Tuesday, August 31, 2010

30 - Momentus...

Down to the wire here.
I feel the urge to say something profound, but no luck.
I go through my work day (4:25-10PM) hacking through 6 classes, walking up and down the stairs thinking, "only 30 more days of this..." and I'm not sure how I feel about it. One part sad/scared, six parts elated and looking forward to the future. I feel like that's a good ratio.

Leaving for the Philippines on Thursday on this work-sponsored vacation. Returning late Sunday night.

And I leave with a kid quote.
Me: What would you buy with one million dollars?
Kid: A pencil case and mechanical pencil.

Monday, August 30, 2010

32 & 31 - Getting close...

Come too darn far to quit now!

Even if I'm just marking the days and don't take the time to always do a proper update, I want it known to myself that I was here and I was keeping track, darn it! I watched every single one of these days go by. Sometimes I didn't do my best, while sometimes I gave more than I thought was humanly possible, but I was present and showed up for every single one of these days. That counts.

After reading a comment on my "Decisions, decisions" post, I have begun to re-think NOT taking the TOPIK test. As my friend pointed out "the day after the test, my friends will still be 'there'. The test won't." It's worth noting.

Said good-bye to yet another friend today. She and her husband (and their pre-born little one) are heading back to South Africa on Wednesday. She's one year older than me and has been in Korea on and off for about 5 years. The first two times she was here alone, but the third time she came back with her new husband and now she leaves with a new little one in their mix. Even though I haven't spent that much face time with her, that friendship is one of the most important ones in my time here and I'm so glad that we're leaving so close together. She gives me hope.

And along that theme, here's my quote for the day:

"Writing is an act of hope. It means carving order out of chaos, of challenging one's own beliefs and assumptions, of facing the world with eyes and heart wide open. Through writing we declare a personal identity amid faceless anonymity. We find purpose and beauty and meaning even when the rational mind argues that none of these exist. Writing therefore, is also an acto f courage. How much easier is it to lead an unexamined life than to confront yourself on the page?"

Jack Heffron
via wordpainting.tumblr.com

Sunday, August 29, 2010

33 - Another Send-Off...

Aaron, you will be missed!

Missed a post yesterday (which I realized as I lay down in bed at 2AM) but I'm giving myself a break, as yesterday was simply jam-packed. Did the "Sky Jump" at a local amusement park with a friend, then on a whim, decided to walk home from said friend's house, which was a 2 hour long jaunt.

More to come...

Friday, August 27, 2010

34 - Work in Progress

The stability of my life here in Korea has granted me the opportunity to take a good hard look at myself. I came here knowing no one and having only two suitcases to my name. I live alone, so I know that if there's something in my apartment, it's because I chose put it there (or not to remove it). I have absolutely no one but myself to blame for the abundance of paper, magazines, (or dust bunnies) currently clogging my corners. Likewise, if I have friends, they are a reflection of what I have put out into the water or because Providence has put them into my life to teach me something. I have learned that in friendship, as in life, one tends to reap what one sows.

My character defects are abundant. This is something that I have learned beyond a shadow of a doubt. I tend to be critical, judgmental, prideful, vain, and full of sloth. Day by day, I'm learning how to be accepting, kind, humble, disciplined, joyful and full of praise. There are days when I falter and say things that I shouldn't, but it's a constant negotiation of figuring out how to nurture myself and my values, while putting the character defects to death. What's a defect and what's a vital part of my personality? This is the ongoing question, but I hope that the answers will come with the willingness to gaze unflinchingly at the truth.

I believe that Ms. Anne of Green Gables summed it up best when she said:
"...but if you only knew how many things I want to say and don't. Give me SOME credit."

Thursday, August 26, 2010

35 - White page

On the difficulties of memory:

Student: "Teacher, when I try to remember, my mind goes to white page."

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

36 - More than one place...

"I read so I can live life in more than one place."
~Ann Tyler
(via word painting.tumblr.com)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

37 - Decisions, decisions

Since I came back to Korea six months ago, I have been studying to take the TOPIK (Test of Proficiency in Korean). Now I find out that the test date falls on the last Sunday of some good friends. Do I take the test (that I've already paid and studied for) or do I pass it up in favor of spending time with friends.... Really, to be honest, I'm not that excited about the test and don't feel like I'm going to perform that well, but maybe that means that I should buckle down and study for it anyway. On the other hand, Sundays and my community at church are important to me, too.

Take the test or hang with friends.

Decisions, decisions...

Monday, August 23, 2010

38 - That's the Spirit!

Me: "What does 'unwind' mean?"
Student: "'Unwind' means 'destroy stress'"

Yes, yes it does.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

39 - You Remind Me of all the Best in the World

Just spent the day with the world's most amazing 13-year old. We got ice cream, rode a virtual roller coaster, bought pencils, and ate McDonalds. It was a thoroughly satisfying afternoon.

I first met this young spitfire at after church lunch two years ago. "Hi," she said. "Want to hear my life plan?" and she proceeded to lay out her goals and dreams for the next 40 years of her life. Today at our church lunch, she mentioned that she'd added a new dimension to her life picture. "I've even planned when I'm going to die." she said. "84" "What, 2084?" someone asked. "No, WHEN I'm 84." she corrected him. Obviously.

I took her out on a downtown date this afternoon in celebration of her first day of high school, which happens next Monday. We hopped on a bus after church, chatting about school and her love of horses, and life in general. "I'm nervous," she said. "Because the first step in my plan starts this year. High school leads to college, and I'll have to get into a good college if I want my plan to work. If I mess up in high school, I won't get into a good college and then my everything might fall apart."

"Take it easy," I want to tell her. "You're not going to college today."

She walks with her head forward and her shoulders hunched, intent on getting where she's going... right now. She so reminds me of me at that age, only more aware, more courageous, and more willing to find answers.

As wise people have told me, I keep telling her: "All we have is these 24 hours. That's all God gives us." Plan for the future, but live in the present, knowing that things can change in an instant.

Every time I tell her, I tell myself.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

40 -For Now, Just Listen

"Music is a total constant. That’s why we have such a strong visceral connection to it, you know? Because a song can take you back instantly to a moment, or a place, or even a person. No matter what else has changed in your or the world, that one song stays the same, just like that moment."
Sarah Dessen, Just Listen

I heard this song in a cafe on Wednesday and instantly I was catapulted back to early spring of 2008. It was February. I was watching the movie this song came from with my best guy friend in the world, and over popcorn with his cats wandering in and out of the den, I ranted at the movie for reminding me so much of someone about whom I cared a great deal.

This wouldn't be an honest blog account if I didn't mention that there are times when my mind still drifts back to that time and those people. The ache has lessened, but the memory is still there and will be, I suspect, as long as there are songs to remind me.

41 - Non-Urgent Hospital Visit

Am stocking up on my prescription before I go.
Doctor = 3,600
Pharmacy = 3,600

Total cost = 7,200

Korea, some days you make me smile.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

42 - Nightwalking

My new (resumed) hobby is walking alone at night along the path by the highway. I realize that in practically no other country is this as safe as it is in Korea.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

43 - Traffic Jam

"I want to write books that unlock the traffic jam in everybody's head."
~John Updike

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

44 - Threads

"We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects."

~Herman Melville

Monday, August 16, 2010

45 - The "Gift" of Teaching...

It always gives me a little kick when I am "blessed" with the kind of students that I once was: bored, unmotivated, spacey, and opinionated. I would become disinterested with the beginning of the lesson, space out and miss some important detail, then be lost for the rest of the period. I would then proceed to "punish the teacher by doing my absolute worst on the assignment and showing them that they weren't the boss of me. That's right people, I was a joy to have in class.

Now that I'm on the other side of the desk, my challenge as a teacher is to deal with these students that I was was with empathy, understanding, and a healthy dose of "youneedtostraighten theheckupandflyright".

Sunday, August 15, 2010

46 - Getting it Right

"I have never though of myself as a ‘born’ writer—anymore than I think of myself as a ‘natural’ athlete, or even a good one. What I am is a good rewriter; I never get anything right the first time—I just know how to revise, and revise."
John Irving, Trying to Save Piggy Sneed
(via wordpainting.tumblr.com)

In life, I feel like we're constantly offered the opportunity to "revise". In any given situation if we haven't gotten it right the first time, it feels like we're often given other chances to learn the same lesson over again. Sometimes this is a blessing; sometimes this is a curse. In my current situation, I feel like I'm being offered an opportunity to re-learn the ability to say good-by. In the past to make a transition easier I've soured relationships/work situations to the point where it was actually a relief to be leaving them, but I realize that this may be my pattern.

In this current transition, I'm aiming to work to my very best right up until the end and be able to close out my contract knowing that I have finished well.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

47 - The Frugal Files, Part 3

Gym Membership.
Instead of joining a gym, I just walk the path by my house. It's about a mile total, so I simply repeat for the number of miles I want to log in. Plus, with the humidity, it's like getting an extra trip to the sauna (OK, that part is said with a bit of a smirk, but still...)

Every won counts!

Total Savings: 30, 000 won per month.

Friday, August 13, 2010

48 - Hallelujah!

Last day of Summer Session. Hurrah!

In celebration, I offer up these pictures of the little munchkins holding their final presentation posters. The topic was "Famous People". Now, I remember looking at pictures other teachers had posted of their students and being like "yeah, and?" but I assure you that these little 'uns have oodles of personality.

First up, Jung Eun (Jenny). She was the lone student in the class the first week and spent four hours keeping four different English teachers entertained with her witty banter and stories. (She's the one with the brother who got the cold shower...) She is very much the epitome of "cute" and wore lacy socks and some variation of ruffles and bows every day. She chose Park Ji-Sung as her famous person.

This is Na Young. A taciturn little thing, she would sit quietly unless prompted to speak, which she would do, but only very reluctantly. I heard from other teachers that she was quite the little instigator, but she never acted up in my class. She is, in her own words, "not a girl-girl", but for her famous person, she chose to research Kim Yun-Ah.

Seung-Soo was the zen calm of the group and would quietly and earnestly complete his work. He chose Thomas Edison and his pictures of lightbulbs seemed to mirror his personality.

Doo Young was by far the most entertaining and on the last day, busted out with his rendition of this song, made popular by one Rob Schnieder . He seemed to have the soul of a crochety 60 year old man in the body of a very antsy 10 year old. He scribbled all the drawings for his poster on Alfred Noble in less than 20 minutes and then wacked them onto the poster board with a glue stick, and announced himself done. I was about to protest, but noticed that his poster was actually quite good. He seems surprised in this picture, but maybe it's just his masked earnestness.

It was a great experience that is thankfully no more than a memory now.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

49 - Reminder

"Music isn't just a pleasure, it's a transient satisfaction. It's a need, a deep hunger; and when the music is right, it's joy. Love. A foretaste of heaven. A comfort in grief. Is it too much to think that perhaps God speaks to us sometimes through music? How, then, could I be so ungrateful as to refuse the message?"

~Orson Scott Card

50 - Things I Will Miss about Korea, Part 3

Cheap take-out.

Delicious kimbap dinner delivered straight to my desk:
total cost= 2,000 won.

Oh yeah, baby.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

51 - Things I WIll Miss About Korea, Part 2

Adorable Kid Quotes:
Me: What kinds of magazines do you like to read?
Jae Hwi (international age 10): Furniture magazines!

Monday, August 9, 2010

52 - Things I Will Miss About Korea- Part 1

Umbrella Baggies
When it rains, department stores put out stands with little plastic baggies in them so you can wrap up your wet umbrella and not drip water all over. (Yes, to be crude, it does look a bit like an "umbrella condom")
Caveat: After wrapping up your umbrella in said plastic bag, if you come outside and it's not raining anymore, be sure to unwrap it once you get home otherwise you chance coming upon said umbrella weeks later, still in the damp baggie, only now covered in rust. Not that I would know, or anything.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

53 - Contact!

Affirmations do help, for sure.
The good:
Played from memory.

The bad:
It was so incredibly shaky, I couldn't quite believe it. Partly b.c it was my first time playing this piece in front of an audience, but also b.c I knew that I hadn't really practiced enough. The good news is that now I have played this piece in front of an audience now, so hopefully the next time I play it, it'll be better.

Onward and upward!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

54 - Woodshed

It is cruel, you know, that music should be so beautiful. It has the beauty of loneliness, of pain: of strength and freedom. The beauty of disappoint and never-satisfied love."

~Benjamin Britten

My affirmation:
"I am going to perform brilliantly with accuracy, passion and clear dynamic contrast."

Friday, August 6, 2010

55 - The Stories We Tell Ourselves...

"Submerged" was the word I was hunting for last night, with 10 minutes to go until I had to post. "Submerged" because it so perfectly captures how I feel right now.

It's been a long time since I've had to memorize anything for anything (vocab and KStudy excluded) and while I'm in the process of trying to learn this Sonata by heart, I find myself asking myself how exactly I go about doing that. I find that it's helpful to break it down into chunks and for me, I create a story that goes with each chunk.

The Sonata opens with an invitation to come on a journey, we've saved up money, and the women wear hoop skirts and turn on pointe. Then it links to a section with the family patriarch and his lady getting onto the ship, next come the two brothers rough and tumbling, then the men and women are courting on said ship, and then, the final victory as the ship pulls into port. And that's the first half of the Sonata in my brain.

Great blog on overcoming performance anxiety, which I hope to do this Sunday...

Ship Ahoy!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

56 - Summer is for... music.

I'm currently subsumed with trying to learn this bad boy for Sunday.

In between teaching summer session and doing my regular job, I'm holed up in my apartment, sitting straight-backed in a vinyl cushioned chair and practicing for hours on end. Living the dream, I tell you. Living the dream.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

57 - Just Splashing Around...

Much to my own amazement, I've managed to keep up with a post a day for coming up on close to 50 days. Miracles abound!
Now that I've proven to myself that I can actually be consistent like this, I'm aiming to put more content into my posts and actually say something rather than just blurting out whatever happens to be on my mind at the minute. I suppose through this blog project I've proven that I can get in the water and paddle around; now the great task is to actually point myself somewhere and swim. Intensive classes finish at the end of next week so I hope to have more time after that. Of course, what time I do have will be more occupied with getting ready to go, but I ought to be able to start to make something worthwhile. Onward ho!

58 - Good Eats

I was late with the post for today, but with good cause, as I went out for dinner with some cool colleagues. We went to a gamjatang and it were delicious. All you can see from the pics is the uncooked sesame leaves, but the soup was really quite lovely. The restaurant we went to is open 24 hours so if you're ever in the area and need a place to stay, order a huge bowl of soup and break out a pillow.

Monday, August 2, 2010

59 - Summer Storm!

There is currently a summer storm rocking it's way through our neck of the woods. Lightning just blinked outside my window and I heard what I thought might have been my neighbor moving furniture, but what actually turned out to be thunder. As a co-worker summed up her weekend activities, she said that she and her boyfriend went for a bike ride and they just went "away from the rain". That's very much the weather that we have around these parts in this season. One side of the street can be getting drenched, while the other side is sunny. The trick is to know which side of the street you want to be on.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

60 - Another One Bites the Dust

Just bid farewell to another friend. This one is leaving for law school at the University of Ottawa. I'm sad, but incredibly joyful because it means that my homecoming is getting closer. One day at a time...