On Re-Entry

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Amazing to see this mountain again.

So, we’ve landed back in the States. The flight was easy enough, even with the three felines and the toddler (who slept almost the entire way, bless his heart). We arrived sleepy and smelly and completely confused time-wise, but none the worse for wear.

Now that our internal clocks have almost completely adjusted we are more able to focus on getting settled. None of our things have arrived yet, so there is little we can do in terms of physically settling. Mentally and emotionally settling are all we can attempt right now, though I can’t help but think that having the things that are familiar and comfortable surrounding us would certainly help.

Sleeping on an air mattress while in the third trimester of pregnancy for over 5 weeks and counting has been a particular challenge. Entertaining a toddler with the same half a dozen toys has required immense creativity. I came down with the flu within hours of landing and our son injured his foot within 10 days. It’s been spectacularly rainy and cold. All this to say, we’re overall totally fine, but it’s been rough. Add these difficulties to the completely overwhelming sensation of being a stranger in a strange land, which seems an odd thing to say when one is returning to the place of one’s birth, but the culture shock has indeed been more pronounced coming this way. Doubly true for the little guy, who has never lived here and only visited once when we was just months old.

It’s one thing to feel like an outsider in Korea, where I was indeed an outsider. It’s another thing to feel it in your own country. I know it will pass and I know it will get better. Our things will arrive, we’ll get into a routine, we’ll feel settled and comfortable again. All this will happen. In the meantime, our current circumstances are wearing thin.

Lent began yesterday and as I was reflecting on my lenten practice last year I was reminded of something: every thing we have, every moment we experience, is a gift. Lent calls us not only to seek justice and heal our relationships, it also calls us to see the reality that all of life’s blessings and challenges are gifts when we allow them to be. When we seek justice and beloved community, this truth becomes obvious.

So, my practice this year it seems will be about trusting that as physically, mentally, and emotionally uncomfortable as I am right now, as long as I focus on what matters – my relationships, my community – all the pieces will fall into place. And in the meantime, rather than waiting for things to arrive and the house to be organized to feel like I can start living here,  I need to just start living.

Namaste, yogis. Thank you for reading my ponderings for the last three years. It was a great adventure.

This will be my last post on this site. I will continue to write on my other blog I Don’t Know and can be found on Twitter @MsVKH. 

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Lessons Abroad – Part II – Social Harmony

Nine days to go! Now that the movers have come and gone and we are 3281330927_d5fd02d9ab_oliving out of suitcases and sleeping on air mattresses, the impending move is becoming much more real and I am closer to making my peace with it.

One of the things I’ve been reflecting on quite a bit, as I prepare to return to the land of individualism, is the Korean emphasis on social harmony. Having been born in a country that is defined by it’s emphasis on individual rights and freedoms, this has been quite an eye-opening experience.

Korean culture is changing rapidly, so who knows what it might look like in 25 years? For now, though, it is still very rooted in Confucian principles, the entire goal of which is social harmony. Ideally this means that every interaction and choice is framed within the question: what will create the most harmonious outcome?

While the benefits of this are many, there are also some drawbacks. There is a great deal of emphasis on the common good, which benefits everyone immensely. The flip side is, there isn’t much space for individual expression or carving out a new way. It can be done, but with a great deal of resistance.

But I’m not here to debate the pros and cons of the way Korean society organizes itself. I can only speak to the way it has impacted me and the way I see the world and operate in it. And while before coming here I considered myself as someone who made an effort to be aware of the common good and to always operate from this ethical point of view, existing in a society where it is practiced almost without exception, I have become aware of how much room there is for improvement.

For me, the word harmony is really key. While conflict should not always be avoided, it sometimes can and should be. I recently saw somewhere the phrase, “You don’t have to attend every argument to which you are invited.” I’ll be the first to admit that I have a tendency to be argumentative and confrontational, when perhaps this isn’t necessary or helpful. It’s been easy to justify this by saying I’m just expressing myself, or standing up for myself, or being who I am. Notice the theme? Me, me, me, I, I, I, myself, myself, myself.

Of course, the answer never lies in one or the other, but a balance of both. Choosing harmony and peace whenever possible and knowing when we need to assert ourselves and stand our ground; this is a tricky balance. One I’m working towards, bit by bit.

Namaste, yogis.