200714 (화)

Despite living in South Korea, I knew next to nothing about K-Pop for the longest time. I still know very little, though having some classmates in my korean class for whom Kpop is their raison d’être has opened my eyes to some of the benefits. One of those that I find most useful is the way to catalogue events, news, outfits, concerts by dates with the year, month and day. This the title for my blog post today is 200714, to represent 2020.07.14 (YYMMDD)

Today I’ve been making eye contact many of the strangers as we pass by each other. I do not know why today of all days, but it got me wondering how many unique people I have passed in the 18months I have lived here. Greater Seoul is a metropolitan area of 25.6 million people. Each day, 5.6 million people pass transit using the subway lines alone! That number does not include the number of people taking busses. If I assume an equal number of people ride the subways I can estimate that approximately 400,000 unique individuals ride my subway line every day. I wonder how many people I have seen. 20,000?

7 person per side bench, 6 benches per car + 4 benches reserved for the elderly each seating 3. These seats are almost always full. Plus at least 7 people standing in front of each bench and many more in the entry space? Guesstimate is every time I get in a car I see around 100 people plus the 50-60 that get on during the 30minute ride. Say 160 unique people each way only on the subway (not counting the hundreds that get off at my station). Before covid19, I rode the subway twice a day. 160x2x7=2,240 unique people I see every week, on the subway proper.

200115. Typical pre-covid19 arrival at the subway station near work (Gwanghwamun Station) I take the stairs because the line for the escalator is ridiculous and takes 5 minutes.

That’s insane. which really has me thinking about the minute details of each encounter- even if it’s only in the space of a moment, brief eye contact, a jostle or sliding of glazed eyes past each other. What do I leave behind? Surely most people I pass by I do not remember. Likewise, I am sure I am quite forgettable in the pattern of their day. Yet still I wonder, what do I leave behind of myself in the space of that moment? Courtesy? Gentleness? Non threatening? Nothing? It is good to not be remembered at all in my mind than remembered with as a curse or a blight. Subways are difficult places, especially for the younger folks and most especially for young women.

And so I wonder…how am I remembered, or better how am I not remembered by the 817,000 people I saw last year on the subway? Where is the common courtesy and how do I manifest that courtesy as a gentle being even in the midst of the oft hectic transit life.

Still, 817,000 in 365 days by subway alone. Kind of cool right? Sure, some of those are bound to be repeats but, still. That is so cool! One of the reasons I love living in Seoul.

월요일

It rained the whole day today. With the pandemic raging I temporarily forgot about natural disasters. Today’s rain prompted me to look up the weather radar as we had thunderstorms the entire day.

In casting about for something to make with my chicken tonight, I decided to head over to the grocery store as I was out of things like vegetables, milk and granola. I do not know your grocery store habits, though for me I like to buy things I don’t necessarily know how to make. Of course I am much much more adventurous with non-meat products. Today I found these nice King Oyster mushrooms that had me very curious about their taste and method of preparation.

King Oyster Mushrooms, I discovered have a mild taste and are a perfect complement for strong tasting sauces.

In my searching, I came across a recipe for Teriyaki Marinated Oyster Mushrooms. I had a bottle of teriyaki sauce in the refrigerator that I hadn’t yet used up entirely, so I decided to make that. It turned out well! A bit too salty but I think if I made my own sauce that would have been avoided . Here is a link to the recipe

https://omnivorescookbook.com/recipes/teriyaki-king-oyster-mushroom

I’m not sure how much they cost in your country, but here I bought that package for 2000원 or $1.70. All in all, it was one of the more successful ventures into unknown ingredients that I’ve recently had, so I was very pleased.

I did get a little hungry at night after my workout so, I ate a bit more granola Than I should. I am sure if one eats the rice prescribed in the recipe the munchies would stay away! I didn’t though.

일요일

Today was marked by my cell phone experiencing post-update problems. Am minor thing to be sure, this home button not working, but I so do dislike when things aren’t working properly. I think that is my number 1 peeve. Some good did come of it though as I spent most of the evening backing up my phone to iCloud in preparation for a possible repair. I spent time looking through pictures of the past. It’s odd, I am so bad at taking pictures of things I see every day. However, I did take a number of photos of Mt. Apo in the sunset.

View of Mt. Apo from my front door, June 24, 2018, a few days before I left for Manila.

What I really miss are the streets. In the neighborhood I lived in, not all streets were paved. There were dusty roads and some sandy roads too. I have fond memories of power walking my way down shortcuts on my way to the mall. 20 minutes of intense sun willfully blissful and ignoring the looks of consternation from Tricycle drivers, who wondered how a foreigner could be so poor as not to be able to afford a 25¢ ride. I wish I took the time to take pictures of those streets.

During what I knew were my last few weeks, I intentionally absorbed the feelings of walking in that place. I let it seep into my bones, I let the sun scorch it into my skin. I let the dirt cake my feet through the sandals I wore, let the dust blow onto my clothing and the smells of the neighborhood into my living memory.

Yet memory is a fickle thing, at least mine is. I find myself needing photos to evoke the things I thought I had taken into myself…perhaps that’s what getting older means. So I am grateful that I can back up my photos without a hitch. I hope my phone survives a few more years.

토요일

Today I got to thinking about “the good old days.” For me, it is a very specific memory of a family trip to Asheville, North Caroline for some time spent together hiking and sharing each other’s company away from technological distractions, though we did watch the entire Planet of the Apes 7/8 dvd series.

I have a particularly fond memory of hiking through the Arboretum to the visitors center, located in the center. There, are many beautifully crafted rocking chairs of all sizes upon which I rested, listened to the birds and watch the wind move in nature.

Nature here is beautiful. I have not yet explored it as I wish to. Part of me yearns to go East to the mountains, for hiking and camping. I also want to go with friends though Covid19 life is putting a damper in those things. There are gardens and hostels, bed and breakfast type places that remind me of a certain Geology field trip in Canada many years ago.

I did go outside today. If I stay inside the whole day I feel somehow non-existent, so I went out at night and walked a few kilometers on the river path- thankful for an accessible trail and the breeze the blew through my clothing, for the people on bikes who kindly gave me space and in that small courteous gesture affirmed my sense of existence.

금요일

Well I almost forgot to blog today. I got caught up in a novella on the subway that I decided to read instead. It was entertaining enough – about an old blacksmith in a world of technology.

Today was nice, I didn’t have korean class. Nice for me but bad for my language skills. I feel like 1/2 times I say something, I saw the exact opposite of what I mean even though I know how to say it right. Meh, then again, at least I am saying something comprehensible, even if the person comprehending gets the exact opposite of what I say.

Today was leg day! Hooray it’s over. The second most important lesson I have learned from my trainer is: “Always make exercise hard.” If it’s not hard, you aren’t exercising. He is a big “work hard or don’t bother” kind of guy. I told him in my halting korean that I was looking forward to the day I lose weight and lunges will become easier and he shook his head and said: “It will never be easy Adam. We will add weight so it’s always hard” He then proceeded to add 10 kg to my current exercise almost as if he reminded himself that me having energy to talk meant that I wasn’t working hard enough.

In my quest for rediscovering my passion and dreams, I have begun to listen to my iTunes library again. When I first got my computer back in 2011, I imported all the cds I owned and then some. Cds of music I enjoyed from my parents’ collection, cds I borrowed from the library, random cds – anything in my eagerness to fill up my library. These days, I have my entire library on my phone and instead of streaming music, I hit the shuffle button and listen to whatever comes up. It has been a nostalgic experience, especially when a song that evokes vivid memories plays: be it a folk song that used to make me feel wistful, a classical piece that reminds me of my grandparents, a break-up-boy-band song from a heartache, filipino songs from my times marching and many many more.

My hamstrings hurt. Random but it’s true. How many of us actually use laptops on our laps? It’s extremely difficult right now. All thanks to you Mr. 현진. Speaking of, I only have 3 of my 10 sessions remaining. Right now I am leaning towards signing up for 10 more. It’s not that I expect the exercise themselves to ever be fun or easy, but honestly it’s been nice to workout with someone, and have someone I can practice my terrible Korean on. Especially during these social isolation times, it’s nice to have that extra connection, plus whatever physical transformation my body will (hopefully) experience.

As of today, all church extra-curricular activities have been banned. I’m not sure how that affects me yet, save for my eyes getting a rolling workout from reading the posts of Christian groups being upset. Clearly Covid19 is present in our communities so let’s do the best we can to mitigate it together.

목요일

Thursday is my second day in the office this week. Due to Coronavirus 19 cases we have been on a limited office schedule. I make up part of the bench, the second unit that closes out the quarter. Oh basketball, something that won’t happen for awhile.

The weather this week has been all kinds of humid so I was so relieved to see the humidity decrease for the day. The humidity went down but the temperature went up, and I once again regretted wearing pants to work. Not that I have a choice really, but sometimes I wonder what would happen if I wore a “Jesus Robe” to the office. Would that count as business casual? Probably not for Corporate America/Korea.

Ah the weather. Hot weather to be more precise, the bane of my existing appetite. I wonder if it’s easier to lose or to gain weight in the summer. On the one hand, my appetite is way down with intense heat and humidity, but on the other hand, all I want to eat is fruit and ice cream. Mainly fruity ice cream. What I am eating instead is a root salad. One of my goals last year was to live a healthier life style, go to the gym and exercise more. At the beginning of this year , I was still doing fine and lulled myself into eating all kinds of snacks, so much so that my weight slowly crept back up 100+. Part of that is discipline, part of that is lack of motivation. Thankfully one of my good friends in the Philippines agreed to challenge ourselves to a Bawal Baboy competition: I am so close to my goal I can almost taste it!

Perhaps I am crazy. Making a six figure salary just isn’t as important a goal to me as achieving my target weight and body fat percentage. As I move into my 30s, I realize I won’t be young forever. My body will take longer to recover, longer to transform. I want to experience the physical ability that God gave me, the potential that God imbued me with. It’s a long journey still, but I feel I have come so far from where I began back in 2018. Full disclosure, I did have pizza this week so oops. I might not make any progress this week, but it was nice to satisfy my cheesy bread craving for the first time in 8 weeks.

Single life helps with this goal. I doubt if I were living with a partner if they would be content to eat chicken breast with me every night. I recently bought a half kilo of Herbe de Provence, which has been helping my marinades, and thus my chicken breasts, taste much better than before. Still, “Chicken breasts” my 2020 life-motto.

Thursday is also the second day of my weekly Korean class. My future depends so much on my Korean ability. Where I used to feel accomplished with my level of progress, I now feel disappointment, anxiety and frustration at my slow learning. It’s an unrealistic goal for me, I know, it took me about 4 years before I felt comfortable in Bisaya. I barely have 1 year of Korean under my belt. Spinning these thoughts in my head won’t help me learn any faster, but I cannot quash the voice that compares my ability to other people, regardless of the length of study or time they have had with the language.

In my imagination, I fancy one day waking up and I will suddenly be able to understand the babble of voices around me. Until then, I will keep going to class and slogging my way through it, taking what I understand and what I do not home with me, immersing myself in fountain of korean, hoping that enough will stick over time.

To Dream Again

Dreams have been on my mind lately. The kind of dreams we dream as children, dreams of who we want to be. Somewhere along the way I lost that dream of childhood me. I forgot who I wanted to be when I grew up. I also forgot what I enjoyed when I was a child, what gave me energy, what excited me and spurred my imagination. 31 years old and not a dream to my name, at least no dreams for myself.

Last weekend I went to see my pastor about this. I was seeking wisdom for this crucial juncture in my life: a time for reinventing and rediscovering myself. These times are uncertain for all of us, so knowing part of my future (my end of contract) is a boon, one that endeavors me to self-examine during the upcoming months. I told my pastor there is a chance I could get reassigned elsewhere, but that I was tired of starting over- or rather starting over is not my “final frontier” to quote Star Trek. I have moved and begun again, it feels like I have uprooted myself and replanted myself my whole adult life. For me the next frontier is not about expanding or casting my net wider… it is about going deeper.

To stay and go deeper into the community that I have joined, to extend my roots deep and find the source of water, to find the firm foundation that I can sink my self into, and begin to grow higher than I ever imagined. My pastor said that was a sign of maturity: that wishing to go deeper expresses a desired to grow more mature. “It is not about going high. Too often we focus on going high, but how high can we go if we do not first go deep? You could be 50, 60, or 70 and have it all crash down.” To go deeper, you must answer the question: who is the ultimate me that I want to be? What is the ultimate thing that I want to be doing?

Which brings me back to dreaming: in order to find those answers, I must dream again. In order to dream again I must find time for myself to meditate and sit with myself, to listen to myself and rediscover that childhood self that was a veritable field of dreams, when compared to my tundra of dreams today. Spending intentional time with myself is something I have longer been terrible at. I would rather fill that time with distractions like books, games, movies etc… and yet now I find myself in a position where my survival depends on those times of solitude and reflection.

Where do I go from here? I read a few articles on how to proceed. Meditation, journaling. All things that have been mentioned to me in the past, things I have dabbled in yet have not committed too. Perhaps I will take a trip out in nature, bring my hammock and find a place to set it up, and do some remembering, reflecting and start that journey towards dreaming again.

화요일

Today I joined a press conference by the National Council of Churches in Korea and Kasammako held in front of the Philippine Embassy in Seoul. The purpose of the press conference was to denounce Duterte backed and recently signed Anti-Terror Law. While the casual reader might think “Hmm anti-terror what’s wrong with that?” the reality of the bill makes it easy, in the wrong hands, to label anyone to critiques the Philippine government as a terrorist suspect and enables philippine authorities to hold them without a warrant for 24 days.

In the most responsible of governments, this law is an infringement of civil liberties. Under the Duterte administration, a government already guilty of crimes against humanity in their bloody “drug war”…well it’s far worse than an infringement.

The press conference, held in the top of the morning, attracted around 20 people with passersby stopping to listen to the pronouncements in Korean and English. Participants were photographed by embassy personnel. Statements were read by the faith community and the filipino migrant community.

After the press conference was over, I joined my filipino colleagues for lunch at a recommended sandwich place. It was delicious and the change I needed from my strict diet. Though I stuck with chicken

Chicken sandwich from the Casablanca Sandwicherie

After lunch, I helped my colleagues find the bus stop back to the office. The path involved walking under this interesting underpass as we crossed under the highway.

The ceiling was a bit low for me.

As it’s my work from home day, I did not join my colleagues, instead I returned home to work on a bit of Fair Share Market cataloguing before heading to Korean class. The subway is a perfect place to write this blog. Today is the second half of level 4A- almost like the second half of Infinity War but the good guys (aka me) probably won’t win in this one.

Language struggles!

Peace.

A new page

I have decided to challenge myself to 7 days of blogging.

Usually, I write my blogs like articles and agonize over what to write, or what to cut out so much so that it drops off my priorities list, or off my radar entirely.

For the next 7 days, I am going to free-thought blog, about my day.  While itinerating a few weeks ago someone asked me what my day looks like, and honestly, I don’t think it looks like something too unique, but I see my days all the time.  So here in these next few entries, I will write down what I do, what I think, experience, see and possibly eat.

 

Let’s begin.

A Challenging October

This month as been equal parts reflective, weird and challenging with some strung together moments of joy.

The past few sermons I have heard had similar themes of God granting all of us salvation. At some point in my missionary work I consoled myself with the knowledge that at least those who perpetrate and inflict violence, hate and injustice on their brothers and sisters will be locked out of heaven. Those who amass wealth for themselves only and do not care about their neighbors or God will not inherit the kingdom of God…only to be put firmly back in a humble reflecting attitude with the sermons of Rev Chong-Ah Kim and Eugene Choi. In particular the verse from Matthew 20:15 “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ and also from Eugene’s sermon about the lame man, his friends and the Pharisees surrounding Jesus with us being likened to the Pharisees, practicing the laws and the work but somehow missing Jesus in the midst of us.

I forget that despite my commitment to this work in the kingdom of God, I do not own God’s salvation: it is not up to me to decide who gets to receive God’s grace. If God, like the landowner chooses to offer the same salvation to those who came to God late in life, then who am I to question that?

I feel shame because in my heart is an unspoken prayer that the people who do these terrible things will never repent and be banished into an eternity separated from God.

I feel sad because of the self-revelation that it is easier for me to live in disagreement with a sister or brother while relying on God’s judgement waiting around the corner for them.

I feel unbalanced because I took verses like the Beatitudes i.e. ‘Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of God’ to mean the rich will not inherit the kingdom of God.

I feel confused as to why I am actually doing this work if there is no ‘exclusive reward’ for pursuing love, faith, justice, generosity, mercy and why/when did I begin to feel deserving one? If the reward is the same, what is preventing me from going away and living life large and YOLO and for myself then coming back when things get bad, or I get sick or old, or feel devoured by guilt…much like the prodigal son who went away and had a YOLO lifestyle, fell on hard times and came back only to be welcomed and celebrated by his father? What are the benefits of not being a prodigal child?

I feel frustrated by God’s logic: A life of faithfulness and repentance yields the same reward as a life of faithlessness and boasting if both end in confession, acceptance of Jesus Christ and repentance.

I feel disheartened because after all these years, I still have neither internalized what it means for me to be loved by God nor what it means for my neighbors and my enemies to be loved by God.