Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Jiggety-Jigging Back in Korea

Home again, home again, jiggety jig

That’s something my dad always said at the sight of our garage after long trips—soccer tournaments, vacations to the Corn Palace—and it’s now what I repeat to myself whenever I find myself coming home.

Coming home used to be the familiar curb double-bump as dad eased each axel of our white Montana onto the driveway and then the sudden chUuuuuuuuun of our green garage door yawning us inside during the night. It used to be the pitter-patter of our dog’s feet on cement as she joyfully circled the vehicle, wriggling in anticipation. It used to be a sleepy struggle just to pull my suitcase or soccer bag from the hatch and into the mudroom; it only made it up the stairs on night one if mom ordered it. Coming home used to be a comfortable rhythm: home again, home again—jiggety jig.

I’ve written before about the joys of traveling—about the ups and downs and the trade-offs. We’ve traded familiarity for novelty and that comes with certain repercussions. I’ve realized another repercussion these last few days as I’ve tried to settle back into Busan life: when you’re far away from home, you make new homes very quickly.

Two months in Thailand was more than enough to make a home there. And it was the kind of home I haven’t been part of in a long time—a home with moms and dads and brothers and sisters. It’s a sticky spider-web of a home to make, with lots of sharing—sharing a bedroom full of squeaking beds, bathrooms with buckets showers, coughs and lice and rice—that’s one kind of home.

A dorm room with Hilary is another kind of home for me—sharing a laundry basket and how our days were. We went to the dining hall together, borrowed clothes, and did homework at the same time. An apartment with Laura (the magnificent) is another home—complete with kittens and cookies and an enormous paper chain counting off days until her wedding.[1]

Growing up, I lived with mom and dad and bickered with my older sister. We didn’t share a bedroom for very long, but our bedrooms shared a wall that I would bang on when she stayed up all night talking to her boyfriend on the phone. We all ate breakfast together and we coordinated car rides between us.

Those are the kinds of homes you can jiggety jig home again to. But a one-bedroom with a non-squeaking bed, no cats, no laundry basket, and no bickering is not a jiggety-jig sort of homecoming. It’s still a homecoming, complete with the long-anticipated hoddeok, reliable public transportation and hot—glorious! Scalding!—water. But even with the hot water, my jiggety jig back to Korea was more of a reluctant shiver than a contented sigh.

It’s a different sort of home here—very adult, I guess. Different, the traveler must acknowledge, is not a disaster. It takes flexibility and patience and, as my last blog noted, prayer. I like it here in Korea. I like feeling cleaner. I like my church here. I like how beautiful Koreans are. I like wearing high-heels. I like seeing the water and climbing mountains. I like my puffy coat.

The other day I went for my first winter hike. Korea does not believe in switchbacks, so it was straight up the mountain for me. Winded, but running late, I huffed and puffed my way past three ajhummas taking a quick kimchi break. They smiled and called out a hello. I puffed an annyeong-haseyo! back and inappropriately but automatically put my palms together in a wai.

The adjustment—to this non-jiggety-jig sort of place—will take a little time.

[1] I imagine it’s much shorter these days...

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