomePlus (one of my goals this year is to not be scared of that store anymore) and we bought all the supplies necessary to bake chocolate chip cookies for the newbies in our building. The new teachers all moved in last week while I was gone so I wanted to touch base with them and let them know I'm around if they have any questions. There are 8 new people in the building, 7 of whom are new to Korea. We baked the cookies and watched some True Blood before making our rounds. We talked to 5 of the 8 new people, and left cookies for the rest. They seem like a good bunch, and we were already able to answer a fair number of their questions, so I feel useful. Mama Liz and Papa Kim are taking us all out to dinner on Thursday so I will get to put faces with the last few names. After baking all day I went over to Jamie and Shannon's for dinner before coming home to crash.
Korea only has strange, creepy little chocolate chips, so I made my own using chocolate bars.
HomePlus doesn't carry vanilla extract, so you have to use this strange Dutch substitute. It tasted fine in the cookies, but it smelled like movie theater popcorn. My whole apartment smelled like a cinema.
Crazy baking fool.
Yesterday I was all jet lagged and super crabby and the weather was abysmal (seriously, Korea, I am DONE with the freaking rainy season!) but I was finally convinced to leave my bed in order to go over to Jamie and Shannon's to eat pizza and watch True Blood. That was a good time, even though I fell asleep near the end and had to leave before the last episode was finished.
Why, exactly, did our pizza have a pentagram on it? The jury is still out. It was tasty though. Perhaps...TOO TASTY?
Today I came back to school, but didn't have to teach. Eun Kyung officially quit and now I have a new permanent teacher named Ga Young. Her English seems pretty good, even though she is nervous to talk to me still. She'll get over it. Apparently I start teaching tomorrow with my faaaaaavorite guy. Hmph. This week I have a Gangdong-Gu Cru meetup on Wednesday night to look forward to, and dinner on Thursday night. Next week we finally get back to Dasi Hamkke meetings so we can put this book to bed! Psyched...even though it won't be the same without Julia.
Today I wrote this blog entry all day, as well as doing some very fruitful Facebook stalking, some catching up with Trina (a college friend who I haven't talked to in FOREVER), and some quality trash talking with Amanda and Renee. I have definitely been in Renee withdrawal these past few weeks; when I'm at work I talk to her almost every day! This week the new online applications for grad schools also open, so I am going to have to start working on my personal statements, etc. I am applying to 8 schools: NYU, Columbia, University of Pennsylvania, University of Pittsburgh, University of Maryland, George Washington University, Havard and Oxford. We'll see how this goes! Basically I'll be attending whatever school wants me and gives me the best deal. Fingers crossed.