Reflection

I’m halfway through my time here.

Hallelujah.

I feel very guilty to say this, but I have to be honest–Korea isn’t somewhere I really want to live for the rest of my life.

Maybe it was a self-fulfilling prophesy. I didn’t say this to anyone, but I was really scared of falling in love with another place I knew I would leave without a return date.

I shouldn’t have worried.  

Starting off, the thing I was looking forward to the most was speaking Korean, and my Korean skills now are worse than they were in the USA.  That’s kind of bad.  Furthermore, Korean culture continues to baffle me, and I can’t say that I’ve grown to appreciate its nuances quite yet. I’ve outgrown my K-pop phase, and now I find the new stuff somewhat annoying. I was also looking forward to commuting on the legendary subway, but it turns out that 9 lines with an average of more than 3 exits per station and multiple transfer points is just too intense.  

The food hasn’t stolen my heart–Korean food comes in three flavors: bland, too salty, and too spicy.  And there’s no range and depth to the spice, either–it’s all the same kind of chili sauce. I consider myself a non-picky eater, but there aren’t a lot of dishes that I’m really going to miss.

I’m also quite pressured these days with filling out ridiculous stacks of bureaucratic paperwork, sending emails back and forth with the home uni for coordinating my last year.  I’m really not sure what’s going on at this point, I’m SUPER TERRIFIED  that something’s going to go wrong, that I’ll miss a step and have to go back to California to finish after I worked WAY TOO HARD to make this happen. Yeah, I’m really lucky to have this opportunity, but it did come with a price tag.  Just saying.   Having this almost constantly on my mind, as well as the whole postgrad planning is incredibly burdensome.

Korea has been frustrating, disappointing, and stressful.  

Still, I know I’m going to miss Korea.  Not due to Korea itself, but because I made friends. I don’t know what’s worse, to be lonely or to have to part ways and know you might not ever meet again. I feel more included here than I ever have anywhere else, I already miss trabajar en conjunto and gotong royong.  

Going to the lantern festival! L-R, Rebecca, Manon, Alberto, Laura, Sandra, me
Rebecca and me
My new roommate, Giona.
Girl Trip to Gyeongju! L-R Wony, me, Brenda
Indonesian bros L-R Darien, Alven, Erickson, Rafi, Fred, Greg, Hansen, Dean

I changed rooms, and I really like my new roommate. She’s super funny and dramatic and I can say exactly what I’m thinking with her.  We talk a lot, and laugh hard and often.  I will miss her a lot.  I really like my computer science professor, too.  He does not endlessly repeat himself. He responds to my emails almost always within 24 hours.  I’ll miss him. I will miss my church here, too.

“Parting with friends is sadness.  A place is only a place.”–Frank Herbert

So, I’ll savor my last couple of months here with these people.  

And very much hope I will meet them again somewhere else!

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stress-holic

It’s been a stressful week and some. Wheeeeeee…..

It’s hard to believe that it’s only been two weeks that I’ve been working in deep computer science.  I started learning how to code in Java using Eclipse, and last night I downloaded Android Studio.  I’m also slogging through an online course on operating systems to understand the whole principle and theory behind the Android Stack system, which is based on the Linux Kernel.  (I can’t help but think about popcorn).  Now I’m working through a video to learn how to program in C, because you need to know C to understand operating systems, and you need to know operating systems to maximize the power of Java, and you need Java to keep up with these computer science classes. (Also, today I found out that a working knowledge of C++ would be very helpful.)  I genuinely enjoy going to class and listening to the lecture and following along, and I LOVE the feeling of understanding what other people are talking about when they discuss their programming projects, but working through the material on my own is pretty boring.  I couldn’t even get through the whole programming tutorial video in one shot, and it was only 13 minutes long.  I don’t know how I feel about computer science.  I mean, it really is interesting and new, and I’m quite thankful the professor is really sympathetic and good at explaining things.  I also have a HUGE support network for when I get stuck.  It’s been a subject that’s challenging and stretches my capability, and for that I’m really happy.

But at the same time, studying computer science feels selfish and limited.  Despite the tantalizing in-field possibilities of improving upon the Android Stack OS, or designing a new and improved OS, or being able to move beyond the need for separate applications, or encrypting things, I struggle with the fact that no matter how far and advanced we can go in this area, it won’t make us less sinful, or make life better for “the bottom billion” (unless you count the large charitable donations that would be possible from the income of the production of such things), or give us better governments, or reduce waste, etc., etc.  Our interpersonal relationships don’t really get any better either.

So in these regards, I think computer science falls short.

Computer science is far, far more interesting than either of my law classes.  Law encompasses everything I don’t like about being a liberal arts major: long, wordy texts that say almost nothing,  and details that aren’t applicable in more than one situation.  I did a presentation on distinctiveness in trademarks, and I read through an abridged law case where two companies were using the same word to sell their products, one had put a trademark on that word and had brought the other company to court for using it, etc., etc., and I just thought this whole thing was incredibly stupid, like, don’t these people have better things to do with their time and money….staying awake in that class is really, really hard….

In my trade law class, due to a misunderstanding on my part, I ended up as the team leader for a group that can apparently only read and write in English, but not speak very well.  (I thought I was in a group with a bunch of Chinese students.)  All the theories I’ve learned about group dynamics just doesn’t seem to be matching up with reality these days.  Furthermore, this professor spent four hours over two weeks repeating the same five points on how to make a presentation.  I leave you to your thoughts.

Trade theory and architecture are pretty much entire classes based on research projects, so that’s great.  As long as I keep up, it will be fine.

Recently, I’ve been working on my networking, and I’ve discovered some opportunities to connect with some in-industry professionals here.  It’s super exciting.  Also overwhelming.  Because when I log into LinkedIn and check out activity in the groups I follow, or specifically look for people to try to connect to, it just comes crashing in on me like a big wave of never ending work. Network to find your next internship which will hopefully pay. So have your cover letter and resume and CV ready, and make sure it’s up to date….aaahhhhhh….I really, really hate doing this kind of thing, ESPECIALLY with the knowledge that no one really reads it, it’s scanned for grammar and format errors, which just kills me inside. I mean, I seriously think about turning in a Microsoft Word generated resume template with my name at the top with my phone number to see if that gets me any farther than the real thing…

So that’s what I’ve been doing lately.  Not so bad, right? Here is the problem:

I don’t want to be a computer programmer.  I really don’t want to be a lawyer.  I have no plans to be an architect.  I’m pretty certain I’m interested in sustainable tourism entrepreneurship in Southeast Asia, but unfortunately, I’m not actually taking any classes for that, so I keep getting asked “Why are you in these classes that are completely unrelated to your actual major and career plans?”

I’m just tired of answering that.

I’m tired of these repetitious introductions and salutations with people I don’t know and may never see again.  It’s great to be friends on FB, but there’s more, I swear there’s more than that to define and solidify a meaningful human connection, and I want it.  I want to spend time with the people I already know and who know me. I want to speed up this “friend making process” to make deeper connections already…it’s only been three weeks that I’ve known anyone though, and you can’t rush a strong friendship, and so I’m in this dilemma which is really bothering me.  It kills me inside to know that at the end of this semester, I will probably never see any of these people again, and probably not really keep in touch with any of them.  It’s hard to face the prospect of that process again, because I’ve done it  every semester since I started college in Taiwan.

I think that the stress and accompanying dissatisfaction about all of the above has forced me to reflect more deeply about what it means to be a human BEING (as opposed to a human DOING).  Also, observing the other exchange students who are seemingly quite relaxed and un-bothered by academics or post-grad prospects makes me really jealous.  I’ve been spending my free time this week hanging around a group of Indonesian exchange students who are content to just sit around a table in a group after dinner and not really do anything or say much, but just low-key enjoy each other’s company.  I. just. don’t. get. it.  I hung out with them for about 30 minutes in this “state of being” two nights ago and it was really nice….until I had to go back to studying.  I couldn’t do nothing every night of the week even if I wanted to.  Super American of me….(this reflection deserves its own post.)

I’m trying to be less hectic, I really am. I want to really enjoy my student life instead of worrying about the next step all the time. I’m tired of feeling like I have to have something to show for every hour that I’m awake.  I think though, that keeping myself busy and engaged is a fundamental part of who I am.  Still working on balancing everything out, but you know, maybe the constant, almost frenetic energy and enthusiasm is a gift.  Maybe the capability and desire to know a lot and do a lot is something that I should develop more, instead of trying to convince myself to do less.

I’ll leave off here, I need to go get more caffeine. I have a lot of work to do. 🙂

 

Prep work (or, reality is harsh)

Recently, I found a bogart. It was an endlessly rushing river of paperwork that needed reviewing, redoing, and re-submitting. It resisted my repeated roars of “RIDICKULUS!” so I recognized it must be REAL.

I’ve had this fear that I’m going to get there and have forgotten some important paper and be sent back, so today I spent way more time than necessary just checking and double checking I have everything they asked for both in the electronic application form and in my hard-copy folder that I’ll be presenting at the university.  Some of the things they ask for in the application form are not required as hard-copies to be handed in, an example being my Korea study plan.  Ugh, even thinking about paperwork makes me want to cry and scream in frustration.

 

Anyway, we’re getting closer! Just six more days!

Attempting to pack for myself draft 1
Attempting to pack for myself draft 1
It's not working
It’s not working
So I asked my mom to do it for me
So I asked my mom to do it for me
It's depressing to think you're at least semi-capable at something and then be awakened by reality.
It’s depressing to think you’re at least semi-capable at something and then be awakened by reality.
Oh well.
Oh well.

My mom also made the packing list for me.

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On a more serious note, something I’m looking forward to in Korea is meeting more people who are like-minded, have similar backgrounds, and are good at discussing ideas, rather than events.  I want to meet people that have also read current data on tourism and can talk about these trends and their opportunities with me.  I want to meet people who are thirsty for deeper knowledge of subjects like market developments and entrepreneurship and the trade in intellectual property.  I want to meet people who like watching slice-of-life foreign-language films.  I want to meet people who have internalized myths and legends and children’s stories from around the world and can reference them easily in conversation.  I want to meet people that inspire me to pursue my faith to another level. I want to meet people who write their own stories.  I want to meet people who aren’t particularly impressed that I speak almost three languages because they can express themselves in four or five. I want to meet people that recognize the names Simone Porter and Benjamin Beilman.  I really, really, really hope that I won’t be giving various versions of an elevator speech to different people every single week.

Wish me luck.

Ironic

 

From the desk of Fiction’s father, Ideas:

Sanguine comes from the Latin Sanguinis, of or having to do with blood.  In medieval medical practice, there were four humors of the body created by varying combinations of temperature and humidity (hot, cold, wet, dry), and personality depended upon the most prominent humor.  The humors were bile (choleric), black bile (melancholic), phlegm (phlegmatic), and blood (sanguine).

However, the term “bloody” is normally used in a pessimistic way, while “sanguine” refers to an optimistic person.

 

My New Job (sort of)

Plans set up a nice little appointment for me over my extended winter break as a substitute teacher’s assistant for the school district.  I was originally supposed to be a special education aide, but the special ed jobs didn’t start until January 10, and I wanted to start working earlier than that. So I chose one that started on January 3, at an elementary school approximately 15 mins away from my house by bicycle.  (Keep in mind I had been laying around, doing whatever I pleased whenever I desired for about a fortnight, and while I pride myself on being incredibly good at keeping myself busy, I do prefer to have a bit of outside order imposed on life.  Furthermore, the prospect of getting paid sooner was more than welcome.)

I’m called Miss Eleanor by a bunch of 1st and 2nd graders who need help with reading and math. Math! It’s ironic, I’m actually attempting to explain addition, which my father tells me he thought I’d never get…

I was really discombobulated for a couple days, just because I didn’t know what to expect–after all, it’s been awhile since I had any meaningful interactions with anyone under the age of 20.  But then, I kind of got the hang of it again, and now I’m realizing it’s really just a large-scale tutoring job.

The hours are nice–7:35 am to 11:35 am, M-F.  The teachers are pretty nice.  I’m finally realizing what it would have been like to actually attend public school. It’s completely different from homeschooling.  Completely. You have to “go to school” with the same teacher in the same room with the same classmates EVERY SINGLE DAY!!!!!! FIVE DAYS A WEEK!!!!!! AND YOU STAY THERE UNTIL 2:35 PM AT LEAST!!!! That’s like a seven hour class with different topics with a break every hour.  Already by 11:35, I’m quite ready to go home.  I have problems with classes longer than 75 minutes….And sometimes, you talk about the SAME TOPIC for multiple days in a row, which must bore the living daylights out of at least five people in my room…and you have to see the people you really don’t like EVERY DAY….there’s this one little boy who loves to torture the classmate who sits behind him on a daily basis….and she has great self-control, I’ve never seen her try to do anything other than yell at him….

And this is common! This is what most people have experienced in their lives! This really just blows my mind…wow….