John and Jen: An American Journey
Fifteen years. It’s a long time. Fifteen years ago, I was fired from a telephone survey job I had held onto out of laziness and fear of jumping into my eventual journalism career, despite having graduated the year before with an English degree, with experience under my belt and knowing that sitting in a drab, windowless, soulless call center in four-and-eight-hour shifts was no way to spend my early 20s. The following month I would work at a neighborhood park, sweating buckets as I pulled weeds and laid mulch until I finally stopped listening to the voice in my head saying no one would possibly hire me to be a reporter and applied, and became, a reporter. What a difference 15 years makes.
Fifteen years is also the collective amount of time my girlfriend and I lived and worked in and around Busan, South Korea. For the final two of my six years, I was the foreign editor for Busan’s English-language newspaper, Dynamic Busan. Jen taught English for the entirety of her nine years. We left that life behind on March 4th. After traveling through Vietnam, Britain and Iceland, we touched down at Newark Liberty International Airport on April 5th.
Growing up in New Jersey, I never thought much about some of the Garden State’s curiouser curiosities such as jughandles, pork roll and its infamous law banning people from pumping their own gas. But, Jen–born in Indiana and a resident of the suburbs outside of St. Louis, Missouri, since she was nine–certainly did. Likewise, I am finding Missouri’s double-lane turns, booze in the convenience stores, tenderloin sandwiches and “midwestern goodbyes” that can stretch beyond an hour things that I did not experience until the first time I visited her family home. Despite both of us having lived and traveled through Canada, South Korea, Japan, China, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines, Guatemala, Italy, Austria, Germany, the Czech Republic, France, Britain, Switzerland and Iceland, we’re both still surprised by things the others took for granted their entire lives.
America is a big place. There is a lot neither of us has experienced in our own home country. That’s about to change when, on May 15, we set off from Jen’s family home in St. Charles, MO, for parts known and unknown, to see friends, family and places we’ve only seen on television, in magazines, on the internet and in our imaginations. To Indiana, Ohio, New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Washington D.C., Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Kansas and then, finally, back to Missouri.
We’re going on an American journey. We hope you’ll join us.
An ongoing list of posted and upcoming entries:
* Two Plumbers Brewery & Arcade (St. Charles, MO)
* Hermann, MO, wine country (Hermann, MO)
* Beer Sauce (St. Peters, MO)
* the Iron Fork food festival and competition at the City Museum (St. Louis, MO)
JPDdoesROK is a former news editor/writer in New Jersey, USA, who served a one-year tour of duty in Dadaepo/Jangnim, Saha-gu, Busan from February 2013 to February 2014. He is now a teacher in Gimhae.