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Archive for August, 2011

I’m so glad I don’t get my panties in a knot planning things too far in advance. Not planning gives you flexibility. Flexibility brings people and opportunities to your life that you never thought you’d meet/ be presented with.

“Procrastination is opportunity’s assassin.” – Victor Kiam

Darling Mr.Kiam. You’re cute. That’s adorable.

PBBBBBBBTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT!!!!!!!

In an effort not to get too mysterious here… I had a looong talk with Ma and Pa about this Fall/ Winter… I don’t wanna jinx it… I’m super pumped… if it works out… let’s just say… IT’S ALL HAPPENING.

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North Korea being fussy, per usual.

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FYI

Watching Korean television news on mute whilst listening to the Rolling Stones is a strange experience.

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Japan

After my last school break, this past Christmas, I was lucky enough to get to visit Thailand. I wrote a fairly vague blog post describing more of how amazing I felt during that trip than the actual details of what happened. I was only there 8 days, but things got “REAL” as my co-travelers and I started saying in reference to just how jam-packed that short week was with awesome sights, insane parties, and once in a lifetime experiences. It was such a bizarre week (in a good way) that even while I was in the thick of it, it felt like a distant dream. I came home and was immediately stressed by the daunting task of recording everything that we did/saw so to clue in my growing number of eager blog fans (aka both of my parents).

Welp. Here I am again.

Japan. JAPAN. JAH-PAAAAAAAANNNN.

So, I went to Japan this past week.

It was intense, for lack of a better word. It’s a strange occurrence when you go somewhere for one reason and come away with waaaaaaay more than you expected. It’s like going to the general store for toothpaste and winning the 1,000,000th Customer Award. The doors open and your eyes are already on the aisle where you know the toothpaste is. You’re minding your own business, anticipating all the goodness that comes from fresh, minty breath and an alarm goes off. Balloons of every color rain down on your head and people are jumping up and down and hugging you and this seemingly mundane task is now the most exciting thing to have happened in quite some time and you get a big prize and walk out of the store an hour later with a lifetime supply of dish soap and mini white powder donuts.

I went to Japan thinking I’d dig some dirt, move some debris, rack up some karma points and call it a trip. I knew I was in for emotional sights, it being I was on the way to tsunami ground zero. But, I’d seen this stuff before on TV and I remember what Charleston, SC looked like after Hurricane Hugo when I visited family as a kid. I didn’t realize I was about to get a lot more than I bargained for. A perspective that can come from no other experience is now deeply ingrained in my psyche.

Digging little tin lunch boxes and sweet pink knitted baby sweaters from mounds of rubble that seem to never end is an experience that will stay with me forever. It’s hard to come back to comfy Korea and my cushy job and complain about my internet connection being fussy when I’m coming from being face to face with that large a scale tragedy. The devastation in Ofunato and its surrounding areas is indescribable. And let’s not forget that we are about 5 months out since the earthquake and the tsunami. I can’t even wrap my head around what it must have looked like the day after. The sadness hangs in the air like unwanted summer humidity. The loss seems to swallow everything. It’s palpable. I never thought I’d be able to see an emotion like this. The visuals are so strong and shocking in person that they create this heavy emotional weight I never knew could exist. The eeriness of mounds and mounds of sorted waste; metal here, wood there… have made an unwelcome cameo in my dreams every night for over a week. I will never shake what I saw there. What I felt there.

I feel incredibly lucky to have found All Hands and been given the opportunity to volunteer with their Ofunato project. I can’t think of anyway to use words to do my experience there justice except to say that it was life changing. And while I believe it is human nature to be more easily affected by what is sad and depressing than what is happy and uplifting, the thing that had the biggest influence on me wasn’t the tragedy itself, but how the people of Ofunato were dealing with it.

I think I may have maxed out my lucky card this past week because not only did I make it to rural Japan on a series of planes, taxies, and buses by myself (without a lick of Japanese, btw) I just happen to be there during the most festive time of year. Japan makes a big to-do celebrating Tanabata every year and while it usually lands on July 7th, this year the lunar calender obviously had me in mind and it was pushed back (for some lunar reason or another) to August 7th. Tanabata is… hard to explain (or understand, for that matter.)

Let\'s let Wikipedia do what it\'s good at.

Even though I was only in high school, and not that aware of anything that had to do with anything other than myself or boys, I vaguely remember what the 4th of July in 2002 felt like. Well, I would akin Tanabata after the tsunami tragedy to the 4th post 9/11. ((Disclaimer: I am by no means comparing those two tragedies. I am simply trying to describe a feeling of community and undeterred spirit.)) There was a sense of encouraged excitement everywhere. Like, we will make this a HAPPY celebration, dammit. So, each night after myself and the other volunteers slopped off the mud and the muck from the highways and rice paddies, we’d go out to these community centers, fire stations, event halls, etc. and help prepare for the Tanabata celebration and festival.

It really was a turn of good luck and being at there at just right time, because I got to tack on to my volunteering experience, a cultural experience I wasn’t even expecting! The Japanese people were incredibly warm and nice and so thankful for us just being there. The Tanabata prep was about 60% work and 40% of just standing around, but that’s what they wanted. The sense of community was so strong that they even wanted to include us into it. Us foreigners who didn’t speak a lick of their language or really understand the festival that we were helping get ready for. This gave a leg up to my week being one of the most satisfying and complete of my life. I was happy for a million reasons last week. The atmosphere was amazing, the people were some of the best I’ve ever met, the organization felt strong and wholesome and I was a part of something so big and important. The Japanese were committed to enhancing my cultural experience. I felt like I was helping and doing some good for someone other than myself. It really was one of the best weeks of my life. I met friends I will never forget, I saw things I will never forget, I learned lessons that I hope to pass on to my own children one day.

The tsunami was horrifying and tragic beyond words. I went to help out and do my part for completely selfless reasons. A sentiment of goodwill and the reasoning that social responsibility must be confronted… that’s it. Just goes to show that when you do something with no reward in mind, the reward becomes bigger than you imagined. Bigger than yourself. Bigger than you can describe. Bigger than a tsunami.

Below are some pictures of working hard and some are of playing harder.

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A friend of a friend who’s in my writing group is a photographer and has been working on this Ex-Pat Apartment project where she’s taking photos of us waygooks in our natural habitats. Scroll down for my post.

This Kentucky Girl

Her gallery show was last night in Seoul and I missed it obviously, as I was all trains, planes, and automobiles trying to get home from Japan. In other news: I will be posting a lenghty discription of my trip and unbelievable experience with the All Hands group as soon as this intense, Level 10 exhaustion subsides. For now, check out their website too to see a pic of me getting down and dirty on the highway, showing my country girl roots by expertly shoveling mud.

Click. Scroll down and I\'m one of the last pictures.

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