Friday, March 14, 2008

Note To Self....

One year in Korea does not a Korean make.

To inaugurate my little brother's entrance into the MTC (FINALLY!) I thought I would update everyone on the progress of my mission. I'm at the one year mark with one more to go and things are moving right along. This has been a really challenging year for me, but not in the way that I thought it would be. When I loaded up my life and put my dreams in the hands of asia, I had a few rational fears: Will I have any friends? Will anyone be able to feel me? Would I be bland, unknowable, unrecognizable because I can not communicate with words? Will I get lost? Will I be safe? Will I love Korea? Will I love myself in Korea?

The answer is of course, Yes, Yes, Yes!!!! and NO NONONONONONONONONONO!

In the last week, I have had lesson after lesson that has reaffirmed the dichotomy of my life in Korea. I got lost/found. I choked/and recovered. I spoke/with my hands. I wrote/and I listened. I cooked/bought. I fell/got up. I sweated/and chose lazy. I sang/ I danced/ I loved/ I missed it/ I misunderstood/ and I finally got it.

I discovered that the 5500 bus goes to Suji, NOT bundang (a freshman mistake) BUT I also discovered that I am resourceful enough to figure out a way to get to work when I am lost in a strange city with no wallet and a dead cell phone. I am brave and functional in Korea.

I had a conversation on the telephone with a mom at school in Korean and we understood one another. I can communicate in Korea.

I almost suffocated on a triangle tortilla chip that was lodged in my esophagus sending home the message that WESTERN FOOD KILLS and that chewing your food before you consume it is a fine, fine idea. I am still myself in Korea.

I am creating masterpieces again in the kitchen and on the guitar. I MADE tteokbokki! HOMEMADE TTEOKBOKKI! and it was delicious and I made it. And a song is gestating almost ready to pop. Just in case you think this is a small thing, more than anything food and music are the hallmarks of my family culture and I will bring home something more valuable from Korea than some refrigerator magnets and hanbok. I can create in korea!!! I can make beautiful things inspired by this place. I am still an artist in Korea.

Ilsun, my cell phone patron and sister-in-law to one of my dearest friends, lost her father suddenly in a car accident. My friend called me to share her grief. I was touched and honored. Somehow, she knows me and trusts me. Somehow I am family to her and she is family to me though we operate under different cultural mores and expectations. I am known in Korea and I love in Korea.

And the first week of school is over and over and over. I still don't fully understand the differences between asian school culture and western school culture. I don't get it and I don't really like it. I'm bridging the gaps though. And somehow, I'm more moderate in all of my hard work. I can let the kids be kids. I can touch and giggle and let a lesson go if it isn't really working. I can stop and realize that this is about them and not about me. I can love them even when they don't listen and I can see all the complexity of a 5 year old's world. I can change in korea.

So that's the report. I realize this was more for myself than anyone, but I think it's important for me to write it down; to look for the clues to see it and see it how it really is.


Marianne & Clayton said...

And in Korea- you still inspire. You have such an amazing way of writing that it always makes me want to record my life in some sort of creative way as well. You make me want to cook and paint and write... and visit Korea. So thanks. And also I love your hair right now. Not on topic and a bit superficial, but hopefully still fun to hear. Love ya.

Kirsten J said...

I just love you. Thanks for this, it was sweet and wonderful and great. I miss you so much! I'm also so glad you are there.

lenalou said...

I can't think of a better word than "inspiring." I love hearing about your experience, and learning how you live and learn in this different world.