Today, three years ago, I was Korea-bound for the first time. After six months of emails and phone calls with Jason, who’d been there already for four years, the reality of the next leap was not only hitting me, it was engulfing me.
There were so many things that worried me about living abroad. What would I eat? What would I wear? How would I communicate? What was I going to do there? How were Jason and I really going to get along; together; in person; after not physically seeing one another for four years?
What would I eat?
For those who know me, this was a big fear. A big hesitation. I pretty much don’t like anything. I don’t like most veggies, I don’t like most seafood. In fact, a big part of my diet up to this point had been beef or chicken, potatoes, and one of three kinds of canned vegetables: Peas, corn, green beans. My mother and I thought for sure I would lose weight from the mere fact that Korean cuisine was based solidly around the foods I didn’t eat. I was so sure, that I packed all my skinny clothes in anticipation of fitting into them in no time.
But I wasn’t going to the 3rd world. I was going to Seoul. And Seoul is like going to the opera. The variations of sounds, smells, foods all co-mingled in the atmosphere. They didn’t just eat squid or noodles or mushrooms; they had everything. They had restaurants serving American food I’d never heard of. (Restaurants I’d never heard of, that is) To my chagrin I wasn’t going to get skinny here. I actually gained a lot over my two years there. Very disappointing.
I did find A TON (by my standards) of food that I have since fallen in love with. Well, three dishes in particular. But I also discovered a heartfelt love for fresh broccoli (gasp) and cooked mushrooms (double gasp). There were also snack options that blew my mind. See? I wasn’t going to starve. And when were weren’t eating those things, we could easily pop over to BK, KFC, Micky-D’s, and other fine dining establishments. And the grocery stores had pretty much everything we could possibly need to make ‘home-cooked’ meals. And if the grocery stores didn’t have it, Costco did.
What would I wear?
Plus-sized clothing in Korea is pretty near impossible to find. At least for me it was. I went to the Gap and found a few things, only tops, and generally had to beg my family to send me clothes or buy online from LL Bean. And I survived for two years on four pairs of slacks from NY & Company, two pairs of jeans from Torrid, and about 15 shirts from random places like Target, Wal-Mart, Old Navy, and Torrid (again). The situation was far from ideal, and would have been better had we been able to get back to the US at least once in those two years. Oh well.
How would I communicate?
This was easy. Pantomime. Actually a good percentage of the people in Seoul speak English or broken English and we were able to ask for basic items. And most of the menus in chain restaurants were partially in English, so we made out OK. Subways and taxis had a good amount of English as well. My coworkers were always helpful, as were Jason’s, when we needed to make bank transactions, call the electrician, order a special pizza from the place around the corner, or order chicken deliciousness for delivery.
What was I going to do there?
Aside from starting my job as an editor for a Korean-based publishing company, we did all sorts of touristy things. We went to temples, visited museums, went shopping. When the newness of being there wore off, we bought bikes and went on rides, we went to an indoor amusement park, we checked out the zoo, bussed down to Andong for our friends’ wedding, flew down to Jeju for a long weekend.
How were Jason and I really going to get along; together; in person; after not physically seeing one another for four years?
If you’re not into mushy, romantic gestures, skip this part. The very first thing Jason did when we saw each other outside of the security check and customs area was kiss me.
OK, you can resume your enjoyment of the blog now.
We had our ups and downs. Jason and I had each other for support during our time in Seoul, and I think that from that we’ve been able to build something that few people have. The shared experience of living in a foreign country, while struggling with the day-to-day stuff of creating a foundation for a lasting relationship was something I think we’ll both cherish forever. After a year and a half of living together, Jason took me up to Seoul Tower, got on one knee, and asked me to be his partner in life, to be his wife.
I said yes. You can read more about that story here.
Since then, our lives have pretty much been a whirlwind of moving back to the US, buying a house, getting married, and starting a family. And I wouldn’t change a thing.