Several things have been on my mind lately. Especially since last Tuesday. (Its sat. now). I've had quite a few thoughts coming at me...all from different origins. Posters, quotes, music, books, friends, and family. The first I might catch a bit of flack for, so let me voice a disclaimer. This doesn't apply to everything, just some things. That aside: Its better to regret something you did, than something you didn't.There are good and bad to me leaving Korea and to staying. The same is true of America. If I do extend my teaching contract for an additional semester, I will undoubtedly wish at times I had not. Yet there are things that I can learn from being here another 6 months that could not happen otherwise. and I think when I apply my first thought to my current conundrum, ( I love that word)...I need to stay.
Going to the DMZ was one of the top attractions I wanted to see whilst being in Korea. I had been debating on signing up with Adventure Korea to do a visit through them but on the very day I had planned to sign up, the email came through from the POE that the DMZ would be our destination for our cultural trip. It couldn’t have been better !
I have tried to explain how I feel about the border and the separation of Korea a few times and each time it is difficult. The simple answer is that the division is horrible and a tragic end to an already devastating situation. That, however, does not explain why, with all the beautiful, positive, and photogenic places that Korea has to offer, I would be most interested in a place that could easily be described as the complete opposite.
Growing up in the United States, the world and its history, as viewed through textbooks, tends to be somewhat of an illusion. We all know the world is not flat anymore but until you have actually observed another place and seen how having a completely different history can shape a culture, you haven’t seen the world in all its depth of diversity. Seeing nothing more than pictures in history class or video clips on CNN is viewing the world from behind an objective lens. I wanted to see the border because it is a constant reminder of something horrible but something real. This selfishness and greed that has caused a society to be divided has been a thorn in the side of eastern Asia for the past fifty years. However, the border also speaks very well for the citizens of South Korea as they were able to accomplish what has now been coined as “The Miracle On The Hahn River”. This shows what determination and perseverance can accomplish when a group of people have a unified interest and know that their survival depends solely on their success.
Another reason that I was so interested in seeing the border is because, as I also believe, people are drawn to things that are foreign to them. There is a sense of interest in something that you’re not an expert on. I know that this does not apply to all areas (I do not know anything about, nor have any particular interest in, underwater basket weaving). Because I have experienced no real suppression from my government, or been denied of any generic simple human freedoms or liberties, being able to observe a culture who has, is interesting and intriguing. Explaining this fascination is difficult: it shouldn’t be interpreted as someone wanting to go to a circus show to see a five-legged dog or two-headed monkey. It is far from this kind of objective “gaze upon a specimen”. Rather, I find a draw to the conflict within North Korea because it is so difficult for me to grasp how, with the world that it is now in 2011, a place like that still exists. Thus, on a very personal level, it challenges my worldview as built through school textbooks. It is as close to time travel as one might be able to find. Coming from first-world America, being able to experience countries of a vastly different state of affairs, such as Cuba which is still very old-world, China which is communist by name only and North Korea which is more of a fascist dictatorship than communist, is enlightening and eye-opening to better understand the world. I hurt for the citizens of North Korea and wish that they could be allowed to excel to their full potential. Looking at what South Korea has accomplished I can’t help but think of what could be done with more land, more resources and a reunification of a family.
You can’t always get what you want. You cant. Nobody can. The past 24 hours have been some of the greatest and the most stressful since I’ve been here. The more I like Korea the more stressed I get. Ironic? I don’t know. It’s definitely an uneasy feeling. I do know that. I’m the train bound for Seoul now. I’ve got the next 7 says off. Am I spending it in Seoul? No, just traveling 3 hours to watch a movie. And yes, there’s a more than adequate theater 3 minutes from my apartment. Maybe I’ll get the over night train back home. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe Monday.
I’m listening to the referenced song by The…Stones. I’m also about 1/3 the way through Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. In the book, the narrator talks about his past through the form of a ghost. The ghost is the antagonist fighting against the narrator to live outside the box of rationality. To stop believing everything people tell him just because it’s always been that way. Most of the discussions he has are philosophical about how the ghost went crazy thinking about things. The more he thought, the crazier he became. And incidentally, the more I read, the more wound up I feel. Like 14 cups of coffee wound up.
Four hours of music per day has turned into 4 minutes and up is the amount of reading I’m doing. It’s also exhausting. I feel like I'm reading as much of the dictionary as I am this book.
Between the books power to induce stressful thoughts and the looming question of what I want to do with my life until February 2012…I'm worn out. I mean really. Are you kidding me? I have 6 shirts and 4 pair of pants and it takes me 30 minutes to decide what to wear. All I really want to do is find a Do Not Disturb sign and hang it out side my brain for a day. I don't want to make a decision that deals with that far in the future.
What am I doing in Korea? Why did I come? For experience in teaching, yes that’s it. Good. One question down. Lets keep going….
The more places I go the more places I want to be. Anyone who has ambitions or zeal to acquire more can understand this. It wears me out. When you weight train you lift the weight until your exhausted. When you want a car built…and I mean REALLY built…you pump every dime you can find into it. If you REALLY want something you’ll find a way. If not, you’ll find an excuse. Fact. If you like to travel, the same is true. I want to go and go and go. More and more and more. I’m trying to find a way and it’s exhausting. Oh yeah…”you can’t always get what you want.” Thanks Mic.
1.5 hours into my train ride the train is paced. Like sardines packed. Saddlebags on a motorcycle trip packed. I'm glad I bought my ticket yesterday because I have a seat. If there are no seats left, then the train company sells standing tickets. So people flood the isles and café car.
Another reason I thought to listen to that song is because Sharon Owsley, my mom’s friend, has always called me a rolling stone. And I love it. That screams adventure to me and I like being thought of as an adventuresome individual. I think life begins right outside of your comfort zone. (Or at least for me it does).
Gong back to obsession (that’s really what it is) is dangerous. Think of the freshman that pulls an all nighter to read 3 chapters ahead in his psych book because he’s just that interested. You say he’s diligent. Going after something he likes. If the same student did the same thing but drew circles all night, he’s obsessed. Mad. And would probably end up being an example IN the psych book. My point is, obsession to often connotes negativity and right now that’s what I feel. My snowball is getting way to big and going way to fast and I cant keep up. But getting out of the way would mean not seeing what happens. I cant do that either. I need a meadow of wildflowers to go lay in. or a beach. Maybe I’ll just fall asleep on the return train and end up at the beach on Busan.
Well we’re finally getting close to Seoul; time to enjoy the city for a few hours.
p.s. what the entry was supposed to be about was whether to stay for an additional 6 months in Korea. A topic for next time I suppose.