Travel Days: A Love Letter to South Korea

 

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To the beautiful city of Seoul,

You are everything I had dreamed of.

The sights, the smells, the colors, the kindness, the hospitality, and the love that was freely given to an excitable stranger like me.

You treated me with respect and you were patient when I asked too many embarrassing questions. You allowed me to be curious and let me explore your alleyways and mysteries. You offered me extra food so I wouldn’t hunger; you showed how to celebrate life, a language I was slowly forgetting; and you showed me what hope in humanity looks like in the midst of a breaking world (I needed to remember that one).

More importantly, you brought peace to my hurting friend.

20 years ago, you brought Daniel* into the world, into the cracks of society, into a uglier side of life, into the belly of a teenage girl who was ill-equipped to be a sufficient mother. She had the kind of life that doesn’t show itself to tourists like me, the kind of life that is cruel and unfair. I’m not sure why this tender young girl gave her baby away, or even why she chose to have it in the first place. But I’m glad she chose courage.

He bounced around your boundaries, didn’t he? He knew too many “mothers” and “fathers” for a toddler. But soon, when he was barely 3, two loving strangers took him from your arms, and offered sanctuary in a foreign land.

Maybe it was for the better.

But he never resented the land that forced him into exile. He never resented his mother for abandoning him. He never resented the land he was made for.

No, instead, he longed for you. He craved for you. He knew he would find himself there.

On this trip, he did, a little bit. Daniel found a little bit of himself in your dusty streets, in the kindness of your people, in the richness of your grace, and in the memories he still treasures of that teenage girl who bravely chose to bear him.

He laid flowers on your earth, knelt down, gave payed his respect to you and that teenage girl who chose life for him. He whispered a blessing and laid his bleeding heart in front of you.

He let the dirt touch his hands, and his soul become one with the soil.

He finds life and joy in who you are. Land isn’t merely dirt and water. No, there is kinship in land. Our souls are birthed from earth, and our connection with it is stronger than we realize.

Thank you, beautiful city.

Thank you for Daniel. Thank you for the peace that you’ve restored into his life. Thank you for grafting his skin and his wounds (slowly, yet surely).

Thank you for the woman who birthed him. Treat her well, and restore the brokenness.

Thank you for your lessons. The earth and human skin+heart, we are closer than I realized. We are brothers and sisters, a relationship broken and restored many times, sometimes not as nearly enough.

You are beautiful and exquisite.

Till we see each other again,
Annyeong.

*Not his real name.

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