Sunday, November 28, 2010


During the past five and a half years of our married life, Chris and I have used quite a few different addresses. In addition to our various houses and apartments, we’ve also experienced hobo-like summers making our residence under myriad roofs (thank you, by the way, for everyone who has offered your homes to transient gypsies). This kind of existence has caused us to contemplate the idea of what “home” is and where, exactly, it can be found. The previous two years, Chris and I spent quite a bit of time and effort making our home in Taiwan. So, when we first came to Korea, we had to admit that our hearts were still in Taiwan and that most of our homesick feelings were for Taipei, not for the U.S. Many culture shock moments arose not because things were different from America, but because they were different from Taiwan. As we start to learn our way around our new city, our wistful longings for Taiwan have dissipated somewhat. However, when the chance arose for me to go back “home” over Thanksgiving, I jumped at the opportunity. Chris had a basketball tournament in Beijing and, not overly excited about staring at the back of Chris’ head for three days, I decided to book a flight down south.

The comforting feelings of home came upon me as the plane hit the runway and I made my way to customs. The weather: warm, sticky, and rainy. The language: Chinese (believe it or not, this sound was unbelievably consoling). The airport: traveled through at least a dozen times over my two years. Starbucks: has decaf Toffee Nut Lattes. First order of business: buy an umbrella. Three years ago, I would never have imagined that I would associate these things with comfort. Yet, I did. Easily, I made my way to the apartment complex where we used to live to meet up with my hosts for the weekend. The next few days were filled with catching up with friends and filling my belly with food that I also never expected to be “comfort food”. Then, something strange happened. I began to miss little things about Korea. I missed the bigger sidewalks and the lack of canine excrement scattered about. I missed the crisp fall weather and the trees with all of their brightly decorated leaves. Most of all, I missed my partner in crime, my travel buddy, my husband with whom this place had become home. Don’t get me wrong, I had an incredible time with friends and I remain convinced that Taiwan will always hold a piece of my heart. However, it caused me to contemplate a little more deeply where “home” was for me.

Many dumplings, one strawberry ice, three decaf lattes, and countless memories retold and made for the first time later, I was headed back to Korea. I deplaned into an unfamiliar language in an unfamiliar airport about to find my way back to my apartment for the first time by myself. Bus found, I settled in for the drive. About halfway home I looked out the window and saw something that I hadn’t seen in far too long. It was snowing. And it was beautiful. This conjured up a whole new slew of feelings of home. As I disembarked from the bus and made it up the final hill to our new apartment, I breathed in the cold air and watched as the soft flakes decorated the trees and street. I finally made it inside to my anxiously awaiting husband who had just returned from China. Though late, we stayed up exchanging stories, laughing over cultural blunders, commiserating in travel pains, and enjoying each other’s company. It was at this point, that I found my answer. Home will never be a place for me. Places have touched my heart and left strong imprints there, but it isn’t what makes something home. Home is where you make it. Home isn’t made of weather, food, or language. Home is made of moments shared, memories made, and people loved. In short, as trite as it is, home is where your heart is.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Great Crib Quest

As you are probably aware, we need a crib soon. In fact, we need two cribs… soon. As it turns out, cribs are not quite as common here in Korea as you might expect. The various baby stores that we checked have piles of bottles, blankets, and 12-month-old clothes, but not a crib in sight. We were somewhat hopeful when we ventured to Toys ‘R’ Us a few weeks ago when we saw a sort of oddly shaped crib on display. These hopes were dashed when we discovered that this crib was only a platform from which the store was selling more blankets. Asking employees for cribs often turned frustratingly humorous as the word “crib” sounds exactly like “cream” to all Koreans so we were quickly escorted to the baby lotion section of the store.

After several arduous hours on Google, I found my answer. Evidently, there is an online store that sells every baby product I could ask for. Enthusiastically, I typed in the promising URL and waited. What I found was indeed a site that sells cribs, strollers, car seats and anything else you might need or think you need for baby’s big debut. There were two catches. The first one, I expected. In order to be able to buy these items, you need to speak Korean. Not too big of a problem as we have a few Korean-speaking friends kind enough to help us. The second catch I didn’t see coming. Apparently, the makers of this site think that it is a good marketing strategy to induce seizures in their clients whilst they are browsing the hundreds of pages of baby products. Each tiny thumbnail picture of a product changes and flashes with such frequency, it is exceedingly difficult to actually distinguish what, exactly, the picture is advertising. As I am unable to read the name of the product in Korean, I was forced to stare at each picture for several minutes before determining whether or not it was an item that I desired. Shop a moment in my shoes here. But seriously, watch out.

After several dizzying hours on this site, I finally determined the items I wanted to buy. We were getting our cribs, a rocking chair, a dresser, and a changing table. A friend of ours was kind enough to help us through the equally as dizzying purchasing process and we awaited the arrival of our items. Having never received any sort of confirmation of our order, I was a bit worried. However, sure enough, random delivery men began knocking at our door. Cribs, check. Rocking chair, check. Dresser, check. So far, so good. I was feeling pretty confident about ol’ seizure-inducing G-Market. Then, the changing table came. This is what we received:

I’m not sure if you can tell the scale from this shot, but this piece of furniture is not large enough to change anything but your daughter’s Cabbage Patch doll, and that’s pushing it. My favorite little quirk to this little treasure is the dog and bone handles. I never quite determined what the exact purpose of this item is supposed to be. However, after a few emails and very broken phone calls, we evidently communicated that this was not what we ordered. Yesterday, the nice delivery men came and picked it up again. We haven’t received the changing table yet, nor have we seen a credit to our checking account. It is kind of exciting to live on the edge and just wait and see which prize will be selected for us. Will it be door number one with the changing table we ordered? Will it be door number two with a refund to our account? Or, will it be door number three with another item delivered to our door, a kitty cat version this time? Only time will tell…

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Fall in Seoul

As I've pointed out before, in Taipei we only experienced two seasons: hot and rainy and cold and rainy. Seoul has reminded us of what October and November are supposed to be like. The mornings are nippy enough to require a cup of hot chocolate to warm your insides and the evenings have enough of a chill to make a campfire with friends the perfect way to spend a Friday night. Daytime has revealed the kaleidoscopic variety of colors in the leaves of the trees with increasing brilliance. Not only that, I but I can't even remember the last time it rained. We snapped these pictures on our walk to church this morning.

I think I'm going to like it here.