Monday, January 23, 2012

Extreme Makeover: Cheesy Edition

It's come to the end of my first journey in Korea (I must say it like that, because it is very possible I will return to this place, I've grown so fond of) and nothing quite articulates my feelings like "bittersweet."  I know that it has been a long while since I've posted anything, but it's not for lack of writing, nor love for Korea; my experiences since then has been quite the opposite.  This is my chance to explain (not in vain as if you've been missing these posts) why, what I've been doing, and where I'm heading in the next six months.

Why?  Well, honestly I got spooked--I was told by a couple people of stories by other teachers in Korea who have had backlash from keeping a blog--whether it be about a future job or current, I didn't/don't want anything I may have to say taken out of context to prevent any ties I have/want to have in the future.  Not that I think anything I've had to say was out of malice or unprofessional, I just have come to care a great deal for the people I write about and about the future opportunities I'd like to keep open.

That being said, I'd been writing too.  A lot.  Mostly essays for a writing sample to apply for MFA programs.  That, and the oh-so-fun task of the essays that go along with those applications.  I had to start from scratch due to an AWOL external hard-drive, lost to the USPS Gods.  May it rest in peace.  So, starting from scratch was both frustrating, but also a great learning experience.  I can honestly say that.  Now.  So, yes... it POSSIBLE I will be back in graduate school in August.

What have I been doing?  Well, pretty much the opposite of what everyone else has been doing.  While many of my compadres have been traveling, exploring Korea, Japan, Southeast Asia, Malaysia, Australia, and all those other boring places, I've been not only doing those applications, but I've been exploring the inside of the complicated workings of how I got here in the first place--stressed out, panic attacks, perpetually exhausted, working 7 days a week, and falling deeper and deeper into debt.  Mostly, even though I was working out everyday and eating really well, I wasn't taking care of myself.  My feelings and needs.  I came last.  I think this is a very typical female thing--we're good at seeing the bigger picture and taking heed of The List--all the things that need to be done to hold it together, only many-most of these women at least have children. Why was I?

Coming to Korea helped me focus on me--I don't think you need details so much as I'd like to share that wouldn't be where I'm at now had I not.  I finally started seeing a therapist before I decided to move and my head was so foggy and spinning so fast I thought I needed to think seriously about Prozac--which is totally something I don't believe in, not for others, but for myself (well, at least I mean I knew that the anxiety and depression were not coming from no where, and THAT was the problem).  Focusing on me this year was difficult--even in the best of circumstances.  I had to look at ALL of my relationships (from trivial to serious), my tendencies, my decision making skills, my choices, and claim all of it.  Then pick it apart.  Then try to accept it, learn from it, and move forward a much much healthier, albeit feeling quite weak and malnourished, before getting truly healthy again.  A big part of that was learning how to say no.  For lack of a better explanation, I have UN-complicated a very very complicated web of relationships, "simply" by letting go of what's happened in the past and figuring out what I want from them in the future.  Felt like losing 75lbs.

Then I also tackled 88% of The List of all the books, podcasts, audiobooks, documentaries, news articles, and films I've been putting aside for that free time that never ever came.  Learned some Korean too.  Some Korean history too, thanks to my "massive Korean history slut."  Another 15lbs.

Then I slept.  Whenever.  However.  For how long ever, I wanted.  And took care of those wisdom teeth my dentist has been telling me to get to for literally over a decade.  And completed a half-marathon (love this photobomb).  I learned to cook my favorite Korean dishes.  20lbs. 

I've also been paying off loads of debt.  I think the total is well over 10,000 now; something I would have never ever ever in a million years been able to do in America.  This is not the only reason I'd come back, but it doesn't hurt; there is much more.  The last few months I've been saving to take a few trips once I leave Korea, exploring new places and revisiting those I love.  I've never been able to save like that.  30lbs.

I guess my hope is that people out there, who know what it feels like to feel at the end of your sanity rope, even if nothing tragic is happening--no one is dying, and everyone is "healthy"--those who need to relate can realize that they are not alone, there are answers, and there is certainly a light at the end of the tunnel, even if you can't see it just yet.  At least if you find yourself more days than not, unhappy... that you will be inspired to figure out why, and for fuck's sake, try to find it.  Just stop making excuses for things...

And so I will leave Korea in a few short weeks, much much lighter and much much happier; though I know I will miss some people here very very much.  And I know that as soon as I hit Incheon, I'll already be craving bibimbap... but very excited for Pho.  I'll fly over to Ho Chi Minh City for a few days before heading to Da Nang to spend some much needed QT with one Miss Van Elsacker, who as graciously volunteered to have me take her spare room for several weeks.  Of course there will be some traveling around Vietnam, and a trip over to at least Thailand, for some waterfalls, tigers, elephants, hiking, laughing and whatever else I can gobble up, before returning to the US in April to spend some QT with some key folks in California and a key wedding to top it off.  Then HOME (Chicago + UP)!

Then I have an important date in Puerto Rico...

And then Scotland and Ireland...

And then Mexico...

I want to very very sincerely thank everyone who has messaged me about enjoying what I write.  I can't tell you enough, how much it means to me, and inspires me to write more.  I have been contemplating going off the grid for a while, but I think instead... from here on out, I will start updating again, but much more external stuff--foods, sights, happenings--from all these countries.  The only thing I can promise is that there won't be much about Ron Paul.  Take that as you will, but please follow along, and feel free to ask questions about the travels or give me suggestions on how to extort miles from United so I can do this forever.

Post Script: I realize that this is all very cheesy, and we all want to be like, "Oh she went away and came back all happy and shit.  Whatever."  But honestly, I'm cool with that.   

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Silly Girl's Odyssey Around Town

A few Fridays ago I came into school and I had a few things to ask Jinsook (main Co-T) before the weekend.  After an hour of empty office, a few students came in to ask me to look at their writing assignment.   Happy for the company, we talked a while.  When they got up to leave, "Nice to meet you, teacher."

"Nice to SEEEEE you.  Nice to SEE you," I corrected.  "See you this afternoon."
"No, teacher.  No class today.  School ovah."
"Yes, teacher."

JF text to main co-T: Hi, sorry to bother you! Are you coming in today?
Jinsook: I don't have classes today. My summer classes are finished. Do you need something?
JF: Well all my students say we don't have class today. Should I stay?
Jinsook: I'm so sorry! I just checked. They are right! It's up to you if you stay :)

One of the most talked about "issues with Korea", in working with Co-Ts specifically, is the ol' "oops I forgot tell you."  This story turned out well because the result was a free day off, but some do not; they feel like little paper cuts, and how teachers deal with it can make or break their time here.  

"Oops, I forgot tell you there is a trip to Daemyeong today after school."  Which turns into a 6 hour trip, complete with a karaoke mic, trivia, and prizes--obviously not the end of the world, but say you had a date.  And, three hours in a bus with a bunch of trivia and games and jokes in Korean can only be so fun.    

"Oops, I forgot tell you we are hiking today. Those shoes maybe no good."  Not to mention the dress I'm wearing?

For people who are naturally laid-back, these kinds of things can slide with no resentment, but for some teachers, this is a big source of frustration.  The co-teaching relationships are tricky--this is not something they were trained for, so it all depends on their personalities, when it comes to how much information you will get ahead of time.  Some of us get calendars immediately, with all the dates of holidays, test days, vacation days, etc.  I have yet to know when my first Open Parents' Day is, where the parents come into my class and observe.  "It probably some time in October or September."  Paper cut.   

I, some might say, am a version of Sally in "When Harry Met Sally."  Harry and Sally have this articulate conversation about high-maintenance and low-maintenance women.

Harry Burns: There are two kinds of women: high maintenance and low maintenance.
Sally Albright: Which one am I?
Harry Burns: You're the worst kind; you're high maintenance but you think you're low maintenance.
Sally Albright: I don't see that.
Harry Burns: You don't see that? Waiter, I'll begin with a house salad, but I don't want the regular dressing. I'll have the balsamic vinegar and oil, but on the side. And then the salmon with the mustard sauce, but I want the mustard sauce on the side. "On the side" is a very big thing for you.
Sally Albright: Well, I just want it the way I want it.
Harry Burns: I know; high maintenance.

Others would just say I'm kind of a control freak; which it totally true, but I'm trying like hell to cover it up so I seem like I'm low-maintenance.

Co-workers: "Let's go to lunch today.  Sang-mu."
JF: Graciously, I respond, "Absolutely.  That sounds great."  In my mind, I'm thinking I wish we would've planned this so I wouldn't have eaten 2 bowls of cereal this morning; which was 2.5 hours ago.  Now, I'm not hungry and if I say no, then on some weird American diet, or blowing them off.  Both rude and inappropriate. 
JF: "What will we have?"
Co-T: "That so cute.  You always wanta to know stuff.  Shabu shabu.  Seafoodah shabu shabu."
JF:  "Sounds amazing."  Sounds delicious--as 8 big bowls of sodium yumminess should, until you're stuffing my face with "takah more" and "try this" and I'm rolling home sweating with 90 degrees and his good friend 100% humidity.   

The only (albeit wavering) thing I have going for me here my excuse: it's not because I'm an ignorant and entitled waygook prick, it's because I'm older and experience has made me this way.  I used to be an uber-"go with the flow" kind of person (Type B).  I was justifiably voted Class Procrastinator my senior year in high school, and always had the house where people showed up unannounced all hours of everyday; and, I was always willing to "do whatever", even if I knew I had a test the next day.  Then a year after college, I went back to school for post-bach work; I actually wanted good grades, had to keep a job, "life" things to do--that's when The Move began.  I look back now and think, of course living that way was awesome; I just never got anything done.  

Graduate school fostered my straying far, far away from my Type B-land.  I found a new home, nestled neatly on the corner of Make-Plans Street and To-Do-List Avenue.  That way, I could do everything, keep everyone happy--take a full-time class load, do my research assistantship, still see my friends, make it to my little sister's birthday party an hour away, work out, and buy/cook healthy groceries; and in my spare time, plug away at all the literature my peers had read during undergrad, that I missed during Textiles I & II.  I actually had 24 usable hours if I just planned it right.  And drank enough caffeine. 

Post-grad school teaching at a for-profit, private (corporatized) college had me teaching four to five essay-based-grading courses; then there were the meetings, committees, and mentoring other teachers; not to mention they were paying me less than they were advertizing as the minimum salary for their associate's degree graduates.  The campus director's unconstructive criticisms basically ran a bull-dozer through any trips to Rejuvenation.  I soon I had a double mortgage in the Control Freak neighborhood.

I think my friends would say they were at least a little rewarded by this: it makes me a good party planner--the logisitics manager of our social lives.  I always took charge of reservations, times, venues, and planned based on the highest statistic of everyone's happiness, and the lowest chances of failure of someone being left out, unhappy, etc.  I brought it on myself, but it became too much.    

My former self and present self finally stopped arguing and sat down to a nice dinner and worked it out the best plan of evacuation--step 1: quit job.  Step 2: move to Korea.

"Oops, I forgot to tell you the principal and vice-principal want to join your class on Friday.  Need detail lesson plan by tomodow."

No matter how appropriate the request is, I have to admit, hearing it extinguishes the happiness from the last "oops" day-off.  A salty paper cut.  A whiny thing to say?  Probably; but it is difficult, truly and genuinely difficult to go back to letting anything and everything roll off your back, once you've had to start "listing", so as to make your life work properly.  For some it's a string of battles--they plan lessons that never get used, are drastically changed, or condescendingly dismissed, and swear profusely they'll never re-sign again (but do).  Some have two separate schools, a long commute, and drink until they fall asleep waiting for the subway, at the end of a long frustrating week.  And put a smile back on the next day.  It's just a paper cut after all.   

I actually believe that I'm okay with these kinds of "oops" and the world of Unplanners, but that I am just much much more attracted to making plans.  Tis true though, that Korea has been integral in my meandering back toward the person I see as the actual Me--hopefully a good mix of AB.  I think the sleep and lack of stress has opened the doors.  These days, I'm contentedly trying to just be hanging with my homies and some Hite, even if swollen in the blistering sun, on the corner of Relax and Shut the Fuck Up.   

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

How I Fell in Love with Watermelon

A few weeks before I moved to Korea, I was high-octane everything--work, stress, emotions, food, workouts, weekly panic attacks, muscle-tension, drinks--everything but sleep. And everything was to overcompensate for something else. At the time, the only good thing I had left from my workplace was the insurance (not shockingly, since corporate work = corporate health benefits), which was covering weekly massage therapy appointments to undo the done. They were probably the only things that were getting me by.

I remember very clearly the last girl I had because although I really liked her, she'd kept talking when I wanted to fall into a relaxation coma. I knew it would be the last for a long while.

"Oh, I LOVED Seoul. It's so amazing. So SO so so amazing. I'm so super jealous."

"Yeah, I'm not moving to Seoul, but I've heard nothing but good things. What was your favorite thing?"

"Oh my God, you have to try the jimjilbangs!"

"The what-what-bangs?"

"OMG, it's like this bathhouse/sauna thing. Like seriously 10bucks. Everyone showers and gets massage AND this woman scrubs your dead skin off your whole body. AND you can sleep there. Super cheap. I went like everyday!"

"Yeah, I'll have to try that."

Two planes, three buses, luggage transfers, thick air, no sleep, and a non-stop emotional rollercoaster, a rock solid bed, complete with neck-pain-inducing pillow, I was desperate for a massage; but, I didn't seek one out.

I'm going to say it: I'm just not one of those naked people--you know, those that walk around locker rooms and steam rooms with ease and eloquence, and total disregard for who's watching. And I'm envious. I was mostly raised in a house with a single, Chinese, 22 year-old father--no one should be surprised if I bathed in a swimsuit until I was ten. In addition, I was missing everything I was accustomed to eating; no honeycrisps, no good grapes, no avocado. Just watermelon. However, there's just something about seedy fruit I can't really crush on. So, instead I just went to sleep. For months.

When I finally woke up wanting to explore Korea, I started seeing the jimjilbang on all the Korean "must do" lists. I starting thinking I had to, my body hurt. Plus, a massage and "skin scraping" = extra healthy skin and muscles for like $10? It was at least worth a try. And moving to Korea had to be partially about overcoming my demons, right?

So I asked around the office. There's no Metromix for Gwangju; I can't simply look it up online, find one with a good price, and good user-reviews, and then go to the address located neatly under the photos for my convenience. One of my co-teachers told me to ask Youngju--a.k.a Big Mama--"She's a weekly bather." So, with some gusto and pre-worked-up blushing, I asked her after class one day, worried she would want to take me, not point me in the right direction.

"Could you recommend a good jimjilbang around campus? Some teachers told me that you go often, and while I know you could suggest the one you normally go to, I'd rather you help me find one near campus so I can go whenever." I even tried to tell her I didn't want to "inconvenience her", in hopes that I could do this alone.

"Oh, yes. You like bathhouse? Thel arh many. I show you."
"Ok, thank you! Actually, I've never been. I do want to try."
"OH! Firsta time? Ok ok."

The next week, she stayed after class. I had somewhat forgotten I'd asked her about it. Thought she had too, until she came over and said, "Saturday good? I take you to my place. Pick you up."

Immediately my face turned red. she wants to go together! Great. We picked a time, and two seconds later thoughts of how to get myself out of it rushed in. I could swear hives started to break out.

Panicking slightly, right up until the time I'd be late if I didn't leave, I shook my head repeating must get over this shit, must get over this shit. you have skydived, and bungee jumped. Surely you can do THIS.

I met her at school after her Saturday classes finished. "Hi. Thanks so much for inviting me."
"Ok, ok. Let's go."
"I have a dinner thing at 6pm. Is that ok?"
"Ok, ok. Let's go."

Upon walking the two flights of stairs to the women's section of the place, I could smell the steam, and hear the women's chatter getting louder and louder. The locker room was like I expected--benches, lockers, blow-dryers, and vanity counters with combs, Q-tips, and towels. Only the amenities in this place were better than flying business class: cups for cupping (Asian Therapy), a refrigerator full of complimentary juice and water, large mugs of iced coffee, slippers, a rack of clothing for purchase, and a padded "TV area" that made me feel as comfortable as the "reading corner" in kindergarten. I think I was most impressed by the fact that the lockers had locks on them--none of this "bring your own" bullshit. I timidly undressed, while all the chatting ajummas sat on the benches, doing their locker-room-talk. Wrapped in two mini-towels, I followed Youngju into the bathing-room where she handed me a toothbrush, wash cloth, and towel, then took my locker key and put it in her basket.

Over the next two hours, I was scraped, massaged, and bathed among a dozen Korean women; two of which had brought their daughters, both under the age of 5. Everyone lounged comfortably, moved slowly, caring for their bodies, and un-clenching their minds amidst steamy water and soapy water-cloths. A few were using the cups on one another--an ancient method for promoting blood flow and healing. We moved from the hot bath to the cold bath, and talked about our hopes and dreams. Literally.

All things I find so lacking in the U.S. I am an avid user of gyms and wellness centers and although the idea is promoting healthy bodies, mostly everyone is in a hurried "get in and out" mentality, or on their cardio machines with an individual TV, listening to their ipods intently, or foraging the room for the new US Weekly. Sometimes all of the above. I've been guilty of this myself.

In fact, very guilty. Before I left Chicago for Korea, I had quit smoking completely, was running at least 7 miles a day or seeing a trainer 6, sometimes 7 days per week, doing yoga and pilates too; I was surrounded by loved ones and had access to all the foods I wanted; yet, looking back, I think it was still the unhealthiest I have ever felt.

As I told her these things, she sat contemplatively. She didn't ask why I wasn't married, why I moved so far from my loved ones, nor what I was going to do in the future. She just squinted and smiled. "When I stress, I come hee. I work to 10pm. And Sadahdays. I come hee."

"Yeah, I think Korea's on to something. Thank you for sharing with me." I smiled back.

"What iseh deh hardest ding about being in Kohea?"
"Well, of course I miss my friends and family. And many other small things. I love Korean food, but everyday is a bit much. I've definitely gotten used to it though."

"Oh, yes. I can imagine. Afteh dis, you come to my house for watahmelon."
"Actually, I don't really... Ok. I come to your house for watermelon."

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Different Perspective

One of my summer English camp courses is about helping some 3rd level (seniors) girls prepare for university interviews. Here is one that made me stop and think about how much distance is truly between these students and US students' perspectives:

Q: Give your thoughts on current international or national events.
A: The only country which seperated in two in the the world is the Korea. It is consisted in North Korea and South Korea. South Korea is a democratic country but, North Korea is a communism country. So many country, especially USA pay attention to the North Korea. The main issue about North Korea is denuclearization. I think that issue is not only national but also international. Frequently the North Korea have threaten peace of the world by a nuclear weapon. So staple countries open conferences to negotiate with North Korea. I hope to solve the trouble between North Korea and many other countries quickly by peaceful unification.

Given, I haven't been around too many US high school students in the last couple years, but I feel like these students have a unique perspective. They don't want to graduate and pick the nearest party school, or become rock stars (outside the singing room, of course). 4/6 of the girls want to be diplomats; 2 want to be teachers.

I think there is a lot of really crazy decisions being made over here--the kids go to school 6 days per week, 14 hours per day, and on Sundays they "waked up at 9am and went to the study room until midnight." But one thing is clear: South Korea's priorities are rightly placed on Education.

In the U.S., I feel like the major issue is that no one can agree on the level of importance for the social/political platforms; everyone has such an extreme individual stance, that no one can even agree to be individual or collective. In Korea, the teachers, the parents, the students, the policians ALL believe that education is the priority. They acknowledged a problem: underdevelopment; they collectively chose a solution: extremist-education.

Is it crazy? Hell yes. Korea's students are rated #1 in terms of unhappiness, stress, and even suicide. But, so are their scores. And, they've identified the new problem: too extreme. So, they're making new changes: taking away classes on Saturdays. Still too much, but at least it's something. And I even had one student say, "What will we do with no class on Saturdays anyway?"

Whereas in the U.S., we can't decide on how important education is, so of course there is going to be even more ridiculous argument over how much to pay teachers, how much state/fed money should go to education, which kids get to go to what schools, and so on, and so...fucking...on. I think it's really old and the reason I swayed from the path to teaching public education--hard to fight a fight when we have no idea WHAT the fight actually is.

I feel like our U.S. students are lacking realistic perspective, and I can't blame them--the influences are tainted, leaving them with a mix of impressionist and abstract ideas that don't really result in anything concrete, and subsequently, no where near ready for the harsh realities of the globalist-future.

Korea is BIG on sending their own to study abroad--it's extremely high on everyone's priority list. After reading this article, it gives me hope that we can start seeing it that way too:

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Stinger Power

I was sitting in class today and Nanla, my co-teacher, walked in looking peaked. Having a relationship with easch of them, she is the older, more maternal co-T who took me to my first acupuncture appointment.

"How are you today?" I asked.
"Not good. Ailments," she relied. "I dizzy this morning when I wake. And pain."
"Oh no, the acupuncture is not working?"
"I bee sting," she says, showing me her leg, and subsequent area with multiple welts.
"You got stung by a bee?! Three times?!"
"Yes, my husband bought. Is therapy."
"Wait, wait, wait. Your husband is stinging you with bees? On purpose?"
"Yes. Is healing. I don't want to take my medication anymore."
"Well, that's a way to go about that. Ouch!"
"Why are you laughing?" she asks, giggling.
"Because you purchased bees and are forcing them to sting you!"

So, I looked it up thinking surely this can't be right. Sure enough.

Student Speech--Keywords of My Life

Some of the students entered a "Dream" contest, reflecting on their hypothetical lives at 40. This is one of my Essay Writing student's essay, who asked me for editing help. I just wanted to share...

Keywords Of My Life

- 40 Years Old Me -

(English Script)

㄰Hello, everyone. You are all here today to listen to my speech: key words of my 40-year-old life. Preparing this speech, I worried for quite a long time because I was not sure what subject would reflect my life the most effectively. Since I wanted to let people know just how related one's life is with his interest and ability, especially for teenagers, the keyword would be perfectly simple and easy to understand. Let me start with my wandering adolescence.

 Doubt & Wonder

ㆍWill I able to enter good university?

ㆍWhat should I be in the future?

ㆍWhat is my heart telling me to do?

㄰These are all very common questions that teenagers struggle to find answer. Most of my friends whose grades were similar to mine had firm determinations and seemed to be making every effort in order to achieve their dreams. Consequently, I was intimidated. My grades were outstanding, but I felt exhausted when I thought of this question: What am I studying for?

㄰However, every person has at least one thing one loves to do. I was no exception.

This is my first keyword. Can you guess what it is?

Right. My first keyword is: English.

 English

ㆍNo rejection


ㆍMy representative strength

㄰Many of you may not understand me, but I loved English. I started learning English at the age of seven and seven-year-old me soon found out that English was amazingly interesting. It was whole new and fantastic experience speaking, reading and writing in another language. Naturally, my English skill was steadily developed and I got to be confident with it. I desired to improve my English more and more.

㄰This is how I started learning English for the first time. As you can see, I connected every alphabet with animals or things which are familiar with me. They're quite easy, aren't they? I could learn English easier in this way.

 Reading

ㆍGet knowledge

ㆍCan go anywhere in the world

ㆍExperience various situations

ㆍWiden the range of imagination

㄰And, this is my second keyword. My second keyword is Reading. In my childhood days, I spent most of the day reading books instead of going to math or science academy. My mother bought me as many books as she could and encouraged me to read them a lot. I could not see the wall of my house's living room because it was all covered with bookshelves.

㄰As the result, I became good at reading and writing.

㄰I fell in love with books because I could experience everything and anything in them. Some days, I was with an invisible man, and the next day I was exploring jungle. The possibilities were endless.

 Yu-na Kim

ㆍ2010 Vancouver Olympic Figure Skating Champion

ㆍOvercome all difficulties

ㆍDonates much

㄰Now, I'll give you my last keyword. You can also try guess this time. My last keyword is: Yu-na Kim.

㄰Some of you might wonder why, but I cannot tell you about my life without mentioning Yu-na Kim. She has been my mentor since I just first saw her skating on the ice.

㄰What I admire most about her is that she got through uncountable difficulties, such as injuries, financial problems, and lack of rinks to practice. Despite all those problems, she kept practicing and as a result, she achieved her lifelong dream: to be an Olympic Champion.

㄰Furthermore, she teaches me the humane way of living. She's an UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, helps children from poor countries, and young Korean figure skaters.

 40 years old me



ㆍCan go almost every ice show I want

㄰Finally, this is the slide for the present. Can you see that all three keywords listed on this slide are quite related with the keywords that I stated you on the front slides? And, accordingly, I'm really satisfied with my life now and enjoying everyday. I love my job and most of all, I love my hobby- watching ice shows. What I hope you is to be the one who can enjoy your life truly and lives doing what you want. Thank you for listening.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Celebrating July 4, 2011

It's quite weird, being from America, and not celebrating Independence Day. I don't know if I should admit that it has nothing to do with celebrating our independence from Britain, but it really doesn't. I can get down with celebrating freedom, but sometimes that feels shady to me, like I'm buying into the force-fed history books. The bias ones.

Missing this holiday emphasizes missing my friends and family on the weekend I enjoy most in the year--everyone is easily excitable. Even if the weather turns out horribly, the fireworks are cancelled, and the inevitable hangover begins early, even the grumps put out a smile. At least in my experience.

But usually, the sun comes out, and water guns and sprinklers and laughter are abundant. The smell of charcoal, grilled food, and the sulfur from fireworks alone brings extra large, genuine contentment. Family and friends from all over the place have gathered and the children that were toddlers last year have grown into full-fleged water-gun sharpshooters, and can carry on conversations that make you want to quit your job to become a pre-school teacher.

And it has nothing to do with gifting. Nothing. Children are contented by love and happiness and sparklers, instead of discontented by 100 presents that didn't include "the one they really wanted." Adults are contented by a can of beer, some bean bag toss, and a burger, not stressed out by in-laws, Santa Claus, and holiday weight.

This holiday helps me to stop and appreciate the people in my life. Coming to Korea has helped me figure out who those people really are and who I want them to be of course, but it's also helped me acknowledge the freedoms I have because of those who came before me--on this day I don't have to think about the bias history books.