Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Worry from afar when daughters' South Korean adventure takes scary turn

This most difficult week began with a midnight cell phone call. Nobody ever calls me at that hour with good news.

"Don't freak out, Dad,'' said my 24-year-old daughter, Carley. "Jen's okay.''

Both my daughters are teaching English in Seoul, South Korea, 8,000 miles and 13 time zones away. You can't just hop a quick flight to get there if something goes wrong.

Until now, that hadn't been a problem. Their mom and I had celebrated their decision to see the other side of the world. When 27-year-old daughter Jennifer spent the Christmas holidays in Chinese youth hostels, we marveled at her courage and delighted in the scenes of her throwing snowballs on the Great Wall.

Jennifer is my journalist, a chip off the old block(head), as her mother might say. Not long after she landed in this strange new environment, she started a blog, "Seoul Searching,'' which was both entertaining and comforting for us. Typically of a good writer, she saw columns in everything — the first trip to the public bath houses called jjimjilbangs; the awkward feeling a tall blonde feels in a city full of tiny blackhaired people who stare and asked you to pose for pictures.

Quite different for young women who grew up in New Port Richey, Florida.

Early on, Jennifer wondered about the sirens she heard, the routine drills that South Koreans have practiced since the war with their northern neighbors. "This year may be challenging,'' she wrote, "learning the language, adapting to the culture, being thousands of miles from my friends and family. But each time I hear those sirens, I'll think of all the challenges the South Koreans have faced, and just how far they've come.''

She marveled at the total lack of logic to Korean numbering systems, much worse than U.S. 19. Google maps do not exist there. "If you don't feel like getting lost in the second biggest city in the world,'' she wrote, "make a Korean friend. They're your only hope.''

And this:

"Once you reach your destination, if you decide to take the elevator, the buttons on the door will read: 1, 2, 3, F, 5, and so on. The number four in Korean reads exactly the same as the word death, so it's not present in elevators. Many Asians have actually developed a strong aversion to the number that the ailment has a name: Tetraphobia.

"Oh, and by the way, I live on floor F.''

Both my girls have shared wonderful stories of their school children, their fellow teachers, outdoor markets with strange sea creatures, the ski trip and hiking in the national park, among other things. The time zone difference notwithstanding, we have been able to keep in close contact thanks to Skype, Facebook and cell phones. So their being so far away has not been a problem — until now.

Saturday night, the girls went out with several friends. As they left a nightspot, Jen stepped into the street to hail a cab. A speeding motorcycle slammed into her, knocking her face down to the asphalt. The driver didn't stop.

Carley held her unconscious, bleeding sister while friends called for an ambulance. Several hours later, after careful evaluation that included an MRI, doctors released Jennifer from the hospital. She had a concussion, broken nose, broken ribs and several cuts and bruises.

Right after Carley's phone call advising of the accident, we connected with the girls via Skype. Jen looked like a boxer after a fight. Our first instinct was the catch a plane to her, and then we realized we had mailed our passports in for renewal. So there we were, helpless and worried that a hidden injury could do more harm.

A week later, Jennifer is on the mend. We worry more now about the trauma that both girls experienced, but we're grateful for their friends' prayers and support, and the good doctors. We're planning our trip over and can't wait to hold them in our arms.

Meanwhile, through her pain, my daughter the writer offered this about the whole experience:

"It'll make a good column.''

That's my girl.

Worry from afar when daughters' South Korean adventure takes scary turn 03/27/10 [Last modified: Saturday, March 27, 2010 11:13am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. The Daystarter: Gov. Scott vetoes 'Whiskey and Wheaties Bill'; Culpepper's fate in 'Survivor' finale; to catch a gator poacher; your 2017 Theme Park Guide

    News

    Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.

    To catch a ring of poachers who targeted Florida's million-dollar alligator farming industry, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission set up an undercover operation. They created their own alligator farm, complete with plenty of real, live alligators, watched over by real, live undercover wildlife officers. It also had hidden video cameras to record everything that happened. That was two years ago, and on Wednesday wildlife officers announced that they arrested nine people on  44 felony charges alleging they broke wildlife laws governing alligator harvesting, transporting eggs and hatchlings across state lines, dealing in stolen property, falsifying records, racketeering and conspiracy. The wildlife commission released these photos of alligators, eggs and hatchlings taken during the undercover operation. [Courtesy of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission]
  2. Trigaux: Amid a record turnout, regional technology group spotlights successes, desire to do more

    Business

    ST. PETERSBURG — They came. They saw. They celebrated Tampa Bay's tech momentum.

    A record turnout event by the Tampa Bay Technology Forum, held May 24 at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg, featured a panel of area tech executives talking about the challenges encountered during their respective mergers and acquisitions. Show, from left to right, are: Gerard Purcell, senior vice president of global IT integration at Tech Data Corp.; John Kuemmel, chief information officer at Triad Retail Media, and Chris Cate, chief operating officer at Valpak. [Robert Trigaux, Times]
  3. Take 2: Some fear Tampa Bay Next transportation plan is TBX redux

    Transportation

    TAMPA — For many, Wednesday's regional transportation meeting was a dose of deja vu.

    The Florida Department of Transportation on Monday announced that it was renaming its controversial Tampa Bay Express plan, also known as TBX. The plan will now be known as Tampa Bay Next, or TBN. But the plan remains the same: spend $60 billion to add 90 miles of toll roads to bay area interstates that are currently free of tolls. [Florida Department of Transportation]
  4. Hailed as 'pioneers,' students from St. Petersburg High's first IB class return 30 years later

    Education

    ST. PETERSBURG — The students came from all over Pinellas County, some enduring hot bus rides to a school far from home. At first, they barely knew what to call themselves. All they knew was that they were in for a challenge.

    Class of 1987 alumni Devin Brown, from left, and D.J. Wagner, world history teacher Samuel Davis and 1987 graduate Milford Chavous chat at their table.
  5. Flower boxes on Fort Harrison in Clearwater to go, traffic pattern to stay

    Roads

    I travel Fort Harrison Avenue in Clearwater often and I've noticed that the travel lanes have been rerouted to allow for what looks like flower boxes that have been painted by children. There are also a few spaces that push the travel lane to the center that have no boxes. Is this a permanent travel lane now? It …