“This Asian Life” was one rejected names for my East Asia Tumblr, which ultimately got a pretty straightforward name, Elise Goes East! But lucky for me, the name still hung around my head long enough to return as a headline for my annual year-in-review post.
Between the globe irreversibly warming, mass gun deaths at a regular clip and the tumultuous rise of ISIS, it can feel like the human race is on the brink. But I have to stay hopeful, partly out of my constitution and partly because this year we brought another tiny human into the world and I want it to be a safe enough, survivable place for her.
In my little universe, there has been plenty of discovery and joy, and for that I’m endlessly grateful.
New Experiences: Moving to South Korea. Living in South Korea. Eating live octopus. Stranger in a strange land syndrome. Having a baby in a foreign country. Reporting through an interpreter almost exclusively. Ear infection. Getting abandoned in a cab without explanation. Crashing a wedding and going unnoticed. Eating 4,000 calories in front of an audience of thousands, who gave feedback the whole time. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Osaka, Japan. Osaka’s karaoke bars. Cat cafe.
Most Mindblowingly Awesome Gift: My friend and coworker, the shockingly talented Adam Cole, wrote and performed me a K-pop style goodbye song using common Korean phrases he taught himself in a day. This will be on the “best list” of my life, not just of the year.
Difficult Loss: Saying goodbye to my dog, Saidee.
Most Unexpected Mail: The last season of Mad Men on DVD, sent from LA by Mad Men creator and head honcho Matt Weiner. When he wrote me asking for my address, I thought it was a joke, until those DVDs arrived in the mail from his assistant.
Beverages of Choice: Gong Cha’s black tea iced bubble tea with full ice, 30% sweetness. Grapefruit soju. So much grapefruit soju.
Regrets: Never learned a signature karaoke song in Korean. Not counting kids books I read only three books beginning-to-end in 2015. This is by far my all-time low. Next year I’m taking the advice here on how to read more.
Product Discoveries: Okonomiyaki, “essence” for skincare, enoki mushrooms, pilates socks, Laneige water bank sleeping mask, Tony Moly Eye Cooling Stick
Things I miss about my American life: Snickers ice cream bars, the NFL, chatting it up with strangers, being understood when I ask questions, uncensored Internet, driving (on occasion), wasting time during the work day by walking to Starbucks with my coworkers, going to the office, being able to get food that’s not automatically spicy, Life cereal whenever I want it
Notable New Pal: Chris Holmes, who is Paul McCartney’s DJ. I met Chris in a classic living abroad/traveling a lot situation — when you happen to be in the same place as an old friend. In this instance, I was in Tokyo at the same time as pal Harper, who was there with his dad to see Chris play in the Paul McCartney show in Tokyo. Not only did I get to hang with Harper and dad, we met Chris and his wife, Melinda, and when the McCartney tour came to Seoul, Chris hooked me up with VVIP tickets at the last minute. See? This is why you should say yes to everything.
Items Muled to Seoul By American Friends: Hidden Valley Ranch, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, Advil Liquigels, Almay Eye Makeup Remover Pads, Loreal Voluminous Mascara in Blackest Black, Lawry’s Taco Seasoning, my Graf & Lantz tote bag, baby shoes, Clean and Clear Foaming Face Wash, Degree deodorant, Purpose face wash, Robitussin Cough and Cold, Zinc throat spray.
And in no particular order, this year I:
Traveled 168,895 miles, visited seven countries and spent 54 days away from home (DC and then Seoul). It is more mileage but a lot more time at home than last year. I’m still exclusively breastfeeding little Isa, so she has to fly with me everywhere since I’m her food source. Pumping is an occasional option, but, since I am a known pump-hater, it is a last resort.
Kicked off 2015 in Mexico with some of my best pals and whiskey water
Said goodbye to Washington, D.C.
Got the best sendoff song of ever
Moved into my first-ever high-rise
Started learning Korean
Took a few MOOCs
Fried a few appliances due to international voltage differences
Learned about PM2.5 and started checking it every day
Played Korean drinking games with my company’s CEO
Started learning Korean, made little progress
Made a bunch of new expat friends, and
Entertained a lot of guests who visited from the states
Spent a lot more time with my mom/dad/brother, thanks to being newly Asia-based
Witnessed a line for a Taco Bell opening
Got the angriest listener voicemail
Let a stranger sleep on my shoulder on the Tokyo subway, which I learned is a Japan thing
Reflected upon my Korea experience with many blogs and magazines
Ate a giant cheeseburger in between contractions, during the birth of my new baby
Visited Jeju Island, a super weird place
Got a 10-year visa to China, but had to sign an MOU promising I wouldn’t commit acts of journalism when I’m there
Started life-logging again, this time with FitBit
Had a weird meeting at the North Korean embassy in Japan
Interviewed a Taiwanese presidential candidate
Witnessed a dog groomed into a square
Pissed off PSY’s lawyer
Found an uncannily spot-on Texas-themed bar in Tokyo
Spoke at my grandfather’s alma mater, in Beijing.
Got bronchitis after a trip to Beijing
Started a newsletter with a punny name.
Survived a 14-hour flight with a cranky husband, highly verbal three-year-old and a nursing baby. Then made it through their jet lag.
I think we can call it a year now. Goodbye, 2015.