Mother and Child Reunions

I lost my pyeonghwa this weekend. As far as I can tell, pyeonghwa means “peace” in Korean. It’s an addictive state that isn’t harmful but can be elusive. I’d lost mine for a couple years. Moving to Korea was a stressful and anticipatory experience, filled with a lot of excitement. We took possession of our rental house on June 1, and a dining table and chairs, a refrigerator, a television, and a couple sofas arrived on the same day. I received a lot of instruction that I’ve since forgotten. Our house is lovely but has many idiosyncrasies. The stove is run off propane tanks. The boiler that heats the house and water is run off the same gasoline used in your car and is filled the same way. The windows are beautiful but have never known energy efficiency. And, of course, all the electronics (frig, microwave, washer, dryer, etc.) have Korean instructions. So that was June 1.

June 2 was the arrival of my old pups. They made it around 9:30pm. I was jumping out of my skin in anticipation and am so grateful to have them here. The reunion, though, was nothing like any I’ve had with them. They were confused, frightened, exhausted, and maybe slightly pissed off. They spent 17 days away, mostly in a kennel. They spent 29 hours flying from Dallas-Fort Worth airport via Lufthansa to Frankfurt and then Seoul, including a 9 hour layover to exercise and eat in Frankfurt, a 4+ hour drive to Sacheon, and a couple hours clearing customs. I feel a great deal of guilt for putting them through this ordeal. My older girl is 14 and she looked horrible upon arrival.  I could have chosen not to come or found them another home stateside, but those weren’t viable options for me. I spent the night on one of our new sofas to be with them while Chris returned to the hotel. That was June 2.

June 3 brought more deliveries. We received two twin beds and mattresses as well as the “king-sized” bedframe we’d purchased. I ran errands while Chris discovered that a Korean king-sized bed is 11 inches narrower than an American king-sized bed (all the Korean beds are smaller, but the king-sized is the most pronounced). We have our mattress coming in our air shipment as well as all of our bedding. We could just purchase that stuff here, but it is very expensive. Like thousands of dollars expensive. (Side note: Everything here is more expensive. I will need to get over that at some point.) And we love our mattress. So, after phone calls and a trip to a hardware store, Chris managed to get some plywood sheets that he’s going to drill into the bedframe to support our version of a king-sized bed. We moved one of the twin mattresses from the upstairs to the master bedroom downstairs for me to sleep on as the dogs are having a hard time getting upstairs. Chris went back to the hotel. That was June 3.

June 4 was somewhat uneventful, which might have been when I really noticed losing my peace. We went shopping, watered the garden, and took it easy. We had a wonderful meal at a Chinese restaurant with new friends. The restaurant had table-side grills, and we ordered lamb and beef kabobs and some rice. The meal came with kimchi and a couple side dishes, and the owner brought big bowls of soup gratis. It was delicious. I dropped Chris at the hotel and returned to the house.

On June 5, I attempted to go to a Costco. We need a lot of stuff. We’re setting up a household here, and I’ve managed to buy a couple trash cans, a pillow, a couple towels, a very cheap fry pan, and a couple plates and bowls to get by until the arrival of our air shipment. I’ve been feeding the dogs some kind of Purina food for small dogs. I’d brought some of their treats in my luggage, so that helped. So I drove over 2 hours, paid lots in tolls (and gasoline), spent 90 minutes loading a cart, and was told I needed a Korean Costco charge card or cash. Another expat had used his US Costco charge card for a 3% service charge, but they weren’t taking mine. I thought I could use my Korean debit card, but that was a no go. So I went to an ATM in the store to get money, and my card got stuck. A technician was called, I waited patiently, and after all of that, drove home empty-handed. That was a 6-hour ordeal. (I couldn’t figure out the ATM as I’m somewhat – read significantly – technologically challenged.)  June 5 sucked.

June 6 was Korea’s (actually the Republic of Korea’s, not the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s) Memorial Day. I need to write about that – about North and South Korea’s centuries of invasion, occupation, war, and horror. I read some of their history and felt somber. The day meant a holiday, so Chris thought I should jump back on the horse and go back to Costco with him. We bought 3 shopping carts worth of stuff. Everything is cheaper at Costco, and we needed a lot. We also wanted a grill, which seems impossible to find anywhere. Oh, and Chris had to buy a drill so he can jerry-rig that bed I mentioned. It was a better day.

I think we get our air shipment tomorrow. That will be like Christmas. We’re still waiting on a furniture order that includes dressers, tables, a television stand and the like, so right now we don’t really have a way to put things away. All our clothes will be in that shipment other than the things we’ve been wearing for the last month. It was a little chilly yesterday, so I wore the one long-sleeved shirt I brought in my luggage. I’m also anxious to cook and await my pots and pans and all the rest of the kitchen stuff. It gets chilly at night, and I’m using one of Chris’s jackets as my blanket.

Today – June 7 – involved killing a gigantic centipede. They’re called “house centipedes,” and that is a blatant misnomer. The thing was a monster. I’m not a bug killer, but this was no bug. Look them up online. The stuff of nightmares. But I do feel better. Not because I killed the alien insect. I think I feel better because the stress of everything – relocating and all that entails, and then everything that comes with being in a new country – was keeping me from slowing down and feeling some of what’s to be expected: Homesickness, guilt, weariness, fear. I’m very happy and excited and incredibly grateful to be here, but it does come with costs.

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Author: joellenwinkorea

US expat living in South Korea and hoping to embrace this gift full-on.

9 thoughts on “Mother and Child Reunions”

  1. Jo Ellen, thank you for sharing your ups and downs. Once you are settled you will be in a better position to evaluate your situation and make necessary adjustments. Remember that things were never perfect at home, and just think how you are overcoming adversity. That builds strength. Prayers for you, Chris and your hounds. Soon you will have blue skies. Hugs.

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  2. The trials and tribulations!! You have made me grateful that our transition has been so easy! Your adventures have re-excited me and has me recalling the first days and the newness of everything. Things will level out in time. Keep these adventures coming they are so much fun to read!! Take care

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  3. Jo E.,
    Thank you for sharing your daily first week adventures in Korea! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I can’t help but admit that a few things had me chuckling…not funny for you, I’m sure, but funny for me to read. Stuff like king size beds in Korea being 11 inches narrower (I can imagine the look on your faces when you and Chris figured that out), and the line about you feeling better but not because you killed the “alien insect.” Lol. Your day at Costco made me mad!! I couldn’t imagine going through all of that and having to go home empty-handed. Not understanding why they wouldn’t let you have the same opportunity to use your U.S. Costco charge card as the other expat or even why they didn’t take your Korean debit card?!! I think Costco takes debit cards here stateside.
    Keep on finding new adventures, good and bad. It’s all part of the experience! Hopefully more good ones though. I’m thinking there are probably beautiful, natural places to hike there. Would love to hear about them when that happens!

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    1. Aw, Lisa, you are so kind. Your kind comments inspire me to keep writing. And about Costco, you live and you learn. I just need lots of $ when I go (and I need to learn how to use the ATMs properly!). We just got our air shipment today, which has our hiking shoes, etc. in it, but there is apparently hiking EVERYWHERE here! 70% of the country is mountainous, but it’s thick, pine-covered mountains. So it will be interesting to see what it’s like. In the States, you often go above tree-line, but the mountains aren’t as tall here. Curious what it’s like with all the tree cover.

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  4. How you endure: it simply amazes me. I could not handle that much culture shock, as well as the flight it took to get there. You seem to be regaining that whatever Korean word means “peace”. I’ll be standing by and reading every word.

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