One of the most common questions I get since moving to Korea has been
"What's the most difficult part of moving to a new country?"
I'm never really sure how to answer that question but I think I'm figuring out that's because the answer is not what you (or I) ever expected.
The hardest part about moving to a new country is holding on to who YOU are.
We've been here about six months now, and this is me checking in.
I have been through a myriad of emotions and the thing I've found most difficult is not getting lost, not losing myself, and not losing what makes me, me.
Imagine this for a moment.
About three months before "the big move" you have a yard sale, and sell about 1/4 of your belongings to prepare for an extreme downsize.
Then about two months before, you have to decide out of what's left, what half of it you will leave behind for two years.
One month before, the movers come and pick apart your stuff and pack it all up, you are left with two suitcases to your name for the next 3-4 months.
Next, you drive your car full of sentimental things (baby books, photo albums, your grandfather's Marine uniforms) to your parents house to store. All that stuff, the heart of your belongings is left there, and your car.
The worst part comes next, you have to say goodbye to friends and family and tell them you aren't sure when you will see them again. Each time you hug one of them, they keep a little piece of you. Not much is left by the time you get on the plane. You also have to part with your dog, your best friend, the one that loves you unconditionally. She cries and barks as you walk out the door with the suitcases and you cry and hope that someday she won't remember that you left her.
When you actually get to your new home, you are excited! You want to focus on anything but everything you left behind. You've basically been stripped of your life and now is your chance to start rebuilding it!
Experiencing a new culture is fun, it really is. New things are enticing, they are exciting, and they are time consuming. The first 3-4 months are filled with you trying to pack in as much "Korea" as you can. You post TONS of photos to show family back home and you are "livin' the dream." You get your car back (and with that, some freedom) and your get your stuff back from the movers, and everything seems to be falling into place!
I distinctly remember waking up one morning and thinking, "Whoa, where am I? Who's life is this?"
Before I moved I spent my time working in the tutoring lab, doing math homework, crocheting, making crafty things, reading, taking walks with my family in the evening, visiting the library, working out, browsing Target, spending our summer days outside in the backyard.
Here, in Korea, my life had become totally different. Every day I was out shopping or exploring. Instead of driving we took the subway. I hadn't been to the library since our hotel days (and only to get movies). Our neighborhood is not conducive to nightly walks. Art supply stores (like Hobby Lobby) to get supplies for crafty-ness are harder to find. I wasn't in school and I didn't have a job. And the biggest change for our family; we have no backyard :(
Almost everything that I enjoyed that made me who I am... was gone. I kept buying more stuff for our home to try and make it feel more like home. One day I realized, it's never going to feel like home. The next two years will likely feel like we are living in an extended-stay hotel.
The sooner you realize that your life will NOT be the same and you can't go back, the sooner you can really start moving forward.
I have had to find new ways to hold on to ME. I found some things I could do that I did before. (I.e. pedicures, lunch at Charley's Steakery on post, visiting the library every week).
Other things, I have had to accept and find different avenues of doing them. Where I used to paint a lot of my projects, more of my projects involve less messy-ness since we have no outdoor area to utilize. Our nightly walks have been replaced with watching "America's Got Talent" or "The Voice" as a family and then reading more books at bedtime than we used to. The one thing I do still wish I could change, is that darn backyard. My kids would be a lot happier if they could play outside all day like they used to.
I'm still trying to figure this all out, and now with a new baby coming I'm more nervous than ever. But, the thing I try to remember is that the alternative to this situation was being away from my husband for an entire year. He makes so many sacrifices for this family. I am more than happy to follow him whenever and wherever we can.