368

I’m going to write this post as a day-by-day account of my training week, just to give you a taste of what’s been up since I’ve arrived.

I landed at Incheon on Sunday afternoon and, after a bus and taxi, arrived at the hotel around 7:30. I did not sleep at all on the plane because I am foolish. I was able to stay up for a bit, eat a cinnamon roll from SeaTac for dinner, and go to bed at 9:30.

Monday morning I was due to leave on a shuttle at 7:30 for a medical exam. It was incredibly comprehensive in that they tested really everything (and recorded my chest measurement because…?) but was also pretty cursory. From there, it was to the training center, an introduction and overview, then down to business. The format will be mock teaching in the mornings and prep in the afternoons. Back at the hotel, ate an actual dinner, still have homework. Super tired. I thought I was done with homework.

Tuesday. I’m feeling so much better about things than I was last night. This training really is pretty brutal but also they’re trying to make us into teachers in four and a half days. So. Anyway, we’re moving through material and learning stuff. Homework for tonight (and the rest of the week) besides prep is to watch videos of ourselves mocking and write up an evaluation. Joy of joys. Korean experience of the day, I rode the metro and got my metro card. I also saw Gangnam Square (with a statue commemorating the eponymous style) because the hotel we’re staying at is just outside the Gangnam metro stop.

So Wednesday held pretty much more of the same. I’m feeling more and more confident with the material so naturally I’m more and more nervous. How does that work? I had triangular kimbap today for lunch which was good. Have not done homework yet. We’ve spent this whole time preparing one lesson and now we have to do two for tomorrow morning. Cool cool cool. Also, it snowed a teensy bit this morning, but mostly rained. It’s cold, but not as cold.

And here we are on Thursday. I can write this at the end of the day because in seventeen hours ahead of Washington. I’m late enough that it’s your Thursday too, if only barely. So. Training is essentially over. We have an evaluation tomorrow morning then it’s off to the branch itself and, I’m pretty sure, moving into the apartment. This week has been pretty grueling and the with aspect has dragged on and on. But in other ways, this week has absolutely flown by. I hope I am a teacher now, I guess, because there’s nothing else. I’ve gotten my schedule, I’ve gotten my room number. On my next post, I will have had almost a full week of teaching. I just hope I’m ready. And that I survive.

There are 368 days until my contract ends so, barring some dismal failure or unforeseeable event, that is how long I will be in Korea. I say this not as though I’m counting the hours until I’m outta here, but because I know too well how short time truly can be. I still have no idea what I’m doing here (at this company, in this country, with life in general) but I want to count my days carefully. I don’t want to come to the end and find myself to have gained useful work experience but in every other way to have wasted a year. I want more than that out of this time.

If you’ll permit me another Harry Potter reference, I’ll direct you to Dumbledore’s directive to Harry upon giving him the cloak of invisibility. My time here is limited. I want to use it well.

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Quite Ready for Another Adventure

Last week, my post was quite late and for that I apologize. I’ll give you a bit of a run down on recent goings on and perhaps you’ll forgive me. Also, I know I’ve been slacking on the cat pictures, so I’ll remedy that as well.

I almost moved to Korea last Saturday because of a whole chain of events centering around the timing of my visa application. So last Thursday evening I drove up to Seattle so I could be at the consulate first thing in the morning if need be. Need wasn’t. So I drove home, made sure I was packed, and said a final few rushed goodbyes. Then, a little before I was going to go to bed, I got the email that said wait until Monday and, lo and behold, Monday was the day! I drove back to Seattle, turned in my application, and everything has fallen into line for me to go this Saturday. This is my last post from the US for a while. Hurray that things have figured themselves out.

And here I am, once again moving to a foreign country and writing a blog about it. Just before going to Ireland, I had just barely secured housing (that, in the event, wasn’t available for like a week so I lived in hostels…) and was extremely nervous about doing a graduate degree program. In this case, my housing is secured (though the first week I’ll be staying in a hotel, I don’t have to pay for it!). I’m extremely nervous about teaching but I expect I’ll get over it. I just hope it doesn’t involve the same agonies of ‘getting over’ my dissertation. Anyway.

Details: the first week is just intensive training while stationed at a hotel, then I begin teaching on the 27th. Also, how remiss of me, I’ve been placed. I’ll be teaching and living in Seodaemun-gu in the western part of Seoul. Is it odd that I’m sort of looking forward to my Facebook updates being tagged in Seoul?

One of my biggest worries, obviously, is what the cracker situation is going to be like. I’m still a little raw over losing Tesco and I’m just not sure that I can handle a dearth of solid crackers.

I say that partly because it’s true and partly to obscure the panic I’m feeling about leaving. Don’t worry, it’s nothing too crazy, just the standard feeling whenever I go somewhere. People have told me how cool it is that I’m grand just to go gallivanting around the world and I’m like, “Yeah except I feel every bit as awful about going as you do.” I guess the difference is that I go anyway. I don’t know. But I’m leaving on Saturday and that’s that. At this point, at least, I’m pretty good at knowing what I need to take and what I can do without. There’s a lot that I have and do without even though I have it; over the course of my trips it has become easier to just not bring it. So that’s nice, I’ve managed (with substantial help from my mother) to get everything into a large suitcase, my ‘luggage’ garment bag, and a carry-on suitcase. Which is good, especially since I probably will not easily find clothes once in Korea, seeing as I’m 6’2″ and wear size 12 shoes.

On a totally non-Korea related note, I finally watched The Giver this week. I had put it off on purpose because I assumed that it would be terrible, having so enjoyed the book. If you haven’t read it, can recommend, it was required reading in eighth grade. Anyway, I enjoyed the movie, definitely surpassed my expectations. I do not think that our current world is in particular danger of erring toward the dystopia depicted in the story, but all scenarios are worth remembering. Certainly, it’s been a long time since I read the book so I can’t say how closely the movie adheres or how my perception of the story has changed. A takeaway that I’m just now thinking of, at least in these words: ignorance is not bliss–ignorance removes the possibility of bliss by also removing the possibility of pain. We cannot choose, we must simply accept it all.

Also, a quick look at the cats before I leave them again : (

camaro2017-2-15

In her natural habitat. Can you spot her?

bubba2017-2-15

And him in his. Much easier to see.

General panic mode coupled with an intense distaste for doing things has made for an interesting last week, but I’m grateful I’ve had this week. And I’ll recover as I always do. For those of you who followed this blog while I was in Ireland, you already know about what to expect in terms of tales of my international exploits. For those of you who are new, prepare yourself. I don’t really… do things. Being abroad is enough for me.

Anyway, onward and upward. The road, I hear, goes ever on and on.

Not Elves Exactly

So you guys know that I don’t like choosing favorites for most things. You also know that I’m a poetry kind of guy. I really like poetry and I like a lot of poets but I am comfortable naming, like movies, a top three-in-no-particular-order. They are Edna St Vincent Millay, Emily Dickinson, and Robert Frost. This week, I’d like to talk about one particular poem by Mr Frost which, I think, will take little explanation to show relevance.

Before I reproduce the poem for you (published in 1914) I’d like to say a few further words. The sermon at my church this past Sunday told a section of the story of Elijah (which was cool, I was singing along the whole reading). One verse served as a major focal point– 1 Kings 18:21 which says, “Elijah went before the people and said, ‘How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.’ But the people said nothing.”

The people said nothing.

The poem is entitled simply Mending Wall. 

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbour know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
“Stay where you are until our backs are turned!”
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, “Good fences make good neighbours.”
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
“Why do they make good neighbours? Isn’t it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.” I could say “Elves” to him,
But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbours.”

It’s not elves, exactly, but something there is. Do you feel it? Walls are powerful things. They can protect, shelter, defend, separate, grow, crumble. To be clear, there are internal and metaphorical walls aplenty. But the US border wall is a childish fantasy of ineffective and harmful policy created and supported by cruel, ignorant, and short-sighted people. In no universe is it okay. I need not remind you of how Jesus defined ‘neighbor.’

The question presents itself: how do we act in such a way as to focus on the things we love and support while defeating the things we don’t? What actions can be taken? I think I’ve done a few, made calls, written some letters, signed a couple petitions, had important conversations. Beyond that, I’m not really sure what is accessible to me and others in a similar position. Something there is that lights candles rather than cursing darkness and all that, but it seems an elusive something loathe to give us any guidance.

So I’m just sitting here, preparing to leave the country, wondering. Hoping. Dreaming. Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, and it’s me.

But I’d rather you say it for yourselves.

Shi’ Ho’zho’ogo naasha’

So I spent most of this week in the American Southwest (particularly an area sometimes known as Oasisamerica, which is a fun term), visiting my sister. She is currently living in Ganado, Arizona, which is a difficult place to get to (you may recall her Christmastime difficulties). So we flew into Albuquerque, New Mexico, and drove three hours northwest. My time there was essentially spent in landscape viewing and game playing which is perfectly fine by me. I’ve included some pictures (bear in mind that I am no photographer) to give you a sense of what was up with the Southwest in winter.

Fun fact, the night we first arrived in Ganado, I went outside in the coldest weather I’ve ever personally experienced: 7° F (aka -14 C). Just because. The first couple days were very cold but by the end it warmed up substantially and, by the time we were back in Albuquerque exploring, it was 63°. So there you have it.

I learned, mostly by Wikipedia, quite a bit about the Navajo, Hopi, and ancestral Puebloans. Interesting stuff. I also witnessed firsthand contemporary Navajo and Hopi life which, shall we say, reaffirms my belief that more needs to be done. “Underserved communities” = understatement. We visited Second Mesa, the center of the Hopi universe, and a number of other cool places.

Scenery-wise, wow. I tell you what, wow.

The mesa-butte-canyon general scheme was familiar to me, but I didn’t really understand it until I saw it. I mean, like, the mesas have mesas. There’s not just two levels, it’s an incredibly complex landscape that I can neither describe as flat nor totally not-flat. It is also neither totally desert not totally not-desert. There is a forest (that is really neither a real forest nor non-forest) near where my sister lives, full of tall Ponderosa pines and short sage and juniper trees. But also, there are several actual deserts nearby. It’s sort of confusing.

But I am not confused about its beauty, which is immense. The colors, which are not just red like I had thought, cover the whole spectrum from red to white to yellow to purple to black to green. Junipers are lovely, as is sage. The rocks are incredibly complex, with rills and valleys and elephant skin and spires and crevices and everything. The Petrified Forest 10/10 can recommend. The red clay mud 0/10 would avoid. The snow lay a blanket, varying and delicate, across most of the land we traveled and it was a vision of the region I did not expect but took to heart nevertheless.

Pictures cannot do it justice, especially mine, so I will only encourage a visit. And visit in the winter, after the snow but before the mud. Because there aren’t many people there and a wintry desert it a special something. But also go in the summer to see what the snow obscured.

Anyway, I didn’t have much to say this week. There’s actually loads more I could say about our adventures and things, but I’ll leave it there. I just wanted to share a couple pictures and encourage you to visit and learn more. That’s why I’m not translating the title. If you’re curious, look it up yourself and learn about the Navajo, the Hopi, kachinas, hogans, and whatever else you may find. Have fun!