“So” Musings

“Sooo….sooo.” These words echo as I enter my classroom as my penchant for saying the word “so” has earned me the nickname “so teacher.” I play it up. A recent worksheet I made ends with “Soooo…..what’s the answer?” Laughter reverberated through the class as my self deprecating joke was uncovered. The language barrier is fierce between my students and me, with some not understanding me at all and with even the best students only grapsing portions of what I say. But humor transcends that gap and fills those empty holes. It has been humbling trying to survive in a country where the language gets stuck in my throat and where my own words are lost in the air. And it has been humbling realizing how much communication can occur without speaking, how a gesture or a catch of the eye can say more than a thousand broken syllables. I allow the mockery of my word choices because it shows how, despite a lack of commincaiton, my students feel comfortable with me. And I will allow myself to be the recipient of any joke if that is the end result. So……..

Musings on being in Korea

It has fallen into normalcy,  tt has become life. And I have fallen in love with it. I am no longer self conscious of the stares but, instead, I think of how I will miss them when I am gone. I am trying to take in every last bit of kimchi so I can remember it when its spice is no longer on my tongue. Each change in weather I know will be my last season, each festival a first and a finale. I am beginning to pick up on certain words in this language, my ears accustomed to the lilt of certain syllables, the meaning of intonations. I understand its subtlety and its fire. I know I have nine months left but the time seems to be fading quickly, like the spice one day will, and the weather, and the festivals. I feared being homesick when I came here; now I fear the homesickness I will feel when I leave.

on the ferry

It is interesting how it happens, when we decide the ribbons should be taken down, the shrines dismantled. Where is that timeline when we decide we should remove the banners and take our own freyed ribbons off. It is reminscent of individual grief, how the phone calls and the cards all too quickly stop and the meals and fruit baskets at the door are left to rot. Who decides when this time is, when this grief is supposed to be bearable. Who decides when we are ready to cook our own meals, when we do not need to be checked in upon. And what is this force that leads our hand towards our own rearview mirror to untie the ribbons and throw them out the window into the wind.

On the Lantern Parade

there were dark undertones to it this year,

the parade procession funereal,

and echos of grief followed

each beat of the drum.

 

the roads were lined with yellow ribbon,

tactile symbols of mourning,

tactile reminders of the deepest part of the ocean

where it’s almost black,

where fish slice through water like knives.

 

the ribbons will litter the streets tomorrow,

will blow in yesterday’s wind,

and will surely be recycled for the next time

that they, inevitably,

will be needed again..

Pre-Korea

5 weeks away. 35 days. 50,400 minutes if you are a Rent fan. This is how rapidly my upcoming foray into the world of kimchi,  chopsticks, and calligraphy style letters is approaching. And I cannot help but wonder- six of Carrie Bradshaw’s most famous words- how the next year is going to progress.  My imaginings of the next 365 days are flooded with juxtapositions: sitting with new friends and taking in the sights and smells of a mysterious dinner contrast with images of vile homesickness in a corner of my tiny apartment. I pack and repack my suitcase(s)- going from minimalism to extremes, from “I can buy that in Korea” to “I need every memento that will remind me of home for when I blast New York State of Mind and cry when seeing all my girls post Facebook pictures from back home and…and…”( enter breathless, anxious ramblings and run on sentences here).  So, in the midst of 100 Target runs, 500 to do lists, and a few “I cannot believe I am doing this” moments, I revisit this blog as a way to keep all of you up to date on what is going on here ( narcissistic, huh?) and a way to keep my own living journal to look back on so, whether this experience is a good or a bad one, I can finally have writing that says “I taught abroad” not yet another one in a stack that says “One day I want to …” So onwards to the next 365 days and to the 525,600 minutes of whatever Korea brings.

Weight Loss: Not just for aesthetic purposes

Life in my twenties was like being tossed into a hailstorm, an Emily Dickinson-esque ride. Grief, loss, and depression permeated every year. In fact, almost every year sequentially brought me some new darkness, something new to lose, something else to say goodbye to. My coping mechanism was simple: cancel plans, stay in bed, isolate myself, and eat.  And eat.  And eat.  When you feel absolutely miserable, sometimes the only thing to look forward to is closing the door, getting in sweatpants, and eating some Burger King. And when 5 pounds are gained, what’s another 5?  And, hey, I already gained 10, what’s one more happy meal?  “I will start on Monday,” I said every week, for 52 weeks…and another 52 weeks…and another.  I drove the people closest to me crazy with promises of “just one last binge weekend” and “this time I swear I am going to stop.” I sounded like an addict and, in a way, I was. I got the happiness from food that I couldn’t find in life. I never understood how someone could get addicted to food, why there were Overeaters Annonymous groups. But now I do. Because it isn’t the food that is the problem- it is the lack of vibrancy that is.  So my “I will start on Monday” caused 135 pounds to go to 145….145 to climb to 160…and so on.  In the past two years, I finally gained a hold on my emotions. I was able to put my grief in a- somewhat- healthy spot and began to regain the old me. But the body in the mirror mirrored the old me.  At my happiest, before my heart was crushed year after year, I was in good shape.  At my lowest, I was in awful shape.  Now I was back to being happy but I looked the same as when I was drenched in misery. My outside self did not reflect how I felt on the inside.  So this quest to lose the weight is not merely an aesthetic one. Of course, it is that as well.  I want to fit into my sexy jeans. I want to walk into a bar and feel confident like I used to. But it is more than that. For years I worked hard to regain the self I lost. Finally, after years, I got her back. And now that I have her back, I want to finally see her again.

A New Poem

she came in today

to ask for help

for her daughter-

she is struggling in reading, she said,

and math.

 

her head showed through

her baseball cap

screaming cancer,

screaming that her daughter

wasn’t the only one

struggling to stay afloat.

 

i asked her the normal questions-

what were her daughter’s grades, how is

her confidence-

but i wasn’t listening.

i was envisioning months

down the line

when her reading scores improve

and her mom isn’t there

to praise her.

Musings on my mom

My mom drank wine with philosophy students from NYU. She walked barefoot in the rain.  She protested Vietnam. Stoned. My mom put her head between 2 speakers so only Bob Dylan’s voice would infiltrate her.  My mom had hair to her waist. My mom drove to Woodstock but then came back. She told me why, and I wish I could remember.

My mom lit incense, not candles. She wore silver, not gold.  My mom quoted Kahil Gibran and Vladimir Nabokov.  She recited poetry in the shower. Loud. I heard.  She drove a big, black caddilac which she named The Raven, after Poe. Her favorite way to say no was “Never more.”

My mom got hit on every day without realizing it. She was naive. She was sweet. She was insecure. My mom took in strays- animals and people. She named a cat Brie after a prostitute in an old movie. She told people it was after the cheese. It was easier that way.

My mom loved the color black. She loved long, white wrap around porches.  She admired country houses and often got invited in because of her adulation of them.  My mom loved hotel bathrooms more than the hotels themselves. She stole pens off of maid carts and laughed as she escaped with them. My mom packed notes in my bags, even when I was in college. She sent care packages to the girls in my dorm who were lonely. My mom wore flannel nightgowns which my dad hated. My mom was a mother. My mom was a child. My mom was a giver. My mom was. My mom still is.

You were intrig…

You were intrigued by her-

this new girl-

loved the way she said

her native land- Pakistan-

pronouncing the vowels in lilts,

“not like your Bronx accent,” you said.

She has it hard, you said,

“not like you, with your comfortable

suburban life, blond hair.”

And you told me you wrote

a poem for her-

“she incites my passion for culture,

for spice”

and my eyes

burned deep as you read it,

like the topaz shine of her sari

or the glaciers behind your words.

You were intrig…

You were intrigued by her-

this new girl-

loved the way she said

her native land- Pakistan-

pronouncing the vowels in lilts,

“not like your Bronx accent,” you said.

 

She has it hard, you said,

“not like you, with your confortable

suburban life, blond hair.”

 

And you told me you wrote

a poem for her-

“she incites my passion for culture,

for spice”

and my eyes

burned deep as you read it,

like the topaz shine of her sari

or the glaciers behind your words.