Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Countdown

I leave for the airport in 27 hours. 27 hours until I am officially on my way to Korea. When I think about it I just don't know what to think. It seems like I should be experiencing some more intense emotions right now like true fear or excitement or something but at this moment I kind of just feel...numb. I really don't know what to think or feel but still it never hurts to write.

Tonight my parents took me to one of my favorite pizza places and when I arrived I quickly found out it was a surprise good-bye party. My closest friend and family where there and it was a wonderfully warm environment to be in for a couple of hours. The people sharing that pizza with me love me and I know that.

Looking forward I see that I am moving to a place that is truly foreign to me and will likely stretch me in many difficult ways. I struggle with asking strangers for help but more than likely I will soon have to be brave enough ask for help and rely on the kindness of strangers. Beyond that I truly hate being misunderstood, in a literal sense. I work very hard to communicate clearly with those around me and I am about to be in a place where I will no longer posses strong communication skills. I will have to try and figure out ways to communicate beyond simply using my words and that scares me. Even talking on the phone with some of my contacts in Korea we have had some difficulties understanding one another particularly when it comes to tone. That also makes me realize I am about to lose almost all my ability to use my sense humor as I rely heavily upon my words and tone to make jokes (twisting common phrases, idioms, puns, etc.) Now that makes me sad.

Okay, okay I'm not really sad but just in writing this post a bit of tension has crept back into my head. But there is nothing to do right now except to try and sleep and not think about how I will be leaving this country in 26 hours and 45 minutes.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Hakuna Matata

Well it's final and complete. My plane ticket has been bought. When I woke up on Thursday morning I still had not received my work visa from the Korean consulate. Around 11:30 that morning an express package was delivered to me containing my passport and visa. I wrote an excited email to my Korean contacts that I was finally able to come to Korea. By 6 pm that night I had received a response telling me that they would begin looking for plane tickets to get me to Korea. I spent the rest of my night in an anxious swirl trying to figure out all the things I would need to pack while still not knowing what airline they would use and therefore not knowing exactly what kind of baggage (weight and dimensions) I would be allowed to bring. Further I kept thinking about showing up in the middle of the week and trying to start my job without having anytime to get my apartment together, grocery shop and just get to know the neighborhood I would be living especially the way to work. I was up until almost 3 am staring at the ceiling while listening to episodes of Will and Grace in the background. I finally dozed off and woke up around 9. Before getting up I just rolled over to my computer and checked my email and sitting right in my inbox was a flight itinerary from my Korean contact which he email me just after 3 am, ah the fun.

The first thing I saw was that I leave this Tuesday at 6 am. The flight has two parts. First from Denver to San Francisco on Untied and then San Francisco to Seoul on Singapore Airlines. I basically sprang up from my bed and began searching the web for Singapore Air. I found their website quickly and began studying all the baggage information they had. I soon found that my trunk, which I had been packing exceeded the dimensions that they would allow upon the plane. Of course I began to panic a little. My mind raced about finding a new box or piece of luggage that they would accept while also worrying about just how much it was going to cost me. Next I realized that while the international flight provided me a fair amount of free luggage the flight from Denver to San Francisco was considered domestic and I would have to pay to check any luggage I wanted to bring. The money began adding up in my head. I had not even bought a lot of what I would need for myself (cosmetics, medicine, office supplies). Within the span of 20 minutes I had lost a couple hundred dollars in my head. My mother had taken the day off in order to hang out and help me pack. I showed her the itinerary and she was excited. But she quickly realized that I was freaking out and she began to calm me down saying everything would be okay. She told me that anything that did fit on the plane they would ship to me and they would help out with the cost for checking luggage and even a trip to Target. Her powers worked and I began to breath a little easier.

The next 4 hours was spent shopping with stops at Costco, Target, Best Buy and Staples. I soon collected various cosmetic products, office supplies, a luggage piece and my medical proscription. During our shopping trip I heard the song Hakuna Matata from the Lion King, still one of my favorite Disney movies. I couldn't help but laugh when I heard it as I was still in a fairly tense mood. But I sat there and I sang it out loud enjoying every moment of it. The short song quickly ended but it continued to play in my head most of the day. We came home and found the USA hockey team up 6 to nothing over Finland and sat down and watched the rest of what was a fairly boring game. We found out that all our goals came in the first period during a 13 minute span. Oh well, we won so now on to the gold medal game. The rest of the day was spent organizing my stuff and trying to figure out what was essential for me to take. As the day went on I became more and more calm and the song never left my head.

I believe Hakuna Matata is one of my favorite songs not merely because it is from a great movie that I associate with my childhood but because every time I sing it I see how far I am from following its simple yet deep message. It is the simplest idea and yet I struggle constantly to not worry. Even when there is nothing to worry about I began to think I forgot something and my mind races to figure out if I am missing anything. Yet each time I look at my watch, whether in panic or curiosity, I remember this song and try to move a little closer to being a person who does not worry. In case you didn't know I wear a Lion King watch with Timon and Pumba on it, yes it's true.

So now the logistics. I leave Tuesday March 2nd at 6am Mountain Standard Time and I will arrive in Seoul, South Korea on Wednesday March 3rd at 6:40 pm. I will first fly to San Francisco on United Airlines and then I will fly to Seoul on Singapore Airlines. Denver to San Francisco is a little over 2 and a half hours in the air and San Francisco to Seoul is 13 hours in the air. So I will be in the air for almost 16 hours along with a 4 hour layover in San Francisco. That means the total trip time will be about 20 hours, not including getting up and being to DIA on time for my flight to San Francisco. But during the trip I will lose almost 15 hours of time jumping ahead into Seoul time. So the question is after arriving in Korea at 7 pm Wednesday night, getting my baggage, going through customs, being picked up and given a tour of the school/neighborhood and being dropped off at my apartment what time will it be and will the school expect me to teach the next morning? I don't know the answer but at least it gives me something to worry about for the next few days.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Faith: Virtue or Vice?

Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has: it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but--more frequently than not --struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God.
Martin Luther

That we may be altogether of the same mind and in conformity with the Church herself, if she shall have defined anything to be black which appears to our eyes to be white, we ought in like manner to pronounce it to be black. For we must undoubtingly believe, that the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Spirit of the Orthodox Church His Spouse, by which Spirit we are governed and directed to Salvation, is the same.
St Ignatius Loyola

Faith: virtue or vice?

The value of faith is something I have taken for granted most of my life. Only three things last forever faith, hope and love and faith more than anything else in the evangelical worldview is understood as the key to one’s salvation. Yet like so many things faith comes at a price and that price is reason.

Can faith and reason coexist? Growing up this question did not concern me much. Instead I focused on the value of faith and grooming it in any and all possible ways. I knew the truth of Christ’s work in his life, death and resurrection. I knew that it was by grace we were saved through faith and so I sought to mature my faith and to trust the God I believed in with my whole heart. In my pursuit of maturity I studied the bible constantly and soon I studied theology, then history and then I examined other religions and philosophy. Perhaps the greatest thing I learned as I studied was how little I knew. With each book I read and each class I took I found more and more ideas, events and people that I simply never knew existed. Soon my faith began to shake because as I looked at so many other systems of belief and thought I had to try and find a way to justify why I held the beliefs I did while rejecting the ones I learned about. The longer I tried to do this the more I found faith unhelpful in justify itself. Faith couldn’t provide any answers rather it simply told me to stop asking questions and just believe what I was taught oh so long ago as a child. So in my effort to justify and save my faith I turned to another source to do it and that was reason. I began to question more critically the things I had been taught in order to measure them fairly and equally over and against other systems of belief and prove to myself that my faith was in fact the true one. Instead as I did this I came to find that there were just as many holes in my own belief system as those of the other religions, sects and philosophies I was studying. As I placed my own faith under the microscope I had to laugh as I began to see that all along I had been using reason in order to show the shortcomings and inadequacies of other faiths and yet I had never bothered to place my own faith under that same microscope. As I have been willing to place more and more of my own Christian beliefs under the examination of unattached reason I have found them to be filled with numerous shortcomings and inadequacies of their own. This process has taken years but the further I move from the faith of my childhood the harder it becomes to understand how such a faulty system could hold such great sway over me.

Martin Luther and Ignatius Loyola were giants in the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. As I read their words I cannot but be saddened in the sheer foolishness of their ideas. Their words seem to be built upon fear and arrogance as much as anything else. But in a way they were wise for truly the best way to defend any system of thought is to say it demands faith in order to be correctly followed. Faith is not meant to be questioned, studied or examined rather it is meant to be followed blindly, which is great for those in charge. Few things are as abhorrent to me as blind faith. Far more often then not it produces the fruit of ignorance, apathy and hate. The attraction of blind faith is of course it provides you the reassurance that you are safe and that you know everything you need to know. Basically it “frees” you to not ask difficult questions about the world around you further it encourages you to be lazy. One of the things I have found the most valuable about philosophy is the work ethic it instills in those who would pursue it. Truth may be the goal of both the prophet and the philosopher but it is the philosopher who works hard in pursuit of it while the prophet sits around waiting for it to drop from the sky. The prophet accepts the truth to be whatever he is told whereas the philosopher takes what he is told and questions it, examines it and then decides. The key to the philosopher’s pursuit of truth is disinterest. Disinterest is not the same as uninterest rather it means the philosopher comes at questions of truth without predetermined answers. The philosopher accepts the fact that the truth may turn out to be unsavory but does not let that hinder his quest or persuade him to use simpler, faster and yes inadequate means to finding the truth such as revelation. The divine game of telephone that is revelation is not enough for the philosopher. Even if the sky itself parts and God speaks telling the philosopher what is true the philosopher would still have to question what he was told because the truth of an idea should not be determined by who is speaking but by the validity of the idea itself. If God spoke to me I honestly hope I would remain “faithful” enough to the honest pursuit of truth that I would make sure to openly question what I was told. “Because I said so” may be an answer that a child is willing to accept for a time but it does not take long even for a child to see the inadequacy of such an answer. Faith is saying okay while reason is asking why.

Can faith be reasonable? I don’t know it seems to me like the answer is no. If faith could be obtained through the use of reason then it would no longer be faith. As I read the words of Luther and Ignatius I can see why so many people have died throughout history in the name of religion it is because faith demands unquestioned obedience and so few were brave enough or more likely so few were diligent enough to scrutinize the faith they were handed. The beauty of faith for Luther and Ignatius was that it made their belief system impenetrable to critique from the inside but it also made them equally useless from the outside. To an unbiased or unconnected seeker there is no way to pick one system over the other for both reject reason and demand blind faith and as seen before blind faith cannot justify itself to those on the outside genuinely seeking the truth. Faith is useless to the honest seeker.

Faith comes with a dark side one that more often then not is manipulated by those who see it and hidden from those do not know it exists. Faith seeks to trap those under it from seeing its other side. It demands that what is white must be seen as black simply because someone else says it is. Now if that doesn’t raise a red flag then I do not know what else can. The words of Luther and Ignatius are clear, faith demands blind obedience above all else and that is truly disheartening. So then if faith is a virtue then reason must be a vice and so I say give me the vice of reason, give me the sin of doubt, give me the depravity of inquiry, give me the wickedness of study and give me the corruption of thought because these vices work hard to discover the truth and are not satisfied with the answer which is provided by faith, “because I said so.” So thank you Luther and Ignatius for showing so clearly the true virtue of faith.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Waiting and New Worries

Well today I sent off a package to the Korean Consulate containing all the documents and forms that they requested. If I had know what they were going to ask for a couple of weeks ago I could have had it all ready for when I received my confirmation number but I was not given that information until I got my confirmation number. Bad system. But as it is they will receive it Monday morning by 10:30am. Thank you FedEx. In order to get everything I needed for the package from other places and get the package to them as fast as I could I have spent almost $80 on mail services in the last three days. That is just depressing. The math now is simple I will not be getting to Korea on time.

My worrying continues but I find its focus has changed. Previously all I could think about was lesson planning and how I was going to be a good teacher. Now I find myself worrying about all sorts of logistics about living in Korea. Such as getting a new phone and internet; getting utility services set up since I won't have a phone or internet service; finding my way to work and learning the public transit system; establishing a Korean banking account and just figuring out how much I am spending when I am spending my Korean won.

Ah the fun that is insecurity. Overall I have little doubt that things will work out but still I cannot help but clinch up when I think about arriving in a new country and having no idea what I am doing, how to get things done or how to get help? I guess I will learn by doing but I've always preferred to learn by schooling/reading/exams/etc. Oh well time to jump into the deep end.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Finally the confirmation number I have been waiting for from the school I will be working for has arrived. Now I can move on and work with the Korean Consulate here in the US and get my work visa. I still have no idea how this is going to get done in time, in fact I don't think it will but all I can do is move forward and do what they ask me to do as quickly as I can.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Appearances can be Depressing

Tonight I face the sad task of going to my hair stylist and sacrificing my beautifully lengthened golden hair in order to look slightly more professional or at least so I can look like a guy from the back and not just from the front. Short hair just doesn't look good on me so I find myself already measuring my hair trying to figure out just how much length I can get away with. I don't want to give up even one millimeter that I don't have to.

As far as wardrobe goes I think I should be okay though I am a little concerned by what they expect out of my attire. I have been told that teachers dress in business casual attire but of course what does business casual mean to them? To me all that really means is tuck in my shirt and probably wear a belt. But I'm used to California business casual and often there I didn't even tuck in my shirt. I only own two ties and I don't own any sort of sports coat so hopefully they won't be needing that.

But honestly does the wardrobe really matter when I am going to have such horribly short hair? My eyes are tearing up already. Like it wasn't scary enough for me to be going to a different culture to be a teacher but now I have to look bad doing it. Well I better head back to the mirror so I can look at my lovely locks for just a few more hours.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Burritos and Refills

When thinking about moving to Korea I find myself not only worried about the unknown that lies in the future but also worried/saddened by that which is known that I will be leaving behind.

When I think about all the things I will miss about living in the places that I know (Colorado and California) I find that besides family and friends it is really the small and insignificant things that I will miss greatly.

The thing that sticks in my mind the most as I wait for my day to move to Korea is free refills. From what I have been told Korea does not have fountain drinks which can be filled and refilled endlessly. When you order a Coke you get handed a can and I just wonder how I am going to get through a year without free refills? For those who do not know I drink far to much soda, mostly diet coke, but it is an addiction/weakness that I enjoy and have never really tried to change. I just can't imagine going to a restaurant (fast or sit down) and needing to pay for each drink I want. Equally upsetting is the idea that the sodas I will be buying will be canned and not from the fountain. Think what you want but they do taste different from one another and fountain drinks are significantly better. Some of my favorite times are going to McDonald's or Burger King or wherever getting a drink and sitting down to read or write or just think. I've been in restaurants for numerous hours working on school work or personal things all the while drinking ungodly amounts of diet coke. I had thought about trying to cut down little by little these last couple of months so I would be more prepared when I left but then I just figured I'm already going to have to go a year without the soda I love so why not enjoy it as much as I can before I go. It will be interesting to see what effects/changes occur because of the change. Okay I'll be right back I have to go grab a soda...

(10 minutes later)

Okay I got my fix. It was only a can but hey you got to make do with you have. Moving past the drink I quickly worry about leaving behind the food that I know. I have never been overly adventurous concerning my diet though I have been getting better. With that said I am still not sure I am ready to be thrown into the world of Korean food. My friend Ben has told me many things to expect and tried to steer me towards things I will like. Of course they will have different American food around but one thing I will be losing, according to Ben, is Mexican food. The thought of not having a burrito from Chipotle on a semi-weekly bases is enough to almost make me cry. As the day of departure approaches, just as with soda, I find myself going to Chipotle or other Mexican restaurants as much as I can. I have to get it while I can.

As I look forward I cannot help but pause and look behind at the small and simple things I will be leaving like burritos with free refills.

Monday, February 15, 2010


Well the worrying is off to a great and frantic pace. I signed a contract 4 weeks ago to become an English teacher in South Korea. School starts in two weeks on March 1st and I find myself sitting here in Denver still waiting for a work visa and a plane ticket. I have no idea when I am leaving or how long I am going to have before school starts when I get there. At this point it seems like it will be a miracle if I even get there in time for the first day of school let alone a couple of days early so that I can settle in.

My experiences in Korea will likely dominate this blog over the next year. I have never even been East of the Mississippi in the US and now I am headed to Korea. As each day passes I find my excitement turning a little more and more into fear.

The Beginning

I just returned to Denver Colorado after attending one of my best friend's wedding in Orange County California. At the wedding my friend's (the groom) sister spoke to me about blogging. She asked me why I don't blog? I had no real answer. I admit it is difficult for me to believe that anyone would be interested in reading about my life or about my thoughts concerning various topics. She said that I would be good at it because I am opinionated and a good writer. Those are her claims not my own. I can be opinionated and I am a good writer at times but I am neither of those things all the time.

Perhaps the real reason I have never blogged is I'm scared. I am scared to display my thoughts for the world to see. I am not scared about people's reaction to the thoughts themselves but more in reference to how I present them. I scared that I will write poorly, that my thoughts/ideas will be unclear and due to that I will be misunderstood. I openly admit I am worrisome by nature. I care way too much about how I come across to other people. In all my pursuits, academic and personal, I do not seek agreement with others but simply understanding. This blog will, likely, be dominated by writings about my personal experiences in moving to South Korea to be a teacher. It will also include topics I care about such as religion, philosophy, ethics and humor. I had to throw that last one in to show that I believe it is important to not take myself to seriously. Life is too short not to laugh.

As this journey begins I will say that I welcome any and all feedback from those who read this blog. I do value the ideas of others as I would not be who I am if not for the the work and thoughts of many different teachers, friends, family members and writers in my life.

Now I must dedicate this blog to my friend Lauren for it was her idea for me to write it. Thanks for the encouragement Lauren. So that means if you have any problems with what I write you really need to blame her.