Friday, February 21, 2014

So, it is my two year anniversary week

Whelp, as the two year anniversary in the Land of the Morning Calm, approached, I really lived it up whilst Rufio cuddled me and watched my three favorite Emma's: Watson, Stone, and Lea Seydoux. I have learned and observed a few things in my time abroad, and I would like to share some with you.

1. Do not rise the challenge of a Korean saying she can drink Soju, Maek-ju, and Cider faster than you. Yes, you may win the challenge, but you will lose your pride when you wake up on a beach with a bottle of maekgeolli in your left hand and a peanut butter banana sandwich in your right.*

2. Personal space and privacy do not exist as evidenced by:
     a. Spontaneous hand holding with ajjumas on the subway
     b. A week ago, I heard a noise outside the bathroom door whilst showering. Thinking it was a mischievous 
Rufio, I opened the door to see my landlord's wife who had used her key and opened my door to show the apartment to a prospective tenant.

3. Rome wasn't built in a day, but whole buildings have been torn down, cleared out, and rebuilt in a matter of  hours. So, basically, Rome needs to get it together.

4. There is exactly one beach in Busan where you can go into the ocean past your kneecaps. However, I have never seen more people (children AND adults) in full on buoyancy apparel.

5. 24 hour convenience stores are EVERYWHERE. They are so handy for a midnight snack of kimbap or a 7 am banana milk.

6. I have learned that there is at least one other person in the city who shares any interest you may have. Spoken Word poetry? Yep. Ultimate frisbee? Definitely. A woman dressing as a man dressing as a woman? I have photos.

7. Your mom does not clean out your cat litter box, so you need to deal with that shit yourself. Which, I also think is a kind of a life metaphor.

8. Eight is my lucky number. It has been my lucky number since I was eight years old. It is also an infinity sign on its side, so that is neat. This is not a Korea observation, just a Katie observation. Both start with K, so I think we are twins.

9. Cheesy pajeon (savory kimchi pancake) and makgeolli almost always ends in fantastic memories, or sometimes it is a disaster. It is a flip of the coin, really. Just be aware.

10. Batting cages for 50 cents (or a dollar at the fancy places) is always worth it. Going with pros or n00bs, westerners or Koreans, hitting balls will solve all problems you may be having. If one problem is particularly stubborn, gamjatang (delicious pork soup) will fix it right up.

Now, I must go get my clothes off of the roof, where I used a clothesline for the first time in my life. I literally clothelined myself whilst hanging them. Rookie mistake. Hopefully, I will have wised up. Then, I'm heading to dinner to meet my very first Korea friend to celebrate our two year anniversary.

Adventure's awaiting.

*It happened at a beach Ultimate tournament. This fact, however, makes it no less embarrassing. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

So, I’ve not yet donned pants today…

…in neither the British nor the US English connotation of the word. (17:30)

It very well could have stayed that way, yet a friend knuckled me into getting Gamjatang with her at 20:00. By knuckled, I mean, she politely invited me, and I acquiesced.

Regardless, I had a lot of time to think today about the idea of Valentine’s Day. What it means to me; what it means to my friends; what it means to society.

It seems to me (according to my brief and unfocused analysis of Facebook), that there are two types of people. Those who are so incredibly ecstatically in love that they want to share it with everyone. And, there are those who are in a different camp of apathy or cynicism. And, to be honest, both are a-okay. As a closeted (not-so-closeted) romantic, I love it when my friends share their happiness.  We encounter enough negativity in the world that wee rays of love are a refreshing reminder of the things that are good in the world. I also can understand the need for friends showing independence of “I don’t need a partner; I got my own life.” These posts highlight the necessity of knowing your own person. Both are okay, and because you are in one mindset, it doesn’t make it the better place; it just makes it yours. There are two things I would like to address this Valentine’s Day. The first being the idea of radical self love. The second is spending quality time with those about whom you care.

So, radical self love, what does that even mean? It means loving yourself in spite of all of your flaws. This is something with which I personally struggle. All.the.time. “Well, Botsford, if you aren’t self-aware enough to have your life together, who do you think you are giving me advice?” Wow, what an excellent question from the back row. Life is a learning curve. Sometimes, it is steep. Sometimes, it is meandering. But, we are always learning about ourselves. The moment you stop working towards being a better person, you’ve lost.

It is imperative to love yourself, which is sometimes difficult to do when you’re mouth breathing through a retainer, wearing pirate socks and mismatched pajamas (totally hypothetical; my pajamas always match). But, it is so important to know things about yourself that make you genuinely, intrinsically happy. If you are constantly searching for external affirmation (Katie Botsford), you will find it uncomfortable to create internal happiness and a sense of independence. Now, you can sometimes achieve that with a partner if he or she (or they or ir) chooses to work through it with you. However, that is a lot of pressure to put on another human, so make sure you communicate your needs to your partner.  You will continue to learn and grow whilst in the midst of relationship (see above: life=learning curve). I promise.

Sometimes, looking in the mirror and appreciating what you see  (physically, emotionally, mentally) is hard. Sometimes, it is easy. But, it is always necessary.

The other thing I would like to stress this Valentine’s Day is the gift of your presence. It doesn’t matter if you are with your significant other, not-so-significant other, family, friends, or even by yourself. Exist within the moment. Put your phones and iPods away. Turn off the television. Spend quality time with the person/people in the room. Have a meaningful conversation. We are so wrapped up in the immediacy of this technological age; everything has to happen NOW. I need the updates NOW. I want to know what ________ is doing NOW. Chill out, bro. The internet will still be there in a few hours. 

Tonight, I had dinner with several people who are incredibly important to me. Afterwards, the four of us split up and two of us went home to have tea. For the first time in quite a while, I had a real conversation. Neither of us rushed to get the latest Facebook update or text our other friends (we DID send an important photo to one of our mutual friends). If you find yourself alone this evening, spend time exploring yourself or dreaming of a future adventure. Take time to be present with yourself.

Whatever you are doing tonight, be an active participant. Choose to make this a positive Valentine’s Day. If you are ecstatically happy within your relationship, run amok with fireflies in your wake. If you’re in the deepest, darkest forest of fear or anxiety, just try to find one firefly; cup it in your hand, and allow it to light a path.  

Wherever you are in your life, have peace, friend. Goodnight.   

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

So, sometimes it seems the universe wants to be noticed*

It wants to be noticed because it “enjoys its elegance being observed” (Green 138). I think that is what John Green calls us to see in his novel, The Fault in Our Stars. I’ve just finished re-reading it, and it has put several existential queries into my brain space. I promise, this won’t be a blog post determining if the work of Sisyphus matters. But, it will be an invitation to mull over some big ideas we’re often too scared to consider.

Green writes “the universe wants to be noticed” (138). He asks the reader to observe not only the small things (e.g. the rings on a tree cut down too early) but also the unimaginable, the unattainable (e.g. tasting the stars, catching the sunlight). Too often, and too easily, the world jumbles together into a series of undefined moments vaguely remembered or forgotten.

For example, in one of my classes, I have a student who cannot communicate her thoughts in English. Because of some developmental delays, she cannot understand the spoken language, either. However, as we watched the film “Frozen” in class, I watched her move her lips to the English words on the screen whenever a song played. It was like watching a newborn tongue her first words, making innocent, yet eloquent mistakes. In that moment, I noticed the universe. This small elegant act meant nothing to anyone else in the room; she possibly didn’t even realize what she was doing. But, for me, it broke open a huge realization. All I try to do is stumble through this unknown forming thoughts of which I do not always know the exact meaning.

But, I don’t have to know. I just have to notice.

I know that as I accumulate more years and more experience, this memory will fade, and the only recollection will be this post. And, that's fine. Because each day the universe reveals herself in a new way. This morning, my middle aged, male co-worker commented, “Kathryn, you have a splendid hair band today” revealing that I matter in some small way to him (knowledge previously unbeknownst to me). And, tomorrow, I will uncover something else.

I am not saying one should remember everything or commemorate every moment in words or photographs. I am saying that despite our inevitably failing encoding, storage, and retrieval of memories, to have them—to notice the universe. Question the shadows that play puppets on your picnic blanket. Create constellations that make sense to you. Swing on a swing knowing that “no matter how hard you kick, no matter how high you get, you can’t go all the way around” (81).

Green, John. The Fault in Our Stars. Dutton Books. New York. 2012. 

*This title (minus So,) comes directly from The Fault in Our Stars (138)

Sunday, February 2, 2014

So, home is more of an idea than a place

Well, folks. I am writing to you from Korea. I just spent a phenomenal time home full of friends and family. I know I didn't get to see everyone that I wanted, and I am really sorry. 

The question that most people asked me when I saw them was, "when are you coming home?" However, the second most frequent question was, "when are you going home?" And, this separation really troubled me. People use the same word to describe vastly different parts of the wold, both of which, however, reside in me. I know I talk about home all the time on here, and I can imagine you folks throwing popcorn at the computer screen yelling, "Oh Jeebus, kid, get over it." 

This is the hardest thing for me. I cannot get over it. Believe me; I have tried. I am so blessed to have the people I have in my life. Every moment I spent in Wisconsin with my family and friends, I was reminded of the life I could have, if I had chosen it. But, then I went to pick-up tonight, and a dear friend folded me into a hug that reminded me that Korea is my home, too. 

In the past two years, I've grown a Korea family. It started in the roots of having the shared immediate experience of being ex-pats in the same place at the same time. With dinners, drinks, and conversation, I have watered my relationships, and they have grown into stout trunks and strong branches that hold the tree houses of our adventures. Yes, there are storms that may shake us up a bit. But I know that through everything, my Korea family will support me exactly when I need it. 

Of course this doesn't negate the relationships I have in Wisconsin and scattered about the globe, and I promise to nurture those more diligently than my first two years. Right now, I feel like my heart is somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with both lives vying for my full attention. In this past month--and with encouragement from one of the wisest humans I know--I have tried to change my perspective. Instead of seeing that pulling back and forth as a game of tug of war, I am allowing both sides to pull at the same time and have a rope that supports: a tightrope of emotions. 

Right now, it is reaching 2200, and I am running on fumes and struggling with jet lag something fierce. So, if none of this makes sense, it is because I wrote it pretty haphazardly and didn't really focus as much on my writing this week as I usually do. Next week, I will do better. 

Peace, love, and polar bears,