I'll never forget the feeling of relief that came over me when my husband finally returned home. When he walked through the front door of our apartment I literally jumped into his arms, wrapped my arms around his neck, my legs around his waist and held on to him for several minutes like a three-year old child. He was home and the stress and anxiety from the past month were instantly lifted and would no longer weigh me down. He would protect us and keep us safe. I would again be able to sleep soundly, share adult conversation and no longer have to handle everyday tasks alone. I followed him around the apartment like a lost puppy for several days. I'm not sure he could even use the restroom without turning around to find me at standing at his heels.
We went back to our normal routine after he returned home. It was now April and I'd been there for five months. I was looking forward to going back home in July to spend a month with family before we would move to our new duty station. We'd just found out we’d be returning to Ft. Ord, California. We'd spent a year there while he was in school and were happy to be returning to a familiar place. I was doing much better now that I'd survived the month of hell but had grown tired of everyday life being such a struggle. I was sick of walking everywhere, sick of the boredom, sick of the limited choices of food, sick of the small apartment without a yard, fearing for my life everytime I rode in a car/bus, just sick of it all. I knew I could handle life without him for three months. We'd spent three-months apart before I'd arrived. One day in late April I decided that I wanted to go home. I didn't want to wait until July and leave with him. I was ready to see my family, have a car, gorge myself on Mexican food, drive to Whataburger at midnight for a milkshake or cheeseburger if I wanted one, watch regular TV anytime I wanted, talk to people on the telephone (for free)and take long baths or showers with plenty of hot water. I was ready to go and would throw the idea out there as soon as my husband got home from work. I was afraid he would want us to stay but the idea was actually relief to him, too. Life had been harder for him with us there, as well. Living in the barracks was so much easier. We'd both made sacrifices to be together. I was so happy when he thought my idea to go home was a good one. I knew I'd miss him but it was time to go. I'd lasted as long as I could.
I left in mid-May. We splurged on a ticket for Lauren this time. She'd just turned two and we would've been required to purchase one for her. I would've done so anyway after suffering through the miserable flight over there. The flight home was a breeze compared to that one. We were bumped to business class for reasons I can't recall on the flight from Seoul to San Francisco. The seats were spacious and much more comfortable. The only mishap was when Lauren got motion sickness and threw up all over the tray she'd been coloring on. I felt so bad for the nice man sitting next to us knowing that he'd paid for his seat and was now in the midst of a puke-fest. He was so kind. I got her changed and cleaned up but we all know that's a smell that will linger. Oh, I'd just survived hell so a little puke wasn't going to break me. Like a good mother I broke up a tablet of Dramamine and sprinkled some over her ice cream when we landed in San Francisco. I didn't want her puking again on the next flight. We both slept like babies until we landed in Houston.
Home sweet home. I wanted to kiss the ground. I was on an adrenaline high and didn't sleep for 24-hours after we arrived. I devoured huge amounts of Mexican food immediately after leaving the airport. It's amazing how much can change in just six months time. There were vehicles on the freeway that were totally foreign to me. The Chevy trucks had changed their body styles from the squared look of the 80's to the rounded style of the 90's. The cars were different, too. I'd never heard 90% of the songs playing on the radio. It was weird.
I had a car. I had regular TV. No more Barnaby Jones and Baretta reruns! I had fast food anytime I wanted it. I had a phone and you better believe I used it. I had family and friends surrounding me. I had as much water as I needed. It felt so good to be home!
I'm thankful for the opportunity I had to experience such a different culture and way of living. I made no bones about how difficult it was for me, but the bumps in the road make us who we are. The experience of being over there was a good one that helped me grow and appreciate the little things we take for granted here. The worst part of my stay there was the month I spent alone. I know I could've handled it much better had I been older and wiser and more self-sufficient. If I were to live it over again armed with the knowledge and wisdom I now have under my belt, it would've been a cakewalk. Well, maybe not quite that easy, but definitely not the hardship it was for me back then. Recalling those long nights filed with anxiety, the fears that I couldn't seem to get control of and that terrible feeling of being all alone with no one to turn to for support has been somewhat emotional for me to look back on, but I survived. It would make me stronger in the years to come when he would be gone for weeks or months at a time. Of course, I had all of the things that make life easier available to me that I didn't have while in Korea
We often still eat Korean food and drive all the way across town for it. I love the Korean people and respect their culture. When my husband received orders to return to Korea for another year in 1992, I made the decision to stay with my parents. I knew I would miss him like crazy, but wasn't willing to endure the challenges and struggles that it required of me to again live there.