Dreaming. JP and I are considering going away again for a year.. this time to South Korea to teach English. Tommy and Cynthia intend to do the same and we envision it being quite an adventure for the 4 of us to enjoy together. Now this would mean being very far away from home again - far from family, far from friends, gone again for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and Easter, gone again for all the birthdays. Further estranged from what we call home and from those we call dear to our hearts. Further still from advancing towards our careers and the schooling and interning that may lead up to it.
We ARE growing here... and as we propositioned, we're learning to become more dependent on each other and less dependent on our parents and the mercies of those who love us.
Every decision a person makes, whether to stay or to go, determines a very purposeful course for our lives. Sometimes I think of how different things would be for us now had we stayed where we were. It's impossible to predict. But this is what we chose, and the effects and all the potential effects exponentiate before us _ in my minds-eye... especially if we go to Korea.
As we've kept in contact with our friends and family back home, I sense almost a generous attitude of forgiveness and understanding on their part in anticipation of our return. "We miss you but we're so happy you're taking your year to explore and learn, see New Zealand, and grow together in the beginning of your marriage. We'll see you soon." I take so much comfort in that we have a home to return to. And it causes me to wonder how long that can last. In both the cases of when I left for college for 4 years, and this, as JP and I have left for this year, it has been my desire to freeze things as they were when I left them. :) I'm very selfish that way. I don't want people to change and grow and do different things while I'm gone because I don't want to miss a thing. I want to be there with them through it. I want to be part of it. And I feel as though we've graciously been allowed a year away that we can return from - but what about 2 years away. I feel that a great many things happen in 2 years. Is 2 years away enough time to make us 'those old friends who live far away' or 'that family who lives far away.' JP reminds me to not make decisions based on fear. And I am reminded that when you cling to something that once was, you soon realize it has slipped away between your fingers. Time always thrusts us forward and it's better for us to live in it.
We've heard such good things about Korea and about the community of foreigners teaching English there. We've heard of good pay and provided housing and exciting traveling opportunities. We're drawn by the lure of a foreign culture, the security of jobs and paying back loans, and the sweet thought of being with our dear friends Tommy and Cynthia - who will be keen, precious newlyweds. :) hmm. The thought of them marrying, building a life together, and raising their very own family has been such a sweet and welcome thought for me the past year and a half. Seeing them together is such a delight. I treasure both them individually and what they share between them.
There is another thing that has been stirring within me the past couple of months. As we've traveled, I've met about 3 different speech therapists and have enjoyed conversing with them about their careers. The last person was Kjersten Post's older sister, Kelsey. I think my initial curiosities were in regards to my brother Aaron, who though developmentally delayed already and having serious verbal constraints, has developed a stutter over the past couple of years. Katie, the first speech therapist I met, confirmed my hunch that stutters are commonly a repercussion of anxiety. And that confirmation has tormented my heart. I'm not a therapist and I cannot claim to understand my brother, though I wish I did, but I have observed over the past couple of years what has appeared to me to be a surrender and acceptance on his part to the fact that he's different and that people don't understand him and that he won't be able to do the same things as the people around him. It distressed me when I started to see him give up on trying to relay what was on his mind after a few attempts. And now it distresses me even more to see him refuse to even try to communicate. Often it is such a struggle to get a "yes" or simple "no" out of him. He used to be so resilient in expressing himself.
When JP and I were in Hawaii this last month, Kelsey told me that a masters in speech therapy is an open door to endless career opportunities. And ok, so counseling has been my heart and my soul the past several years... but a particular interest of mine has been to help people cope with anxiety and to unveil the hidden triggers in peoples' pasts that hold them back from healthy minds, relationships, and perspectives. I could still do this as a speech therapist - and what a way to truly help a person. What are we without our ability to speak, our ability to express and communicate?
Three days ago, JP and I met up with our friend Jonas in the beautiful Queens Gardens of Nelson, admiring breathtaking trees and flower beds. After that we walked through the Suter Gallery. It reminded me of the days when I went to School of the Arts and all we needed was our school i.d.s for free admission into any of the downtown art museums and how we'd often go during our lunch period and assimilate the shifting galleries we beheld.
Refreshed, we continued JP's glorious day off and drove ourselves down to the Tahuna Beach to meet Laura, Luke, Elijah, Debbie, and Debbie's mom, Kathy (who has 10 kids!!!). Our friends hadn't arrived yet and the 3 of us situated ourselves in the sand. Immediately I observed a bit of a trench before us with two men sitting in it. One was probably in his 40s and the other, James, was probably about 17. James was digging with his Tonka toys - a backhoe and a bulldozer. It was as though James was in another world, fixed on his big excavation job. He was so graceful in the way he held the bucket of the backhoe - drawing it inward, filling it with sand, and then swinging it away on its hinge to dump the contents. James thoroughly shook the bucket empty with his long fingers in a motion that JP observed was just as Aaron's hands grip his digging tools. I was captivated. JP and Jonas stripped down in their swim trunks to go body surfing but I expressed that I'd like to stay where I was. So for the next 30 or 40 minutes I sat their transfixed, watching James - watching what James focused on, how he interacted with little boys who approached his digging toys, filled with wonderment, watched how he interacted with his engaging, proud father.
I felt like crying. I missed Aaron so much. And I hated how circumstances have caused me to be so far from him these past 5 years. Five years. My brain was swimming with motives of what to do for Aaron - and I sat there feeling helpless and foolish.
Eventually our friends came. The men preceded to engage themselves in foot races, push up, hand-stand, and wrestling competitions while the women sat and chit-chatted. We all ate fish and chips, fought off the intruding seagulls, and left. Jonas invited JP and I to go to the movies with him and his Scottish friend, Karen. It had been such a good day and we weren't ready for it to end - so we cheerfully accompanied them. We saw the Kings Speech - which had just come out in NZ. Wow. Such a good movie. And it continued to stir a lot of things up in me. It felt a bit ironic as well.
Maybe I do need another year to think things through.
I remember Elementary school and actually reflect quite often on how experiences I had during those years have shaped me - have shaped how I think and feel about myself in regards to my identity and in relation to the world of people around me. I remember feeling as though I really had survived much of the torment that afflicts this malleable age-group, and I remember witnessing many who didn't. I never really considered working with children before - maybe because I still don't know how to fix their circumstances... but I'm starting to consider it now.
Moving from deep beneath the surface - on to the exterior of things.... I'm aware that the last thing I wrote on was Thanksgiving... and oh dear, that was more than 2 months ago wasn't it?
Now I'm sorry if some of this has been unclear. I didn't begin it to be a blog entry but as I was writing, I recalled a few of my friends who have prompted me to UPDATE(!).
Don't feel obligated to continue reading if you're tired. I've already written so much, and there's really so much more to cover.
How far did I get last time?
Did I mention that we met a woman named Christina at church who asked us to live with and WWOOF for her once we'd finished at Noa and Karl Parkers (the Hebrew, Yoga family)? Did I mention that we continued to get together with Laura Irish, Luke, and their son Elijah and that Laura and I (both quite homesick and disappointed by NZ's lack of Christmas Spirit) resolved to relive as many Christmas traditions as possible?
Well, JP and I started living with and working for Christina Monday, the 6th of December. Christina lives alone. She has 3 daughters and 1 son, mostly all grown up, and is recently divorced, which has been a sad development in her life but has allowed her a new sense of freedom and individuality. Over the past 4 years she's explored the potential of this change by purchasing her own house on the very top of a steep hill with a view of the sea. And thus she's undertaken the enormous task of beautifying the place. She has quite a property surrounding her, half of which is too steep to even stand on. One must go on all fours. Single handedly she's freed her land of gorse, thistles, and blackberry bushes. And then she's planted over 200 native trees, most of which she received free from a nursery that had pronounced them dead. She says she prays over them as she plants them and babies them individually and they've re-sprouted, blossomed, and grown. She says this process has been extremely therapeutic for her and has grown in her a self confidence and self respect she's never known.
Additionally Christina went to university studying art. She says she's always been an artist but hasn't had the opportunity to develop this aspect of herself since high school. She's focused on both media and 2-D collages and has spent the past couple of years worth of projects, hashing out a lot of her feelings regarding her divorce and the particular role of wife she'd been playing half her life. She says she's come out a very different person and has healed immensely (though there's still more to go). Christina graduated just this past mid-December. And no longer a student, she's looking for a job. JP and I spent Christmas morning/day with Christina, and the next day she left us for 5 weeks to house-sit and keep her trees alive (a harder job than we may have realized), as she took the month of January to travel alone throughout the North island, to catch up with some friends and family, and to have a holiday from the stresses of her present life. We just received her back again 3 days ago. From this point we're going to rent our room from her on a weekly basis, until we return back to the US.
AND - (I know I mentioned Tommy and Cynthia getting married before) - we're returning back to the states 2 months earlier than planned because Thomas Castle and Cynthia Haan got ENGAGED!!!! And are getting married July 16th! Whoo! In California too, which is convenient because that's where we fly into and that's where JP's parents live, and that's where we'll be staying when we initially return (in Monterey... which is only 2 hours from Livermore... which is where Cynthia Haan originates).. we are so excited!
So if we do go to Korea, we'll probably spend most of July in CA, spend a good chunk of August in WA, return to CA at the end of August... and then leave before September. I think.
December was a fun month, getting to know our new friends, growing closer with our new church body, joining an incredible weekly life-group, further exploring Nelson.
to be continued...