New Nest

14 Nov

It’s a chilly day in Paju, South Korea.  I am taking a little break hovered around the electric heater like a campfire.  While true, it is not yet winter, the icy cool Paju weather has begun to make an appearance. The long cold winter is just around the corner.

My big English Village news this week is that I have moved into a larger apartment.  This is not a small event for me.  As someone who has been traveling for the past three years, often living in the grace and space of other people’s homes in a variety of situations (the most unexpected of which was a mattress lovingly placed on top of a table in an extra storage room)… my two-room apartment (an upgrade from my one-room space of the last ten months) feels like a castle.  I could hardly hide my joy as I was moving in.  So much room.

I have a tub in my new apartment.  It is a most loved addition as it seems I am part fish and need a regular immersion in water.  This is, however, no ordinary tub.  It is a Korean size tub.  Quite simply it means… it is small. No room for long “western” sized legs.  No room to expand and relax or even move side to side.  But it does have a cumfy built-in head rest. The best part is that it holds hot water just the same and, thankfully, at least I can fit in.

I continue to teach, entertain and negotiate my relationships with my new young students. Mostly… they are so cute.  This week I explored doing a little yoga with them to try to focus some of their endless spritely energy.  Their willing nimble bodies moved and grooved happily into a variety of child-friendly yoga poses.

One student who I teach one-on-one I am learning is a bit of a joker and likes to play games with me.  She will often say a different name from what something actually is in the spirit of her own little fun.  The other day she decided when reading a book about a variety of creatures, that I was the octopus and she was, of course, the princess.  Alas, who can argue with that!

One of my student’s loves to play the game hangman.  You know how it goes – you guess a letter and if that letter is not in the word you get a body part drawn on the classic hangman post resembling the number 7. When she plays she adds her own twist.  She draws the hangman in typical Korean cute fashion –  a delicate girl head and body, with fancy hair,  bow and dress.  Too funny. Another student recently showed up for class in a sweatshirt with a Ninja face hood complete with see through eyes on the hood.  I was pretty impressed and very cool as far as kids things go.  And still, another student when drawing a picture of a turtle had to include the much loved Korean ponytail often drawn by little girls in pictures and drawings.

Earlier this week I attended the local Korean chapter of my Buddhist group, Soka Gakkai International.  It is quite a system we have established to negotiate connecting with our obvious language barriers.  There is one young member who went to college in the United States and speaks excellent English.  We begin the journey with her contacting me via text. She lets me know when the meeting is and what time to be ready.  Then a different Korean member picks me up at English Village and takes me to the meeting.  The ride is friendly but often quiet with little to communicate.  A few stops are made along the way, picking up other women SGI members.

Arriving at the meeting, its always a joy to experience the excitement and love I feel from this group even though we can’t communicate.  Often young members are excited to see me and I wonder if some of them have ever seen someone who isn’t Korean before.  And so I listen to the meeting, with the help of my friendly translator who meets me there.  In no time at all the meeting is over and once again I am whisked back safely to English Village.

As the weather turns cooler and with my new big apartment, I find myself more inclined to nesting and staying warm at home. Cooking soups.  Feeling somehow like I want to prepare myself for the winter.

But for now, it’s an afternoon of classes.  It’s just another day at English Village.

Photo: The bright Fall lights on the English Village Campus.