Tuesday, March 12, 2013

So, this is more or less a first world problem

Once upon a time Been there. Done that.

In a galaxy far away Inaccurate. It happened right here.

So, You already have a start like that at the top of the page, dummy.

*Kat(i)e gets up, goes to the coffee machine, realizes she’s already had three cups today, decides on tea, sits back down, checks social media, thinks about Rufio, smiles, then looks back at the more or less empty word document open in front of her.*

Welcome to the inside of my brain. Home Bestie, WL is sending me a shirt that describes my exact sentiment of writing procrastination. Hope it is winging its way over here, Buster. I need it. My muse, Geof, is taking a hiatus. I need some good substitutes. I have several offers; I just need to pick one. Probably gonna be Anton Ego, circa Ratatouille. BUT STILL SEND THE SHIRT. (Those are not angry capslock, or even bossy capslock, but I CAN’T WAIT FOR A NEW V-NECK T-SHIRT AND OTHER SUPPLIES TO COME capslock.)

Right, anyway. In July, I had a very serendipitous meeting with a woman. We’ll call her J. You can read about how I traded trousers with her on the night that I ripped mine to high heaven in a dance-off of epic proportions here. Anyway, throughout the past several months, she and I have had snippets of conversation and well wishes; I have threatened to steal her dog on more than one occasion. Whatever, you would, too. He is delightful, and inappropriately adorable.

Anyway, the other day, while I was walking out of the subway, trying to maintain several conversations (one of which was with J) on several different mediums (skype message, facebook messanger, and kakao), she very rightly typed, “It seems as though you’re distracted. I am going to let you be present in your moment.”

I read that, and several emotions washed over me.

1. Catholic Guilt—Oh, crap, how did she find me out? I was not able to uphold a conversation with her because I was too busy with other things. Ahhhhhhhh, I need to go to confession. Don’t worry, J, I really needed to be reminded of that.

2. Confusion—When did I become the person who is always on her cell phone? Uh oh, have I made the switch to being Korean so subtly that it snuck up on even me?!

3. Recognition—I have become that person, and I really need to stop.

So, with that in mind, I made a Lenten promise. I know, I know. I am not Roman Catholic anymore, but if I don’t do something for Lent, I feel like a bad person (Re: Catholic Guilt—see number 1). I promised myself that I would do my best to be more present in my life.

I mean, here I am talking about how technology distracts us…while sitting at a computer, phone in front of me, iPod blaring, nook flashing “low battery,” binders hastily scootched over to the side of my desk, messy and forgotten, but very, very real.

In this moment, I would like to dissect my reality. I live in a country a bajillion miles away from the farmer’s markets, The Steaming Cup, and Sprizzo’s of home. I live amidst temples, Twosome Places, and Angels-in-Us’s. I have way more technology than necessary. Before I came to Korea, I had just upgraded my dumb phone—opposite of smart phone—to one with a keyboard for the texting. Now, I have the interwebs, multiple social mediums, and seriously THOUSANDS of games on several devices. What am I doing with my life?

I reflected on the very intentional words of my friend, J. Be present. Be in the moment of your reality. Turn off your electronics and just exist.

It is terrifying at first. You will feel naked (unless you actually are naked, in which case, kudos). You will feel anxiety. You will have FOMO (fear of missing out) of what’s happening on facebook. But, what you will experience is the melody of the rain on your roof, the purr of your kitten, the gentle breath of your loved ones. You will experience the smiles of your co-workers, the grandmotherly touch of the ajjumma on the subway who holds your hand, the simple bows and head nods of strangers on the street.

When you get home tonight, seriously try this, turn everything off—lights, computers, televisions, phones, and iDevices. Lay in your bed or on your couch. And, listen to the world around you. What does it sound like?  What does it smell like? What does it taste like?

Frankly, what I choose to do in this world is more or less irrelevant to the universe. But, if I choose to be present in all that I do, I know for certain that my world will be a better place.





Sunday, March 3, 2013

So, today is the first day of school

Right now, I am a jittery ball of nerves. Tough to believe how two cups of coffee and a long commute can completely shatter the cool demeanor I normally possess. 

The first day of school always held a piece of magic. The smell of fresh notebooks and shaved pencils mixed with Dr. Pepper Lipsmackers created something unequivocally beautiful. Everything was color coded to perfection, the ruler and protractor snuggled with the dictionary and homemade lunch that my mother so carefully packed—peanut butter and jelly, one apple, seven carrots, and a love note.  

Last year, I strutted into Centum High School cradled by naïveté and wide-eyed wonder. I had left everyone who loved me, and came to a place where I knew no one, and I was terrified. I made up for it in needless vibrato and a desperate need to fit into this society.  

Conversely, today I ambled up the mountainside to Kyung Hae Girl’s High School wrapped in thoughts and fleece. I turned when students cried, “Seon Saeng Nim!” (Teacher!). I smiled, gave a half wave, and continued my journey. I sat down at my desk, void of color coding or the pretention that chased me in my formative years. This past year, I have lost all sense of trying to be someone or something I am not to fit into another person’s mold of who they think I should be. 

This morning, I relished in the First Day of School Ceremony. It is incredible to see hundreds of young women standing in ridiculously straight lines singing their national anthem. Their voices rang with pride and shyness, excitement and nerves all at one time. 

I am so excited to teach these young women. I loved my boys at Centum, and there are so many of them whom I will never forget. However, I am thrilled to teach women. I cannot wait to help them grow into themselves. Perhaps, I am overreaching. Perhaps I have unreasonably high expectations. But, I know that I can teach these young women more about life than English.

I want to teach them independence. I want to teach them critical thinking. I want to teach them that they do not have to adhere to stereotypes set for them. Don’t worry, Mom and Dad, I will do so in subtle ways. I am not going to go in there willy nilly with complete disregard to their culture. But, I will teach by example. I will teach them to ask me, why. Ask me, how? Ask me, when? Ask me.

Today is the first day of school. I am wearing last year’s clothes. My bag holds Bananagrams and games rather than binders. My desk is barren. But, there is still crackles of magic popping everywhere I go, resounding with everything I do. I know that very good things are going to happen here at Kyung Hae, and I cannot wait to be a part of them.