잘가 다음에 봐 — Jal-gah, Megan, Dam-ae-bwa

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We took Megan to the airport this morning, told her we loved her, and sent her off to Korea on her adventure. There were tears, Grandma (David’s mom) and Grandpa (my dad) came with us, and seeing Grandpa give Megan such a huge hug, seeing the tears in his eyes, still makes me cry. I hope I don’t short out the computer by writing this.

When she checked her bag, they told her it was overweight, so she took out a pair of jeans and stuffed them into her already full backpack. Way too soon it was time to leave, so after the goodbyes and hugs, I walked down to security with her. She’s never flown before, so I asked her if she wanted me to go through security with her. She said yes, so the airline counter gave me a gate pass to walk down to the departure gate with her.

She seemed to be doing fine, but I kept tearing up, and then God sent two angels to help convince me that everything was going to be fine. This is a Rotary Club sponsored student exchange, so the Rotary made Megan and all the other exchange students a blazer with the Rotary Club logo and patches, plus she gets to cover it with pins that her exchange friends have made and that she collects from different places. An older couple followed us into security and asked Megan if she was a Rotary exchange student.

Now, I’ve had so many people tell me that she will be fine on her flight, the airport staff and flight attendants would help her out, and that other Rotary members who see her jacket would say hello and make sure she was doing okay. But I certainly didn’t expect it to start the second we got to the airport!

When Megan and I got through security, the couple was waiting for us at the other end. It turned out that they were headed to Dallas on the same flight as Megan, and we chatted all the way down to the gate. It turns out that not only was he a past District Governor of one of Iowa’s two Rotary Districts, but their two sons had also been exchange students and they had hosted many students in their home. They were both amazing people, so friendly and interested in us and concerned about our well-being that I felt totally blessed both by them and by God.

She’s in the air right now, on her way from Dallas to Tokyo. She called when she arrived in Dallas, totally calm, no troubles, found the shuttle to the right concourse and watched a movie on her computer while she waited for her flight. I think I’m more nervous than she is. We printed out a map of Tokyo Narita Airport, so she can make her way from Terminal 2 where her flight will land, on a bus to the North Wing of Terminal 1, where her Korean Air flight will get her on to Busan. She’ll arrive around 7:30 tomorrow morning, our time, which for her will be about 9:30 pm in Korea.

I’m feeling a little wasted right now. There is laundry to do, and dishes to wash, but I don’t really feel like doing any of it. I told her I would take a backhoe to her room after she left, but I think if I went into her room right now I would fall apart. Other than a phone call telling us she arrived just fine, she really isn’t supposed to contact us other than by email for a few months, just so she can “bond” with her host family and get more immersed – if we tried to skype with her right away it might make her more homesick, especially if things aren’t going the best right away. But a wise friend of mine thought the ban on skyping was more for me, so I don’t keep bugging her and telling her how much I miss her. It’s true.

She’s going to have such an adventure! I would do it in a second now, at my age, but at seventeen I don’t think I would have even considered such a thing. She’ll be in an intensive language course for a few weeks before school starts, and she knows if she works hard her credits will transfer back home and she’ll be able to graduate with her class in the spring. (We weren’t sure that would work out, but her high school principal and counselor are amazing and they are going to try hard to get it done.)

The flowers in the photo are from the going away party we had on Saturday. We served bulgogi (barbequed marinated beef strips) and Korean fried rice, Korean pancakes with veggies, and lots of Asian snack foods we bought at the market in Des Moines. We made iced tea punch…I don’t like iced tea, but this was really good. A cup of instant iced tea mix (or a packet of the liquid mix) and a 2-liter bottle of ginger ale, with lots and lots of ice and lemon slices floating around. It went fast.

I miss her already, but I’m so excited for her. I told her I would look at her blogs every day — she’s got two, one for photos and one as more of a diary. And at my age, time goes by pretty fast, so I know she’ll be home before you know it. In August, we’ll take my other daughter to college, and in October, we’ll visit my son when he graduates from Marine Special Operations training in North Carolina. If Megan hadn’t put purple chalk in my hair last night, I’m pretty sure I would have noticed twice as much gray hair as I had a week ago — I will/do miss them all so much.

And now for the sake of my laptop I need to go restock on tissues. Jal-gah, Megan! Go well, and dam-ae-bwa — see you again soon!!

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