Monday, October 6, 2014

It Is This

Being a foreigner in Korea gives me a lot of time. Time to observe. Time to learn. Time to think. And while I am not often alone in a city of 800,000 people, I very commonly feel like I am alone.

Like when I'm teaching an English class and see not one look of recognition. 
Of understanding. 
Of anything at all.

Like when I'm drinking tea with my co-workers and listening to them speak Korean.

Like when I'm walking in the hallways past hundreds of people every day.

Like when I'm riding my bike through a sea of strangers I can't easily communicate with.

Like when I catch the eye of a bewildered toddler who has never seen a foreigner. Ever. 

Like when I'm sitting in a coffee shop where there are eight different conversations happening, none of which I understand, so the room might as well be empty.

I can't even say I'm upset about this. I'm an introvert by nature, so being alone doesn't exactly break my heart. Being an observer in this world has shown me how unimportant it is to understand every bit of Korean that passes my ears. 

Life isn't about the words. 
Life is about the moments.

"Blackfoot warrior and orator Crowfoot said, 'What is life? It is the flash of fireflies in the night. It is the breath of the buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow that runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.' "

                                                                                           -From Body of Work by Pamela Slim

And, to Crowfoot, I would add:

What is life?

It is the old man crouching over his garden in the morning mist.

It is the steady pace of cars and people coming and going, going and coming.

It is the toothy grins of kindergartners when they say/sing, "Hello" and feel so proud of themselves.

It is the fumbling exchange of money for bananas at the street market.

It is the familiar embrace of lovers after a day spent apart.

It is the routines that root us: slice, saute, stir, steam, serve, savor.

It is the in and out of the breaths we breathe. The life we live. The things we see.

What is life?

It is this.

It is us.