Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Sixth Tale: Feeling Helpless in the Face of Disaster; Random Life Update

It is so incredibly hard to make heads or tails of the situation Japan. First, a series of severely hazardous earthquakes rip through the island, followed by a monstrous 30-foot tsunami. Matters were only made worse by a blizzard today. Oh yea, then there's that little situation about the nuclear reactors melting down/emitting ungodly amounts of radiation and doing irreversible damage to a massive area in Fukushima (and possibly surrounding areas) which may render that part of Japan uninhabitable. Whew.

When I think that I could have been there during this situation (I applied to Interac to teach English, who would have almost definitely placed me in a rural area there), I have to give thanks to whatever part of me inside that intuitively said "no" to Japan. Unfortunately, when I think of the beauty and magnificence of Tokyo, a city I instantly fell in love with, I can't help imagining the horrors of the people as parts of buildings were falling around (or on) them. The footage of the earthquake alone (not to mention the tsunami footage from Honshu) makes me want to sob.

In the face of these kinds of massive disasters, how can one not feel helpless? Either we choose to ignore it completely or sit glued to the TV or computer, waiting actively for new news, which, upon hearing, just makes you feel more upset and more helpless.

I gave a small amount to the Red Cross to help with disaster relief efforts...but other than that, I guess the only cliche thing to do about the situation is pray, if you are at all the praying kind.

As far as my own life goes here, I have absolutely no complaints other than the compulsive feeling that I need to be DOING more (then I have to remind myself that I am on vacation here, and to give myself a bit of a break). I have been working out a lot and it feels WONDERFUL to be active again. My mom 'dragged' me to a swim class that she has been attending, and I have to say I'm getting addicted to it! I also have been reading a lot. I finished "Committed" by Elizabeth Gilbert today and it was, in my opinion, better than "Eat, Pray, Love", but still a little bit unsubstantial for my taste. Still and all, I did learn a thing or two about the history of marriage in the western cultural sphere, and parts of it were, at least, highly amusing. I also have been starting to study Spanish- my friend Se Min told me about Byki, a free software program for learning other languages that I had never heard of before. It is awesome!! You not only learn how to recognize and pronounce a bunch of words and phrases, but there's also a section for writing (and yes, you have to use accents). I have also been using an instant immersion program that I bought off of Amazon.com. I considered Rosetta Stone again, as I bought levels 1 & 2 for Korean, but I really didn't learn that much from the Korean one so I decided not to spend the money. The thing I really don't like about Rosetta Stone is that it is pure context learning, but they don't provide any explanation of what's going on. You really just have to figure it out for yourself. This is O.K. sometimes, but it's really difficult when, say, you have two different ways of saying goodbye (like in Korean, annyeonghi-kye-se-yo if you're the person leaving, annyeonghi-ka-se-yo if you're the person staying). If all you have are two pictures showing different perspectives of people saying goodbye but you have no idea that there are two different ways to say goodbye, how can you know what the hell the difference is? This is why I'm against only pure context learning, at least for me. I need a little bit of explanation (esp. of grammatical structure), sorry.

Other than that, I am looking into volunteering here with Therapeutic Horsemanship, which I did back in Missouri for a bit. I debated whether or not to get involved here as I have such a short time, but my mom's trainer is working with them now and suggested it for me. So, we shall see! :)

Hope everyone that I love around the world is doing well, even despite of all this insanity.

Much, much love, xoxo
Anna banana <3

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Fifth Tale: Stating the Obvious for All to See

Last year the book "Eat, Pray, Love" (sorry, know that's not correct but there is no underline link available on Google blog and I forget the html code...forgive me) by Elizabeth Gilbert was recommended to me by a dear friend. So, I read it. Though parts of the book were admittedly interesting and insightful and Gilbert, in my opinion, has a very fresh and lively writing style, substantially I thought the book was a little fluffy for my taste. That opinion was only exacerbated by the arrival of the film version of "Eat, Pray"...as well as the subsequent commercialization of anything and everything mentioned in the book ("Eat, Pray, Love" candles, incense, travel tours, bedsheets, tantra sets...Lord only knows what else).

Be that as it may, I decided to trust Gilbert a second time, having heard decent reviews on the follow-up book, "Committed", where Gilbert is 'forced' by the Department of Homeland Security to marry the Latin lover she met in the first book. In "Committed", Gilbert explores the institution of marriage as it has evolved within the western cultural context. I haven't finished reading the book but so far am finding it relatively interesting in terms of factual knowledge. It is less fluffy than "Eat, Pray..." for sure. Still love that lively writing style, but the only negative comment I have thus far is that the book reads more like, well, a blog than an actual book. The book is organized into chapters, but that doesn't mean that there is any actual organization to them.

ANYWAY, one particular part of the book that I found very amusing was when Gilbert candidly tells her Brazilian sweetheart, Felipe, all of her flaws in an attempt to warn him about what he will be dealing with if he marries her. This got me thinking about my own life, and of course my own flaws. I started thinking about what I would tell someone if I were in that same position. Here are just a FEW of the things that I came up with:

1) I have always been a little impatient, which breeds rash decisions/actions. When I'm angry, I have a propensity to cut people out of my life if they make me really upset, and block them for all eternity-especially if they hurt me. I have also booked airline tickets to get the best price, and made mistakes while booking the ticket (I've done this multiple times and had to pay extra to cancel/change the ticket almost every time). Rash actions.

2) I can be very judgmental of others, especially when I first meet them. Luckily, I can change my opinion of people after I first meet them, but I rely a lot on first impressions. I am especially judgmental of anything remotely relating to aesthetics; however I have no credentials with which to back my opinion (case in point, my enthralling book review in this post).

3) I can be a terrible know-it-all, to the point where I'm listening to myself talk and I want to stop myself, but I keep on going. More often than not, this is actually an honest attempt to inform people (but I can't always recognize when people don't want to be informed). This also goes hand-in-hand with being an above average bullshitter. Oh, and interrupting others.

Well...I do have more to add to the list, but a) not sure if I want to share them all yet, and b) I decided that if I can admit at least some of these faults (as Gilbert did), then maybe I can actually start to do some work on changing these behaviors for the better. I figured maybe it's on a tiny scale like having an addiction: admit you have a problem, share it with the community, and then garner support. So, there ya go! ;)

<3, Me

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Fourth Tale: Living In Limbo...

Life after Korea? So far, so strange.

I feel like I'm a character in Harry Potter...people can see my footprints on the Marauder's Map, but they can't really see me...I've 'apparated' into another world completely, and when people talk about me there I'll always be the 'last teacher that left'. Maybe my kids will mention me once in a while, but that's about it. When I tell people here that I spent a year in Korea, it sounds flimsy and awkward, like I'm bragging or something. So, I just don't feel like telling people unless I'm asked. They can't begin to fathom what that means or what it felt like, anyway. I am really starting to think that my entire year in Korea was a dream, and if it weren't for my wonderful friends that are sending me messages on FB I'd start to believe that notion entirely.

Now I find myself in Vero Beach, Florida, in a home where I recognize the things around me, yet it's still unfamiliar, in a city that I still don't know. My mom knows it, and she loves it. I love, love, LOVE that she loves it. I really think that this place is the best thing that could have happened to my parents, most especially my mom. In St. Louis, my mom was a completely different person. She rarely went out with friends, and stuck mainly to the gym and the house. Though that time brought many amazing works of art inspired by her heavily wooded environment, I just feel how much happier, lighter she is here. She has found a community of people that truly care about her and show it in their invitations and daily outpourings of love; a sense of family when her blood relations aren't around, a sense of belonging which I believe many of us hope for in life. This seems like heaven on earth to me, and I'm bursting with joy that she's finally found it.

As for me, I am still not exactly sure of what I'm feeling. This is the strangest thing I think that's ever happened to me in my life. I am not extremely happy, but I'm not unhappy at all. I'm sort of, well, content, but at the same time, restless. Weirder still, I tried to meditate this morning and nothing really came to me...it didn't feel like it had in the past. I guess it's to be expected that things will feel a little strange for a while, I think that I had just expected to be more emotional here. Actually, I expected to be pretty depressed coming back, but it's like somehow I know that it won't be long until the next adventure. The only conclusion I can come to is that I was ready to move on from Korea, ready for this time to meet myself again...and the process of getting to know myself again in this place is a little awkward.

It does make me wonder though, being here, about the direction of my life. I see the people around me, whom I love, feeling content and grounded...it's like I can see people in happy little bubbles, floating all around me. It makes me reflect on my life and think, where do I fit in all this madness? I do eventually want to get married and have a family, but I still don't know if I want to stay in one place in order to do it. I have discussed the subject of traveling with a family many times with many people. The thing is, people always make it sound as if once you have a family, you are stuck, grounded, caput. "Oh, well I wanted to travel in my 20s, but then I had a family", "Travel now while you can!", people say. I'm not sure I agree with that- I do think that traveling with a family is possible, if not slightly more haphazard. I know when you have a family you have to take everybody's feelings into account and have jobs that are conducive to that situation, but all I'm saying is, where there's a will there's a way.

I guess the question for me to answer on that count is, am I traveling to find a place where I feel like I fit in? Am I looking for MY Vero Beach? Or, am I traveling simply to experience how other cultures live? That was my original impetus. What I have learned since is that I was really traveling in order to experience myself in other cultures. I suppose that only time will tell whether or not I prefer myself in one culture over another, or if that just doesn't really matter.

The only thing that's truly been bothering me here is that I really want to start focusing on this dissertation proposal for my grad school application...but it feels so overwhelming. This project, this elephant in the room that I've been putting off for so long...it's time to confront it and work through it head on, to get a clearer view of my vision for it. I really want to focus on my goals and get some things done while I'm here. It's a gorgeous place and living on the beach and working out are excellent things to do, but I still want to have a little focus (just a little;).

Anyhow, that's it for now...come again if you dare. :)

<3, Me