Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Love From Korea



As hard as it is to believe sometimes, almost two years have already passed since we moved to Korea.  Facebook reminded me the other day of our announcement that we were coming here, and I thought back to how much I have learned and grown in this relatively short amount of time.  I remembered my first post about the things I love about Korea and realized how much more I’ve come to love, especially about Busan, the city we will be leaving this summer.  So here’s another, updated list of my favorite things here, and the news about where we are going next.


1.  I mentioned in my first list how Koreans love children, and honestly, this still gets to me.  Even if they don’t speak any other English, Koreans of all ages, male and female, will smile and wave enthusiastically, then say, “CUTE-ah!”  It really is so heartwarming.  They especially love when Annalee rides her scooter, which I have to say is pretty darn cute!


2.  The street that leads to the subway station in my neighborhood.  I just love it so much.  It’s lined with produce trucks and stands and trees that mark the seasons in all their splendor.  This is my favorite produce stand; the salesman is always so kind, and he always has the best produce.  


4.  Kids’ cafés. 

 I’m trying to figure out how to describe this because I really can’t think of anything comparable in the States.  The café part is for the grown-ups, and the offerings range from just your typical caffeinated drinks to snacks and even meals in some locations.  And then there are all these different things for the kids to play on.


If you’re picturing your typical “play place” attached to a fast food chain — ball pits that smell faintly of urine (or worse), sticky floors and suspicious splatters, loud and obnoxious machines or animatronic animals that are somewhat terrifying, places where you want to bathe your children in hand sanitizer when you leave — this is not what I’m talking about!  Instead are little “rooms” with play kitchens and living rooms, 


ball pits with interactive screens, usually some sort of trampoline or bounce pad, and some even have a sand box! 



 There are toy cars to ride and dress-ups, 




and often times, café employees will follow your child around playing with them, so it’s like you have a baby-sitter too and can actually have a conversation or finish a complete thought! 


Having been traumatized by American play places, I was really reluctant to warm up to these.  But then when I went and the employees made my kids wash their hands and took their temperature as we walked in, I fell hard.  
I mean, I seriously had to restrain myself to keep from hugging them.  Some are more pricey (especially in our neighborhood), but they’re pretty reasonable.  Since the weather and air quality isn’t always ideal, they’re a great place to get away to.  I don’t know if they sell gift cards, but if so, that would be THE PERFECT!!! Christmas or birthday present for someone with young kids here.  I mean, picture a house chock-a-block full of the best toys that you sit in while sipping your coffee, and then you leave and don’t have to clean up anything!  It’s kind of… heavenly.


5.  Convenience stores.  Koreans absolutely love them, and now, so do I.  You are rarely in a place that doesn’t have one.  They’ve come to the rescue when vegetarian eating options are limited as you know you can always at least get some ramen and survive!  Sometimes there are even two different chains of them side by side.  And it is so, well, convenient!  We have one downstairs from our apartment (that I’ve mentioned before), and it really does provide such peace of mind.  I’ve started wondering how I’ll ever again live without a place I can’t just run down to when I need something!  I mean, the responsibility of having to plan — it’s overwhelming! ;-)


6.  I feel safe.  Okay, not when I’m driving or crossing the street — that’s just plain terrifying.  But I noticed last summer when I went back to California, the sort of low-level (sometimes high-level) tension I felt for myself and my kids’ safety.  But here?  I dropped my phone chasing my kids to the park last week, and (thanks to teamwork from my friends!), I actually got it back!  I’ve left my kids $100+ scooters for an hour and returned to find them exactly where I left them. In California, both my granddad and one of Matt’s best friends were shot in parking lots.  Both survived, but I don’t walk through parking lots there without keeping an eye all around me, and hurrying my children in and out of the car.  Here, though, honestly?  I only worry about what other foreigners might do.


I feel like I’m often saying this, but Korea is so much more than what the media portrays it to be.  It’s a beautiful and fascinating country, and while I have had some challenges, it has definitely become a place that is special to me.  


Which is good! Because… we are staying in Korea!  (The sign above says “We live in Korea”.  And, no, I didn’t just get all good at Korean — my friend helped me! haha!). 


Our move this summer will be the shortest ever of my husband’s career.  We are leaving Busan, but we will be closer to Seoul, which I love.  Also, we will be living sort of out in the country (at least compared to what we live in now) which will be a different change-of-pace for sure.  


I leave this afternoon for California, where I will spend most of this summer with family and friends — and especially Jayna.  I think the hardest part of staying in Korea is knowing we will still be so far away from her.  So I’m going to go spend a weekend with her before her finals and then moving her out of her dorm next week.  I haven’t done any of the things parents usually do during their kid’s first year of college — I’m very thankful that I get to do this!  I’m going to soak it up!


When I get back at the end of July, we will have a week or two here before we move.  We’ve already said goodbye to some friends who won’t be here any more when we return, and we have sort of packed a little not just for our time away but for when we get back, not knowing how long it will take to find a place to live.  I’m sitting here writing this feeling pretty emotional, knowing that it is sort of the end of a little era, but also kind of in denial, I think.  


Prayers are always appreciated.  Moving here was harder on my kids, Wyatt especially, than I expected.  I’m bracing for that while hoping it is much smoother, especially since we will at least be in Korea still.  


So that’s our big news!  What are your summer plans?

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