Wow. Been awhile, yeah? Having just passed my 11-month anniversary here in Korea-land, it’s getting harder to write about the everyday. While I still like this place, it’s not all LOOK ANOTHER INSANELY CUTE COFFEE SHOP and OH MY GOD THESE PEOPLE ARE TINY I AM SHREK and ANOTHER TEMPLE?! everyday. Because that is true everyday and my head (and yours) would explode if I wrote about it weekly. Or monthly.
Really, what I have now is mostly emotions, which Roy-Gene has told me that no one wants to read about. How I feel about life. Love. (And other mysteries, am I right early 2000s Christian gurlz?!)
Well, in things that have happened recently, I joined a boxing gym. I know. I will be looking very J.Lo in “Enough” with my tight, tan, Latin body in black Lycra any day now. Have I always been such a big sweat-er, you guys? I mean, I could wring out my clothes and hair every night leaving this place, which is just a 10-minute walk from my apartment. My co-worker Angela talked me into going with her, and I’m glad she did. Although I will confess that going to a Korean-speaking-only gym freaked me the heck out. Sometimes I just look at Angela (who is half Korean and brilliant), our 샘 (“saem” being the Korean shorthand for teacher) and two other Koreans in our class laughing in Korean and feel like the most brilliant ghost-pale, fish-out-of-water ever. Then again, sometimes I feel like a tall, unbeatable Amazon as the teacher chants “jab, jab, double jab, 1-2” and I beat the hell out of the training mitts.
In sadder news, I’m sure many of you guys (I hope all of you) have no doubt heard about the absolutely horrifying ferry disaster here in Korea a couple weeks ago. It’s easy to think we’re removed from all that, but we’re not. If over 200 hundred high school kids had died in an accident in the states, you guys, we would be losing our shit. Sorry for the language, but it is overwhelming to think about children, CHILDREN really, with so much life to live, going out in this way. Something preventable. Something that could have been handled so different. Texting their parents from inside the ship as they’re trapped. It’s horrifying. And just as horrifying is the kidnapping of over 200 high school girls in Nigeria right now–parents not knowing if they’ll ever see their kids again. This ferry disaster has reverberated so much through the country; the government has actually forbidden all school trips until the end of first semester, which is the end of June.
Because the Village (DGEV, aka my workplace) is a week-long intensive immersive camp-like overnight experience, we’re included too. This has caused no small amount of problems as BAM, we have no students. There are teachers who have already been hired and ready to fly out here that had to be delayed by 6-8 weeks because there’s no kids to teach. We’ve still got a few Kindy programs (as they’re not overnight) and the occasional 1-day field trip and (THANK MY STARS) the Adult Programs as they’re exempt. But it leaves us with a lot of time on our hands to lesson plan, clean classrooms and create unnecessary drama, of course. Which I am *far* too classy to go into. Right now. Because I don’t really care about it and kind of want to talk about happier things.
So, due to boxing taking up 7:30pm-around 10:30pm of my nights this past week…it’s safe to say that I’m spending a lot of time with these people. Angela, Irene (who has FANTASTIC English, and who’s Korean name is Da Som 다 솜) and No San (노 산 aka the Machine because this guy jump ropes for TWENTY MINUTES without stopping JUST TO WARM UP. Seriously. Before I knew his name I just called him “Machine” in English and Korean. His box jumps are like watching someone dunk from the free throw line. I’m in awe. And a little bit of unrequited crush on his skills.) We all worked out 5 nights this week, M-F, and then we went karaoking (karaoke-ing?) after working out on Friday. Do you recall me saying how sweaty I am post-workout? Still have NO idea why we went, but we left the gym at like 11 and went to karaoke, then drank makkoli (rice…alcohol? it’s sweet milky goodness served in like a Winnie-the-Pooh pot that you ladle out) and ate chicken and more alcohol. We got home around 3, comfortably drunk, still in said workout clothes…and I promptly woke up at 7:30. Stupid body clock.
THEN THESE SELF-SAME FOOLS are all “let’s go hiking tonight” and I stupidly, stupidly agreed. I finally dragged my butt out of bed around 11 to have Roy-Gene and his plus 1 make me breakfast, went downtown on a ladies day with Brooke and got my nails done (I look like 12-year old Ke$ha did my nails) and headed home to get ready to go hiking AT 8:30PM AT NIGHT. Yeah, I think the alcohol was still in my system. Because the Machine is not hot enough to make me break a leg on a Korean mountainside in the dark (although I will confess that I *did* do my hair in a really cute ponytail and put on some winged eyeliner so sharp that it could cut glass) and I clearly had not thought it through. It hurt.
It hurt. It hurt so bad, you guys. My toes. My calves. My butt. Things I didn’t even know were like, growing in my legs hurt. And of course all the Korean old ladies are trucking by with their murderous ski poles and professional hiking gear as I’m trying really hard not to alert everyone in a 5 kilometer radius that I’m sucking wind and am convinced that my lungs are going to like, invert or something. At one point I did legitimately wonder how they would airlift my body off this damn mountain.
And here’s the Sunday school lesson/point to the title of this post: mountains. And if this comes off super cheesy, I apologize. No, you know what? I don’t apologize. I really don’t. Because this here is my blog about my feelings and if you wanted out, I really doubt you made it this far. And if you did make it this far and don’t like this…well…
Mountains are weird. All you can think when you’re climbing it, when EVERYTHING hurts is, “when will it be done?” “when can I rest?” “will it be worth it?” And you can’t really see anything through the trees. You’re all “oh look, a peek at the moon through these two huge branches” or “wow, I guess that’s *kind of* where I live with those lights?” but you’re not really getting a good look. You think about how other people are passing you and should *you* be going that fast? and do I look ok? can they tell that there’s a hole in these pants where my chubby thighs are rubbing together? or that other people are coming back down and you wish you were them and how happy they must be.
And then. Finally. When you least expect it (mostly because all the signs telling you how far you are happen to be in Korean so you really have no idea when the torture will end), you’ve made it. You’re at the summit. And it doesn’t hurt anymore. And you feel a little like crying but you can’t because it’s weird enough that you’re the only 2 foreigners on a Korean mountain hiking at night, you don’t need to be the white girl crying in front of Buddha, a couple hundred Koreans who are praying to said Buddha and the 3 people that you get messy sweaty with 5x a week. And my God, but it is gorgeous. The city is breathtaking. The air is different. The twinkling lights are a marvel as you look how far you’ve come and you can’t believe you made it. That you did that. Your two exhausted, sore legs did that. In the darkness. With a couple people you barely know. It’s so worth it. So worth the pain, the frustration, the not-knowing-when-it-will-end.
And in that moment, I swear we were infinite–but that moment can’t last. You can treasure it up in your heart, but sooner or later you have to go back down the mountain. Which is somehow infinitely worse than climbing…because it’s so easy to slip and fall in the dark (even though the trail is quite well lit, it’s still a wet, stone set of unending stairs and gravity would still do it’s job). And if anything, you have to be more careful because you’re tired from your previous fight.
I just couldn’t help but think as I was on Palgongsan that half a world away, my younger sister, Brianna, was graduating from my alma matter, ORU, with her Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing with a crapton of well-fought honors and how we have to choose what mountains we are going to climb. She’s at the top of her justly-deserved mountain, and now has to climb back down and drive across the country (which I do not miss doing just a year ago with her; that is a DRIVE).
And because I’m me, I can’t help but think too about love. YES ITS BECOMING THAT POST. I remember the only other real hike I’ve done in my life, Church Mountain in my senior year of high school almost 10 years ago (OH MY LORD) and thinking the same things now as then. You can’t see when it’s gonna end. You can catch peeks at where you’re at, but it’s not the whole picture. An everyday occurrence in Korea is being asked your name and if you have a boyfriend. And it kind of wears on you over and over as well as being told the reason you don’t have one [SIDEBAR: S Club 7’s “Never Had a Dream Come True” just came on in this coffee shop and I really feel like I am in a rom com with Hillary Duff and like someone needs to come walking around the corner] is “because you’re fat. You know, you have a pretty face, but you’re fat. So, you’re not going to get one until that changes.”
And of course, I’m working on that with the aforementioned Million Dollar Baby workout business because I’d like *for myself* to be fitter, but I’m trying to remember that someone quite fantastic has wanted me before, when I was just as heavy/big/”unappetizing” as I am now (although I have extremely slowly lost about 20lbs in Korea…somehow) and that’s important to remember. But love lives are a mountain, like anything. Suddenly, out of nowhere, you’re at the top and it’s worth the pain, the tears, the extremely present pain in your butt muscles and you’re incandescently happy, Mrs. Darcy. You can’t stay at the top forever, you’ve got to come back down with your sewing machine leg shakes and drive back to chimek, but still.
You I *will* have more than just peeks at the view. There will be a mountaintop that I’m not expecting. And it’s going to be worth all this bullshit. I have to believe that whoever you are, you’re going to be worth it. With all your faults and weirdness, with all my strange quirks and emotional diatribes, I’m going to want to stare at you while you sleep and hold your hand in a movie theater and know how you like your coffee or that you hate coffee and love tea or water or 소주 and you really like my butt in pencil skirts BUT I will draw the line at feeding you because that ish is weird to me. [PS: S Club 7, you LIARS, no one has come around the corner but old people and babies]
And yeah, that’s strange to type on a public blog about my life and Korea, but hey, if you made it this far, you should’ve known. Because if I can’t believe that it’s going to be worth it someday, there’s really no point in climbing the mountain. I will give up. I will not even try. And that would take away a really essential thing that makes me me, and then I wouldn’t be me. SO META. I hope. I believe. I hate the pain and the burning and the futile, fleeting peeks at things, but I believe that the climb is so worth the journey and the top and the bottom and the in between of this life.
I’m going to cue up Miley’s “The Climb” and blow out of this coffee shop and trip in the crosswalk and not meet some hot doctor-type because right now, I’m climbing this mountain solo-style. You show up when you’re ready, 남친. I’m not waiting for you to live my life. I’ll just keep climbing and you’ll show up whenever you’re supposed to because my world is not defined by this mountain. It’s not defined by you. I’m still me, regardless of when you arrive. But damn, hurry up! My butt hurts.