Saturday, August 31, 2013

Puzzle-Putting-Together Champ!

Have you ever put together a one-billion piece puzzle?
That's what I'm trying to do here in Korea.

I'm trying desperately to piece this thing together. 
How do I say "I'm lost"? 
What clothing is appropriate for me to wear? 
Where can I buy ginger? 
How do I ask if something is gluten-free?
How do I get downtown?
Do Koreans wear wedding bands? 
Why did everyone just suddenly stand up? 
How do I fit in in a place that is so very different?

It's as if every day, I am handed ONE more piece of the puzzle. One more clue. But only one. At this point, I hold about 14 pieces in my hands. If we stayed for five years, we'd still only understand a minuscule part of all this. 

I'm not unique. This is what travel looks like. This is what "new" looks like. Whether "new" is Chicago or a new neighborhood or Korea. Putting this all together takes time. But my competitive-self says, "I'll bet I can put this thing together faster than anyone has before?!"

Every day after lunch, several of the teachers sit together in the break room and drink coffee. This has essentially turned into "Question and Answer Time with Heather." Either they ask me questions about America or (more likely) I ask tons of questions about Korea. They've been incredibly helpful. Gracious. So kind. On Thursday, one teacher said, "Slow down, Heather. You've only been here four days! These things will come with time."

Time? Time! Who has time?

And it was at this point that I realized I was asking for handfuls of puzzle pieces that I am probably not ready for yet. If they dropped all of their combined knowledge on me, I guarantee I would collapse under the weight of it all. But at this point, I feel like I am collapsing under the weight of all that I don't know.

It's hard to feel helpless. Unable to communicate. Unable to order food. Ask for directions. Say "I'm sorry." Feel at home. Which is funny because I'm pretty sure that upon applying for this experience, I understood that "home" was precisely the thing I was choosing to leave behind.

This process is supposed to be hard. It has to be.

So we're putting on our big girl and big boy pants.
We're giving ourselves grace.
We're leaning on each other.
We're taking it all in knowing that we don't need to understand it all.
We're courageously showing up and letting ourselves be seen.
We're celebrating small things.

We're taking it one puzzle piece at a time and doing our best to be satisfied with a picture that is never supposed to be complete.