As the time for us to move back home draws closer, my thoughts and emotions about our big, upcoming transition continue to grow in intensity. The past few weekends have been spent with many of my favorite people in Korea. I'm feeling fresh and filled up from all the amazing relationships I've gotten to relish in and build upon lately. I'm so fortunate and thankful for the life we've gotten to enjoy in Korea and I'm going to be really sad when I have to say goodbye to all the people and things that I love here. What an amazing 4-year journey it's been.
At the same time, I look forward to the life that awaits us back home and I'm thankful for so many things that will come with that change. As one chapter closes another big adventure is set to begin. Loose ends are being tied and preparations are being made for the future. It's scary and exciting! I am constantly wondering and daydreaming about what God has in store for us next. At the same time, part of me is doubting His ability to top the chapter I'm finishing now. I want to revel in every last word that He's writing now and read it all slowly and carefully, so as to squeeze out and savor every last drop of enjoyment that's here for me. It's a strange place to be, on the brink of transformation. I remember feeling similarly before graduating high school, college, and getting married.
Today, I went to the doctor to get refills on my monthly prescriptions for my thyroid, allergies, and asthma (talk about getting all the negative health genes in the family). I walked in (no appointment necessary), waited 5 minutes, talked to the doctor for 3 minutes (he always greets me warmly), paid the equivalent of $3, then walked across the street to the pharmacy, waited another 5 minutes for my medicine while drinking my complimentary vitamin C juice (by the pharmacist who also greets me warmly), paid another $15 for my 3 medications (that would run me about $200 back home), then was on my way. As I was sitting waiting for my prescriptions I started thinking how much I was going to miss the ease, simplicity, and affordability of the Korean healthcare system. This thought led to more thoughts about many of the things I'm going to miss in Korea. Suddenly I was sitting there all teary-eyed, painfully realizing (again) that leaving Korea is going to be hard. As time continues to tick down, this thought seems to surface often and is usually followed by increasing feelings of sadness. I know it's a perfectly normal emotion to be experiencing right before ending a chapter in life. As I sat there in the pharmacy with my sadness, I came up with a mental checklist of things I will either miss about Korea or be happy to leave behind. Without further adieu, here is a hard copy more for myself than anything else.
Things I'm going to miss:
- my friends who are basically my family now, some of which I might never see again face to face.
- the diversity of friendships I have here. I literally have good friends from all corners of the earth.
- open-minded people. people who don't necessarily think the same way as me or share my spiritual faith but still respect me.
- my korean family at our climbing gym.
- a communal culture that values the common good over narrow self-interest, independence, and self-indulgence.
- living simply and easily within my means and not being too attached to my material possessions.
- my 20 hour/4 day work week (full-time pay).
- 4 months paid vacation a year. the time and means to travel extensively and experience new ways of life.
- having the free time to pursue my passions and discover new ones.
- as previously mentioned, efficient and affordable healthcare.
- the extensive and cheap public transportation system (bus, train, subway).
- the squishy, uber-flat, asphalt river trail just outside my house.
- fresh, local, seasonal, and affordable produce.
- the sweetest strawberries, juciest peaches, most fragrant purple grapes, crunchiest apples, and abundant persimmons.
- a farmers market that is open all day, everyday
- the wrinkled, old, hunched over ladies that sell the produce at said farmers market.
- the amazing vegetable gardens and grape vineyards along the river trail by my house.
- the endless hiking trails outside my front door.
- the dozen or so climbing areas within 1 1/2 hours drive.
- cheap acupuncture and alternative/oriental medicine.
- floor heat.
- $5 jimjilbangs. Sauna/spa like places that are oh, so relaxing yet affordable.
- really delicious, homemade kimchi.
- quick, cheap, healthy food options.
- squatty potties.
Things I'm NOT going to miss:
- crazy, erratic drivers.
- ridiculously slow, incompetent drivers.
- scarcity of toilet paper and/or soap in restrooms (especially in restaurants).
- toilet paper dispensers at the front entrance of the restroom instead of the stall (what to do when one wipe just isn't enough).
- girls smoking in the bathrooms at school.
- boys smoking at the end of the hallways at school.
- the wafting sewage smells.
- old men hocking up loogies and spitting them all over the ground.
- dodging said loogies on the ground.
- old men peeing in public places in plain sight.
- old men getting drunk and obnoxious on soju.
- kimchi/soju breath (especially in the morning).
- people staring at me wherever I go.
- lack of personal space.
- our leaky roof
- the premium price placed on dairy products.
- the lack of cheese selection.
- the humidity in the summer.
I suppose that's a good start. Living in Korea has really changed me. Of course I'm still the same; same inherent personality, temperament, spiritual foundation. But I've learned, grown, and yes, changed. I have new perspectives on nearly everything. I think more outside the box now. My biggest fear in coming home is that I'll fall right back into my old negative patterns of existence that I've worked so hard to extinguish. Patterns that my culture at home will tempt me to embrace. But I have high hopes for myself that what I've learned from this chapter will stick with me and I'll be able to go home and continue living out my life with purpose and intention. I hope to stand firm and not veer from the path I'm on. I've just gone to see the world, now maybe I can live up to my desire and be the change I want to see back home.