A Puzzling Problem – The Move Day 5

Even though one of the main reasons that we came back to the United States this time around is because we are homeless, and this is a great place to be while we wait to move into our new place. Though that may be one of the reasons that we are back, the real reason is to visit family and friends, and the summertime is the best time to do that. We had just landed in Denver, and were ready to spend time with my side of the family for a couple of weeks. The first stop here was at my sister’s place and she had invited my parents over for a bar-b-q and we sat in the back yard on a cold Colorado summer night to catch up. It was fun, but the night that really brought everybody together was when we walked by a recent puzzle that was laid out to be put together.

It started off simple with none of the pieces put together yet, but the edges had already been separated from the rest of the puzzle. I made a little joke that it wasn’t too difficult and I would be the first one to put two of the pieces together. I quickly found two of the obvious ones and connected them. Christine dismissed that as being too easy and that the real challenge was getting the pieces that looked similar together. Of course, I couldn’t let that challenge be dismissed without finding another piece to put in the puzzle, and quickly found another one. This is when my sister showed up to see what we were doing. It was only a matter of a short time before other members of the family came over. Like some modern version of a Norman Rockwell painting, we had all gathered around the table, and the puzzle started to pull itself together into the image that we saw on the box.

This simple pass time had this incredible power of bringing everybody together. Before I started to put together two pieces, family members were all over the place, inside and outside of the house. Some were watching videos on their tablets; others were looking at problems that were happening with this outdoor fire pit; while others were cleaning up the meal that we had just enjoyed. There was unity among the various pieces of the family, but the bigger picture wasn’t together yet. It wasn’t until two of the family members started to gather around the borders of the puzzle that others started to gather there as well. It was a slow process. Some connected with the building of the puzzle quickly while some of the others stood on the periphery, not willing to make the commitment yet. But as the puzzle drew one or more into putting it together, the final holdouts finally gave up denying the temptation and came into play with the rest of the family. Before I knew it, the picture was complete. Everybody had gathered around as one family unit.

As families grow older, the tendency to spread apart becomes more pronounced. Members find their own passions, and move to other corners of the globe. Even though they may not be present, they are a part of the bigger picture. It takes some kind of event to bring them back together in-between the borders of the family. Sometimes, it is something simple like a jigsaw puzzle on a cool summer evening. Other times, it is bigger events like holidays or celebrations. But when all of the pieces finally come together and the picture becomes some that everybody can recognize, family.

Until Next Time – The Holidays Day 21

For most people, the New Year starts at midnight on January First when the ball drops and everybody cheers. And even though, during most December 31sts, I participate in this ritual, it is not until that trek back home and getting settled into the routine of school when I start to feel that the New Year has begun. Until that moment, I am still on vacation, trying to grab some fun while the opportunity is still available. All of the rules of vacation apply. Working out is unnecessary because vacationing is hard work. Food is always fat free, so I can eat whatever I want without having a guilty conscience. Staying up late and being merry is the whole reason I am on vacation in the first place, so I should never look to my responsibilities, hoping that they will be taken care of. That is the whole reason I have a job in the first place. How can I take on those resolutions that is tradition on the first day of the year when my mind is still thinking about these important vacation ideals?

So when I made my way to the airport on Thursday to make that long flight back to Seoul, I had a little more time to contemplate where I was in life and where I wanted it to be heading this year. Yes, I know that this is a little bit later than everybody else, but I have already stated my reasons. It was also time to say goodbye to Colorado once again. This is always a bittersweet departure. For anybody who travels a lot, they know that it becomes tiresome to always be living out of a suitcase and jumping around from place to place. There is always the urge to find the comfort of your own place and the ease of living that is there. When I got into that plane, I longed for the comfort of the groove I have carved away in the mattress of my own bed, and the spot on my couch that had felt the pain of my absence. I wasn’t looking forward to the fourteen plus hours of travel I would have to endure to get me there, but those thoughts made the journey a little less painful.

These lures of comfort are also tinged with the bitterness of leaving something wonderful behind. I know that it has been almost four years since I last called Colorado my home, and I have seen a lot of the world since then, changing my perspective of how I look at it. But this is the place that helped shape me into who I am today, and every time I go back, I can’t help to feel that influence. The dusty plains, and rocky mountains will always call out to me, and I always hate the moment that I have to say goodbye to them. The one consolation that I can take with me as I sit in that cramped airplane seat, scrolling through the Hollywood movies that I missed in my absence is that though I may be away, Colorado will always endure. And I look forward to the next time that I come back and say hello. So, until next time, fare thee well Colorado. And to all the friends and family that I leave behind, I look forward to catching up when our paths cross again some day.

Catching Up – The Holidays Day 18

Back in the days when I used to work in the restaurant industry, I had a love-hate relationship with the holidays. The Christmas music that was piped in over the speakers used to get on my nerves, but it helped to bring in the crowds. And there were a lot of crowds. It was the time of the year where I made a lot of money because I always had packed sections, and people were a little loose with their wallets. I enjoyed making all of that money, but the crowds that were brought in were what we referred to as high school reunions, people who had not seen each other for a long time, and would sit at a table after they had eaten to sip on some water, and catch up. They would take up a table from a waiter who needed the money and sometimes cause us to have to wait around until after they left so we could clean the table and go home. Yes, I got a tip out of these people, but the annoyance was not always worth the change, and we would argue amongst the wait staff about who would take the table or not.

You see in the United States, a table is a waiter’s most important tool, and waiters who can turn and burn through tables are the ones who end up making the best living because they sell the most. So when a group comes in and takes up this valuable real estate, it costs a waiter money. I am not saying that it is right, but that is the system that America has come up and maybe if restaurants started to pay their waiters a decent wage, it wouldn’t require the customer to come up with their salary. We could learn something by the way other countries do it because I generally find myself more relaxed when I eat at other establishments around the world.

I do have to confess that after all of those years of despising the high school reunion tables, that I have started to act in the same manner. Over the last couple of days, I have been able to catch up with some old friends by getting together for lunch. I became one of those people that wanted a refill on my ice tea so we could talk about all the things we have done since we last saw each other. Yes, I was kind, and left a nice tip, but I was one of those people who would not leave the table quickly after I finished my meal. I want to apologize to those waiters whose table I would not give up. But it was great that you gave me the opportunity to catch up with these people.

It is the one thing that keeps me coming back, my friends and family. I love exploring the world, and I love the adventures and experiences I get to go through by having the lifestyle that I have created for myself. But I need to come back home so I can get together with these people and catch up. Yes, I do love the mountains of Colorado and miss them from time to time, and yes, I do wish that I had a grocery store that I could go to that would stock its shelves with a variety of food that I feel comfortable with, but these are things that I can do without. There is always a new landscape that I can admire when I travel, and I might not enjoy the flavors as much but that is part of the adventure because I sometimes find things that I enjoy more. And even though I do meet exciting new people on the road, and forge new friendships, it is these old friendships that have become significant to me. These are the people who have been through a lot with me, and I wish to continue to share my life experiences with them. So thank you to those waiters who have put up with me over the last few days. I appreciate it. It is the best holiday gift that you could have given me, the experience of catching up.

If You Don’t Like the Weather in Colorado – The Holidays Day 15

While I was growing up in Colorado, there was this idea that Colorado, even in the heart of summer, was always covered in snow. Logic would tell you otherwise, but still when I talked to people from other parts of the United States, they would always ask if I got sick of the snow. I blame Monday Night Football for this perception. It was the only time that the United States collectively turned their attention to this state which at the time had people leaving it in droves because of the economic collapse of the oil market. But for some reason, every time the Broncos played on Monday night, there would be a blizzard. It didn’t matter if this happened in December or September, the game would be a slick and slippery fumble fest. Though these games were fun to watch, they forever cemented in the mind of the public that Coloradoans lived in an icy landscape. And I know for those of you who still believe this to be true that I shouldn’t tell you this because you will instantly want to move to the state and make a place that is becoming slowly overcrowded even more crowded, but this perception is false.

Yes, Colorado gets snow, and at time there are some huge dumps that bring the city to a halt. Yes, the temperature does drop sometimes to frigid levels that threaten frostbite for anybody who ventures outside unprepared. But the reality of the situation is that these moments are not as consistent as Monday Night Football would have the rest of the nation think came about. And yes, the mountain do get a considerable amount more snow than the plains or the front range gets, but keep in mind that Denver is on the front range which is on the fringe of the plains, and it does not get the amount of snow that the ski resorts and the mighty peaks of the Rocky Mountains get. Weather wise, Denver is actually a really great place to live.

There is a saying in Denver, “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes and it will change.” Now this might seem like a little bit of an exaggeration, but not as big of one as you would think. There can be fluctuations of temperature on any given day that goes all the way down to nine degrees in the morning to sixty degrees by mid-afternoon. The snow that comes one day will quickly disappear because of this sudden rise in temperature. So even though, it does dump from time to time, it does not stick around long enough to make you hate the fact that there is always snow around. There are more days of sunshine than Los Angeles. In fact, Denver averages 300 days of sunshine in any given year. Yes, sometimes those days of sun are cold, but a lot of the time, they are warm and sunny. Yesterday is a great example of this. Even though, the temperature was frigid as we rung in the New Year, and there were a couple of inches of snow on the ground, I was able to walk around outside without a hat, and my jacket completely unzipped yesterday. If I really wanted to, I could have walked around with only a light jacket on. And it is supposed to be even warmer today. It is this constant change in weather that makes Colorado always an interesting place to live in.

So if you happen to watch a football game that is being played in Denver, and you see them playing a blizzard, know that this is not always the case, and it is just Colorado’s way of fooling people into believing that it is always cold and snowy.

The Reason I Love Snow – The Holidays Day 14

On the las day of my creative writing class, after my students had turned in their play which was their final, it started to snow. The kids were fascinated by it. Now it does snow in Seoul on a regular basis. During the heart of winter, you get to see at least one snow fall a week. But what made this snow so noteworthy was the fact that big huge fluffy flakes quickly fell to the ground and covered it with its pure whiteness. This type of snow does not happen very often in Korea. Usually it dusts the ground, and after people stomp on it, it turns into a sheet of ice waiting to break the next unsuspecting person’s hip. This lasts for a couple of days before the temperature makes it disappear. So when I saw this snowfall in Seoul that eventually collected about three inches of accumulation, it brought me back to Colorado and the snow falls I used to enjoy there.

Colorado needs this snow during the winter; otherwise, it is a really ugly place. It once was called the Great American Desert for a reason. It is not the desert that comes to mind when most people hear the word desert. There are not rolling sand dunes or tiny ponds that act as oasis. Instead, it is incredible dry with a few trees populated the landscape that can survive in such harsh conditions. During the winter months, these trees lose their leaves, and they look like dead sticks poking out of the brown dead ground. It is a depressing sight to see. Add on to this cold, bitter wind and you get an environment that nobody wants to visit, let alone live in. That is why the snow becomes so important. It covers this ugly, barren landscape and makes it worth looking at. In fact, if I do not have to venture out into it to get things done quickly, it is easily one of my favorite landscapes to look upon.

There is something pure and innocent about a huge field that it covered in untouched snow. It takes away all of the imperfections of the place and turns them into a uniform blanket. Sometimes you will get to see a bird hop around on the sheet or a deer emerge from its hiding place to admire the view, but for the most part, it is left untouched as if nature had never felt the footsteps of man upon it before. The scars that the land bares are covered up, and all that is left is white.

On those days that I get to sit there with a cup of coffee and look out the window on the snow are days where the schedule no longer matters. I can let the agendas of others go away, and just spend the day look at the snow fall, covering the earth in its purity. I look forward to snows, real snow falls, not the inconvenient inch that Seoul experiences on a regular basis. And oddly enough, it is the one thing that I miss the most from my move to South Korea. I feel at home now that I came back to Denver and it welcomed me with a nice snow that I can enjoy. It made returning home like that snow I saw as the semester came to end, and I thought about being back in this icy environment. It is this reason that I, unlike so many other people in the world, love the snow.

The View from Quanary Peak

All of us can make it to the summit,
Only if we give out encouragement.
It does not matter if we are all fit,
Or how the cold of winter months spent.
It’s through the various conversations,
We will be able to ignore our pain.
It is through the loss of inhibitions,
We will value the friendships that we gain.
On the top, we’ll share our tribulations
And the obstacles we have overcome.
They now look like minor irritations
When we look at them at the height we’re from.
Community may not be what we seek,
But it’s what we found on top of this peak.

No News is Good News – Around the World Day 32

As I start to get ready to take my next jump west, things are starting to slow down in Colorado where I am staying right now. For almost two weeks, I have been a tourist in the town that I grew up in. I have visited some of my favorite places in this state, and even got to see a couple that I have never been to. I got to catch up with friends I haven’t seen for a long time, and have some quality time with my family. At times, the trip has been a little hectic with one event planned after another, and even though this might be the case, I have really enjoyed the time I have gotten to spend out here. Just last night I went over to my sister’s house to have a home cooked lasagna, a delicacy that they haven’t quite figured out in Korea yet, and yes, it was delicious, but it was the conversation and the wine that I enjoyed the most.

I have found that since I have more time to relax, I have been able to reflect on the trip so far, and think about what it means. When you live out of a suitcase for a long time, it requires you to make some changes while you are doing it. One of the things I have noticed is that I have not watched that much television, and because my cellular service is from South Korea, I have not been as tied to my electronic devices. I have been out making connections with people and enjoying the sun while it out there. It made me think of what summer used to be when I was younger, spending time with my friends outside and not concerning myself with the larger problems of that come with the busier times of the year. It is all about living in the moment I find myself in, and letting my location become the most important one.

This has meant that I have not watched a lot of the news. In fact, I haven’t really picked up a paper to stay on top of what is going on in the world. I know that there are former students of mine that are screaming that I am being a hypocrite. I always preached the importance of reading the paper, and being well-informed. That you could not make a decision in this world if you didn’t really know what was going on in it. And I still do believe in the importance of the news, but I am also starting to see how little politics and the absurdity of the world-leaders actually affect my life. Nothing much has changed based on the lack of knowledge that I have about world events, and I do believe that for the most part I have been happier because I have not wrapped myself up in this absurdity.

It made me think about a quote that I used to spend so much time on when I taught American literature. It was from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden and it voiced his opinion on the penny-post, or letters back in the day that cost a penny for the postage. He said, “For my part, I could easily do without the post-office. I think that there are very few communications made through it.” I used to make the comparison to the countless texts that the youth of today sends to each other. The message I was trying to make that they spend so much time on these messages that really do not mean anything. The messages can wait until they are face to face, and the communication prevents us from really concerning ourselves with what is happening right in front of us. The messages could wait.

I did not think to apply this to the news as well. Yes, there are many decisions made by politicians that eventually affect us in some form or fashion. But there is really not a lot we can do about those decisions until it comes to election time. In fact, all the news does in this day is to stir up dissension among the people and keeps us staring at the idiots who are running this world. Sometimes it is better if we turn it off and not worry about what they are doing. We will find that we are happier because of it. I have found out that this is the case while I am taking this trip. In fact the only times I have found that I have been tense about the world is when I have caught little bits and pieces of what is going on.

Now, yes, it is important to be informed, especially when it is time to make decisions that may impact others. But we do not need the constant campaigning and bickering that goes on during most of the time. The information that we are given is not worth the data that is wasted to deliver it to us. We instead should take the time to become informed when election time comes around, and visit the news from time to time to find out the bigger things that we need to know. I appreciate the way that elections are run in South Korea because it forces the citizens to do exactly this. Politicians are not allowed to campaign until a month before the election. They are not gearing up for the next election just as soon as they have finished the one that they won. This way, the decision that the citizens make is informed on the issues, and not on the inane bickering and sound bites that are presented these days. And after the election, the politicians can concentrate on their jobs instead of trying to get re-elected.

I see all of this better now because I have put the remote down, and have not picked up the paper as much. I will go back to it when I get back to my home, but I will continue to enjoy the moments I have been given for now without concerning myself about the worries created by the press.