It’s 5:00 a.m. and I’m watching the light begin to rise across the city of Seoul, S. Korea on the second day of a tour designed to reintroduce our children to their homeland. This is my sixth trip to this country and, while I would not presume to consider myself Korean, I definitely feel a sense of homecoming and familiarity when I arrive, when I walk among the crowds of people and when I open the curtains in the morning and look out upon the city.
I love my hometown of Portland, Oregon, USA and I’ve always felt a pull toward, and a connection with, Mt. Hood, the 11,000 foot mountain which towers over the city on its east side. In Disney’s movie Pocahontas there is a song called Colors of the Wind that is about connectedness with nature; whenever I hear that song, I think of how I feel about Mt. Hood. When our family visited Arizona several years ago, I was surprised to find the same sort of pull, the same sort of connectedness with the saguaro cactus that grows throughout the state. I now sit in the middle of the city of Seoul and, in a similar way, I feel a connection. It’s not a connection to a particular object like a mountain or a type of cactus; it’s a connection to this entire country, to the people, their customs, and their history. It’s true, I have an actual connection through the four children born here that are an integral part of my family, but in many ways, the connection I feel is personal; it does not run through my children. I think that if I were to have visited here, to have learned about this country before becoming the mother of children born here, I would still feel some sort of pull, some sort of familiar connection. While my heart bubbles over with warmth and satisfaction at being here, I wonder how many other places and objects there are that might illicit the same feelings in me. I hope to keep my heart and eyes open and my mind active with learning so that I might discover again this satisfying feeling of being connected to a place or an object that is not part of me. But for today, I will go out and relish the sights, the sounds, the smells and the wonder of this place that feels like home but which so obviously isn’t. I hope that my children will find this same connection.