Seoraksan and Life in General

Yes, yes, I’m still living. Sorry that this has taken so long. As it turns out, Halloween isn’t celebrated in Korea… except by all of the Western ex-pats in Korea and in the English classroom where you get to impart culture along with language. This means I have been a bit busy with both teaching and social life. So, here comes the Andrew-update.

Three weeks ago I went to go see Seoraksan National Park (I think that’s what it’s called) which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a wonderful place to go hiking and camping. It is in the Northeast side of Korea (right on the border with North Korea, you can see across the border from Seorak Mountain) and is gorgeous in the fall. Fall has been a little late this year, so most of the color change was still restricted to the higher regions. That being said, I think I found a way to share facebook photo albums on here, so now I’m not limited to posting a few pictures. Here’s hoping this works! Seoraksan photo album: (https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10153355232080534.1073741831.668415533&type=1&l=cefd0d262f)

If that isn’t working, would someone please let me know. Anyways, the mountains and the park were huge and I only saw about 1/8th of what was available to see if that. I’m definitely going to head back there and go hiking again, because there is so much more to see there. The view from Seoraksan (Seorak Mountain) was awesome! I wish I had a better camera so that y’all could get a better sense of it. Seriously though, they have a few temples and shelters scattered throughout the mountains along the hiking trails and there are waterways and waterfalls in many different places. There was so much to see and so much to climb. Basically, this is one of the places that is a must see should anyone ever visit Korea. The mountain top was super windy, but the way the sun hit the valley was sublime. So yeah, 10/10. I do recommend. Plus I managed to make a few new friends while on the trip, and that’s always a bonus.

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A little bit closer to home, I’ve gotten to do a bit of rediscovery for the ex-pat community. We’d heard of a hiking trail for Taejosan that began close to the downtown area where many of us live, which would be a huge boon to us because the usual way to the trail heads require taking either a taxi or a bus and it can take as long as 30 minutes to get to the trail head, then we usually have to take a taxi or bus back home. We knew where it was supposed to come out but we couldn’t find where it was, so we were stuck having to back track. Unfortunately, that trip was cut short so we wound up having to leave the trail a bit early and take the bus home. So, the next weekend when I had a bit of free time I took the bus to where we left off and I followed the trail and discovered the trail head near our downtown. The only reason I had managed to do this successfully is thanks to the fact that my dad made sure I knew how to navigate both by map and by landmarks. I didn’t have a map, but because I was able to see or hear prominent landmarks (like the highway) I was able to point myself in the right direction every time the path forked. Of course, the reason we weren’t able to find the trail head at that earlier time is because when it comes out in the downtown area, it looks nothing like a trail head. I now have it marked on a map that we use and it should be accessible to anyone who can see the picture. Behold the fruits of my labor… and my finger because using a cameraphone without a bit of finger is impossible for me:

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I should have more pictures from that hike up soon. I just realized that I forgot to upload them.

(EDIT: Ok, they’re uploaded now, here’s the link: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10153459103865534.1073741833.668415533&type=1&l=dc67d97a39)

So, then the weekend after that (I’ve been busy), we had a cultural trip with the English Teaching program that I’m a part of. (https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10153447863575534.1073741832.668415533&type=1&l=354fd15330)

We got to do a bit of horseback riding (painful, but fun), archery (they shoot their bows a bit differently, but it’s effective), rice cake making (hitting dough with a hammer is oddly satisfying), and mask painting (remind me to post a picture of mine). Then we got to go out to this mountainous river area (have I mentioned how much I love Korea’s geography? Mountains, rivers, and valleys with trees!) and that is definitely now on my list of places to go visit and hike in Korea. By the time I’m done with this country I will literally have walked all over it. They seem to have borrowed their archery and horseback ideas from the Mongols during the time that the Mongols held sway over Korea (don’t tell the Koreans I said that, they claim those traditions as Korean despite the largely steep, mountainous, forested terrain that would have made developing a strong horse-riding tradition a bit difficult).

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I’m going to kayak the heck out of that river.

Anyways, Korea is still wonderful. There are times when the culture can be a bit frustrating, and one of these days I’ll do a cultural downsides of Korea post, but for now, life is good. Many friends, much fun, and still a whole lot of adventure waiting for me outside. It’s finally getting colder, but such is the price we pay for fall colors. Halloween was a lot of fun and I enjoyed spending it with my friends as the laziest appearance of Captain America that I have ever seen (or been).

I’m going to try to post links to the rest of my photo albums. Hopefully they work:

Dance Festival:

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10153325743740534.1073741830.668415533&type=1&l=af5f4952f8

Hiking and Baekche Festival:

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10153302797010534.1073741829.668415533&type=1&l=997c647902

Random shots from being out and about:

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10153227621700534.1073741828.668415533&type=1&l=fccfb14d55

Hiking and reaching the summit of Taejosan for the first time:

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10153147641060534.1073741827.668415533&type=1&l=d64627fe57

Many shots from my first month in Korea:

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10153051431745534.1073741825.668415533&type=1&l=9477577720

That’s all for now,

Peace unto y’all,

Andrew

Giving Up on Giving Up

So, a combination of conversations with friends, self-reflection, small group, and a long-running dialogue with a friend have helped me arrive at this conclusion. My lack of care for myself has become something of an obstacle. I don’t have lofty goals of wealth, fame, or gratuitous amounts of success that seem to be a regular part of the American cultural ideal. I’m ok with that, because I don’t particularly like a lot of the cultural ideals that I’m presented with, but I lack ambition to the point where even if I set goals, I have no strong commitment to my personal goals and ideals. However, I’m really motivated when it comes to helping other people. I like helping others achieve their goals and do what they want to do with their lives. I am better motivated to help other people realize their futures than I am motivated to achieve my own.

Before moving to Korea I had a massive struggle with myself over whether or not I should just give up on my future goals and just become a piece in helping someone else achieve theirs. Ultimately I decided that on my better days I do have something that passes as a hope and ideal for the future that was worth pursuing, but I still struggle daily with the desire to just give up on those goals and exist in this kind of neutral state (live from day to day without any future hopes). It’s not necessarily that I want to die, it’s just that sometimes (on my bad days) I have very little care about whether or not I continue to live. If I were to summarize my feelings about myself, they would be “I’m not worth very much.”

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While this may be a realistic view within the larger history of existence, I struggle with finding a way to practice this worldview in a healthy manner. It’s not so much personal negativity as it is existential apathy. Looking at human history, there are billions of people who have long since been lost to the history of the world without any memory of their names and actions while they were living. Realistically speaking, this is the fate for most of us as well. It is as inevitable as the rotation of the earth. Few people make it into the history books, and fewer still are accurate portrayals of the person rather than the ideal they embodied. Looking at all this makes me very aware that whatever it is that existence is about, it’s certainly not about me. I’m far too small and insignificant, and who am I to say that I ought to be someone who goes down in the annals of history as a name and a face for students to learn about in their history textbooks while being bombarded with the dominant narratives of their culture? There is little worth in that.

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As I mentioned in my “Facing Fear” post, one of the questions that has been frequently on my mind is “When will it all fall apart and what will I have done to cause it?” This has probably been one of the contributing factors to my struggle with motivation regarding my personal goals. When I sometimes believe myself to be a walking disaster waiting to happen, it makes it difficult to expect myself of being capable of good things.

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It’s an odd sort of arrogance, to not think highly of myself but still spend so much time thinking about myself. It is a self-centered sort of thinking, and rather silly. It’s as though I’m saying, “I’m not worth much, but I’m worth the time to criticize and doubt and question and devalue.” The best solution I can find for that is to find a habit of truly thinking about others more than myself (both in the positive and negative regard).

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I have a lot to live for and a lot that I’d like to do with my time here. One of those things is to help others to the best of my ability. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to be so energized by the idea of helping other people. I think I just need to realize that in order to do so in the best way possible, I need to better myself (both in my outlook on life and me and by education, which is one of my future goals). So, my plan for the immediate future is to give up on giving up. It’s been far to easy for me to say, “Oh, they didn’t email me back, I guess they don’t want me.” “Oh, well, that doesn’t have a particularly high probability of success, so it probably won’t happen anyways. I shouldn’t try very hard.” I don’t know where I’ll find the motivation or energy for the effort, but I’m going to do my best to try. I know the great sage Yoda is credited with saying, “Do or do not, there is no try.” But to that I say, doing and failing miserably is trying. It is doing, but it’s not doing well, and that’s what I’m going for. So, until then, I’m going to call it trying.

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End note – I realize a lot of this sounds messed up and unhealthy to some of you reading this. Guess what? It is unhealthy. Such is life with depression. So, with that being said, whatever the strange combination of chemical imbalances have caused me to think so little of my own existence and have kept me from strong amounts of motivation, I’m still here. I don’t want to go down in the history books, but if I can help it, I will not go quietly into the night.