South Korea – May 2017: Packing and Planning

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It’s been months since I booked my ticket to Seoul for late May and only now is it finally starting to feel somewhat real. I’m in almost daily contact with my hosts, a Korean-American adoptee (Tim) who I have known for more than ten years now, and his Korean wife and their young son. Because of their generosity as my hosts, I am able to make this trip to my birth country, exactly ten years from when I left Korea after living there for five years in my 20s.

It’s been fun discussing with Tim the logistics of my visit. In many ways, this is going to be an entirely different experience compared to my first trip to my birth country in 2002, which I remember so clearly as if it were yesterday. For one thing, I’m older, I’m less naive, and I have a better idea of what to expect. This is somewhat reflected in my growing packing list which, compared to fifteen years ago, is comprised of way more electronic gadgets: my laptop, an external hard drive, a smart phone, a selfie stick, a digital camera, and a portable mp3 voice recorder (for interviews).

(Here’s an audio of me detailing my packing list and reflecting on this upcoming trip —  .)

And then when I get there, Tim is going to set me up with what he calls an “egg,” a portable contraption that will give me my own personal wifi hotspot wherever I go throughout the country (which will include two nights in Busan where I also used to live). I have to admit, I’m kind of intrigued by this “egg.” I have always known that Korea was more technologically advanced than the United States in many ways…the difference this time, however, is not so much the advances Korea has made as much as it is the technological advances I have made since 2002. 🙂

I’m still planning my itinerary, but I have a good idea of what I want to do once in-country. There is a Buddhist temple in Seoul that I’d like to visit, as well as a place where Korean adoptees congregate, especially when they visit the country to search for their birth parents (more on that in a later post). There are some shopping places I want to hit and some food that I am dying to have. In Busan, I want to see my old neighborhood (which is actually in Jinhae). I know my old neighborhood has changed tremendously since I lived there as it was in the early developing stages of becoming what was called a “new city” at the time I left. I also want to visit the Japanese consulate to see the notorious comfort woman statue that has been the cause of emotionally charged diplomatic fights between Japan and South Korea, and there is another Buddhist temple I’d like to visit. If time allows, I’d also like to stop by the Busan Museum of Art. And I have a very good friend in Busan who I am looking forward to seeing as well. On top of all this, as an early 40th birthday gift to myself, I booked two nights at a five-star on the beach. I won’t lie in saying that I look forward to some luxurious pampering while there.

There are a few other things I am looking forward to as well—the KTX train ride between Seoul and Busan, of course, will be fun. I was in Korea when that first began operation. It’s been more than ten years now, and the United States has yet to catch up with Korea when it comes to rail transportation. And then there is the Korean news segment chronicling Tim’s search for his birth parents. I never saw it when it aired live on Korean national news, but he has a recording of it that I am looking forward to seeing.

Although this is all slightly more than a month away, I still feel like there is much for me to do. But I’m really excited. It’s always a trip of a lifetime going back to my birth country.

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