March 16, Last Day of “Telecommuting”

I know you hear me wax poetic about Chungju, the city where I did my orientation but I want you to understand why.

And I’m grateful for the city, and was truthfully worried about being placed elsewhere. Now I’ve had my fill of convenience and want to hear birds, breathe cleaner air, even if that means what to some are unimaginable sacrifices. Maybe city living is for the young: they say I was born old.

My apartment is nestled between other industrial grays and grim 80s brick; there’s only one blip of day that sunlight shines unobstructed between the buildings and into my room. The only signs of wildlife are the cats that fight at night and the occasional scurrying rat darting between alleys on a rare morning.

I am a sucker for views: the postcard perfect mountain view from my grandparent’s recently sold home in the blue ridge mountains, the thrilling jungle green and contrasting gem blue of my parent’s back yard in spring, the southern bay in Jeju hiding between two yawning trees, the rocky teal ocean and clay tiled roofs of Dubrovnik that could never be photographed poorly, the red mountains jutting starkly up from the desert in Nevada. And sunset in Chungju.

Back at my parent’s house I have reams of poetry squirreled away in stacks of small moleskins. There’s a poem I’d like to share with you but memory escapes me, aside from the first line:

I want to be beautiful

like a mountain is beautiful

Can you hear the birds? This cat followed me on my walk until I finally headed back to campus.

This strange twilight time has led to a lot of introspection: the things I had wanted to do most during my time here have become actual impossibilities as the virus blooms and safety becomes our top priority. The result of free time but no way to spend it comes to this: days spent mostly inside my head.

Tomorrow desk warming starts again and the semester is planned to begin next week. Practical problems will take over my daily life and introspection will become rooted in my kids, my teaching, and day to day survival.

I’m not so good at meditating but excellent at thinking circles around myself. But there’s always a good reason to practice gratitude.

If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.

Meister Eckhart

I’ll end this quarantine by saying I’m grateful for the free and unburdened mental time. I’m grateful for my little flat with its pretty sheets and left over kettle. I’m grateful for my online students who keep me grounded. I’m grateful for texts from family and friends and Chinese moms telling me to watch my health. I’m grateful to have friends that introduce me to new restaurants. I’m grateful to strangers that care: the sparkly female gym receptionist, the barista. And I’m grateful to the ones that don’t, like the postal worker, who teach me patience and the ability to separate myself from situations.

I’m grateful to have things to look forward to: a trip home, my teaching license, seeing my students again. And I’m grateful for your readership.

Stay safe.

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