Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Goodbye, Korea

It's so hard to believe that two years (and one month) have come to an end.  It's crazy to think that in that short of a time I would have come to identify myself with a culture so distinctly different from the one into which I was born.  However, at the same time, I don't really fit there either.

Ever since I got my passport, I've felt my culture slipping away from me.  But never have I felt more like a cultural island than I do now.  I don't really find this to be a bad thing; I like the culture I've created for myself, gleaning from all of those that I've visited.  But it's going to be interesting when I enter back into America, where people will be expecting me to pick back up the American culture.  See, one of the joys of being waygookin is that there isn't very much that's expected of me.  For the most part, I'm free to be whatever I want.  I'm not sure how I'm going to react to being back in the States when that is gone.

Because here's the thing.

The plan has changed.

This doesn't surprise me, because the plan was based on Korean culture, in which things are likely to change drastically, even in the middle of implementation, but it will probably surprise those of you who are unused to Korean culture.

A couple of weeks ago, I found out that, due to governmental reasons in India, I would be unable to take up my position there.  At the same time, I was offered a missionary position in Australia, working with Aboriginal children.  As my pastor explained it to me, I became more and more disheartened by the prospect.  They're a group of children that have grown up in an environment that puts no emphasis on education, due to government hand-outs.  The stipends are actually large enough that the people don't really need to value education.  The community is also riddled with drug and alcohol abuse.  My pastor asked me to go and join the effort to convince this community of the value of education, a feat that has been attempted by many and successful by none, save the minimal progress our church has made.  In short, it sounded like all the things I like least about teaching.

With a clenched stomach, I asked my pastor for time to pray about it, and he gave me two weeks.

As many of you probably know by now, during that time, I made a quick trip back to the US.  I was overwhelmed by a desire to be there before I had to make the choice.  In the past, I have always felt trapped in the US, to the point that my family and I have assumed for many years that I would be spending all of my adult life living outside of the States.  Nevertheless, in the past months, I have been growing increasingly homesick.  I didn't mention it, chalking it up to this factor or that factor, but it didn't go away.  I wanted to see if it would if I stepped foot in the mother country, and all the opportunities lined up for me to do just that.  I found an incredibly cheap plane ticket.  Appointments got canceled (without my doing so).  Schedules were rearranged.  And I found myself on a flight back to Nashville.

As soon as I saw the city unfurl beneath the plane, I had my answer.  I've never felt like I had a home before, but seeing that city... I knew I finally had one.  I was so giddy I started giggling and bouncing my legs in excitement.  But I was reluctant to admit I had my answer.  I knew what I wanted, but I needed to make sure it lined up with what G-d wanted.  So I waited and prayed.

As much as everything went right in preparation for the trip, everything went wrong while I was there.  And yet, I was still overwhelmed with peace and excitement when I thought about moving back.  In the end, I gave into it, and though I felt frustrated with many things happening around me, I could center myself in knowing that I was on the right path in my decision to return to the States.

Upon my return to Korea, I spent the greater part of my first morning back in bed, mulling over my trip and my decision... and praying.  Oh, how I prayed!  And, suddenly, a plan washed over me... It was like it was being shown to me in its completeness rather than developing as I laid there.

It is now my intention to go to graduate school to pursue a masters in Music Therapy with the ultimate goal of opening the Jim Foglesong Center for Fine Arts, which will be both a fine arts school and therapy center.  I have so many ideas for it that I could write and write about it, but I think I'd overwhelm you all, so I'll save that for another time.

The moral of the story is this: I'm coming back, and I know that I am on G-d's path.  I don't know if that path will end where I think it will right now, but I do know that it's the right one.

Incidentally, this also means that I will have to make severe cuts to my travel plans, as I need to be preparing for an audition on December 7.

Thank you for all of your love and support.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Foredated: September 11, 2013

I really wanted to post this on September 11 at 8:45 am EST, but life prevented me from being able to do that.  I suppose I should have typed it up in advance, but it wasn't a possibility; I'm sorry.  But these thoughts seemed poignant enough to me to type up and post for you anyway.

On September 11, 2013, 8:44am something monumental happened.  As the clock ticked down, Americans my age - arguably the youngest people on the planet to remember a pre-9/11 life - lived the last minute that they would while still having lived the majority of their lives in relative safety.

I'd like to say that we felt ourselves untouchable until 9/11, but that's a lie.  We weren't, and only the naïve believed otherwise.  Peal Harbor, Oklahoma City, Columbine... We knew better.  But it was something about September 11 that felt so different.  I think it may be because our own assets were used against us.  Whatever it was, America changed drastically afterward; rather than doubling down and coming up stronger, we signed away our rights hand-over-fist and reacted in fear.  I was with everyone else at the time, though... we may want to ask ourselves if it should really be considered an achievement to have a 12-year-old agree with the action our government took.  I remember my mother warning me against it all, and I replied that we'd deal with any problems that arose when we came to them.  Well, ladies and gentlemen, we've come to them (Read: Syria), but that's another story for another time.

My point is this:
I've no longer lived the majority of my life in a pre-Septemeber-Eleventh World.

I've no longer lived the majority of my life in a world where I can accompany my loved ones to their airplane.
I've no longer lived the majority of my life not having to worry about how complicated my shoes are before going to the airport.
I've no longer lived the majority of my life being able to be fully hydrated on a plane.
I've no longer lived the majority of my life in a country where Aladdin wouldn't be feared if he lived in it.
I've no longer lived the majority of my life in a time when I didn't have to worry if the person next to me started playing with their shoes.
I've no longer lived the majority of my life being unable to ask a flight attendant if the small person next to me (or, heck, I myself) could meet the pilot.
I've no longer lived the majority of my life without double, triple, quadruple checking everything I say while traveling.

I've no longer lived the majority of my life in a country that wasn't dominated by manipulation playing off people's fear.

And I'm not sure how to react to that.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The End

It's been one week since I finished at my school...and I've gone back there three times anyway for various reasons.  Clearly I'm not good at this not working there anymore thing.  My kids get excited/upset every time they see me.  "Byeee, Teachah!  I miss you!  You miss me?  You sad, Teachah?"  And... the most uncomfortable of the encounters: "Teachah, you know my name?"  I totally missed the mark on that goal.

I've spent the majority of this week finishing up a project that I promise you will hear more about in the coming days.  Stay tuned, because this is a big big deal, but I'll give you a hint:

You're going to want to do this.

I now have two weeks before I head to Thailand, which means it's a month and a half before I hit the States.  Within that time, I still need to pack, sell most of my possessions, sing one more time at churhc, move out of my apartment (and crash at friends' homes for a week), send directions to my school to my boss, attend/tech a friend's wedding, and manage to get a goodbye event in there somewhere.  It is going to be a packed couple of weeks.

To be honest, this all seems a bit anti-climatic.  I think that's mostly because I was just on vacation, doing a lot of the same stuff I'm doing right now.  I'm not sure it's really hit me yet that I'm leaving... I'm not sure it ever will.  Life does that sometimes... smooth transitions, I mean.  I've had two legitimate job offers to keep me in this city, though, which are somewhat tempting, but only in the sense that change is scary.  Who knows?  Maybe I'll come back some day, but, for now, I know that it is definitely time to move forward.  I'm looking forward to the adventures on the horizon, and will, as always, keep you informed.