Monday, March 8, 2010
new moon: a dated post, but better late than never...
this point on the calendar marks the celebrations of a new lunar year, reminiscing on old loves, or if you are as fortunate as i am, maybe both. for the celebration of this particular evening, i am headed down to the local chinatown later tonight, to watch the revelers, the dragon dances, partake in a bit of snacking (i plan on eating all of the candied lotus root i can get my stubby little fingers around). but my celebration isnt just for this night, or the promises of a new year. my rebirth happens every morning. every day i know that i have yet another opportunity to do something great. great in the eyes of who? maybe just myself, but for me thats plenty. (although as soon as i complete something that i once saw as great, in my mind it becomes so obviously easy, and not notable at all. funny how that works). anyway, i cant say too much in acknowledgement of the sensitivity of the subject, but i recently completed my first mission as a part of the underground railroad which brings north korean refugees to safety. my part was merely a tiny turn of a cog in a machine vastly larger than i can even imagine. but it is a part that i feel fortunate to play, and is one thing that i will be able to look back on with pride when my body cannot take me as far as it does now.
things could have gone terribly wrong, like any situation where a small group of people is standing in direct opposition to a powerful and ruthless authority. but luckily, i risk only a few months of my own freedom, where others risk there lives, so i never felt much in the way of fear, or even anxiety. very briefly, myself and a small team went to a border location and made a pick up of a group that was waiting for us. them waiting around in a public location certainly wasnt in the plan, it was just one of the many thing that had gone wrong. just to note a few, miscommunicated drop off points and number of people, 26 hours of non-stop driving (and i managed to only hit two stationary objects, yay me!), refugees that had no idea we were coming for them, splitting up the team by plane and van because of miscues, and the refugees and two team members getting chucked into the back of a police van. whew! but quick thinking, adaptability, and a team of cool characters managed to put everything together and get every one of those refugees to safety. amazing, but true. and the nk's themselves are amazing. sweet, friendly, excitable, and oh so charming. an elderly couple was part of the group that we all claimed as our adopted grandparents. every person that laid their eyes on them just smiled in awe. i swear, it was almost a detriment to the mission, they were so adorable that people just followed them for a few steps, like they were in a trance or something! the image of gramps squatting in the courtyard with a ciggie hanging from him mouth, sinewy arms resting on his knees, surveying the area in front of him after he had raked all of the leaves into a pile biger than himself (not hard, this man and his wife were both shorter than 5' me), will be with me always. it was so amazingly surreal, after the long drive home and the adrenaline had worn off after passing through the last checkpoint, here i was giggling with some 20 year olds girls while picking out some shorts (what prudish me would almost consider booty shorts), and chatting with gramps about the war. but these were not giggly girls from my college or even south korean tourists comparing fashions. but this WAS the chat with my own granpda about the korean war, but this fellow happened to be on the other side. and i know in my heart that neither if these two men would have begrudged the other. when the team interacted with each other, it was a lot of cheery grins and i knew it would all turn out okay. and maybe we did think so, even at the most dire moments. but im pretty sure all of us at one point were like, this cannot be real. how am i sitting here with a bunch of nk's who have lived through the most oppressive regime imaginable, who have spent their lives in hiding, some of them tortured and traded as sex slaves? and yet they sit here with us, laughing when we choke if the kim chi is too spicy, or listening to korean pop music (i happen to have the artist rain's full discography, my version of a sex god).
the tenacity of the human spirit, the ability that we all have to overcome the most desperate trials and come out on the other side able to still laugh, love, and yes, other normal emotions as well; be petty, selfish, angry, and hurt. to just be human. to just be.
a few of them have gone on to south korea, but two amazing, beautiful girls are still with us here in the house. we have already been giving them english, computer, and culture lessons, and they have already paid us back in full (not that they needed to) by making us delicious kim chi every day :). i cant say it enough, my life is one of the most frustrating, difficult, lonely, inspiring, amazing, and beautiful lives imaginable. it is bittersweet in the most pure sense of the word. i am overcome with the beauty in the world as often as crushed with the injustice. it is amazing how similar both feelings are, the wave of emotion that nothing in the world could make you ignore. my mother once was baffled when i answered that finding peace is not my end goal (as it is hers she assumed it to be everyones). not having peace is probably the hardest thing about life. but it is the most rewarding, the most heart-wrenching, and the one thing out of every thing that i will never regret if i never find. because peace is acceptance. and i will never accept, and never stop.