C. Cryn Johannsen Headshot

Thanksgiving And War

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We were worried that we'd have to eat lousy chickens for Thanksgiving in Korea. But we decided not to give up. It all happened the day after I got over some big fears, too. First, I got in a gondola with an army of other tourists. Suspended by tiny cables, we all hovered above the city of Seoul and headed towards N Seoul Tower. It was already a spectacular view inside that floating glass contraption, so I couldn't wait to get to the top. Then we arrived near the base of N Seoul Tower. It was only better. Next, I hiked up what seemed to be about 300 more flights of stairs to the needle.

I told my husband, "I'm not going up to the observatory with you."

My husband laughed and then said, "oh, Cryn, you're going up." His sarcasm kills me, but it wasn't working this time.

Again, I refused. My husband shrugged his shoulders, and that's when I began to waffle. Maybe I should go up?

Then I said, "if I don't go up, does that mean I'm a loser? Am I giving in to my fears?"

My husband said, "yeah, you're a loser." He nudged my arm. "I'm just kidding. I mean, if you don't want to go up. That's fine. You didn't go up with me when we were in France at the Eiffel Tower, so maybe you'll be able to play a trick on some salesperson here, just like you did with that Nigerian guy who tried to sell you a plastic toy."

I chuckled and recalled how I sat at the base of the Eiffel Tower, waiting for my husband. I had been up to the first deck of the Eiffel Tower years before, but at that point in my life many fears were seizing me, so I sat at the very bottom of that majestic structure and played a funny, yet harmless trick on a Nigerian. He tried to convince me to buy a silly flying what-what, and he did so in about 10 languages. I understood at least 8 of them. At first he asked me if I spoke English. I shook my head. Then he asked me if I spoke French. Fail. I stared at him blankly and smiled. After that he asked me if I knew German. Nope. Spanish? Again, I just smiled. Finally, he shook his head and walked away.

But this time there weren't any salespeople around. My husband tried to encourage me again.

"Oh, come on. You made it this far."

"I can't."

"That's cool. Here's some money. I'll see you in a bit."

I watched him head to the ticket booth. My face was red from frustration. I've overcome a lot of demons this year, and I felt that I was letting myself down. My husband disappeared. Damnit! I needed to have the courage to do this. After all, the worst is behind me.

I watched children playing with their parents. I heard some Italian guys chattering. What was wrong with me? If all these people could enjoy the view from the top of that needle, why couldn't I as well?

I rushed up to the ticket booth. The pretty Korean ticket holder acknowledged me. Fear hit me again. What if that needle falls down? What if it snaps? What if the elevator stops, and I get stuck inside that huge white circular wall in a little box filled with screaming people? What if . . . what if I stopped and enjoyed myself? Instead, what if I just said, 'screw it. You're over this crap. You're an adult now. You are freer than you'll ever be.'

That's just what I did. I threw down my 10,000 won bill, grabbed my ticket, and headed to the line. Once I was at the top, I was astounded at how beautiful it was, and I was even more surprised by how free I felt. In fact, I hated to come down. What was the best part? Surprising my husband and having an amazing moment that we both shared.

As for Thanksgiving, we decided not to give up on our mission to find a turkey. I'm writing this right now while my husband makes his way down to Yongsan Garrison to pick up to turkeys from the base's restaurant. Sunday the U.S. military, along with South Korea's, will be continuing more drills on the Yellow Sea. Maybe North Korea will have a true freak out and launch missiles in the direction of Seoul, and not some tiny island. I doubt it, but none of us really know what Sunday will bring. Maybe those threatening words of turning Seoul into a fireball aren't bullshit. But you know what? It ain't Sunday, and I'm done with fear.

I can't wait for that turkey! The potatoes are roasting, and . . . oh, crap! I gotta check on 'em.

Happy Thanksgiving to all Americans near and far.