Back in the Land of Kimchi

It struck me upon this particular return to Korea that I’ve grown surprisingly comfortable here.

I’ve gotten used to the decreased eye contact and increased physical contact. To the abrupt but convenient public transportation and the way everyone buries their faces in their smart phones. To getting a free pass on explaining myself in certain situations because of my foreign face and lack of language ability. Even to the stares and shoves.

Other people may still see me as as much of a foreigner as they ever did, but I think I feel even more comfortable here than I do back in America now, which is a bit strange to admit.

I guess that’s what living abroad does to you.

On the last leg of my 20-hour journey back here, I was utterly exhausted.

I covered my eyes and went to sleep before the people next to me had even boarded the plane. (One perk of having the window seat.) Half-asleep, eyes covered, I felt someone settle beside me and groggily tried to guess who it was. Based on the way they let their arm rest slightly against mine, I knew they were Korean. From some subtle sounds and shifting, I was pretty sure it was a man, I guessed an older man.

I was almost right. It was a youngish Korean guy.

We didn’t make eye contact the entire flight, and I never even got a good look at his face, because as soon as we landed he slipped out into the aisle somewhere and melted into the crowd, but our arms rested against each other off and on during the flight.

It made for a great flight. To not have to talk, to not even have to make eye contact, to know that none of that was required or expected, yet to feel not alone, to feel a certain anonymous (innocent) intimacy with this stranger was comfortable––downright comforting––to me as I tried to sleep.

It was this feeling of, “Ah, I’m home.”



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Elizabeth is an American living in South Korea who believes in destiny, miracles, and living life intentionally. She holds to simple faith in a complex world, values the beauty of the everyday, and strives for vulnerability with other imperfect humans. She is always learning, laughing, and finding herself in awe of grace.

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