Here, Not There

Living abroad has changed our lives in many ways. As you know, we have had the opportunity to do, see, and experience many new and exciting things while living in Korea. For more than a year now we have been on this amazing adventure and every day new challenges are met and new memories made.



 Yet every expat knows that living abroad means that there are things you are going to inevitably miss out on. Even though we understood this reality when moving abroad, there was no way to prepare for the actual emotions that you experience when you are absent from special events. Deaths, births, celebrations; they happen, even without us there. This past weekend was my brother TJ’s wedding. The timing with our new jobs and no immediate vacation days meant that we were going to miss it. Knowing we couldn’t be there, we quickly started brainstorming what we COULD do from the other side of the world.

We found a website that would print life-sized cardboard cutouts if you sent them in a photo. Pricey, but worth it. The cutouts were a huge hit and quite the surprise. We were able to still be in wedding photos and everything! We were also able to work with my parents to contact the venue to ask about a wifi network. With super fast internet speeds in Korea, we were able to give one more surprise to my brother and his fiancé. As they stood in front of everyone and recited their vows, the pastor reminded them that love could know no boundaries and that it had even traveled halfway around the world to attend their special day. At that point they looked to where he pointed and, on a small table in the back, we were on Skype, watching, waving, and transmitting our love. Needless to say, there wasn’t a dry eye on the Oklahoma or Korea side of that internet connection.



Miraculously, we were able to Skype throughout the entire wedding. Watching the first dance, the cutting of the cake, and even chatting with family; we were in attendance as best we could. The battery of the computer lasted over four hours and we stayed up late into the night celebrating from a distant timezone.

During our time abroad, this was the most painful and difficult moment I have experienced. Even though we were able to be there on Skype and see the entire wedding, my heart was still breaking that I could not hug my brother or dance with him like he did with me on my wedding day. I must have cried at least a thousand different times throughout the wedding. Watching them walk down the isle, during the choreographed mother/son dance, and I DEFINITELY sobbed when the DJ asked fathers and daughters to all come to the dance floor and my dad picked up the computer and spun me in circles.

When everything started to wind down, we got time to talk with my brother and his new wife, Sara. After talking with TJ for a while, Sara’s sister came over to say hello. She mentioned how incredible it was that we were able to be “there.” We expressed our regrets of not truly being able to attend and she asked us, “Is living there worth it?”

Without much hesitation, we both answered “YES.”

Throughout even the lowest of lows while living in Korea, we know that we have no regrets about moving our lives here. In fact, it has made us appreciate our lives back home even more. Perhaps you take for granted visiting with your grandmother or going to your nephew’s birthday party. You may overlook how special it is to hug your mother or have lunch with a close friend. After moving to the other side of the world, I think we love them better now.



7 thoughts on “Here, Not There

  1. Elicia Shepard says:

    This was such an incredible post. How special and also at the same time sad you couldn’t be there. I have been feeling so down lately because just a couple of days ago a very very dear friend had her first son. I couldn’t be there to welcome him into this world. Hold him or hug and support her in person. Living abroad is amazing… But so stinking hard at times. I’m grateful for our time & wouldn’t trade it for the the world… But also know that I’ll be ready when our time is finished. I’m going to hug my grandma longer. Tell my mom I love her (in person!!) kiss my baby sister and meet this precious baby. Laugh longer with my friends and never ever take people for granted. I loved this post & thank you for sharing.

  2. Jana Elliott says:

    When son David was in Japan, the cell phone was just emerging. I thought it was miraculous that I could call his pocket, ask, “What are you doing?” And hear “I’m bicycling along the river in Kyoto. What are you up to?” Your article helped me to realize that he was just as delighted to hear “Freezing Stillwell strawberries” come from his phone. Those daily and yearly rhythms are the warp of our life’s fabric.
    And here’s a little treat for you from George Takei, who knows teleportation.
    Enjoy! But I know you will. Every minute every day.

  3. Dad (Van) says:

    Stephanie you have no idea how special it was for you to be present at TJ and Sara’s wedding. It was so emotional all around. Life is changing so quickly these days and there are not many constants. Our love for the 4 of you kids is the only thing that is not changing. We are so happy to have the time to talk with you no matter if you are in Korea. We love you so much honey. Thanks for making this happen.

  4. Alison Pirtle says:

    Wow, how incredible that you could be part of this celebration. It must have meant the world to them! It’s so difficult to be away during these big events, but what a great way to be included.

  5. Duke Stewart says:

    Thanks for writing about this. It’s very difficult being away from home and holidays, special occasions, etc. further the gap when you’re not there to enjoy them with family. Skyping with your brother’s wedding must’ve been such a joyous time. I might give the cardboard cutouts a try.

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