Imagine traveling to a country with a population of 48 million thousands of miles away from your home, where you seemingly know no one.
Now imagine being in this country, meeting all kinds of new people--both foreign and Korean. How awesome would it be to meet someone who knows exactly where you're coming from--or has even been or lived there? It happens more often than you might imagine.
My first year in Korea, I randomly met a guy while out with friends who hailed from the small town of Broadway, right next to my hometown. The fact that I could come all the way from the smallest county in North Carolina and still find someone else who had lived there was incomprehensible.
Just recently, I was in Seoul for Buddha's Birthday celebration. While taking photos of the brilliant lantern display at Bongeunsa Temple, my coworkers and I happened into conversation with an older Korean couple. Come to find out that while they now lived in Seoul, they used to live in Gwangju. All of their daughters had attended the elementary school where we now teach, as well as its sister middle and high schools. One of their daughters had gone to study in the US at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, of all places. She still lived in Charlotte, hoping to work for Bank of America.
Upon meeting the couple and talking with them for a bit, they invited us to go with them for more conversation over coffee and tea. We sat with them in a coffee shop nearby for close to an hour, discussing who we were and where we came from. We peppered them with questions about the temple and the traditions surrounding the birthday celebration, learning loads of valuable information in the process.
After that hour was finished, we parted ways, feeling a little overwhelmed by the seemingly random connection we had just made. In a country with 48 million people, you never think that you could find others who understand just who you are! And that is truly awesome.