What a crazy few months it’s been! I left Korea at the end of February, traveled in the United States for a while (Texas and Luisiana), then finally returned to Canada. After 3 years away, I spent most of April visiting friends and family around Ontario and eating everything I had been craving over the last 3 years. Poutine! Ketchup chips! Maple everything! Then along came May and I was off to Toronto to settle in.
Now that I’m back and getting in the groove, I’ve had time to reflect on some things I’ve missed in Toronto (and Canada overall) and some things I miss from Korea now that I’m back. I tried to think outside of the usual “missed my friends/family” content because it’s predictable and obvious. My top 5, hopefully will not be.
5 Things I’ve Missed In Canada:
1. Peter Mansbridge.
I guess you could say I’ve missed North American TV in general. Although I don’t watch much TV, I did miss the option of having background noise in a language I understand. I’ve missed the evening news, CP24 (local news), and yes, my dear Peter Mansbridge who hosts the National on CBC. There’s something comforting about Mr. Mansbridge; I can’t say why he’s my favourite news anchor, he just is.
2. The abundance of Indian and Japanese food.
Overall I really missed the easy access to foods from all cultures in Toronto. The 6ix has everything from Greek food to Jamaican food and I’ve missed every single one of them being in my belly. Delivery was never a skill I mastered in South Korea so I’ve missed that luxury as well. My first choice for other countries’ foods (other than Korean of course ^_^) are Indian and Japanese so you can imagine how much dal, saag, samosa, roti and sushi I’ve shoved down my throat since I got back!
3. Caesars! (The drink – not the salad – don’t waste my time).
Caesars are quite possibly the best alcoholic drink in the universe and also quite possibly the most Canadian drink you could order (aside from a beer). It’s made with Clamato juice (a more watery tomato juice infused with clams-sound worse than it is), vodka, worcestershire sauce, a dash of salt and pepper, splash of hot sauce, a celery salted rim and topped with crisp celery, a lime and if you’re lucky, a dill pickle too. Enough said. You’re welcome.
4. Bath & Body Works.
For ladies as much as men, expats tend to miss common products from back home like a favourite toothpaste, skin cream or make up brand. Although there are plenty of nice smelling lotions and body washes available in South Korea, it wasn’t Bath & Body Works and so I missed it horribly. I managed to buy my favourite B&BW perfume on eBay when I ran out, but it’s nice to walk by a shop and know it’s there should you need it.
5. The Village!
I absolutely love and missed hanging out in the Village, a gay-friendly neighbourhood in Toronto (Church and Wellesley) where most venues cater to the LGBT community. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you Dear Readers but in case you didn’t know, you don’t have to be gay or lesbian or bi or anything to enjoy the Village. It’s a lovely community open to all walks of life so come as you are and enjoy. It’s a place I end up more often than not when I’m out for the night and it’s always a good time. As a woman I feel safe there, surrounded by positivity and good people who just want a good drag show on a Friday night. I mean, who doesn’t? The atmosphere is fun and handsome men are everywhere. It’s a win-win situation for me :)
5 Things I Miss From South Korea:
I’m sure I’ve talked about Daiso in previous articles. I was way too excited when my little town got a Daiso (as was the whole town I’m sure) and this is because it’s the best dollar store in the world (sorry Dollarama!). It’s a high-end dollar store based out of Japan and the items they have are surprisingly high quality (for a dollar store). I’ve become accustomed to it so much that I often feel a pang of longing every time I go into a Dollarama now. Who knew.
2. Seoul Metro subway system.
I’ll take the jab-you-in-the-spine-with-their-elbows-if-you-don’t-get-outta-my-way grandmas and the ass-grabbing pervy old men any day! I miss the Seoul metro every time I get on the TTC in Toronto. The Toronto subway system is extremely limited in regards to area covered and although they are working to improve this, it’s decades away from meeting international standards. I’m too ashamed to even show you a picture. Sigh…Ok fine, here it is:
3. Having an extra 12 hours to remember people’s birthdays.
Ok I’ll admit, I’m horrible at remembering birthdays and anniversaries. One of the perks of finally subscribing to Facebook is that it tells you that stuff! Being overseas gave me a 12-13 hour head-start on remembering important dates. Many times I have jumped up with a start, remembering someone’s birthday a day later. But, wait! Asah! It’s still yesterday in Canada! Score. I was in the clear for years. Now that I’m back, I’m done for.
4. Being kind of a big deal around town.
In my little town of Deokso there weren’t many foreigners and even fewer who stuck around for more than a year. I was one of the few who did stay for years so I became well-known at the local markets and restaurants. Between local merchants, my martial arts club, my students (over 700) and their parents, I was ALWAYS seeing people I knew in town. On one hand I felt like I always had to be in teacher mode but on the other hand it was kinda nice. It was comforting to exchange pleasantries around town because it reminded me of Canadian kindness. Especially in a country like Korea where they often remind you over and over that you’re a foreigner, it’s nice to feel accepted in the community.
5. 7-11, CU and all other convenience stores.
Anytime you need something, these stores are there for you. A toothbrush, some rice for dinner, juice, soju, tissues, they have you covered. The best part is, the prices are reasonable! They never close, they’re everywhere and they don’t gouge the consumer for the “cost of convenience” like they do in North America. It may be a few hundred won (cents) difference than regularly priced, but overall fair. It’s the little things that count! I also miss how these little shops often have plastic tables and chairs outside where you can have your drink and snack with a friend while people-watching. It’s a cheap way to kill time and a fun way to get to know the folks in your town.
To check out my article Thoughts On Leaving, click here to see the difference from last fall to now! I wrote Thoughts On Leaving last October and it’s interesting to see what I would add or take away from the list today. Until next time Dear Readers, be well and stay hydrated!