Korea is fading. It goes by bits and pieces. When we first moved back to the states, we brought with us a bunch of Korean products; toiletries like shampoo, toothpaste, and the occasional medicine. While the toothpaste was still Arm and Hammer, it had Korean writing on it-- a reminder of where we had come from. But then the toothpaste tube ran empty and it was time to get a new one. We threw the old tube away and a piece of Korea, a reminder of where we had lived, went away as well. The cultural residue that we were immersed in for 7 years has become less sticky. I'm nostalgic for Korea at times; an emotion that can only come about when escape from a place or a culture has become complete.
These nights, I often dream that I'm back in Korea. The dreams follow a similar pattern. I'll be glad that I'm back, glad to eat the food that I miss, glad to see the places I long for, and glad to see old friends again. But then the dream will change. I'll question why I ever left. When this happens, someone in the dream usually tries to talk to me in Korean. I'll then reply in a mishmash of English and Korean to which the speaker will look totally confused. I will then repeat the phrase with exaggerated gestures. This part of the dream mirrors my reality in Korea pretty well. It's like the dream is trying to remind me that not everything there was peachy and that there are reasons why I moved back to the states.
The fading of past people, places, and experiences happens, but unfortunately, that fading sometimes comes abruptly. Walter (my brother-in-law) and I were out shoveling snow from the driveway yesterday when I noticed a snow covered mound off the side of the driveway. As I walked closer I noticed that the mound looked like a cat. I thought to myself that thank goodness it wasn't one of our cats because I had just seen both cats... wait, I couldn't remember when I had seen our smaller cat, Nallie. Relief was replaced by a wave of worry and then instant despair when I looked closer and saw a glimpse of Nallie's purple collar. By what we can tell, she was hit by a car and then struggled to get home. The idea that this couldn't be Nallie, that she was just 4 years old, could not hold up to the heartbreaking reality in front of me. I checked to make sure that there wasn't any life (rigamortis had set in) and then I steeled myself to go inside and break the news to Kat. Our morning was consumed with comforting each other, digging a grave, and getting all ready for her burial.
She was the first member of our little family. We've snowballed a bit bigger: another cat, a kid, a recently claimed brother in law-- but Nallie was like the first child. In Korea, we moved into a bigger apartment, partly so we could get a cat. Nallie was a rescue; during a typhoon, she was blown into a storm drain and rescued by a kind ex-pat. We responded to a Craigslist post about Nallie, and smuggled her home on a bus in Kat's purse. We spoiled Nallie and that molded her into the grumpiest / sweetest kitty ever. That's the honest truth. She'd bite me when I didn't pet her just right, but she'd also wake me in the night, licking me on the forehead, thinking it was the perfect time for a bath. She'd follow me around the Korean apartment, either for an epic petting session or to attack my feet. She'd often lay at the foot of Gavin's bed, his protector in the night.
Everything fades. I think I may feel this progression more than some, not because of some heightened sensitivity (I am often one of the most oblivious people I know), but because my life has been so compartmentalized. There were the Salt Lake days; the Flagstaff days; the Central America journey; the boomerang back to Salt Lake; the Suji, Gangnam, Yatap and Seohyun days in Korea. Now there are the Cedar City days. Abrupt changes in location lend to a compartmentalization of my life. I'm split into chapters and the move back to the States is a transition to a different chapter. I had thought that our friend Nallie would weather this transition with us, but unfortunately, she is part of the fading also. That's doesn't mean she will be forgotten. She won't be a part of our day to day lives, but she will fade to memories, and we have a lot of good memories of her. For that, we are thankful.