24 Years of Learning

One way I try to cultivate a sense of intentionality and reflection throughout the year is by gradually writing a blog post about the things I hear, experience, and learn that I feel are formational for me. For the past few years I’ve published this post on my birthday. You can check out the posts from years 21, 22 and 23 here. In the course of this 24th year I have begun learning the following:

Have sincere curiosity about others. Ask questions for the sake of understanding and not to win. I think one key to doing this well is an idea I picked up from John and Hank Green which is, imagine others complexly. When I take the time to try understanding others on their terms I find that it’s easier to offer generosity and grace. Continue reading

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Hiroshima

Seven Korean friends and I had the opportunity to travel to Hiroshima, Japan for a few days as part a peace exchange program called PAX. Our time was mostly spent hearing about the effects of the atomic bomb, meeting people involved in opposing nuclear proliferation, and checking out some cultural sites. Two stories from the trip stick out to me as small aha! moments I hope to carry with me going forward.

The first is from our first full day in town. Our guides took us to meet a woman named Kiyomi Kohno, who was living in Hiroshima when the atomic bomb was dropped. Continue reading

A Brief Update (with pictures!)

If you were on my email chain last year you’ve possibly wondered if I died, or maybe took a technophobic vow of isolation given the minimal amount of updating I’ve done. My bad! I probably won’t be much better in the future Facebook smiley face

To flash over the basics—I’m still in Korea, but in a different city teaching English to cool kids at an after school academy. I live in a community building with the other teachers, a few Korean families, and Koko. I like it here. Here in Korea, here in Namyangju, here in Peace Building, and here in my life. I’m not a total noob at most of the things I need to do, but I’m still excited by all the things I haven’t figured out. If you’d like to skip the wordy part you can head for the pictures at the bottom, otherwise here’s some of the stuff I’m learning these days:

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23 Years of Learning

For the past couple years I’ve had this tradition of writing a blog post on my birthday laying out some of the most significant things I’ve learned during that year. It’s been a practice I’ve enjoyed a lot because it has created a structured and intentional way for me to reflect throughout the year. You can check out the posts from years 21 and 22 if you’d like. As for year 23, here it is! Continue reading

A Year in Closing

With only a few weeks before I’m back in the US I’ve begun looking back over the past 10 months. Boarding that airplane in Seattle seems both near and far in memory. Near because the memories of saying goodbye are so fresh, yet far because of the many experiences that fill in the space between then and now. Obviously I can’t encapsulate the past year into a pithy sentence, or even an entire blog post. This is partly because the things I’ve learned and ways that I’ve been shaped have not been linear. I’m still working through a lot of it.

At the beginning of the SALT term in Akron, PA a prayer/poem by Bishop Ken Untener written in memory of Archbishop Oscar Romero was read to all the SALTers. This poem has done a lot to frame the way I’ve thought about my year. It’s a bit long, but here it is:

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On Struggle

A Brief Note

So, when I first sat down to write this post a couple months ago part of me vehemently resisted. I thought to myself, “Don’t touch those emotions! And especially don’t you dare post about it on the internet. It’s tender!”. But as I’ve said in other places, one of the main purposes of this blog is to share pieces of my story and attempt to encourage others. I’m likely not the only SALTer who has experienced feelings of loneliness and emotional turmoil on their assignment, and I’m certainly not the only human to ever feel it. Perhaps my shared experience will give language or perspective to another person’s feelings. Also, I’m exploring this new idea that vulnerability is not only a legitimate way of being in the world, but (when done responsibly) it’s actually one of the most authentic and life-giving ways of being. So, here goes. *gulp* Continue reading

Hunger

At times I wonder if I, if all of us, are anything more than our hunger. I sometimes worry that underneath our pleasantries, cultures, virtues, faith, and even love there is simply our ambition to fill ourselves. Some appetites may appear more nobel than others, but is there fundamentally a difference? Is there anything beyond our desire to be, and not only exist but also be affirmed in that existence by others?

This worry comes from watching the people in the public eye of my country, from seeing beyond the words of those around me, and from feeling the currents beneath the surface of my own heart. I had a friend once tell me she felt like I was double-minded. Her comment troubled me for a while because I could sense that she was right. But I’ve come to believe that we’re all double-minded. Continue reading

How We Make Joy

About a week ago I had the opportunity to talk about joy with a group of Korean middle and high school students. Everything had to be translated into Korean, so for the sake of brevity and clarity—and because of my young audience—I tried to keep it really simple. Neither of those factors are present here, so here’s the long version.

I chose this topic because Korea has the second highest suicide rate in the world and suicide is the number one cause of death among people aged 10 to 39 in Korea. I think suicide is very high in Korea because many people feel stressed, isolated, and disappointed by the current structures they are told to find meaning within. Many people work hard in school or at their job because they are told success and achievement will bring them joy and make others accept them, but that’s not how joy works. This is not an issue specific to Korea, but I think it has a high tendency to make individuals in Korea feel trapped because of firm social patterns in which young people feel unable to escape or challenge the expectations of climbing the social ladder. Of course, I’ve met several Koreans who don’t fit into this generalization, but I believe they are an exceptional minority, and that this generalization is still true for many young people in Korea. Continue reading

Quirkiness in Korea – Part 1

Having been in Korea for half a year, I’ve had the opportunity to stumble upon some of the less obvious quirks of my new home. A few of these oddities have taken a little getting used to, while others simply offer comic relief for the sometimes disorienting experience of living abroad. I expect I’ll make another post as I continue discovering unique little pieces of my life in Korea. For now, here are some of the things I’ve come across!

Where Are All the Garbage Cans…

I’ve gradually noticed that Korean cities have an incredibly sparse number of garbage cans. Several times I’ve had to pack around an empty bottle or a wrapper searching for a receptacle. If you see a trash can or recycle bin, make sure to take advantage of it because you may not see another for a while! The thing that is more surprising than Korea’s lack of garbage cans though is how clean so many of the Korean cities are. If Seattle had so few garbage cans people would likely just drop trash on the ground…  Continue reading

Four Korean Months in Review

Today marks four months since arriving in Korea! To celebrate, I wanted to share a few of the things I’ve learned in Korea so far.

I Am a Part of My Country

As much as I’m sometimes frustrated by practices, policies, and general social patterns in the United States, it’s still my home country.  It also happens to be one of the most powerful countries in the world. As a citizen of this country with the ability to vote, protest, and be heard I’ve come to realize I have the privilege and responsibility to do so. There are many stories I’ve heard about the US acting in ways I absolutely do not support in countries throughout Asia. As a Christian seeking justice, mercy, and humility I realize these stories must motivate me to advocate to the leaders I can influence.  Continue reading