Last weekend I attended the "Justice in Action" conference hosted in part by my office, the Center for Community Service. The entire day was noteworthy, however, it was the keynote speaker, Dasha Kelly Hamilton who's words on creativity, passion and living with intent that spoke to me, and reminded me to come back here and write - my form of creative release. School took over for a few days, but Friday afternoon I received my first dose of the (Moderna) COVID vaccine and I realized it's been about a year since I wrote about the first outbreak in Korea. A year of ups and downs, both globally and personally, one for the history books and also the year I came home. A year in review may be a post to come, but this one is a quick shout out to being halfway to vaccinated.
We made it, 2020 is in the books, really all the books - we're living through the contents of future history lessons. Where were you during the pandemic? That's not what I'm here to talk about though, old news, overdone, saturated. This post serves both as a reflection as well as a look to the future, but maybe what I really need to do is ground myself in the present. I spent the better part of the first day of 2021 sorting through old pictures. I knew the minute I opened Pandora's box it was a bad idea, emotions were about to be evoked, and in my already iffy (Wisconsin winter) mood this was a risky move to make.
I've been quiet for a while, after watching COVID sweep the nation, no longer sitting in the epicenter of it all, I have been at a loss for words. I've removed myself from daily news reports of current numbers as all that really does is fuel the anxiety, but I can't completly remove myself from hearing about COVID as it has consumed every corner of the media. Almost every podcast I listen to has taken their own spin on the virus; "Ask Code Switch: The Coronavirus Edition", FiveThirtyEight "Why COVID-19 Conspiracy Theories Are Spreading", Freakonomics "What Will College Look Like in the Fall (and Beyond)", etc. Also, here in South Korea we're "at a critical juncture"" as a recent outbreak emerged at a night club. The recent reports here surrounding the "Itaewon outbreak" have sparked some thoughts and reminded me of articles I had been seeing weeks ago in the United States about minority groups being disproportionally affected by COVID.
There is so much floating around the internet right now it's nearly impossible to keep your head on straight. Couple that with being told to self isolate and I can only imagine the number of people writing their own version of the end of the world. It's easy to ignore because it's ambiguous. It's easy to think you're not at risk because your're young. It's easy to ignore the numbers. It's easy, as the below image suggests, to sit on the couch for a few days. The truth of the matter is though, nothing about COVID19 is easy.
Social Distancing: a set of nonpharmaceutical infection control actions intended to stop or slow down the spread of a contagious disease.
Living in Daegu South Korea, the "epicenter" of the outbreak and one of two special care zones here, I've become quite familiar with this phrase. We've been encouraged to limit our social exposure, avoid public transportation and many large events have been canceled, including Sunday church services, concerts and festivals across the country. We receive frequent texts from the government reminding us of best practices and encouraging us to stay strong, but not get complacent as the number of infections here begin to decline. While I've been living this reality for weeks, it is only just beginning for friends and family back in the United States and other parts of the world.
March 8 - 14 is deemed "Americorps Week" as a time to honor both the programs and participants who have served since the inception of the program in 1994. While it has been eight months since I completed my service term with the Southwest Region, there remains a lasting impact from the time I spent serving our country. The most obvious comes in the form of friendships, individuals I did not know a year and a half ago I now eagerly watch for updates, as they continue doing amazing things. From my ATL [Assistant team leader] who has now become a Team Leader with in the North Central region, to fellow team members who are now serving with or about to embark on an adventure through service in the Peace Corps. There are others who have returned to "normal life" as we so call it, but I have no doubt that service still plays a role in their daily routines.
If I asked what the first day of spring smells like, would you know the answer or understand the feeling? I walked out of my apartment yesterday to temperatures nearing 60 degrees and the sun shinning. It wasn't necessary to hide myself under my long padding (I know that's Konglish, but for the life of me can not think of the English equivalent) and I couldn't help but feel alive. Korea, Daegu specifically, is currently dealing with the Coronavirus outbreak, and while the media has sensationalized the severity of it all, the last few weeks have been painted in gray. This could have compounded my happiness for the sudden spring day, but more than that I felt a pang of nostalgia, memories of childhood. Am I alone in this, or does everyone else rejoice in the world coming back to life at the first smell of spring?
I woke up yesterday, thinking about the people in my life, places I've been and experiences I've had. It soon dawned on me that many of these things, integral parts of my life, having shaped who I am or what I believe, are things I was not at first drawn to. We've always been told to "give it a try", but more often than not after that first try if something is difficult, unappealing or goes against what we believe, we don't come back to it. I'm beginning to believe though, that those things we once listed in the "no" column of life are the very things we should come back to, open our minds and explore once again.
For the last five and a half years I’ve been calling different parts of Asia home, the majority of my time has been spent in Korea, teaching English to amazing kids, while for the rest I play nomad, jumping from one country to another. Inevitably when traveling you’ll often be asked the question, “Where are you from?” This question has become the ‘What’s up?’ of the international world and is often used as a type of icebreaker, a simple way to get to know others in your hostel, at your dinner table, or on a bus. It’s such a simple question but depending who it’s directed at or the lips it came from, can lead to so many different conversations.
During my last few months of travel I kept coming back to this feeling, I was tired. I thought I was tired of travel: new beds, long buses, navigating cities and eating in restaurants at every meal. I've only just realized thought, that this is not what I'm tired of.
I'm tired of being a woman.
Emptying my Head
I'm an overthinker, my brain is always on overdrive. Sometimes the thoughts are pertinant to life, and other times they're just a trove of wonder. They're usually about, related to or in memory of travel. When they're good I like to share.