A few days ago I went to visit my old baseball coach and his wife. He was my coach, along with my dad and some friends’ dads, for about ten years. I hadn’t seen them since I returned in March. Actually hadn’t seen them since 2012. We talked for hours about my time in Korea, what they’d been up to, they showed me all the changes they’s made to their property. We talked about the town and the families that make up the fabric of what that place is, wether it be funny or downright annoying. We talked of the new parish priest in town and how he has been divisive by being assertive. It may seem boring and trivial but I hadn’t felt that sense of belonging and normal-ness for quite some time and it felt good to be with people who knew me when I was young, knew where I came from and understand how I got to be what I am today and indeed shaped who I am. It’s also strange and kind of beautiful how two people who were authority figures, pretty much other parents when I was young, become friends as I have gotten older.
On an unrelated note, it was sunny and 80 degrees for two days before going back to the gloomy rain that’s been coming down for two months. I had forgotten how depressing the not summer months can be here.
Even with the internet and being hyper-connected, there are some things from home that kind of fade away off to your peripheral when you live abroad. I have always been a big sports fan, American Football in particularly, but if you are watching a west coast early game from Korea, it comes on Monday morning at 3am. I tried a few times to wake up, watch the game, go back to sleep and then go to work, but I couldn’t do it consistently, so I ended up following the season mostly on instagram or watching highlights on my phone on my commute to work. I guess I could have downloaded games later but by the time my day was finished and I was back home, I had already seen all the scores or didn’t really think to grab the game later.
But last Sunday was Wrestlemania. I’ve been a huge wrestling fan since I was very young, but it was another one of those things that I had a hard time keeping up with, especially since I had not met anyone abroad who shared my passion for it. It’s way easier when a friend texts you or calls you to ask if you’re going to watch RAW or Smackdown, or to come over and watch a Pay-Per -View, then to keep up with it all on your own.
Wrestlemania is a big deal for me and my friends, and we always make a big production of it. We barbeque, start early for the pre-show activities and talk about Wrestlemanias of the past and our favorite matches and what happened to this wrestler or whatever. It’s an all-day thing, and it felt really good to be back in that place with like-minded people about a “sport” that I feel the general public still doesn’t really understand. Yes, we know a lot of it is fake. But it’s not about that. It’s about the pageantry, the rivalries, the drama and athleticism. But we know why we like it, and that’s enough.
I’m amazed how many people, after I tell them I recently returned to America after living in Korea, ask me if I was in North Korea or South Korea. I guess it’s partly my fault for not specifying, but no one in Korea refers to is as “South Korea.” It’s just Korea. And after being there so long I dropped the south bit. But I would have thought it was common knowledge that Americans aren’t really allowed in North Korea. It’s doable but expensive and we generally just don’t go there.
Anyway I mowed the acre yard we have today with a push mower because the battery in the riding lawn mower is dead. Yaaaaaay cardio.
I have a history of going to the DMV unprepared. I think it comes from a desire to figure things out myself rather than read an instruction manual or do research. I remember in 2014 some Korean friends and I did a road trip. I was told that all you had to do was take your American license to the Korean DMV and exchange it for a Korean one, and just go back and turn it in whenever you were leaving the country. So I walked into the Korean DMV all excited about my upcoming road adventure, pulled a number from the waiting list machine and when I was called up, handed over my American license and asked for a Korean one, to which the woman behind the counter replied “Where is your apostille?”
” Uh….my what now?”
” You need an apostille from your home country so we know this ID is genuine.”
“Fuck……okay thank you!”
After arriving at home I, logically, thought my embassy could help me out with this. So I checked their website which proclaimed in big, bold letters that they no longer provided American citizens in Korea with apostilles. (Side note, the embassy in Seoul seemed to go out of their way to be unhelpful to its own citizens as my time there went on, but that’s a different post). So the only thing to do was have a private agency take care of it, which was way too expensive for a 4 day trip (I remember one of the cheaper options being $300). My solution to all of this? Drive without a license and not get caught. Which I did and I had a wonderful time.
Which brings me to the American DMV.
I had just gotten off the plane about 3 hours previously and was woefully unprepared for the DMV. My license had expired last year, I had lost it (drunkenly) in Seoul, didn’t know where my birth certificate or social security card were located. The only ID i had was my passport. I got a ride over there, walked in, took a number, then found the form to fill out for a renewal. My number being called, I explained to the woman behind the counter that all I had was my passport to identify myself, to which she didn’t reply but simply looked up my license number in the computer, then told me I had to take a new photo. I presently have an out of control beard and pink hair, so I asked if I could give her a recent passport photo. Turns out the DMV doesn’t let you do that and now I have a photo of me looking like a baked, pink haired terrorist that I have to put up with for the next 8 years. Also, the DMV gets a bad wrap as a hellhole of inefficiency, but if you go in on a Monday morning while normal people are working, it’s a ten minute, in-and-out sort of deal.
This is the post excerpt.
The first thing I noticed about being back was that the TSA and security in American airports are no joke. The immigration officer really doesn’t care if you give them an American passport, they really hammer you with questions, but in a friendly, trying to disarm you kind of way. The woman I got at the counter was genuinely surprised when I told her I had been gone 8 years and very sweetly welcomed me home.
I had a ten hour overnight layover in San Francisco before my hour and a half flight home to Oregon. I found that quite a few homeless people enter the airport to sleep at night and I spoke to one homeless woman in her late 40s for well over an hour. She was very interesting and told me about her travels through the middle east as well as her days of hitch hiking through America when she was young, which is something that has fascinated me since first picking up a Jack Kerouac novel. We talked of the Trump administration and how it’s affected her and some of the homeless community in SF as far as health care is concerned. I left shortly after Obama was elected so I asked her what is the general feeling about Trump? She said, fear.
It felt weird landing in Portland. Korea felt like a really long, elaborate dream, and Portland felt like something I had once known well, forgotten and suddenly remembered years later.