I feel awful that we couldn’t meet up in person.  But as the old pirate saying goes, “When things go wrong, bury the treasure.”

… I hope your time in Seoul is beautiful, and scary (because scary means you’re following your destiny.)  I hope it’s full of novelty, and if there’s time, I hope it’s fun.

I had been in Seoul just shy of a month when my hyung, Aidan, was supposed to visit.  It was fun planning to meet up, figuring out which subway stop he would get off at, where we would go, what we would do, what we would eat and explore.  He was coming back from a trip to Cambodia and Lao, see.  But a week before, he texted me and said that instead of Sunday meeting, it would be Monday instead, and would that be okay?  I work all day Monday.  And all of the weekdays, for that matter, at an English school south of the river near Gangnam.  So no, Monday would not be okay.

Then, a week of radio silence.

That Monday came along, and I was stressed all day thinking that he would be walking around lost and hating me or attempt to get to the school and miss his flight out.  Still, nothing.  A few days later, I get another text saying that he made it back alright, and that he hid something for me in Tapgol Park (which is near Insadong).  Imagine my relief to know that he made it back alright, even if I didn’t get to see him.

The next weekend came and my friend Chris and I went out to see if we could find whatever it was.  Tapgol Park is small and centered around this small stone pagoda-tower that is housed in glass, but there’s a nice little path for the ahjusshis to stroll around and admire the monuments there.  After some searching, as the instructions “.. under a brick” were a bit difficult, we finally found the parcel behind one of the monuments under a literal flagstone that this hyung somehow pilfered off of a street somewhere.  It was a metal box with elephants on it that he’d gotten from Cambodia, inside was a note (some of it is transcribed above) and a necklace.

Words cannot describe how much this meant to me (ironic because I’m now going to try to do just that).  As in, so much so that I almost broke down in tears in that park.  It’s been really rough the first few weeks here, with a lack of teaching experience, apathetic coworkers, a language barrier, and few friends in the city making forming connections seemingly impossible.  Uprooting everything I knew and knocking down any expectations that I might have had, the first few weeks were tough.  But finding this small token of love from home was just so, so reaffirming after so many weeks of questioning what I was doing here.  Why did I do this to myself when I had it so easy back home, I’d been thinking.  But seeing and talking with people who believe in me, even for a short while, makes all of the doubts go away, bolsters my resolve that what I’m doing is the best possible decision.  It’s not always easy, and I’m going to be forever changed by the experience, however long it is, but I’m glad I’m here, after so many weeks of mind-crippling fear and anxiety.  My confidence comes and goes, but all it takes is a kind thought or word to put me back on the high road.

A toast to hyung, thank you and godspeed.

 

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