I’ve really become quite accustomed to this place. The waves of uniformed youth flooding the small streets in their regulation haircuts, the gradual warming of the spring air, and the bothersome arrival of pollen and Gobi Desert sand storms. Yes, it must be spring. New school year heralded by brand new backpacks, supervisor visits, and standing at attention. How familiar this has all become. Ever more so poignant, as I count down the last months of living in South Korea. What a journey, what a ride, what an experience. And yet, scattered throughout the tumulus moments were these instances of wonder and reflection. The ever present music wafting in from cafe and cellphone stores and arcades, blending in with the beeping of delivery scooters, and restless chirps of little birds. The sound of Korean spring. I close my eyes I can see the rush of waves at Haeundae beach, hearing the foam upon the surf, the seagulls, the endless murmur of Korean conversation. When I open them again, I’m back home, here in Ulsan. Surrounded by mountain ranges and countless fried chicken shops, this has become my home. And now as I face my upcoming departure, I sit and wonder just how much I’ve grown, and how much I’ll be leaving behind.
Freedom, friends, frustrations and folly – such were my years in the land of the morning calm. I close my eyes again and I’m back at the airport, almost four years ago. Exhausted, exhilarated and quite worried that I’ve gotten lost already. Fearless, and fate on my side, here I am, alive and well, and with a new smattering of wrinkles and scars in tow. How much have I grown? How much of it was due to living in East Asia, and how much was inevitable? I’d like to think, both factor in with important measure. Things will come to be, no matter where we are in life. Choices, decisions, taking a new path or a new turn, this is us, our free will. How it plays out? Out of our hands, and into the grasp of fate. God? Destiny, perhaps. I think fondly, rather amused, at my rambling thoughts. They have been my erstwhile companions these years. There is much to be said of the experience of living alone. Living apart. Away from family, friends and familiar territory. When nothing is familiar, and now, everything looks like home. I sit here and wonder, how much of home will I be leaving behind.