Well, not home where I wish I were at, but home as in where my husband is, where my children are, where my children's school is, where our life appears to be now.....
Feels weird to say that. But, I digress......
|During our trips to the USA over the summer, I do a lot of "thrifting"...it's kind of my hobby.|
On one of our early trips, my eight year old found a vintage typewriter, which we then had to cart around
everywhere we went all summer.
This summer was interesting. Equal parts difficult and fun. Trying and rewarding. The rewards didn't come until the end, but they came. Thank goodness for that. Because our trips back to the USA are never easy. That just comes from having been married twice. Sometimes dealing with an ex spouse is tricky, and navigating those rough waters with teenage children who are forming their own opinions about their extended family and frustrations with their tense summer vaycay's, can be even rougher.
It was a long summer. Exhausting, financially speaking. It isn't cheap to fly myself and four children to America, where we stay for a month and a half. Mildly put, it's crazy expensive. We have to fly internationally, then stay in an apartment (staying with relatives is out of the question. Mostly because there aren't any to stay with,) then fuel my husband's truck (which he insisted on keeping when we moved abroad,) then feed five mouths all summer.
This is in addition to the year's worth of supplies we have to purchase to take back to South Korea. Namely: clothes that aren't doll-sized, that will fit people who are fatter than 110 pounds and taller than five-foot-five; as well as food items my family can't live without (i.e. Kraft mac and cheese, stuffing, rice-a-roni, freeze dried chives--we go through a crazy weird amount of those--peanut butter cups, and smoked paprika--that last one is mine. I covet smoked paprika. It's an obsession,) shoes for big American feet, and certain tech items that we--as an Apple family--have to smuggle into Samsung land like Colombian drug lords.
|Picking raspberries. Yummy.|
On top of spending more money this summer than Michael Jackson spent building Neverland, we were faced with the reality that we--or more specifically, I--am no longer of any interest to my extended family. One of my brothers, and his rapidly growing children, made sweet efforts to see us, as did my gorgeous mother, but no one else in my extensive brood showed interest. I was within ten miles of dozens of people, and not one reached out to ask us to dinner, to the lake, to a picnic, or even dropped a text to say hello. It was an ego shattering experience, one that my kids noticed poignantly, and while it didn't come as a surprise, that made it sting none the less. The differences between myself and my extended family have been glaringly obvious for a decade, they're apparently just too much for them to ignore anymore.
Can't change it. Best to just live with it, and move on.
Consolation prize: we have friends who have become our relatives. Our family by choice, if you will. We spent most of our summer in their home, bugging them, playing with them, eating with them, cooking with them, probably annoying them....but my fractured ego and aching heart were undeniably consoled by the presence and acceptance we found with some incredible friends.
Needless to say, traveling "home" for the summer isn't a walk in the park. It is a financially draining, emotionally trying journey, that often leaves us--myself specifically, though my teenagers left the USA feeling the same disappointment this year--demoralized. Going "home" is supposed to be more gratifying. More affirming. Instead, it is depressing and hollow. That's been a tough pill to swallow.
The good news is, my children had some lovely experiences. My seventeen year old son got to go fishing a few times with his cousin. In my son's mind, this is time well spent. A bad time fishing is better than the best time doing...well, anything else. He also got to go to a youth conference that really seemed to change him. He spent time with friends and made new ones. He danced with girls and built his faith. I couldn't be more pleased.
My daughter did typical teenage girl things. She bought makeup and did makeovers with her girlfriends. She had sleepovers and stayed up until 4am. She got her hair done and added a purple streak to her gorgeous locks. She went to the mall, spent money, took selfie after selfie, and swam every single chance she got. Despite her disappointment in the familial aspect of the trip "home," she left feeling fulfilled in her personal life.
My younger boys played. They played and played and played and got so dirty I had to soak their hands and feet in a sink of dish soap and hot water. They scared each other--and their mutual best friend, Annie--with ghost stories, most of which plague me still, since my youngest won't go near a mirror without having a conniption about "Bloody Mary." They missed their dad terribly--all four kids did--and we all counted the days until we would be reunited again.
|Sneaking in a smooch at my favorite shrimp truck on the North Shore, Fumi's.|
You see, we're sort of a tight family. We've purposefully raised our kids close to the fold and when we're apart during these trips over the summer, we all suffer. Which is why we were all counting the days and moments until we flew away from Washington state to Hawaii--where were were going to have the fanciest vacation our humble little family had ever had.
You see...families like ours (large, middle class, working folks) don't get to take trips to tropical destinations where we stay at fancy resorts. It's usually of reach for us. But with the help of some kind friends with excellent connections, we managed to have a massive carrot dangling in front of us during our American trip.
We holidayed in Hawaii.
|The view from Diamond Head crater.|
I've never seen or experienced anything like Hawaii. The weather was warm, so warm, and humid. But close enough to water to lavish in those Trade Winds that whip off of the waves. The colors in Hawaii are alarmingly sharp and vivid. They hurt your eyes, but you have to keep looking, taking it all in. The aromas literally carry on air, taunting and teasing you. Just typing about it makes me want some fresh mango! The people were amazing. So friendly, so kind. Not at all like many of the folks I encounter here in Songdo, who act like I (the outsider) am a problem they're forced to deal with.
Rather, the Polynesian people greet everyone with a smile, an alooooooha, and a neighborly, helpful disposition. We spent our days having adventures (swimming with dolphins, zip lining, going on LOST tours, luau's, hikes, restaurants, beaches, etc.) and our evenings sipping (virgin) pina coladas in the massive pools while the kids played around us. I dropped into my bed every night, exhausted from our day, curled up against my handsome nerd, sun baked and happy....
|Fourteen year old in the surf.|
|Met a friend at the beach one day. His shell was about 3.5 feet across.|
|Swimming in the open ocean with dolphins.|
It doesn't get any better than that.
|Seventeen year old swimming in the twilight.|
|The USS Arizona Memorial.|
|Just a tiny taste of the resort we stayed at.|
|Irish/Scottish/English girl sunbathing.|
|We all got lei'd.|
|Yes. That's a parasol. Don't hate.|
|At my favorite LOST location of them all (and I saw 10 hours worth): "Police" Beach.|
|If you don't get the reference, I won't bother to explain it.|
|You haven't lived until you see a Haka dance performed live. Amazing.|
I'm not sure what next summer will look like. Unsure if we'll get to have another incredible adventure like we had in Hawaii. We know that it was an extraordinary reward after a trying summer, but wistfully wonder if we'll ever experience anything like it again. Life is strange, and fickle. And nobody knows what time will bring. It might bring change within my family. It might leave things as they are. It might enlighten us to do something different, or encourage us to stay the course and do the same. Who knows?
All I know is....our trip "home" to the USA this year was tricky. Plagued with negative, but peppered with just enough positive to not give up hope completely.
I no longer know where home is. My idea of home has evolved. I used to say it was wherever my parents and brothers were, but times have changed, and relationships have shifted. For a while I said home was definitively Washington state. Now I say home is wherever my husband and kids are. Maybe it's wherever I feel closest to God. Who knows? I'm learning to drop my expectations and accept what is real, right in front of me in the here and now.
And this is what I see:
These people. Man, these people rule my world. I exist purely for them.
For now...today...home is in Songdo, South Korea. It is in this puny apartment with my dorky husband, four obnoxious children, one stupid dog, and a partridge in a pear tree. And surprisingly enough, I'm grateful to be home.
Hope everyone had a good summer. I didn't...but also sort of did.
I can't wait to see what this second year abroad brings.