There live many worlds in me, draft no.1.5

December 9, 2018 § Leave a comment

There live many worlds in me. For centuries they coexisted peacefully, sharing borders, like cells lined up next to each other. Each holding precious life fluid, self-sufficient, each carrying on its business, its own affairs according to the ruling principles developed to their likings. Efficient and friendly, cordial, as long as the boundaries stay intact. Then one day I decide against the current of life to do away with the borders, tear open the linings, to see what would happen: What if these worlds would be one and whole, form whole and one? I wanted to know, to taste the amalgam of the many lives lived separately within. So the cells burst open, letting their entrails out, naked and spilt. Now chaos ensues — I didn’t know, couldn’t foresee my worlds might be threatening to one another, that for one to live the other must suffer, that each rule might stand opposed. Why did I imagine them building harmoniously? What proof did I have? None. Except a whisper from the deep deep dark. I did not know, could not foretaste one’s white blood cell attacking another’s, mistaken for the enemy. Am I to sort through stitches, threads of arteries and leaking pipes, asking which is a battleground and which a negotiation table? I, the only confused one (am I)?

Sighing, I wait for the dust to settle, to see a little more clearly the mutt, the mixed breed, the multiple amoeba I’ve become (or has it always been so?) I don’t know how this story ends.


Family portrait part eleven: my cousin and I meet after twenty years, his kids around us old enough to talk

December 8, 2018 § Leave a comment

Gender norms… at such young age, and ruthless too, the way these get passed on: from the YouTube shows they watch (pink nurse car is a girl of course and the main character hero is the blue police car not, duh) to the iPad games of battleground ghosts to catch and restaurants to run that feature flowing flowery dresses and large colored eyes and soft-spoken voices of women. They’re without warning. I’m watching these three- and seven-year olds glued to their respective devices absorbing in the most vulnerable and defenseless way the pummeling of patriarchal values… what women should be and how to relate to men, what’s “normal” for boys and girls of that age to know and enact, how NOT to be in order to be properly identified and reassured you’re the person you’re supposed to be. It bothers me like a small thorn under my fingernail, can’t quite pull it out but can’t ignore it either. What am I supposed to say?

Fernando is a wonderful community organizer, artist, colleague, and I’m so glad I’ve met him my short short time in San Francisco.

December 6, 2018 § Leave a comment

I realize I don’t have all the pieces to the various contexts from which people are talking about George H. Bush, his policies and public life. I confess I can’t honestly reflect on what’s going on in the States right now, so far removed from the things NPR Politics podcast discusses. But then scrolling through Facebook feed, which I swear I never do, I come across this gem: Quail Hunt.

It feels strange to be watching a Korean drama now that I’m actually in Korea. And the one I been following is about a different century anyway. But it holds room for this current moment where I, and many other, ponder war (I never experienced it like many many folks around the world do on a daily basis). Yes, war, specifically the armed conflict/violence resulting from one people group trying to take over another’s land. Ah I come back to land, again. Why can’t we believe that this earth be enough to house every woman child man? Why must you bring boots and bombs and cross borders to burn my land?

“If, for example, you come at four in the afternoon, I’ll begin to be happy by three.” For Teressa

December 5, 2018 § Leave a comment

잠깐 잠이 들었어 따듯한 버스 안에서. 내릴때쯤 되어 살짝 깨보니 밖은 벌써 어두워지고 있었어. 갑자기 너무 행복해졌어. 찬 바람, 담배냄새, 환한 전등 불빛, 또각또각 나는 내 구두소리, 반갑게도 익숙한 거리, 집 가는 길. 몇달만 있으면 너를 볼수있다는 생각.

I concede now that in my past life I have read my fair share of books that weren’t necessarily for my age level, or grade appropriate. But no one guided me in reading, so it is what it is. I ain’t here to complain about the damaged psyche.

December 4, 2018 § Leave a comment

A question for you though: How is it possible, how possible is it that at so tender an age a child should open her eyes to the world that doesn’t fully make sense to her and be influenced by that presence in the subconscious, forever altering the container that is her being?

The poet is so right, so apt his language in 겨울날의 동화. On a winter morning, his birthday, when all is brilliance and quiet and untouched, stepping on the pure snow up the hill, he hears a cry of birds, sitting on bare branches with clusters of red berries. Suddenly, something has entered his mind, he says, something he does not understand yet; something has taken hold of his young mind and now he’s changed forever. But he’s ten and there’s no way he can know or evaluate or even articulate what it is that has struck him. And it shall haunt him the rest of his life. Of course it’s not fair. But this happens all the time. We cannot protect our children from the world let alone ourselves.

I remember reading this when I was ten. I was but a child–what on earth did I make of it? But I remember it, however vaguely, just as vividly as the red berries are against the white of snow laden ground and of the Korean winter sky. Alas what I want to say is that as surely as that something that took hold of the poet/narrator’s ten-year old psyche, that it has also entered my mind. And it’s shaped me, this existential awareness, perhaps in a way that I’m not sure is necessarily “for the good of” a pre-adolescent mental development. Just as this Daniel Caesar song is maybe not so good for my soul at the moment. But who am I to judge?

So where does this leave me? After an hour or so of thumbing through pages of words and savoring temperature of those words, I decided not to sit too long with any one of them. Don’t want to be today, I’ll come back and explore even more slowly. It’s the advantage of the opposite of urgency, I don’t believe in carpe diem any more than I do in the longevity of life, fraught with the carpe diem moments, but the latter is winning currently.

한국교회가 Josh Groban 이렇게 좋아하는지 정말 몰랐어…

December 2, 2018 § Leave a comment

나를 지으신 이가 하나님
나를 부르신 이가 하나님
나를 보내신 이도 하나님
나의 나된 것은 다 하나님 은혜라

나의 달려갈 길 다가도록
나의 마지막 호흡 다하도록
나로 그 십자가 품게 하시니
나의 나된것은 다 하나님은혜라

한량없는 은혜, 갚을 길 없는 은혜
내 삶을 에워싸는 하나님의 은혜
나 주저함 없이 그 땅을 밟음도
나를 붙드시는 하나님의 은혜

That song has to do with exodus I’m sure–the reference to “that” land–entering the Promised Land. But the second time I’m singing it, at first at another Korean church in El Ay, now in Korea, I can’t help but sing a little differently: I’m entering this land. I’ve decided to put my feet here, on 이 땅, and I didn’t hesitate to do so, for better or for worse. And it’s by grace. I suppose that is the song, Amazing Grace. It’s grace that will call me home. She has.

Another piece of paper proving nothing but necessary for survival in the tug of wars between nation states, it’s not a human force, it’s bigger than me

November 30, 2018 § Leave a comment

I’m at the 고양시 출입국 외국인 사무소, an immigration office, pretty brightly lit and not unpleasant space to be (except there’s no free WiFi). Everyone is pretty friendly; the bathroom is squeaky clean; you can make copies of what you need and even take your passport pictures for a bargain next door. I have come two times already to register as a foreigner, because yes I am a foreigner now in Korea. Another story. This is the third I enter this office after a back and forth with one of the administrators who tell me I need more papers (family certificate? proof? specification? something something, to ensure I have Korean national parents I suppose). Good thing I could ask my aunt to fax me the copy of my U.S. citizenship too. The hotline I called two days prior did not request that I bring any of these, just my social security card, U.S. passport and the form my uncle signed to confirm that he lived in the address he would provide me.

Luckily, I don’t have to wait super long in line, like so many foreigners in this room: Indians, South Asians, Blacks, Chinese, old people, young people, men and women, all kinds of folks. They’re quietly filling out forms, whispering to one another in broken Korean and other tongues asking questions, watching the screen mindlessly while waiting for their appointment number to be called up.

I, too, wait. A mom and her son (I presume from the way they’re talking to one another) in front of me, they’re clearly Koreans, ethnically yes. They speak in colloquial, they may dress a little differently (you would not know how to tell from a Western gaze), but blood wise they must be. The entire history of 조선족 is also another story for another time. But their passports show red, probably China, and who decided that? How? On what basis? We’re stuck here in this office waiting for more papers to prove who we are and where we belong, and all of the borders we have crossed and have crossed us stack up line by line on the green or blue or red papers.

Another lady catches my eye on the left side of the windows. She is of a small stature, short bob hair, dressed plainly in sneakers and black jogger type pants. Her Korean sounds a little off, I immediately assess her as a Southeast Asian laborer perhaps. She seems to be pleading with one of the officers about something, an extension of stay maybe. Later when I am about to be called up, an older man appears to complain about her situation to another officer. He stands by her as she tries to explain in her limited Korean. I can’t tell what their relationship is yet. The lady is told she needs to come back another day I think, she looks so destitute. The older partner person also looks upset. They both come back to the waiting area and sit down, he speaking to her frustrated but not without gentleness. Let’s go, he says in Korean, there’s nothing we can do right now. Something to that effect. His Korean is unmistakably native. She does not move. She sits silent. I can feel her disappointment and anguish seep out. I cannot see her face but I can picture her pouting. They sit for a while. I wonder if they’re husband and wife. A Korean male (usually older and never married, from the country and/or financially unsuitable) and a picture bride from Vietnam is a common story. I wonder if she has to get deported. I wonder if she cannot work. I wonder if she’s regretting anything. He nudges her once more to get going. She slowly gets up without saying a word to him, walks over to another window where another officer engages her in another futile conversation about papers needing stamps or whatever.

I’m called and proceed to the window to present more papers myself. I am approved for fingerprints at another window after paying ~$30 and many trips to many offices for many verification papers. I will get my alien registration card in the mail in two to three weeks. I reassess my privilege, even as a foreigner.

The lady and her man have left.