LASTING TRANSITIONS

Transitions commence new adventures. Make 'em last…

Afterglow

I walked into Cafe Nostalia late one evening with solely the barista and myself taking advantage of the cozy, warm interior and quiescent ambiance. The weather was brutally cold, the coldest it had been all winter, and there wasn’t anyone casually walking the streets. It certainly wasn’t normal, and before stepping inside, I boldly remember thinking why all the cafes I had passed by were essentially vacant and bereft of life. Although, in retrospect of the severe climate, I can at least attest as to the primary reason.

Sipping a piping hot cappuccino with no one, no pen and paper, and nothing to keep my mind from freely wandering, I randomly slipped into reminscing about a specific conversation I recently had with a group of my 5th grade girl students. The conversation went something like this…

5th grade students: “Paul teacher, how old are you?”

Me: “I’m 30 years old. How old are you?”

Now, I had hoped they would practice their English and answer my question, but they unfortunately did not and instantly asked me another question.

5th grade students: “Are you married?”

This is of course one of the first 3 questions I’d say most Koreans ask of one another, even amongst strangers.

Me: “No, I am not.”

5th grade students: “You MUST get married!”

Me: “Really?”

5th grade students: “Yes! You MUST get married!”

Me: “Really? Why?”

5th grade students – “…”

It was complete and utter silence for a few moments, and what immediately followed is something I will never forget. They all then peered at one another and gave each other the most baffled look I have ever seen. It was classic! Then after briefly giggling amongst themselves, they quickly said goodbye and left my classroom in a hurry.

Not long after this specific occurrence, I honestly sat and pondered the thought of marriage amid my classes that day, and again, the idea of marriage spawned in my mind while relaxing in Cafe Nostalgia. In actuality, it was kind of a daunting thought for me to contemplate, but there has been no way around not thinking about it. Within the last year or two, numerous family members, close friends, and acquiantances everywhere have gotten married, and I’ve been able to see the supreme happiness it has brought to all of them – a particular type of happiness I almost know nothing about, or at least have much personal experience in.

The ol' Texas Crew

During my visit to Southeast Texas last month, where I had a splendid time briefly catching up with my ol “Texas crew”, I honestly felt out-of-place for awhile, which is somewhat of a rare occurrence for me as I tend to quickly adapt to different situations. Amid attending my friend Liz’s wedding and seeing the majority of my close friends with their significant others, something struck me quite odd about it all. I couldn’t exactly put a finger on it, but things were different, yet the same. The bond of friendship amid the group was still strong, but it was now somehow divided individually among couples, and I spent some of the evening combating notions of nostalgia within the realm of the here-and-now.  The same goes for my close friends in California.

Texas roundtable

Joe & Traci

Laughing outloud, and I can't remember why. Just good times...

It wasn’t until later in the evening when we all ventured to Ross’s place that I began to feel at ease and had had time to examine and catch up with it all. Once this happened, it truly felt just like old times, but with added propitious circumstances. I see great newfound happiness in their lives and I hope for the best in all their dreams and aspirations.

This is where I teach - Wolgot & Moonsu Mountain, South Korea. North Korea is just beyond the Han river behind this mountain.

As I rode the metro from Incheon International Airport back to the mainland with my recent 3-week visit to the US feeling almost like a distant memory, something just felt right about returning to Korea. Again, I couldn’t exactly put my finger on it, but as I sat peering out into the distance, it really felt like I was back to where I am supposed to be, right here, right now, and although I sometimes run into some strange things, like eating food from a shovel, I can’t help but just chuckle and continue on feeling that I’m where I’m supposed to be.

For the foreseeable future of atleast a few more years, most importantly if God wills it, I can see myself in Korea for quite awhile. To be honest, this was the initial feeling I received upon taking my first step in Korea almost 18 months ago, and it all seems to be occuring to my delight.

Wolgot Elementary School - the view from my classroom desk

In retrospect, I had a pleasant time catching up with family and friends back home, but it seems God wants me elsewhere for the time being. I can’t say this with 100% certainty, but just like love, it’s one of those things that can’t be truly explained, however, it is something that one just knows and believes.

My School's "backyard" - The bridge to Moon-su mountain

My trip back home did in fact do me some good as I returned to Korea with a fresh zeal for life, adventure, and work. In addition, I’ve been beginning to bridge the gaps with my relationship with God piece by piece. I’ve been truly trying to get to know Him more and more, and in doing so, it has been changing me in a positive way. I’m tired of putting up a “false front” and claiming to be a Christian, yet not following through in my faith and living up to what is expected of me. The days ahead will be difficult as I’m already faced with tough personal trials amid changing my lifestyle, but it has been mesmerizing to see God beginning to work in my life. To God be the glory!

Bird native to Moon-su mountain

Unfamiliarity is my muse. I crave being mentally stimulated by being in a different place in a different part of the world, more than anyone can possibly know. I enjoy jetsetting throughout the world like a firebird photographing and writing about what I’ve seen and experienced, in addition to the wonderful people I meet along each journey, but I’ve begun to realize that a guy like me ends up with many worldly stories to tell, but with no one to intimately tell them to. This thought shakes me from time to time, but I’ve not pictured myself “settled down” for a very long time. I can see the solace in doing so, I can visualize it, but to me, I’m finding that solace is not settling down – it’s being on the move, on the road, and seeing the world amid gaining experience and helping individuals along the way. In my determination to be a better Christian, will I need to “settle down” or will God continue to allow me to do what I’m doing? That is the question!

For those of you who have kept up with my blogs since I began writing them, you may recall of  a blog I wrote last summer called “When Life Deals a Royal Flush” telling the story of how I met a spectacular Korean girl. Things went a bit sour primarily because of her parents not wanting her to get intimately involved with a foreigner, and when that happened, she totally backed off and it was quite weird for awhile. I’ve never written about this, but we have remained good friends, which for the time being, seems to be fine with her parents. For the last several months we’ve been meeting at least twice a week to spend time together either walking throughout town, getting dinners, chatting at a cafe, or getting acupuncture at a Korean traditional hospital, which I quickly ascertained that my first time would indeed be my last.

Ultimately, there is a genuine, deep solace I feel when I’m with her, but she only desires to remain good friends. It’s a little tough to be content with that, but with what I’ve previously explained regarding my desires to be “on the road”, perhaps its for the best. However, only God knows what tomorrow will bring.

Wow! This is what happens when I go on a “blog break”! I just spent the entire morning and afternoon expounding my thoughts and I very much appreciate you reading them all. Since my return to Korea nearly a month ago, I’ve been unremarkably busy lesson planning for the entire year. It was a daunting task, but I finally completed all that I needed to do 3 days ago. This next year I will be challenging myself much more in order to become the best teacher I can possibly be, something of which I can already foresee a sacrifice in sleep in the days to come, but well worth the sacrifice to becoming a better educator. Also, after lesson plans were finished, I spent the entire following day committed to a major overhaul of my blog; you’ll notice much has changed. Please comment on what you think and/or if you have any suggestions.

No matter the circumstance, I plan to remain committed to writing as it’s one of the few things in life that bring me tremendous, insurmountable, overflowing joy. Thanks for reading!

One comment on “Afterglow

  1. iGwangju
    February 18, 2012

    Great blog bro! I’ve returned to it for the third time now. It was very candid, forthcoming and a pleasure to read. Keep trusting in Jesus!

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This entry was posted on February 13, 2012 by in South Korea, USA and tagged , , , , , .

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“Experience, travel – these are as education in themselves.”

~Euripides
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