The picture is of Busan, South Korea, an amazing modern city on the southern coast across the Korean Strait/Sea of Japan from southern Japan. It’s huge, a city the size of Los Angeles, with more people than the entire state of Iowa.
Megan has received her guarantee papers to be an exchange student in Busan this fall. She knows what school she is going to and what families she will be staying with. She has her passport, and all we still need is confirmation of the dates she needs to be there. When we have that, we can get her visa and book her flight, and then, in two months, she will be gone.
Time has flown by, since last October when she got the Rotary Youth Exchange application and spent weeks filling it out. I thought I had time still, but the time is almost gone. I have her for two more months…but in those two months she will spend two weeks at Bible camp, and a week at the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards. School was out on Thursday, and Friday she left to pick up two other Rotary exchange kids and they went to an I-Cubs baseball game and spent the night with a Rotary member in Des Moines. There’s also a Rotary picnic in July for all the outbound kids (like Megan, about 20 from this Rotary district) and all the inbound kids…the kids that were overseas last year. I’m going to have to check her calendar to fit myself in! And darn it, I am going to miss her something awful.
When I tell people she is going to be an exchange student in South Korea next year, the reaction I usually get is a shocked expression and an unspoken “are you okay with that?” I tell them she is excited to go, and I think it will be an incredible experience for her. I tell them that I am more comfortable with letting her go now because I’ve had to get used to the fact that Andy travels all over the world with the Marines. He’s been in Okinawa, Afghanistan, Japan, and has circled the globe in an airplane at least once. I tell them that I feel blessed to have been in Italy and Greece last year. I saw for myself what life is like in someplace that is not America, and I feel so much more comfortable knowing that aside from cultural differences and the extremes of politics, people are people wherever you go.
What I feel for Megan is mostly excitement and happiness, because she is so excited and happy. I will worry about her, for sure, because for nearly 18 years she has been with me and I’ve been watching out for her. The Rotary rules state that her host families will have parental rights to her for the time she is with them. I can understand that…how can I parent her from across the globe? These families have been thoroughly vetted by the Rotary Club, and I trust them. I hope to host a student myself, someday, just to give back a little bit of what they have given to Megan.
Two months will fly by, I know, and though the next year will fly by for her, it will drag on unendingly for me until she is back home at last. I can’t wait to see all her pictures and hear all the stories she will have to tell. We truly live in a global society now, and my kids have all said they want to make a difference in the world. If they want to do that, I will have to close my eyes, let them go, and pray for them every day.