After so many years of living outside of the country I’ve been raised,
i realize that I’ve become mute.
That is to say, that I’m quiet.
English spoken aloud seems too disruptive.
I’ve no native tongue,
which is why I’ve fallen to silence.

After a few people remarked how I’ve changed, and even a few strangers noted that I’m more
“Asian” than American.

After a few years in my family’s native country,
Korean was familiar but not,
and English rudely disrupted the flow,

I find myself in submission to silence, back here in my native nation of the United States.

Things that were missing in my life living abroad in Seoul, South Korea:
– diversity
– green apples
– clean air
– a blue sky

I was starving for all of the above. These are the greatest gifts given upon coming back.
Time for a stroll!

“I think that the biggest life lesson I learned as a boy, that has helped me and is still with me, is that you really have to discipline yourself to do the work. If you want to accomplish something, you can’t spend a lot of time hemming and hawing, putting it off, making excuses, and figuring ways. You have to actually do it…. I want to write, so I get up in the morning, go in and close the door, and write. You can’t string paper clips and get your pad ready and turn your phone off and get coffee made. You have to do the stuff. Everything in life turns out to be a distraction from the real thing you want to do. There are a million distractions, and when I was a kid I was very disciplined. I knew that the other kids weren’t. I was the one able to do the thing, not because I had more talent, maybe less, but because they simply weren’t applying themselves. As a kid, I wanted to do magic tricks. I could sit endlessly in front of a mirror, practicing, because I knew if you wanted to do the tricks you’ve got to do the thing. I did that with the clarinet. When I was teaching, I did that with writing. This is the most important thing in my life, because I see people striking out all the time. It’s not because they don’t have talent or because they don’t want to be, but because they don’t put the work in to do it. They don’t have the discipline to do it.”

Woody Allen

traveling is…
a) worthwhile, until you’re not fully appreciating anything that you’re seeing, tasting, or meeting anymore
b) worthwhile, until you realize that it’s better to watch television series in the country of origin than spending more than an hour searching and loading episodes uploaded online
c) worthwhile, until you realize that you miss diversity… there’s more to it than white and local
d) worthwhile, until you realize that as a traveler of color, the other people, local and foreign, will always categorize you into one box…
“So you’re Korean? Which part of Korea?”
e) a struggle to accept whether every transaction you make with a local or foreigner is a “you scratch my back, I scratch yours” mentality – it will always, always be about money.
f) will always lure those who remain ignorant, no matter how many months/years they’ve been traveling or living as ex-pats
g) a lost cause for some; there’s a sort of sadness in the eyes of men lost as self-righteous ex-pats, especially in those of the older ones
h) will always, always, always be different from what white (male) travelers tell you if you are a woman of color
i) always about race and where you “are from”
j) an itch to contribute all that you’ve learned while living abroad and traveling back to the country where you were raised
k) not four months, but three years and four months. A lot of things seen has been, “I paid what to see this?” while backpackers from all over Europe, Canada, etc. enthusiastically snap away
l) realizing that travelers can be the worst; hamburger shops, European and American meals will always be around for the “foreigner” who want a “break” from the local Asian dishes

I think it’s time to go back. I’ve been traveling for 3.5 years, loosely speaking. I love the beach, but I’ve been losing the love of getting to to openly know others. I realize that there are very few travelers of color, etc. and it’s just not fun pretending to be a real Korean, Chinese, Japanese, etc. or to explain that I am a Westerner.

I miss intellect, wit, the diversity spectrum, and everything in between.

Standing in the food market waiting for my friend here in Thailand yesterday, I realize that I stuck out like a sore thumb. I was standing there, in a sea of Europeans, either with dreads or not, most with tattoos, and I realize that ….
for the past three years living in Korea and traveling for the past 4 months, I miss diversity.

I love knowing that … smart and witty women who don’t come out of Maxim Magazine or Bob Marley aficionados do exist.

All of this traveling makes me want to travel the States. I remember being in Vietnam and thinking, “I’ve seen better in Korea / in the States.”

When you hit that point…you know it’s time to respectfully let the travels come to a close. There is always a next time, and every day is like a day of traveling.

traveling is…
a) a big, giant pause on life
b) a chance to reflect, despite all the new sights and smells and faces
c) a chance to rejuvenate
d) a realization that you don’t need anything but three pairs of clothes
e) a humble re-alignment; washing your own clothes by hand is actually very therapeutic, and it’s something I look forward to
– recycling is now a natural habit of mine; separating cans from plastic is very automatic
– self-pump toilets are not a problem; simply take a poo or pee, and fill that plastic container sitting next to the toilet bowl (or squatter) with water and dump the water into the hole
f) the realization that it’s actually necessary to learn the basics of the local language (out of respect)

I had just danced until 4.30 am with a friend from Japan; a twin I met in Kuala Lumpur. I loved the fact that she smiles when she dances – the energy pumps my pulse and I just want to dance more… Shiva Moon Party in Ko Phangan.
People greet us with palms together thinking that we’re Thai girls, two dark-skinned Asians.
We danced to thumping house and techno, or whatever genre it was, but it was in the middle of darkness in the jungle.

And now it’s 6 am and she’s fast asleep. I took a cold shower in our basic bungalow – where we found a cockroach crawl into the bathroom.

These past four months have given me much time to reflect on the past. I have to say that it’s a great – and possibly the only time – to really face one’s self. I’ve realized that I’ve met so many people who really made me discover a different side of me.

I can now say that I love what happened and what it led to. I realize how important it is to love my environment. I learned that it’s okay to love, to embrace when others embrace you for who you are. The ones whom I crossed paths with have been too invaluable to me; I wish every single one of them knew how worth it they are for existing. Thank you for existing.

I am learning more and more that people are openinly struggling, and we’re all supporting each other.

I love and I cannot wait to see what’s more to come…

xoxoxo from Thailand.

traveling so far…
Kuala Lumpur graced me with their people; I’ve met KL’ers who’ve really made me feel like a part of family. I met people who seemed like old friends, particularly one who rejuvenated that love for film. That love will never, ever die.

– Ko Jum, Thailand – Chang, the friendly local who was really genuinely gentle. His smile will not be forgotten.
– Traveling with M from Japan; she reminds me so much of myself. We’ve bunked in down to basics bungalows with no electricity but the few lightbulbs around town, to clean guesthouses with wi-fi
– Yo tat artist… hm.
– sleeping in a guesthouse less than a minute from the emerald blue ocean in Ko Samui
– KL, Malaysia – the people I met at Transit Point made me feel like I’ve met a family. I actually cried leaving them… I will never forget them.
– having a monk in Luang Prabang, Laos reveal his love … and me trying to explain that there’s much more in life he’ll discover.
– hanging out and being embraced by ex-pats in Laos. They’ve made my experience in the country absolutely wonderful.
– eating Malay food while a woman who left her job in CT, USA reveal her passion for the Middle East, and defending Islam.
– a wonderful soul who invited me to stay in his home in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). He’s a beautiful soul I met in Seoul, South Korea, and I can only think that things will go up for him.

All of the minute discoveries have made me appreciate every single person I’ve met in Seoul, South Korea.

Well, M is fast asleep, asleep in her dancing clothes. We motorbiked straight from the party to 7-11 where we had instant ramen on the dirty footsteps in Ko Phangan. Two men – one of them, revealed his struggle to renew his mind, body, and soul to another. He revealed his struggle as a gay man who wanted to rid his body of toxins (smoking and drinking), to meditate, and draw into the monastic life. I wanted to walk up to him and tell him at 4.30 am that I am in full support of what he wanted to do. He can do it, whoever he is.
After eavesdropping and eating our instant Tom Yam Goom noodles at 7-11, M and I motorbiked our way home here, in this bungalow.

It’s already tomorrow, and I can’t wait…
last year, I woke up only to want to see the end of it. Now I awake anticipating what’s to come; always make the best of your situation.

Three years.

For three years I’ve been away, letting my curiosities and struggles take reign in a country (‘ies) that is not my own.

This land is your land,
This land is my land,
from California,
to the New York island…

I’m now traveling Asia because
I am Asian.
Every day is a reminder that here is not mine. It’s merely mine to observe.
mine merely.

I’m caving in, deeper and deeper, to the acknowledgement that it is okay to go back.

Home is still a vague notion – “I just got home.” “I want to go home.” “I’m at home.”
Where is home? What is home? Who is home?

The bathroom floors are dirty because they haven’t been cleaned. It is shared by other guests. My bunkbed is in the same room with five others. Men stink.

it’s time – and it’s okay – to go back.

I’ve met so many lonely ex-patriates, mostly men in Korea and throughout Asia, my continent. They are living “comfortably” in my continent.

it’s time – and it’s okay – to go back to the country where previous generations in my family had settled down but had never quite fully felt American.

———————————–

on “love”

When Q told O that the chest hurts at the thought of O, O didn’t understand. O nodded.Why is Q so happy? I’m merely O. Just O, like any other O.

And then, O sailed away, far, far away, to escape the pain that was secretly hurting O so much.
O left much later and finally understood what it meant to feel that very happy pain that Q felt. To love something so much, so much so that in the moment, the chest explodes.
It hurts, the grin hurts, everything hurts because elation is overwhelming.

It was felt outside of where they were standing, far, far away from where they had met. Across an ocean and in another territory, O finally felt that highest joy.