So Long and Thanks for All The Kimchi (or Annyeonghi Gyeseyo)

Jan 27, 2011 by    Posted under: Travel

I have loved Korea since the first time I set foot here nearly four years ago. I could say it was because the people here are exceptionally kind and generous, but there are plenty of other countries that are home to kind and generous people. I could say it was because of the beautiful landscapes, but there are plenty of other locations in this world that are just as beautiful. I could say it was because I love the food, but there are plenty of other International foods I love more.

So why do I feel so connected, so attracted to Korea? I’ve been asking myself this question since I decided to come here and teach. After my first trip, I remember telling people how much I loved this country and I though it was for most of the reasons listed above. But, I’ve come to the realization that those are all superficial reasons. They are true and adequate, but only touch the surface of my feelings.

The way I feel about Korea is the same way I feel about the people I love. I love them because they are good and kind and beautiful, inside and out. But those are all only words, just sounds to inadequately describe that which cannot be described. That which can only be felt. This sense of deep connection that words cannot touch is how I feel about Korea.

The 21 days at camp were really long days. It was a grueling schedule but the rewards far outweighed the demand. To see these amazing children every day, to learn about them, to connect with them, it was magical. I was brought over here to teach them yet I was the one that, perhaps, learned the most.

My four days traveling around Jeju Island were relaxed and I never really had any absolute plans. I just let the wind take me where I was supposed to go. It was not always easy to get around, to find the right bus, which stop to get off on, how to get back home, but that was part of the magic as well.

My students taught me that when you leave a place (a room, a store), you say, “Annyeonghi gyeseyo” which translates to “stay in peace.” I feel like this is an almost perfect parting phrase as I make my way home. It reflects my appreciation for Korea yet doesn’t truly address my gratitude to all this country has offered me.

So, I say, “annyeonghi gyeseyo” knowing that it is the best I can do in Korea’s mother tongue and lace it with all that I cannot express in Her language. My deepest thanks and gratitude for the opportunity of experience and the best kimchi I’ve ever had.

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