I am an island girl at heart. In fact, if you were to ask me what I miss most about living in Puerto Rico, I would tell you, hands down, I miss la playa (the beach) with its beautiful blue and turquoise waters. Driving around the coast and taking in the salty air while savoring the local delicacies is life giving! Of course, there are also people there that I love dearly. But throughout my life, the old saying continues to ring true — you can take the girl out of the island, but you can’t take the island out of the girl.
As I walk around the coastal towns of Jeju-do, an island off of South Korea’s southern coast, I can’t help but miss my own little island home. I have many memories tucked away that keep resurfacing, exposing feelings of both sorrow and joy. Memories of my dad are especially predominant. There is a lingering nostalgia when you live on the coast, with those stunning blue waters as your backdrop. There’s the not-so-secret secrets of the community; the shared feasts, funerals, and weddings with those who live the simple life with you; friends and neighbors cheering on each others’ children’s accomplishments while nurturing a camouflaged desire for a better life for their own offspring.
In small villages or towns, sometimes you can sense a hint of jealousy when others move to the mainland or somewhere abroad. But one thing remains true — no matter how far away you go, the heart always yearns for home. If the waves that dance around the rocky beaches could speak, I bet they would have a lot to say. I wonder, would they rejoice at the sight of our homecoming like a puppy wags his tail when his human returns home? Coastal living in Jeju Island seems quiet and peaceful. Everyone does their own thing and no one bothers anyone else. Still, the blue waters dance, and my mind wanders…
I know each ocean tells a story. I feel this one’s palpitating heart overflowing with tales of bygone days; an antiquity that remains ever so fresh in the minds of the locals to remind them of who they are and where they come from. There is a lot of history embedded in this volcanic terrain, and I am being diligent to listen carefully, with eager ears that want to learn from those who have suffered immensely. I pray God helps us find life-giving lessons from history, nature, and from those we meet along the way, through cultural exchanges, or simply in the mundane. Above all things, I pray God helps us find hope and joy wherever our feet may take us.