Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Getaways and Gratitude

Sometimes you've just got to get away, am I right?

I was kind of desperately seeking a change of scene.  I’d been dreading this particular Thanksgiving for... oh, let’s see... the past year and a half, since we found out we were moving to Korea, and I realized there was probably no chance that Jayna would be celebrating with us after moving to college.  I decided that if this year was going to be different, why not go really different?  As in, I wanted to go out of town.
But Skyler is a traditionalist and adamantly insisted that we be home for our feast or the holiday would be completely ruined.  Plus the kids still had school on Thanksgiving Day.  Last year, we kept them home, but this year I decided to have them go because it seemed like they had missed out on some fun celebrating.  So Lilly and Wyatt had a cute turkey trot and did some crafts.  I decided to bring them home after their school feast so we could do our family’s celebrating.  It was just us, and it was a nice quiet time, even if I had a lump in my throat as I pulled out only six plates from the cupboard, reminding me again that Jayna was gone.

The next day, Matt had to work, but he texted me around noon saying, “You know how we were talking about going somewhere this weekend?  Well, I just booked a room.  Can you pack for me and pick me up when you’re all ready?”  Well!  Nothing like a little fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants adventure!  It took longer than it should have to get out the door, of course, and there was at least one full u-turn and 20minutes of backtracking before we could get over to Matt. So it was pretty late when we got to our hotel that night in Yongin, a city just outside Seoul near the popular Korean amusement park Everland.

Other than the hotel we stayed in when we first arrived, this was the first hotel here for us that was not military affiliated.  And it was... an experience. The room was supposed to accommodate up to eight people according to the website.  We walked in, and well, it’s safe to say we’d never stayed in a place quite like this.  The room where we stood was very large, so there was definitely space for at least eight — or actually, maybe twenty — but... there weren’t beds for everyone.  In fact, in that room, the only furnishings were a refrigerator, and two tables, one on each side of the room.  The rooms had sound proof tiles because... drumroll... there was an absolutely enormous television with speakers and karaoke mics.

“This hotel room... has karaoke?!” Our kids were over the moon.  We were definitely winning at parenthood for a few minutes, until we spent longer than we should have trying to get it to work (everything was in Korean except the titles of the English songs).  But we promised the kids that the following evening we would figure it out and have a genuine karaoke party.

We went into the bedroom and found two full-size beds... for eight people. Okay, yeah, there were only six of us, but still, the website had said eight.  I’d like to think they were planning to bring in floor mats and bedding, but they’d seen all of us check in and no mention of additional beds was made.  So... three kids went into one bed, and Matt and I took Annalee in our bed. And thus began a mostly sleepless night because there just wasn’t a lot of space so when one person rolled over or moved, everyone had to roll over too.  

Somewhere in the gray, early hours, Wyatt, Lilly, and Annalee got up, while Skyler, Matt, and I tried to sleep a little more.  Through an overtired fog, I saw Lilly come in and announce that the toilet was "flooding water everywhere”.

“Did you one of you throw a bunch of toilet paper in it?” Matt asked. Both Wyatt and Lilly insisted all the business conducted had used minimal t.p., so I got up to see. It was simultaneously as bad and not as bad as expected.  There was just water (*thank You, Lord*), but it had totally flowed all over the floor.  So I found myself in the lobby a few minutes later saying, “The toilet overflowed.”  

The man at the desk replied with a blank expression. I sighed.  There had been too little sleep and no caffeine, and yet it was time to play Charades.

“Toilet?” I repeated.  He nodded this time. Progress. “Water?”  More nodding.  “Over.”  I moved my hands in an arcing motion.  “Over Toilet.  Over floor.”  I spread my hands horizontally to show the water everywhere.  It took a couple tries, but within ten minutes we had a toilet that was flushing — sort of normally — again.  

Matt had decided to take Lilly and Wyatt to Everland, but Skyler and I took Annalee and went to the nearby Korean Traditional Folk Village.  It was a good day, though pretty cold. The folk village was very picturesque and interesting.  Taking two-year-olds to places like this is fun, as the following photos clearly demonstrate.

Me: Ooh, Sky, this is so pretty and scenic! Can you take a picture of me with Annalee?


She was much more fond of the silk-making part of the village, though, and could have stayed and played with the silks hanging down all day.

She also loved “the Christmas tree” which — spoiler alert — wasn’t actually a Christmas tree.

I enjoyed the quiet seclusion and vibrant colors of the temple area.
Meanwhile, Matt had a great day with the other two at Everland. 

 They all had lots of fun on the rides and were approached for pictures several times like celebrities.  Clearly, Wyatt didn't mind.  

Side note: Matt is the much cooler parent.  Not only did he take the kids to Everland, he bought the pictures on the rides.

That night we met back up in the hotel room for the promised karaoke party.  We were all having a great time, and then trying to get them into bed when the phone rang.  It was the front desk asking us to quiet our children.  Now, not only were we in a room with a massive karaoke system, we were also in a room with six people, two beds, and a barely functioning toilet!  Then calling us just after 9 pm to tell us (not kindly either) to quiet our kids?!  I had to bite back the snappy response, "Maybe if you'd given us more beds that would actually be possible!!!"

The next day was a tiring day of driving and spending a couple extra hours in traffic outside Busan, I have to say that the familiar parks and playgrounds, the convenience stores, and the twisting driveway into our garage that always makes me a little carsick even when I’m driving, never looked so warm and inviting.  Knowing that the toilet flushed -- or that I could fix it if it didn't -- was a huge relief (yeah, pun intended!;-) ).

More and more, I'm learning in my life that very few things are 100% one way or the other, but when we try so hard to put labels like "Awesome" or "Miserable" we miss the full scope of the experience.  Honestly?  This wasn't my favorite getaway.  If we'd gotten an incredible deal on the hotel room, I think I could have more rose-colored perception.  But it was sort of a budget room -- plus karaoke! -- for not budget prices.  It sort of felt like one of those lots-of-work-for-little-reward kinds of things.


Still honestly, we saw something beautiful.  We had a lot of fun.  We created memories.  And all weekend, I kept thinking of my friends who have lost family, thinking that my missing Jayna was a tiny fraction of the pain they felt.  I was so incredibly grateful knowing it was just two weeks till she was back with us for Christmas.  

So I still stand by my words: this little getaway was exactly what I needed.


  1. I guess another of the lessons is that we often overlook the simple things that are so incredibly vital to life today, like a toilet that flushes, and forget to be grateful until they are not there.

  2. You made me laugh, cry and pray for your daily events that make a normal day NEVER normal and yet you find JOY in the moments. Thank you, beautiful writer and friend! Joy


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