I used to live in South Korea. A couple of times, actually. I didn’t live in Seoul or any other big city. I lived in a small village. There was a little farm on the path that led up a hill to our apartment. I woke up in the morning to rooster calls. Small village.
My landlord was a lady named Ana. She loved my boys, especially Andrew because he would eat ANYTHING. So, she’d always come get him when it was lunch time so he could have lunch with her. So sweet.
Jake would only eat chicken fingers and french fries. He still only eats chicken fingers and french fries.
I’d go over to Ms. Ana’s house and we would sit on the floor with tea and talk. She’d tell me about her sister who was married to an American soldier and lived in Colorado. I’d tell her about my sister who lived in Okinawa, and my momma, and those kinds of things.
She lived in a 1 room apartment. Not 1 bedroom, 1 room. She had a chest of drawers, a typical Korean bed, a small kitchenette, and a TV. And that was pretty much it.
One day, I finally got up the nerve to ask her the question I’d always wanted to. “Don’t you ever wish you lived in America where they have big houses and grocery stores?”
Gimme a break. I was young and dumb. I know there are big houses and grocery stores in South Korea. Just not anywhere we lived.
She obliged me, though. She wasn’t offended. And she answered my question.
She said no. America is too busy. Too many big things and big voices and big places. South Korea is my home, she said. Why do I need a big, fancy house? I love my house, she said. Why do I need a grocery store or Wal-Mart or a mall? I have everything I need in walking distance. South Korea is my home, she said. Her home.
Interestingly enough, I never felt homesick for my home while I was there. Not even the first time, when I was only 17.
The only time I ever felt homesick were the times we had to leave. And I still miss that damn place. Tiny apartment, roosters, running out of hot water, hanging my clothes on a clothes line. I miss all of it.
It’s such a little thing. Almost insignificant really. But I was an “army wife,” constantly bombarded with patriotism in ridiculous excess and chest-beating and flag-flying. So many messages that America is the sparkling pot at the end of the rainbow. It’s where all the popular kids live. It’s the club everyone wants to join. My eyes and my heart were opened so much more that day. Your home shouldn’t be where things are shiny and big and convenient and expensive. Your home should be where your soul lives.