When 7 months feels like 7 weeks…

Surrounded once more by boxes and suitcases in glorified dorm room, I’m saying goodbye to my last few days here in Korea. Though I’ve felt a sense of time flying before, this experience came and left at warp speed for me. It’s been a total of seven months – four last semester, three this semester – that I spent here, and it truly feels like seven weeks. As I reflect, take in all that I had the privilege of doing while I was here, I leave saying “see you soon,” to this complicated and beautiful country.

It’s very bittersweet – though I miss my friends and family back home, I don’t quite feel ready to leave. Just as I’m starting to feel comfy and have a special community here, it’s time to head back. Alas, it’s good to finish a chapter wanting more, I suppose!? A sadness I have is that my family and friends back home weren’t able to come visit during this stretch. The pandemic continues to wreak havoc on our daily lives, and I promise, as baby Nathan in our old home videos says “to take you next time!”

There are so many things to share, and I know everyone’s time is so precious (particularly during the holidays!) so here are the semester’s highlights and then my “wish & miss” list…things that I’m wishing for back home, and things that I’ll miss from here…

From more incredible rock climbing on Korea’s world-class granite to performing concerts with wonderful colleagues and working with new students, to the continuation of my gayageum studies (and having my own instrument built to bring back home!) it’s been a whirlwind semester. Certain things continue to kick my rear (giving public master classes 100% in Korean is definitely humbling) and there are certain cultural differences that I’m still not used to (authoritative energy and the “never-be-different” vibe is strong here), but what a journey it’s been. Perhaps a most special moment was greeting my hiking partner, who is blind, after my last concert here last week. She and the whole volunteer crew attended, and I nearly cried when I saw them out in the audience. And since then it’s been a string of goodbyes to old and new friends, students, colleagues, and family…


• On Korea’s birthday I took a last-minute trip down to Busan to visit the extraordinary Haedong Temple and catch the last “warm” weekend at the stunning Haeundae Beach (granted I was the only weirdo actually swimming…) and some delicious mul milmyun definitely didn’t hurt.

• And then climbed Gwanaksan and Samsungsan with my climbing club (where we came across a crazy adorable wild puppy who we tried desperately to bring home with us…


• Performing at the Gyeonggi-do Akgi Bagmulguan with pianist Hyojung Huh and hanging out with her adorable kiddos afterward…

• Giving master classes and performing at the Changwon International Music Festival and hanging out with family afterward…

• A quick holiday with cousins to explore Jindo Island where we did an incredible sunset/sunrise hike and visited some puppies – who carry the island title in their name – during which I almost died of cuteness. Brace yourself.

• Meeting with my hanbok designer Suhmi Jang and taking in her genius, lunches with my auntie, our volunteer hiking group (brought my fiddle one day for a little impromptu trail concert ^^)…

• Visiting the gayageum factory where I met regional treasure Joonsuk Jo and chose my very own instrument; to see how everything is made was a life experience for sure.

• THANKSGIVING! (It’s not a thing here, but my savvy cousins found a turkey and we made all the sides we could with what we could find at our markets here!)…


• My final concert in Korea with SNU colleagues – Shostakovich, Beethoven, and Brahms with a wonderfully cheesy Christmas carol medley encore for which we dawned Santa hats and Rudolph antlers ^^ ~ photos with friends and fam post-show…

• Visiting the Amore Pacific Museum where a sublime Mary Corse (California-based refractive light artist) exhibition took my breath away…if you have a chance to check her out in any capacity live, I highly recommend it.

• And too many goodbyes to count…saying goodbye to my teachers, students, colleagues, family, and new friends.

And just for fun, as I ruminate on the things I can’t wait for back home and the things I’ll miss dearly (in no particular order)…

THE MISS LIST (why Korea is awesome)

• DAISO (we gotta get on this)
• impeccably clean subways and buses
• utterly reasonable cost of taxis, public transit, and dining out
• world-class street food
• the speed with which anything one orders arrives
• every whole-in-the-wall kimbab and soondooboo house
• access to gugak at nearly any time
• well-kept public restrooms everywhere
• the general respect and regard for public space (America, we can do better)
• the general respect and regard for education (America, ditto.)
• the Gangwondo mountains
• a general sense that civilians with guns is an insane idea
• a nationally supported healthcare system for all
• my friends and fam ^^

THE WISH LIST (why the States is awesome)

• CHEESE (Korea’s cheese game is far from on point…)
• great tacos and great Indian food (they haven’t figured these out either)
• the celebration of individualism
• a visible LGBTQ community
• pedestrians having the right of way in crosswalks (I get nearly mowed down daily)
• people holding the door as they walk through an entrance
• a general feeling of relax
• Christmas! (Christmas is their Valentine’s Day)
• Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Weggies
• the Adirondacks
• cars that are any color besides white or black (it’s a thing, I don’t get it!)
• fresh, creative, and critical thought
• dryers and dishwashers (#bathtowelstakeforevertoairdry)
• my friends and fam ^^’

On a final note, a very happy warm welcome to the newest member of my extended family, baby Chloe Gaeun Colella arrived to parents Hae-An and Steve just two weeks ago…

And on a somber note, as we greet the beginning of life, we also say a special farewell to a dear friend and neighbor, John Vandeweert. May you Rest In Peace, Mr. John.

John and his wife Hummy and son John Jr. chatting with my mom at one of my “drive-in concerts” last summer

우리 사랑하는 한국에 계신 선생님들, 동료들, 학생들, 친구들과 가족들에게 ~ 이 분들다 덕분에 저는 한국에 있는동안 희노애락 많이 있었습니다. 특히 김덕훈 큰아빠, 헌주 오빠와 전숭안이, 저는 잘 챙겨 주셔서 정말 고맙습니다. 그리울거예요 ㅠㅠ 코로나 끝난 다음에는 저는 한국에 곧 돌아오면 좋겠고 여러분 미국으로 꼭 오세요! ^^
크리스마스를 즐곱게 보내고 새해 복 많이 받으세요! ^^

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