The little guy in the photo on the left will now be 23. It’s crazy to think I took that picture of Hans almost 20 years ago in South Korea. It doesn’t feel like that much time has passed. Today I’m returning to the Land of the Morning Calm.
I’m stopping in a few other places before landing in Inchon International Airport. From there, I’ll visit Taejon (Daejong), where I worked as an English teacher for a few months. The photo of Hans was snapped in Puyo (Bueyo), the first place I taught English in 1998. I won’t be heading there.
To get to Puyo I’d have to crisscross the southern part of the country on different buses. The trip will gouge a large chunk of time from my already busy schedule seeing other parts of the country that I never got to visit long ago. I do feel a tug towards the rural town and wonder if it’s changed over the years.
I’ve changed. Even though I don’t want to admit it. I have lines around my eyes and memories that stretch over many years. Korea changed me first though. It was in Puyo that I grew up. Where I became an adult. Without mom and dad nearby or just a telephone call away (the time difference was about 12 hours), I had to rely on me. I had to make my own money and spend it on groceries. I had to make my own decisions of where to go and what to do. I had to sort out my own problems.
So even though I’ll be bypassing Puyo soon and driving past the classrooms where I taught and the temple I ran by every morning, I’ll resist the pull of memories. Puyo will always be part of me. I don’t need to re-visit it. After almost 20 years, my time there has been absorbed into my bones. It has made me stronger. It made me: me.
I’ll be back at the beginning of June. See you then.