I stopped blogging for about 2-years already. So, if you see there was no post at all before I post this article, pardon me. Sometimes… life gets too crazy to spread focuses on everything. Now, here I am, … trying to revive and be alive again! My family and I were so struggling with our life while we were in Korea. We simply didn’t have the life-work balance that we dreamt of having while we were there. Now, I am writing next to the mountain, in between coconut trees and green rice fields, in Sumatera Island, Indonesia. We have been here for 545 days already. Up to now, we are still on an adjustment period on so many levels and so many layers. Well… everything has its own beauty in the struggle.
1. When Air Quality is the Source of Your Unhappiness
Back in 2017~2018, when we were still in South Korea… I didn’t realize how bad was the Air Quality Index (AQI) in Korea nor that I understood what was that for real and how bad it had effected our health in general.
At night when I laid my body to sleep, I started to cough as my throat was so itchy. I often vomited as I tried to get the transparent ‘itchy’ mucus out from my blocked throat. That was my nights. I bothered Samuel to have his beauty sleep. I bothered the whole house, in fact. Without the quality of good night sleep, how I could have a great day?!
Once, I passed out in the front part of our shop because suddenly I couldn’t breathe! Since that, I had to check my lung, my heart, and other parts of my organs through CT Scan, twice. For over a month, I had to live with Ventolin Nebulizer, the ‘asthma spray’, along with another inhaler spray which I forgot its name. And oh, it was accompanied by a set of anti-depressant pills and sleeping pills.
I was conflicting with my mind about taking a sleeping pill as I know how bad its effect in the longer term. But, one night I gave up. I took that pill as I really needed to sleep after 3-nights in a row failed to sleep. I finally did take one sleeping pill during that whole course of my medication. All nights during that period, I had some sort of ‘suicidal thoughts’ and thinking about ‘death’ very often. It was a very scary moment in my life. I was filled with darkness. I was prescribed as someone depressed with anxiety, which I had never imagined to have to experience this level of health issue. I was someone who rarely got sick. I could count how many times I was sick, like a simple fever, before landing in Korea.
The bad air pollution first attacked my throat by giving me its itchy mucus. Thus, made me having a terrible night time that forbade me to sleep well at night. Affecting how I run errands in the morning with bad mood rituals. My face was unconsciously unhappy, it doesn’t matter how hard I tried to put on a smile before sleep, the mucus came and ruin the story of how I ended the day. Again and again. On and on. Over and over again for the whole +2 years before I had my ‘aha’ moment and decided to move out of Korea.
2. When Your Hair Start To Show Sign of Pre-mature Aging, Due to…
With a lot of worry and scary thoughts daily and terrible night times as I barely could sleep, I slowly produced little grey hairs. At first, it popped only one tiny baby hair in white colour. Growing some more whites the following few months ahead. I knew my body is trying to tell me something. As not only the greys but also hair problems, such as thinner hair texture and hair loss. This was the moment when I started to concoct REVIVING SCALP SERUM COMPLEX as part of my Hair Care products.
3. When Your Kid Suffers from Unexplainable Persistent Coughs
Until Axelle, my dear daughter was in constant sickness that we had to visit the doctor every single week. One little candy given to her at school could make her non-stop coughing for over 3 months. Many times I had to warn her teacher at school to stop giving her any kind of sweets. And of course, I didn’t have any guarantee to get lucky every day. And there, between 3 and 4 years old of Axelle, she lived with the on-going cough syrup medication from her doctor. Just to think of that moment, irritate my memory of our Korean living as it squeezed my heartbeat to its core of the pain to remember my child was in a constant coughing mode.
4. When Health is a Top Priority
Not only coughings, but Axelle had also stayed in the hospital for 3x within 3 months duration. It was like one time in a month we had to spend 3~5 nights at the children hospital. I was surprised to know the fact that many other 3 years old kids, even younger than 1 year old, diagnosed to have pneumonia. I asked Axelle’s doctor, ‘how is this possible?’. The doctor just simply replied as ‘it is normal here’ in his calm tone of voice. I was like ‘WOW’, ‘OMG’!
Another time, Axelle was having three bacterias at the same time which attacked her ears and lung. And the very last time was super bad, as she was diagnosed to have Kawasaki Syndrome. We had to stay in the room for the whole week where one boy, the same age as Axelle, had to be connected with the heart-monitor machine. Every time this heart-machine made the ‘beep-beep’ sound, in just a few seconds a nurse came checking the boy. My heart was with this boy and his Mom. I really hope and wish he is alright by now. It bleeds me whenever I have to tell this story to people. I took the time to heal my body and to free my mind from what had happened in Korea.
Axelle had only shown 3 out of 5 symptoms of Kawasaki Syndrome. Her skin was having rashes and painful to touch. Yet, her eyes, tongue, and palm were not in ‘strawberry’ colour. This made the Doctor uncertain either or not to anally insert my daughter with an immune booster medication like most kids are being treated with this Syndrome. Meanwhile, her spleen was enlarged to its abnormality, the Doctor was willing to try one last method: to change the brand of an antibiotic! Lucky for us, IT WORKED! I remember myself crying. I remember Samuel couldn’t even talk. It was an intense moment.
One day before this heart-tearing news, Samuel and I were committed and vowed that after Axelle had recovered from this time sickness and discharged from this hospital, we had to move out from Korea as soon as possible, to get better quality of air and to recharge our immune naturally. As we fully understood that this Air Quality is the source of our continuance illness, both physically and mentally.
5. When Being an Expat Has Lost Its Meaning
In fact, we planned to submit our Residential application once we would mark 10 years of living in Korea. We heard it was much easier for the decadian applicants. We only had to wait just a tiny bit more than 1 year, at that time. But, having gone through all those health issue and drama, we had different thinking. We want to fully live our life so immediately.
Between 2018~2019, we had to put on the KF94 mask whenever we were outside. And we had to shut all the windows and turned on the Air Purifier whenever we were at home. Slowly,… life had lost its meaning.
We knew what we had to do. We had to move out of Korea, to cut the source of our health drama. Everything else had to re-adjust from that decision, including my project, FridaSkincare.
Where I Am Now?
Thinking through, our symptoms a few years back were just like Covid-19 nowadays. Every year, some sort of coronavirus shared the air living with us. Axelle was born during the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which was a coronavirus. Yet, Korea is always part of my life. The land where I first met my husband, Samuel. The birth country of Axelle, our daughter. We have many sweet and memorable moments with our family-like Korean friends that we would like to keep the connection with, forever with us.
Now, here I am, writing in the jungle, in Sumatera Island, Indonesia. When I was in Korea, I didn’t quite realize, how the most simple activity to just open the window in the morning and breathe the fresh air along while enjoying the birds chirping is indeed a luxury. And we are at the stage where health is no more an issue since living next to nature. Our lungs are happy to be filled in with fresh and clean air quality. Do we need to ask for more?! Definitely NOT, at least not at this stage.