Places I’ve Been: Seoul, Korea

Places I’ve Been: Seoul, Korea

May 07

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Throughout this month of “memories”, I thought it might be fun to journey through some of the places that I have traveled to and some of the unexpected events that took place there. This week marks a rather significant anniversary in my marriage. The setting is not our wedding day but rather a hospital room half-way around the world.

On the morning of May 8, 2007, I laced up my running shoes, plugged in my headphones, and ventured from my high rise hotel out into the city streets. I was immediately infused with the energy of the early morning rush hour. People scurrying in and out sky scraper buildings, men in tailored suits with leather brief cases on their cell phones, and high heeled fashionistas gracefully slipping in and out of taxi cabs. It was much like a scene in Manhattan, except the air smelled of kimchi rather than warm bagels.

downtown seoul

This was Seoul, Korea, and I was further from home than I had ever been before. I noticed a crowd of uniformed school children unashamedly staring at me as they passed by, whispering to each other, no doubt about the “silly American” who stood a head taller than everyone else. The truth is, I was a silly American– positively beside herself excited to be on the other side of the globe witnessing the wonder that, for everyone else, was just another Tuesday.

Seoul 3

Little did I know that this would not be an ordinary Tuesday. Clark and I were on our first stop of a 10-day Asian tour. On the first night of the event at the Olympic stadium in Seoul, I walked on stage for sound check, wired up my in-ear monitors, and began calling volume adjustments through a translator at the monitor board. Nothing too out of the ordinary. No sooner than rehearsal was over, I walked off the stage and immediately noticed that I felt uncommonly dizzy, and the world around me suddenly didn’t quite sound the same.

Fast forward 12 hours later– I am in a university hospital in Seoul with a diagnosis of Sudden Deafness.

For most of my 20’s, I played host to some pretty irrational {and outright bizarre} fears. Ironically enough, one of them was being hospitalized in a foreign country. The first three days of a two-week hospital stay was nothing short of terrifying. Hold a pillow to your ear and that was the sound filter through which I heard everything. Doctors could not account for the sudden hearing loss with any ultimate certainty, but the general consensus was that a viral infection combined with the cruising altitude of the 15 hour flight from Atlanta to Seoul wreaked havoc in my middle ear. At one point, the medical staff suggested that if I resumed air travel, there was a remote possibility that I could lose what little was left of my hearing. Clark and I were actually researching passenger ships from Seoul, Korea to the United States.

At this point, we had only been married for just over a year, and many of our collective thoughts about settling down or having children had gone conveniently unspoken. We were perfectly content {or so we thought} to remain in a blurry fantasy of travel and exciting musical pursuits and to ride the wave for as long as we could. When our fast pace came to a screeching halt, we we suddenly began to reevaluate whether singing and touring and sushi and Shiatsu was the ultimate goal for our lives.

If we weren’t overhauling our priorities or contemplating an upcoming ocean excursion, we were coming up with clever ways to amuse ourselves.

Hospital 1
Hospital 2
Hospital 3
Hospital 4
Hospital 5

After two weeks of sharing a twin hospital bed and being each other’s only English-speaking entertainment, Clark and I were cleared for take-off. However, we were not the same couple we were when we first arrived in Seoul. The Clark and Salina that arrived were laser focussed in their pursuits. By the time we left, we both agreed that perhaps for the first time, we were thinking clearly about the future.

Seoul 2

What started out as a terrifying experience eventually cured me of several of my fears and anxieties {having survived many of them during those two weeks}. More importantly, it marked a turning point in our infant marriage that {in hindsight} better prepared us for the tospy-turvy journey of children, career change, and a more stationary existence in the years that followed.

I am forever grateful for our adventures in Seoul!

{Downtown Seoul image via Camino’s Photostream}

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Salina Beasley