Pre-Grieving

I should be home by now. In fact, I’m sure my coworkers are already snug in their Woobang nests. Instead I got off downtown for 2 fake errands…and I can’t really tell you why I did it.

I guess I’m starting to get nostalgic.

tumblr_mzh6z8Af2v1s8wnu7o1_500

Which…is dumb, because I’m still here, right? I have over a month to go. It’s like I’m pre-grieving someone or something that hasn’t died yet. But I feel it slipping through my fingers. Another week went by, then another, and another and it’s already almost the end of April.

I’m sitting in a cafe I’ve never been in that has open-air windows and I’m on the second floor, overlooking one of the busiest intersections downtown. Couples, kids, couples with kids, college students in letterman’s jackets (although I couldn’t tell you what on earth they lettered in), high school kids in their dark colored uniforms, and the occasional sore thumb foreigner walking by.

The weather is gorgeous, 68 degrees (20 for y’all metric/celsius normals) right now, at 7:44pm. There’s a slight breeze and there’s lights everywhere still. I’m facing another coffee shop (sans open-air windows, BOO), and I see 2 no, FOUR cellphone stores from my vantage point. Is it creepy to people watch this much?

tumblr_n634pgdTD81tz7bb9o1_400

I think 98% of all the dudes walking by are drop-dead beautiful. I wonder if I will find Korean guys so heart-stoppingly lovely when I’m not surrounded by them 24/7. Sorry, all Korean guys. I’m watching you. You’re gorgeous. Don’t worry about stereotypes. If someone doesn’t want you or doesn’t like “Asians” then they are the idiots, not you. That said, try not to be dicks to women about their weight/looks (not that you all do that). It’s ok if you’re not into a certain type; just say someone’s not your style. Don’t be an asshole and point out exactly what it is. You’re not all Kim Woo Bin either. And if you *are* Kim Woo Bin, just. Message me. I’d like to punch you on the shoulder like a 8-year old boy on the playground and pull your pigtail and shout “I LOVE YOU” and then run away and tweet about our moment forever.

tumblr_n3qh9ctQpr1qb32v2o6_250

I’m eavesdropping on all these conversations right now. I understand zero of them. I’m sitting with one headphone in and frantically typing this nonsense, looking busy. I look totally professional, right? RIGHT? I wish I could understand; I pick up words and verbs here and there but I’m like level 1-2. I know, I’ve been here 2 years and my Korean is still shit, despite all the kids being like “TEACHER YOU KOREAN SPEAK WELL” and my frantic “Shhhh don’t let a Korean adult hear that I”m talking Korean to you in class” mode.

tumblr_n9f9zfVEuR1thgn1fo1_500

I’m so deep into pre-grieving that I’m looking into grad schools in Seoul despite the fact I’m A) definitely going to Chicago for at least a year to study at Second City Improv and B) I don’t even know what I would *want* to study. I’m all “I would maybe spend thousands of dollars on that major, sure, or maybe that one,” which obviously makes a lot of sense.

I hate this part. The tearing apart part. I put it off for so long that I pretty much just bleed when it happens. There’s no slow tapering off. It is violent and gross and I’m kind of worried how I’m gonna be those first few weeks back. Leaving Arkansas…I mean, it’s been two years and I still miss most of them with all of me. I sent them dorky care packages full of weird makeup samples and even weirder socks, and they returned the favor. Sure, the magic of technology keeps us tenuously connected, but it’s not the same. And I’m going to miss THESE idiots (lovely idiots) fiercely. I’m already planning on spending my weeklong Philippines vacation next month just sitting in an hammock writing thank you/goodbye letters to everyone (and that’s a lot of everyones). Or maybe I’ll just kidnap you all and put you in my suitcases. I’ll poke air holes.

tumblr_n3qh9ctQpr1qb32v2o1_250

I know in my sad, sad, banana strawberry smoothie-filled heart that its time to go, though. Today I was walking to class and one of our Korean staff leaders asked me to take part in a group picture that I had no part of. In that, I didn’t know nor was I interacting with this tour group all day, they just wanted a foreigner face in their group shot. And I got so…angry. Just immediately, 1-60mph/96kph anger. We jumped over irritation immediately. In the past, I wouldn’t have minded. And I wasn’t having a bad day; I was doing ok. I was just immediately DONE. It was like “do you not see me walking to class? Do you think I must just be free since you see me?! WHO DISTURBS MY WALKING SLUMBER?!” And of course my customer service self said “sure” but when I walked away after the picture I looked at our Chinese intern and we both made the most irked bitch face at each other about it. And 20 minutes later, our photographer is in my classroom for 5 minutes taking “action shots” as I have a rude posse of 6th-graders ignoring me and I almost asked him to leave (super faux pas) before I yelled in Konglish.

tumblr_n0m225aKWK1rkksaxo1_500

DGEV has been a good part of my life the last 2 years. I’ve learned a ridiculous amount of slang/Korean and met wonderful people both Korean and foreign, I’ve learned that I can handle just about anyone for 45 minutes and that I’m ok in front of crowds of people I don’t know. I didn’t think it was possible after working retail, but I’m even more comfortable introducing myself to seriously, anyone. Bus, street, doctor’s office, doesn’t matter–there’s always someone in your face asking “where are you from?” since the answer clearly isn’t “here.”

In a glorious way, I’ll probably never be rude to an immigrant again. Not that I think I was…I just now would have more grace with people. Being an immigrant/non-native you guys–it’s like pulling your skin off everyday. You’re putting yourself in an uncomfortable environment BY CHOICE and saying “I will make it work and I will become a better person through this.”

tumblr_nmxeraG1ZR1scm9d0o8_r1_400

I’ll never forget in my last 2 weeks at the fruit retailer, a guy came in and asked for “Opis.” I was like, “I’m not sure what that is, can you repeat it?” “Opis, OPIS.” *thinking* “Is it an acronym? I can google it for you” and he’s frantic, loudly saying “OPIS OPIS for computer, OPIS” and I’m like “can you spell it for me I must be doing this wrong” and he then turned and his eyes lit up when he pointed at a yellow box on our shelf that said “Microsoft Office.” A half-second later I realized, having read Roy-Gene’s post about f/p sounds for Korean ESL learners (wherein he found out that his hospital Visa visit “check finished” was definitely not “check penis”) that this guy was Korean and just wanted Microsoft Word and I was just in the way.

I cannot tell you the THOUSANDS of Korean people who have had buckets, mountains of grace with me. I accidentally swear in Korean, I mispronounce, I use the wrong level of honorific (or none at all) and they are unending in grace. They laugh at my bad jokes and over exuberance at K-Pop. They try their best to use English with me and walk me far, far out of their way to help me get where I’m going (even if I just got lost around the corner). They help me buy tickets and text cute boys and box up my groceries so they won’t be squished on the bus. So helpful.

Young_do_shrug

Maybe I could have gotten away with more time here. Maybe I could just change jobs and stay in Daegu. Or make the big leap to Seoul and do comedy with some of the Stand up Seoul people there–who are equally awesome. Maybe. But right now, I know that DGEV has been a good chapter, but the DGEV chapter just has a few pages left.

I don’t have words for how nervous I am about this Second City chapter. It’s scary and weird and what if I can’t make it in America anymore? I might now be as funny as many of you have said, but I want to try. I want to be a shriveled up, awesome old woman in sequins saying at least I tried it and didn’t wonder “what if”—OH MY GOD I just want to be Betty White, don’t I?! Well, that just clicked. But anyways, improv…I think it’s like Korea. I’m throwing myself somewhere uncomfortable and saying “I choose to make this work for me and I will become a different, better person through it.” Or at least look cool while trying.

tumblr_mxcdaro2Hi1t4okabo1_500

You are not perfect, Korea. Nowhere is. But you have been very, very good to me. You’re trusted me with your children, with your time, with a very lovely sum of money. You write English on your signs for me and smile when you see me like I’m someone famous. You’ve let me eat your food, blog about you and fall in love with your people. Thank you. I mean, I doubt Park Geun Hye would read this, and if she did, that it would mean much, but it’s been very, very good, and I’m grateful.

I’d like to come back sometime. If you and Kim Woo Bin would have me.

tumblr_n9fa15wd5X1thgn1fo1_500

Advertisements

I Promise This Post Only Mentions Miley One Time.

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?!)

Image

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.

Image

 

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.

Image

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.

Image

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.

Image

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…

Image

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.

Image

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.”

Image

 

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.

Image