Sunday, January 1, 2012

Violence, lust, and other hard things

I don't want to write today. I want to sit in bed with my journal and watch the sun roll across the sky. I want to be in my classroom today, singing that cursed lunch and snack song they made me sing three times a day. I want to know tonight I get to see Taesun and ride the subway back to Gangnam with my iPod in. I guess today I miss "home."

I went to a Korean restaurant for lunch yesterday, and I nearly cried when I saw hangul on the menu. My friends spent the whole meal trying to convince me to go talk to the woman in the kitchen, but the only word I could muster up the courage to say was "thank you." We left and I took a picture as we walked away.

It doesn't help that I've had a hard week. As Jen says, the "grace goggles" have come off, and we're starting to become annoyed with the little things we used to find amusing. I remember when that happened in Korea, and I know that if I push through, I'll enjoy it here again. But right now, I'm frustrated, cold, and awfully lonely. I know I'm here with fifteen other people and it's nearly impossible to have a second alone, but just as I was after those first few honeymoon weeks in Korea, I'm lonely for people who know me. I'm lonely for people who know that mandu is infinitely better than momos, for people who know euchre is the best way to pass the time, for people who know Miami isn't just in Florida.

The kids at the camp are getting more comfortable with us, and that means they're acting the way they do with each other. It's beautiful that they know us and anticipate when we come to spend time with them, but with familiarity comes violence, apparently. I started to notice it earlier this week when I had a baby on my lap. A teenage girl was standing beside me, and she decided to show me how to play with the baby. She swung her arm back and slapped him across the cheek; when his face turned, she slapped his other cheek. I smacked her hand away and told her that wasn't nice, but I doubt she understood my English. She laughed and tried to show me how to play again, but I pulled the baby away from her. I didn't have much time to explain why, though; I had to rush across the path to stop a little boy from throwing rocks at his friends. The next time we went to the camp, my stomach fell out when I saw a little girl shaking a tiny, tiny baby to get him to stop crying. This world is so broken, and it hurts so much.

Time outside the camp hasn't been much better. Having been outside America the majority of 2011, I'm somewhat familiar with the stares that come with being Caucasian. As a group, we've had entire tour buses pull over to take pictures with us, and it's not uncommon to have people pretend to pose for pictures but really angle the camera to capture us. For some reason, this week I've lost my patience. We went to a temple next to a beautiful waterfall to pray, and I sat on a low stone wall a few yards away from the group. Two men approached me and asked for a picture, and before I realized what what happening, I had a line of men waiting to sit beside me. Each one inched closer than the last, and after very little time they were practically sitting on my lap, wrapping their arms around me. I frantically tried to catch the eye of our translator or someone on my team, and finally one of the girls saw what was happening and started pushing the men away from me. A handful of the ones who were still in line followed us away from the temple, but the men in our group stayed behind the girls so they couldn't get close to us. I noticed every glance that lingered a little too long on the way back to town, and I wished I could just melt straight into the road.

Please don't read these stories and make up your mind that this nation is terrible. My frustration with the culture doesn't in any way mean these people are less deserving of the love we came to show, of the medical care and English lessons and prayer we spend our days freely giving out. It just means I can't love as unconditionally as God can, and I'm learning to put myself aside so that others matter more. It's a tough road to walk, and I'm sometimes a terribly slow learner.

We have had some moments this week that I'll cling to forever. One of the girls in the camp chased me down to draw henna designs on my hands with a marker; when she turned her own hand over, I saw she had written my name in the center of her palm so she wouldn't forget it. We spent New Years Eve watching one of the most delightful movies I've ever seen, and when the calendar page finally turned, we gathered around a bonfire and danced for hours. Lemme tell ya, these people can dance. There are moments almost every day that freeze time for a second, and I recognize how incredibly lucky I am to be here in this place, with these people. Just like we have to do in every situation, I'm choosing to focus on the beauty instead of the frustrations, to focus on what can one day be instead of what is right now.


  1. 234-12-2222, welcome to heaven. i prayed for u today!!

    <3 your friend from miami of OHIO

  2. Hey Nikki!
    Way to focus on the positive! That is hard in times like this but definitely a necessity! I wanted to encourage you with Habakkuk 1:2-5:
    Habakkuk’s Complaint
    2 How long, O LORD, must I call for help? But you do not listen!“Violence is everywhere!” I cry, but you do not come to save. 3 Must I forever see these evil deeds? Why must I watch all this misery? Wherever I look,I see destruction and violence. I am surrounded by people who love to argue and fight. 4 The law has become paralyzed, and there is no justice in the courts. The wicked far outnumber the righteous,so that justice has become perverted.
    5 The LORD replied,
    “Look around at the nations;look and be amazed!
    For I am doing something in your own day,something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it.

    There are so many things going on in the Spiritual realm! Stay constant in prayer! That is the ONLY way to change things. Love you!