Wednesday, February 23, 2011

One Year Ago Today

It's been a year since we boarded a plane to Korea.  It was an emotional day.  Memories of the goodbyes we'd said to our best friends the previous night lingered in our heads.  There was a five am wake-up, tears at the airport, unexpected costs for the insane amount of baggage we brought, and the beginning of an adventure into the unknown. 

We created this blog on our layover in Seattle, and within a week I’d written our first few posts.  Rereading them now makes me smile. 

I remember the first time we walked into our apartment, balking at its size.  Looking at the local language made us feel like ignorant children, and speaking was even more foreign.  I soon mastered Korea's main set of numbers for shopping purposes, and Ryan quickly trained himself to read Hangul, making traveling and decoding restaurant menus much easier.

In addition to the new language and living adjustments, many of the things that initially shocked us about our new home now seem mundane.

We’ve learned to dodge the scooters that fly down the sidewalk, we’re no longer grossed out by the dried fish hanging in nearly every storefront, and we rarely notice the foul smell that once had us plugging our noses on the street.  Eating kimchi regularly and being able to note the variations among restaurant recipes doesn’t seem odd to us.  Either does eating the eggs with brown shells that used to taste “funny.”  We’ve adopted the habit of smiling politely as children shout to their parents in Korean, “Look, foreigners!” and attempt to respond cheerfully to multiple English greetings of, “Hello” from unknown students as they pass us on the street.

We’ve learned to live without things that some Americans couldn’t imagine giving up.  We’ve experienced the frustrations of being unable to speak the local language, but have discovered that with some creativity sign language is universal. 

Recently I remembered my graduate school professor sharing her experience of living in Jamaica for two years.  As she recounted her travels, she told my class that living abroad changed her in ways she could pinpoint, and in ways she never could.  Ryan and I can relate to her feelings exactly.

Our move home is bittersweet.  We can’t wait to reunite with our families and friends, but are sad to leave behind the life we’ve made together here.  Our future is unknown at this point.  What we are sure of is that this past year has been an incredible adventure and an experience that we’ll never forget. 

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