Joo spent a lot of constructive time with her friends, not only catching up on stories from the past year, but also sharing some effective life tools with each other (Joo taught her friends about some yoga techniques and family conferences and her friends taught her a positivity method called EFT and gave us a huge interactive foot therapy mat). I joined in on some of these meetings and it was euphoric for me to see how much, in addition to the deepening of our relationship, Joo has grown as an individual throughout our year-long honeymoon.
This is her friend Hyo-won talking to her nephew on a video phone while we met at a coffee house. Incidentally, as we were leaving the coffeehouse, Joo whispered to me, "I think we just passed a girl we met in Peru..." So we turned back, and sure enough she was right! It was a Korean girl we had shared a small cramped boat with on Lake Titicaca and then danced the night away together with in traditional garb on the island of Amantani!
Although I dove fully into the Korean way of life again, it was hard for me to ever shake the uncertainty at the back of my head as to the plans for our next year(s). I had applied to three grad schools and not heard back from any of them. The pressure was on because I had to keep meeting with her family and I wanted so badly to be able to assure them that I was taking good care of JooYeon in America- not only emotionally but also financially. Then, about halfway through, I got a letter from Teach for America - which was a nationwide teaching certification program that was essentially our Phoenix, Arizona option- and that was a rejection. As it was our least desirable of the three options at that point it wasn't a huge letdown, but it did serve to put an intensified pressure on the top two options.
At this point, all the little things that I disliked about Seoul (like the traffic shown above) began pestering me a bit more than usual and I struggled to stay in good spirits. I wrote to a few close friends which definitely helped out a lot, and I can't overemphasize the encouragement JooYeon gave me by constantly expressing her faith in me and that whatever was best for us would eventually work out (she later told me that she has acquired this patience from observing and relating with my mom). I also began to meditate on the fact that the deeper meaning in life depends not on when we succeed or fail, but on how we process and handle every situation along the way.
Then, just as I was beginning to move towards a plan B and start applying for some high school jobs, I got my letter of acceptance from Ohio University... not only was it a full scholarship but also a healthy stipend for teaching 4-5 undergraduate classes a week. I was thrilled as this option was a dream combo of studying math (my passion) again and teaching undergrad students (no offense to the elementary students of Korea but my energy levels had just been drained and I've always wanted to teach at the university level, even if it is just as a teaching assistant). We had also really resonated well with the Athens area- the nature, people, school, organic foods, etc.
I haven't accepted it for sure yet because we're still looking at a math grad program in Connecticut as well, but at least we can now rest assured that we will have at least one desirable option in the fall and her family doesn't have to worry as much about her wellbeing in America. So Joo put together a little party and we celebrated with some fruit and champagne...