Well, my fear has happened — I lost my camera. Or maybe it was stolen from me. I have no idea and I may never know.
But first let me go back in time and tell you about a place I call “the weekend.”
This past past weekend, I signed up for a tour with SeoulMate to visit the Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty. I’m surprised it took me this long to visit a UNESCO World Heritage sight. There are several here in Korea and my goal is to visit all of them.
Anyways, the day started off okay. I skyped with my grandma (Hey, Grandma!) and then got on a bus to the city. This is when my day started to plummet.
15 minutes into the ride, we stopped near a terrible car crash. It must have happened literally seconds before we arrived because everyone was running to the cars and I could see the crash from the bus. Even my bus driver left to see the accident. This car crash also happened to cover the entire freeway. There is one freeway to get on and off the island. So you can see how a car accident on the weekend could cause a major jam.
Eventually, some ambulances arrived and helped the victims. And after about an hour of standing on the bus, we began to move again.
Of course, by then . . . I knew I was going to be late for my tour. But whatever, right? There isn’t anything you can do. And it seems selfish to worry about getting to a tour when people are literally in an accident right in front of you. I kept telling myself that a car crash wasn’t going to ruin my day. I was going to stay positive.
I eventually made it to the tombs alone and caught up with the tour group by accident. The tombs were nice, but nothing to write home about.
Afterwards, we visited a temple in the middle of the city which has one of the biggest statues of Buddha in all of Korea! I actually liked the temple visit more than the tombs. It was also an interesting experience because there were several Buddhists there for worship. It was my first time watching people bow in front of a statue. I’ve never seen anyone bow like that in America, so I think it’s very interesting to watch.
After the temple, our group ate a simple dinner before splitting up. A girl from the group and I decided to head over to Yeouido to view a fireworks display. OH MY GOODNESS were there a lot of people! We got there about 30 minutes late, but thankfully the fireworks kept going and going and going. I only stayed for a bit before leaving to catch my bus.
Well, the joke was on me because I left 3 minutes too late and missed my bus, which meant I’d have to spend 40,000 won (roughly $35) on a taxi. I kept telling myself to stay positive and that it was going to be all right. There was no reason to get angry or sad. Well, I must have been so overwhelmed with missing my bus and all the people at the firework show that I forgot to hold onto my camera. So low and behold, when I arrived at the last subway stop and reached for it, it was gone.
You can only imagine the panic and heartache going through me at this moment. I ran to the subway driver, who graciously let me search the train for it. When I couldn’t find it on the train, I searched the station. When I couldn’t find it in the station, I took a deep breath, wiped off a few tears and went to the subway station office. I was going to stay positive. I told the workers what happened (thankfully one of the girls spoke English) and when they told me nobody had returned it, I let the tears fall.
I no longer wanted to stay positive. I wanted to cry.
There were about 5 or 6 people in the room who just stared at me awkwardly. I was trying so hard to keep it in, but once the tears started to fall, they couldn’t stop. I awkwardly left their office and cried all the way through the station, to the front steps where I sat down, defeated. Everyone kept staring at me, but I didn’t care anymore. I was no longer crying for my camera, but for the entire moment and day and month.
Sometimes it can seem like living abroad is this magical adventure in which everything goes well. And while I am still in the honeymoon stage of living abroad, life is still life. And sometimes life just isn’t perfect. There have been moments in which I’ve forgotten a bus or have gotten ripped off or have been yelled at by an old Korean man for giving someone money. I’ve offended people and have made tons of mistakes. People have straight up corrected and humbled me. I’ve wondered whether or not I’m a good teacher and if the students like me. I’ve been scared and lonely. I’m constantly confused and usually don’t know if I’m doing things the right way.
And yes, sometimes I do miss friends and family. Sometimes I feel sad knowing that all these friends I’m making are going to leave. And I’m going to leave. And life is going to go on without me. I don’t feel lonely a lot of the time here, but on this particular Saturday, I did. And there are little things to make you feel more isolated in this world than crying on the front steps of a subway station alone in a foreign country.
But even though I cried freely, I still got back up. I rode the subway 30 minutes to see if I left my camera in another station. When it wasn’t there, I rode the subway another 30 minutes and then spent 35,000 won on a taxi. I walked up the stairs to my apartment, took a shower and went to bed.
And then I got up in the morning and went to church, hung out with my small group, had an amazing lunch of salmon and then visited a palace by myself because nobody could go with me.
And I still had a good day. Without my fancy camera.
If there’s anything I’m learning here, it’s that I am much stronger than I ever knew. I can navigate a subway and a bus in a foreign country. I can spark conversations with strangers and actually make friends with those people. I can book tours by myself and travel alone and still be smiling at the end of it. I can choose to be happy or sad, to waste my life on the subway stairs of Ansan station crying or get back up and move forward.
Fear has always wanted to rob me of my life, but I am not so afraid anymore.
All throughout school, I had someone to hold my hand, to help me fix things when they were broken. Parents. Counselors. Teachers. Bosses.
But now it’s just me — an adult in Korea choosing to live.
There is only new. And in this freedom, I can discover what I want and who I want to be. And I am pleased to know that this freedom is revealing a person I am proud of.
So goodbye my beloved Canon T3i. You were beautiful and will be missed. But you, like many things in life, are easily replaced. Indeed, there will be a new camera to take your place within the week. I will no longer wait for everything to fall into place so I can live my life. I cannot wait for you to come back. I will move on without you.
Besides, it’s time to make some new memories.