As I said before, one of the main reasons I chose to find an English teaching job in South Korea was because my sister would be stationed here for a year. When I finally accepted that I would have to teach English if I wanted to get out of Washington and the U.S., I explored opportunities everywhere. I could go back to Latin America because I already know a good amount of Spanish. I could explore a new place and go to another country in Asia like China or Thailand. But, I kept coming back to Korea because it seemed small enough to explore but with lots of things to do/see…and my sister was here.
My sister and I are only 13 months apart in age (she’s older) and about 2 inches apart in height (I’m taller). Growing up, we were constantly moving around because both of our parents were in the Air Force. When I was about 5, my parents officially divorced although they had been stationed at separate bases for a while. For the next five or so years, my sister and I were each other’s closest and sometimes only friend. It was hard to move so much and constantly have to start over at new schools. But, we were in it together whether we liked it or not.
My mom remarried when I was 10. Soon after that, she had my little half-sister Alexia. I consider Lexi my full sister even though we only share our mom because I’ve watched her grow up. Can’t believe she’s 16 now.
But, there’s still an age difference of 11 years between us. Melanie, my older sister, and I were always known as the “big kids” in our family and we stayed close even as our family expanded. Together, we somehow made it through the scary times of puberty. We both had acne but Melanie also had glasses and braces. I wasn’t any better. I accidentally shaved off part of my eyebrow and had armpit hair by the sixth grade. Not cute.
Melanie and I left home at about the same time. She went to college after graduating high school, and I moved to Costa Rica for what would have been my senior year. I think we were both so excited by our new adventures that we weren’t really sad about being apart. We wanted to show that we were independent and could take care of ourselves. But, we haven’t been close (geographically) since.
I was super excited to have the opportunity to be near my sister once again. She moved here at the end of last November, and I came right before New Year’s. We’ve met up a few times already: both in Seoul and when I went to visit her. It takes about two hours to get from my place to hers on the subway:
Since I’ve arrived here in Korea, the main difference between my sister and me isn’t the length of time that we’ve spent here but rather our jobs, experiences, and the locations that we live/work in.
|I was picked up at the airport and driven two hours to my neighborhood.||She landed on base so she didn’t have to go anywhere.|
|My apartment was already picked out for me.||She got to stay at a hotel on the base for a week and shop around for her apartment.|
|My apartment’s a studio and I don’t pay for it.||Her apartment has three bedrooms and she doesn’t pay for it.|
|A small thing of peanut butter costs $6 in my grocery store.||She can buy pretty much everything you can get in the U.S. for cheap|
|Legs and subways all the time||She has a car.|
|The principal of my school (an English school) needs someone to translate in order to talk to me.||Her whole area is pretty much half Americans. All the signs are in Korean and English and people speak almost perfect English in all the shops.|
|There’s a 7-Eleven across the street from me.||There are three Turkish kebab places within walking distance of her.|
So, we’ve been living in very different worlds in Korea. Although I think it’s harder for me to adjust because I’m outside of my comfort zone and America-land, I’m hopeful that this immersion will give me the opportunity to master enough Korean language and culture to get around on my own. But having my big sis around has definitely been a huge help. She’s gotten me sheets, towels, silverware, and PEANUT BUTTER from on base. What a godsend!
She’s also taught me things about how to live in Korea that I assumed my school would tell me. Like that you have to buy special garbage bags and separate your trash. Now, how the hell was I supposed to figure that out on my own? I had just been throwing my Wal-Mart bags in the big pile of garbage outside my apartment. But, you apparently have to separate organic matter from general waste from the different recyclables and put each in its own appropriately colored bag.
And every part of Seoul uses different colors. Fuck me, man. Why it gotta be so hard?
In conclusion, thanks a ton Mei Mei for letting me invite myself to join you in Korea and unknowingly going on this adventure with me. I’m looking forward to traveling, drinking soju, eating tons of Korean food, and going to gay bars with you. You’re my favorite big sister.
LOL (Lots of love),
I’m a failed model/international peace mediator. I like telling stories, traveling, and guys. Besides becoming Oprah, my biggest life goal is to be able to do the splits. All the way.