Post-Trip Daily Grind

Train ride from Seoul to Daegu

Somehow, two weeks has flow by already…the same length of our trip to Korea. My body is more or less adjusted and back on Pacific time. But my thoughts are still in Korea, still contemplating how I can get back for at least three months of language study this spring before I (hopefully) start nursing/midwifery school next June.

I have all these blog posts I want to write, memories from the trip, thoughts on adoption, things I want to read more about. But for now, I’m sucked into the world of microbiology (my last pre-nursing class), grad school apps (applying for a doctorate program!), and, starting tomorrow night, a ten week Korean class. I’m glad to have a concrete way to continue developing my Korean language skills. I miss hearing it on a daily basis. I found myself heading over to the local Korean market near our house yesterday for some 잡채 and 김밥, just so I could hear Korean.

It’s so easy to get sucked back into the daily grind…and especially this time, with my school schedule the way it is, I didn’t have much time to settle back into life in the US before things got going again. Most of the things I’ve noticed are pretty obvious:

Portland feels tiny.

And quiet.

And dead, dead, dead compared to Seoul.

Where is everybody? I kept wondering to myself that first week.

I find myself missing the hustle and bustle of Seoul, the feeling that I’m part of something big, the feeling that I can be small and inconsequential.

In Portland, everyone wants to be unique and important and doing something totally new and creative and innovative. Which is great…but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed just being one of millions. It’s humbling, and gives you some good perspective on what’s important.

I didn’t miss the pretentious hipsters of Portland, who all dress the same and talk the same and listen to the same music, and carry their vegan kale smoothies in mason jars (which, in the name of full disclosure, I may carry from time to time) and are all so…young and obnoxiously politically correct. It just feels a bit stifling and precious after being in a city of 10 million. It’s definitely not what I was expecting to feel. I don’t think of myself as a big city girl (after all, we chose to live in Portland, not Seattle).

All this is not to say that I’m romantically pining away for my new long-lost lover, Korea. When people ask me what I think about Seoul, and Korea in general, it’s hard to explain. I didn’t exactly fall in love with Korea. Like any country, it has its flaws, and they are–just as in the US–innumerable and complex and more often than not, outrageously unacceptable and heartbreaking. But I came home with a deep feeling of unresolved tension…a sense that while I could get away with coming home so quickly this time, I better get back there, soon, because there are still things I need to do in Korea.

This weekend we went through our pictures, and I realized that all things considered, we didn’t take that many. And only a handful were the typical “touristy” things like palaces/temples, etc. We don’t have oodles of perfectly photogenic Eastern exotica because we didn’t do the typical touristy things. The photos I cherish most aren’t the gorgeous ones of perfect mountains and perfect markets and perfect women in perfect hanbok…they’re the ones that show the in-betweenness of what this trip represented…the journey, in all its messiness and incomplete, unresolved-ness.

And on that uplifting note, I head back to the land of prokaryotic DNA replication.

But in the meantime, I’ll share this article, from Deutsch Welle, about South Korea’s “Lost Children“.


One response to “Post-Trip Daily Grind

  1. Rich rich post! I am especially intrigued by how the different populations/space made you feel…how P-land feels dead. And yet people here freak out over density?! Love that the Korean language has a hold on. Sadly, the link didn’t work. Be well, my friend.

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