During the past five and a half years of our married life, Chris and I have used quite a few different addresses. In addition to our various houses and apartments, we’ve also experienced hobo-like summers making our residence under myriad roofs (thank you, by the way, for everyone who has offered your homes to transient gypsies). This kind of existence has caused us to contemplate the idea of what “home” is and where, exactly, it can be found. The previous two years, Chris and I spent quite a bit of time and effort making our home in Taiwan. So, when we first came to Korea, we had to admit that our hearts were still in Taiwan and that most of our homesick feelings were for Taipei, not for the U.S. Many culture shock moments arose not because things were different from America, but because they were different from Taiwan. As we start to learn our way around our new city, our wistful longings for Taiwan have dissipated somewhat. However, when the chance arose for me to go back “home” over Thanksgiving, I jumped at the opportunity. Chris had a basketball tournament in Beijing and, not overly excited about staring at the back of Chris’ head for three days, I decided to book a flight down south.
The comforting feelings of home came upon me as the plane hit the runway and I made my way to customs. The weather: warm, sticky, and rainy. The language: Chinese (believe it or not, this sound was unbelievably consoling). The airport: traveled through at least a dozen times over my two years. Starbucks: has decaf Toffee Nut Lattes. First order of business: buy an umbrella. Three years ago, I would never have imagined that I would associate these things with comfort. Yet, I did. Easily, I made my way to the apartment complex where we used to live to meet up with my hosts for the weekend. The next few days were filled with catching up with friends and filling my belly with food that I also never expected to be “comfort food”. Then, something strange happened. I began to miss little things about Korea. I missed the bigger sidewalks and the lack of canine excrement scattered about. I missed the crisp fall weather and the trees with all of their brightly decorated leaves. Most of all, I missed my partner in crime, my travel buddy, my husband with whom this place had become home. Don’t get me wrong, I had an incredible time with friends and I remain convinced that Taiwan will always hold a piece of my heart. However, it caused me to contemplate a little more deeply where “home” was for me.
Many dumplings, one strawberry ice, three decaf lattes, and countless memories retold and made for the first time later, I was headed back to Korea. I deplaned into an unfamiliar language in an unfamiliar airport about to find my way back to my apartment for the first time by myself. Bus found, I settled in for the drive. About halfway home I looked out the window and saw something that I hadn’t seen in far too long. It was snowing. And it was beautiful. This conjured up a whole new slew of feelings of home. As I disembarked from the bus and made it up the final hill to our new apartment, I breathed in the cold air and watched as the soft flakes decorated the trees and street. I finally made it inside to my anxiously awaiting husband who had just returned from China. Though late, we stayed up exchanging stories, laughing over cultural blunders, commiserating in travel pains, and enjoying each other’s company. It was at this point, that I found my answer. Home will never be a place for me. Places have touched my heart and left strong imprints there, but it isn’t what makes something home. Home is where you make it. Home isn’t made of weather, food, or language. Home is made of moments shared, memories made, and people loved. In short, as trite as it is, home is where your heart is.