My family and I are a military family. My husband is the service member, and I am a stay-at-home mother for our two beautiful little girls: Annika, age 2, and Rebekah, age 4 months. We recently had a permanent change of station (PCS) that moved us from Maryland to South Korea, and it has been stressful since the day we left Maryland. There is so much that I could write about that went wrong, but that isn’t the point of this.
The adjustment to being in a country that has a completely different culture than America has been very refreshing and exciting for all of us. Dalton has been stationed here once before in 2013, so he is already familiar with the culture. One of the most frequently asked questions that I have been asked in the two months that we have been here is: “What do you like most about being in Korea?”
My answer is always the same. I start by telling people that I love it here and that it is so different than Western culture. The older Korean generations adore children, and they treat them with the same respect that they treat adults. Just last week when I went to the shop on post, Annika greeted an older Korean lady walking through the parking lot very enthusiastically. The woman stopped by our car and shook Annika’s hand, told her how pretty her eyes are, and handed her ₩1,000 (won). Whenever they see Rebekah in the harness, they ask to see her face better and usually touch her hands or feet affectionately and tell both girls that “grandma/grandpa loves you.”
I know that in America, those would be considered weird, and oftentimes nerve wracking, interactions due to the heightened awareness of child abduction. I have to keep reminding myself that the Korean nationals who choose to interact closely with my children are from a different society were that interaction is acceptable. They greet Annika with the same level of enthusiasm as she greets them, and they respect when she is feeling shy. You should see the way their faces light up when Annika speaks Korean to them! Annika has learned how to say “hello” and “thank you” in Korean and will even say them without prompting.
With as well as the girls have been adjusting to being here, Dalton and I have been able to handle the stress of traveling and moving with two small children better than we anticipated. For a while it wasn’t easy though. Living in a hotel for a month with an infant and a toddler was a nightmare. We initially received a room that was suitable only for a single soldier or a soldier with just their spouse. This hotel room was a single bed room with no living space or accommodations for children other than a crib for Rebekah. We asked for a second crib since we had nowhere for Annika to sleep other than a recliner only to be told the hotel would not give another crib because Annika is older than 12 month.
To remedy this, we went to the post exchange and bought a pack-and-play for her to sleep in. Cue the not sleeping stage of traveling. Screaming and crying from 7:30 to 10 P.M. every night for a week straight. Dalton exchanged words with the front desk at the hotel and managed to get us moved into a family suite. While the nonsense with the hotel was happening, we were fighting with the housing office to get into an apartment so we could re-establish Annika’s routine. We were told once that we wouldn’t have been able to move in until November 30th, then we were told another time that our move in date got pushed back to December 10th. After filing two complaints with the garrison, we were finally told we could move in on November 3rd. We readily accepted and excitedly moved into our new apartment and our new routine.
We are living in Daegu now on a military installation. It is a bustling hive of colors and music, and it is so immersive. Most of the street signs are in both Korean and English so it isn’t too difficult to get around. There is a slight language barrier, but for the most part a lot of the shopkeepers can speak or understand some English. It’s such an amazing place to be. It’s a major city, but it doesn’t give the same feeling of claustrophobia that I am used to when traveling through major cities in the States.
Everything about Korea itself has been welcoming for us as a family, but the Army side of things were lacking up until earlier this week. There are still some things that I am getting used to, such as the time difference between us and our family members, and I am really debating hard with myself about whether or not to become a licensed driver here in Korea. Despite these few hiccups and last decisions to make, our family is settled and we are starting to make friends. Here’s to a new chapter in our lives. L’chaim!