April 20, 2010

The Big PCS Part 2 - Reminiscing

The Big PCS Part 1 can be found here.

For the last few days before we left Korea, we stayed at the same place we had stayed when we arrived 26 months before. Staying there again brought a lot of memories to the foreground of my mind. Here are some thoughts I wrote while we were there.

Staying here again is a strange feeling. It really brings back the memories of what it felt like to be here at first. I remember being so incredibly exhausted when we arrived. We went to bed as soon as we could once we got to our room and slept until about eight a.m. At some point - it was either that morning, or later when we were napping - I was laying in bed and heard an air raid siren. I knew it was just a test, but those things just sound so ominous. Even though I knew it was really irrational, for a moment, I thought, What have we done? What were we thinking, bringing our children to South Korea? There is a hostile dictatorship just a short drive away!

But the moment passed, and I felt normal again (at least as normal as one can feel when suffering from major jet-lag in a totally foreign country).

I remember being so excited to look out our hotel room window that first morning, to see the country in  daylight for the first time. We have that same view out our window now, but now that skyline of high-rise apartment buildings and mountains in the background is so familiar.

I remember the excitement of venturing out into the city for the first time. It was Sunday, and we rode the subway to get to church. The subway station closest to the church was about a 15 minute walk away from the church, so we got to soak in all the sights on that Seoul street as we walked to our little white church building up on the hill. It was so fun! I remember how, even though I had become quite a bit more comfortable with the idea of being here in the five days since our plane had landed, there was nothing that made me feel more at home than walking into that church building. The gospel is the same everywhere. Our branch changed quite a bit during our time here - lots of people coming and going, a new building in a totally different part of the city, and even combining with another branch - but through it all, the people in that branch were a constant source of comfort, friendship, strength, and inspiration to me, the Man, and the kids.

I remember having a little more anxiety when we moved into our new apartment. It was a great location - right across the street from post, and the same place that our friends lived, but we were on the 26th floor. I don't think I'd ever been on the 10th floor of any building in my life, let alone lived on the 26th floor. I was so sure that I could feel that building moving under my feet, swaying in the wind. I figured out later that I must have been kind of crazy because when my parents came to visit, my mom did not feel any swaying. She gets motion sick very easily, so I think if there was any swaying going on, she would have felt it.

And then there was the voice.

The amplified voice from somewhere down on the streets below. The kids and I would hear it everyday around lunchtime. It was a very serious sounding man's voice speaking Korean, so of course to me, in my fragile, anxiety-ridden state, it sounded ominous, and made me wonder if there was some kind of political revolution going on. The Girl always got a little scared when the voice started up, but I would just tell her it was okay - just a guy talking in a speaker so lots of people could hear him - and I'd look out the window, searching for the source of the voice.

It didn't take long for me to get used to being on the 26th floor. My paranoia of earthquakes, fires, or artillery subsided, I couldn't feel any swaying anymore, and I finally figured out that the ominous voice was just a dude selling fruit from his truck.

And Korea became home.

One of my favorite things about our experience here is how warm-hearted the people of this country have been to our children. I have a lot of great memories of people of all ages, men and women alike, showing love to our kids. One of my favorite memories was an elevator ride up to our apartment. There was a man who lived one floor below us. There were a few times that we happened to be on the elevator at the same time as him as he was leaving the gym. He was a tall, strong looking man, probably in his 50's or 60's. Anyway, the Boy was just about a year and a half old and whenever we rode the elevator with this man he would smile at the Boy like he reminded him of his own grandson. Well, one day, he just got down and scooped the Boy into a great big hug. It was the cutest thing. That is such a good representation of the warmth and goodness that we felt from so many people here, and is one of the many reasons why this country will always have a special place in my heart.

It's been almost two months since we left now. I miss it, and I hope the memories will not fade.

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