• helentdoan

If you could travel back in time...

Updated: Nov 24, 2018

From which portal would you leave? Where would you like to land? Who would you miss? Which modern conveniences would you most miss?

A few years ago, my son and I were in a lounge at the Toronto airport, saying our goodbyes. Within minutes I would be on a plane to South Korea, to spend a year (it would turn out to be two years) teaching English at a private academy on Geoje Island. In the final minutes before I boarded the plane, the immensity of what I was doing fully hit home for both of us.


In some ways, living on Geoje was like stepping back in time: rice fields are still planted and harvested manually; the downtown market is a beehive of activity every day; the family is the keystone of society; and centuries-old customs continue to be cherished. There is a definite 1950s atmosphere which I found comforting.


But like the rest of the country, Geoje is no slouch when it comes to modernization. Huge shipyards, high tech gadgets, and the latest fashions all can be found during a walk downtown or along the harbor.


However, as modern as Geoje is, I could not find a rotary beater or a package of North American-style icing sugar to make Halloween cupcakes for my students to decorate, so I improvised. Nor could I find poultry seasoning to use in my turkey stuffing. Fortunately, my sister-in-law sent an early Christmas package containing a rotary beater and poultry seasoning.


The Korean language bears no resemblance to the Romance languages I know, and I never learned more than a handful of phrases, but I did master the Korean alphabet, called Hangul, so I could read bus signs. When I needed more in-depth knowledge, I turned to the translation ability of the Internet.


I cannot imagine being away from family and friends with no way to communicate with them. Luckily I had use of the Internet and thus Skype, so I could have face-to-face chats with people back home. And technology allowed my son and I to share computer screens so we could continue our longstanding tradition of watching White Christmas together on Christmas Eve. It all made it easier for me to believe I was not living so far away.


If I really could travel back in time, I would like to do so while kayaking the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon...the kayak capsizes in white water and uprights itself...and voilà! I'm now in 1869. In front of me in a wooden boat is John Wesley Powell, who has just named the canyon and is on his way to becoming the first white man to explore it...making me the first white woman to do so, if I continue following his path.


No doubt, I would miss my son, and my partner Christopher and our British bulldog, Molly. As for that rotary beater, I would miss my GPS and computer more.


How about you?






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