An Incomplete Puzzle

How amazing to think back one year. 10 months and 7 days, 310 days ago from now I had just arrived in Korea. To think how strange and unfamiliar everything was. All my senses were bombarded with sights, smells and sounds that were different. Wrong. One of the common feelings then was the feeling of loneliness. Loneliness surrounded by people, For an outgoing person begin unable to strike up a conversation with ease is a living nightmare. I was along. Alone and surrounded by many. Yet I stood out. I stood out as a novelty. I stood out as a curiosity. I stood out as a stranger. I was alone in a sea of constant chatter, unable to understand.

IMG_0555.JPGUnderstanding that a mountain is there even if the fog is covering it –  Suraksan Mountain (수락산)

I think true loneliness is wedged between two people on a crowded bus and the chatter of people around you is nothing more then sounds you can’t comprehend.

How was I ever going to to build relationships with people when I couldn’t even speak or understand? My reasons and program was built around relationships, to connect with with my new community. Instead I was barred by the very thing I loved most. Words. The very thing relationships are built upon were hidden from me. Instead I had words to learned that were wrong. All wrong. One of my journal entries said.

“Language class was hard today. I feel like I am in a battle. There is so much to take in it physically hurts. My head hurts. My mouth hurts. My tongue hurts. Everything about the sounds and feelings in my mouth feel so wrong. My tongue fights every formation and every syllable, refusing to conform. It is large, lazy and useless in my mouth. My brain struggles to make sense of something it perceives as non sensical, utterly incomprehensible. Something that can never make sense. It doesn’t want to submit, to surrender and become dominated by another way of being. Though if I truly want to begin to understand and experience, I will have to let go of what I understand as right.”

IMG_0083.JPGOn a trip with the pastor from my volunteer site 

In the beginning all the sounds and words were foreign and indistinguishable for me. A common thought. ” How does X express Z when Y is missing!” I struggled to make sense of it it. Then something happened. Things started to changed. Slowly. There was a moment. (That I don’t remembered but I see the change so it must have happened.) A moment when I realized I needed to stop seeing and thinking and truing to understand in ways I  already knew. I needed to stop trying to understand through English. Instead I needed to surrender to the foreign, the strange and lose a bit of myself in it. I needed to forget what I though and knew as the right way, stop seeking understand and instead just experiences it as it was.

KakaoTalk_Photo_2017-06-20-13-53-50-8.jpegTwo of my friends. Our conversations are pretty haphazard but fun 

The whole concept of surrendering yourself to God has never really sat well with me. I don’t want to be controlled on the whims of a being I can’t even see. That’s not what its about. Its about giving myself fully to the moment right now. Letting myself go and and wandering off the path. Its about getting lost but not seeking anything. Its about experiences but not always understanding, not being shackled to comprehension but surrendered to a timeless moment.

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A view of a farm with Daejeon in the background. 

Some of my closet Korean friends here speak little English. They will tell you they speak none but that is a lie. The process of becoming less then strangers and building relationships with them has been nothing short of magic. As I continued to learn, to practice and accept incomplete comprehension, out relationships grew. we began to understand each other. We gave into the unknown and allowed a language without words to from. We began to listen to each other. Listen to our expressions and actions made loud without the constant chatter. These moments held words, carefully chosen but completely expressed. pronunciation and grammar mistakes abounded and phone translators were our best friend. More then not most of what we communicated was lost to not understanding, but the effort remains. It built the walls of friendships. Each stone held together by a thoughtfully and carefully chosen word.

IMG_0192.jpgSome of the kids I work with writing animals in English and Korean 

Language helps speed up relationship building and allows deeper faster, but it is not needed. Something its gets in the way. When we talk to much that we no longer listen. I learned in my moments without words how to listen. I think that where God is, in between our words. In the moment when understanding is still cloudy and foreign. In that space where you have to really listen and lose a bit of yourself to not understanding.

IMG_0241.JPGThe west Coast, Its so foggy this month you can’t even tell where the water ends and the sky begins. 

As the year progressed my langue conversations have grown as have my friendships. One of my memories is of sitting and talking with a friend on a train ride. I asked a complex (complex in that it had two verbs) question. It was after I understood the response that I fully realized I wasn’t using English. Most days I don’t understand. Its only the simple, slow conversations I can comprehend and can really only respond in even simpler. Its fun when I do understand, or make guesses and am right. Everyone including myself is surprised.

IMG_0222.JPGThe night scape of Deajeon 

One of the quotes that has stood out to me this year is by St. Augustus.

“Seek not to understand that you may believe, but believe that you my understand.”

In Korea I have to give up fully understanding everything. I had to give into the unknown, believe that it would work out and trust the process. I had to allow myself to let of of what was comfortable and right. I didn’t lose myself. I found another part of myself. I still lonely at times. That’s just part of life and being human. I do however feel like I am not longer a strange. Here we have become joined, our lives crossed for a time. Our moments shared. Together we are building a temple. A place of peace between us and around us. Building an understanding that peaces supported not to words alone but by simply being.

IMG_0353.JPGI think the point of living is to grow from one another. Its about getting lost together and experiencing the wonderments of life. To puzzel over them together.  We will never fully understand it. After my year here, I’m not sure I want to.

Simply a Moment; Not Meant To Last

Something magical happened. Spring has come in all of its glory. After a few days of rain the blossoms on the trees sprang to life, covering them in a soft spring snow. The petals drifted from the flowers down to the ground, covering in a blanket of white. It was beautiful! If the thousands of petals practically floating, arranged on each tree forming delicate flowers is not a testament to the greater life and breath of the universe, then I am baffled.

IMG_2987.jpg(All the trees alight with blooms along the walk ways near my house.)

The most awe inspiring reality of these flowers is their immaculate beauty that vanishes within days; simply a moment not meant to last. The petals drawn of by rushing April Winds, fell to the ground like snow, the tree left stalky and plain, only the small green buds as a reminder its not the same tree as during winter.

Again magic happened and almost over night every bud on all the trees opened in to tiny adorable leaves. Their brilliant green color glistening in the warm sun, the trees seemed to sing, the petals just a prelude to the greater symphony of spring. Each day something new has arrived, some new flower or bird. I even saw a different cat fighting with our Alley Cat in Resident Dimitri. (He’s the orange one with a squashed face and missing his tail)IMG_2759

Like the thousands of petals spring seems to be made up of thousands of moments, delicately shaped together to create the vision of spring; each moment only lasting for a breath. Inhale into the the moment and exhale as it drifts by. KakaoTalk_Photo_2017-04-10-08-01-35-41

That is the case with my YAV year. It is simply moments followed by moments to compose a reality. Moments that drift on the wind to fall into memory.

There have been some beautiful moments here in Korea, and there have been some ugly ones.  A real rawness. Like holding up a mirror and really looking at yourself, blemishes and all. Realizing how you contribute to any given moment.  There have been moments composed of feelings, wanted and unwanted. They drift by like clouds. I am learning to let them come and go. Moments of words, soft and encouraging, harsh and hurtful. Sometimes these moments lead to other moments, moments of restoration, forgiveness and more words, sometimes they don’t.  KakaoTalk_Photo_2017-04-10-07-46-03-25(My friends and I took a trip to photograph the flowers…we were very silly about it) 

And moments with friends. The most invigorating and simultaneously hardest part is building friendships and knowing that within a few months I will be separated by thousands of miles and waters. And yet, that can not take away from the beauty of right now and the moments I can share. Knowing that something doesn’t last doesn’t make the cherry tree any less worthy or beautiful. I am not less inclined to enjoy my time with them knowing that in a few days they will be but a feint memory.  I am eager to share our moment together.  KakaoTalk_Photo_2017-04-10-08-01-35-67(These three ladies have made my time in Korea beautiful) 

As I write this, it is Easter Sunday. I can hear the birds chirp, the view outside my window is alive with the colors of life. I always forget how green it becomes when living in Winter. Easter always reminds me that whatever is happening that knowing that “this too shall pass.” Nothing lasts forever. Moments of hardship give way to joy. Moments of joy can be followed by despair. Always changing. Always moving. I am learning to observe the moment.

Breath, Trust and Be.

A Glimpse of Fall

With the dawning of morning November has come and gone like colored leaves ripped from the the trees and ran rampant on the wind. Frankly much of November has blurred together in memories of reds, oranges and yellows. The days were, at first, filled with Korean class, study trips and volunteer work. After a very stressful week, and tests in Korean where I affirmed I was barely a beginner I am proud to say I passed level one of Korean.

The last week of November itself was a whirlwind adventure to Seoul where we started to unpack the history and pain of the Korean peninsula over the last one hundred years. That however, will be a series of other blogs over the next while.

November was busy. Let the pictures tell the story.

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img_2510The leaves lasted well into November, the colors getting only brighter and more diverse. 

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Reeds in the Fallimg_2286
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my city,  Daejeon
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Band Album:Sauem Kids
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Shadow Squad Unite!
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When neither one wants to do anything

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The leaf is the size of my shoe!
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Traditional Drums (Buk)
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Biggest Drum in the World!
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I’d die is it rolled over me.
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Trying to play Gayageum
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We passed class!
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Doctor Strange was Epic! 
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Coffee time with Woori
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I made this bird!
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I let the kids take pictures on my big camera. Not bad.