Saturday, January 24, 2009

Changwon's Wide Boulevard: The Road I Travel

My head banged the side of the bulkhead in the cramped bathroom of a Boeing 737-800 as I looked on into the mirror and struggled with the length of a necktie for the first time in six months. First impressions matter among the Koreans, or at least my reading on the matter suggested as much. In 15 or 20 minutes, the plane would touch down at Gimhae Airport and I would see my home for the first time in months. I methodically reviewed some greetings and key words in a Korean phrasebook despite knowing I'd forget them all the minute I walked through the airport peering around for signs leading me to the baggage claim.

But before I left the plane, I took a moment to ponder the course of my life. All the successes, highlights, failures, and lowpoints of my adult life flooded through my head. Faces of all the friends I'd made and the people I'd known and seen. I knew all the challenges in store for me. I would make some wonderful new friends, but I would be lonely and isolated for a time before this happened. I would have many wonderful new experiences and learn many fantastic new things. But I also knew there would be some unwelcome surprises as well. This would be the third time I'd step off a plane into an unfamiliar world and try to make it home. Once again I'd be a fish out of water in a new land. It wasn't until that moment that I knew for certain I'd made the right choice for myself in coming here.
As many of you know, I stepped off that plane over a month ago, and I'm now writing this from my new apartment. I now reside in a small city nestled among the rugged mountains in South Korea just West of Pusan's bustling port. I like the city. The jagged peaks shooting up all around look to have lots of potential once I find the trails that undoubtedly meander over and through them. The city is very new and clean. Stately rows of tall, white apartment buildings tower over wide boulevards lined with well manicured trees and shrubs. Wide bike paths and and attractive pedestrian walkways adjoin all the major roads through town. By any global standard, Changwon is a great place to go out for a stroll.

So far today, I've sampled 2 new restaurants. Both were good, but I have no idea what I ate, as I could only read the "Hite" on the side of my beverage. I took a run this afternoon through the cold dry air, turning down yet another undiscovered road, wondering what I might see or find along today's path. I spent the remainder of the afternoon shopping in some new department store, making flashcards and drilling myself with them to learn Korean. Tomorrow I'll plan a ski trip and search for a dry cleaners close to my apartment.

I can say confidently now that choosing this new life was the right thing for me. So I hope you enjoy reading Daily Belly Button Lint, now in Korea.

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