I hope you had a wonderful birthday as I’m about sure this won’t get to you on time.
I want you to know how proud we are of all that you have accomplished. I can’t imagine in a million years dad or I thinking of flying to a foreign country where we don’t speak or write the language to live and work on our own. Dad would be too chicken to visit without a tour guide. Seriously though, I am so impressed.
Things are falling into place slowly. Piece by piece, I keep figuring small things out. Today, I finally got my phone plan sorted out, along with figuring out the aircon and TV after 3 months.. Each small thing feels like a big triumph. Today I got a package from my eomma in the mail. Sending packages from America is reaaalllyyyy expensive so you’d think it’s like life-saving medicine, but no, it’s just my mom’s special biscotti, the iconic twice-baked Italian coffee cookie you’d normally pay $5 for at a Starbucks. She baked the last batch in February on the night before I left for here, and now look how far we’ve come. Her note was really sweet, too. I’ve been thinking on this post for a long time, about natural family and adopted family, how you’ve gotta make peace with both in order to be okay with living 5,000 miles away from your hometown. That letter gave me the necessary nudge to actually sit down and write this post.
Sometimes the world is r e a l l y big. Even moving away to college, a “mere” 200 miles away from home, seems like a big deal. But time passes, and the world gets bigger and more spread out. You grow up. Then you move again, and the world seems even bigger than you’d ever imagined; how the hell can someplace be 5,000 miles away?? Why would you want to go there?? My mom was really sad initially when I told her of my decision to go. It was almost like I was going to Korea to get as far away from her as possible. Not true, of course, but initially it must have felt like a slap in the face. More time passed, and we all settled in. I secretly suspect that all parents secretly like when their kids are doing cool things because then it makes them feel good when they get to tell their friends about what the kids are up to..
“oh your son’s working a desk job? my daughter’s in korea teaching english, but whatever..”
You learn to negotiate distance. I have a seriously broken part of my personality which is like if I see somebody on Skype or keep up with them on social media I feel as if I’m basically seeing them in person so it’s a surrogate for actual human interaction, but it’s a great defense mechanism rather than letting the sadness of how far away my family is get to me.
Sometimes time itself works against you. How long will I be here? I honestly can’t say. What’s adding on another year to my stay here to me? Not much different on my end. But then I find myself staring down missing weddings, family reunions, my brother’s graduation.. Obviously when you’re away from the other people their lives move at a different pace. Or maybe the same pace, but a separate pace. Both sides move on and continue on their own paths.
Sometimes the world is surprisingly small. Last weekend as we got tacos with the coworkers to celebrate mine and another coworker’s birthdays, we were just going to pay when my one coworker met her friend she hadn’t seen in a whole year. We ended up going for drinks after the tacos, and I found out this coworker’s friend lives literally 10 minutes away from my hometown back in the states, down to the intersection I live at and everything.
You learn to make it smaller, too. You have your natural family, who are far away, and then you have your built family, the ones you choose to surround yourself with. I’m slowly worming my way into the foreign teachers at our schools’ hearts. I have some hyungs and eonnis here to whom I entrust the safety of my life wayyy more often than I should. I have this crew at the bar who have somehow become my adopted family, and more than the free shots and a good place to hang out on weekend nights, they are as much of a home as my lonely little Gwanak-gu apartment, at least. It’s gratifying to be able to so quickly have a place where you can walk in and have a chorus of “annyeonghaseyo”s pelted at you, a “usual” drink, and where all the regulars know your name. (Of course, it occurred to me about a month ago that I could potentially work at this bar when my contract is up, so after asking the owner, I’m basically embarking on a 10-month job interview..)
Usually in May two things happen: my birthday and the end of school. Traditionally. So when my birthday rolled around this year and instead there were a million tests and special (but stressful-for-teachers) days and so much hard work, it was a bit hard to cope. But we’re learning still. It’s still the “first” thing of everything so I hope that with practice everything will become second-nature. We’ll see, I guess.
A toast to family and friends, both silver and gold.