From the BK to the SK
So, one of the things we learned during our training course is that Korea is a country that heavily emphasizes collectivism as a way of life as opposed to individuality.
After four months of living here, I've come to realize that everyone here looks the same, and by that I don't mean physical appearance. Koreans do look different from one another, despite the fact that everyone has dark hair and dark eyes. Everyone has the same exact style, and though at first I found myself so incredibly jealous of all the women and their sick sense of style, I now feel like I can close my eyes and dsecribe any given peron's outfit on the street to a Tee (right spelling of 'tee' in this phrase? I am not sure..).
About a month ago, one of the teachers who absolutely melts my heart day in and day out asked to take me to paint hand-made pottery with her. She showed me her various craftsmanship that she "hand made", and so I set a date to go with her and my life-saving co-teacher. It's like she and I are attached at the hip, and she's pretty lucky - she gets so many freebies because of me!
I was amazed at her beautiful painting and intricate designs on the various mugs and plates she showed me, assuming that she had, in fact, made them by hand because she told me she made them by hand.
I hadn't done any type of hand painting since I was so young, so I definitely mentioned more than a few times that the quality of my pottery would not surpass that of a pre-school child.
After picking up her son, who is in elementary school and one of the cutest kids I've ever met, we ate lunchey at Pizza Hut ('famous in America?' they ask always...) and then headed to make out pottery.
Upon arriving, I was given the choice to make whatever I wanted but then presented with the choices of a dish and a mug. I didn't want to over-do the invitation for hand painting, so I would have most likely picked something one of the two on my own, anyway.
Now, in the weeks leading up to this event, I mentioned a few times about my lack of artistic skills. I might be able to paint a picture with words, but if you give me a paintbrush, I wouldn't know where to start. I may have put a little too much emphasis on the fact that I really and truly cannot paint, because I was the only one to receive stencils to tape onto my mug for different decorations.
So my co-teacher, my co-worker whom I love to death and strangely reminds me of my grandmother with her coats and brooches and little bob of a haircut, my co-teacher's son and I all get our smocks on and get ready to paint.
The woman who owns the store is truly very talented, but I came to realize that my talents would be stumped even further with the selection of stencils  I was given. I went in with this great idea to make this awesome picture of the earth and the moon and the stars (I have a weird obsession with the solar system) and came to realize that not only had my pottery been basically picked out for me but so was my design.
"Christmas!" they said to me, and gave me stencils of a snowman, a tree, "Merry X-Mas (I hated this one)", and "X-mas with Coffee (I liked it because it was so dumb)". 
Examples were put in front of me to use as a guide, all of which looked the exact same. My co-teacher was making a cup that looked exactly like 15 other cups in the store, and my co-worker was making a replica of a dish the owner showed her. The only one who was given some room for creativity was the boy.
So, I chose a darker blue to paint the cup, which was ill-advised by the store owner but I used anyway. It reminded me of the night sky. I wanted to fool around with her by making my cup look as crazy as I could within the boundaries I was given, so I was putting random colors in different places and painting different things - not following the examples set before me. I was using far too much yellow for her taste, a dark, navy blue and not really following her wishes, but eventually she kind of let me do my thing, but she remained standing over me like a hawk the entire time. I felt more pressure in that store than I have in my entire life.
And, naturally, because I was given stencils where as everyone else was drawing by hand, I finished first and continued to randomly paint my mug. It was taken away from me. After the fourth time of being asked if I was finished, I decided I had tortured this poor woman enough. I think she hated seeing her handmade pottery destroyed by my unartistic, American hands.
My co-worker said I could paint a keychain if I wanted while I waited for them, and so I did. I was so excited about this one, because realistically, I rarely ever use mugs. I prefer to spend 5 dollars a day on coffee instead of making it in my own home. Oops.
Again, I was given examples of other keychains that all looked exactly like one another, and this time I stood up for myself.
"No, thank you," I said. "I will draw Earth."
You know when someone tells you something bad, like some kind of bad news, and you make that little sound of taking in air through your mouth through basically closed teeth? Ok, in Korea, this is a sound that is made every two seconds, like everything is life or death.
"Very, very, very difficult!" they all said, but I was determined to draw this earth on this keychain.
I practiced a bit, got some "Owaaa"'s (their 'wow!') at my impressive skills and decided to go for it.
So I made my keychain exactly how I wanted it. A very plain face aside from the globe, and on the back, I wrote one of my all-time favorite quotes. Have you ever read the book Eat, Pray, Love? I read it on my flight to Italy back in 2007 when I left to study abroad, and so much of that book was so incredibly powerful, especially since I was just beginning my journey around the world. Anyway, when the author, Elizabeth, is in an ashram in India, she meets a man from Texas who gives her some advice. He says to her:
Don't wear your wishbone where your backbone should be.
I read that quote a few times over, and from that day on I've never forgotten it. It is one of my absolute favorite quoes of all time. I've been lucky enough to travel all over the world, but that doesn't exempt me from sometimes falling victim to the things that aren't so important in the larger sense. I get worried about useless things, stress myself out over things that yeras from now will bear no significance on the person I will become, freak out about  
not having enough time to become what I want to become. But, realistcally, none of that stuff matters, and in the end that mentality only holds me back in life. It only keeps me from doing the things I want to do. We're given one life to live, and you can't go about it by watching it drift by you like clouds in the sky.
I still find myself saying, "I wish I could be a foreign correspondent", or "I wish I could one day write a memoir that would actually sell", but in the end I know that those things will only happen when I stop wishing and start doing. 

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