First Rain

today is the first rainy day since i moved here exactly a month ago. when it rains here, it rains in the whole country. it was probably the first october i’ve ever had in my life without any rain. i watched it fall from my tenth story window, familiarizing myself with the way it fell from my new view. i had the same view of rain falling for seventeen years, and oddly enough, it was the same light and shadow. the sounds were different, however, the echoes of cars honking their horns were more faint, and i could actually see pedestrians on the street walking with their umbrellas. the only view i had of other people from my old apartment was the neighbors on the other side of the building washing their dishes.

i went for a jog last night along the river. the water made the run pitch black, but made the neighboring city on the other side glimmer against the night sky. i ran so fast, so free. i never ran like that in new york.

The Wisdom of Walt Whitman

Election Day 2020 is next week, and I am taking some time to reflect on what the past four years of this current administration has revealed to me. It has shown that there is an underbelly of America that has found a voice- a fringe movement that has been in the periphery of American politics, but is now at the center of it. These people have somehow twisted what America has traditionally represented to everyone around the world: the land of opportunity, freedom, equality and justice for all.

I understand that rural white America is struggling, that the traditional middle class has been decimated by a changing world, but America is a place where we have always been the best when we are struggling, because that means we are striving to achieve something better than we are now. We are the richest and most powerful country in the world, and have been for quite some time, but is our time up?

We were the best when we were striving to achieve things that were yet to be built and invented, but now with the roads paved, skyscrapers erected and the information superhighway constructed, what is there left to achieve?

I am inspired by the wise words of Walt Whitman, who wrote, reflecting on the root causes of the Civil War: “I say that the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth terms of the American Presidency have shown that the villainy and shallowness of rulers (back’d by the machinery of great parties) are just as eligible to these States as to any foreign despotism, kingdom, or empire—there is not a bit of difference.” We learned from those mistakes back then and rebuilt this country. May we learn from the mistakes of the past four years and rebuild again.

Well, Well

Here I am, my fourth day in my new place, my new town. I didn’t even see this coming a few weeks ago. Everything happened so fast, and now I have a new apartment, a new jacket, and a new pillow. I even have a TV so that I can watch the French Open live- it’s October 4th, by the way, and they’re playing the French Open in October. But it’s the year 2020, and this crazy year is in the beginnings of its twilight, and God has blessed me to look at the upside of these turbulent times.

My new town is completely different than the last two places that I’ve lived in the past year. Jecheon was a small mountain village. I loved it for its quaintness. Daegu was a typical city with a history and tradition. This place, well, is bigger than the former and smaller than the latter, but it’s louder and brighter and more bustling than either of them. I read that it was constructed as a planned community, and I was afraid that it would be like a bland boring suburb, but at least there’s a pedestrian culture, with lots of shops and restaurants that you can walk to. It lacks, soul, however, maybe because of its newness. It’s definitely more Westernized and commercialized than either places that I’ve lived in, but I appreciate the energy that this town has. There’s a scant bus system, but I was able to take the bus to the premium outlet nearby.

The people seem to be more boisterous than the kind, polite, reserved people in Daegu. There are a lot of pubs near my place, so there’s a lot of day drinking going on- granted, it’s Chuseok weekend.

Even though I loved Daegu because I’m a city girl, and the layout of where I lived was that of a typical city, there were two things that were lacking there compared to Jecheon: a decent cafe close to my home and a decent park. Here, there’s a huge park that is paved, unlike those in Daegu, but it doesn’t really have the views that Citizens Park in Jecheon had. I found a huge cafe near my home. I think that I will always compare my future places to my first place in a foreign country: Jecheon. Even though the apartment there was old and shabby, it had a glorious mountain view.

The cool autumn air coming through the floor to ceiling windows in this cafe reminds me of what this season has always been about to me: New beginnings.

Convicts and Nuns

I work on Mott Street now, and my way(s) to work is like nothing I’ve ever experienced before, and trust me, I’ve had a lot of interesting commutes.  There was that New Jersey bus route where I shared a bus with day laborers that snaked through residential New Jersey to obscure warehouses near Giants Stadium, there was one that included walking through a parking lot on the Upper East Side- I could go on and on, but I want to describe my latest route to work.  There are several ways to get there, depending on whether I take the local or the express train.  If I take the local I get off at Canal Street, and to avoid the crowds I take the side streets, which means I pass by the bail bonds storefronts and the detention center where people in handcuffs are escorted by police into a dingy rundown building.  There are seniors practicing tai chi in the park right in front of it, and grandmothers sitting on the sidewalk laying food for their dearly departed.

But if I take the express train, I get off at the City Hall stop, where on my way passing through the various courthouses, I pass by a convent that’s nestled within all the government buildings.  The nuns are always dressed in their habits, and I see them driving by in their minivans and picking up their deliveries from UPS and Amazon right outside their doorstep. Hey, they live just like us, but, more, nunnish?

Across the street, I see a bride and groom just leaving a different courthouse. Even the areligious have to get married somewhere. A crowd surrounds them and confetti is thrown into the air as they cheer.  Down the street from them, if you turn left into an alleyway, a tiny dumpling shop is overflowing with a tour group, guided by an “expert” of the neighborhood.  He stands with a small flag, lecturing to the unknowing group of out-of-towners why this dumpling place is so “famous.”  If you don’t take that left down the alleyway, you will run into one of the busiest funeral parlors I’ve ever come across- as if I’ve come across so many funeral parlors in my life- but almost every morning I walk by, there is always a funeral taking place.  Mourners dressed in black, mostly elderly who are somberly awaiting their own death, sit by quietly in the small bare reception area while outside the Hearst laced with appropriate funeral carnations sits in idle.

Weddings, funerals, arrests, dumplings for breakfast.  It all happens here.

If I Were to Write a Psalm

I will no longer allow negative things to fester

I will only dwell on the positive

I will be drawn toward and bask in the light

I will shun darkness

I will praise the humble and righteous

I will block out the evil ones

I will meditate on what is good and true

I will forget those who have wronged others

I will always remember to praise my Lord and Savior

Parks

The one thing I liked about Jecheon was the park behind my apartment building. It was a beautiful park. It was clean and empty and provided beautiful views of the surrounding mountains. The wonderful winding trails were paved with colored brick, as if no one ever stepped on them. Inviting pagodas were spread about the park, and I enjoyed sipping my latte while sitting on a bench underneath them. They provided shade from the some time intense afternoon sunshine, and gave me a chance to sink in the view of the mountains and surrounding foliage. Even though I had a really intense schedule, I always made time to walk in that park every weekend, even if I only had a few minutes and it was freezing cold outside. It was as if I needed it to calm myself from the stress of my job.

I arrived in Jecheon at the end of August, and I was able to enjoy and witness the full fall foliage season. I am now in Daegu, and it’s springtime, so the cherry blossoms are blooming, which adds a little color to the otherwise gray city. Just as there was in Jecheon, there is a park behind my apartment building, but not directly, like it was in Jecheon. I have to walk a little farther, and there’s no direct route I can take, so I sometimes get lost getting there. It’s usually crowded, and there is a croquet field right at the park’s entrance, where the seniors that play there are always yelling and arguing with each other. Not a very warm welcome to what is supposed to be a pleasant and calm walk amongst the trees. And it’s dirty. Some of the trails are paved with brick, but they’re worn and covered in dirt, and the rest of the trails are only dirt paths. This park is well used, which means well worn, and although there are many trees, they obstruct the views of the mountains. The bathrooms in the park in Jecheon were immaculate. The ones in Daegu aren’t as nice, and I think one of them is actually a glorified outhouse. I didn’t know how much that park in Jecheon meant to me until I automatically compared it to the one here in Daegu while I was walking around for the first time. One of the reasons why I enjoyed my weekends in Jecheon, despite the grueling workload, was because of my walks in that park.