The comedy of luggage movement continued in Pusan. We dragged our four carry-ons plus laptop bag plus kids out of the plane, picked up our stroller at the gate, and went to baggage claims where the serious baggage was waiting. Once we got it all on a couple of carts, we found out that you could not take the carts out of the secure area. So Horyon went out with the kids while I stayed with the bags. She left the kids with her parents, then came back, and we ferried our bags out to the main lobby. Fortunately many of our bags are equipped with wheels.
It was a touching reunion, being back with Horyon's parents. I was surprised at how I had missed them.
We then ferried the luggage out to the curb. The temperature was an uncharacteristic five below zero Celsius, about 23 degrees Fahrenheit. It was cold for a couple of days, then our highs came back up above freezing, and our highs for the last week have been around 50F. I've been wearing my jacket instead of my coat, and the serious winter gloves that Mary Lou gave me for Christmas when we moved to Kansas have been packed away the whole time we've been here.
So yeah, there are some things about Kansas I'm not particularly missing, like the blizzard that hit last week.
After we left Korea, Horyon's parents moved into a new apartment. It is much bigger, and brand new. They had the place decorated with pictures of us and the kids, framed pictures sitting all over the place. On little shelves, only a foot or two high. In the kids' room, as well as the living room.
It took a few days, but most of those got put away. The apartment is still, at 12 days, not quite Quinten-proof, but it's much better.
Jet-lag has never been a huge issue for me. Two or three days of grogginess and I was usually okay. I am older now. Travelling with two kids is not as relaxing as travelling by yourself or with an adult loved one. The kids have no sense of why they want to sleep all afternoon and be awake at night, and they have no inclination to change that pattern on their own. It takes brute force from Mommy and Daddy to shift it. Fortunately, we arrived with more than a month in which to adjust. Here at day 12, we are pretty much there, except for one thing:
The kids won't sleep alone. One of us has to be in the room with them when one of them wakes up. Usually Horyon. They are sleeping on pads on the floor, which is warm, but a bit hard for my taste. Make that a lot hard. I slept with them for three hours the other night, then Horyon came in to say good night. I was in pain, and soaked in sweat. I'm sure I could get used to it, but I'm already getting used to more things than I really want to, and Horyon likes sleeping with the kids. One or both have been waking up around one a.m., needing to be soothed back to sleep. Sometimes Horyon stays up doing other work and I go back to soothe them to sleep. But usually she is there. We have a queen size bed, but we haven't both slept in it since we got here. Soon, I'm hoping.
On the food front, I have been eating Korean food two, sometimes three times a day, and not suffering much for it. Granted, our first shot of sushi (and by that I mean sliced up raw fish, not those California rolls) the other night hit my mouth like a dream and my tummy like a freight train, but other than that it has been good.
I have been enjoying my mother-in-law's kimchi more than I ever have before. I honestly don't remember it being so good when we lived here before, but now it is so good I don't mind eating it at breakfast.
I know. Right now my Mom is making a nasty face. Two weeks ago I would have, too. I think the change has to do with this:
I left Korea with my family four years ago tired. Tired of being the foreigner, tired of the food, tired of the customs, and wanting a fresh start in what I thought of as my home country. Four years in Lawrence taught me that the USA is not really a kind place. Don't get me wrong, the people are wonderful. I just took a quick break to chat with Judy Chadwick, a friend from First Christian Church in Lawrence. In our four years, she became family, and she is not unique in that sense. And the only reason I could walk away from my parents at the airport without tears streaming down my face was that I didn't want Maxine to focus on what she was leaving behind, but what she was heading towards.
I have always said that people leaving their country are either running away from something or toward something. Sometimes both.
I decided that I would be moving toward a country that I enjoyed, respected, and even loved. I decided to embrace the role of stranger in a (not so) strange land, and bring back the openness that I originally brought when I arrived in 1997. And so I have been eating whatever food my mother-in-law or wife serves up, with the intention of enjoying it.
Much to my surprise, it has worked. Kimchi and rice and soup for breakfast. It works! I do have a piece of toast before, and sometimes follow up with orange juice, but hey, I'm the foreigner: I can be eccentric.
I've gone to the bath-house about every other day as well. This was not a difficult change to embrace. The bath houses were the one thing I missed most about Korea, and was most looking forward to visiting upon our return.
We arrived at my in-laws home, now our temporary home, at around 10 a.m. I think. The drive from the airport seemed to take forever, even though it was only about 45 minutes. It was like revisiting a dream: I kept thinking places were familiar. Sometimes I was right, and sometimes I was wrong. The traffic seemed insane, and I had to remind myself that I actually used to drive in it, once upon a time. I wondered, in passing, if perhaps my mental state (circadian rhythm twisted 180 degrees, not enough sleep, too much stress) was projecting my own neurotic mood onto the streets around me. If so, the projector is still running full tilt. My father-in-law is a mild-mannered man, but when he drives I keep expecting him to open a panel of James Bond buttons on his dashboard and start laying waste to thugs.
I can't quite imagine getting back behind the wheel here, and will avoid it as long as possible. So much for embracing the culture, right?
Oh, the other important cultural adjustment: we got cell phones. I've got a cute little android, though I can't afford to deck it out with apps right now. Nor do I have many people to call. But I have a phone!
In the next week or two we will be checking out the apartment provided by our school. I think we will move in, as well. We had originally talked about staying with Horyon's parents long-term, but it is hard on everyone. So we will retreat to our own home at night.
When you make a move like this one, it is inevitable that you lose some items. We can't find my socks. This was a major annoyance, as Korean socks are not comfortable for me (tried again this time), and I was making do with two old pairs of my socks that I had planned to toss after wearing. Fortunately, we found some suitable replacements at Costco, where we went for the first time today.
And so I am trying to be all the way here as long as I am here. I'll let you know how it works out, and get some pictures of the whole thing up as soon as I can work the bugs out of our internet setup. It's difficult to make time for blogging during the day, and it is now 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday here (11:30 a.m. on Monday for those of you in Kansas). I will write more about how the kids are settling in next time.