from Seoul to Minneapolis

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Hello from Minnesota! Or, more specifically, hello from Mary Ellen’s olive-carpeted guest bedroom, and from where I sit, the queen-sized bed with pastel floral linens with a matching window valance! Outside the grass is impressively green, the yards well-manicured and wet from a morning shower. Migrating from the concrete jungle of Seoul to Midwest first-ring Suburbia is more than a little dramatic, but since everything’s very foggy right now, I won’t try to elaborate on the contrasts just yet. Only that here, it’s so. very. quiet.

Last year around this time, I left Minnesota with an intention. Who believed it when I said I’d be back in a year? Maybe not even me, but I said it anyway, for a few reasons. Family was one. Mine is big, and they’re mostly all in this state. Though I’ve spent much of my life running away from Minnesota, there was this undeniable force that always pulled me back. Turning 30 was a landmark, too. I guess my priorities shifted some, and the professional ambition of my twenties started waning, fading to a deeper yearning to get back home, to focus some of that will on relationships with the people I missed, and who missed me. They’ve always understood, and this has been a great lesson.

My dad picked me up from the airport yesterday, and I was lying on a bench at the pickup curb, surrounded by three bags and a box when he did. When he creeped up to the curb, we both peered at each other through his tinted windshield before the moment of recognition. It was 6:30 a.m., and the air smelled fantastically pure. For years, it’s been a tradition for us to go straight from the airport to the 5-8 club on Cedar for Juicy Lucys, but it wasn’t open so early yesterday, so we went to the only other place that was: Perkins. We ordered eggs, biscuits and gravy, and hash browns, and we switched plates halfway through.

Before leaving Korea, I said many goodbyes, and hooooo man, I wondered if I’d make it to the end of the week. Friends took me in, fed me and poured me refills over and over during those last few days. They filled the gaps that arose from too much to do in too little time. They sent me away with notes and gifts, including a cooler packed with kimchi and other homemade essentials, which made it through the three flights and 10,041 miles (give or take) from Seoul to Minneapolis. Last night, my brother John and my sister-in-law’s son Dennis helped transport a spare mini fridge from my dad’s attic back to Mary Ellen’s so that the kimchi could ripen in peace, and separately, as it likes to do, without offending the rest of the food or whoever opens the fridge door. When it was time for dinner, I took out a quarter of the cabbage and sliced it, as red kimchi juice dripped over the sides of the board, its sweet bouquet rising above every other scent in the room. I dug out three sets of takeout chopsticks that were buried in the utensil drawer and fed everyone around the table, like Koreans do for the people they want to eat well. Everyone tried a bite. I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud.

There’s a hello on every other side of a goodbye, isn’t there? We spend our lives saying both, maybe more than any other words.

Have a lovely week. xo.

  • jenny

    beautifully written, jacqui! sad I didn’t get to say a proper goodbye to you. :( keep writing so I can check back on this blog and know what’s going on with you!

    • Jacqui

      hi Jenny! Thanks for your comment. Missed you during the week of goodbyes. Please keep writing on your space, too, with plenty of photos included. ^^

  • Jessica

    Just amazing how you make the transition I am now so afraid to take seem so eloquent and (almost) necessary. I love Minnesota, always will. . . stay safe and I hope you find a new adventure soon!

    • Jacqui

      Thanks Jessica. It is a scary and challenging decision to make, for sure. But it’s easier when you keep in mind what’s most important to you, whether that leads to a yes or no. Keep in touch, and keep enjoying Korea for as long as you’re there! xxo

  • ji sun

    so beautiful to read your thoughts and feel your words. hello hello, goodbye goodbye. hello, goodbye. suka duka. it’s all connected! sending you lots of love!

  • Yaer!

    This made me feel really warm and wistful, happy and sad! I can’t wait to read more. Miss you already!

    • Jacqui

      There’s something super comforting knowing you’re reading. Thanks for your comment. Miss you more!

  • Destiny

    This line, so good: There’s a hello on every other side of a goodbye, isn’t there?

    Looking forward to seeing you in MN!

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