2012

I'm not sure what it is about the start of a new year that causes us all to reflect and make resolutions. Maybe our diet resolutions come as a result of our holiday over eating. Maybe we just need something to do in January because we've just spent the last 3 months busy with Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Maybe it's because we just put all the decorations away and even the house feels like your starting with a clean slate. For me, I always knew the coming of 2012 would be exciting. This is the year that we return to the United States!

Some thoughts on my return home. While I am really {really} excited to come back, I know that we still have 7-8 months here. That is a long time to still experience as much of Korea as we can. That will not stop. Now we get to start doing things for the last time and going to places we haven't made it to yet. I'm very proud of how much we've gone and done. While i've been at home with the kids more than i'm used to, we still have kept from being Hannam Village Hermits, or those who never venture out in to Korea and only go on base to eat at Burger King and shop at the commissary. I'm not as adventurous as some I know, but more than most. We're also going to have some family visit before we return home so there will be plenty of sightseeing to be had.

Korea has been hard. After many discussions with friends experiencing the mixed emotions most of us have here, I've decided this:  Living in Korea is hard, but not because of one single element. So many little things factor into how you feel.

  • For our family it has been hard sightseeing with young kids in an environment that is not built for strollers. So if you're going to go out and about, it's going to be a lot of work. I sold my double stroller almost immediately after arriving because there's no place for it here. Not everything is handicap accessible like in the states. 
  • It has been hard traveling so far to church. I was so glad when we got our car and finally found a good route to and from church, only making the commute about 30 minutes most times. Those who subway or bus it takes at least an hour and have to deal with the elements. 
  • It has been hard to find things to do. After you've visited all the known landmarks, you need other things to keep you busy. If you've read my blog you know some of the play places I've found, but by word of mouth. These places aren't advertised anywhere that I can find.
  • It has been hard dealing with Dan's schedule. There are weeks where he is working from 6am to midnight with no comp days rewarded, no overtime earned. It has been stressful on him which, even though he tried very hard not to, it does affect the family. That makes it hard for me to be so alone in a foreign place where nothing is quite comfortable. It makes it hard for him to be away from his family so much and not feel like he's supporting us as much as he could, and also leaves him no down time to escape from it all. This was an unexpected pace of work and is not how things are supposed to be run.
  • Language and cultural barriers are hard and were to be expected. What I did not expect was for everyone on base to be Korean as well. The government can employ Koreans for a much lower price than Americans (leaving most spouses unemployed even if they are qualified as nurses, teachers, etc). So when I need to talk to a doctor, most times they are Korean and you struggle with communication and getting your point across without any 'lost in translation' moments. Order food at Burger King and have it come out wrong, so soon you just stop asking for special orders. 
  • Being away from family is always hard no matter the distance or situation. The time change has made it interesting to keep in contact. 
  • Living in this housing has been hard. Our apartment is tiny. No sound goes unheard so when one person is awake, the rest of us are. It's been hard opening our home to others because space is so limited and probably because i just can't handle the noise level. I really look forward to living somewhere with a backyard and maybe even a basement to send the kids out to play and be a little more free to make some noise. 
  • Feeling like my freedom is slowly being stripped away by the Army. Right now the entire garrison is on a 1am curfew due to the actions of a few select soldiers. What they did was unacceptable but now everyone is subject to the consequences. Due to budget constraints they have closed a lot of the gates, including one that was consistently used at Hannam Village, adding time to the commute from base. Also everything here has weird hours. The commissary at HV is open from 11-7, the shoppette sometimes doesn't open until 2 but closes at like 8 or 9. Everything on base is shut down by 8. I almost don't remember what it's like to run to walgreen's at 10pm for something. I feel like we have no nightlife (unless we want to go clubbing and drinking in Seoul)
But of course, going through all this has taught me and my family a lot.
  • Over time my boys got used to walking everywhere and complain less and less. I haven't used a stroller in months. I'm sure some of that came with age, but i think if I were still in the States, i'd still be using that double stroller!
  • My boys have made giant steps for them in the ways of their diet. At first they wouldn't even eat rice at the Korean restaurants. Now they'll eat rice, egg soup and the even love vietnamese rice noodles. We no longer feel the need to pick up some chicken nuggets before going to a restaurant of our choice. (they've done much better with the food i make at home too!)
  • The commute to, and my standing with the church really made me sit down and reflect. I was going to have to give 100% of my effort to attending church or not attend at all. Why go through all the effort of making it there if you don't really believe in it at all? We leave at 10:30am and don't get home until 3:30-4:00. It must be worth it, and after personal reflection, prayer and scripture study, I know that it is. My boys used to run around the church during choir practice, knocking over potted flower plants, disappearing to the 4th floor, spilling and smashing complete bowls of goldfish. Now (most Sundays) they sit contently on our pew with the games they're allowed to play on ipods before Sacrament meeting starts. 
  • Being away from family has taught me to be a better friend to those around me, because we really become eachother's family. I have met some amazing people here who have taught me a lot of service and unconditional love. I hope that we've helped others feel like family as well.
  • I personally am more capable of caring for my kids while my husband is gone a lot. I remember when I first got here and we were still living in the Dragon Hill Lodge and we found out that Dan would have to go TDY with the band. (That should've been a sign for how busy the next 2 years would be for him) I freaked out. How could i take care of these boys for that long by myself? In Korea!? Now I don't even blink at his TDY's. (that's probably a bad thing, one should never get used to their husband being gone) I guess I should say it doesn't scare me anymore. If Dan deploys with the band in Colorado I will be more ready than ever.
  • All of the other struggles with culture and freedoms help me appreciate the ease of the American life. This is probably the biggest lesson I've learned. I look back and sometimes think of Americans as spoiled because most don't realize how easy/convenient their life is. In most cities you are not far from all of the things you need in your family life. Gym, pool, library, bank, grocery store, convenience store, gas station, movie theater, furniture store, target, hardware store, fabric/craft store, etc etc etc. If there's something you need, you know exactly where you can get it and you can usually get it without much inconvenience. I will forever be grateful for these conveniences when I return because most of the world does not live like this. We have learned to do without, but I am ready do have some of these things again and progress as a family.
That brings me to our hopes for this year. (long post, i know, I never do this!)
  • Enjoy Korea while we're here and get out and see as much as we can
  • Get out of debt (we should be able to finish before we leave!!!!!!)
  • Move to Colorado Springs (and it looks like July will be the month, pending one more signature!)
  • Buy or rent a home to give our family the room it needs to breathe and live. We hope to buy, but we'll see where we are after the debt is paid off.
  • Enjoy Colorado and the multitude of family that we will be so close to. We just can't wait!!
Bring it on 2012!

5 comments:

Shennie said...

Insightful...Glad you posted.
I'm going to miss you but I'm glad that you get to go back to family, convenient stores and hours and all the rest of the beauty of the US. :)

OUR HOUSE said...

Couldn't have said it better myself;)

Valerie@Occasionally Crafty said...

Interesting to read your thoughts. I'm glad you can see the positive along with the hardships. Look forward to seeing you again sometime this year!

Melanie said...

Our family is up at Camp Casey and we also will be headed back to the states this year. I ran across your blog and this post in particular spoke to me. You are right on about things here in Korea. I feel the same way about so many things here. I'll be glad to get back to an easier life in the states but I'll miss so much about this adventure we've had.

Eric said...

I discovered your Blog today while Googling for pics of Hannam Village. We are PCSing to Seoul in August and are really excited! It's my last tour in the Army, as I have 23 years in. My wife and I plan on traveling ALOT time permitting. Thanks for keeping such a great record; I've got lots of reading to do, ha! Take care, Eric-

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