Thursday, December 26, 2013

So, an era ends

Happy Thanksgiving
In three hours, the matriarch of our hodgepodge family will depart on a grand adventure that includes islands, motor cycles, and mediocre life decisions. I am petty and jealous, but more importantly, I am excited for a woman more sister than friend to embark on this fantastic journey.

I know that as she makes her way through the dusty back roads of Cambodia and clogged thoroughfares of Bangkok, she will gain knowledge and experiences to which bright, shiny tourists are not privy. She took an active role in shaping her dreams to form realities. She is the real deal. She 
is a traveler. 

I, on the other hand, never meant to be worldly. I never meant to travel. I never meant to do any of the things I am currently doing.

I ran away. I ran away from responsibility. I ran away from emotion. I ran away from everything that made me who I am. And, sometimes, you have to do that. I am guilty of using travel as an escape. But, instead of using Korea as a moment in time, a first chapter in a nomadic lifestyle, I found a home in myself. I found a strength I did not know I possessed. I found a voice and a means to use it.


K was instrumental in this process. She forced me to live all of the parts of my life. She held my hand when I needed support. She pushed me out of the nest when I needed to fly. And, she mended me when I needed to heal.
We're all hand models


She is not running away. She is running towards. She is running towards her best friend, towards adventure, towards the life she is meant to live. I am excited for when our quests collide again.

When I hugged her goodbye, I told her I made a spot in my right atrium that has her name on it. The space comes equipped with floor heating, hammocks, and puppies who aren't douche canoes. She thought that was a pretty fair trade. Of course, I am going to miss her. But, I know that she is doing exactly what makes her happy, and that is so much more important. 

To all of those who are running away or running towards or running just to feel the wind, adventure on.
Nailed it

Sunday, December 8, 2013

So, it gets a little hairy


Shaved—Submission: JL

Please don’t confuse Shaved with the 1983 cult classic film “Saved” shtarring Sean Connery, in which Connery attempts to write an anonymous love letter to his perceived arch nemesis, but his computer continuously malfunctions in ways that prohibits him to save the document.

This film received 5 Tevas because Sean Connery was shimply shtunning.

No, Shaved transports us into a Seussian land. Men, women, and children have beautiful flowing beards braided with Truffula silks. Merc, age seven, resents his beard. It prohibits him from deftly climbing trees and skillfully skipping rope. He confesses his discontent to his best friend Flaunuva, who urges him to keep quiet. She reminds him of the consequences of professed anti-beard leanings: eating soup served without a spoon for the rest of his life; receiving last pick as a beard braiding partner; and teetor-tottering with someone who outweighs you, which is always the worst. Merc searches deep within himself in hopes of finding the steely resolve necessary to adhere to the socio-cultural demands of his world. Does Merc find happiness within his flaxen facial hair or does he go against everything he’s known to live freely, but as an outcast?

This book received 4 ¼ Tevas.     

PS If you are confused as to what is happening, please read this and it should all make sense.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

So, I need your thoughts

Alright, it has almost been 60 days since my last post. For a lot of September and October, my brain and heart were fighting. It did not leave me much time to create (don't worry, we've worked out a system. On even numbered dates, my brain gets control; on odd numbered dates, my heart calls the shots. Note to parents: This also works well with siblings who want to sit in the front seat when they're old/big enough).

This November, I've been working on a little something, but it isn't ready, nor will it be ready in the next nine days. BUT, I have been writing.

So, instead of feed you excuses, I am going to invite you to help me out. I had a brain storm while talking to my buddy, Anton. Give me the title of a book, and I will write a little diddy about what I think happens. Here is a teaser.

Title: The Husband's Secret
Response: His secret is that he got a pet dinosaur, but wasn't able to sustain him with table scraps as he had anticipated. So, he fed the dinosaur his youngest child. He explained her absence as an extended trip to his mother's house.

I would like you to post in the comments/message me on facebook titles *you* would like explained. Note: They can be real or fake titles.

Double note: If one story catches my fancy, I might write an extended version and post it on the bloggity blog.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

So, I am claiming Queer




Whilst scooting around on Kyler, my mind follows the twists and turns in the road, leading me towards many new paths of thought. Oftentimes, it is about my friends or people with whom I want to be friends but am too awkward to pursue. Today, however, my thoughts became jagged and sliced through the shrubs I keep around sensitive topics to protect me from feeling too deeply and them from my self-destructive tendencies.



My thoughts cut right towards my personal sexuality, which is something that has weighed heavily on my mind for quite some time. It is difficult to look inside myself and see something with which I am not entirely comfortable. For the first 22 years of my life, I believed really hard that I was straight, and that I just wanted to be Her “best friend.” I grew up in a very heteronormative society; obviously, I wanted to be straight. But, it trapped me into thinking, “I am meant to be this way.” When I realized and accepted my lady lover leanings, I felt this rush of not giving a damn about what I am meant to be like and instead, loved the fact that I finally felt comfortable, secure, and hopeful.
I’ve spent the past four years dating women, loving women, believing that when I choose to create a family it will be with a woman. I believed I was gay. Or, a lesbian. But, as a linguist (a cunning one, at that) calling myself a lesbian doesn’t really fit what I feel. The necessary article placed in front of a lesbian or a homosexual, to me, means that I am a person with this other thing attached to me. But, being gay is not an attachment; it is simply a secondary facet to who I am as a human being. I am Irish-American, soft-spoken, gay, freckled, and left-handed.
However, being gay or being straight only allows me to be in one camp or the other. There is also bisexuality, which is an attraction to both genders, often with a proclivity towards one or the other. But, that still seems too rigid of a definition of something so fluid. So, queer is what I have left. I call it claiming queer because right now is the first moment in which I’ve allowed myself to think deeply about its semantics. I have never really enjoyed the word or the awful ways societies have used it as a pejorative. So, I cannot reclaim it. But, I am holding it now—caring for it, feeding it thoughts and attention, really hoping that it doesn’t lose patience with my clumsy ponderings.
So, as a newly-queer woman, I feel emboldened to confront the thoughts inside my head that make me uncomfortable. Yes, I prefer being emotionally and physically intimate with women. That is ultimately what I want in a long-term relationship. Coming out as a rainbow tossing, unicorn riding lady lover was easy all of those years ago; my friends and family have been incredibly supportive throughout this time. And, now, I fear that by retracting the statement of “I’m a lesbian” in favor of “I’m queer” will give the few people in my life who still want me to marry a dude hope that all of this gay malarkey was a phase, and they knew it.  
Now, I am more comfortable in my sexuality. I am able to navigate through it intentionally, and I do not have to adhere to someone else’s expectation of my intimacy. In the future, I could sleep with a man, and that wouldn’t make me less queer. I might even enjoy it, and it still wouldn’t change how I identify. It was difficult to come out as gay, but I would posit that it is even more difficult to shift back into the realm of queer. There is still a negative stigma attached to that word (in both camps—gay and straight), which is why I choose to embody it. I want to show the people in the straight community that queer is not synonymous with confused . I want to show the people in the gay community that being queer doesn’t make me less attracted to women. And, most importantly, I want to show the people in the queer community that I am present and ready to add my voice to the cacophony of rainbows, unicorns, Tevas, bowties, and everything in between.

PS Check out this video by Ryan Amador and Jo Lampert. It puts music to this emotion that words can't always define.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

So, that's what having purpose looks like



Growing up in Wisconsin, two things have become so familiar they seem almost inherent: church basement  potlucks and polite friendliness. People all over the United States talk about “Midwest Nice” in that we lend a hand to friends and strangers alike in any situation at any given time.

I only say this because I want you to grasp my full meaning when I say that Korea offers me unprecedented kindness over and over again. Whilst here, I have picked up several hobbies, ultimate frisbee being the most prominent. This community of people is such an incredible compilation of hospitality, competition, spirit, and overall excellent human beings. It also fueled my passion for something while I was in need of finding a purpose last autumn. But, mostly it gave me the freedom to enjoy myself and other while playing a sport—to play for the love of the game as opposed to winning a title, championship, or record.

I took this newfound passion with me while my father came to visit. He and I dabbled a bit in tossing the disc on the beach. We waded up to our kneecaps (the deepest that Korean lifeguards allow people to swim in the ocean) and started to throw the disc to each other and my friend who joined us for the hike and swim. Out of nowhere, an ajeossi (uncle) clad in a wet suit and a full body life jacket caught the disc and threw it back to us. And, then there were four. So, we kept tossing back and forth, the ajeossi making gratuitous leaps into the ocean and coming up with a giant grin and clutching the disc. As we continued throwing, two little girls came closer to us to play. Another ajeossi lingered near the edge until I threw the disc to him and he greedily accepted it and joined our circle. We grew to such a number that I went to get my second disc.

By the end, we had two ajeossis, two little girls, three medium sized boys, a mother of one of the boys, and a couple around my age. Throughout this entire endeavor, I kept looking at this motley crew of humanity, and anticipation, joy, and excitement lit every face. We cobbled together conversations knowing that in this one fleeting moment, we felt the same emotions regardless of age, gender, or race. Afterward, my father asked me if I knew any of those people. I said, “No, but that was one of those Korea moments that encapsulates everything I need at this exact moment, in this exact place.”

It is in moments like this when I remember exactly how small my existence really is. I have been granted these 25 years, really just a blip on the time/space continuum. This was merely one hour in one day, in one year, in one decade, in one century. This did not change the course of history. This did not make earth shattering discoveries. But, it did create a community—however small, however strange—for a moment in time. People came together from all walks of life to have this shared experience. And, this is what I love about Korea. “Korea Nice” is joining in a game for the love of playing it. It is ajummas (aunts) holding my hand on the subway because I was alone. It is my halmonie (grandmother) downstairs who takes care of me when I need it. It is a community of foreigners who love and accept you wholly and truly.

Korea has given me so many opportunities to explore who I am. More importantly, it has opened up a host of phenomenal men and women who consistently encourage me to grow and be better, regardless of how brief our interaction. Parenthetically, it also has church basement potlucks, but they serve kimchijeon instead of green bean casserole. Sad panda.

Monday, July 8, 2013

So, what if the hokey pokey was really what it's all about?

Some necessary background information:

1. I teach at an all-women’s high school.
2. South Korea has their final exams at the beginning of July, and then three weeks before the end of the semester. Don’t ask me why; I have no idea.
3. My main goal for this semester has been to bust through stereotypes given to my students merely because they were born as girls. I have tried my damndest to teach critical thinking, creativity, and empowerment. I have tried to teach them that they do not need to work within the binary of male or female, but under the umbrella of being a human.

We good? Okay.

So, today, I gave my students the options of watching a movie or practicing for their pop song contest on Friday evening. They unanimously voted to practice. I said, alright, have at it.

One student found an instrumental version of the song “Mercy” by Duffy. My students were sitting and singing beautifully and sweetly. I asked if they would want some pronunciation help or idea help—a little timidly, since I may or may not be a judge at the contest. They accepted, and I corrected some of their pronunciation (“beggin’” instead of “beggING,” etc).

Then, on a whim, I asked them if they knew what the song meant and what it means to them. They explained it to me in rapid Korean, which of course I didn’t understand. But, with their motions and the words “namja” (man) and “yeoja” (woman) and “upsaiyo” (not or no or without) showed up, I figured that they understood the basics.

My students sang it again, and their words sounded great, but they were still not really singing like they understood the gist of the song.  When they finished, I praised their pronunciation, then I asked if the singer was happy, sad, or angry about not being with her boyfriend.
 
They said, “Sad teacher. She is sad and angry.”

Then, together, we dissected the line, “Now you think that I/ will be something on the side. / But you got to understand that I need a man / who can take my hand.”

I asked if they knew what “on the side” meant. They shook their heads, so I created a metaphor with a chair and two desks, and that the chair was dating both of them at the same time. I asked if they thought that was okay. They shook their heads, but one student said, “Not really, but there must be a reason for him to do that. It is important to have a boyfriend.”

After I collected my jaw from the floor, I looked at each of my quietly nodding students and settled on her. I said, “No, honey, you do not ever deserve to be on the side.” I turned to the class, "You are so smart and so creative. You have so many qualities that are perfect, just as you are. You do not ever deserve to be less than your partner’s number one. And, frankly, you do not even need a partner. You are whole and important just by yourself. The only person you should want to be sexy for is you. When you love yourself wholly and truly, that is when someone will come along, and together you will grow into the best versions of yourselves. You are nothing less than amazing. Please, bring that attitude when you sing this song.”

It was their turn to drop their jaws. When we sang the song again, their voices were so much stronger. They started moving their bodies to the beat and giving meaning to the lyrics.  I watched this instantaneous transformation in my students. This realization of self-worth took me months, years to figure out. For me, it was slow and painful. But, in one minute, these children stopped being girls or women, but became human. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. Afterwards I told them, “I have never been more proud in my entire life than I am right now. That was perfect. You are perfect.” I paused, “I want to teach you a dance—a dance that we do at weddings.”

“Teacher, can we show you our dance first, then we learn yours?”

As they ran through their routine, it started as “K-Pop Sexy.” By that, I mean to say, that is was about the provocation and sex appeal. But, then they kept practicing and speaking in Korean, pointing at me. They changed some dance steps and their posture, which made it much more about respecting their bodies and internalizing their “sexy,” not enticing the audience. The understanding of this change and what it meant to my students settled around me. It became a manifestation of empowerment and strength.

Afterwards, they asked me to teach them my dance. I lined them up in two columns, facing each other. I said, “Okay, this dance is all about self-expression. When it is your turn, you dance through the column with the person across from you. This is a safe space, and you are free to dance however you want. Then, go to the end of the column, and cheer on your classmates. Okay? Okay.”

Obviously, as a certified attention glutton, I went first and danced through the two columns of my students. The next two came, timidly, just walking through the columns. But, as I started dancing with them, they became more comfortable. As the song continued, the students danced through the columns. The lines sort of collapsed upon themselves, and it just became a dance party in the back of the classroom. One brave student came up to the front of the crowd and danced with me while her friends kept singing the song. I drowned in singing, dancing, and joy in its purest form. It was one of those moments that everyone was living 100% in the moment, dancing without abandon.

After class, a student, with whom I had never had a full conversation, stayed behind until the classroom was empty. She looked at me, carefully crafting a sentence; “Kathryn, I thinked a lot today. Thank you for telling me perfect. I will remember to dance only for perfect me.” I took her hand and squeezed it, because, in that moment, words could not express any of the emotions I felt.

So, what if the hokey pokey or dancing was really what it’s all about? What if I reached students on a level that no written or spoken word could obtain? What if together, my students and I, created a moment that has never been nor will ever be again? What if that was true perfection?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

So, this is what democracy looks like

I have tried my absolute hardest to not bring religion, politics, or Boy Bands into this blog, as I do not want to isolate any of my audience. But, sometimes things happen, and I refuse to stay silent.

Every generation has their question. Where were you when you heard about JFK? What were you doing when the Berlin Wall fell? Who were you talking to when the Towers collapsed?

Where were you and who were you with when DOMA died and Proposition 8 choked?

In a week where there were more sad panda moments than happy llama moments (and one very stressed wallaby), DOMA's death served as an excellent reminder of the proverbial silver lining.

After a dinner at a microbrewery near Gwangalli beach, my friends and I snagged a beer and settled in the sand for conversations steeped in salt water. I checked the time on my phone, and it buzzed with breaking news from The Washington Post concerning DOMA. The link didn't open and all I read before the screen went blank was 'Superme Court Ruling on DOMA is...' I speedy thumbed my way to the BBC news site and got very quiet.

Quiet Katie can mean one of two things: I am so happy that I have no words, or I am so angry that I cannot even engage in conversation. Without acknowledging the fact that M was in the middle of a story, I whispered, "Hey, guys. I can get married. To whomever I want. DOMA is gone."

My friends had the response I should have had. M screamed a scream that only the oppressed have known. An unadulterated sound of humanity finally getting their shit together. She folded me in a hug, "Yes! We can get married! Not to each other, though. That would be weird."

Immediately, I checked Facebook to send a message to the most amazing man I know, T. He helped me and so many others in their coming out process. He had already posted, and I made sure that he knew how important he is to me and our community.

I put my phone away again, and spent some time being an introvert. The Diamond Bridge's lights slinked through the hazy clouds. Thoughts slid through my mind, some good, some bad, most apathetic. I went to bed that night as an equal in the eyes of American law.

Now, I am just a kid with an oversized ego, writing as if I know everything there is to know. I mean, I was a literature major with a minor in pretension and douchebaggery.

With that being said, I will continue pompously shouting from my soap box.

I would have given anything to have been in Minneapolis, Boston, New York when this news broke. But, I wasn't. I was here, in South Korea, where oppression based on sexual orientation still happens. The dichotomy of "pants vs. pumps" lesbians consistently astounds me. You can be masculine or feminine, but never, ever both. But, I am neither pants nor pumps. I claim androgyny. I identify my sexuality as something more than boat shoes or mini-skirts. I love whom I love based on many things other than gender and appearance.

Because of that, I feel a need to be present in the gay community here. There are thousands of people here repressing a very central part of their identity because they were taught it isn't right. There are thousands others living a secret life, sequestered from main stream society. I want to show this community that it is okay to love whomever you want. I understand that I am more liberal than not, and the rules of the west are very different from the rules of the east. I respect it. But, there is a very severe need for change. In terms of sexual equality, South Korea is about where the States were in the fifties. However, they progress with a remarkable rate.

I want to be a part of this progression. I want to spread my idealism, my hope, my passion for equity. I want to tell my student who wrote a pro-gay marriage newspaper article that I am proud of her, and that she is so brave to address this in such a public forum. Instead, I have to check grammar and leave my ideas of subject matter out.

I want to be a part of something bigger. I wasn't able to be this voice of equality while a leader in my college. I was too afraid being gay would taint my image, my job security, my life that I had created.  I cannot begin to write about how influential T was in the LGBT community at St. Norbert College. He is a hero and paved the way for so many young men and women.

Lucky me, I get a redo- a chance to show people (foreigners and Koreans alike) that there is nothing inherently wrong with gay people. That being gay is just a facet of who I am. I am a better teacher, daughter, sister, friend, writer than a lesbian. I mean, I just started watching 'The L Word' for goodness sake. Stereotype? Too soon?

At any rate, I am not so naïve to think that the death of DOMA is the 'be all end all' of orientation discrimination. It doesn't abolish the crimes still happening against gay men and women around the world. It really just protect same-sex couples already married in states where it is legal. However, it is a huge, giant leap for America to recognize the legality of same-sex marriage. I do not need a piece of paper to legitimize my love for another human. But, I do want to hold my lover's hand while we watch our children graduate high school, while they marry the loves of their lives, and- in the final moments- in a hospital promising her that everything was perfect, and I will see her real soon.

Steps down from soap box, dusts off vest, re-velcros Tevas, and leaves you to your peace.

Monday, June 17, 2013

So, I haven't written in a while

I have no excuses but this: I have been devouring the Game of Thrones series, and I tend to adapt my writing style and subject to the author I currently read. I don't particularly wish to write like Brotimes Martin--mostly, because I don't want to write about gratuitous saucy time when I know my mother reads this.

Alright, so I wrote this poem a while back. The cast of the Vagina Monologues did a photo shoot in March, and my friend asked me about my photo. I told him that we had to dress like our Vagina Warrior. He asked what that meant, and I honestly had no response for him. So, as I am wont to do, I sat down with some Sara Bareilles and wrote out exactly who my Vagina Warrior is, and how I allow her to participate in this absurd life that I call my own. I have a recording of me performing it, but my delivery could use a little work. Perhaps, I will work on that.

Anyway, I hope that you enjoy it.

sea glass

My vagina warrior lived inside of me
pressed down and sodden
like the dregs of yesterday’s coffee grounds.

On a ship in a glass bottle,
I admired her—
             A piece of decoration.

The beliefs of not good
             enough
                                        and
not beautiful
             enough
chain her to the mast,
splayed her, restrained her
in a way that rendered her
             helpless
             defenseless     and
             naked
to the onslaught of
wave after wave of perfection—
             perception.

She will never be
             tall.
She will never be
             thin.
She will never be
             beautiful.

My vagina warrior fought these
             shackles.
She rallied the
             force of her arms,
the
             power of her legs
and the cuffs opened
not with a
             Click,
but with the
             Unadulterated
             Wild
sound of the oppressed.

Enough

The sonic sound shattered the glass.

She refused my
             submissions
my
             control
my
             standards.

She defied definition.
She created discomfort
to make me feel.
             something      anything

She turned to me,
not with rage
but with
             pity--
because I’d kowtowed to
rules     and     opinions    and
             external pressures
changed my self to fit into
society’s
glass bottle—broken
though it may be—
with its missing pieces
and jagged edges
meant to cut me
and keep me from feeling
             whole.
Its shards scattered among the
rubble.
There is no way to glue it back together—
             whole

My vagina warrior stepped inside of
me,
kissed my edges smooth,
and together we became
             sea glass,
living wholly and beautifully as
             One.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

So, that just happened

Settle into a cozy armchair with a nightcap or a slightly less comfortable, albeit more practical desk chair with a mimosa. Or, frankly, do whatever you want. But, it will be infinitely better with a drink of some sort. If you are one of those people who are better than me, rife with morals and what not, good on you! You can drink some orange juice or coffee.

Anyway, tangent. Didn’t mean to be so bossy. You can read this post however you want.
 
Imma fill you in on the past twenty four hours of this roller coaster I call my existence. I have been told I am a terrible story teller in that I start at one end and forget to get to the point in a timely manner. But, I will try really hard this time.
 
Here we go. Whee!
 
Every Wednesday night, I have Girl’s Night with a stone-cold pack of weirdos. Yesterday, it was about 5 pm and The Girls still hadn’t figured out what we were going to do, where we were going to go, or what mischief we would find. We knew it had to be epic, because one of them is leaving next week. Big giant sad panda.
 
So, we decided on going to the best Mexican restaurant in Busan. Our meeting time was 8:34. No joke. I left my apartment in plenty of time to get there. However, as I was walking towards the subway, my Hal-mo-ni (grandmother) friend dropped her bags in surprise, stopped me, and folded me into one of the best hugs ever. She reached into her grocery bag, took out one yoghurt, and gave the other four to me. She said, “Gift to you and friends.” Then, we spent the next ten minutes exchanging information. The majority of that time, she distinguished baek-chil-ho (107) and cheon-chil-ho (1007) as my apartment number. She was very specific that I needed to know “CHEON-CHEON- CHEON-CHIL-HO! One-thousand-seven.” As we said goodbye, she hugged me again, held me at arms’ length and said, “I love you. You need grandmother in Korea? Me. I love you.” And, she kissed me on the cheek.
 
Elated, I bounced towards the subway blown away by the phenomenal kindness of strangers here. This is my life, my reality. I still don’t understand how I am not living a storybook. I sent my friends a message that read, “I have the best excuse for my tardiness ever.”
 
I arrived at the restaurant, and my friends shook their heads around the restaurant like abandoned puppies.
 
“We can only sit outside. There is no room…”
 
I decided, “Whelp, it is a warm night. And, wine will keep us warm. Let’s just sit outside.”
 
Let me just explain one thing. In this group of women, not a single one of us is quiet. We all like to talk, preferably all at the same time. CVK put it very succinctly to the newcomers of the group, “I am pretty sure that thirty stories start on Girl’s Night, and maybe three finish. I am being generous with three.”
 
After we finished three bottles of wine, and we were at that point of not-quite-tipsy but doing alright. I was antsy to move to our secondary location, an apartment party with wine and laughter flowing equally.  Then, it happened.
 
About eight men (two foreigners, six Koreans) in power suits and fancy cars pulled up to the restaurant.
1. This restaurant is in a creepy back alley far away from any sort of crowd.
2. None of us were dressed to match them.
3. We had just enough wine to make us sassy.
 
K, our fearless leader with a coy smile, cooed, “Oh, so glad you could make it. We have been waiting to see who could sit inside while we froze out here.” Some time passed, and the men attempted to open the glass door separating the restaurant from the porch.

Finally, they figured it out, and handed us a bottle of 12 year Glenlivet whisky. Now, this is not an everyday occurrence. We profusely thanked them, and then to be kind, we asked, “What are you doing here?”

“Oh, he is the CEO of Glenlivet Company in Asia, and we hope to promote whisky in Busan.”
 
Wow. Really? Holy Moly. We continued to talk to the gentlemen for some time. Then, K filled the glasses with ice, while I poured the whisky. Bitches get shit done, amirite?

I gave one to my friend, and she didn’t know what to do with it. I told her to swirl it just a little. She spun her wrist like a top. Bossily, I attacked, “Whoa! What are you doing?! Slowly! Just enough for the flavor to melt a little.”

The CEO looked at me and said, “You need to come and work for me. It is clear that you love whisky. Come, please, and teach people how to drink it. We are promoting both Jameson and Glenlivet in Busan soon. You can have your pick.”

Now, I don’t know if you believe in the afterlife, but I am pretty sure that sounds a lot (or alot) like heaven. I graciously thanked him for his offer, and continued pouring the spirits.

After that first bottle cracked open, the night so very quickly degenerated. The fancy men left us with their business cards and our hopes floating in a bottle.

And, the table across the porch were celebrating a proposal. We joined their party and had him re-propose to his fiancée, complete with us singing BoyzIIMen as the background music. He was from Connecticut; it was fine.

Then, I posted this photo onto the facebooks with the caption: “What did you do tonight? Meet the CEO of Glenlivet Whisky? Get offered a job at the new branch opening in Busan? No? Just me...oh, cool.”

The most poignant comment on this absurdly long thread was this: “Dude, always take the dream job... That way there are no what ifs.”

I thought about this for a moment. I realized that I already have my dream job. Right now, I get to teach my own curriculum to a group of creative and inspiring young women who care about things. I help them learn my mother tongue. I watch them play and create and succeed. I see that moment when confusion becomes understanding. And, I don’t care how much free Glenlivet I could drink, it isn’t worth giving up these little moments of perfection. I trudged into class today, far more fragile than I should have been, and my students surprised me, reminding me exactly why I became a teacher. There are no what-ifs. I know I am doing precisely what I am meant to do.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

So, I hitched a ride



As I started my trek down the mountain, I looked forward to the new path I planned to explore. I have been working at my school near a month and have not taken the same route down to the city twice. 
 
But, amidst my reverie, a car pulls up next to me (a science teacher whom I had never properly met) asked, "Deokcheon Yeok?" (Deokcheon Subway Stop?). Grateful for a ride and shelving adventure, I clambered into the back seat of her car.

An overwhelming smell of Buick LeSabre and nostalgia bathed me. Holy Homesick Batman. That poignant, now familiar, stab of pain does not hurt less the longer you are gone. In fact, it twists into many forms affecting many thought paths and overwhelms me.

This particular monster was one with which I have often battled but never beaten. That smell shot me through the space-time continuum to a time when my grandmother was alive and life was easy. It smelled of leather and love, poppies and stubbornness. And, in that moment, I remembered not saying goodbye to her. I remembered receiving that call from Dad on the snowy Monday night of finals. He said, "Don't worry. This will pass." Then, it didn't. In a stranger's car, a million miles and just as many moons later, this monster pierced a claw through the toughened layers in which I've swathed my heart opening gates I did not know existed.

Another monster, one with two faces, switches her tail in anxious anticipation. My oldest friend, my Piglet, will birth a child at any moment. This monster curls round my neck and coos in one ear an unadulterated excitement for new life. I love this child with wild abandon. Alternately, monster scrapes her tail on my other ear reminding me I will be oceans away from meeting this child not minutes—a tease of immeasurable pain and excitement.

However, the most difficult monster I perceive is subtle. Her lavender- blue scales meld with my early morning ocean exterior. The calm sunrise before the tide ravages the shore. It is this monster who reminisces of maternal touch. All I want in this moment is to hug the woman who gave me life. To hold her close to me. To breathe in her essence. To feel what she feels. This monster lives inside of me. Completely fortified against external comfort and help. I trap this monster within because if I let her out, I will lose the necessary connection the tethers my soul to a point in the atmosphere exactly midway between here and her. A constant battle of where I am going and where I am from.

I exited the car, breathed in my reality—the magnificence of the mountains, the sweetness of the sea, the place where my heart also calls home—and strolled through the underground being exactly where I needed to be.