Sunday, February 20, 2011

Third Tale: Texting Mr. Kierkegaard...

Lots of thoughts going on these days...

Sometimes I feel like I'm really happy to be on this Earth, to be alive and enjoying all of this craziness. However, sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the possibility of being alive for a long time from now (I mean, who knows, really), and even eventually bringing children into this world. I think about technology and how quickly it's taken over our lives. I think about the sudden instability of things that once seemed like the Titanic, and then I think...what's left for us to create that cannot also destroy us?

The idea of change can be great, but it can also be scary. Right now, there is a domino effect of governments being destabilized around the globe. Christian fundamentalism is seeping more and more into the cracks in the U.S. government. The elite few in power feel threatened by the poor/middle class and are trying to squash them by oppressing unions and cutting funding for important social programs that would benefit them. People like Joe the Plumber and Sarah Palin are being taken seriously (that fact alone is enough to make me want to off myself for being human and therefore associated with them somehow). Scientific fact is being ousted completely in favor of a more 'Christlike' view of things. I feel like I'm living in an alternate universe than the one in which I was born.

At this point, should I just agree with Mr. Kierkegaard and throw any meaning that I found in life out the window? Should I play the "glad game" from Pollyanna and find something to be glad about for everything I find to be negative? I feel I wouldn't mind so much and could learn to just appreciate things for their simplicity and beauty if it meant I could truly ignore all of the clamor happening around me, but somehow that doesn't seem right...and maybe then I'd be just as bad as those creating the problems in the first place.

Anyway, sorry for depression central, but blogs are for word and thought vomit. Hope you don't get too much of mine on you.

<3, Anna

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Second Tale: These Times, They Are a Changin'...

In the last few months I've been completely nonchalant about, even craving, my trip back to the states. While I am still looking forward to having time at home, today was the first time that I started to feel a little stress/sadness in relation to the times ahead, and also in relation to leaving Korea.

First, I started writing letters to my kids for their graduation. For me, as I'm sure is also the case for many other teachers, I find that the most important part of being a teacher has been not helping the kids learn about the subject at hand. Oh, no...these kids teach me so much every day, and as a teacher, I feel that part of my job is to hold up a mirror for the kids so they can learn to recognize the amazing qualities that they already naturally possess. That, and to share with them some of the life lessons I've learned along the help them learn from my own mistakes and successes. In writing these letters (and I've only written two so far out of six) I already feel humbled in recognizing these know that kids so young have so much wisdom, far more than I, and that I am blessed enough to have been a part of their lives is really incredible. So, I was and am still touched to have had such a wonderful experience here. Today, it really hit me.

Also, I may have underestimated their feelings about me leaving. Two days ago, a mom of one of my favorite kids came in to take her younger daughter to one of our two annual open classes. She said to me that James (my student) is very sad about me leaving. Well, I just thought she was sort of saying it to be nice, because she knew I was leaving...but no. Today, Miss Lizzie (one of the other teachers) told me that James, about three times a day, just when playing or doing whatever, will stop what he is doing and say to his mom, "I am really going to miss Miss Anna." I had really conflicting feelings about this, because, well, granted you want the kids to remember you...but this kid is extra, extra sensitive. He's a student that has a hard time trusting people in general, and we have definitely formed a bond this year. I know that eventually he will be fine, but I really do worry that my leaving will be a little bit hard on him.

Anyway...other than that, I learned a lesson about being TOO proactive today...and I suppose I am grateful for that lesson, even if it cost me a few bucks. Basically, I had heard in January from my contact in Italy who is with the program I'll be teaching for in the summer, and she said that it would maybe be June 6th that I'd have to be in San Remo for the training camp this year. As the email seemed relatively positive, I decided not to wait and book a cheaper direct flight from Madrid to Nice (where I would catch the train to San Remo). Unfortunately, I received an email back from her today letting me know that the exact dates are actually from June 5th, and we have to be there by 6pm. So...I ended up canceling my flight, which I suppose was fortunate because I could be refunded $17 of $139 as opposed to none (and adding another $139 to change the flight)...and then I looked around and ended up booking a new flight on RyanAir for 50 Euro to Milan (Bergamo), where I've decided I'll take the shuttle to the city center and then take the train direct to San Remo. The shuttle's only about 9 euro, and the Train's only about altogether, it's not a horrible deal. I've decided to be positive and look at it this way: if I had waited until now, the only flights I would find from Madrid direct to Nice would be over $400 I suppose I'm really sort of saving money still, in the end...;) Ah well, it's only money.

Well, back to the tasks at hand...enjoying myself here in Korea while I can, staying in the moment and enjoying the company of my kids and friends, loving every moment as it comes my way...and always staying grateful for each of those moments.

Much love,
Anna banana

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The First Tale: Harmonic Progression

Well, after unsuccessfully keeping up with my blog on Mac's MobileMe subscription, I realized I wasted $99.00 when I could have just been blogging on here all along, which appears to be much easier and more accessible...and best of all, free!

This tale begins with me being in my 11th month in Seoul, South Korea. I am currently preparing to leave Korea to get some rest time in the U.S. and begin another journey in Europe (which I will talk about in just a moment).

My journey here has been an amazing one. I realize that I really like teaching, but I don't want to exclusively teach children. I also haven't been sure that English is the subject I am passionate about, but that is yet TBD. I really have loved my kids here- they are wonderful kids with extremely distinct personalities, who brighten my day every day.

However, I know I am ready to move onto the next project because I am starting to feel a little unfulfilled; that inner urge to create something new is showing itself like a black cat in the alley once again. It's not that I haven't made an impact here, I know that my children have learned new concepts because of me, but...the fact is, the children I teach are very wealthy, and regardless of whether I'm teaching them or not, they will be taught and they will all go on to attend universities and get great jobs (provided there is no war, Heaven forbid). Though, all kids, regardless of wealth (and sometimes in spite of it) have their issues (just like adults) and need some TLC, and I was glad that I could be there to give it this past year. On the whole, though, I feel that they have given more to me than I have to them, and I am grateful to have had them near me. :)

As for the next move, which I know some of you have been curious about, the first week of March I am going to go back to Vero Beach, Florida, to stay with my parents at their new home for about three months. During that time I will also go to St. Louis for a week to visit friends. At the end of May, I am going to Madrid for about 5 days to do some interviews for English teaching positions in the fall and to maybe check out some flats. Then I will go to San Remo, Italy, to a training camp for a two-week summer position for a company I worked with in 2008 called "Lingue Senza Frontiere". After Italy, I will go to Paris for a week to visit my cousin and we will possibly visit Belgium while we are there. Then I will go to Oxford to teach with another summer program accredited by the British Council called "Bucksmore Summer Programmes". I will remain there until August 18th, then I will go back to Madrid and settle into a teaching job and a flat for the next academic year.

So, that's the plan...I'm excited for it, and yet, I still want to figure out the bigger picture. I guess everybody does, which is what keeps us alive and motivated. I just always get the feeling that I'm supposed to be doing something more, something greater and more helpful to people than what I'm doing. This wondering is also a little selfish in that I am asking the Universe, "What sort of job will add to my happiness?" I am generally happy most days. I create my own happiness wherever I go. I love being independent and feeling free to go wherever I choose; being the artist of my own life. I know that no person, thing, or job can every create my happiness, but I feel that if I could give of myself more it might increase the happiness that already exists.

One thing I have thought about many times is my happiest job: I used to love volunteering at the International Institute of St. Louis, teaching adult refugees English. I wasn't even highly involved- I was a Teaching Assistant- but I really loved that those people could come together in a place and not feel strange, not feel like outsiders, even if only for a few hours. They were all such amazingly strong people. Despite their hardships, they were always smiling and laughing. Just being there was inspiring to me. I will never forget an 80-something year old Vietnamese man named Tuan, who walked with a limp and a cane, and he had been trying to learn English for 16+ years. Even though his English level was still very low after all of that time, he never gave up trying. He was always smiling. Even though he had an extremely low budget, he would bring in cookies for his classmates all the time. It broke my heart and inspired it at the same time.

I really have no desire to live in the U.S. moving forward, but I love the concept of the International my life, I have had the desire several times to bring people of many cultures together. So, why couldn't I create something like this in another country? Try to get a refugee assimilation program started? Well, of course there are many challenges and the fact that I don't speak another language fluently yet...and the fact that I haven't been to grad school yet...and the fact that some governments don't care for or about refugees...but hey, it's just the seed of a thought, and thoughts become things (thanks Rhonda Byrne). Anyone else's thoughts are also welcome here. :)

Love and miss everyone (xoxo)