In a just a few hours it will be 7 days since I said ‘see you soon’ once again to my boyfriend for a third time in our LDR. In a matter of seconds it seems the week has flown by, as I try to regain my footing back in New York and back at work. Thankfully, my workload so far this past week/ weekend has been light due to it being the start of the new spring semester.
Over the past 2-3 weeks for those who did not know I was away enjoying a nice holiday in Korea in the company of my boyfriend and close friends. I recall mentioning that I would try to blog 1x a week and was able to blog the day of my departure and at least one week into my vacation after traveling for some time along Korea’s southern coastal region, which I discuss in my latest blog Winter in Korea (한국의 겨울). However, last week, I chose not to blog because blogging can be time-consuming and time was something I did not want to waste too much of while overseas.
My trip back to Korea was my 2nd trip abroad in 2016 and 1st trip so far in 2017. As mentioned previously I selected the winter period to visit Korea because of vacation time I received from work. But, in addition there were a number of reasons. One reason in particular was my memories of Korea back in January 2016. During my trip to Seoul then I felt like nothing had changed. At that time I was only temporarily back home for a few months, so it was no surprise that my boyfriend, my Seoul friends, my favorite cafes and stores, my former university were all still present and overall unchanged.
Unchanged. That is how I remember my 1st trip back to Korea in early 2016. But, unchanged is not how I will remember my first trip this year. After my first few days back in Korea, after 10+ months, I quickly discovered that many things had changed since I had been away. For one thing, my boyfriend, my friends, the areas of Seoul I once knew so well had all changed in some way. For my boyfriend, his demeanor with worrying had grown. For my friends their positive outlooks in living in Korea for one more year or life had changed, and then off course the cities landscapes (i.e. stores, restaurants, neighborhoods, etc.) had changed.
Before arriving I knew that changes would be imminent. But, somehow I held onto my 2016 memories when I stepped off the plane this time. However, after sometime with my boyfriend I slowly understood why he became more worried more often, upon hanging out with my friends I slowly understood why they wanted to end their own life chapters in Korea and return home, and after a few days in Seoul I slowly accepted that like any major city Seoul follows trends and is constantly shifting, expanding, and growing.
My trip was an awakening call for me to the reality that my lover, my friends, and Korea my home away from home can change within a short span of time. Change, however, occurs everyday of our lives. But, sometimes we blind ourselves of change and sometimes change blinds itself from us. After 10+ months away from my boyfriend it was a surprise to notice the subtle changes in his hair length, his skin tone, etc. I can imagine the same surprise for him of changes he saw in me too. Yet, after acknowledging changing features, new demeanor’s, personal plans, and changing areas of Seoul the biggest hurdle for me was trying to accept it all within a short span of time.
Two-three weeks is a short amount of time to accept numerous changes one may experience when reconnecting with an old friend after a long period of time, or even returning to a place one was once was quite familiar with. Upon experiencing multiple changes one may feel out of place and search for some familiarity of the past. For me, I did just that on a number of occasions with my boyfriend, with my friends, and even on days when I was venturing in Seoul alone. On these occasions I searched for ways to recreate the past.
The ways in which I chose to recreate the past were subtle. On outings with my boyfriend we would always visit a convenience store after dinner, or in the late-night evenings before going to bed. During our nights together in Sillim-dong we would always be out late walking in-between places and would always stop by a convenience store even if we needed nothing in particular. When I hung out with my friends on this trip I met up with them in old areas we used to visit during our grad-school or language-class days. Meeting up in these areas brought back all of our shared memories, which gave me some comfort in knowing that even though places can change my memories of those areas stayed the same. Finally, on my solo days of venturing I re-utilized my Seoul based skills, by traveling on former bus routes I use to use in my daily commutes around the city. Riding through Seoul along these routes brought back the familiarity of streets I now barely recognize.
Due to living in Korea for a few years my boyfriend and friends had no worries and concerns about the changes I would notice on this trip. I imagine they had no worries because they believed that I would eventually adapt to the changes happening around me. However, I do not believe that I fully did. I am still getting more acquainted with my more worrisome boyfriend whom I love dearly, I am still acknowledging the fact that eventually more Seoul friends of mine will leave Korea, and finally I am still accepting reality that Seoul will continue to change and become unrecognizable to me. So far I have only spoken about the changes I have noticed/experienced on this recent trip with my boyfriend. I have only spoken with him because he is the first person whom I share concerns in life with.
During our trip time together my boyfriend and I had many heart-to-heart discussions about our future planning together in our talks on change. Our biggest discussion in regards to change resided on the topic of living in Korea long-term together, which raised many concerns for me about the vast amount of uncertain changes currently taking place in Korea(*within the government, economy, etc.). These concerns are also concerns of my boyfriend; and have been a source of his recent worries.
Unfortunately, we can only hope for the best with how Korea will undergo future changes. Personally, if Korea becomes a home for me again, my hope is that the country will retain positive elements of its past and that more foreigners will retain positive outlooks in their ability to reside in Korea.
Have you ever tried recreating the past? Have you ever welcomed or accepted unexpected changes?