May 21, 2013 by travelinggrits
Yesterday was no magic Monday.
Ever have one of those days where you feel like a train derailing over a cliff in slow motion and you just can’t seem to stop it?
Yeah, it was one of those days.
The details really aren’t worth rehashing; the time is past. My life here is a constant whirlwind of discovery, but some days I just can’t help hitting rock bottom. So on my way home from music class, I took a detour for a timeout. Sitting with my back pressed against a brick wall and staring at the city lights and wide expanse of dark sky before me, I felt the most grounded I had all day. Overcome by emotional exhaustion, a few cathartic tears bled from beneath my eyelids. I breathed deeply, murmuring my pent-up frustrations and concerns to the heavens as waves of peace gently washed over me.
Once empty and relaxed, I steeled myself for the journey homeward. I slid open the door to my homestay, tail between my legs for arriving home so late. But instead of a disapproving inquiry, I was met by a delectable aroma and a cheerful command.
“Shower quickly, and eat dinner!” My host sister had made pasta with cheese generously mixed in the tomato sauce.
Thus began the turnaround.
The next morning I woke up on time. My hair looked decent, and I threw on an outfit that despite its simplicity drew compliments from teachers and students alike.
With a few tweaks to my lessons from the day before, they went much more smoothly this time around. I know it’s not nice to pick favorites among your children, but it’s hard to dislike a class filled with some of my most endearing students, from the spunky boy who tore the house down dancing G-Dragon’s “Crayon” at last year’s school festival to the adorable girl who voluntarily asked to interview me after school last week. And today was right on point: even the timid ones were waving their hands eagerly to answer questions in order to receive stamps, and we finished in time to complete the entire game. I was literally be-bopping around the room.
Lean grilled pork meat with red pepper sauce and rice wrapped in a fresh lettuce: even though it was only Tuesday, lunch was so delicious it beat out many paid eating establishments I’ve visited. As I squashed each lettuce wrap into my mouth, I relished the flavor and mentally tipped my hat to the cafeteria manager.
After school, one of the shy special needs students poked his head in my classroom, piping a cheerful “Hi!” He loitered in the hallway, peeping in and out of the doorways and windows with a grin. I set some soft rock on the loudspeakers and played an impromptu game of peekaboo with him, sneakily slipping in and out of the entryways.
I struggled to wrap up loose ends at the end of the day, so I trekked down the school steps nearly an hour later than usual. As I began to cross the dusty playground, I realized that I had accidentally worn my indoor loafers rather than changing back into my street shoes. After a split second of indecision, I chose to continue home and not worry about it.
Then a white SUV rounded the far corner of the building. The windows rolled down and some female teachers leaned out, shouting, “Come here!” in Korean. I assumed that they were speaking to several students trudging across the barren ground in front of me until they waved their hands frantically and called my name, yelling, “Faster!”
My handbag banged against my side as I clumsily loped across the sand, feeling somewhat like the klutzy kid finally chosen first by a P.E. team captain. Come to find out, it was an impromptu dinner invitation, and I climbed into the backseat.
At dinner, the teachers were enthralled with me, cooing at my thanks for asking me to join them, praising me for my Korean table manners and marveling at my beauty inside and out, which I sheepishly played down. I tried to curl my feet under me as much as possible to avoid having my ridiculous striped loafers draw their attention. After a round or two of beer, we were giggling like schoolgirls, quite comfortably chummy.
We arrived back at the school and were about to part ways when the teachers teasingly dared me to go the karaoke room with them sometime. I shot back, “When?”
We piled back in the car–all seven of us–and headed just a few blocks away. “I only have an hour!” one cried, snatching up the song selection book.
From beating a tambourine to prancing “Gangnam Style” to belting “Poker Face,” I was a non-stop participant in that musical menagerie. When we finally rolled back out onto the sidewalk, the most staid member of the group declared, “That’s the third time I’ve ever gone!”
I realized that’s also how often I’ve been–but I’ve only been here a year.
It reminded me of a moment earlier in the day when I dropped by the principal’s office for my daily chat, which often turns into an entire class period’s worth of discussion on some bizarre subject or another.
Today, he mused, “Sometimes I have a strange thought about you.”
And that is…?
“Why was Christina not born in Korea?”
“You like the traditional music and you eat the food well. Sometimes I just wonder about you.”
He continued, “I think you are the foreigner I know who likes Korea the most.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” I deflected. “I just try to learn a lot.”
Then the conversation took an unexpected philosophical turn.
I waited patiently while he punched a word in the translation application on his phone. He looked up. “God is…. omnipotent. Almighty.”
“Man is not. Man can be mighty only by practice and practice.”
I looked at his lean, tanned face. From our past conversations, I am pretty sure he is a spiritual man but not necessarily a follower of any particular religion.
“Do you want to be God?” he inquired.
An immediate no was rising to my lips, but he had rephrased his question. “Do you want to be like God?”
I paused, considering the critical difference between the two. I asserted that merely wanted to be like God.
“If someone asks me, ‘Do I want to be God?’ I would also answer no,” he affirmed. “To be God… is too difficult. We don’t need that power.”
They say God speaks to you from everywhere and anywhere and anybody.
I remembered my conversation with Him from the day before, asking for acceptance of difficult situations and assurance in decision-making. Do your best and be satisfied, not perpetually irritated at imperfections in yourself or others. Give thanks for the hardship and the happiness, both of which shape you into a better human being. Let go and let God and merely be like God–not any more than that.
Now is the time to start living.