A Productive Lazy Sunday

My desk, a favourite feature in our room.

My desk, a favourite feature in our room.

I’ve been training a bit in my spare time to make jewellery. In my beginner’s silversmithing course, I’ve made two rings, a keychain, and a pair of earrings. I’m on my way to becoming a maker, as long as I get some more tools.

My jewellery-making began with beading, and I’m still the most comfortable with it. Wire-wrapped projects like the necklace I made from rocks collected in the Ganges in India are frustrating. I tend to slice my fingers on the wire. I usually make the gifts I give for Christmas and birthdays, and I love to make hair clips with feathers and jewels. Beading is easier, and my hometown bead shop Nomad is a beautiful indulgence for a cash-strapped 20-something. I could always find what I needed, and running my fingers through the displays of beads in cocktail glasses relaxes me on even the worst day.

Today was a day for sitting around indoors while a chicken roasts in the oven, relaxing before the onslaught of the week. I napped off the worst of a That-Cider-Was-Too-Strong headache from celebrating Korean New Year with friends in London last night, and woke up with a strong desire to do some beading.

Findings box….

Findings box….

I decided on a button statement necklace. I made a similar one for my sister’s birthday early in January.

The finished necklace

The finished necklace

Close up

Close up

Statement necklaces are just so IN right now….

Statement necklaces are just so IN right now….

Creative juices flowing, I started in on some interchangeable hoop dangles to update my earring collection. They took me only about a half hour, whereas the necklace took much longer.

Interchangeable earrings!

Interchangeable earrings!

Dressy

Dressy

Casual

Casual

Making things gives my days purpose. I feel accomplished even if I have sat around on my butt most of this productive lazy Sunday.

BONUS: Roast Sunday dinner, on low temperature all day.

Recipe: Cut up two sweet potatoes, two apples, two cloves of garlic, and arrange them around one cheap fryer chicken. Drizzle with 150 ml cheap red wine, a tablespoon of butter, and about 4 tablespoons olive oil. Shake coarse salt over it and put into a cold oven that is set to heat up to 100 C. Leave it there, checking on it and basting occasionally, for at least four hours. About 20 minutes before serving, turn the oven up to 180C and crisp the skin, watching much more closely. Let sit for 10 minutes when finished and carve. 

Roasted Perfection.

Roasted Perfection.

A Necklace Born of The Ganges

Necessary tools

Yes, the wine was necessary. This is the first wire-wrapped necklace that I’ve ever made, and after about an hour of stabbing myself in the fingertips and cursing the Ganges itself for producing such slippery stones I was a bit fried. It was 1 PM on a Thursday. I’m not yet employed for a week. Wine is fine.

The Ganges is one of the most iconic travel destinations in the world. It is known as a sacred river by around 900 millions Hindus, and especially the 120 million who attended the Kumbh Mela this year. In Varanasi the water was brownish and choked with offerings, trash, and bodies.

Luckily my stones come from further up the river toward the headwaters, in the semi-pure area of Rishikesh.

Santosh Puri Ashram

Santosh Puri Ashram

I collected these stones the day that a body was found (or perhaps lost) in the Ganges just after we’d been swimming in it. I believe that will be the next Snapshot post, so don’t worry if that statement sounds insane just now. I’ll try to flesh it out. Like the Ganga, I don’t promise any clarity.

closerDSCN3632

The necklace itself is made of wire I bought around two years ago, some hemp twine of unknown origin (but roughly the color of the waters at our ashram), a few chain links, and a clasp from Nomad in Boulder. It’s heavy. It’s chunky. It’s a little bit messy on the back of the stones because I got frustrated. But this is what it looks like on…DSCN3712

If I ever get tired of wearing it, I can sell it to someone more interested in the spiritual properties. After all, I had someone tell me the river is a Cosmic one that runs between dimensions. Maybe this is a cosmic necklace.

Tell me what you think! Do I have any magic in my fingers for making jewelry? Would you wear a necklace this chunky?

Korea By Way Of Patagonia

 

Started: September 23, 2011. Obtained: January 19, 2012.

118 days of legwork to get this sticker in my passport. Enough time to allow me to learn the Korean (Hanguel) alphabet and be able to sound out the words on it. Enough time to take two semesters worth of intensive French classes. Enough time to have eight skype and phone interviews. Make amazing new friends. Turn 24. Cut my hair off. Get two jobs. Run up a huge credit card bill. Pay it off. Twice.

That damn sticker is the gateway to a beautiful year in Suwon.

The visa for Korea is on the page of my passport facing the visa for Chile, incidentally still valid until May. It’s the beginning of the opposition of my two teaching abroad experiences, face-to-face, mano-a-mano. Wildly different countries. Languages. Histories. And yet some odd opposing overlap.

It doesn’t feel real yet, and probably won’t until I’m wheels up and rocketing West to go East a couple weeks from now. Each time I move to a country without ever setting foot within it, blind to the culture and language like a newborn, over my head in every sense of the phrase…it gets easier. So easy that by now, I’m not really worried at all. Not normal for my high-strung, catastrophist self.

This is despite reading a whole mess of Expat/TEFL/Whatever blogs from those who’ve gone before me, recounting the horrors of non-enclosed showers and crazed motorists. Warning me that my Hagwon will work me to the bone, never pay on time, and possibly even kill me. My apartment will be moldy and unclean when I move in. The food is disgusting and Koreans eat KimChi with everything. And worst of all, deodorant won’t be used!

Please.

It’s as if some of these teachers moving abroad never lived in another country. Most likely, they hadn’t. That’s awesome! So brave! But it’s tougher to make the transition if you have few cross-cultural adaptation skills and think that eating Outback is sampling local cuisine in Seoul.

I studied abroad three times. I lived abroad five times, once in one of the most remote regions of the world. My other career is advising university students on Study Abroad, on almost 400 programs in 71 countries. I’ve had five years of international education training. I’m motivated to learn the language.

I’m kind of a culture ninja. Plus I’ve learned not to trust the long, crazed-sounding, plaintive reviews that students and TEFL teachers alike write when their selections simply weren’t right for them (or larger issues were afoot–the “Hagwon Killing” above was the result of alcoholism on the teacher’s part). I know that 3% of my experience will be circumstances thrust on me, and 97% will be my chosen reaction to them.

This is certainly not to say that all will be easy when I move to Korea. It won’t. Things will go wrong. I will make mistakes. There will be days of homesickness. I’ll probably have at least one binge session on online Telenovelas. And there will be days when I question why I moved there in the first place.

The difference is, I can already predict those things. The process is familiar, even cozy. Transition is home to me.

My plan was always to go to Chile, return, and go to Korea. Even though the Chilean Adventure was at times overwhelming, shocking, aggravating, and/or terrifying…it was worth it to work with my kids and see 2% of what my lesson was attempting to teach actually sinking in. Those kids taught me more than I ever taught them. 

I’d carried this necklace around my neck at all times since my last day at Escuela 5 in Puerto Natales, but I took it off about two weeks ago. The special education teacher, a saint, gave it to me.

“A little something to remind you that you will always be in the children’s hearts…”

She left me to open it in my classroom, amongst all my posters and games and scavenged scrap paper. I cried when I pulled it out of the bag. She fastened it around my neck.

“Bien hecho, Maestra.”

That private moment of recognition should have been what I held onto from the six months in Chile, but the encroaching darkness and stress crept in and blinded me. By the time I reached my last night in Magallanes, I was a teary, makeup smeared mess sitting on the floor of the bathroom in the Punta Arenas casino’s Skybar, looking out over the lights of the city and cursing the day I ever decided to move there. Frankly, some of my friendships didn’t survive that night. It was a dark moment.

But a tiny glimmer of hope snuck in almost undetected the next morning, a little coincidental cosmic wink to remind me that all was not lost. My last meal in the region was with a Korean immigrant, a seaweed-wrapped rice ball.

I’d tried to take a break from thinking about Chile and remove the burden of the necklace from me while I focused on other things. But these two chapters of my life are already inextricably linked. They were before I even left. And all that happens/happened with one place will guide me through the other.

The necklace is back on.