A Short Note on Avoiding Politics

It’s not a secret to people who know me that I had no problem leaving the United States when the opportunity arose. The 2016 Presidential election was devastating for me, and then I watched my dad die. I don’t intend to blog about politics, but there’s no guarantee. What I want to mention is that the lack of politics – or, really, of political attention – has probably added back years to my life.

We seem to notice what is much more easily than noticing what isn’t. What isn’t is trash all over the road-side. It took a few drives to realize the roads here are very clean. Like the US, there are still cigarette butts all over the place, but it’s free of bottles and bags and cups and anything else people seem to throw out of their cars. This is made more striking when considering there aren’t trash cans anywhere. The US has trash cans on every street corner and trash on every street, and Korea is the opposite.

What isn’t is road rage. This is despite some of the most daring driving I’ve seen in my half-century on this planet. I fear I may meet a premature end via motor vehicle while here. However, the driving is not aggressive. If there is space (heck, even if there isn’t), a car will move into it. Busses and cabs do whatever they want; know this, and give them clearance. Drivers will go way over the speed limit and then slam their breaks when approaching the moving camera zones. I do it now too. No more searching for hidden police vehicles and radar guns. Just speed and then slow down through the zones. Makes sense. And take none of this personally.

What isn’t is constant negative news – for me at least. I considered myself very well informed in 2016. I watched the national news from a reputable network and avoided the sensationalistic local news. I read stories via the Washington Post and New York Times. I paid attention and prided myself on it. And it all broke my heart. If you had asked me what I thought about people, I would have told you they sucked. The news confirmed that. Politics confirmed that. However, if you asked me what I thought about my neighbor, coworkers, friends, family, the guy on the corner, I would tell you they were great. I didn’t like the lot of us but seemed to love the individual.

Now I am trying to avoid the news. I’m sure there is plenty of the same here as at home. The country impeached former-President Park Geun-hye and then arrested her on corruption charges. But we don’t have Korean cable, and I’m avoiding internet news. We’ve barely watched television – at least compared to what we did in the States. When I look at social media, though, I see what’s going on. I see postings and reactions from friends. I look up whatever is happening and then quickly shut down those stories. They’re all bad. They’re all unbelievable. They make me embarrassed and ashamed for my home country. So I bury my head in the sand, which makes me feel guilty, but I think it’s good for me. I’m happier this way. I am finding ways to do kind things. I am healing my heart and loving again. I’m working on assuming that people are good. Someday I may again get involved in politics, but right now is not that day. Living in a place that has a different language and alphabet makes it easy to stay a little ignorant. Viva la ignorance!

Peace, Love, and Understanding

What happens when an angry white female lets the light back in.

I have been amazingly content since arriving in Korea. In spite of a different language and alphabet and being away from all the comforts of home, I am at peace. Which makes me wonder every so often what’s wrong. I know it should be the other way: One wonders what’s wrong when one is down. But I’ve lived the last two years with overwhelming sadness. The survival instinct allows us to function and push things to the backs of our minds, but my dad’s terminal diagnosis and then death seem to have caused me to be so very tired (I took naps almost every day), irritable (I was frustrated with about 90% of life), and negative (I found fault with about 90% of life). To say I was unhappy does not cover it.

Life here is difficult. I have not found anything easy. Not much English is spoken (which is fine because there’s not much Korean spoken in English-speaking countries). Traffic signs, roads, names, and numbering are very different. Even one’s appliances (like the microwave, for instance) have Hangul instructions. Many food items have an English name printed on the packaging, but all the ingredients and instructions are in Hangul. We’re also living with the contents of six suitcases in a 300-square-foot room. But I am happy.

What happened to me? I haven’t had the opportunity to grieve my loss. Maybe I grieved while my dad was living. I lived in a state of frustration and lost my kindness, patience, and acceptance. More than anything, I was so tired.  I have yet to take a nap here and have had plenty of opportunities. I tried once but was unable. There were days in the States when I woke up at 8 a.m. and was ready to go back to sleep by 10:30 a.m. I averaged over nine hours of sleep. Now I don’t want to miss anything – even just sitting quietly by myself. It is pleasurable.

I have been a little nervous a couple times on the road and have witnessed some dangerous maneuvers, but I’ve not become angry. What I’ve learned from my driving experience is that moving into available space in a lane, no matter how small, is not considered cutting another driver off. If there is room, drivers move into it.  When I’ve needed to move over, I’ve almost always been allowed. People warned me not to immediately go when a light turns green because a green light does not mean a clear road, and that is true. People told me to watch out for busses and trucks as they move where they need to go whether or not the road is clear. Also true. I’ve also discovered that lanes suddenly turn into turn-only lanes out of nowhere. Taxis will stop on a drivable lane and block dozens of cars (always). No one seems to have the right-of-way when merging. And, yet, I am okay with all of this.

I don’t yet understand the driving violation system, though. Korea has moving camera zones that calculate speed and mail offenders tickets. These cameras calculate your speed from point A to point B (with cameras at point A and point B), so drivers speed madly out of the zones and then brake to slow down between these zones. The zones seem to be everywhere. The fastest speed I’ve seen is just 100km on the highway (that’s only 62mph. I’m used to up to 80mph on those wide open roads in west Texas). Chris reminded me it’s a small country, so I’m accepting. There are also these camera vehicles that take pictures of cars parked in no-parking areas and mail offenders tickets. Parking is in desperately short supply here and doesn’t always seem logical. Places that are okay on weekends are not okay on weekdays. People park on sidewalks. I will need to figure it all out. What is so brilliant about all of this is there is no need for police officers cruising around to catch violators. It seems very efficient.

I feel a little claustrophobic when I really look at our living space because of its unavoidable disarray. There is stuff everywhere. The wonderful thing, though, is the staff. They are incredibly, exceptionally, amazingly nice. The housekeepers check on me if I’m in to see if I want the room cleaned. When I say it isn’t necessary, they offer to come in and clear the trash and give me whatever I may need. The dining room staff welcomes me and automatically brings me my favorite coffee. The front desk staff asks me about my day and checks on me. Even the parking lot attendant praises my parking. Haha! I will miss them.

Which brings me to parking when one actually finds a space. Everyone backs into parking spaces because that’s the only way to get out of them. Passengers are often let out before parking as they may not be able to get out once parked. Side mirrors are retracted. Usually there are only inches to spare on each side once parked. I thank whoever invented backup cameras because otherwise I would be driving around for hours trying to find parking space. Cars all have little foam bumpers on the doors so that they can be opened as much as possible without scraping them. We’ve decided on a Kia Soul for our car as anything bigger is beyond my ability (plus Souls are so cute!).

I’ve heard that Sacheon (pronounced SATCH-on) and Jinju (pronounced Chin-choo) are not highly desirable places to live in the scheme of Korea. Sacheon is more rural. The “downtown” seems a bit run-down. But it is peaceful. I love the farmland. The land here is either a road, a building, or farmland. Even tiny areas have crops. People are toiling away at them throughout the day. By my standards, Jinju is beautiful. The river running through the town is flanked by greenspace and walkways. The parks are lovely. Everywhere around these cities are hiking trails. Mountains abound. Right now in this moment, I love it. I absolutely love it here. I cannot believe my fortune at having this experience. I ache at being so far away from my mother (that’s a blog itself as well). I adore her. But I am so glad to be here.

This move seems to have helped me in ways I didn’t expect. In two days, we will have possession of our new home, and I look forward to drinking my coffee in the yard and feeling the sun on my face. I look forward to the peace and will welcome the feelings that need to come. I’m meeting wonderful people who are very nice to me. I feel certain I will leave here in 2-3 years with many new friends. But I also look forward to time alone to meditate and just be in the here and now.

 

How Did I Get Here?

It all starts with the idea, right? How did the biggest decisions you’ve ever made get started? Listen for the message, and live without regret.

I’m on day 15 living out of a small hotel room. Before moving to Korea, I was in a two-room hotel in Fort Worth Texas with my husband (Chris) and two dogs (Molly and Sophie). Getting the dogs on their first elevator, getting them to poop outside in a new place, getting them over the fear of all the turmoil, and getting them to stop barking at every noise were the smallest challenges. Now I’m in a single-room hotel with my husband in Sacheon, Korea, with our six suitcases worth of stuff, anxiously awaiting the delivery of my precious pups and the move to our home for the next two to three years. How did I get here?

On my 50th birthday, Chris proposed to me at the Garden of the Gods in Colorado. We’d been together 3 years and had gone through the formal process to be informally married (it’s a real thing in Texas) for some practical reasons, but this was the real deal. Back at the hotel, I quickly called my parents to tell them. And then I got punched in the gut: My dad said he’d been diagnosed with metastatic cancer. He was terminal.  In a matter of days I quit my job and began driving from Texas to California every 2-3 months for visits. I needed to spend time with him and my mom. And for the next 17 months, that’s what I did.

The experience of losing a parent is its own blog entry. But it leads me to now. In January, as my dad was in increasingly poor health, Chris mentioned an opportunity to work in Korea. He was going to get more information. And in February, after my dad died, I was 100% in. Leaving my mom behind hurts my heart in unbelievable ways, but this beautiful man I married (another blog entry) told me I could visit as much as I wanted. So that’s how I find myself living in this very small room hoping and praying and wishing and begging that my very old dogs survive the separation without thinking they’ve been abandoned and make the flight okay. They’ll be here no later than June 2. That’s 10 days. We can do this!

I hope to share my journey through these writings which might on occasion include some practical information for anyone considering taking on something similar. I’m new to this, but I enjoy writing and have friends who’ve expressed interest in my experience. So here we go. Thanks for joining me

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