I am safe, sound, and a day ahead in Korea!
The flight was fine. I can’t say being trapped in a small space for that many hours is enjoyable, but it wasn’t miserable either. I was able to check both of my 49 pound suitcases and squeeze my 50 pounds of carry-on into the seat in front of me. The flight wasn’t full, so there was plenty of space and the airplane food was pretty good =)
I ran into Jenny coming off of my Incheon flight, and thank god I did… I don’t know if I would have made it through the hellacious dragging of the 150 pounds of luggage without her good spirits and positive attitude. NOTE: Always get a luggage cart. Your check-in counter will always be the farthest from your current location. We checked ourselves into seats next to each other on the flight to Busan. As we descended into Busan, I said aloud: “Huh. It looks just like SFO. Oh, shit, do you think we just traveled 16 hours and thousands of miles to accidentally be in the same exact place as where we started???” Thankfully, Jenny was asleep.
We got into the dormitory REALLY late. Well, REALLY late when you have a CURFEW. Curfew is probably going to be really hard for me, especially when I’m used to having my freedom of movement and the luxury of not thinking about bedtime. Also, everything has stairs or a hill. I’m hoping this will A) force me to requit smoking; B) make my butt super perky; and C) help me not to buy stuff so I don’t have to haul it up the frickin’ hill/stairs.
We spent most of the day searching for food. I was happy to find a Dunkin’ Donuts to have my AM coffee fix. Everything is really close to campus and we spent a good deal of time just perusing shops and stores and getting a feel for our location. I searched through Amy’s blog to try to figure out places for us to eat and was excited when I saw places I recognized from her descriptions (THANKS AMY!). Today, I had triangular rice rolls filled with curry chicken and another with tuna salad with miso broth and radish on the side – all for a whopping 3000 won (about $2.91).
Yay! My roommate Kristy just arrived. I hope she’s okay with taking the top bunk. She just super efficiently made her bed in a way I would NEVER have been able to do. [ Note: I wonder if she realizes she’s the age of my Baby Sister? (Note in Note: UM, in Korea, they add an entire year to my age. Not cool, Korea. Not cool.)] Anyhow, she seemed extremely surprised to find me here…. Hopefully, we can both adjust soon!
Today was my last day in The Desert before heading off to find new adventures. It surprises me how surprised I feel when the complete ordinariness of my life turns into a step closer to something intoxicating and brand new.
I woke up snuggled in my bed with my hairball tornado of a border collie dreaming of my completely regular life when I remembered with a jolt that I was leaving for the Bay Area to continue the Farewell Tour. I have these segmented stages of my life: Midwest Childhood, Desert Dwelling, Nor.Cal/Law School… and soon: KOREA. In each place I have memories, relationships, and love.
Last year at this time, I was restless and needed to focus on something, so I began to fold 1000 origami paper cranes. It was repetitive and mindless, what I like to call “mindless concentration.” It helps to calm me and forces me stay focused on something external. These cranes were special because I made them with the intention of giving them to someone else who I felt could use the fabled paper crane wish. When I delivered them (okay, when I delivered the 520 I was able to finish), the recipient accepted them with all of the good intentions and time and love that I had folded into them. I know that no matter what happens in Korea, I am ready to let the future unfold as the Universe intends.
As I embark on this next phase and this next stage and this next home…. I know: wherever I go, there I am… and with me come the memories and the strength of the people who helped to fold me into who I am, and who I will always be.
With immense amounts of gratitude, I must exclaim that I have wonderful, amazing, dynamic, supportive, hilarious, dedicated, unique, and impossibly generous friends. Many days, I wonder if I deserve these people in my life; somehow and somewhere, I’ve acquired an eclectic collection of people who, despite not always understanding why I do the impossibly delusional things that I do, manage to support me in all of my endeavors – not blindly – but with thought, and character, and investment.
I’m not sure why I want, no, why I NEED to go to Korea at this exact moment in time. I only know that I NEED to. It doesn’t necessarily make rational sense. And there are many ways that I can twist and turn and justify the reasons into palatable terms so that other people can understand. At the heart of the matter, though, is pure heart. Something inside me is ready to burst, and it’s time for me to become more of who I feel I am meant to be. I know there is something for me in Korea, whether it be a history I can’t understand, a faceless mother whom I may never find/meet/know/embrace, or even simply – a fresh place to recreate and restart. There is something there, just waiting for me to grasp it. My only responsibility is to attempt to reach…
One incredibly insightful friend said: “This experience will change your life. Maybe you will hate it. Maybe you love it. But there is no possible way to regret it. You will be changed. And you will be glad.” Another said: “I’m proud of you. Whatever your experience brings.” A third: “Something great is going to happen, I just know it!” The excitement and encouragement (and sometimes forceful pushing) of my friends has helped me to embrace this opportunity… and also be able to admit that whatever I’ve been doing… hasn’t really been working. Somehow, without being ready to face my fear of discomfort, of travel, of never belonging somewhere (or to someone)… I actually AM ready.
So, thank you to my friends (who have become like family), and my family (who are my greatest friends) for perhaps, the BEST EVER Farewell Tour. I love and will miss you all!
Why did you invent packing? Why did you not instead invent magical think-it-then-appear-it type arrangements to transport exorbitant amounts of important crap that I will ABSOLUTELY NEED while living in a teeny dorm room in a faraway land? What? You think I’m ridiculous? JUST because I’m a cosmetics hoarding, shoe addicted, overpacker? That seems totally unfair.
Or completely accurate, whatever.
I can’t lift the big suitcase. And I can barely lift the midsize-ish suitcase. But, I efficiently manged to pack the bare necessities of my life PLUS extra toothpaste, tampons, sudafed, advil, immodium, tums, and vitamins into these bags. Um… along with 7 pairs of shoes, 5 pairs of leggings, 6 dresses, 5 tubes of lipstick, a blowdryer with 240 voltage capacity, 3 cardis, 1 trench coat, a winter jacket, towels, shampoo and conditioner, extra contact lens solution, nail polish, 2 pairs of jeans, a pair of dress slacks, 6 tshirts, 5 bras, various undergarments, socks, 2 pairs of tights, pajamas, and a pair of yoga pants. And some sweaters. And four H&M miniskirts. But those barely count because they hardly take any space at all. Barely.
But, I’m close to done. I’m taking a last visit to the Valley to celebrate my adventure with some of my favorite adventurous peeps, buy some last minute items, and try to make my peace with the Desert as I say farewell again…
I wonder if the Desert will fit in the small suitcase? There’s still room in there…
My first trip to Korea was nearly a decade ago, and was a life-changing experience – though maybe not in an expected way. The experience wounded me… in a way only other transracial, internationally adopted individuals seem to understand or recognize. For many years this trip was a topic not to be discussed – even with my closest friends and family, including my three Korean-adopted siblings, or my Korean-adopted uncle or Korean-adopted aunt (yup, Korean adoptees in both of my parents’ families!)
Eleven days of exposure to another world in which I once belonged made my other life hollow and overwhelming. Maybe it was transporting a new adoptee back to the States and placing the baby in the arms of a new mother. Maybe it was my intense job as a state social worker facilitating my first termination of parental rights. Maybe it was just Korea, and the intense, organic, intrinsic connection to the smells, feel, air, land. Coming back, I felt displaced. Like other KADs, I felt I was not Korean and yet I was not NOT Korean…I straddled the line between worlds… and I belonged no where.
I began to build a safe life for myself in the States – I avoided discomfort and kept myself emotionally and physically distant from anything that was not familiar to me. However, I soon discovered that stability and comfort are not the same thing as satisfaction and contentment. Building a safe life hasn’t given enough nourishment for my soul… so without knowing what else to do after a year that caused more despair than desire, I find myself presented with the opportunity to go back to Korea, to learn about its culture, language, people, education system, heart.
Of course, I’ll be doing this in a tiny dorm, in a smallish town, eating at a university cafeteria, living with a roommate who is probably 10 years younger and much nicer than I am. I’ve packed as many pairs of shoes as is reasonable for a shoe addict, and have taken the advice of others to bring plenty of the Top T’s: toothpaste and tampons. I’ve also tucked in emergency cigarettes, family photos, nail polish, and somewhere… my passport.
I don’t know what comes next. But Korea seems like the best place to start…