Leaving with Body and Heart: My Tumultous Journey Moving Homes in South Korea

Body: Moving to a new place is always difficult. That’s what they say, right? I had no idea what it would be like, but I was scared based on what I had heard from others. I remember such a time with my family when I was about ten years old. I had no responsibilities then, and my only clue as to the difficulty of the process was when my mom would talk about it. Everything seemed stressful to my parents, and I didn’t really understand why. In my naivete, I didn’t realize that as an adult, you have to do these kinds of things yourself, and if you want help, you need to beg and persist. If you’re not proactive, no one will help of their own volition, except of course people like family and your froup.

Heart: Our first date felt like something special. We went out to dinner, and near the end of our meal, it started to snow. It was so beautiful and gentle, and I wanted to quietly float just like the snowflakes. I looked at them closely, and they really did have amazing crystalline structures and patterns. I could hardly believe that they could be so tiny, and yet so intricate. It was a lovely moment, and as I enjoyed, he looked on with a warm smile. Snowing on the first date felt romantic, and it just felt right.

After I found out that he was a salsa instructor, I decided to drop in on his classes. Taking the beginner salsa class was a blast, and I made a few friends there. I was usually the token foreigner, so people either avoided me or made an effort to make me feel welcome. After some time, many of the regulars would want to dance with me, and I got just good enough to keep up. I’m truly grateful for this experience, and I feel like I’ve developed some new skills. Who knew that I’d be learning salsa, bachata, and cha cha in Korea?

We had a few very nice dates, where he would take me somewhere new that I wasn’t expecting. One cold day, we drove somewhere because I wanted to see the new Star Wars. He surprised me with a trip to a park that he liked. He offered me one of his earbuds and we walked closely together, sharing some Korean ballads. There were children flying kites, dogs playing and barking, and dead trees huddled as a backdrop. I was at peace on this walk, and I thought we could go on this way for a long time. The only worry was me returning to America, until…other things started to cause upset in our relationship.

Despite all of my anxiety, I was ecstatic! I was finally getting what I wanted since Kelly and I came to Korea together. I would be able to be with Kelly in the same city. We would only be a ten minute walk away from each other! It felt like all the pieces were falling into place, and the completed puzzle would culminate in my move to Cheongyang.

At first, it was great. Everything was peachy and happy. He was very kind, and sweet. He would take time to see me, even if he had to leave work early, or skip his second job for the night. He really did a lot for me. He bought me things, took me places, did whatever I asked. However, he is a very non-confrontational person, and I found out that he was lying to me in order to keep the peace. He kept things from me, things that I had the right to know. He also had less and less time for me, and we would go weeks without seeing each other, even though we lived pretty close. Soon, I would only see him if I visited his salsa class. I didn’t like to be left alone so often, and for so long.

I like to think that I reciprocated his affection and generosity, but somewhere I must’ve been selfish. Despite all he had done, and all the things he said, I didn’t feel the butterflies. You know those butterflies you feel in the pit of your stomach, the anticipation to see that special someone? The longing and nervousness, the excitement, a sunny nook in a forested area bursting with monarchs in the summer. To be in a good, healthy relationship, you need to feel the butterflies. That is something I’ve always firmly believed in, and as an adult, the butterflies meant everything, both innocent and mature. Being attracted to someone with all my heart, body, mind and soul. I liked him, I really did. But there was never even the stir from one butterfly sighting in a garden. It was just like the other relationship I’d tried to foster and feel excited about, long after all the sparks had evaporated. It felt like I didn’t know where to turn.

I was still a bit anxious, especially when the reality of the move set in. Where could I turn, and who could I turn to? I made plans with him to help me move, and Kelly and I devised a Plan B in case he didn’t pull through. I wasn’t sure what I was doing, but at least I had my best friend in case things got iffy.

After having an aimless relationship for so long, I didn’t know what we even were anymore. Were we still dating? Boyfriend and girlfriend? A good time that had become stale and uninteresting? A one-sided relationship which was unfair to him? Unfair to me? I didn’t know, but I needed his help. Back home it would be hard enough, but here in Korea, I had no idea what I was doing. The people I worked with only really gave me lukewarm advice, and other options seemed impossible given my work schedule. I thought I might need to hire an expensive moving van, and I didn’t have the first inkling of how to do any of it. I understand the stress of moving all too well now.

In the weeks leading up to the big move, I was visiting Cheongyang on the weekends in order to bring all I could carry. It was a very exciting time, and I was so grateful to Kelly for letting me leave things at her house before I had access to my new apartment. I even lugged my gigantic foot locker all across Korea. That thing, in combination with my old job, would eventually make me extremely ill. But that day, I felt like Wonder Woman. A woman who could handle her shit. It was huge and heavy, but I somehow got it through a taxi ride, subway transfers, and the bus all the way to Cheongyang.

Of course, I shouldn’t neglect to mention the kind souls I met along the way. I feel that “A Streetcar Named Desire” would’ve taken on a whole different narrative in Korea. I really did benefit from the kindness of strangers. At my subway transfer in the Gasan Digital Complex, I was contemplating getting the behemoth down an escalator when a small cute man walked right up and asked, “Can I help you?” That guy was smaller than me, and he hoisted that thing and pulled and pushed right to my subway car. I thought I’d have more time to talk, and maybe get his contact information, since he was so sweet to me. But he told me that he had to go the other direction, and just like that he dashed out just before the subway doors closed. My Korean guardian angel. I’ve had a few of those during my time here, or the same one taking many forms, who knows.

He kept telling me that he wasn’t sure if he could help me move, and he would let me know soon. How long would I have to wait? If he couldn’t help me this weekend, that was it. I had to move out for good the following Tuesday. Finally, finally he made the commitment. He came to my house, where my things were boxed and ready to go. And things were going smoothly, what a relief. We were nearing the end of our game of Tetris, getting my things in the car. I was walking outside, with my back turned to him, when I heard a huge boom and crash. Right there at the foot of the stairs, at the entrance to my apartment building. He had tried to carry three stacked boxes down the stairs, and the top box contained beer glasses that he had bought for me. Oh, no.

After the kind nameless man helped me through the subway, I brought the foot locker all the way to the Express Bus Terminal in Seoul. I set it down, got a snack, and used the locker as a table. People looked, but in my mind they were in secret awe. How could one girl be moving this thing all alone? They didn’t know they were looking at the one and only Rachel Corseri. The woman who knew there was no other way to transport this thing short of a moving van, which wasn’t happening. But I wasn’t worried anymore, because I was almost on the last leg of my harrowing journey.

As we started to clean up the broken glass, my landlord emerged from his restaurant, located on the first floor of my apartment building. He looked at us solemnly, and I couldn’t read his face. I figured that he must be very angry because of all the ruckus we caused. I apologized profusely, and the two men spoke in their native tongue for awhile. Without saying anything to me, or changing his expression, my landlord did a 180 and walked back into his restaurant. I was trying to ask what was going on when he suddenly returned, a box in his arms. It was a box of 6 beer mugs from the restaurant. He said he was sorry they weren’t the same types of glasses, but he wanted to give me a going away present. He was happy to see me one more time, and he told me that I was a good tenant and a kind person. I was taken aback, and almost speechless. All I could say was “Thank you!” over and over again, and smile in bewilderment. We said our goodbyes, and my landlord gave me one more warm look before leaving. We finished cleaning up and packing the car. As we left, I thought about the wonderful people in Bongdam, where I had lived for a year, and I hoped that I would see them again. There weren’t many, but there were definitely some good eggs. The people at the barbecue place, my coworkers, my landlord. I must have had another guardian angel that I hadn’t even thought of, and one gifting me beer mugs nonetheless! The angels do like their booze, just like Elijah drinking his glass of wine every Passover. It makes me feel blessed, that there seem to be angelic people who pop up in my life just as I need them. Moments like that really make a girl believe.

I made it on the bus, and we were gone, we were moving, I was finally in the home stretch. We were going, going, going … and then we stopped. We stopped on the side of the road. The bus driver made an announcement, and all I understood was that we had to wait a while. No one seemed concerned, so I tried not to be either. Then, after 10 or 15 minutes, the driver said something else, and everyone started to get off the bus. A new bus had pulled up behind us, and bodies and belongings were all being transferred. Oh god. Oh god, oh god, oh god. I seriously had to move that foot locker again, with the buses so close to a wall that only one person could squeeze through at a time? Well, my friends, I tried. I started scraping that sucker along the wall, because there was nothing else I could do. But thank you again my angels, they really pulled through for me. The two bus drivers, from the new bus and the old, walked up to me, said something reassuring, and took my locker. Between the two of them, they hoisted that thing up on their shoulders like she was the queen of Egypt. It was a sight to behold, and indeed everyone did behold it, as all of them were already waiting on the bus. The strange foreigner with the heavy foot locker got in and walked to an open seat, feeling embarrassed, relieved, exhausted, triumphant. I did it, I brought that monster all the way to Cheongyang. My mom always told me that I could do whatever I set my mind to, and by golly she was right.

Whether I should owe it to some higher power, or hard work paying off, we finally made it to Cheongyang. It was a bit later than I had planned, but we had finally arrived. My new boss and her husband were waiting for me, to give me the key and show me my new place. I was so happy. Tired, but happy. We started to unload the car, and I was floating on a cloud all the way to the third floor of this unassuming building close to the bus terminal. Kelly came shortly thereafter, and helped me so much. We broke in the new place with a little get together. I wanted to tear up and laugh and yell to let out every extreme emotion at once. Happiness prevailed, and I laughed a lot that night. It was as if after a year in Korea, in a land of confusion, I had finally come home.

My new apartment! Before I really unpacked.

I got the foot locker to Kelly’s, and then the rest of my things in his car. I had finally moved everything, and I was sick and tired, but that didn’t last forever. Now, I live in Cheongyang! Kelly and I live in the same city! We are a ten minute walk away from each other! I still can hardly believe it sometimes. We can make plans after work, dinner plans, plans to be productive with our nights! I think we are accomplishing great things, one day at a time. And we are doing it together. Now that it’s come true, I feel that I can divulge that that was my birthday wish, every 11:11 wish, and all the other silly superstitions that allowed me to dream. I wished that we would be happy, and things would go alright, and that we would be together. Wishes really can come true if you turn them into goals that you work hard on. Some angels might’ve helped me along the way, but there was no fairy godmother that did everything for me. I paid my dues and bippity-boppity-booed myself to where I wanted to be, motherfuckas!!!

As for him, what can I say? We’ve drifted. I know that he lied to me. And I’ve lied to him as well. We still talk sometimes. He’s good company and he helped me out, but what can I do? There are no butterflies. I need butterflies and angels in my life. I need those fluttering specks of happiness and sunlight to shine through. Something keeps the angels coming, and the frouple’s back in town, so I have no complaints. Still, every now and then I go on a butterfly hunt. I catch a few only to watch them casually escape my flimsy net. There have not been any that I can keep in a jar in the depths of my being. I have time, and I have patience. I know that I can’t force it, just like an actual butterfly landing on one’s nose. When the time comes, it will come for me, too. Besides, the butterflies of passion are fleeting and nerve-wracking. They’re nothing compared to the close, comforting glow and warmth from the sunlight of a best friend. A frouple reunited is like a sweet sunny day. And sometimes, we are a force of nature to be reckoned with. No matter where the angels and butterflies lead us, I hope for many more sunny days. It is my only wish.

Frouple Night in the new apartment! Dream come true.

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