Sunday, August 23, 2015

Permission Slip

Tomorrow, Jeremy and I are leaving Korea. It's been a lovely two years and it's time to move onto other things. Don't ask me what other things (oh please, oh please don't ask me)I have no idea. It's just time. So here we go.

And we're embarking on a month-long vacation through China, Thailand, Cambodia, and Indonesia.
By plane.
And train.
And boat.
And bus.
By ourselves.
Without adult supervision.

Is this allowed?

I still feel like--in moments like this--I need a permission slip from my parents to do things we're doing.

Not because we're doing anything scandalous.
Not because my parents were unnecessarily protective.
But because time and time again, I forget that I'm 27 years-old.
That I'm the adult now.
And sometimes it's terrifying.

Because I grew up with the sense that I could never get into too much trouble, because there was always someone close-by to help me out: a parent, a teacher, a pastor, a mentor, or a counselor. And how blessed I've been to have people like that supporting me along the way. And it's not as though they all dropped off the map, but I suppose, I just needed them less and they gave me room to explore.

But now that I've explored myself to the other side of the world where there are
different languages
and culture
and currencies
and airline miles
and health insurance
and marriage
and visa renewals
and mammograms
and credit cards,
I just want to announce myself as the fraud that I am:

I'm not a real adult!
I'm just pretending to be one.

And it's like I'm waiting for someone else to give me permission.
That it's okay to make these hard, day-to-day decisions.
When really, this is it.
This is all the permission I need.

Go, child.

That last one is my favorite:

"Dear 91 year-old, Don't listen to other people's advice. Nobody knows what the hell they're doin'."

When my parents were 27, they didn't know what they were doing either. That's comforting.
We're all just doing the best we can.

Grace for each other.
Grace for ourselves.


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

730 Days in Korea

Today is our two-year Korean anniversary.

It's been 730 days on this wild adventure living abroad. You'd think I'd have conquered some of my anxiety.And yet, somehow--some way--I feel just as anxious as I was on day one in Korea. The first night we arrived here, I had a panic attack (and wrote about it):

"That something sitting on my chest was fear.
Feat that we've made a huge mistake.
Fear that I haven't changed.
Fear that I just can't handle world travel.
Fear that something awful will happen to those we love at home.
Fear that history will repeat itself."

And I felt similarly this morning the second I opened my eyes.
Like there's something that is waiting to fall.
Like I need to keep checking my pulse.
Like I'm carrying bricks on my heart.
Like I'm about to collapse.
Like there's too many loose ends.
Pay the last bills.
Close the bank accounts.
Cancel the cell phones.
Cancel the Internet.
Say "Goodbye."
Sell that thing.
Find that thing.
Double-check that thing.
Pack up everything we own.

But if there's anything to be learned from our fears--and certainly anything to be gained from writing them down--it's this: 
none of the things I feared two years ago actually happened.

We didn't make a huge mistake.
have changed for the better.
can handle world travel.
Nothing awful happened to those we love at home.
History did not repeat itself.

And so, I think I am allowed to have peace about our future because the past two years have been great.

Here we are on our flight to Korea in August 2013:

And here we are in Seoul our first week:

And then, we started teaching English:

And meeting co-workers:

And making friends:

We visited Cambodia and Vietnam:

We went climbing:

We celebrated our second year of marriage:

We got muddy:

My parents came to visit:

We started an Ultimate Frisbee team: The Cheongju Chewbaccas!

We battled winter. And won:

We went to a Buddhist temple stay:

We went to Japan:

We played Frisbee with good people all over Korea:

We celebrated our third year of marriage:

And here we are now:

What a ride it has been!

We've been married longer in Korea than we have been married in America. So we've had to navigate a lot of things on our own. And I say we've done...swimmingly!

We've lived in two apartments.
Taught at four different schools.
Visited five countries.
Learned about ourselves.
Learned some how to read, write, and (kind of) speak Korean.
Learned about another culture.
Made friends from all over the world.
And paid off $40,000 of our student loan debt!

And so, NOW, looking forward at the next 30 days, 13 plane rides, and 7 countries,
here's what I know for sure:

-I don't have to do this alone, that's why I got married!

-Jeremy is a trustworthy friend and one I am lucky to have.

-We will figure this out one day at a time.

-We will get lost.

-We will be confused.

-We will disagree.

-But eventually, we'll be on the other side of this grand adventure and be grateful that we had the opportunity to take it.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Riding This Wave

Rob Bell speaks a lot of truth. Period.
But lately, I've been inspired and moved by his podcast: The Robcast.

In this quote he's talking about trials. And how the best way we can see struggle is as a temporary thing that will pass, like a wave. And we can say to ourselves, "This is a wave."

"Waves come and then, they go.
Waves move through water.
Essentially all of nature is wave.
Back and forth.
Push and pull.
Death and rebirth.
Fall and spring.
Living and dying.
It's all kind of wave isn't it?

"There is an impermanence to everything.
It rolls it comes around.
And then, it keeps going.

"This moment is not all moments."

The wave thing works for me.
Because lately I've been thinking, "This moment will be forever!!!"

Which is neither true, nor accurate.
But the worrier-in-me does her job and I start thinking too much about "What if?"s (which if you think about it are just about the most boring, yet tantalizing questions ever).

We can't answer "What if?" questions.
We can only answer "What now?" questions.

Korea has been a wave in our marriage.
Granted it's been 2-of-our-3-years-of-marriage-wave.
But still.

This will not be our forever story.
And at this point, with two weeks left in Korea.
I couldn't be more grateful that it's almost time to go home.
I'm ready to go home.
To find our "normal" on the other side of the world.

But in the meantime, to shake up our wide open days of summer vacation, we made this cute little music video. Because, you know, why not?

Sweeter Than This
by Katie Herzig

Life is boxes in back of our car,
Driving around with the dreams in a jar
And it's all right here
I'll feed you ramen and you'll braid my hair
Anything goes when you don't even care,
When you're this far in love
If it gets any sweeter than this,
I don't wanna know
I don't wanna know
I want a garden and you want a coke,
Living is simple when love isn't broke
You can fix anything, with a kiss
If it gets any sweeter than this,
I don't wanna know
If it gets any sweeter than this,
I don't wanna know
You read your book, baby I'll float away
Taking a nap on your lap in the shade,
I could hold your hand all day
If it gets any sweeter than this,
I don't wanna know
If it gets any sweeter than this,
I don't wanna know
If it gets any sweeter than this,
I don't wanna know
I don't wanna know
I don't wanna know

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Minji and the American Dream

Minji is in America now.

You don't know Minji, but I do. She's a Korean friend I made over here. She's kind and patient and did a lot these past two years to help me understand Korean culture and how to find my way in it. She's twenty-six. She's newly married. She's scared. She's seeking the American dream, but she's never been there before, so she has no idea what she's getting herself into.

Two months ago, she came to my office at school and told me the news. I didn't know whether to be overjoyed or terrified. She seemed to feel the same way. "Hayder," she says (because that's how she says my name), "how can I survive in America? I am just a small, Asian girl. Will they listen to me?"

We've met regularly for "American culture" lessons ever since. She has a lot of fears about not understanding and not being understood. She speaks good English, but it's not always perfect. Her fear is reasonable. She asked me things like, "What do I do if I see a gun?" and "What is the word 'deductible'?" and "Is Craigslist a safe place?"

Here are a few things we've covered:
-Americans are bigger.
-Americans are louder.
-Strangers may smile and make "small talk"
-Strangers may make eye contact even if they don't know you
-Americans prefer a large amount of personal space
-People may talk fast and get frustrated with your English ability
-Some will be patient
-Some will be rude and tell you "You're in America now..."
-American health insurance sucks, expect to pay triple what you're paying now
-Only go to the hospital if it's a serious emergency
-Do not go to the doctor for a cold
-Fear the "co-pay"...
-If you see someone carrying a gun, don't assume they want to do you harm
-But don't be too passive either
-If a police officer turns on his/her lights, you should slowly pull to the right side of the road
-Do not get out of your car and do not raise your voice or show frustration
-Servers at restaurants will expect a tip (15-20%), yes, that's in addition to the cost of food
-No one will judge you for wearing a tank top
-It's common and acceptable to buy things used
-Americans tend to be informal and it's okay to use a person's first name
-If you need something, it's okay to ask even if the person is your elder
-If don't get what you ordered at a restaurant, it's okay to mention it
-Men may talk to you or make comments about your body
-And there's absolutely nothing you can do about it
-It's okay to throw tissue paper in the toilet

I think we learn the most about our own culture, by seeing it in comparison to another. I wouldn't have known these specific tips to tell Mini before I lived in Korea. Because only now do I understand, how Koreans are really afraid of gun violence in America, how terrible our health insurance is, and how rarely get pulled over by cops (everything is done with cameras).

And I want to save her from fear and humiliation and misunderstandings and racism and swindlers and ignorance, but I can't. She will be taken advantage of. She will be misunderstood. She will be judged by the color of her skin and her English pronunciation and it absolutely breaks my heart.

Somewhere in America right now, there is a woman finding her way.
She's about 5 foot 5.
So keep an eye out for her, because she needs you.

But Minji's not the only one.
There are more people.
And they've come to our country with hope.
And they've come here legally (for whom that matters).
And they're lost.
And alone.
And just trying to find their way.
And they may not speak great English, but you don't know how long they've been in America.
Maybe it's their 1st day.
Maybe it's their 28th day.
So give 'em a break.

When you see an immigrant, please help them.
Be patient and kind.
Because I've been that "foreigner".
And maybe some day you will be that "foreigner" too.
When you're at the breaking point and you feel lost and misunderstood, the kindness of strangers in a foreign land is enough to give you a little more hope.

You'll never regret helping a fellow human being find their way "home."


My Kiddos Made a Movie

At the end of every semester in Korea, the public school teachers put on an English summer camp program. It can be a tricky task. Do you pick one theme and leave out kids who don't like it? Or do you do various activities every day and cover too much? I've experienced some of each in my three previous camps, so this year, I felt pretty confident with Story Camp.

The first week, we talked about the various elements of any story (character, setting, theme, etc.) and made our own movie. We picked characters, memorized lines, and made props.

The second week, each day we read a different story and identified that story's theme. So, for example, for The Tortoise and The Hare, we had relay races and other sport-related activities.

I'm super-pleased with how the movies turned out.

Here's the 3rd and 4th grade movie, where everyone wanted to act:

Here's the 5th and 6th grade movie, where suddenly nobody wanted to act: