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.