At the tender age of nineteen, I moved to Kunsan, South Korea – straight across the world’s circumference from Oklahoma. I couldn’t have found a colder spot any farther from home or a culture more foreign and opposite to my home life of slopping pigs, gathering eggs and eating deep fried chicken. No place on earth could have produced more homesickness than those bamboo huts, rice paddies, and old Buddha temples.
My family’s failure to produce written documents of encouragement, announcements, or any type of similar correspondence is notorious (with a few exceptions.) My mother being the worst corresponder. But a letter, any letter, would have been a great comfort.
It wasn’t that no one cared. All hundred and thirteen of my near relatives – grandparents, aunts, and uncles and more cousins than mosquitoes on Grandpa’s farm – knew my whereabouts and wished me luck in my travels before I left. It’s just that no one wrote. Long distance phone calls were never considered and the internet not invented. But, you’d think my own mother would write.
She didn’t. I tried to communicate with her by osmosis, repeating in my head, “Write. Someone’s thinking of you.” But, of course, it didn’t help. Unless it gave her that annoying emotion of guilt for which she never responded. And did I write to her? Of course not. The familial habit was too ingrained.
I remained apart from my family one year, stranded in a unfamiliar country, not knowing what events may be taking place in the lives of those I was intimately connected. The greatest revelation I had, still amazes me. I survived. I not only made it through that time without too much heartbreak, but I learned to relax and discovered I had the strength and the will to adapt and yes, to live. Deep down I stretched my capability beyond what I thought I could handle.
I never doubted my mother cared. She told me too many times as a girl while I grew up. But our family lives by the motto. “If a tragedy happens, they will find you.” Why be an annoyance? Letters are for lawyers, politicians, and the renown.
Communication, more important than we think, can lift us up, bring joy, and remind us that someone cares. But then, we are never really alone because God promises to always be with us. And perhaps He used it for good. I understand international students on American college campuses – their loneliness, need for family, and trying to adjust to a different culture.
By the way. Two weeks before leaving to go home from Korea, a letter arrived from my mother. I kissed it.