Monday, February 6, 2017

Conquering the White

Sometimes I really want to blog, then I feel like a giant cliche.

Everyone has a blog. And most people's are actually about something. I just like to write. About myself (ha). But self-deprecation aside, sometimes I really want to post something new. And sometimes I don't have anything to say.

Long ago, I heard an artist speak. Or I had an art teacher. Or I saw one on TV. In any case, someone who knew a lot about art once said that the hardest part is getting started. That sometimes you just need to get the brush wet with paint, touch it to the vast expanse of pale canvas without knowing where you're going, and the rest can just pour out of you. Conquer the white.

That's what this post is. I'm conquering the white - getting something posted in 2017, so my fingers remember what it feels like, and my voice remembers how to come through my keyboard instead of my mouth.

Feels good.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Remember that time I got hit by a car?

Back in August, Murphy got a plastic microphone for her birthday. She loved it. Instantly channeled her inner diva.

It was 3 bucks well spent.

A few weeks later, Murph insisted on bringing the mic with us on an outing. As we were returning home, we decided to jaywalk across the street. I was holding Murphy, she was holding her microphone. As we ran across the street, my arm hit the microphone and it went tumbling into the road. Approximately 3 seconds later, a car came speeding up and crushed that microphone to pieces. Murphy was shattered.

Jaywalking - Bad idea.

Traffic here is pretty crazy, so we worry about our toddler. We use the microphone incident as a teaching tool, reminding Murph of the importance of holding our hands, watching for cars, and not running off. We tell her we don't want Murphy broken like her microphone was broken.

I take a bus to work every day. I cross two crosswalks to get to the bus stop, and never jaywalk (the mic incident scared me, too). Two weeks ago, I was waiting to cross at my last crosswalk. Just before I got the green light, a black car pulled up and stopped in the crosswalk.

Decision time: What is safest? Cross in front of a potentially distracted driver, whose foot may slip off the brake? Or cross behind the car, avoiding potential injury? What would you do?

I chose... poorly.

I decided to cross behind the car. The driver suddenly realized she was in the crosswalk (a major traffic violation here) and decided her best option was to reverse quickly. She didn't check the mirrors first, and rammed me with her car (a minor traffic violation).

I was knocked to the ground. I looked up to see her back wheels still rolling towards me. I had to roll out of the way to avoid actually being run over. Sounds very James Bond, probably looked more Drunk Penguin.

Once she stopped, the driver and her friend got out to check on me. I was pretty sure my arm was broken (my first broken bone!) but couldn't tell if anything else was injured. They put me in the backseat (cant believe i got in a car with this person)  and drove me to the hospital. The doc x-rayed my arm and confirmed that both bones were broken, at the end near my wrist. The driver took full responsibility, and her insurance is covering everything.

Which is good, because the doctor insisted I stay in the hospital for 4 days, to keep an eye on me and make sure nothing else was wrong. I cannot imagine any doctor in the States keeping you hospitalized for 4 days for broken arm! At first, they wanted me to stay in a tiny room with 5 beds, 4 of which were occupied. After learning that I would be receiving a settlement for the accident, I decided to pay the extra money for a private room.

The hospital was close enough to home that I could see Murphy and JD walk out of the apartment whenever they'd visit. I spent 4 days reading, getting IVs of muscle relaxers, and watching Terminator 2 and America's Funniest Videos on TV. And not eating the wads of cold clear fish that were incorporated into every meal.

It has been a hard adjustment, not having use of my dominant hand. JD has to get both Murphy and me dressed in the morning, fix both of us breakfast, and change both our diapers. Two of those are true.

I am also disappointed that I won't be able to play with Murphy in the sand and the pool when we go to Vietnam next weekend. However, I'm sure I'll be soothed by the warm sea air and the minibar.

They will finally cast my arm on Tuesday (two weeks after the accident is their policy). I am planning to beg for a waterproof cast so maybe I can play a bit between minibar raids :) We still find it completely absurd that being hit by a car is now part of our tapestry. So, when JD and I want a laugh, we say, "Remember that time I got hit by a car?"

My creative husband made me a card with an eerily accurate recreation on the incident. And a little dose of perspective.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

How Daniel Tiger is helping me move past this disastrous election

How many stages of grief are there?

After Donald Trump's surprising election victory, I hit the anger stage pretty hard. I was angry that an incredibly experienced and intelligent woman was beaten by a neophyte with a bully-complex. I was angry that I hadn't realized half of my country's voters didn't care if someone was racist or misogynistic. I was angry that some of those voters were my family.

In order to deal with my anger, I shared a lot of stuff on Facebook. Because it's so effective and changes minds and is healthy. (ha)

Then, when I was at my lowest, when I thought I was going to be angry forever, Murphy was watching Daniel Tiger - he of the little ditties that help kids navigate their ever-expanding universe. And Daniel's song that episode shook me a bit, gave me a plan to deal with my election-anger.

"Saying 'I'm sorry' is the first step. Then 'How can I help?'"

So I'm sorry.

I'm sorry to the people of color in the US who feel even more abandoned.

I'm sorry to anyone whose sexual orientation is anything other than "hetero" who feels like maybe it's won't get better just yet.

I'm sorry to every other woman who, like me, is horrified that this person's views on women were just validated.

I'm sorry Trump's views were validated.

Now, how can I help?

Being out of the country and on a limited income, I realized it may be difficult for me to help in an obvious way. So I started thinking about what I can do from here.

I can start at home. I can teach my child that every human is important. I can teach my child to love the way Jesus loved when He was here, and the way He still loves now. That means every fucking skittle in the bowl is loved. (bah! see? anger. still there.)  I can work with my husband to be an example of love. We can be aware of our self-speak, so she doesn't grow up thinking it's ok to feel less valuable because of how you look. We can be aware of how we speak about others, so she learns to be compassionate. When we are angry about an injustice, we can discuss it in terms of solutions and "how could this have been handled better?" I can start here.

I can be an example of compassion for my students. I can model acceptance and tolerance. I can encourage kindness. I can emphasize love and belonging. I can equip my young students with the tools to solve problems constructively, and with empathy. I can ripple-effect the hell out of my little corner of this world.

I can be a better friend. I can listen with empathy, with understanding, without judgment. I can be a safe place for the people I love to feel reprieve, to just bask in each other's warmth.

But I can't do that if I'm angry. And Facebook fuels my anger. I have unfollowed nearly everyone who shared blatantly false and invented "news" articles, full of hatred and venom (ironically, most of those people are today calling for "an end to the negativity"). But even seeing the constant barrage of posts that justify my anti-Trump stance make me angry.

So I feel like I have to back away from the F'Book (all the kids today say this, right?).

This feels like giving in. It feels like accepting that a person I truly believe to be a danger to our country is gonna be just fine running it. I feel like I should remain hyper-vigilant and if I don't obsess over Facebook posts I might miss something. But I just... can't.

I will keep sharing Murphy-pics and JD-videos, because we have a lot of family who likes to keep up with our adventures. But I will do my best to avoid filling my wall with "gotchas" and "I told you so-s" and "OMGs" because me sharing that stuff is not going to change anyone's mind.

But me being a better me might.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Movin' on up?

So there we were, stuck in our tiny apartment for who knows how long...

Then my amazing friend/coworker stepped in. She decided the new teacher at school must be a foreigner, and that new teacher MUST take over our apartment, so we could get a better one. And that new teacher was arriving by July 11. FINALLY!! We had a date. We had a deadline. We had a light at the end of this dank-ass tunnel.

We started apartment hunting again.

We are well-versed in Korean real estate now.

We knew what we wanted. Two bedrooms. A decent living area. NOT a basement apartment. And not above a noraebang (boozy karaoke room bar) or an all-day shouty vegetable market. Oh, and within our school's budget, of course.

We searched. We had near hits. One apartment was huge, but it was in a terrible area. One apartment was amazing and clean and beautiful, and another couple signed a lease on it LITERALLY 4 minutes before we showed up. It was a very roller-coastery time.

Our director spent another evening taking us to apartments. We saw 3 (again). We found the one (again). We wanted it (again). It wanted us. It was June 25th. No reason not to jump on it, since the new teacher would be here in a couple of weeks.

Our director said not now.

Our director said she had to be sure the new teacher was actually coming before she would let us move. The new teacher already had a ticket and a visa. Our director wanted to wait. Our director crushed us. Again (squared).

My good friend here and JD both pushed me to push back. It was hard. I'm not a push-back kid. I'm a doormat who presents a convincing illusion of... of something less doormat-y. But this was too far. This was another thoughtless way of wreaking havoc on my family and our chances of feeling settled and comfortable in a foreign country. So I told her it was not ok. And that I would have to find another job if she couldn't make this right. And that my family could not stay on this roller coaster any longer.

She signed the lease that day.

We moved in the second weekend of July. We had so many incredible people show up to help us. We had 500 square feet to spread ourselves out. It felt like a mansion. Murphy spent half of the first week just running back and forth through it, loving that she could actually do that. It was perfect.

500 square feet of start-over-again.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Thrill is Gone, Pt. 2

So we made it through the first night in the garbage pail. We tried to build a makeshift crib with suitcases around a folded blanket, but the Murph would have none of it. So we did our best to cosleep on the blanket pile. It is a foggy haze, but I know she was up playing for part of the night, and we woke up to things scattered around the room and a diaper in JD's hat.

I had emailed my director and told her the apartment was unacceptable, unlivable, unbelievable. She agreed to immediately take me around to look at new apartments, 9 am Monday (our first day in the country). I was hesitant to leave my family so soon, but we desperately wanted out of there. So I went.

She took me to 3 apartments.

The first was beautiful, brand new, shiny, clean. But it was far away from the school and I would have to help supplement the rent. Sorry, can't afford that on a hagwon teacher's salary. Next.

Apartment 2 was spacious, with a proper kitchen area and a nice big Korean balcony. And every single wall had black mold at least up to my shoulders. Nope.

The 3rd apartment was similar to the one we had slept in, but was clean. It was a basement apartment (ahh, there it is, the basement). We agreed that it may end up being quieter, being underground. We thought it might stay cooler in the summer. We talked about those awesome hipsters who build tiny homes on purpose. We justified the hell out of it, just to get out of the hell we were in. It was not better.

We did our best to stay positive and try to make it work. We bought fans and a dehumidifier and a portable air conditioner and an air purifier. We bought tension-rod wardrobes to make up for the complete lack of storage. We bought a small table tall enough to put suitcases under, but narrow enough to fit in our bedroom/living room.

Some incredibly generous friends gave us $1000 to make our transition to the other side of the planet more comfortable, and we used every dime to try to make a 348 square foot, moldy basement apartment work for the 3 of us.

We didn't realize how much it DIDN'T work until a couple of my Korean friends/coworkers came by to check on us. Their faces said it all. Thanks to their interventions, my director agreed to find a new place for us. In fact, she took us around that next weekend to look at apartments.

We went all over the area, seeing some places twice, even looking at places out of our price range and out of town, desperately trying to find something that was available and would work.

Finally, we found a gem just up the street. It had a big open living space we could use as a studio apartment, plus an additional small room we could use as Murphy's room. It was in a high rise. It was clean, in a nice area, had lots of built-in storage. It was available. We were excited.

Then we were told we couldn't move until they found a new tenant for our current apartment. And that it may take a while because it was A SHITTY APARTMENT that nobody wanted.

We were crushed. Again.

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Thrill is Gone, Pt. 1

Oh, sweet naive Emily of the previous post. I envy your enthusiasm, your excitement at the semi-unknown, your pride in your husband's trust, your optimism.

Your optimism.

God, was it high. And when things are that high, they have a long way to fall.

I haven't posted in a while (she said, unnecessarily, but to have an easy paragraph-starter)... I haven't posted in a while, because it hasn't been a priority. And also, I didn't want to be a downer. But then I remembered that this is my blog. My blog that I originally began in order to keep friends and family apprised of my Korean adventures, but now will absolutely be more of a family album of sorts - but words, not pictures (which I prefer, anyhow). So I will be a downer all I want. Because, unfortunately, that's where this story begins.


Way down.

But not in the basement. Yet.

We landed in Korea on Sunday, April 17. Murphy promptly threw up all over me at touchdown. We were reassured by another foreigner that it's normal - his kids make the trip back and forth all the time, he said, and they just get so exhausted, they puke. We accepted this. We know now it was a warning.

After changing clothes in the bathroom, we made our way to Immigration. Incheon International was undergoing some construction, so the line for Immigration was about 2 hours long, extending into a sweltering hallway. When we finally got close enough to see the rope maze, a kind airport employee (dressed festively in a hanbok) looked at us with pity and escorted us to one of the Immigration officers. God bless that woman.

An employee from the school met us and we got to ride in the school's van back to Suji (where we live now). It was fun seeing the old familiar signs and highways and towns. I loved being back. I loved that I was here with my family. The future was so fucking bright.

Then we got to our apartment. Which was, per the contract, a "furnished, two-bedroom" apartment. Which I had specifically and repeatedly requested be furnished with a crib, if nothing else, because that's the only place Murphy sleeps. I even sent the exact Ikea model for which I would have been happy to reimburse the school, so long as my overtired toddler had a place to sleep when we arrived.


We walked into a literal two-room apartment (we now know was about 300 square feet). One small bedroom, another less-small bedroom, a hallway kitchen (that's not a missing comma, it was a hallway-kitchen) and a bathroom. With a broken sink that wasn't even connected to the pipes below it. And a gag-inducing sewage and mold smell.

And no. motherfucking. furnishings.

We had a pile of used blankets and a couple of dirty pillows on the floor of one bedroom. That was it.

That was it.

No place for Murphy. No crib. Not even a friendly bottle of water in the fridge to say "Hey, thanks for moving your whole family across the world, please hydrate."

I was livid. I called a dear friend who has been here for a decade, and told him I was ready to go back into Seoul right then, get a hotel, and fly out first thing the next morning. I wanted to scream. I wanted to cry. I wanted to run away.

I wanted better for my family. I wanted to stop this guilt rushing in - guilt at the living conditions, guilt that my husband's trust was so misplaced, guilt that I ripped my child away from everyone who loves her (minus us, of course) and brought her to a garbage heap. I wanted a place to sleep.

I wanted to fix it.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Here we go again

So we have about 2.5 weeks before takeoff. The Murph, Jesse, and I are moving to South Korea. I was offered a job at a brand new school, which is exciting, though it does come with a whole new set of challenges.

We have done our best to explain to Murphy what's happening, but she's 19 months. All she knows is that we are going to ride on an airplane, and she gets frustrated when we're not going right now!

JD is excited, too. I wonder how this must feel for him, venturing into something completely unknown. It stirs something in my heart to realize the level of trust he has in me, trust that I am not dragging us into anything too crazy or miserable or dangerous.

And I am just flat thrilled. Thrilled to be back, thrilled to have solid public transit again, thrilled to show my family around Korea, and thrilled to have this opportunity to experience the country through a totally different lens.

Here we go!