Monday, November 23, 2009

The Pancake, the Donut, and the Muffin

Alternative Title: "Blessed by Pastries"

I have said it before and I'll say it again: I love Koreans.

I've been here long enough to know my neighborhood, and it seems like they are getting to know me too. I have my own neighborhood grocery store, my own path to school where I pass the same people every day, I say hi to the bank teller when I see her outside of the bank, I have my own food stand around the corner from my apartment, and I have my own local convenience store run by the nicest woman on the planet. And while I only speak a few words in the language of these people, we have become friends.

They are the kindest, most generous people I have ever met.

There have been rough days for me here. I've had days where I've mapped out my return flight home. I've had days where being sick made my homesickness 80 times worse. I've had the most job related frustrations ever. And each one of these days when I've just wanted to hide from the world, the world shows me how good it can be in the most simple but profound ways.

So far, these ways have also come in the form of a pastry.

It had been a rough day at school. I felt the most inadequate and the most hesitant in my decision to come to Korea. I questioned my motives for coming and asked myself why I thought I could do this. I had never taught before and I didn't know anyone.

I decided to get some of those fish shaped pancakes from the lady around the corner from my apartment. She is the sweetest woman. I walk past her at least twice a day and every time I do I am guaranteed a smile and a hello. It makes my day. I try to get food from her every once in awhile to kind of show my love back. And those little things have grown on me. So this particular day I stopped by to say hello and grab some treats, and I noticed instead of three, she gives me six. I tried to pay her more money, and she just smiled and laughed and waved her hand in front of her, denying any further payment. All I can do is say thank you and smile. But that day when I felt so worthless, she made me feel like a million bucks (or six fish shaped pancakes).

My birthday started a little rough. I had to teach COT's classes that day (little devils), I knew the packages my family sent me (which were awesome and the results will be posted soon) would be late, and mostly I just knew my birthday wouldn't be the same without my peeps and family back home. I stopped by the convenience store down the street from my house on the way home to buy some grape juice to ease the pain. It is my favorite you know. And just as I was paying for it, the woman who owns/runs the store calls to a man sitting in the back. A moment later he is walking up to me, handing me a donut. Again, all I can do is thank them for their kindness and hope to return it someday. I walked out of the store and down the street, looking to the sky in amazement of how these people can know my needs so well. Because at that moment, I needed some love.

Today was another not awesome day at school. I mean, it was awesome for some reasons. But it ended poorly. As COT began to take my two month vacation and slowly transform it into a less than one month vacation, I was seething. See, I've asked her about a million times about January. There is no school that month so I assumed I had it off, but Koreans are really bad about telling you information when you want it. At least the Koreans at my school. Which explains why I've asked so many times. And which is why I was surprised that today she told me something different than before. I have always been told that I would have a one week English camp and thats all. She tells me this and I repeat it back, making sure we understand each other. Well today that one week of camp was moved to the first week of January, and the following three weeks have turned into weeks of conversation classes.

As you can tell, it is not good news. Basically every week I had decided to travel somewhere awesome is gone. I have to rethink my whole situation. And I have to plan for a month of classes instead of a week. Excuse me? I was livid. Every second she stood next to me was another moment I had to restrain myself from breaking every bone in her body. I'm not joking.

So just as I was fuming from this experience, I went to the grocery store to buy some junk, including some bread. As the lady and I were exchanging money and bread, in the very last second she was holding onto the bag of bread, she grabbed a muffin and threw it inside.

If that isn't a sign that I need to remember to be grateful, I don't know what is.

So with that, and it being Thanksgiving this week back in the States, I am thankful for pastries. And how they have come to symbolize little acts of love in my life.