I used to laugh at people who said that they had been in Korea for 5 years or more. I would question, “How could anyone stay in Korea that long? They must not be close with their families. Are they running away from something?” When we came back we tried to get back into the swing of things, but we felt like something was missing; we felt out of place. Being home, we realized that nothing had really changed. Our minds had evolved to see more of the world, but our surroundings had not. We felt confined like a singing bird entrapped in its cage, feeling as if our life in Korea had all been a dream. We knew there was still so much more to experience, not just for us, but for our children. Our family and friends couldn’t comprehend how we felt. People would often ask us, “Aren’t you happy to be home?” The answer would be yes and no. When you’re constantly evolving, it’s difficult to go back to the same state of mind and the same kind of lifestyle.
As the saying goes, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Friends and family tend to send messages saying, “We miss you!” “When are you coming home?” But when we actually find time to come home and visit, some people have excuses for why they can’t come out to see you. We spend thousands of dollars and travel over 7,000 miles to spend time with those we love, and even though their hearts are in the right place, some people don’t make enough effort to come and see us. It’s disheartening and makes us contemplate if they cared if we ever came home at all.
Being overseas, tests the parameters of your relationships with many people. Many people think we are so far away that they don’t find the time to contact us or see how we’re doing. As humans, we tend to think out of sight, out of mind. We live in an age where technology is so abundant that it’s so much easier to communicate with people regardless of distance. We feel like sometimes we make so much of an effort to contact people that when they don’t ever reciprocate, we just give up trying.
We’ve been in Korea non consecutively for over six years, and we’re always questioned, “How can you not miss home?” According to a lot of people in the US, “It’s the best country in the world!” I do love the US because it is home, and it’s molded me into being an open and well-rounded human being. Being away from home, you begin to really analyze the ways of the world, and you begin to realize how flawed the “greatest nation of the world” actually is. Every country has its flaws. At times, I do miss being home, but at what costs? Here in Korea, we have peace of mind. It’s safer here. I am not bombarded with news of mass shootings, police brutality, and the bigotry that exists for those who don’t fit the “American mold.” I hear the rhetoric and the thunder in the voices of Trump and his supporters, and I ask the question, “Is this the American Dream, they envision?” Is there racism in Korea? Yes, there’s racism everywhere, but I’ve found the level of racism varies. The rates of violent racism in the western world are much higher. Being called a black bitch and a nigger, being racially profiled, being accused of stealing (all of which have happened to me) are not things that I want for my children to experience. Although I am aware of what happens in the U.S., I am not subjected to it on a daily basis. Because I live in Korea, I don’t have to worry about these things happening to my children.
Here in Korea, we’re not living paycheck to paycheck, working 2 or 3 jobs to make a suitable wage to support our family, and we don’t have to worry about missing out on time with our children. Life is short, and my quality of life matters, so why spend it being stressed out when I don’t have to. Here I’m not depressed by the pressures of living day to day in the U.S. People in the U.S. are so used to it because that’s all they know. If people are not aware of anything different, they will continue to live this way, unaware that there is something better. The media thrives off people’s fears of other countries, that no one ventures outside of their comfort zone to see that life can be better elsewhere. If we have to sacrifice seeing our families every day to provide our kids with a better environment, then I feel like this is the best path for us. We love our families, but our decision to live here is what works best for our family.
The U.S. is where our permanent address is listed, but home is not limited to just that. Home is where we feel loved, where we feel safe, and where we feel appreciated. A quote that truly expresses our definition of home goes as follows: “Our homes are not defined by geography or one particular location, but by memories, events, people, and places that span the globe.”