The smell; that’s the first thing I noticed when my plane touched down in South Korea on July 17, 2016. The smell was nothing like I’d ever experienced before, despite the fact that I was still standing in the crowded airport. It was my first breath of Asian air…. air seasoned with spices and culture; air full of the stories of the people, and languages of the world.
The swirling gray fog; that’s the second thing I noticed as I walked through the terminal and gazed out of the glass windows, which were cool to the touch. It was raining… raining a sweet rain I’d never tasted before, splattering the warm pavement with the beat of the mysterious country that I’d never imagined.
I allowed myself to become fully submerged into the culture of South Korea. After the three excruciatingly boring plane rides, I was relieved to be granted a change of scenery and take the train out of Seoul, and into the heart of Korea.
The lush greenery soared past me in furry splotches, but I stopped to watch every single one. I recognized the large gray lumps as mountains, and the tiny black specs as people, not ants. I stepped off of the train, with my four younger siblings trailing behind me, and my parents in front, and gasped. I gasped out the utter enormity of the population of South Korea…an enormity that represented only about 1% of the actual population.
This brings me to the third thing I noticed: the people. The people came in all different shapes and sizes. Some were pear shaped, others peach. Some were as tall as pine trees, others as short as toddlers. The variety was what was most amazing to me. Every single one of them looked different…had some quirk or spark that made them unique…individual. I stood in the subway car imagining a life for each of them. One particularly tall man, I named Joe. He was a mechanic born in Seoul, but later in life moved out to the country with his family to open up his own farm. I spotted another, a woman, a beautiful one, who was about average height, and had dyed her hair a vibrant flame-orange. She looked like she was going places. So I decided she was a successful business woman, maybe a lawyer, on her way to vacation with her boyfriend in Paris.
When we departed the KTX train station, and drove down the crowded streets of Waegwan full of honking horns and yelling people, I listened to genuine K-pop on the radio for the first time. The beat was impeccable, as was the rhythm. Even though I didn’t understand or retain a word of what the song meant, I felt as if I did.
My family fell into a sort of schedule. During the week we’d go about business as usual: homeschooling and work, but on the weekends, we went on adventures. We explored the crevices and alleys unknown to most tourists, and found many hidden treasures. We tasted the lively heat of the Korean summer sun, and felt the unity and love of the countryside. We climbed the mountains of greenery, and tasted the waterfalls of the mountainside.
Were we scared to take the leap and travel to the other side of the world? Of course. We had our doubts… we had our fears of numerous things, for numerous reasons. However, in the end, we took the leap… we jumped farther than we’d ever jumped in our lives. We jumped, and because of that, we lived… and it was worth it.
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