Friday, June 25, 2010

Highlights from a week at home:

10) Reading. Mostly books that I will be teaching at this stage, but still. It’s fun to have time to read.

9) Purging old books, clothes, shoes, purses… my room is so much cleaner!

8) Discovering, after years of believing that dresses look awful on me, that they can actually look good! I may have bought one or two… or 7 dresses in the last week. I am done shopping.

7) Eating lots of delicious food that is hard to find abroad: spicy shrimp, salads with fruit and fancy cheeses, gorgonzola and spinach ravioli, lotsa sushi, Maryanne’s ice cream, good Californian wine, Yougurtland fro yo, Peet’s coffee, Mom’s French onion soup, pearl tea, grandma’s cooking… California is the best place in the world to eat! Yum.

6) Sorting clothes at a homeless support center with the high school kids from church (I started volunteering with the youth group). InnVision is a cool organization!

5) Eating kinchee-chigeh, sporting my dae han min guk temporary tattoo + teeshirt, and cheering on the Korean team at Strike. It was fun being one of the only non-Koreans there… I felt like I was back in Daejeon again!

4) Spending time on the beach. I LOVE the ocean.

3) Donavon’s goal in the 91st minute. So fun to be a part of that moment cheering alongside my fellow Americans at the Brit ☺

2) Seeing Wicked in San Francisco with my mom, my brother (gasp), and my brother’s girlfriend (the only reason my brother considered going… way to go Marina!). One word: amazing!

1) Spending time with people. Highlights are always people. Got to spend time with many quality people this week. It is nice to be closer to them (geographically speaking). Reunions rock.

That's my Dad!

I'm a proud daughter! My dad won a leadership award for his work with Kaiser Permanente. He has worked hard as a doctor and also an administrator. He recently helped design a new hospital (Kaiser Santa Clara) and has helped oversee his hospital's transition into the new building. This link talks a bit about his accomplishments. Pretty cool. Go Dad!

Friday, June 18, 2010

What's in a name?

It has been a week since I left Korea and returned to California. Among other things, two topics spin in the forefront of my ponderings: 1) names and 2) my current transition point. For the last three years, my blog has been called “Sarah’s Korean Adventures,” a literal label correlating with my experiences abroad. However, as numerous individuals have pointed out to me, this descriptor is no longer accurate. As I re-acclimate to California, a familiar, yet surprisingly foreign, English-speaking community, I find I am often greeted with friendly questions like “Are you from around here?” or “What do you do?” To such questions, I fumble to find an accurate and comprehensible response. My muddled replies are often as discombobulated as my transition, fragmented into boxes being shipped around the globe and scattered into shared memories with people continents away. I struggle to articulate the significance of my experiences, the differences between cultures, and the whirlwind of emotions that accompany me along my move to others, and even to myself.

The title of my blog suddenly becomes especially symbolic. As I reflect upon my time in Korea, readjust/reconnect to my American community, and anticipate my transition to Africa, I must redefine my own conceptions of myself. I find myself asking deep questions about my purpose, plans, and goals. I grasp for the words to express my faith and my trust that each of these seemingly random communities are a part of God’s plan for my life. I search for a label that somehow captures the deep continuity that transcends continents; that describes my philosophy of living in many respects.

I am not fully satisfied with my blog title. It is a work in progress. But at this present point in my transition, it begins to encompass a bit of my outlook on my international experiences.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Reminiscing from my California bedroom, upon returning home from Korea

Since the start of this blog 3 years ago, I have travelled to 17 countries, taught 15 classes, taken 56 flights (spent goodness knows how many hours in planes), helped build 2 houses, and have sold about $1500 worth of original earrings to raise money for various causes. I have had SO many interesting and stretching experiences!

At work, I have survived my first full time teaching job and have honed my teaching skills (shout-out to LeeAnne with the use of the word “hone”). I have directed Shakespeare plays, let my students stand on desks and do poetry slams, dissected poetry, led a teacher book club panel, and have acclimated to a 1-1 laptop environment. The acronyms A1, A2, TOK, MYP, CAS, OCK, RBB, AA, ESLR, PLC, and MK mean something to me now. I have head coached my first soccer team (and we made it to a championship match!). I have chaperoned 5 international trips with groups of students. I have learned what it looks like to share my faith with students. I have organized the first English department birthday parade ☺

Beyond school, I have lived in a country where I did not know the language (sadly, this is still an apt description of me… my Korean is not nearly as good as I wished it would be) and have acclimated in many ways to a new culture. Sorting garbage and freezing my food garbage has become second nature. The cycles of yellow dust seem a natural part of my life. Random dancers in the street, people dressed in giant soju costumes, ajumas sporting rhinestone animal print coats with plaid pants and a floral visor hardly get a second glance. I bow at everyone I meet. I occasionally complain that my food isn’t spicy enough for me and have distinct kimchee preferences.

I have flung myself into the world: I have spooned tigers, jumped out of an airplane, climbed Mt. Fuji, descended into an Egyptian pyramid, floated in the Dead Sea, tasted a scorpion, and held a koala. I have collected 3 piercings, one tattoo, dozens of sand-flea scars, and 4 surgery incisions. I have taken every form of transportation imaginable: trains, planes, bicycles, camels, canoes, rafts, elephants, tuk-tuks, jeepnies, motorcycles, subways, taxis, hydrofoils, zip lines… Many social justice issues have come to my attention and I have tried to become an activist for those in need (especially for women trapped in the Thai sex industry).

In my own community, I have learned to articulate the subtle differences between Americans and Canadians. I have (unwillingly) adopted some of the Minnesotan vowels (thanks to Emily and Bre). I have joined a home church. I have friends from every continent except Antarctica… does anyone actually live there? I have frequented rooftops, Click apartments, a dozen different coffee shops, and a variety of neighborhood restaurants. I know the KTX and bus schedules well. Thousands of people have seen me naked (at the jimjilbang… don’t worry, I haven’t become an exhibitionist or anything). I have refined my pottery making skills under the tutelage of a skilled Korean potter.

But most importantly, I have made lasting and deep relationships. I have grown in my faith and have listened to students question, seek, and discover God. I know and am known by my kids here. My friends in Korea have been my family, my church, my travel buddies, and my rocks. I am so incredibly sad to part with them.