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Friday, November 23, 2012


Like many people, one of the first things I do each day is check my smartphone and computer. Personal messages are first, because they are the people I know well and care for. E-mail is next, and I do a quick triage on what needs to be addressed instantly or can be put aside for later. I then turn to Facebook, otherwise known as my virtual school playground.

The thread that interested me most yesterday was on privacy and our rights to it, and my take was that if you intentionally posted on a public domain, you had no such right. A subsequent post is simmering on that. I then slept, while friends on the other side of the world were awake and active, and woke to a contretemps I still don't quite understand (I hate it when people write AND delete things while I'm sleeping) but has friends defriending friends over snark and, potentially, more serious matters. As I said, the virtual school playground.

That over, I return to my e-mail. Where I am struck by what I have decided can wait, while recognizing why I made the decision.

While writing last year, I interviewed members of the Patriot Guard and subscribed to their e-mail feed. Most mornings since then I have woken to notices of Patriot Guard missions. Mostly, these are to stand guard at funeral services. Sometimes for veterans who have died surrounded by family, more often for military members who will only come home in a box.

I put these e-mails aside because I want my mind free and clear to fully appreciate and acknowledge these people who, I will be the first to say, I do not know. When it is a veteran who lived to a ripe old age, I smile and hope he/she learned to value life. When it is a 21-year-old killed in a war none of us really understands, I read of those left behind and ask they have comfort. When, occasionally, it is a happy occasion, I cheer.

Today wasn't bad:

The funeral service for a 1SG (Ret) in Texas
He was described as a soldier, aviator, sportsman, FAA inspector, mentor and teacher. He is survived by his wife, children, parents, grandchildren and many friends.

He will be missed but I believe he lived well.

Snowball Express

This organization sends children of fallen military members on a 5-day vacation. The Patriot Guard carries their bags at the airport (a few other things, but makes them welcome and tries to ease their loss).

Another funeral service, for a US Army Vet, aged 76

Few details here, North Carolina, but I hope he lived well.


I put these aside because I want to focus and acknowledge the lives lost, and get distracted by the schoolyard drama first.

Perhaps I have my priorities reversed.

Monday, November 5, 2012

It's a 'Good morning, beautiful," Day . . .

I love those days when you wake to remember that life is full of unlimited possibilities and whether they are positive or negative is more to do with how you handle the situations the universe puts before you than what that situation is. I know, that sounds very Pollyanna-ish, but I'm at least a practical and pragmatic Pollyanna.

It's hard not to feel upbeat when you wake to a bright new day, with a roof over your head, reasonable health (any day above ground is a good day), food in your pantry, true friends in your heart and phone directory, money in your wallet and bank account (not much, but more than most of the general populace in many countries), witty and sometimes wise friends and pundits on social media, saleable skills and a world full of adventure.

Add to that a cool, crisp autumn morning fresh from the previous day and night of rain; vistas of rippling russet, golds, yellows and reds as the season changes spectacularly; streets full of damp multi-colored leaves; and the small surprises that Seoul offers every day if one keeps one's eyes open.

Wending my way through the myriad of shortcuts and mazes I take when negotiating this metropolis on foot, I found myself making my way down a damp, uneven stone stairway behind a aging blind man who tapped his descent with his cane. For a few years now, I have been reading the blog of an amazing woman and writer who happens to be blind (her nephew is an equally talented photographer I was privileged to work alongside), and have learned from her many of  the challenges of getting around without sight, especially in a big city. I imagine those difficulties are exponentially multiplied in a city that still retains many undeveloped neighborhoods, in which residents with disabilities are more likely to live, and few real facilities to aid them.

Yet, here was my fellow walker, nimbly picking his way down a far-from-regular steep path with the agility of someone much younger and sighted. I'm always humbled that many of those in the world that have the least possessions or the most difficult hurdles to overcome are often the last to complain or to expect others to carry their loads for them.

It's a lesson that is timely to be reminded of as I once again leap into an unknown future, trusting that as doors close (one door just isn't enough for me), other doors will open. They may not be the doors I first headed for or knocked at, but the doors that open will be the ones where I am welcome.

As I prepare for my next adventure and new challenges, I do so with thanks every day for all that I have and the goal to live my life in line with my favorite quote, one that has special meaning for me as an ardent ocean sailor:

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than the things you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
Mark Twain (1835 - 1910) 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Ready to Fly the Nest . . .

It has been even more surreal than usual in my Korean workplace this past month after I abruptly resigned (for a multitude of reasons but most of my building unhappiness with the job was related to my Western co-workers, not my Korean colleagues). It is a very civilized and friendly parting and I plan to go back to writing for the agency once I'm no longer a full-time employee here, and they'll go back to paying me for what I write.

The initial reaction to my resignation was one of disbelief, as Koreans tend not to resign from good jobs over matters of principle or inequality of workload, and was instead treated as a negotiating ploy by my bosses. It took me some time to convince them I was serious and not merely angling for more pay. Once they accepted that, my bosses and colleagues seemed stunned I wasn't leaving to go somewhere else, but because I am unhappy being here and unhappiness affects my work and life in general. I offered to stay as long as it takes the company to replace myself and another position that is open at the same time, and that has lead to a strange situation where I am being consulted on my prospective replacement. Having worked in the country and the journalism field for so long, it's a wise decision for them to have made as most of us in the expat media either know each other or at least of each other.

Happily for him, one of the successful applicants is someone who was my assistant on another publication some years back and I feel sure he will treat the agency well and they will do the same for him.

Yesterday, I and the few other crew on the Saturday duty went for lunch with the office "head honcho," as my immediate boss calls her, and the conversation strangely revolved around how many of the staff had said how much they enjoyed working with me and would miss me (not blowing my own trumpet, just a surreal conversation to have when you've resigned mainly because concerns you have consistently raised have been just as consistently ignored).

That is par for the course in the Korean workplace, however, and I usually adapt to it with equanimity. Other uncertainties of late have definitely made me more conscious of my unhappiness here and I have faith a new challenge will soon present itself. I may not make as much money as I do here but, provided I am working as part of a team I respect for their abilities and their effort, I'll be happy with that.

Until then, there are a few things I have been meaning to write . . .