Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Eastern Hemisphere

As I sat at the boarding gate at SFO, Katelyn texted me: "WAHH ARE YOU EXCITED," and I, deciding to be honest, replied, "나 피곤해 ㅠㅠ," which means "I'm tired :(."

Prior to leaving for Korea, I'd spent a week in Colorado with my parents, which, while fun and worthwhile, was a specimen of rather poor timing on my part. You see, I had been busy with my final exams and papers right up until I moved out of Berkeley. Then, I found myself in the Rocky Mountains, far, far away from the banks I needed for foreign currency, the post office where my newly-purchased recording equipment had been sent, and friends who might be able to help me in my seemingly-futile search for an apartment in Seoul.

In between beautiful hikes during the day and delicious meals at night, I was actually spending most of my vacation hours in slight panic mode as my date of departure approached and nothing was falling into place. So at the airport, as I boarded my flight, I was indeed tired, and I found it hard not to worry about how many things still had the possibility of going wrong! Still, I put on my happy facade, updated a quick photo and traveling status to Facebook, and proceeded to watch four and a half movies in a row on the plane. Escapism.

This light display at SFO is one of several dozen that represents the sister cities of San Francisco. I didn't know Seoul was a sister city! The seal also depicts Seoul's city flower, Forsythia viridissima, which is called 금선개나리 (Kumson kaenari) in Korean.
Twelve hours later, I had crossed the International Date Line and was on the other side of the world! It felt very strange to be at the Incheon Airport once again. Everything was so familiar, yet I felt different. I don't know if the nine months since I last was here count as a long time or a short time.

Three hours after that, I had my own apartment, began unpacking, and went to a cafe for WiFi and a 9pm dinner of Honey Bread and a sweet potato latte. And that's when I thought, "Okay, I'm really back in Korea now."

God is good, is He not? I had prayed for a lot of things that week, number one among them being patience and serenity (to accept the things I couldn't change, which were mostly my own fault anyway). I had asked for a way to bring enough cash to pay up front for an apartment I didn't even have yet, and although all the banks had been closed on Memorial Day, the ATMs came through! I had asked for the realtor I'd been talking with (via Kakaotalk, of all things) to be an honest and not-scammy person, and he turned out to be very nice, even waiting for me at his office past its closing time to ensure that I found a place. My studio for the summer is tiny -- basically a glorified dormitory room -- but it's a cheap place to sleep in a quiet neighborhood, and it's not far from SNU's campus, so I'm satisfied.

I had prayed that I would not crash and burn on the placement test for my summer class, because I had neglected to study for it -- not a single hour. My examiner was very nice, and she seemed impressed that I had managed to find an apartment on my own using only Korean. I was placed in level 4 (out of 6). Not great, but not bad at all. I have some catching up to do.

And I had prayed that this summer, I would use my time wisely and understand my purpose for being here. It's ostensibly for study and research. But I'd like to think there's more to it than that. I don't know yet. God doesn't answer every prayer instantaneously. In ten weeks, I'll look back at this and re-evaluate.

When I last checked that goodbye-America-hello-Korea status update on Facebook, I noticed something interesting. There is a small "globe" icon on the menu bar that indicates whether you have any new notifications (and I had about a dozen comments and nearly one hundred "likes" -- were people excited to see me back in Korea or eager to see me leave America?) and it looked different. I realized that while the globe normally shows North and South America for me, suddenly it showed Asia and Africa. Facebook was welcoming me to the Eastern hemisphere.

So here I am. A new adventure awaits. So do old cliches. And who knows what else?



  1. Exciting that you're back in Korea! And gosh, I'm impressed that you managed to find a place to live speaking Korean and placed into level 4 out of 6!

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