Reflection and Appreciation

Three years ago I was picked up at a Korean airport in the middle of a rainstorm. My friends Kate and Chaz had already been there for a year and they took us on a combination bus and taxi ride to their apartment. The lights in Busan shone red and orange and yellow and reflected like glowing shadows off the glossy water glazed streets. I knew then what it must be like to be illiterate, the words nothing more than geometric dashes. The taxi’s window was streaked and speckled with rain as I watched the passing buildings and people. There was more of everything. Advertisements, people, cars, and even the apartment complexes were put together en masse along the mountains’ edges like rows of giant legos. I kept thinking to myself that if I were ever to navigate this city on my own, that in itself would be a miracle.

Now I find myself in anticipation mode. Korea has been a fabulous home to me. The experiences and lessons will stay with me for the rest of my life. But now I’m headed back to my home country, and not just for a short visit, for an indefinite amount of time. My wife and I have already sold and gotten rid of a large amount of what we’ve collected over the years. We’ve been cleaning, organizing and packing our suitcases. Anytime Kimmy and I go out, we look at our surroundings fully aware that this could be our last time seeing this area or trying that type of food. America calls to us like an old, favorite sweater you’ve discovered buried in the attic. Just the sight of it reminds us of all we’ve missed and forgotten the last trio of years.

One of the great things about living and working abroad is that I’ve been afforded a lot more free time than in America. This has allowed me to spend a lot more time writing. I’ve worked on poems, short stories, and a couple of novels. I’ve also found a wonderful blogging home here at Magnificent Nose. I’m not a prolific blogger, but the Nose has motivated me to write a weekly article for a little more than a year. It’s been fun and insightful having an outlet to reflect upon my writing process as well as explore other methodologies and possibilities. Neil has also been a great editor to work with. He knows his stuff, but doesn’t take the reins, instead opting to give suggestions in order to point the author in the right direction.

But now as my imminent return looms, I haven’t the time to continue. This is, in fact, my last piece for the Nose, and it’s written with much appreciation. I appreciate being given the chance to pontificate each week as if I’m somehow knowledgable about anything. I’m very grateful for anyone who’s ever read a column of mine. I appreciate the other writers on the site and all the work they put into their pieces. Magnificent Nose is a great little community and it’s been beneficial to me, bother as a writer and a reader, having been a part of it. Lucky for me, even though I won’t be writing, I can still be a reader.

The next few months are going to be a whirlwind. We’ve got to pack up our lives and take a 22 hour journey back to the other side of the world. Our flight ends in Denver, but from there we spend a few weeks visiting friends and family and making our trek back to Central Iowa. We’ve plan to visit restaurants, go on a brewery tour, white water rafting, cooking and eating and fireworks. We’ve got no jobs and no place to live. In fact, my wife and I won’t even know where we’ll live until August. But finally, we’ll back back in the land of familiarity. The world has changed and we’ve changed and we hope that our adjustment back into society is a smooth one. I’ve a number of friends who’ve spent time in Korea and we sometimes discuss how we’re going to feel like Frodo and the other hobbits at the end of The Lord of the Rings. Sitting there at the pub, looking at each other knowing how we’ve all changed, and understanding that those around us can’t quite relate. Of course, we didn’t have to destroy the One Ring, but we did get to experience a culture that loves kimchi; I think its power is comparable.

Steven E. Athay is an aspiring story designer and connoisseur of all things awesome. Follow him on Twitter at @steveneathay, or read his blog Afflatus.

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